Wednesday, 25 July 2001

She was sitting alone at the bar and had been for nearly twenty minutes. I sat down next to her and asked, “What’s the worst pickup line a guy has ever tried?”

“Excuse me?”

Thinking I had just made a complete fool out of myself, I blushed and repeated the question.

With a mischievous grin she replied, “Why? Are you trying to pick me up?”

“Maybe. It would depend upon whether you shoot me down or not.”

After a long pause she said, “What’s your sign?” She saw my confused look and continued, “That’s the worst one. Or maybe the one you just tried. I’m not sure.”

“It can’t be.”

“Why is that?”

“Because it seems to have worked. Would you care to grab a table?”


Friday, 18 May 2001

Some day I’ll meet the right woman and live happily ever after. The thing is, waiting for her to come along doesn’t work. At least it hasn’t so far. So I started thinking about ways to make it happen, or at a minimum, help it along.

I considered the usual routes:

  • Work: I’m a computer geek…do the math.
  • Bars: Yeah, right. I’ll go dust off my book of pickup-lines.
  • Church: I’m not religious, so it really doesn’t matter, but does this actually work?
  • Grocery store: Who on earth came up with that idea?

All of the ideas I came up with had a common drawback. They all require that I put myself out there too far before I find out if I stand a chance.

Then I thought “What about a personals ad?” There is still risk involved, but it’s manageable risk.

You see, the main problem with any of the face to face options is face to face rejection. With a personals ad, the worst part (for me) doesn’t happen in person. A woman reads the ad, if they’re not interested, they skip you and move on. Anonymous rejection.

The question then turns to what the ad should say. How to be honest, but at the same time intrguing? I’d like to avoid the nut jobs, but not come off as some stark raving madman.

DWPM, 34, enjoys good food, good film and good company. Seeking good woman to share good times and good life. What’s the word I’m looking for here…LAME?
Mid-30’s, right-wing, hippie seeking same for dinner, theater and world domination… Perhaps that’s a little out there.
1966 model, single owner, some milage. Starts and runs great. One or two small dents but no rust… Nope. I don’t know enough about cars to pull it off.
Fat, dumb and happy… Ummm. No. Nothing good can come of that.

Thirty-something, bit-head seeking witty, intelligent woman who prefers dinner out and theater in, long conversations, evening walks and autumn leaves. I’d rather find a summer romance over a spring fling.

Hey! Now that’s not half bad. It’s honest and sincere, but not smarmy or creepy. I wonder what kind of response it will draw.

Monday, 13 November 2000

I’m not sure how he ran across it, but my dad saw my name on a discussion and vote tally to create the newsgroup comp.lang.perl.moderated. He also asked if I knew there was a writer named Michael Armstrong. According to he — Michael Armstrong, the writer — has published several business and management books. Until then, I hadn’t known about the writer, but the newsgroup discussion and vote actually was me.

I guess it’s not that surprising. It’s not like either part of my name is that uncommon. In fact, this kind of thing happens often enough that I’ve learned to have a little fun with it.

When the current CEO of AT&T, C. Michael Armstrong, was installed, I had a news clipping of the annoucement hanging at my desk for the longest time. People would read the article, look at me, read the article again. Most would laugh and offer their congratulations. There were a few, shall we say, less bright people that would ask if it meant that I was the CEO of AT&T. Ummmm, no. Why would I be working as a technical writer and Web developer when being a CEO is more than a full time job?

I’ve heard nearly all the jokes about my last name. Most often it’s some wiseacre that asks, “Are you related to Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy?”

“Yes, in fact I am! Jack is my Great Uncle.”

They’d be dumbfounded. Sometimes they would ask if I knew about the radio show from the 40’s. “Why of course, it was about my ‘Uncle Jack!'” Yes, I know that the radio show was fiction, but Grandpa did have a brother named John and Jack is a nickname for John.

At that point they’d usually be wearing what I call the “dumbass face.” They were trying to be funny and, while they weren’t quite sure, the joke may actually be on them. Well, it was. If you know about the radio show, don’t you think that a guy with the same last name would know about it too?

There’s also Neil Armstrong, the astronaut. Again, I’d make him out to be my Great Uncle, this time because I liked the word play. “Absolutely! Great Uncle Neil is my Grandpa’s brother…Well, of course he was great for the reason you’re thinking too.” People could never tell if I was serious or pulling their leg. Guess.

