The Guy.

The mood in the development meeting was much lighter this morning. We were all relaxed, even jovial, without the looming deadling of a release hanging over our heads. No one was worried about having to work over the weekend. My boss was discussing what needed to happen now, clean up here and there, small changes for any reported bugs. It was all minor stuff compared to having cleared our one giant annual hurdle.

Yesterday had not been so nice. We had free pizza, sure, that was nice. But the boss was only buying us lunch to make sure we didn't try and stray too far from the office when there was work to be done. That pizza was just a weapon to hold us hostage. Sure was good, though.

We had spent yesterday testing, finding bugs, fixing bugs, and then testing to find more bugs. The real tension about this part of the software development life cycle is that no one wants to be The Guy. You know, The Guy who wrote the code which has the bug that will make everyone stay late when they'd rather be at home watching basketball. No one wants to find any bugs at all, because then we all have to stay. But it's much worse to be The Guy, the one who is the cause of the latest frustration. I wish I could say that being A Girl exempted me from being The Guy, but it doesn't. I had been The Guy for a while yesterday afternoon until someone found a bug in someone else's code, and that guy was The Guy for a while.

The funny thing is that while I feel embarrassed and ashamed when I am The Guy, I never resent The Guy when it's someone else. I'm too busy being thankful that it's not me and praying that it won't be me again this cycle. When I am The Guy, I imagine that my coworkers are secretly passing around a petition to have me fired, while their children sit at home and ask if Daddy is ever coming home tonight. I probably write worse code because of my eagerness to stop being The Guy as quickly as possible.

But we'd got it all wrapped up yesterday, all tested and cleared to be released to the general public. We hadn't even had to stay all that late. We'd gotten enough sleep, come in maybe five minutes later than we might have, leisurely read email before the meeting. I doodled on my notepad while half-listening to my boss talking. The big boss, the one two higher than me, came in a little later, scanned the room briefly, then sat down in the corner without speaking. After a minute or two, his face took on the glazed look that everyone else had. For another fifteen minutes, the lesser boss talked, until the big boss interrupted the talking boss.

"I'm sorry, I hate to interrupt, but I couldn't really get a word in there."

"That's fine, man, what's up?"

"I pulled it."


"I pulled it." We all look around not comprehending. He pulled what? A muscle? The bus stop cord? Some salt-water taffy?

"You pulled what?"

"The release. I pulled it. I found a bug and it just can't go out like that. This bug is too severe." We shook ourselves out of our respective reveries, blinking at the sudden jarring we'd just received. It was sort of like being woken in the middle of a pleasant dream by a phone call from your parole officer. We all shifted gears together; you might have been able to hear a click.

"Okay, what's the problem?" We all hold our breaths, waiting for him to announce the foul code, to name The Guy who had thoroughly spoiled what had been a lovely morning up until then. What a Guy it was, to write code that would hide its bugginess until we had all gotten comfortable, then BLAM! Bug city.

"It's in the new toolbar." Crap, that was me. Inwardly, I cursed myself, completely deflated. On the outside, I sat up straight, with pen poised at the ready, trying to look competant when evidence was suggesting otherwise. Once the meeting ended, I walked with long, quick strides back to my cube, anxious to get to work on the bug, to regain my coworker's trust, to pass the torch so that I wouldn't have to be The Guy anymore.

As a couple of my colleagues passed by, I heard one of them wonder whether we'd be getting pizza again today.


something else!

"Something else!" a small voice called out. At the beginning of the day, that call was met with a sigh. It meant that I had to go around the apartment and find something that a six year old could carry down a couple flights of stairs. The boxes, even the ones filled with clothes, wouldn't work, because he couldn't see over or around the box enough to navigate. So it had to be something light and small and not too fragile. It also couldn't have rusty nails sticking out, and just in case you think I couldn't possibly have anything with rusty nails sticking out of it, I'll just let you know that you're wrong.

I never really noticed how little actual moving and how much pointing and instructing you have to do when you're the person who is changing addresses. I've helped my siblings move many, many times. That's easy. Grab a box, take it to the truck. Drive to the new place. Grab a box, take it inside. But when it's my stuff in those boxes, I have to spend a lot of time making sure everyone has something to do. So I make sure the big stuff is cleared off for my brothers and teenaged nephews and that my pregnant sister has room to fill coolers with stuff from the freezer and my niece has enough towels to cover the artwork and that the big kids have a steady supply of light boxes and that the little kids aren't in the way. It's a job. There wasn't a lot of time to find something just the right size and shape for an eager six-year-old's hands.

