Thursday, November 2, 2017

Humanity, Inc. Tech Support - TEEN OS Upgrade

HI Sam: Humanity, Inc. This is Sam. How may I help you today?
Frazzled Mom: Hello, tech support? Yes, I’m calling in regards to a malfunctioning CHILD unit?

HI Sam: Make and model?

Frazzled Mom: Yes, this is in regards to a MALE 2004 CHILD unit.

HI Sam: What seems to be the problem m’am?

Frazzled Mom: The unit was functioning great until a few months ago. It performed well in the areas of DISPOSITION, THOUGHTFULNESS, MOOD, and RESPECT, had moderate performance in EATING and HYGIENE and usually performed adequately in CHORES and CONVERSATION. Though it could glitch in these areas on occasion...

HI Sam: Yes, this all seems to fall under the expected operating parameters for that model. What seems to be the problem?

Frazzled Mom: Well, recently the unit received an automatic upgrade to the TEEN operating system, and now it seems to be underperforming and/or experiencing glitches in all of those areas. The RESPECT and CONVERSATION programs seem to be constantly bugging out, MOOD seems to be operating at the lowest possible level 95% of the time, then jumps unexpectedly to high levels for brief periods of time before plummeting once again with no notice or obvious cause. EATING seems to use an immense amount of energy which affects SLEEP mode, especially in the mornings. When we attempt to engage the unit in CONVERSATION mode, if it responds at all, it does so with a curt “whatever” or a sigh of disgust. We would really like to revert back to the PRETEEN operating system. Can you help us out with that?

HI Sam: I’m sorry m’am, but the automatic upgrade to the TEEN operating system is permanent. I’m afraid that it isn’t possible to revert to the previous OS. We are working on a new operating system called NEW ADULT which should solve many of the issues you are currently experiencing, but it won’t be ready for installation on that unit for approximately six years.

Frazzled Mom: So what you are telling me is that you automatically updated our CHILD units’ operating system to one that has known issues, and now we can’t even go back to the last known version that worked reasonably well?

HI Sam: That is correct.

Frazzled Mom: That is unacceptable! I’d like to speak to your supervisor about this. We’ve been loyal customers of your company for 13 years now. We stuck by you through the early INFANT operating system when it experienced issues with the CRYING and TOILET TRAINING programs.

HI Sam: Yes, those were some tough years...

Frazzled Mom: And we worked with the unit until it was able to run the WALK and SPEECH programs on its own after the TODDLER upgrade...

HI Sam: Yes, and we thank you for sticking with us through those trying times...

Frazzled Mom: But this latest upgrade... it seems to be the worst yet. Are you telling me that it will function like this for YEARS?!

HI Sam: Well, yes m’am. There may be some minor upgrades to some of the programs, but the OS is here to stay for the foreseeable future...

Frazzled Mom: Well that is just awful customer service. Isn’t there anything that you can do? Can we trade the unit in?

HI Sam: I’m sorry m’am, but we have a strict no returns, no exchanges policy. There is not much that can be done at this point. There are some facilities that you could send the unit to in order to try and improve performance. The local facilities tend to work on the units for a few hours a day during the week, or there are off-site facilities that take in the units for intense programming, but they are generally quite costly, and time consuming. By the time they complete the reprogramming, the NEW ADULT OS should be ready for installation.

Frazzled Mom: Well thanks for nothing!

HI Sam: Is there anything else I can assist you with today m’am?

Frazzled Mom: We also have a CHILD unit that is a 2007 model. Is there a way to prevent it from receiving the TEEN upgrade?

HI Sam: Well, no m’am. We can delay it for two or three years, but there comes a point where the upgrade cannot be avoided any longer.

Frazzled Mom: So what you are telling me is that soon we will have not one, but two malfunctioning CHILD units running on the TEEN operating system?

HI Sam: Yes m’am. I’m sorry m’am.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Goodbye Blue

It is with great sadness and regret that I must say goodbye to my old companion Blue.

Blue, you and I were together for the better part of fifteen years.  We went for countless walks together in all sorts of weather.  We braved the rain at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival as one. We survived the nasty garbage compacter attack of 2012... both of us left with cuts on our arms from that evil monstrosity at work. Patches for you, a band aid for me... I healed, while sadly, you did not.

Through the years you've been with me, keeping me safe and dry, but you've started slacking off in the areas that made you a good companion for all of these years.

I mourned the loss of each one of your button snaps, but still I stuck with you.

I've spent the better part of five minutes each morning and afternoon struggling to zip you up since your zipper became damaged, still I stuck with you.  It may have been a hassle, but I could handle the faulty zipper.

Where you have failed me the most lately, is in the one area I always thought that I could count on you.  You no longer keep me dry.  Your waterproof fabric and seams are no longer so. I walk home in the rain, then peel you off when I get home only to find that my shirt beneath is soaked through. You have failed me in the worst way Blue. You are no longer waterproof, and I'm afraid that is the one quality I simply must insist on a raincoat companion possessing.

