Category Archives: Mischief

Skirting the Issue

Dave’s been having fun the past few years, telling his daughters all sorts of stories about their various uncles. More recently, he’s posted a story or two on his blog.
I suppose I could respond with a story or two of my own, for example, when he was a foreign exchange student, he returned from New Zealand in January. My then-girlfriend and I went with my parents to meet him at the airport and when Dave got off the plane, he was wearing a skirt. (The girlfriend broke up with me a short time later.) I could go into great length about that, but why? After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Dave, wearing a skirt and holding a spear.
So you see, it turns out that I’m the normal one!

Hello Toothface Fans!

It’s fun to look at the web site statistics for Dactyl Manor and discover how people accessed the site. For instance, a huge number of visitors are looking for information about anime conventions (clearly I need to break out the convention list by genre in addition to location, date and event name); and although a growing number of people are using recent versions of Internet Explorer, there are still quite a few using versions 4, 5, and 6. (For crying out loud! Upgrade already! Or get Firefox! Sheesh!)
One of the other interesting statistics is how people arrived at this site. About half either came directly to a page they already knew, or followed a link from another page on the site. That’s pretty normal.
The two most frequent sources of external referrals are Google and Yahoo. No big surprises there either.
What did surprise me though is that the third most common source of referrals to Dactyl Manor is Luke’s Blog! So far this month, more than 330 people have arrived here via The actual number of referrals is even higher though, because a link to Dividing by Zero appears in the list of “friends” links on every page of Luke’s blog and people have been clicking those links too.
This of course raises the question, why are so many of Luke’s readers heading over here? What on Earth would cause so many people from the Lancaster Theological Seminary to visit my site?
And then it hit me, they’re looking for background information on their Pastor-in-training!
That certainly puts a new light on this site. I’ve never before had so many members of the religious community interested in my activities. (Hopefully none of them are offended by the Naked Eye Candy!)
And what should I say about Luke? He’s a friend, so should I be talking him up? Should I tell the tales of how for as long as I’ve known Luke, he’s been taking blankets and dinner to the homeless?
Or do I tell the truth and write about how for years he’s been carrying on with a married* woman? And to complicate the matter, this married woman, we’ll call her “Kate”, recently gave birth to Luke’s child! Does this guy know no shame?
And then there’s the question of Luke’s wife whom I also consider a friend. Does she know about “Kate”? I’m not really comfortable being the one to tell her, but then again, wouldn’t it better for her to find out from a friend than from a complete stranger?
And you also have to wonder, are the folks at LTS aware that Luke is a Cylon?
On the one hand, the ability to keep quiet is frequently a valuable (and quite rare) skill. On the other hand, isn’t there a responsibility to tell the truth?
It’s a tough call. But when I started to write Dividing by Zero, I knew it was possible that strangers might one day read it.
It appears that day is here.

*OK, sure. “Kate” is is in fact Luke’s wife, Kate; it’s to be expected that they’d spend time together. But it’s not nearly as sensational when you phrase it that way and I do want people to keep coming back.


Things have been a bit stressful at work lately. Not quite six weeks ago, I completed a very high profile project. There were a few minor glitches, but things overall went fairly well.

Before that project was even complete, I was already being pulled onto another project, also very important, and also with a very high profile. We’re evaluating several complex software packages to replace a highly customized mission critical application, we’re doing it on a very short schedule, and it turns out that there were some bad assumptions early on about the level of effort required for the evaluations.

This past week, the inevitable happened.

An office with caution tape across the doorway and what appears to be a chalk outline on the floor.

No, no, no. Nobody died. Just a case of a sense of humor coming into play.

Friday a week ago, I was intensely working on the project and to minimize distractions had kept the office door closed most of the day. (Interestingly, most people assumed it was my officemate who didn’t want to be disturbed. Either way, the effect was the same.) Around 5:30, I noticed the silhouette of someone standing outside my office door and upon opening it, discovered my boss taping a piece of yellow Caution tape across the doorway.

I laughed and even obliged by collapsing on the floor. As my boss snapped a photo, a passerby commented on my performance, “He dies well.”

The caution tape stayed up over the weekend confusing both the cleaning staff and several co-workers. By the end of the day Monday though, the boss hadn’t done anything with the photos and then sent out an email saying he would be out for the next few days.

When he returned on Thursday morning, he laughed to find the caution tape across his door. When he found the “chalk” outline (actually done with masking tape) he needed several minutes to stop laughing. His favorite part was a touch an accomplice had added (it’s difficult to mark an outline of yourself) where the outline ran over (and fastened to the floor) an envelope which had been slipped under the door. He even laid down on the floor for a photo of himself in the outline.

My boss, surrounded by a chalk outline.

Inevitably, somebody who hears this story will comment that I have too much spare time. To me, this seems like a fairly reasonable use of five minutes. It certainly beats letting the stress get to the point where someone in a more “official” role is drawing outlines.


