Monday, June 25, 2007

Gone herping. Drop dead.

Gosh, it's cute. Really and truly. I stole the picture from Wikipedia. Tuatara. Look it up if you care.

I adore herps. I don't keep them as pets, they're smelly and too often bacteria-laden [komodo drool, anyone?], but they're really cool-looking. Real-life dragons. How could you not love them?

Back in ye olde college days, I had a summer job doing environmentalist stuff [ok, most of my college jobs were tree-hugger-y], and one of the projects I helped out on, just for fun, was collecting endangered salamanders. Or was it newts? I forget now, but don't google newt if you love funny-looking critters [or do].

Catching the the slithery little critters the easy way meant getting in the car and driving slowly down the roads in the middle of the night, spotting them in the headlights. So that our housemates didn't worry about us, we always put signs on our respective bedroom doors: Gone herping.

--How did you spend your summer vacation?

I forget what it was that prompted me to google herps several days ago, but I haven't forgotten the result. Google asked me, did you mean: herpes and then went on to list a boatload of links to articles about, and eeeuuuuwwww gross pictures of, herpes. And the ads! Ads galore for herpes cures, and at least one herpes dating site.

Now, I'm all for public service announcements, and putting all kinds of good and useful information out there, even if it is gross, and making it available to the widest possible audience, especially if nobody else will tell you about it. Google has probably helped out any number of computer-literate people who can't spell but probably ought to be calling up their doctors. That's a good thing.

And being a spelling nazi myself, and a very good speller too [though a clumsy typist and dyslexic reader], I almost always appreciate it when Google catches one of my typos and lets me change direction in one mouseclick, rather than making me retype the whole word. I use this little convenience a lot. Thank you, Google, but


Herps. Snakes. Lizards. Alligators. Crocodiles. Salamanders. Turtles. Eye of newt and toe of frog. Them critters. That's what I wanted pictures of. I count myself among the very fortunate that when I clicked on "Images" with herps in the search box, what came up were in fact images of snakes and other creepy crawlies, instead of festering sores.

On the matter of technology mostly being helpful and mostly acting the way you expect it to, but not always: today was Go Live day. The project I have devoted, and I do mean devoted, myself to for the past few years has been to drag this operation [no further specifications forthcoming] from the 19th century into the 21st [not a typo]. This portion of it entails sending a bunch of grumpy computer-illiterate technophobes out in pickup trucks, armed with laptops, wireless cards, and fancy-schmancy software.

This particular week, a lucky select chosen few of us, the normally-office-bound geekheads, will be spending our days riding around in said trucks, acting as personal coaches for the New Users. Note to self: one chocolate bar is not enough to get through a whole day, take two tomorrow.

They said we were randomly paired up for this, but I've been assigned to the gentleman who got stuck with me my first week on the job. His assignment back then was to teach me his job, so that I could then come back into the office and spend the next few years of my life taming the electrons needed for him to do his job paperlessly. He very patiently spent that week teaching me to use all his equipment [that didn't come out right, did it?] and holding my hand while wading through the mountains of paperwork.

Bonus: he also taught me water-witching that same week. There are people who will tell you that I was already good at the witchy part. Don't listen to them.

I survived today, obviously. There were some glitches, including one important function that was working last night but crapped out this morning and another important function whose launch is just going to have to be delayed for several months. Grrrrr. The day was hot and humid, a few F-bombs were dropped, I got carsick. I am, however, a goddess now. Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+V is way faster than writing the required comments on paper.


Steve Bates said...

I worship at your feet, goddess. :)

My favorite desk-jockey-in-the-field story involves one of my music students at that small university 25 years ago. I taught recorder, the musical instrument (google it if you need to). This student, a big, burly, friendly, good-looking guy, was a geophysicist whose job occasionally required him to go out to rigs with the roughnecks. Most of the 18th-century recorder literature is best suited to the alto recorder, but it's not exactly a convenient pocket instrument (assembled, it's 16" to 18" long), so this fellow carried a sopranino recorder, half the length of an alto and an octave higher. He would practice out of sight of the workers, the sound covered by the ambient noise... but one day he got caught. He never lived it down... a gigantic man, playing a tiny instrument, one with a noticeably phallic shape that even three centuries ago people made jokes about...

hipparchia said...

really?! you were there?! three centuries ago?!

hehehehhee. a delightful story! thanks. i am musically klutzy, but have taken music lessons of many kinds for many years, among them the recorder.

Steve Bates said...

I'm pretty old, hipparchia, but not quite THAT old. Amazingly, those folks three centuries ago printed their jokes... they even wrote songs in which the shape of the recorder is referred to, with an audible wicked grin. Michael Powell would have been horrified!

Instruments were often used symbolically in, say, Bach's works. Recorder always symbolized one of two things that we would think of as opposites... either ascending to heaven, or the obvious sexual reference. No hobgoblin of foolish consistency afflicted their minds back then!

Keifus said...

Probably good thing you didn't google "fucking herpes," or "salamander-jacking" for that matter. I can only imagine.

Steve, it's my limited understanding that the flute and the recorder were basically, for a few good centuries, the same thing (at least in some places, or so I remember), that the standard flute, with the hole you blow across is a later orchestral invention. May be mis-remembering though.

K (insomina blows)

aoetlv: virtual aioli (spread on my imaginary sandwich)

Steve Bates said...

Keifus, it's more complicated than that... isn't everything? :)

In late 17th- and some of 18th-century England, the word "flute" (sometimes "common flute") meant recorder; that may account for the confusion. If you wanted to talk about the ancestor of today's transverse (cross-blown) flute, you called it "German flute." The dates of their origin, or of their importation into Western culture, are subject to debate, but some version of both instruments appears in Europe somewhere between the 12th and 14th centuries, with the cross-blown flute usually thought to have come first... no surprise there, as it is, in its primitive form, far easier to make.

In practical terms, from a player's standpoint, the two instruments are very different from one another, and I speak from decades of personal experience with both. Ability to play one of them most certainly does not confer ability to play the other! From teaching several professional modern wind instrument players to play recorder, I've observed that modern oboists find it easier than modern flutists... who'd a thunk it.

[swair - what I do when I misspell a word]