My favorite though, was Louis Armstrong, the trumpet player — I’d claim he was my Grandfather. They’d look at me for the longest time trying to find something other than Scandinavian and European features in my face. Some of them never figured it out.

Thursday, 09 November 2000

When I was about 1-1/2 or 2, I didn’t have much choice but to go shopping with my mom. I could sit quietly in my stroller for hours, armed with only a rattle or some other play-thing to keep me occupied. Of course it helps that I had a hobby.

It seems that, even at the ripe old age of two, I was quite the ladies man.

When a good-looking woman would walk by, I’d lean out of my stroller as far as I could, crane my neck if I had to, and check her out as she passed. I only paid attention to the stereotypical college co-ed types. Twenty-something, decently dressed, good body, and of course pretty. For some reason I wouldn’t pay any attention to the old, ugly or overweight ones. Apparently I had a marked preference for blondes too.

Unfortunately, being so young, my technique wasn’t terribly refined. I’d almost always get caught, but the women didn’t really seem to mind. They’d stop, tickle my chin and make baby noises at me. They’d even tell my mother how cute I was. Of course I’d smile and giggle at the extra attention.

While I’ve honed my skills considerably, there’s no chance I’d get away with such blatant ogling now. And don’t even get me started about the droolng. A mere glance will have to do. Anything more is likely to get me slapped, arrested or sued. Then again, a boy has to grow up some time. But I really miss being tickled under the chin.

Wednesday, 08 November 2000

On the way to work one day, I passed by a football field and saw the strangest sight. There were a bunch of geese and pigeons on the field. About 30 of each, geese on the left, pigeons on the right, facing each other. They seemed to be staring each other down, preparing for battle.

I began wondering…would the geese or the pigeons attack first? Probably the pigeons. Geese are too fat and wobbly to do anything that isn’t absolutely required.

Then I imagined the rallying cry of the geese. Their dignified strut would seem even more ominous accompanied by a chorus of honking and the thunderous beating of their wings.

The battle call for the pigeons, on the other hand, would consist of irritated squawking, flapping wings and jumping about. What they lack in noise would be made up with speed and agility.

What would geese and pigeons have to fight about? Were the pigeons upset because the geese left droppings all over the place, only to mistake them for food? Maybe the pigeons got there first and the geese are trying to move in. Who could blame the pigeons for defending their turf?

Maybe the geese were first to arrive. Later, the pigeons show up, thinking there must be something good if the geese are hanging around. Pigeons aren’t picky, and why should they let the geese hog it all?

Perhaps it was a conflict reminiscent of the frontier days, two factions arguing over the same plot of land. The kind of dispute that could only be settled with bloodshed.

You and I may not see the reason, but what is open land worth to a flock of birds? After being chased away from most every place else, a football field may be something they’re willing to die for.

On my way home I passed the field again. The pigeons and geese were gone without a trace. Where I expected to see the carnage of war, there was none. No war-torn bodies. No broken off wings. Not even a single ruffled feather.

It must have been important for them to have left without a fight.

Tuesday, 07 November 2000

It all started when I was looking for a program to sync my home computer with one of several time servers on the Internet. The government runs several of these machines, which are considered to be “the correct time,” so I started my search at their Web page.

As with most Web surfing, I got distracted while looking through the site. Among other things, they had information about how the atomic clocks worked and how leap years are calculated. Did you know that there are also leap seconds? The site also had job postings…I could not resist a look.

One opening caught my eye, but it required a Ph.D. and several years experience in nuclear physics, a degree in astronomy, space science and other lofty qualifications. It had to be the single coolest job title in the world. The position was called “The Directorate of Time.” With a job like that, even President of the United States would rank down along-side burger-flipper at McDonalds.

Then I got to thinking about the possibilities.

Do you dread birthdays? Hate the though of growing older? Simply change how long the year is. Loathe tax time? Just set it up so April 15th never comes.

Imagine never being late for dinner, work or a big date. If you’re running a bit behind, just redefine the time. “Oh, you must be mistaken, I can’t be late. My watch says 7:30 on the dot.”

FedEx, UPS and their ilk would be at your mercy. “Next day air” would take on a whole new meaning with a day that was only 10 hours long.

Why stop there? Go for “metric time.” In addition to 10 hour days, you could mandate 10 minutes to an hour and 10 seconds per minute.