So, with regret, I must bid you adieu, and welcome my new companion Burgundy. You see, Burgundy is lightweight and 100% waterproof.  She's not as long as you, but she'll keep me dry where you could not. Burgundy and I will have to make new memories of walking through the park and braving the rain.

Goodbye Blue, it was nice knowing you, but it's over now.

~ Your former human, Jeanie

Raincoat - Kelly Sweet

Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen) - Tori Amos

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Challenger: 30 Years Ago Today

It's amazing how much I can remember about an event that occurred thirty years ago today.  On January 28th 1986 I was six years old and in the first grade.  I remember our class being led to the library where the primary classes gathered around a pair of televisions set back-to-back to watch the live launch of NASA's Challenger. I can only assume the older children were similarly gathered in the gymnasium, as our library wasn't large enough to fit everyone. We were told that children in schools around the world were watching the same thing on television at the same time.  We were very excited, we could tell from the way the adults talked about the launch that it was an important day, that there was a woman who was a teacher who was going to go to space.  She was going to share her adventure with kids around the world in a way that most adults couldn't... she was a teacher, and teachers knew how to talk to kids in an engaging and exciting way. She could have been any one of our teachers!  This was exciting and special, and we were going to watch history be made. We were going to see it as it happened, not on a boring news clip at home that night.  We were hyped.  As we gathered on the floor of the library, we fidgeted and chattered excitedly.  One of the teachers tried to explain to us what we were going to see, that once the shuttle left the atmosphere we wouldn't see it anymore, but that would be when the astronauts (and the teacher!) would enter space and start their adventure. They had been preparing us for this all week, talking about space, shuttles, astronauts and rockets, and we'd point out to our parents any news-clip about the teacher-turned-astronaut, and the upcoming launch, sharing the oh-so-important information we had learned about it in school.
We saw the launch, which was boring until they started the countdown, when things became very exciting.  We saw the big trail of smoke that followed the launch, knowing that it should go up until we couldn't see it anymore, then there was a big ball of fire and audible gasps from the teachers in the room, and confusion from the people on TV.  Clearly something had gone horribly wrong, but we didn't understand what had happened.  It was more the reaction of the grownups in the room that tipped us off that something very bad had happened.  Without understanding why, many of us began crying as the teachers hurried to try and figure out if they should shut the television off or not.  Then a voice on the TV said that there were likely no survivors, and the decision was made, the screen became blank. They spoke in hushed voices, trying to figure out how and what to tell us about what we had just seen and heard.   
That's all I really remember from that day, except that I have a vague memory of being at home that night when my parents were watching the news which covered the story once again.  I know my parents struggled to explain to me what had happened in terms appropriate for a 6-year-old, which must have been rather difficult to do.  What happened between the explosion and getting home I couldn't begin to tell you, but I can imagine how difficult the next hours were for teachers and parents surrounded by children who were scared, confused, and sad.  I know that I'll always remember that feeling of excitement turned to confusion and dread that was so new to one so young.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Last week I participated in GISHWHES 2014.  GISHWHES stands for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, and it was a doozy!
Two of my coworkers were on my team, along with twelve Americans from various parts of the country.  Team LeviathanLovesRhymesWithFezzik managed to do several of the nearly 200 items, sometimes accomplishing what we thought was nearly impossible.

Here are some of my favorite item submissions from our team:

#3 It's "me time." Spoil, pamper and be decadent to yourself like you never have before. Oh, and P.S., you’re dressed as a Stormtrooper.

Clearly your bicycle is underwhelming you with its current performance. Convert your bicycle into a warp-speed spacecraft. Ride it.

#16 A family of at least four enjoying a formal dinner. All of the place settings, serving utensils, dishes - basically every non-food item above the tablecloth - must be made from Legos.

#28 Stage a mini-newspaper boat regatta in a public fountain with at least four competing vessels. We must see intense competitiveness and gambling.

#33 Batman or another superhero playing bingo at a crowded recreation center.

#37 "When I grow up I want to be..." Have a child dress up as what they want to be when they grow up (lawyer, doctor, ballerina, dragon-slayer, etc.). Then stage the photo in the environment they would be working in.

#42 Some regions have legendary monsters like the Loch Ness Monster in Loch Ness, Scotland or the Abominable Snowman in... well, wherever that creature lurks. Catch the mystery monster on camera that haunts your hometown.

#46 VIDEO (up to 30 seconds). Let's hear "Carry on My Wayward Son" on a giant pipe organ (antique preferred) in a cathedral or church, played by someone wearing a sock monkey hat.