But by the end of the day, I was starting to enjoy finding things for my nephew Noah to carry. I got better at seeing the items as I was frantically organizing all the people who were big enough to tote boxes or furniture. By the end of the day, every time Noah came back up the stairs and called "Something else!" I was ready. I'd been clearing off the desk or moving aside some boxes of books and I would spy something appropriate. Small lamps, a half-sized box, a pair of ski poles, a board game, a plastic pitcher full of flour. I'd make sure and ask if he could handle it, telling him that if it was too heavy, I could get his daddy to carry the Scrabble game. He would reassure me that he could handle it, and then head on out back to the truck, sometimes saying as he went, "I'm helping a lot!"

As I've been unpacking everything that was brought inside by my helpers, I can't help but notice which things were carried by Noah. Maybe because it was sort of my only connection with all the actual hauling that went on Saturday, maybe because every time I see a plastic pitcher full of flour or my ski poles, I hear him calling out "Something else!"


great blue.

I really enjoyed my work-related trips to Detroit. Not because I particularly liked Detroit. I didn't even spend much time in the city itself, but it seemed a bit scary. I spent most of the time in the suburbs and a little bit in the countryside. I decided very quickly that I liked Michigan, mostly because of the birds. There is so much water in Michigan - lakes and ponds and little ditches with cattails growing around them. Then there were water birds everywhere. In North Carolina, you see a lot of geese and ducks on ponds. In Michigan, you see egrets in the ditches. That makes them sound like they've run on hard times, but I prefer to think that they were just stopping at a watering hole.

Just because ducks are commonplace doesn't mean that I am not fascinated by them. I don't think I'll ever get too old for the joy that comes from tearing off pieces of sandwich bread and tossing them to a set of quackers. Ducks are sweet and charming in their quacking, waddling simplicity. Egrets and herons are something else entirely. Tall and graceful, they know their business, and they demand respectful quiet. Once when I was a kid, I saw a great blue heron in our creek. I was just coming down the enbankment when it took off from the water. I didn't know what it was, only that it was massive and blue. Its wingspan was longer than I was tall. That memory has stuck with me for a long time, as a moment when I happened to be in the right place at the right time and caught a glimpse of something secret and wonderful.

Later I went to Michigan, where magnificent birds hang out in the ditches on the side of the road.

There is a pond across the street from my new house. There are ducks living there, and sometimes in the mornings, I can hear geese calling to each other as they splash down. I'm hopeful that I will see ducklings and goslings in the spring. Monday morning, I was pulling out of the driveway to go to work when I saw it - a heron, perched on a log in the middle of the pond. I don't want to hope that its visit was anything more than just a brief rest at my little pond, a layover on its long flight north. Even so, I was happy to be in the right place at the right time to get another glimpse of something secret and wonderful.


the grass is riz.

I'm not a cold weather person anyway, but I am more excited than usual for spring to come. I've never seen my house and property in bloom. I don't know what's going to pop up, what colors will come out. It's sort of like marrying a girl without seeing her in makeup. Of course, since I never wear makeup, maybe I should come up with a better analogy.

I can't wait for spring. Neither could this tree, which sits by my front porch.


pick a little.

I'm going to save you two hours and thirteen minutes. That's how long you might be inclined to invest in watching the 2003 made-for-TV version of The Music Man. I'm telling you to skip it. Just a warning - this is going to be a terribly uninformed review. My knowledge of The Music Man comes entirely from the 1962 movie. I've never read the script, and I've seen the play done once by a community theatre group. I did see the writer, Meredith Willson once on a rerun of an old panel game show and was surprised to learn that he was a man. Also, if you aren't pretty familiar with the first movie, you're not going to know what I'm talking about here. So go watch it real quick and then come back.

This movie was like an uninspired cover song. To be a successful cover song, you either have to do the same thing better or you have to do something different, but as good as the original interpretation. I watched this movie and kept thinking, Man, I wish I was watching the 1962 version. In fact, I probably would have pulled out my copy of the other version and watched it had I not packed it up last week.

