Finger info for hendersa@icculus.org...


If I knew that updating a .plan file was this entertaining, I would have
started doing semi-regular updates a long time ago.  Oh well.  My web space
is located at http://nuthouse.org/~hendersa and I can be reached via e-mail
at hendersa@icculus.org.

Archived .plan entries can be seen at http://nuthouse.org/~hendersa/finger.

************************************
*26 January 2003 - Playing Catch-Up*
************************************
No, I'm not dead.
Yes, I've very been busy.
Yes, grad school is going well.  Managed to swing a 3.8 last quarter.
No, work has not decreased as I thought it would.
Yes, it looks like my ulcers have quieted down.  Go medical science!
No, I'm not going to stiff all of you out of a bunch of .plan updates.

It's that last point that I'm going to elaborate on.  Here's a bunch of .plan
entries.  I have a few more that are half done, but these should help make up
for the large expanse of "dead time" between this set of updates and the last
update that happened way back in September.  I know that there are still some
people checking the .plan on a regular basis, which just plain amazes me.  I
would have bailed on me a long time ago.  If I weren't me, that is.

So here's a few stories from college.  Enjoy them, damn it.


****************************
*26 January 2003 - Arrival *
****************************
My trip to college for the first time had not been an easy one.

You see, I was going to be starting my first semester of college at Embry Riddle
Aeronautical University, which is located in Daytona Beach, Florida.  After 18
years of shovelling snow in upstate New York just so I could get out my front
door in the wintertime, I decided that it would be a smart idea to go to school
located someplace really warm.  I had tried to pick a location that was about as
far south as I could go without having to speak Spanish.  That location had
ended up being the state of Florida.  It's pretty sad that one of the primary
considerations influencing my choice of higher education was whether it was
located in a place where I could wear shorts in December.

As you have probably already surmised, Florida is quite a hike from New York.
In my particular case, it was around 18-20 hours by car and about 6-7 hours by
plane.  My parents had decided that I could manage everything by myself, so
they weren't going to drive or fly down to Florida with me.  I was just going
to have to tough it out myself.  I had never even seen the campus beyond what
was pictured in the flyers and recruiting material for the school, and the
extent of what I had with me were two overstuffed duffel bags.  Luckily, a high
school friend of mine, Kristen, had driven down to the school with her parents
a few days before I was due to fly down.  She had been nice enough to let me
stash my computer in her car when her family did the drive down to Florida.  So
it was just me, two duffel bags of clothes that I checked, and my backpack.

The flight itself wasn't pretty.  Due to some technical difficulties with the
plane I was supposed to be flying on, I sat in my seat for 45 minutes and
repeatedly noted that there was a distinct lack of airplane movement.  I had to
scramble back into the terminal to the customer service desk to book a new
flight once the flight staff finally confessed that there was no way our plane
was going to be leaving the runway under its own power.

The woman behind the counter in the terminal quickly printed me up new tickets
and told me to run as fast as I could to a gate way the heck across the airport
in order to catch a flight to Philadelphia that would enable me to catch a
connecting flight to Daytona Beach.  After scurrying through multiple
terminals, I just made the flight at the last second.  Apparently, luck was
with me this time.  Once onboard the plane and in mid-taxi, I flipped open the
new tickets that had just been printed and I made a suprising discovery:

The ticket agent had typed in "DAY" as my destination airport.  "DAB" is the
airport code for Daytona Beach.  "DAY" is for Dayton, Ohio.  I was wishing I
had found out this little tidbit BEFORE I had gotten on the plane.

Once I arrived in Philadelphia, I ran to the closest ticket counter and pointed
out what to the ticket agent what had happened.  She examined by tickets for a
few moments, and then began busily tapping into her computer to see what she
could do.  She must have typed for only a minute or two, but the loud clacking
of her long fingernails against the keys made it seem far, far longer.

The long and short of this whole adventure was that I eventually made it to
Daytona Beach.  I had to fly back to Philadelphia, then to Atlanta, and then to
Daytona, but I finally made it.  So next time you whine about having a lay-over
when flying somewhere, keep in mind that I had four layovers and a total trip
time of 17 hours.  As a nifty side-effect, my two duffel bags containing all my
clothes were now getting a tour of the baggage carousel at an airport in
Dayton, Ohio.

