Rick Rolling* – Geek Style

Another travel week.  A group of eight “friendlies” at my business conference had congealed on my hotel patio Monday evening for bourbon, beer and bullshit. 

It was a mixed crew – people i’ve encountered in various working venues.  A few known “fun” folks, and one relative unknown – call sign Sven since he was born in Sweden… a very bright, appropriately snarky engineer from my old organization.

This kind of impromptu party doesn’t always work, and since i really didn’t know Sven, i was taking moderate social risk of offending him, or annoying the “known” collective. 

We sat and talked smack.  We commiserated about the annoyance of this particular annual “group grope” event – an apparently necessary evil we must all endure, and make the best of…  We started telling tales of the ridiculous, stupid people tricks and, of course, drunken debauchery from prior travels.

Alcohol may have been a factor.

JG shared a story from his days as a young military officer – attempting to look sharp in his uniform, he wore his sock garters through the airport metal detector, setting off a body search that scarred him for life. 

After being accused of being a cougar, i defended myself, saying “i don’t date younger men, since they still have dreams and want to “do” something with their lives!  Who cares about your dreams, kid?  Shut up, and put the ball gag back on…”

KT, while heading inside to the bathroom, managed to walk into a screen door – which led to endless abuse about how much wine she really had that evening. 

We continued our rants and tales, and Sven was hanging tough.  He seemed to be enjoying himself, and was pretty relaxed.  He was the first to leave, however, as he had to give a presentation in the morning. 

As he was saying his goodbyes, i challenged him – “I’ll buy you dinner if you can work the words ‘screen door’, ‘sock garters’ and ‘ball gag’ into your briefing tomorrow!  OK, ‘ball gag’ might be tough, so just the words ‘ball’ and ‘gag’ will suffice.  But you’ll get bonus points if you can keep them adjacent – a really nice meal!”

Looking a bit shell-shocked, he thanked us for a lovely evening and went off across the lawn to his room.  We weren’t sure if he took it seriously, but all agreed that he seemed to have a good time. 

His was the third presentation this morning.  Somewhere at the beginning he said something about “…follow the bouncing ball…” as he played the laser pointer across the screen, showing a process chart.  It was there, but we still weren’t sure he was playing.

The group of us from the night before were scattered across the meeting room, and generally not paying much attention, until we heard Sven say “….now, try not to gag on this process chart.”  We perked up.  Exchanged looks across the room.  It was on.  He was definitely playing…

The next two would be tough.  “We hope to make these old technologies as obsolete as sock garters.”  Nice.  Subtle.  Direct.

As he wrapped up his presentation, he said “That would be like walking head first into a screen door” – bonus for directly ragging on KT for her misfire from the previous evening .  

Since we were back on the patio Tuesday evening, we had to lay out new challenges for Wednesday presentations.  GS got “weasel”, KT got “bondage” and LD got “domination”.  And because i hate the word “moist” that was a bonus word for anyone.

GS stated up front he was going to “weasel out” of presenting one of the compulsory charts.  KT talked about “bondage” required to hold materials together, tossed in a “domination” and a “weasel” for good measure.  But LD was the overall champ.

Not only did she nail “bondage”, “domination”, and “weasel”, she closed her presentation with “And my eyes get a little moist when I think about this being my last meeting”.  The piece de resistance, however was when she looked at the Senior Dinosaur, in charge of the event, and said “Bob, I never want to let you down…”. 

Yes.  She got in the lyrics* If you dont’ know what “Rick Rolled” is, there’s a good description here.  It’s pretty much a dead internet meme, though, having peaked a few years back.  This, however, makes it even more annoying when you do it to someone.  My most favorite one – the Oregon state congress, in a bi-partisan show of collaboration – managed to Rick Roll during a legislative session.  Video highlights here.  Magic.