#47 Cavemen get a bad rap, but really, they're no different from you and me. They like to dine at fine restaurants just like us!
We had so much fun with this one, I made a video:

#48 Four people use their bodies to form a table. Enjoy an elegant dinner for two at this body table.

#74 Be the messiah you were always meant to be. Walk on water (must be a lake or pool). We must not see anything under your feet except for water. Not that we need to say this, but: no photoshopping!

#82 As you know, William Shatner loves horses and clocks. Modify a cuckoo clock so that when the hour strikes, instead of a bird appearing, a tiny Captain Kirk on a horse pops out.

# 88 Make a mosaic Elopus, 2 meters in diameter, made entirely of natural objects
(i.e. no plastic, human-made materials, only leaves, rocks, dirt, flowers, wood, etc).

#90 Gingerbread villages are always so cute and quaint. Make a gingerbread village that shows urban blight: needle exchanges, prostitution, heavy police presence, etc.
Note the dead prostitute and the cops eating donuts:

#106 Lets see a fully dressed, face-painted Geisha mowing the lawn.
Little known fact: Geisha's have been engaged in a long-standing battle against Flamingos!
#109 Obviously everyone's favorite captain of the USS Enterprise was Jean-Luc Picard. Create a heroic Captain Picard using condiments (mustard, relish, ketchup, etc.) for paint.

#117 (three edited side-by-side-by-side images). Collect fruit from a tree on from which the fruit hangs over a public sidewalk. Make jam from the fruit. Eat it. (Provide 3 photos edited into one image).
This was om-nom-nummy!

#134 You or your pet, in period costume, seated on a Game of Thrones-style kale throne. Make it so good that GOT producers would want it as a marketing poster.

#147 It’s summertime and everyone loves a lemonade stand. But then again, every Tom, Dick and Harry is setting up a lemonade stand in the summertime and the market is flooded. Respond to consumer demand and carve out your own niche. Let's see two children manning a “Hot Pasta With Jam Sauce” stand.
#154 Sculpt John Barrowman's head from duct tape.

Your friend is in bed, not feeling well. Feed them a big bowl of warm (not hot) chicken noodle soup. One caveat: instead of feeding them with a spoon, use a leaf-blower.

We also had members become certified in CPR, renew their vows, and join the Bone Marrow Registry! It was a fun but exhausting week.  I think that next year I will book the week of GISHWHES off of work so I can truly immerse myself in the craziness that it entails.  Thanks for the fun, team LeviathanLovesRhymesWithFezzik!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lanterns & Folk Fest

As you may know by now, I volunteer on the Lantern Committee for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival each year.  Every year we have a theme (or themes) that the new lanterns are encouraged to fall into.  I say encouraged, because lets face it... there are some of us that will find a way to squeeze whatever it is we want to make into the theme... no matter how far a stretch it is.  Inevitably, every year there is at least one Doctor Who lantern, which took some tricky roundabout explanations last year when our theme was Under The Sea.  Our fearless leader Marya is very accepting though, and as long as you don't build a lantern that is too big (or when you break that rule, as some of us have been known to do, promise to store it yourself, and not in her storage space!) she's willing to accept just about any lantern so long as it is safely constructed.

This year we had an awesome theme: Monsters.  Or more specifically due to the height at which we carry the lanterns: Monsters Over The Bed.

There was tons of room for interpretation there, and I am proud to say that many of our committee members took rather geeky routes in their lantern choices.   

Before showing you some of this years awesome monster lanterns though, there are two lanterns that need special attention.  This past year we lost one of our own.  Andrew was a long-time member of our team, always at the ready with bizarre topics of conversation and jokes that were so bad they were funny.  Andrew loved bacon, toilet seats, glitter, and making people smile.  He often walked around wearing his purple top hat, and was also known for his Baby Cthulhu costume.  In tribute to him, two lanterns were made by committee members this year: The Hat, and Cthulhu.  

Todd is the longest running member of our team.  He was instrumental in keeping the lantern committee (and thus lantern procession) going when it was in danger of being dropped.  He started working on his squid lantern several years ago... exactly how many years ago is up for debate, but it is definitely more than four and less than ten. This year, life got in the way and he was too busy to be able to volunteer, but he did show up for Friday night procession with a wonderful surprise for all of us.  He finally finished his giant squid attacking a whale, and it is glorious!  A true work of art, every bend and curve carefully constructed and flawlessly papered.  I aspire to one day be able to build and paper with his level of skill.  Todd's attention to detail is out of this world, something that takes a great deal of talent, time, and patience.  It is no wonder it took so long to make this masterpiece.

I only have one clear picture of Lin's newest lantern, even though I could have sworn I took several. While I can almost pronounce the type of prehistoric sea creature it is, I cannot for the life of me spell it... I know this as I spent about half an hour trying to Google it in order to type it here.  Sorry Lin!  If someone can tell me the proper spelling I will edit this post accordingly. 