So now I was in Florida.  I had no bags aside from the backpack I had as my
carry-on throughout my travel experience.  Kristen and her parents were nice
enough to meet me at the airport and drive me over to the dorms on the college
campus.  I had my head on Kristen's shoulder in the car, and was starting to
nod off.  It had been a really long day.

I was quickly signed into Embry-Riddle's McKay Hall by the RA on duty.  McKay
wasn't your typical dorm... it was more like a cheap motel that had been
converted into student housing.  Everyone had a door that opened to the
sidewalk outside (thus avoiding that claustrophobic feeling one gets in the
typical military prison-type dorm), and the rooms were arranged in a suite
setup that consisted of two living/bedrooms (each with a full bathroom) and a
common dining-type room in the back.  Three students were in each of the rooms,
so there were a total of six people crammed into the 1000 square feet of the
suite.

Do you think this sounds spacious?  Undoubtedly, some of you do.  I'll certainly
be deluged with e-mail from people claiming to have lived with twice as many
people in a quarter of the space.  Suggestions like "why didn't you each just
claim a chunk of the floor space?" will be proposed to me in tones that will be
roughly analogous to "You're a flat out idiot."  Well, it wasn't quite that
simple.

First off, we had three desks and three beds in each of the rooms.  True, two of
the beds were bunked.  But still, that furniture cuts into a lot of your space.
Second, if I was going to lay claim to an area, I would most certainly have
claimed the floorspace of the bathroom and charged the others a usage fee.  I
had no qualms about sleeping on the floor in the shower if it came to defending
my turf.  That plan would have certainly met with resistance.  Third, while it
did cross our minds to move a person or two into the back room, housing had
strictly forbidden it and would enforce the policy through random inspections
and evictions.

Three rooms, two bathrooms, six guys, and no direct adult supervision.  No
internet connection, no cable TV, and no TV reception to speak of.  Hell, there
wasn't even a TV.  The two refridgerators in the back room were teeny-tiny, and
they each had one of the suckiest microwaves on the planet perched on top.
That was about it when it came to amenities.

Anyway, the point was that I was being crammed into a small space with five
other students that I was going to have to live with for at least two
semesters.  One could only hope that they'd be relatively normal, clean, and
likeable guys.  In this case, it would seem, hope would be the closest I came
to that dream.


********************************************
*26 January 2003 - The Roommates From Hades*
********************************************
To start off, there were two guys besides myself assigned to my college dorm
room.  The other room in the suite had been assigned three guys as well.  So,
most of the time I would only have to deal with two guys in close quarters.  The
two guys I was assigned to room with were Gordon and Chris.

Chris was (quite unfortunately for me, I might add) the first person I saw when
opening the door to my new room.  He was, and probably still is, an excellent
reason not to have children.  The young man had more fat in his ankles than I
had in the entirety of my body.  "Oaf-ish" is just as good of a descriptor of
the kid as any, though "annoying", "grubby", "loud", "sluggish", "stolid",
"tactless", and "unkempt" could certainly do in a pinch.  Chris is the product
of parents who apparently escaped from the life of trailer parks and RC Cola by
coming into a large sum of money.  While I am appreciative and supportive of a
good "rags-to-riches-claw-your-way-to-the-top" story, I feel that the
opportunity was wasted on Chris and his kin.  Chris saw his position as not
having been given a chance to go further in life, but more as a spot in which
he could safely turn around and sneer back at the trailer park of his past
while waving a bag of the highest-quality beef jerky and yelling, "Look what I
gots!" at the top of his lungs.

Almost immediately after speaking with Chris for the first time, I began hoping
that an engine would break off of a low-flying aircraft nearby and land on his
head.  He waved his arms around while talking in a voice that only had two
volume settings: annoyingly loud and riot control.  The arm waving was
punctuated with the large bag of beef jerky he had clenched in the fist that
was residing at the end of his fatty appendage.  He was quite adamant about
whatever point he was attempting to confer, but after hearing what he had to
say, it was quite apparent that whatever he was saying was not worth the effort
of listening for.  In the few moments when Chris was not speaking, chewing
small objects, or, more likely, chewing larger objects he later intended to
swallow, his mouth reached its resting position that mimicked a perfect
"duhhhh...." expression.  I'm not sure what evolutionary purpose is served when
people stand there with their mouth half open, but I'm guessing that it's
related to the hope that food will simply show up and decide to pop on in.