This movie claims to be updated for the early 21st century. As far as I could tell, the update consisted of raising the prices of the band instruments, added a few black cast members, and that was it. It's possible that they meant the costumes, too. The movie is set in 1912 in small town Iowa. The costumes didn't look like what people wore in 1912 Iowa, but more like clothes that were inspired by 1912 Iowa and made today. And okay, that's fine, they're trying to appeal to a newer generation. But the script is laden with references to the time - Captain Billy's Whiz-Bang, Dan Patch, Sen-Sen. So keeping the script as-is while modernizing the costumes just makes the clothing seem anachronistic.

The casting was also a bit off. I confess that my idea of what the characters should be is based on seeing the 1962 movie, and you could argue that I was just thrown by seeing a different interpretation of a part. I missed Buddy Hackett. The dude who played Marcellus in this movie was completely forgettable. Hackett turned that character into a larger than life figure. You remembered who he was. But this guy? If he appeared in a scene after being gone for a few minutes, you'd have to remind yourself who he was. Also, Widow Paroo was in dire need of an accent coach.

I'll call the difference in Mayor Shinn a mistake in direction rather than in casting. In the first movie, Mayor Shinn is bumbling. He's a harmless idiot. He never is really a cause for worry to Harold Hill, though he constantly threatens to arrest him. This movie tries to make him an actual nemesis, always serious and foreboding. However, it doesn't really work, because the script has using malapropisms all the time. I suppose the director was attempting to add a little drama. It didn't work.

And now we come to the most glaring difference, the character of Professor Harold Hill. I like Matthew Broderick. I had a childhood crush on him after seeing The Faerie Tale Theatre version of Cinderella. He's so cutely unassuming and charming. But the main problem I had with this movie was that Matthew Broderick was not Robert Preston. He was not charming at all. In fact, he was sort of flat. He couldn't have sold a diamond-studded piano to Liberace, much less a boy's band to a bunch of stubborn Hawkeyes.

The movie was not bad. The dancing and singing were very professional. Winthrop was cute and had a proper lisp, rather than the spitting mess that little Ronnie Howard did in the first movie. One addition I did enjoy, and I can't tell you if it's an addition to the regular script or if it was just left out of the first movie. There's a reprise of "Pick a Little" where the ladies of the town claim to have read Chaucer, Rabelais, and Balzac, and that they totally loved it. There was a general subplot of Marian being accepted into the society as a result of Hill which I liked very much. Maybe that was the update for the early 21st century - housewives who read literature!

And there were a lot of little things that I decided to let slide. They were obviously trying hard to be racially diverse, which isn't very accurate to 1912. Also, the members of the school board looked to be about 22, while the punk kid, Tommy Djilas, looked about 30. Those things bugged me at the beginning of the movie, before I started yelling at Matthew Broderick to buck up and sell me something.

I'll leave you with a comparison.

Broderick (skip to 4:50 or thereabouts):


Really, there is no comparison.


the king of saturday pizzas.

On Saturdays, I wake up early without the alarm - usually before 8 AM, always before 9. My first waking thought is that it is Saturday, and I am ready to jump out of bed so I can hit the yard sales.

I throw on whatever clothes are nearest, put my hair up in something halfway between a bun and a ponytail, and I am ready to go. Usually I remember to put on deodorant. Sometimes I'll get some juice or milk on my way out the door.

Josh is less eager at first, but by the time we get to the second sale, he's always eager. We hit sales as long as they are there to hit. We follow the pre-planned course, making many detours guided by homemade neon signs with arrows.

By noon, the sales have mostly petered out, and we are feeling hungry and grimy from not showering, walking around in increasing heat, and touching musty things. We go back to my apartment, craving pizza and kool-aid. He makes the pizza while I look at our new treasures or laze on the futon. During the rest of the week, I'm in charge of meal preparation, but Josh is the king of Saturday pizzas.

He's memorized the recipe for the dough, and we always have tomato sauce and cheese in stock. The rest of the ingredients vary based on what happens to be on hand. I like pineapple and banana peppers; he likes black olives. If we have bell peppers or onions or tomatoes around, we throw them on, too. We love making pizza because it's quick, easy, always delicious, and always different.

