Confessions of a Rocket Scientist
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
  Deck Us All With Boston Charlie
One of my fondest Christmas Traditions was the annual recitation of "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie" in the comic strip Pogo. I knew that Christmas was really here when Walt Kelly's cast of characters (Howland Al, Albert the Alligator, and of course, Pogo Possum) trotted out their mangled lyrics and proceeded to argue over just what the real lyrics were. (Grundoon, of course, knew all 168 verses, but only on the drum!)

For those who share my fondness for a certain southern marsupial and his friends and neighbors in the Okeefenokee Swamp, I offer this. Merry Crispness!

Words by Walt Kelly
Music by Traditional (whoever he is)

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!
Friday, December 02, 2005
  George Bush Joins the "War on Christmas!"
Jerry Falwell and his Religious Wrong buddies have been bitching for weeks now about government agencies and store clerks saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." But it looks like Jerry forgot to tell President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, and the Republican National Committee didn’t get the memo about the preferred religiously correct greeting.
The White House's 2005 holiday card is just out, and it doesn't mention the word "Christmas" once. This card, mailed under the auspices of the Republican National Committee and signed by the president and his wife, reads, "With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness 2005." It also includes a passage from the Old Testament Book of Psalms.The front cover is an artist's rendition of the White House and grounds covered with snow while the presidential pets, two dogs and a cat, frolic on the lawn. It contains no religious symbolism. Did the President just sorta forget about Baby Jesus?
Two weeks before Halloween, Falwell attorneys called a press conference and threatened to sue public schools and government agencies that fail to acknowledge Christmas to Falwell's liking. They have also been complaining about department stores and malls using "Happy Holidays" signs and greetings. Most recently, Falwell went apeshit when the city of Boston issued a press release announcing the arrival of its "holiday tree." Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly jumped right on the bandwagon, carping nearly every night about the alleged "war on Christmas." But neither Falwell nor O'Reilly has yet to say one word about the president and first lady's secular holiday greetings.
Hey, guys, fair is fair. It you’re going to take Wal-Mart and Target to task for secularizing Christmas I would expect you to attack such a gaffe from our country’s leader with equal vigor. We should be especially critical of such a lapse from a self-proclaimed born-again Christian who had no qualms about wearing his faith on his sleeve to get votes. Where is the moral outrage from the fanatic fundies? Or could it be that Falwell realizes he can’t get any contributions from his cerebrally challenged legions by attacking Dubbya?
Thursday, December 01, 2005
  My Men's Room Test

So far this new job has been all right.  I have been in a sort of limbo while the QA staff plugs away at the latest release.  They want to finish it in time for the last deployment which will occur this weekend.  This will be the last big release of the year and they want to get it finished in time for the holidays.  I don’t blame them.  The effect on me is that they can’t take the time to personally guide me through the ins and outs of their test process.  They have made a few attempts, but they have mostly had to concentrate on the task at hand and let me fend for myself.  I’m taking advantage of the situation to poke around and get familiar with the setup and to improve my own knowledge of xml.  Hopefully this situation will improve by next week.

In the process of interviewing for this gig I had to visit a lot of places, from Center City Philadelphia to the far-flung reaches of Boyertown.  Bethlehem is not too terribly far a commute compared to some of the places I interviewed.  And at every place I interviewed I applied my men’s room test.

Here’s how the men’s room test works.  At some point during the interview I ask if I can be excused to use the men’s room.  I like to do this just before the interview if possible.  I try to use the actual men’s room I would be using if I worked there.  You can tell a lot about a place by the way they maintain their men’s room.  If the place is well kept, well lit, and well stocked, one can assume that the company truly values its employees and pays attention to minor details.  On the other hand, a dirty, dark, and poorly maintained men’s room betrays either a company’s condescending attitude toward its staff or a disregard for details.  A bad men’s room indicates a bad work experience.

I have no direct experience with ladies’ rooms, but I assume the test is equally valid.

I ignored my men’s room test only once, and regretted my decision to accept a position at that particular place.  Fortunately my association with this outfit was mercifully brief.

Right now I work in a 3-story building.  The men’s room is common for all occupants of the second floor.  The building management firm does an admirable job of keeping it clean, well lit, and well stocked.  I have no complaints for the most part.  Occasionally I will find some paper towels on the floor or water splashed on the countertops, but the custodial staff takes care of this pretty regularly.  The bathrooms on the first floor are locked, and certain people are given a key.  I am one of the privileged.  The first floor men’s room seems to be cleaner and better maintained.

To take this analogy a little further, I have noticed that the deterioration of conditions in a company’s men’s room often coincides with the deterioration of that company.  The last two places I worked (both of which suffered from that new sort of economic debacle which corporate America euphemistically calls “restructure”) were prime examples: as corporate fortunes declined, so did the men’s room.

So keep an eye on where you crap.  It is very likely an indicator of your company’s future.

The continuing story of a man, his hobby, and the search for a really good cup of coffee.

"The first cup of coffee in the morning recapitulates Phylogeny." -J. Pournelle

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Location: Quakertown, Pennsylvania, United States

Two time cancer survivor, happily married, LaSalle Alumnus

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