Nerd hilarity. -or- Why I love volunteering at the planetarium

Today I had my biweekly volunteer shift at Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland. My days there are always an endless parade of people running the gamut from really annoying to really interesting.

I’m fairly knowledgeable about astronomical things, but I don’t even remotely pretend to be an expert… it’s humbling to be around some of the amazingly smart people there who put in far more hours than I do, and for no pay. Still, I’m pretty knowledgeable about the subject matter… but that seems to only guarantee that the proverbial socially-maladjusted geek will come along and try to one-up me (or one of the other volunteers).

Today, there was one who came and skulked around for a while, spouting off about various scientific topics to some of us volunteers and two even more geeky guys who appeared to be, essentially, his sidekicks. He talked and talked. He was easy to tune out, but I caught the tail end of what he was talking about because he delivered his final words with such conviction. Or more correctly, arrogance.

The end of (whatever point he was trying to make) was:  “I’m 45 years old. I plan to retire at 47. And in my career I’ve amassed enough personal wealth that I can.”

And as he said this, there was but one thought in my head, which I regret now that I did not verbally state, despite the beauty in its direct simplicity. And that one, single, bemused thought in my head was this:

“Dude, you are wearing a wizard costume.”

Consider the following. –OR– I ♥ NY(e)!

A short anecdote in which Mig basks in the presence of a great personage. Please, dear readership, allow me to cluck about it for a moment.

A few Saturdays ago, I was doing my usual biweekly volunteer shift at Chabot planetarium in Oakland. Chabot was due to have a special guest that day:  Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I correctly anticipated that they might bring him out to the telescope deck, where I usually work, so I had the camera in my pocket just in case.

I had the solar telescope set up and there were sunspots and solar flares to show a neverending stream of people. My shift was actually busy enough that I’d temporarily forgotten about any impending sci-lebrity encounters… when suddenly I saw The Man himself.

Not only did I get to (excitedly and giddily) get to meet him, but I got to show him the solar scope and the goodies that were visible in it. He was dazzled and amazed and had never looked through something like that before.  (It’s quite a  feeling to impress Mr. Science with something… scientific.) And he happily posed for a picture with me– a treat that only one other person was afforded as the Chabot Secret Service hustled him around.

He later gave a very interesting talk that I got to attend… Sadly, they didn’t get to me in the subsequent question-and-answer session, because I had the best question ever teed up:

Where do you go tie shopping?

A nice start to the year. I think the rest will be accordingly awesome.

Guard your children… for I am now officially “scary.”

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly scary person.  And you, gentle reader, probably know me enough to know that I’m better described by a lot of other words.  Some such words are more complimentary than others, but still, “scary” probably isn’t one that would first come to your mind.

Yet that’s how I came across to someone this weekend. I was out riding my bicycle through the mean streets of San Mateo, just kind of exploring around, seeing where bike trails go, etc.  It was a beautiful and blissful day, and I decided to do a lap around a playground and community pool that I’d come across.

For a public park on a sunny Sunday, it was quite empty.  On the playground were two kids, their parents at a picnic table not too far away.  I was just kind of pedaling slowly, not even really looking at them, and of course doing nothing threatening.  But as I passed on the bike path about 15 feet from them, the girl stated to the boy:

“That guy is scary.”

I’m quite sure her fear didn’t stem from my bicycle-related attire.  Nope, I’m pretty sure that this pronouncement was thanks to the Copycat Luke Littell Biker Mustache that I’ve been cultivating.

Now if only I could scare the kid neighbors’ bratty-ass friends away in the same manner…

True story. Filed 8/23/05.

Anyway, about two weeks ago, I was driving down the street, on my way into work.  Some jackass in a Mustang (ed. note: those two things are often synonymous) kept racing/weaving/darting in and out of traffic, only to still get caught at the same lights that I was.

From the junebug-green Mustang, his stereo was thumping loudly and I tried to just ignore it.  But when he pulled up next to me, I was shocked.  I figured it would be Snoop, Sublime, 50 Cent, etc.  But no– what I thought I was hearing was something far different.

I slyly cracked the window to confirm that my ears weren’t deceiving me.  And yes, there it was– unmistakeably and at top volume–

Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts.”

I tell you, the joker ain’t the only fool…


Confessions from a Starbucks. April 14, 2005.

I’m here at a Starbucks in NYC, using their wireless internet. (There are about 40 Starbucks in lower Manhattan… it makes it very easy for me to get online.) It’s a very large store– the largest one I’ve seen– there are about 50 tables’ worth of people sitting down engaged in various activities. In the past couple hours of sitting here working on the computer, here’s what I’ve seen inside this store:

  • one guy who locked himself in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out, resulting in a hilarious shouting match through the door between him and the management. He wasn’t even a homeless person– he was a nicely-dressed, paying customer.
  • One old guy in a leather motorcycle jacket, slowly blowing up several balloons for no obvious reason.
  • The proverbial “guy talking to himself.” I have a feeling that in Manhattan, this is a rather standard thing to see.
  • Just now, some man came in, followed by three young girls. He held a light-up plastic sword aloft. They all slowly conducted their own parade through the store, then left.

The other day on the subway, I saw a bumfight and a guy playing bagpipes.

Thank you, universe, for the puppet show you’ve given me here in New York!

True story. February 1st, 2005.

This morning on my way in to work, I found myself in the elevator with a guy who works on my floor, but in the other company’s office. He was a basic Silicon Valley type: middle-aged, scrawny, nerdy. Think: an affable version of Gates minus the multi-billions. Riding up the elevator, he nervously commented on the new carpeting job in the building– the grimy teal carpet had recently been replaced with new dark brown carpet. Which matches the brown marble walls much better. The color match was an improvement– because the combination of dark brown and teal, he nervously joked, “made me want to puke.” And as he shuffled off, I noticed that he was wearing pants and a jacket that were dark brown… and a teal-colored shirt.