Of course, every silver lining has its dark cloud. Friends would always be asking for more holidays, longer weekends and more hours in the day (so they could get everything done.)

In a way, I’m glad that I wasn’t qualified…I’d never be able to take the pressure.

Monday, 06 November 2000

I love fortune cookies. Not because of the games people typically play with them, saying “in bed” or “between the sheets” at the end of each one. I love them because I’m enchanted with the idea that a random slip of paper can, somehow, predict the future.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. The fortunes are fewer and farther between, and what I’m really getting can only be called “platitude cookies.”

A real fortune would be something like “Pleasant surroundings and a happy time ahead” or “Love is in your future.” Platitude cookies, on the other hand, say things like “Your first wealth is health” and “Free advice is usually worth what you paid for it.”

Now, I must admit that “Now is the time to try something new” is surely a sign to quit procrastinating. There’s also a certain Zen-like quality in “To understand, listen beneath the words.” But they’re still not real fortunes.

There was a time when I could count on getting a real fortune just often enough to overlook the occasional platitude. Even gems like “No one ever died from laughing too often” could be washed away by something as simple as “You are next in line for a promotion.”

I had resigned myself to a life of platitudes rather than good fortune. I figured it couldn’t get much worse. Or so I thought. Then I got what can only be described as a Yogi Berra platitude cookie. It said, “The game ain’t over ’til it’s over.” That was the last straw, the game…is over!

I’m sick of platitudes! I want substance, not sentimentality! If I wanted platitudes, I’d buy a copy of “Life’s Little Instruction Book” or “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” I’m not asking for next week’s lottery numbers, just a hint of things to come.

As if Yogi Berra wasn’t enough, the other day I got a “fortune” that didn’t even qualify as a platitude. I got an Ole and Lena joke in my fortune cookie. It was a lame one too. It said “Ole chuckled as he read through the obituaries. ‘You know, Lena, it seems like everyone died in alphabetical order.'” Sheesh! Just what I needed. Somebody give me a gun so I can shoot myself!

Saturday, 06 September 1997

I can’t cook. Really, I can’t. Before you tell me that anyone can cook, allow me to tell you a little story.

I must have been about 4 years old. I had just finished one of my masterpieces in modern construction (playing with Legos) and decided it was lunch time. Usually mom was on time with lunch as it kept me out of trouble for a while, but on that day she was still busy cleaning my room.

I gently reminded her of the time, “Mom, I’M HUNGRY!”

“In a minute. I’m going to finish your room first. After that’s done, I’ll make some tomato soup.” My favorite.

I figured I could either help her out or starve to death. I chose help. Off to the kitchen I went to make lunch. Boy wouldn’t mom be surprised.

Once in the kitchen, I scaled the cupboard and got down a can of tomato soup. Jumped back down to the floor, pulled a pan out of the lower cupboard and put the can of soup in the pan.

Now how to cook this? I had watched my mom in the kitchen before, so I kind of knew what to do. I put the pan in the broiler (it was the only thing I could reach) and turned on the oven. Since I was really hungry, I turned the oven on all the way, so the soup would cook really fast. That done, I went off to play again while lunch cooked.

A short time later, there was a huge BOOM from the kitchen. Mom came running because she thought I had fallen off the counter, pulled over a bookshelf, or some other mischief. When she got to the kitchen she saw the door to the broiler blown off its hinge and tomato soup splattered everywhere. You see, I neglected to take the soup out of the can before cooking.

Ever since then, I was not allowed in the kitchen alone. To this day, I can’t cook.

Friday, 05 September 1997

There I was, just bicycling along pulling a steady 20mph clip, and then I saw IT. About a half mile down the road was probably the biggest, nastiest, juiciest Junebug I had seen in my entire life. I tried to avoid it by swerving all over the road. I even played chicken with a semi truck hoping the junebug would pick out the larger target, but it’s no use.

The monster was headed directly for my face, on a course to hit right between the eyes. In a sudden burst of adrenaline, I made one last ditch effort and veered left just before it hit me. The Junebug tried its best to swerve back into my eyes but it missed and caught me on the cheek. The force of the blow threw me completely off my bicycle. Once I finally hit the ground I tumbled backward 15 or 20 feet.

Picking myself up, brushing myself off, and preparing to start out again mildly stunned, I got stung by a bee. The junebug just goes on about it’s business, seeking out the next unsuspecting victim.

The next day I started looking for armor that wouldn’t restrict my ability to pedal.