Once the pizza is ready, we put on a movie we've seen before and tuck in to our delicious feast. We agree that this Saturday pizza is definitely the best Saturday pizza we've ever had. Sometimes I eat two slices, sometimes three, sometimes four. When we're done, we lie down on the futon to watch the movie. More often than not, we fall asleep and have a long and snuggly afternoon nap. Saturdays have not been so good since I outgrew the cartoons.

Yesterday, I did all the things that I usually do on a Saturday. I got up early, followed the course of my yard sale plan, came home to make a pizza, and then took a nap. But Josh was somewhere in Texas, still on tour with his band. I felt his absence the most when I had to look up the pizza dough recipe. And it was yet another yummy Saturday pizza, but it was not the best Saturday pizza I've ever had.


and me in my house dress.

Picture this: A hazy apartment living room. A fire burning in the fireplace, with smoke coming out into the room. A girl in a loose-fitting navy cotton dress stands on a futon, frantically waving a lap desk up and down at a very effective and loud smoke alarm. Once she gets the alarm to stop blaring, she runs to the front door and props it open with a shoe, only to run back to the futon and the lap desk once the smoke alarm starts going again.

This was my morning. My heart was racing, my lungs were hurting, and my thoughts were tumbling all over each other. I was picturing the arrival of firemen, the evacuation of my entire building, and me in my house dress.

Maybe I should explain about my house dress. I bought it at a yard sale where you could buy a bag of clothes for a dollar. I stuffed the dress in because I had room in the bag. It looked too big for me and was a really unflattering cut anyway. But it was made of very soft cotton, like a night gown. For all I know it could be a night gown. Since then, it's gotten a lot of use on the weekends. It's comfortable and lighter than pajamas. It hangs off me like a tent, thoroughly hiding the already small effect that puberty had on me. The only person who sees me in it is Josh. I believe in truth in relationships. He might as well get used to me in the house dress, because that's the way it's going to be, buddy.

Back to the lap desk and the fire alarm. While packing up my desk, I had come across boxes of old checks. I didn't want to just throw them away, nor did I want to cart them off to yet another residence. So I struck upon the brilliant idea of burning them in the fireplace. I was working from home today because of snow, and I thought it would be nice to have a little fire going. I had a hard time getting it started, but after a few minutes, I had a strong blaze. Then I noticed that rather than the smoke going up the chimney, it was coming out into the room. The smoke alarm noticed it, too.

So I started fanning the smoke alarm with my lap desk. I got it to shut up. I ran and opened the doors to the balcony. The alarm went off again, so I ran back and started fanning it again. Got it to stop, ran to the front door and opened that, the alarm started up again. Fan, fan, fan, noticed that the fire was really going well and had plenty of fuel to go. Ran to the sink and filled up an empty milk jug with water. Alarm started up again, fan, cough, fan, fan, threw the water on the fire, which doused it, but caused even more smoke. Alarm, cough, fan, fan, cough, fan. Cold air came in from the outside as the room started to clear, and me in my house dress.

As I was fanning, my arms getting tired and my lungs getting sore, I was reminded of being twelve and setting a fire in the trash can in my room. The plastic trash can. That was a really stupid move, and the fire could have caused some serious damage. But this, this was totally not fair. Okay, yeah, the smoke was a problem, but only for me. The fire was under control and located in a perfectly acceptable place for a fire to be. There was no danger. The fire department had better not come.

My lungs were screaming, like a whiny child in the midst of a crisis, and I thought to myself, OKAY, I KNOW, I'M ON IT! I thought about the cartoon I had seen on a fire department sign, picturing someone crawling on the floor to escape breathing smoke. That was all well and good, but I couldn't fan the smoke alarm from a crawling position and, in my book, escaping humiliation is much more important than avoiding permanent lung damage. I could pass out from the smoke inhalation, and that would be fine, as long as some fireman didn't come and find me collapsed in a heap in my house dress.

Finally, the smoke stopped pouring out of the fireplace. The room stopped looking like the set of the last scene in Casablanca. My lungs and the fire alarm stopped complaining. I closed the doors and sat down to calm down. I considered having a drink to ease my nerves, but it was 10 am and I was supposed to be working. If I were a smoker, I would have wanted a cigarette.

I opened the flue. You probably figured out the problem about when I did, which was about when the smoke detector went off for the first time. Soot and ash rained down on my hand. I sighed and wiped it on my house dress.