The answer to life, the universe, and everything

“Do you want a big party for your 40th birthday?”

“No, definitely not. You know me; I’m happy with just a quiet birthday. And anyway, if I was going to celebrate anything, it would be my 42nd birthday. Because, you know: 42.”

And that was the last mention of it.

Two years later (just this week) I turned 42. I had a lovely birthday and was spoiled with presents. Carolyn even remembered my obsession with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by including a message in my birthday card. I was too polite to draw attention to her accidental misspelling of “Vrogon”. She’s so sweet to have tried to keep up with my geeky ways. Little did I know, it was not an accident.

The weekend arrives, and I’m left alone at home while everyone else goes op-shopping. I am quite happy with this arrangement. Op-shopping really isn’t my thing.

After a few hours, my mother-in-law arrives at the door, looking for Carolyn. I inform her she’s out op-shopping, so she says that she’ll just have to talk to me instead, and invites herself in.

“Take this box and open it. I’m going to sit here and not answer any questions.”

The box has a poem on the outside and contains several items, including a “42” shirt and a towel labelled “Don’t Panic”. Carolyn has definitely been up to something. She’s clearly organised a little family gathering. I can’t believe that she’s been this sneaky.

I get dressed and follow instructions to get into the car. We drive to a nearby hall, and I’m told to head inside.

The doors are all labelled with Hitchhiker’s signs: their cheerful and sunny disposition begs me to open them, and then thank me with satisfaction on the other side. I arrive at Milliways and open the door…

The room is filled with people. Filled. With. People.

A room full of towel-bearing family and friends are there screaming “surprise!” I am, without doubt, surprised. Just about everyone that I know is in that room, including people I haven’t seen for 15 years.

My wife had definitely been up to something.

Contrary to her normal inability to hide anything from me, Carolyn had been working in secret for months. She had read the books to find food. She had watched the movie — with a notebook — for ideas. She had hunted the internet for bits and pieces of Hitchhiker’s iconography and gathered it all together. She had found friends that I haven’t talked to in a decade and convinced them to come and join me in celebrating a normally meaningless milestone.

I was put into a dressing gown and handed a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. There was food and drink throughout the room: Perfectly Normal Beast sandwiches, Dentrassi Hagro biscuits, Algolian Zylatburgers, mice sitting in a tray of edible (and rather tasty) brains, and so much more. There were even peanuts (just in case we had to hit hyperspace in an emergency, I guess). In one corner was a whale floating above a bowl of petunias. On the other side of the room was a competition for folding towels into Scintillating Jewelled Scuttling Crabs. Above us were dolphins, fleeing the planet. There was a Thinking Cap to assist those that needed a little brain-boost. Outside, the children were all shooting each other with Total Perspective Vortex guns (which suspiciously resembled water pistols).

Everything was labelled, with additional descriptions for those less familiar with the fandom. She had even organised a secret pre-party movie day to ensure that people could play along with the craziness. That probably helped when, at one point during the afternoon, I was quite literally strapped into a horrific-looking chair, had a Babel fish jammed into my ear, and tortured with Vogon poetry. Not even the Joo Janta 200 Super Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses I was given could save me from that.

Carolyn had even asked that, instead of gifts, people bring donations to the Douglas Adams’ Save the Rhino International. She had thought of everything.

Thanks to Keith Russell, I found myself travelling down a memory-lane of university pranks themed after the assassination of Caesar. I progressed through layers of polystyrene balls, bubble-wrap, cling-wrap, and a giant box of cheezels and cheetos, only to discover at its centre a cardboard tube: a 20-year old artifact of that very first prank, stabbed through with a knife. It made no sense to anyone watching, and yet everyone was laughing. I’m sure that Mr Adams would have been proud.

There was craziness, and everyone played into my life-long obsession with Douglas Adams’ creations. More than that, though, I got to spend an afternoon with the family and friends that mean more to me that even that obsession.

Thank you to everyone for making this old frood feel special.

PS: my wife is awesome.

It’s a girl!

At 7:37 this morning, we welcomed Aria Valmai Faye Blackwell into the world.

She weighed 3.6kg and was 47cm long. For those fluent in baby-math, that makes for a delightfully chubby baby with cute little rolls on her arms and thighs.

Aria decided to arrive earlier than planned, but she and Carolyn are both doing well and we couldn’t be happier.

Three months of life

So there goes three months without work. Long service leave, plus some of my accumulated leave, has given me a lovely break. I had expected to use these three months to relax, but also as a form of sabbatical. I did, in fact, barely code at all. I had expected to catch up with all my long-lost friends. I did, in fact, catch up with not one of them.

Here’s a rough list thoughts and memories from the longest break from work or study since I started school (and likely the longest until I retire):

  • Spending time with Carolyn
  • Going on a family holiday to Yanchep, where we spent time away from all the gadgets, and lots of time wandering around, playing board games, or just at the beach
  • Planning for and then enacting a surprise wedding (we finally did it!)
  • Carolyn and I going on a child-free honeymoon, and getting to pretend to be adults for a little while (Nice dinners! Fancy shows!)
  • Getting pregnant again (yes, really)
  • Helping Carolyn out around the house (due to her horrible, 24/7 “morning” sickness)
  • Helping Elysha work out her studies
  • Taking Elysha to her first day of TAFE (in Mandurah)
  • Picking up Elysha from her first day of TAFE, only to find that she’d already worked out how to get home on her own
  • Driving Elysha to and from the train on Fridays (such early mornings)
  • Dealing with a sick Romilly
  • Having Romilly spend full weeks with us (even if only for a little while)
  • Watching Romilly and Oliver playing together
  • Taking Oliver swimming in deep water for the first time
  • Taking Oliver to his first day of school
  • Taking Oliver to class every morning, and staying for puzzles and reading time
  • Picking Oliver up from class, and hearing excited (but exhausted) stories of his day
  • Helping out in Oliver’s class (twice)
  • Playing Skylanders with Oliver and teaching him how to use an XBox controller
  • Listening to Oliver talk about Skylanders every waking hour of the day
  • Planning how to fit another child into our crazy family
  • Looking at cars
  • Looking at houses
  • Looking at granny-flats
  • Panicking (just a little)
  • Realising that there is always room in a house full of love
  • Building a new PC
  • Late nights of computer games, either by myself or with friends and brothers
  • Going on photography walks with my brother
  • Cuddling my frail 19-year-old cat as he finds it hard to keep warm
  • Fixing things for people
  • Eating too much
  • Watching the soft, fluffy clouds wander across the blue, blue sky and realising how wonderful life can be when you    just    slow    down

So many memories with my family, and so well timed to be able to look after Carolyn. I’m sorry to all the friends I didn’t see, to all the projects in my head left uninvestigated, and to all the lines of code I didn’t write, but I wouldn’t sacrifice any of my last three months. Not one bit.

It looks like you’re trying to deal with Windows 8 frustration

Kurt: It seems that Windows has the same success pattern as Star Trek movies.
Lionfire: Microsoft should hire J J Abrams?
Kurt: This is my point exactly.
Lionfire: Windows 9: Lensflare Edition
Kurt: If it details how Clippy’s home planet is destroyed, it should be wildly popular.
Lionfire: It looks like you’re trying t-OH MY GOD!