Sunday, August 24, 2008

kobayashi 'needl

Saavik: Permission to speak freely, sir?
Kirk: Granted.
Saavik: I do not believe this was a fair test of my command abilities.
Kirk: And why not?
Saavik: Because... there was no way to win.
Kirk: A no-win situation is a possibility every commander may face. Has that never occurred to you?
Saavik: No sir, it has not...
in one of the many star trek movies, there's a reference to a no-win scenario called "the kobayashi maru."

it's a character test for cadets, in which the trainee is faced with two bad tactical options, and has to choose between them.

this week, life imitated art at the spaceneedl household.

on one side, mrs. spaceneedl, taking the week off, with the children out of camp. on the other side, an excess of work at spaceneedl sprockets, with imminent deadlines tied to major trade shows.

mrs. spaceneedl: can't you just take friday off? summer's nearly over, you've taken no time off, and we want to spend some time with you.

spaceneedl's boss: the team needs to work longer hours to get everything done.

huh. these directives appear to be mutually exclusive, don't they? take the day off, deadlines slip, deliverables are imperiled. spaceneedl's boss questions priorities, commitment to work, and future of employment.

go to work, mrs. spaceneedl questions priorities, questions commitment to wife and children, questions future of relationship.

huh. call me crazy, but this appears to be a kobayashi maru scenario.
Saavik: Admiral, may I ask you a question?
Kirk: What's on your mind, Lieutenant?
Saavik: The Kobayashi Maru, sir.
Kirk: Are you asking me if we're playing out that scenario now?
Saavik: On the test, sir. Will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know.
McCoy: Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario.
Saavik: How?
Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
Saavik: What?
David Marcus: He cheated.
Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test. I got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose.
Saavik: Then you never faced that situation. Faced death.
Kirk: I don't believe in the no-win scenario.
i don't believe in the no-win scenario, either. i do, however, believe in financial stability.

i went to work.

lots of work got done. boss was complimentary.

mrs. spaceneedl had a conniption.


labor day weekend is coming up. after that, the children go back to school, fall travel schedules kick into gear, children are one year closer to college.

how does one change the conditions of this test? maybe i can take this friday off.

then again, it's possible the borg are already inside the perimeter, and resistance is futile...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

sea what i mean...

Days precious days
Roll in and out like waves
I got boards to bend I got planks to nail
I got charts to make I got seas to sail

I'm gonna build me a boat
With these two hands
She'll be a fair curve
From a noble plan
Let the chips fall where they will
'Cause I've got boats to build

Sails are just like wings
The wind can make 'em sing
Songs of life songs of hope
Songs to keep your dreams afloat

I'm gonna build me a boat
With these two hands
She'll be a fair curve
From a noble plan
Let the chips fall where they will
'Cause I've got boats to build

-- jimmy buffett

cynics will tell you that the best two days of owning a boat are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.

so sad.

you never hear jimmy buffett complain about his boats, do you? sure, he probably pays lots of people to handle the maintenance and the catering and the bartending, but other than that, he's just like other boat owners.

okay, bad example. still, (and i'm projecting here) the many joys of boating must outweigh the upkeep. and the sea sickness. and the threat of the kraken.
else, why would people keep heading out to sea?

mrs. spaceneedl and i have been thinking about a boat. okay, i've been thinking about it, she's mostly rolling her eyes. think of the children, i tell her. think of the many wonderful childhood memories we'll be providing them.

think of the college education we'll be depriving them of, she counters.

think of the diving and the fishing and the crabbing, i tell her. think of the trips to the san juan islands and the sunshine coast. think of frolicking with orcas in their native habitat.

think of having your head examined, she advises.

yes, but that's the point. getting out on the water can be very therapeutic. it can calm the nerves and soothe the soul. it temporarily disconnects you from whatever troubles you on land.

like, your inability to acquire a boat.

full disclosure: we can't afford a boat. not the boat i want, anyway. because i see us cruising the seas in a floating four seasons hotel. with a gourmet galley and berths for four and a full bath and a crow's nest from which to scan the horizon for uncharted tropical islands.

also, in case you hadn't noticed, the price of fuel has gone off the charts.

what we can afford, comfortably, is the tandem sea kayak currently languishing in our garage.

less comfortably, we might be able to swing a lease on a boat, allowing us 12 days a year on the open water. there's also a 21-day option, which statistically is the number of days most owners use their boats in any given year. 21 days! that doesn't seem like so many. less than one weekend a month. and, what, the boat sits in the marina the other 344 days a year? are you kidding?

this leasing thing is starting to look pretty good.

for an extra stack of hundred-dollar bills you get 32 hours of instruction on seamanship. which is kinda important for people who have never even steered a motorized open-water craft. "how to avoid collisions with other craft, sand bars, and kraken" would be a good place to start.

Songs of life songs of hope
Songs to keep your dreams afloat

i have a dream. it's not a big dream. it's more of a wistful wandering. a momentary failure to concentrate on the concrete.

in this case, my little dream takes the form of a floating oasis, heading out to sea.

i'd appreciate it if no one sinks my float.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

the prodigal son returneth

the boy came home today.

he's been at camp colman, near olympia, for the past week.

yesterday we received a letter from him that must've been written his first day away. it includes a couple of illustrations of a sad boy, and a mournful plea to rescue him from his asylum.

the letter, quite pointedly, was addressed to mrs. spaceneedl. that hurt, a little. i mean, i wasn't the one who signed him up for camp purgatory.


at the risk of revealing the boy's heart of hearts, here's the gist of his letter...

"hi mom, i'm homesick already and almost cried. i wish you were here. p.s. please come pick me up, i'm not sure i'm ready for this yet.

"oh yeah, thanks for the chess game, book and cards :-)

"mail me back and say if you will pick me up.

"love (heart heart) preston."

the boy is a sensitive soul, easily wounded. he hides his vulnerability behind veneers ranging from bravado to indifference. for example, boarding the bus at the beginning of the week, he neither protested nor looked back. he gave no indication that he was facing anything out of the ordinary or even interesting.

it's hard to discern how he fared during the week. he hasn't offered up anything substantive (to me, anyway). does he want to go to camp orkila next year? no. did he have fun? i guess. what was the best part? i don't know.

it's like having a 10-year old teenager in the house.

he must've done something entertaining. the entire place is a fun factory. water sports, ropes courses, climbing walls, sports courts, an archery range. you can't swing on a giant swing without hitting something fun.

he's probably way over-tired. he probably couldn't find much to eat at camp. he probably would like nothing better than to go hang out with a friend and regale him for hours with camp tales.

dad, meanwhile, will have to settle for unresponsive responses and unsupported assumptions.

maybe someday mrs. spaceneedl will fill me in on the details from our son's first week away from home.

or, maybe i'll just go jump in a lake.

at camp colman.

that sounds like fun.