My lantern this year was the cute, but slightly obscure Adipose from Doctor Who.  Lin and I tend to have an unofficial contest between us to see how many people can correctly identify our lanterns.  This year I think she had 3, while I had 8.  In addition to those 8 correct Adipose identifications, there were several elephants, owls, R2D2, an igloo, and a woman who was very adamant that I had made a penguin. She actually stood there arguing with anyone who would listen and dare to say it was something else. I wonder if that last woman had spent the majority of her day in the Beer Garden?

Other lanterns with their names/descriptions captioned below.

Lantern Fish
Monster Wearing Bunny Slippers


Box Monster



Boo Costume

Pirate Monster



Three-Headed Dog

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July Is Here

Yesterday was rather hot and muggy in the Lower Mainland.  It was as if Mother Nature looked at the calendar, realized that it was July 1st, and decided to turn up the thermostat.  The heat was so bad at work that they tried turning off some of the lights in the back to cool off.

I walked to Safeway on my way home, and while I was paying for my groceries, the woman behind me in line asked for carry-out service.  Jokingly, I asked if she thought the carry-out lady would carry my groceries the ten blocks to my house for me.

"Ten blocks!? You're walking ten blocks in this!? I can give you a ride, your food will melt, it's really hot out there," offered the woman behind me.

I assured her that I could walk, no problem, had nothing frozen to carry, and pointed out that I only had two bags and that most of my walk was through the forest, which is shaded and therefore not as affected by the heat.  Both the woman and the cashier stared at me agape and pronounced that walking through the forest was even worse... dangerous even!  I laughed this off, assuring them that it was perfectly safe during daylight hours, and I walked through it daily on my way home.  The Semiahmoo Trail is a well-known and well-traveled walking trail that starts near my work and has a pathway leading from it less than a block from my house.

"No really, I can give you a ride," she insisted after some back and forth. "I promise I won't try to kidnap you.  I have enough kids at home, I don't want or need any more!"

I laughed, said thanks anyways, and walked home as planned, chuckling the whole way.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Aquarium 2.0

Trooper chasing fish in the old 20 G tank
My awesome landlady C and her youngest son N took me to pick up my new aquarium the other day. 

It was quite the adventure, filled with a few mishaps, all punctuated with N's endless chatter.  Almost seven year old boys can be extremely chatty!

I was planning on getting a 46 gallon tank with a bow front, but the one I'd picked went up in price since I'd been in a week before, so we looked at the other tanks available.  The 60 gallon tank was on for $50 less than the 46G, and C was quick to point out that it would fit in the car, no problem... so my arm was twisted and I got the bigger tank.  N and his mom helped pick out some decor for the tank, and the staff loaded the tank into the car... then realized that with N in the back seat, there wasn't enough room for the tank and its stand (which comes assembled and not in the box as we'd assumed) so we unloaded the tank, loaded in the stand and drove it and the myriad of items that we got to go with it and took our first trip home.  C and I unloaded the stand and other items, she fed the kids, and we headed back for round #2.  I should note that nearly the entire time, N was chattering away and asking questions that only almost seven year olds seem capable of coming up with, punctuated by the constant refrain: "How much longer?!"
The 20 G tank looks so tiny next to the 60 G!

We loaded the tank into the car, got ready to head home, and noticed 2 chips in the corner of the tank.  Several phone calls later, the staff at the Strawberry Hill store had located another tank... in Langley, given me a nice discount because of the inconvenience, unloaded the damaged tank, and sent us on our way.  I should point out that C is awesome and barely flinched at the thought of detouring to Langley. Luckily the new tank was in mint condition - the staff there and C, N, and I all checked thoroughly! 

N picked out the Chinese Dragon.
We used our awesome girl power and got the tank downstairs to my suite without incident or any male assistance (other than ten year old L closing the door behind us) and put it in place.

The rest was up to me.  You may have read my How To Set Up Your Tropical Aquarium post, if not, go check it out to see what it was basically like to set up the tank, only 3 times bigger. :)

It took what felt like a thousand trips with buckets of water to fill it up, not to mention setting up all of the cords and tubes so that they'd be as unobtrusive as possible, and I used some of the tank water and other items from the old tank to help jump start the biological filter.

The tank is now set up and after getting the levels and temp in the correct range, I just transferred a few Zebra Danios and my Pleco into it.  I think Danio's are ninja fish.  They are very good at eluding human attempts to capture them.  I suddenly see the value in the over-sized nets that the local fish store staff use!

Pleco expertly hiding behind a very short green plant.
True to form, I've seen Pleco move only once since going into the tank.  Eventually he's going to realize that he has a lot more room than usual, and will probably redecorate the interior of the tank as he likes to do, but for now, he's "hiding" behind the shortest plant in the tank... he's not going to win any awards for hide-and-seek anytime soon.