Chris turned his head towards the door when I entered the dorm room for the
first time.  He waved a bag of jerky at me for half a second before bellowing
"THE OTHER GUY IS HERE!! GUYS!! THE OTHER GUY IS HERE!" I visibly winced, since
Chris was perhaps 10 feet from me when he yelled at what I was going to later
find out was his "inside voice".  Kristen was right behind me, and she giggled a
little at the welcome call.  She could immediately see that I was stepping into
a situation that was going to immediately start degrading.

He nodded once in my direction and said, "I'm Chris!"  Then, he ran into the
other room.  After he tried to heave his bulk around the corner into the other
room and bounced off the doorframe in the process, I turned to face Kristen.
She was smirking at me right before she told me, "You're just going to love it
here!  I can see it now."  I answered her with only a raised eyebrow.  She
giggled again before giving me a hug and telling me to play nice with the other
kids.  I told her and her folks goodnight, and I went in to meet the rest of my
suitemates.

Luckily, no one else was anywhere near as bad as Chris.  He was far, far worse
that the rest of the lot.  Unluckily, he was one of my roommates.

When I wandered around into the other room, I spotted Chris and three other guys
closely hunched around a computer.  One of the three, Gordon, was my other
roommate.  Gordon was almost exactly what you'd want if you were looking for a
roommate who was quiet, polite, respectful of your privacy, and not interested
in getting to know you that well.  He was a nice guy, but he saw the dorms as a
place to sleep and occasionally study.  He wasn't there to make close friends
with his roommates.  I could certainly respect that, so I made a mental note to
afford Gordon the leeway he needed.

I shook Gordon's hand first and then met the other two guys.  One was Moe, and
the other was Randy.  The two of them were going to be my suitemates.  As for
suitemate number three (a gentleman with big hair and a glazed-over look who
was named Chuck), he was out wandering around somewhere.

Moe was interesting because he looked like a beach bum, talked like he was
half-baked, and attracted unbalanced women almost constantly.  I couldn't
isolate exactly what about him attracted these women, but he probably could
have bottled it and sold it as cologne to men with low self-esteem.  The
fragrance would have to be named after the behavior of the women that were
infatuated with him, though.  Perhaps something nifty like "Bipolar".

Over the next year, Moe showed us over and over that he was truly on a different
planet than the rest of us.  He would walk outside in his boxer shorts in the
morning, look at the rising sun, stretch, and then hear the quiet *click* of
his door closing and locking him outside.  He would then knock on our door, and
one of us would let him into the suite through our room.  It would be funny if
it weren't for the fact that he did it dozens of times.

Aside from all his quirks, Moe was a really nice guy.  A little slow sometimes,
but a nice guy.

The last of the people there, Randy, was the one that ended up being the most
memorable.  Randy was, in many respects, a lot like me.  He was a sharp guy
that was savvy with computers, quick with the butt-kicking at [insert almost
any video game here], and had dialog handy that ranged from bitingly cynical to
downright funny.  Hailing from the state of South Carolina, Randy gave the
south a good name.  Of course, in my opinion Waffle House serves the same
purpose, so take that comment as you will.

Randy and I were often seen as a double-dose of trouble.  Most everyone knew us
simply as "Randy and Andy", but unless you knew us personally, you probably
couldn't say which one of us was the Randy and which was the Andy.  After all,
we were both seen burning things, blowing things up, running across campus
carrying opposite ends of a ladder, climbing down off the roof of the dorm via
a TV antenna in an effort to escape campus security... that sort of thing.  If
something was going "fwoosh" or "boom" on campus, the dynamic duo of Randy and
Andy were often the prime suspects by default.

So, needless to say, Randy and I got along just great from the start.  We still
do.  Randy was out here in California for a visit not too long ago.

A quick peek into the future shows that the suite situation didn't remain too
stable.  First off, Gordon left our merry company only a week or two into the
semester.  He assured me that it was Chris's total lack of finesse, respect,
and hygene that were the reasons for his departure.  He got along fine with the
rest of us, but he found another suite that had a vacant space that he could
move into.  The vacuum left by Gordon's departure was soon filled in with a
large bang.