Warning: 12 year-old boys at work

It started here.   And as is always the case, plumbed the depths of molten-core stupidity within a few minutes.  i love these crazy bastards…
cramnitram:  Bad news.  How long can you survive on beer alone?  Long enough to get scurvy!

daisyfae:  Drinking only Blue Moon, with substantial slices of orange, could certainly delay scurvy.  More experimentation.  We need science, damn it!
ninjaneer:  But then Blue Moon ups the prevalence of the trots and subsequent dehydration……question is, does this constitute a reasonable trade-off?
RN:  Not to mention if your drinking Blue Moon then you have a high probability of being gay, giving you a statistically higher chance of dying from AIDS. Beer alone is ‘iffy’, but Busch and Ring Dings probably has all you need. 
ninjaneer:  I would have to concur with this assessment.  I, myself, stick with Bourbons and the occasional Tennessee Sour Mash.  Beer drinkers have always struck me as slightly effeminate, and frankly, unable to carry on serious barroom discourse through their constant preening, primping and giggling. 
daisyfae:  RN, your use of the words “busch” and “ring dings”, amidst your obvious homophobia, are a bit much.  Tone it down, please.  I’m trying to work here…
ninjaneer: A sure sign of Living in Lifestyle Denial if I ever saw it.  Classic Textbook……
RJak:  I have to agree with RN.  Blue Moon is the VW Jetta of beers.  It is socially acceptable for women but for guys it leads one to ask “Is he …?”  And if a guy drinks a Blue Moon with orange slices – question answered. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
RN: It gets even worse, did you know Ring Dings are a product rip off of Ding Dongs?  
ninjaneer:  ….and how does this all relate to Dong Rings
cramnitram:  Dong rings are just a bigger version, except in your case, ninjaneer.
RN:  It relates via the mysterious yogis in the Kentucky mountains who live on nothing but bourbon, the movie was “Lord of the Dongs”
TC: ….as the ninjaneer always used to say……’Dong Rings before Ding Dongs….never sicker…..Ding Dongs before Dong Rings…..’  uh….I can’t remember the rest. 
RN:  Ding Dongs were made by Hostess I think and Ring Dings was something I can’t remember.  Same crappy cylindrical black cake with crème in the middle
ninjaneer:  I’m not a big fan of Dong Rings…..but when she insists – think radiator hose clamp…..
RN:  …and “Ding Dongs” changed name to “King Dons” for a while, then back to “Ding Dongs”.  I know all that, and you say I am not a MAN?

daisyfae:  “Ring Dings” (by Drakes) were the original chocolate sponge-cake hockey puck, and they sued Hostess for infringement when “Ding Dongs” were introduced.  The “King Dons” name was a negotiated solution.  Hostess, however, bought Drakes in 1998, returning the name to “Ding Dongs”.  I have finally proven that the internet is good for something other than porn.

ninjaneer:  I’d like a minute for rebuttal…..
daisyfae:  yeah, but you’ll have to explain to the guys in bio-environmental health what all that stuff is on your monitor.
TC:  you mean that dribble on the floor?
RN:  “Don King’s Dong Ring”
ninjaneer:  ten times, really fast!

A League of Our Own

E-mail thread from the Nerd Herd this afternoon, as we were all clearly working very hard.

RN:  I’m starting a new fantasy physics league.  First we draft our teams and the season runs from 1 January to 30 December 2011.  10 Physicists per team.  Draft Order is me, RJak, Ninjaneer, daisyfae and M**2.  And don’t forget to name your team. Mine is “The Downtown Differentials”.


Second author paper – 1 point
First author paper – 2 points
Magazine article – 3 points
Mention on CNN – 4 points
Appearance on Leno – 5 points
Appearance on Star Trek – 6 points
TV show – 8 points
Presentation using See-and-say – 20 points
Presentation with naked wife on screen saver* – 30 points

Ok here we go – I’ll take Stevie Hawking!

daisyfae:  You need to add a category for “Getting Front Page Coverage in Popular Press”
     – Time, Newsweek:  15 points
     – Wall Street Journal: 10 points
     – New York Times / Washington Post: 8 points
     – Chicago Trib, LA Times, major newspaper:  5 points
     – Weekly Reader: 3 points
     – Trailer Park Digest: 1 point

RJak:  I choose Rick Smalley.  I know he’s dead and all, but does that really matter?  It doesn’t take a genius to get a stripper knocked-up. 

