The traffic light on Elm Street.

June 10, 2017

There’s one traffic light I absolutely dread during my commute to and from work, and that’s the one on Elm Street.

So far I’ve been lucky. Lately it’s been staying green long enough for me to pass through the intersection without incident, although I always catch a glimpse of an old man seated on top of the traffic light while watching the flowing traffic below his feet.

On my way home from work, though, my luck ran out.

The light on Elm Street was red.

And when the light turns red, it stays red for a long, long time. To help deter temptation, there are twelve police cars hidden behind the nearby bushes, waiting and eager to reward any violators with hefty traffic tickets.

Nothing to do do now but wait for the light to change.

And watch the old man sitting on top of the traffic light.

Except now he’s got a book.

I watch as he opens the book and flips through the pages as if searching for something. Then he stops his search as his face lights up with a smile. He casts a menacing glare at me as he begins to read out loud.

“Once upon a time, there were three little pigs…”

Truly, I cannot recall a more horrifying predicament.

Checking in with Kevin.

June 10, 2017

“Ready, Charles?”

“Let’s go.”

Robert and Charles walked into Kevin’s empty office and removed the floor tile in the corner behind the desk to reveal a ladder under the floor descending into the darkness below. One by one they climbed down the ladder to the bottom where they encountered a door next to a numeric keypad.

“What’s the code?” Robert asked.

“2-1-4-9-3.” Charles replied as Robert tapped the numbers in.

Beep.

The door slid open to reveal a short hallway with an elevator at the other end. It too was guarded by a numeric keypad.

“3-3-6-0,” Charles said, as if reading Robert’s mind. Again Robert’s agile fingers tapped the keypad in nervous anticipation.

Beep.

The elevator doors opened and Charles and Robert stepped in. There was only one other floor for the elevator to go, and Robert pressed the button to begin the descent.

A short while later, the elevator stopped with a slight tremble and the doors opened to reveal a busy underground office with cubicles everywhere.

“Look,” Charles pointed. There, seated at one of the cubicles, was Kevin, working at his computer while going through a pile of papers on his desk. Just hours ago Kevin had been fired from his job as director of the Information Systems department at the hospital and now here he was working in an office of a mysterious underground office building. This only added to the ongoing confusion.

“What’s he doing down here?” Robert wondered. “I think it’s time to pay him a visit.”

Kevin was too busy working to notice he had company. When he finally saw Robert and Charles approaching his cubicle, he let out a terrified yelp.

“Robert? Charles?” Kevin stammered. “How did you get down here? You’re not even allowed down here!”

“Hello, Kevin,” Robert smiled. “To answer your question, I was cleaning out your home folder on the server when I noticed a rather interesting library of documents about this place, including how to get here.”

“Not exactly a safe place to store information about a top secret organization like this one,” Charles added.

“Visitors, Kevin?” asked a deep voice behind Robert. “I didn’t know today was open house.”

“No,” Kevin sheepishly replied. “These are my friends.”

“Friends,” said the older man now in view, “who have just committed a serious security breach and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, provided they live long enough.”

“Not so fast,” Robert spoke up, “Maybe we can work out a deal.”

“What kind of deal?” snarled the older man.

“Well, according to the documents we read in Kevin’s folder, your organization uses our hospital’s network for its operations, which often slows us down to the point where we can’t get anything done on our end.” Robert explained.

“Apologies,” offered the older man while casting an angry glance at Kevin. “But your network does use the outdated protocols essential to our security. While hackers keep moving forward to hack the newer networks, they leave older ones like yours behind. That alone spares us a huge expense in our budget.”

“That explains why Kevin never signed our purchase order requests to upgrade our network,” Charles said. “Ultimately his job was to keep the network unchanged, a move that eventually cost him his job. Kevin, I had no idea you were really a double agent.”

Kevin hung his head in shame, his secret life finally exposed due to a careless move on his part.

“But it does make sense though,” added Robert, “but why don’t we do this. We’ll upgrade our network and give you our old one.”