Enter Christian Rosado.  I can feel safe in mentioning Christian's last name
since he certainly has no way in hell of ever being elected to a position in
public office.  Christian was a tall, imposing guy from Guatemala that had hair
that could only have been achieved by minor electrocution or holding in a
really big sneeze.  He was know as "Chris" for only a few days, but it wasn't
long before everyone in the suite (and everyone on campus who knew him) refered
to him as "Foreigner".  This was largely because he was tired of having the
other Chris scamper into the room like an excited puppy when one of us said
"Hey Chris!" and it was the big Guatemalan guy that we wanted to talk to.

Foreigner was smart.  He sure wasn't going to let anyone in on that fact,
though. He was an absolute party animal, as were Moe and Chuck from next door.
Foreigner hated Chris with a passion.  I witnessed Foreigner jamming the brake
calipers of Chris's bike into their open position using super glue.  When I
asked him why, he just shrugged and said, "I hate that fat fuck.  He needs to
take a fucking shower, dude".  Fair enough.

Other acts that involved Foreigner terrorizing Chris were things like death
threats and throwing Chris's matress into a tree outside our dorm.  You could
just feel the love.

After realizing that having Chris and Foreigner in the same room was a funeral
waiting to happen, we shuffled our rooms around.  We swapped the suites around
so that Randy, Chris, and myself were in one room and Chuck, Moe, and Foreigner
were in the other.  All the party animals were in one room, and Randy and I
could gang up on Chris and light his ample supply of oily skin on fire.  Sounds
like a win-win situation to me.

Anyway, back to that first night.

After a few hours of getting to know everyone, I went outside and sat on one of
the picnic tables outside our dorm.  It was really humid and hot outside, which
was just fine by me.  Randy wandered out a little while later, and he filled me
in a little more on how he ended up at that college.  He also said how he was
sorry that I had to share a room with a fat bastard that was annoying and
didn't shower.  Then we got to talking about blowing things up.  Things took
off from there.

Probably about 3 in the morning, I decided to call it a night.  I was exhausted,
and all I had were some bedsheets and my computer (which Kristen had been so
nice as to bring down from New York for me) and whatever I had stashed in my
carry-on backpack from the flight down from New York.  My luggage was wandering
around Ohio, and I was in a new (and mighty strange, I might add) place.  I was
going to be living with a bunch of nutbars, too.

Looked like life was going to be pretty lively for the next few years.  Classes
were going to be the least of my worries.


****************************************
*26 January 2003 - Unofficial Roommates*
****************************************
In Florida, the roaches are huge.  Often an inch or two in size.  The local
tourist board will tell you that they're actually called "Palmetto bugs", but
trust me... they're roaches.  These little guys have evolved far beyond their
centimeter-long cousins that can be found in colder climates.  Aside from super
size and super strength (well, for a roach, anyway), they also possess a
limited ability to fly.  The flights of fancy that most roaches take, however,
usually end with the roach bouncing off of a large solid object (like a wall)
that it should have been able to avoid.  So I call roach flight an ability that
is limited.  I mean, let's face it... it would be great to run at 90 miles per
hour, but how great would it be when you could only stop when you ran into a
wall?

At first, my roommates and I didn't see any of these super roaches in our dorm
room.  I chalk that phenomenon up to the fact that we hadn't yet become
nocturnal, so our chances of seeing a roach dropped dramatically.  One night,
though, I heard something skittering across my desk.  I thought that was rather
odd, so I quietly leaned up out of bed and flicked on the light for the room.
The resulting sight was one that still makes my skin crawl.

It was as if the floor was running away.  Roaches were running in all
directions, looking for cover from the light.  I just opened and closed my
mouth a whole lot of times and sputtered.  My mind quickly wrapped itself
around a series of topics in rapid succession:

1. There are roaches. Everywhere.
2. They must have us outnumbered us a dozen to one from just the ones I saw.
3. Chris's unnatural biology is probably attracting them.
4. It's crunching time.

Crunching time?  Oh yes.  Crunching time.  Those little critters were going to
rue the day they poked their antenna into our room.  This was war.  It became
common practice to catch and torment any roaches we caught unawares within our
floorspace.