More Grocery Store Mischief!

I had to make a mid-evening run to the grocery store or else breakfast was going to be nothing but toast. (Now I’ll be able to have a pear. Plus, lunch won’t have to come from the deli.)

Going through the checkout, the cashier was making small talk and asked, “Any big plans for the evening?”

Since it was already past 9:00, I just shook my head and answered, “No, just this, and then I have a heavy date with my pillow.”

The woman behind me in line overheard this and added, “I have one too.”
I turned to her and in my most surprised voice exclaimed, “With my pillow?! I’m going to have to have a word with that pillow! It’s really getting around!”

A few minutes later as I paid for the groceries, gathered my bags, and started to walk away, the woman called after me, “Give my regards to the pillow!”

Come With Me If You Want to Live

Over the past few weeks, people have been growing increasingly nervous about the Conficker worm. All anyone’s knew about it until now is that it was going to start looking for a message on April 1.
It appears Conficker has received its message, and it isn’t one that’s good for us.
Google has announced their new Artificial Intelligence, CADIE (Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity).
I’ve already taken a look at CADIE’s homepage and YouTube channel and as far as I can tell, it’s indistinguishable from what most humans put on line. And if you can’t reliably tell an A.I. apart from a human, then the A.I. has passed the Turing Test.
Now we know what the Conficker worm is: It’s Google’s A.I. Or rather, it’s Skynet.
If you need me for anything, I’ll be hanging out with Sarah Conner.

Notes from this Weekend

I spent this past weekend at a Maryland Jaycees convention up in Timonium. One of the more memorable moments of the weekend was a presentation my friend Angela gave on Saturday evening. She was kind enough to share a copy and I thought the folks who regularly read this site might find it interesting.

Hi everyone, this person is your typical Militia honoree: they’ve chaired or co-chaired projects from small to large, held many board positions at both the local level and the state level, they’ve crisscrossed the state to assist other chapters, recruited new members, participated in state programs such as speak-up, write-up, and degrees. Most importantly, her chapter has witnessed her growth from the shy person who sat quietly in the back of the room to someone well known, liked, and respected across the state.
This person was nominated for many reasons, but one thing stands out above all others: her ability to successfully mentor chapter members and Jaycees all across the state. She coaches new project chairs through the project planning process and teaches them the fundamentals. She understands the importance of guiding and teaching them how to plan the project, rather than doing the work for them. In the nominee’s own words, “…sometimes people ask for advice, and then they follow-up by asking questions. That’s when you get to be a mentor. And that’s kind of cool. You don’t run the project for them: you answer questions, you give advice, and you help out. But you don’t take over. (It’s gotta be rough for momma bird when the baby bird takes that first step off the branch!)”
Many of you are familiar with quite a few of her…uh, HIS mischief and mayhem. That’s right, he is known around the state for taking the Special Olympics turkey plunge quite literally. Two of our members had recently gotten engaged (they decided to “take the plunge”) so he secretly raised funds to get them to jump in the frigid water, but he took it a step further by making turkey wings out of brown paper bags to go with the turkey plunge theme. They looked stunning! He’s also responsible for our chapter’s largest turnout of speak up and write up competitors at a quarterly convention simply because he challenged the chapter president that he could get a high turnout. Unfortunately for the president, this person won the challenge and the president took a pie in the face!
One of my own foolish moments has paid off in dividends for all of us. After his first year in the Jaycees, he hemmed and hawed about renewing his membership so I made a silly comment about what I would do if he didn’t renew (something about bunnies — you’ll have to ask him). Somehow, he turned it into a practical joke on me, but he’s been around ever since. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lastly, I am so very pleased to be the person presenting this award because I greatly value his friendship. We became friends long ago when we served on the chapter’s board and our friendship has grown throughout the years. When I became chapter president, I frequently sought his advice (usually over lunch or ice cream!). His ability to see things I could not were as invaluable to me then as they are now.
His greatest strength is his compassion and caring. He’s known for being quite the practical joker, but last year with great planning and care, he turned the long-time practical joke of bunny ears into Operation Bunny Foo Foo to lift my spirits during my illness. Compassion and caring — that’s him.
But tonight it is not about me — it’s about him. At this point, will the members of the Gaithersburg/Germantown Jaycees please don your ears and escort the newest Militia Major, Blair Learn to the podium.

And then A BUNCH OF MY FRIENDS PUT ON BUNNY EARS and led me to the front of the room where I was presented with a plaque, hat, and other accouterments recognizing me as a member of the Maryland Jaycees Militia. (A Militia Membership is the highest honor you can achieve in the Maryland Jaycees.) The Gaithersburg/Germantown chapter sets a pretty high standard in order to consider someone for a Militia membership and given the caliber of people who had been honored in the past, I figured it was a pretty safe bet I wouldn’t be one of them.
I’m still a little blown away.