I'm back, and I've almost made it through the 525 not-automatically-sorted email messages, caught up on my blog reading, and so on. There are a number of interesting technical questions in my backlog that I'll start getting to later this week once I dig myself out of the pile of bug reports that accumulated during my absence.
Until then, again, this was just too precious to not share. If you only want technical stuff, stop reading now.
One of the highlights of my twice-annual return to my ancestral home is spending time with my cousins. My five-year-old cousin Zephy takes great delight in taunting me. Every year she teaches the small army of munchkins that she hangs out with some ditty which is to be shouted repeatedly whenever I come into view. This year it was "Eric is evil! Eric is evil! Eeeeevil!" It's quite the experience, believe me. I suspect that the root of this behaviour has something to do with the fact that I once convinced her that Lake Huron is chock-full of Great Canadian Beaver-Sharks -- giant buck-toothed, flat-tailed sharks which subsist on a diet of driftwood, canoe paddles, wooden sailboats and little girls -- and then repeatedly threatened to throw her in the lake. In retrospect, maybe that wasn't such a good idea.
Her older sister Victoria does not believe in Beaver-Sharks. At one point she and her friend Kelsey ran up to me (ten year old girls run everywhere) to ask if they could borrow my pair of kayaks. "Sure. You can always borrow the kayaks even if I'm not around as long as you tell a responsible adult that you're going out on the lake," I said. Kelsey got a slightly worried look -- "Is my mother a responsible adult?" she deadpanned.
For future reference: unless otherwise noted, all mothers are responsible adults.
And finally, Vic has a "mad crush" on a boy, who will remain unnamed. She wasn't sure what to do about that, and since apparently I'm an internationally recognized expert on getting boys to like you, she asked my advice. I wasn't sure what to say -- the first girl I ever had a mad crush on I ended up dating for seven years, which is probably atypical -- so I've started surveying every 8-12 year old girl that I meet as to what they do about mad crushes. I met an eight-year-old girl named Heather at a barbecue over the weekend and asked her. Her detailed off-the-cuff reply showed that she'd already put a lot of thought into this question, though she had not actually needed to test her theories yet. Allow me to quote from memory:
"There are two things you can do if you have a mad crush on a boy, you can ask him to propose marriage and if he won't, then beat him up, then send him to an island, then surround the island with huge rocks so that he can't escape, then send him Valentine's cards that say 'I HATE YOU!' but if he does propose marriage then you can kiss him and marry him and move into an apartment and have a baby and bake him a cake that says 'YOU ARE MY FAVOURITE BOYFRIEND' in the icing."
Sounds like a good plan! Any current or former 8-12 girls out there who have additional advice for surviving a mad crush (who I suppose happen to also be interested in programming language design if you're reading my blog…) please leave comments and I'll forward them on. Run-on sentences are fine.