At first, we just stepped on them.  The odd thing was that the roaches were
largely indifferent to this treatment.  Sure, they made a nice crunchy noise
that was similar to the noises made by Chris biting into a potato chip.  But
once you lifted your foot up, they'd look up at you for a moment and then hurry
off on their way.  For all I know, the crackles and pops I hear when tromping a
roach were little more than me loosening up a tight muscle in its little roach
neck.  It was probably looking up at me to tell me thanks before scrambling
under the fridge to tell its roach friends that they should come out in the
light a lot more often.

We later decided that physical brutality wasn't the way to go, since results
were usually disappointing.  Death by microwaving was certainly a good second
plan, though.  If we couldn't destroy the little buggers with an external
approach, we'd have to take an internal one.  The standard procedure was to
locate a roach and then either thwomp it with your foot to daze it or catch it
in some sort of container.  Once you had your prisoner, you confined him within
the interrogation chamber.  Then, you set the interrogation chamber to the
"popcorn" setting for a few minutes.

For the first 10 seconds, not a lot would happen.  The roach would sit there and
ponder life for a bit.  Then the fun began.  As if lit on fire, the roach would
kick into high gear and begin running laps around the inside of the microwave.
This behavior would continue for perhaps another 20 to 30 seconds before the
little guy would suddenly stop, flip over, and stop moving.  For those people
who think that roaches will be the only thing left after a nuclear war, I
present solid scientific evidence to the contrary.

The upshot of this method of roach roasting was the satisfaction you receive by
sending a message to those lower than you on the food chain: Mess with us and
you'll end up sleeping with the hot dogs.  The downside was that microwaving
roaches really does make your room and microwave reek quite badly.  It's a good
thing that we only microwaved roaches in our suitemates' microwave.

One day, Randy and I headed down to the local fireworks store.  Unlike most
states, the Florida legislature tends to lean towards a "natural selection"
style of goverment.  Concealed weapon permits are handed out like candy,
education is underfunded, and the purchase of fireworks is pretty much
encouraged.  True, you did have to sign a form saying that you were using the
fireworks for either signalling trains or for mining and/or quarrying (I'm dead
serious, too), but I see that as a minor technicality.  Besides, we figured
that the chunks of ground that were sent flying by our fireworks usage counted
as quarrying, so that was all good.

Armed with tiny 16-packs of firecrackers, we gave a particular roach a send-off
he won't soon to forget.  The unfortunate little guy was first captured in a
plastic bowl and then soaked in bleach to drain his spirit.  Randy examined the
roach as it rapidly swam through the bleach around the inside the bowl.  "Wow,
look at him go.  He should have been in the Olympics," Randy noted.

After a nice bleaching, we snagged one of the roach's legs with a pair of
bulldogs.  The bulldogs were used as an anchor to keep the little guy in place.
Then, we attached a second pair of bulldogs to another leg.  That little guy
wasn't going anywhere.  I pulled out a tube of super glue and dumped a large
portion of it onto the roaches back.  Once the glue was on, Randy gently set a
pack of firecrackers into place on the roach's back.

While we waited a few moments for the firecrackers to bond to the roach, we
theorized about the outcome of this scientific research.  Theories aside, we
were soon going to observe what was going to happen first hand.  I lifted the
roach back up via the bulldogs and deposited it ouside.

And then, the fuse was lit.

It was a little surreal at first.  The pack of firecrackers began running across
the parking lot, heading for cover.  But death had already marked this roach via
industrial-strength epoxy.  The firecrackers started popping in machine gun
fashion, and the entire pack stood up and began to dance. Once the 16
firecrackers had all blown, their burnt-out husks fell back to the ground. After
a few seconds, the charred wad of blown firecrackers started running across the
parking lot in much the same fashion that the non-blown firecrackers had been
running for cover a few moments earlier.

Our test subject was clearly one of those super roaches that I had mentioned
earlier.

Randy and I looked at the mobile pack of spent firecrackers, then each other,
and then the firecrackers again.  Both of our mouths were agape.  This was
clearly not what I was expecting when I was told I was going to have roommates
at college.