Speaking of which:  “Very minor scandal that I wanted to report on because of the humor value but my editors wouldn’t let me for reasons that are totally valid: Hawking was spotted  going into a strip club in London, and apparently spent several hours with one of the strippers, and supposedly  .  A colleague and I had tracked down the stripper (if I recall correctly, her stage name was “Tiger”) and scheduled an interview. I wanted to find out what a Tiger and Hawking would discuss for so long — g-string theory, perhaps — but my editors pulled the plug. Probably a good thing.” [reference]

daisyfae:  “The Boson Bombers” choose…

That guy who gave the presentation at the Colloquium Series who got so jacked up answering a question that his screen saver came on and the naked boobie picture of his wife on vacation came up in his slide show.  And yeah, I know it’ll be a bitch to get all that printed on his jersey, but I’ll dig up his name. 

By the way… I’m also claiming “The Particle Chargers” for a possible team name.  Haven’t decided which one I’m going to use. 

Ninjaneer:  Anything published in an Astronomy Journal is a league violation and disqualifies the team.

M**2:  My team name is “E-town Entanglements”

RN:  The league office found no good way to do that, we’ll just going to have to test for banned research from this point forward as we don’t want to change all the old records.  We have at least come up with a policy on performance enhancing substances such as Red Bull and donuts.

Ninjaneer:  We should probably institute “Drude Testing”…


image sourced here.  Artie, The Strongest Man in the World (from “The Adventures of Pete and Pete”)

* RN and i attended an invited lecture at a large auditorium in our facility.  The speaker was a going full-throttle, answering a question with so much enthusiasm that the screen saver on his laptop computer kicked in, presenting his vacation slide show on a giant screen for all to see.  He was so busy bouncing around the auditorium that he hadn’t noticed – even when the shot of his topless wife walking along a tropical beach flashed across the screen.  When he did notice, he quickly realized that his wife’s funbags had probably been viewed by the hundred or so folks in attendance… and he was suddenly overcome with a bit of travel fatigue, and ended his Q&A session rather abruptly….

A billion tinkerbelles

There are three “bioluminescence bays” in Puerto Rico – unique in that the glittery plankton are visible year round.  Last night, the nerd herd at this workshop made the trek to Fajardo, on the northeast end of the island.

Since the workshop is focused on bio-inspired and bio-derived electronics and optics, naturally the final speaker of the morning session was an international expert on natural bioluminescence in water critters.

Gathering in the hotel lobby around 4pm, wearing water sandals and swim gear, clutching boxed dinners to be eaten on the transport vans, we looked like a troupe of over-grown school children headed out on a field trip.  About an hour in the shuttle from San Juan to Fajardo, further east.

We suited up in life jackets, and got a 15 minute kayaking instruction session from Miguel, our guide.  Interesting that the kayak lesson was one third of the time we devoted to the lecture from the marine biologist.  We’re geeks, not athletes. 

Heading out at dusk, we crossed the marina in double kayaks, and entered a narrow channel encrusted with mangroves.  Being dorks, we naturally did a bit of horsing around en route.  Cries of “ramming speed”, bad pirate impersonations and the occasional “But Captain, I’m giving her all I’ve got…” floated down the column of nerd-kayakers.

We reached La Laguna Grande, just at sunset.  We pulled our kayaks close (into a floating mycellium…. Did i mention?  We’re nerds!) while Miguel explained the phenomena of the bay.  Billions of dinoflagellates (plankton) live in the waters, and are fed by B12 from the tannin released by the mangroves.  When you poke them?  They glow.

Darkness arrived, and Miguel instructed us to reach deeply into the water.  Yowza!  It was as though we had super powers!  A trail of glowing neon-blue water around our hands.  Digging the paddles down deep, making swirls and twirls, we scattered across the lagoon to play with the tinker-creatures.

The return trip was fabulous!  Going against a gentle current, it was enough of a paddle to work up a little sweat.  Pitch black in spots, we’d stop to let an incoming kayak troupe pass, grabbing mangrove branches.  The only thing you can really see is the glow in the water as your paddle moves the critters, and the tiny red glow stick on the kayak in front of you…

Poking the roots with a hand or a paddle yielded individual sparkles.  Grabbing a handful of the water in the pitch black night, you could see flashes and pops as the annoyed and disrupted micro-organisms did their glowing best to defend themselves against big, goofy invaders!