The older man smiled. “For a bunch of intruders, you sure drive a hard bargain.”

For the next several months, the deal was carried out. The hospital finally upgraded its network to the latest hardware and donated its old equipment to the secret organization under the hospital. Even though Robert and Charles were the only ones who knew of its existence, they were still clueless as to what the organization did.

After the network was up and running at the organization, Robert and Charles took a vow of secrecy and severed their ties with them forever. And that meant losing their friend Kevin forever as well.

Making your phone go BOINC.

June 7, 2017

Running on my computer at home is the free BOINC software for donating my computer’s idle time to the advancement of science. BOINC stands for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing and allows my computer to participate in one of numerous distributed computing projects. My favorite one is SETI@Home, which is the famed search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the one project that started this whole thing.

The BOINC software works by downloading a work unit for your selected project, does some data crunching and then returns the result to the project’s server. Along the way you get credit for your contribution and see how you rank among other participants worldwide.

So that’s the desktop version of BOINC. Soon I got curious about a version for my Android smartphone. It turns out there is one available at the Google Play Store, but I had concerns about running it on my phone. It does do some heavy computing that no doubt drains the battery rapidly.

It turns out that the Android version of BOINC is ingeniously designed. It won’t do any computing until your phone is hooked up to its charger and the battery is charged at least 90%. I have not seen any difference in my phone’s charging time even with it running in the background. However, there is an option to have BOINC use your phone’s battery anyway, which will cause it to drain quickly. You can even adjust the minimum battery level for it to stop computing when your battery goes below that level. By default, the option to use your phone’s battery is disabled, but you can enable it if you feel the need to do some computing on the go.

If you’re looking for a cool app that actually helps with scientific research, this is it.

In the evening after the rain.

June 7, 2017

The space mission.

June 7, 2017

While flying a mission to space
To study this most quiet place
There was a loud scream
Then seen on the screen
A mysterious ugly face

It was a dark and stormy night.

June 6, 2017

One fine evening at the dinner table.

June 4, 2017

The mood at the dinner table was uncharacteristically tense. Ian stared at his empty plate while his parents stared at him, wondering why he was so quiet.

“So Ian,” Ian’s father spoke up. “What did you do today?”

Oh, I had Steve over and we hung out in the kitchen and I cooked bath salts, baking soda and vinegar to make shnulk and then we smoked it until we were berserkly high and then we were passed out on the floor for the rest of the day.

“Nothing,” Ian muttered.

“Oh,” replied Ian’s mother as she dished out another helping of rice that was cooked in the same pot Ian used to make shnulk and when she tasted it she suddenly became berserkly high and then passed out on the floor for the rest of the day.

Under investigation by the Secret Service.

June 3, 2017

This blog is under investigation
By the Secret Service
After the thorough investigation
From the FBI
Following the exhaustive investigation
By the sheriff’s office
Responding to the investigation
Concluded by the city police
That began the investigation
From an irate citizen
Demanding an investigation
After noticing a misspelled werd

How to keep calm at red lights.

June 2, 2017

Ian the prisoner.

May 28, 2017

Ian sat alone at end of the table in the prison mess hall. His eyes were focused on the uneaten food in front of him but he could feel the stares from all around the room. He tried to ignore the glaring eyes but failed. Finally, he could take no more.

“Some welcome this is,” Ian shouted as he angrily rose to his feet. “Here I am, forever without my home, my family and my freedom. I thought there was some support system here to help me cope with my new life in prison, but no, you all detest me because of my crime. You even stoop low enough to dump a bucket of acid on me during the night. LOOK AT ME! The acid left me bald and permanently scarred! I look like Freddy Krueger! Is this how you welcome the new arrivals?”

“Um, that wasn’t acid,” one of the nearby prisoners spoke up.

“THEN WHAT WAS IT?” Ian shot back.

“Water.”

“WATER?? Then how -”

Ian stopped. He reached up to his face to pull off the Freddy Krueger mask. Then laughter began to ensue from around the mess hall.

“Oh,” Ian sighed as he sat down. “That’s different.”