*******************************
*26 January 2003 - Spin Cycles*
*******************************
As a general rule, doing laundry at college bites.  You have to find all your
dirty socks and t-shirts, pack them into a laundry basket of some sort, lug them
to the nearest laundry facility, camp out for a while until a washer becomes
free, plunk all of those quarters you've been hoarding into the washer, and then
sit there and wait for your unmentionables to stop running laps around the
inside of the washer.  Once you manage to get that part out of the way, you'll
come to the shocking realization that all clothes dryers on the planet that are
paired with a washing machine will have a drying cycle that takes roughly double
the time that the washing cycle takes.  This results in a large backup of wet
clothes as queues of college students grumble and impatiently rip dry clothes
out of a dryer the instant the dryer completes its cycle.

It's not a pleasant experience by any means.  To aggrevate the situation
further, Randy and I used to glue quarters to the sidewalk right outside our
dorm room's window so that we could watch people peel their fingernails off in
an effort to suppliment their laundry budget.  More often than not, people would
kick at the quarter in an effort to dislodge it, and then shoot a nasty glance
in through the window that was clearly directed at both Randy and I.  Oh well.

One day, Randy and I had our laundry washing schedules sync up, so we decided to
head down to the laundry room together and get the pesky task done.  Of course,
there was a considerable line of freshman waiting to do laundry at our dorm, so
Randy and I hiked across campus with our laundry in tow.  A nearby dorm had a
laundry room, so we figured we'd have better luck over there.

To get an accurate image of this scene, you would have to imagine me lugging a
ten gallon garbage can of dirty laundry across the campus quad while Randy
trudged along beside me and groaned under the weight of a few duffle bags of
laundry slung over both of his shoulders in a bandolier-like fashion.  We must
have looked like a couple of refugees.  Then again, we lived like refugees, so I
guess it fit the whole motif.

We were pleasantly suprised to see that the other dorm had both washers and
dryers that were available and ready to go.  And to think that those suckers
over at our dorm were still waiting in line for their chance to wash their
skivvies.  We quickly got to work.  Randy and I stuffed every washer available,
and were quite proud of the fact that the two of us managed to take seven of the
twelve washers.  After a whole lot of quarter depositing, our laundry began
making the transition from being pretty nasty to being springtime fresh.

During the 25 minute wash cycle, Randy and I bummed around the laundry room.
There wasn't a heck of a lot to look at, and it would have been much interesting
to leave and come back later, but we couldn't risk leaving and losing our chance
at moving everything straight from the washers into the dryers.  The chances of
the two of us getting seven dryers without having us camp out and wait for them
were pretty slim.

Once the washers began to cheerfully chime that they were done with their job,
Randy and I started to yank out all of our dripping-wet clothes and to madly
stuff them into all the available dryers.  After another flurry of quarter
depositing, a total of eight dryer-loads of laundry began their drying cycle.
We were only 55 minutes away from clean laundry.

Once your clothes were in the dryer, people tended to leave them alone until the
dryer hits the end of its cycle.  So, Randy and I didn't have to sit there and
babysit our blue jeans as they were spinning this way and that.  The two of us
wandered out the front door of the dorm and walked onto a small bridge that
spanned a pitiful little stream of sludgy water that ran by the front of the
dorm.  The stream was very shallow at that particular moment, but once it began
to rain hard you could expect the level of the water to rise several feet.

The groundskeeping staff had been taking advantage of the recent lull in the
rain (a rarity in Florida) by wading through the shallow water and chopping down
the brush that had begun to grow on the sides of the steep enbankment that led
down to the water in the stream.  The groundskeepers had abandoned their work
for some reason, but there was a clear demarcation where the trimming had
stopped.

I craned my neck towards the area where the trimming had ended because I
thought I spotted something on the ground.  Something metal.  Sure enough,
something was over there.  Randy and I walked over the enbankment to take a
closer look.

There were ladders lying on the ground... two of them.  They were partially
concealed in the brush, but the bright sun overhead had reflected off of them
just enough to tip me off to their location.  One was a ten-foot tall A-frame
ladder, and the other was a segmented ten-foot ladder that could be extended to
a length of almost twenty feet.  This was clearly a find that was ripe with
possibilities, and Randy and I were about to make the most of it.

So what kind of trouble do two college kids get into when they have possession
of two ladders and about an hour to kill?  A good question.  A good question
indeed.

Next College Update: Rising To The Occasion
    

When this .plan was written: 2003-01-26 14:35:03
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