Mesmerizing…. i was in geek heaven!  And yet again, on the sleepy return to the hotel, i found myself thinking “damn.  i have a really good job…”

image found here – and was the closest to what i saw last night.  It’s very difficult to photograph the blue glow – and many photos online seem to be enhanced.  My guess is this one was done with a slow shutter speed…

Game Day – Geek Style

Every year, the “mothership” of my organization* convenes a technical review board to assess our investment strategy for future program funding.  Typically, it’s a two-week ordeal for the members of the review board, and about a month-long frenzy of preparation for the mid-level management-like-objects, such as myself.

Maybe it was the buzz of the recently completed Winter Olympics, but i found myself making direct comparison to the realm of athletics as we prepared, and delivered, our strategy. 

Pre-Game Strategy:  Our Division Tech Director was responsible for developing the game plan.  He is a master of ‘strategery’ and knows the minds of the review board members (judges and referees) better than anyone else.  He started working the plan a month ago.  He determined the ‘line up’ of presentations**, sticking the weaker presentations just before, or just after, lunch.  Start strong, finish strong…

Training and Game Prep:  For the past three weeks***, the team has been slaving away.  Defining strategies, building cross-organizational teams.  We studied our excel spreadsheets.  We practiced and practiced and practiced answers to potentially challenging questions.  Cranial muscle memory must be developed!

Game Day:  It wasn’t a locker room, but the break room was abuzz with quiet anticipation this morning.  Everyone****  in early.  Pots of coffee – “geek gatorade” – were prepared and consumed.  Loads of “smack talk” tossed around.  My division secretary was quite the smart ass when i showed up wearing professional attire.  “Excuse me, Ma’am.  Can I help you?”  he queried as i stumbled around the corner looking for coffee.  “Hey, i dug out the ‘big girl’ clothes today.  Figured yoga pants and slippers wouldn’t help me deliver the goods…”.  Yes, down to our uniforms, we were all spot on…

Good Luck Charms:  Of the five tech advisors “in the game”, we all have different styles.  As a result, we each have our own ritualistic approaches to delivering a big presentation.  One sat down for a final flip through with the boss.  Another?  Frantically tweaking and tuning his presentation materials.  Me?  Coffee and reading the news online.  Checking my trusty back up laser pointer.  Stopping by the restroom en route to the auditorium to check for ‘nose goblins’.

The Pistol:  And we’re off!  Division Tech Director masterfully scripted the introduction, and one by one, we performed.  Holding tightly to the allotted times, he looked relaxed, but he was keeping track of the clock, taking notes on questions for clarification, moving dawdlers forward, deferring tough questions til later in the day.  The baton?  The wireless “clicker” and laser pointer.  Passed seamlessly to the next presenter.  Through the entire day, we were all there – encouraging our team mates.  Seeing a stumble coming – “oh, man, don’t bring that up!  It’s a trap, a TRAP!” – but sitting silently because it is not an audience participation sport.  We were ON!

Post-Game Wrap-Up and Analysis:  There were high-fives, low-fives – everything but towel-snapping and a ceremonial dumping of the coffee pot on the head of the Division Tech Director at the end of the day.  We rocked the house!  Several comments from the board, thanking us for being succinct, providing just the information requested, and answering all questions.  The “Beer Call” is scheduled for Friday, once we get the final report from the review board, but it looks like a sweep…

Geeks.  Who says there’s no sport in research and development?

Physics makes me strong!

* Called the “Front Office Group”, or lovingly “The F.O.G.”

** He put me first, against my protestations.  Finally he said “Look, that theatrical crap you do makes you a strong presenter.  Shut up.”  Ah, the benefits of cross-training!

*** One week for me.  i’ve been around long enough to know that the original marching orders would change over time.  Rather than get my job done, then spend many hours tweaking it and revising it?  i waited.  Cost me a sunny weekend, spent in the office, but net investment of time for me was waaaaaaay less than the other tech advisors.  “Interval Training”?

**** Including me.  Damn it.