Stack overflow

Better tighten your shoelaces, everyone, because I am about to combine software, brain trauma, elementary school, piles of junk, and who knows what else — oh yeah, New Jersey — into the next several hundred words.

First of all, stack overflow. For those of you who are mercifully uninitiated, that is, those of you who were never forced to learn what the heck it means, it means that the computer memory got all jammed up, and it didn’t have enough room to put everything. It overflowed. Who knows why they use the word stack? I don’t.

CAUTION! ABSOLUTELY USELESS ETYMOLOGY LESSON AHEAD! And why do they use the word “bug” to describe a problem in computer stuff? Well, it was a moth that gummed up the works way back in the dark ages of room-sized laptops. You can find it taped to the pages of a log book on display at the Smithsonian Institute. The word “bug” was used to describe something out of whack long before computers came along, but this moth brought it to the computer world, and it also inspired the invention of the word “debugging” by computing pioneer Grace Murray Hopper, a word still used today to describe the process of ridding computer software of its flaws.END USELESS ETYMOLOGY LESSON

Now where was I? Oh yeah, stack overflow. Having gone through that stroke thing, that brain trauma incident, the grand explosion, the Brain Twister, I have a new perspective on stack overflow. Some of my stacks overflowed, all right.

I’ve muttered a bit about how I’ve lost the ability to do long division, but that never really mattered to me all that much—that’s what calculators are for. More significantly, my ability to do anything sparkling on a computer just fizzled.

You’ve seen the commercials on TV where those little girls go stamping along the tops of picnic tables flinging the tops of their computers at each other, haven’t you, showing off how great Microsoft Surface is, or completely grown men in completely serious business meetings snap their laptops shut in corporate harmony while some well-paid orchestral group swells in eight-part harmony? Yeah, well, I don’t get it.

We gave NF one of those Surface things for Christmas, and I sat down with it the other night, and it sparkles, all right. Wow, does it sparkle. I mean, I wanted to play with it so much I broke a sweat. (This is the first time he has let it out of his room since paper-tearing day because he loves it so much, so it’s the first chance to play with it that I have had.)

But as I sat there watching it sparkle, I realized that I couldn’t sparkle back. I couldn’t even glimmer back. I could give off a sort of dull glow, like a flashlight about to die.

Yeah, I don’t get it. My stacks have definitely overflowed forever. I have become one of those geezers who can’t figure out new technology.

Much to CF’s dismay, I will always be a stacker. She, on the other hand, is a stuffer. I pile everything into stacks; she stuffs everything into drawers. My piles drive her crazy; her stuffed drawers drive me nuts.

I have a theory that every successful couple has one stacker and one stuffer. I don’t think two stackers or two stuffers could survive in the same house. If you are part of such a couple (stacker & stacker / stuffer & stuffer) and you are successfully sharing living quarters, please let me know, and send photographic evidence.

One of my vows for the new year was to get rid of the stack overflow from my office. That has not yet happened, and the year is nearly one-fourth gone. Therefore, in order to embarrass myself, I am posting evidence of my overflow, hoping that by next week I can post evidence of my underflow, with an affidavit from CF attesting to my honest cleanup effort (i.e., that I didn’t just stack it elsewhere).

Hmmm. I planned to post photographic evidence, really, but I have spent three days trying to do so, really, that’s why this post is so late, but my withered computer skills once again let me down. With any luck I will post before and after pix next time.

I learned to not be a stuffer the hard way in fifth grade (and, oh no, here comes the New Jersey stuff) when our teacher, Miss Coffin, asked us to rearrange our desks. These were the good old-fashioned wooden desks that had a drawer underneath the top without an end cover into which you could stuff all kinds of papers, and a groove on the top for your pencil or pen and even a hole bored in it for your bottle of ink. I know that makes it sound like the 1890s, but I think they used those desks well into the Clinton administration.

It was the first day back after winter break, and our desks were in a circle around a very bedraggled Christmas tree, which in those benighted days we were allowed to have in our classrooms. As I recall, my sister’s doll got to be the baby Jesus in the school play, and she got to play a dreidel, which offended our Catholic mother somewhat, but seemed to make everything balanced in the school’s ledger. Someone did offer an infant brother for the baby J part, but that offer was rejected,we thought because of the diaper problems, but in hindsight other issues now present themselves.

As we pushed our desks back to their normal places, out from my overstuffed desk drawer fell my brand new glasses case, which I had hastily stuffed in there as soon as I got to school that morning before anyone saw it.

“Ooh,” hissed Donna to Carol, “she got glasses.” I snatched the glasses case up as quickly as I could, but the damage was done. Donna and Carol were the trendsetters, the cool kids, the cheerleaders-in-training, soon to sprout pom-poms and rah-rahs from every pore on their body.

For some reason, I poured my fury about my imperfect eyes in the eyes of their perfect ones into stuffing. I unstuffed everything and became a stacker. I was cured of stuffing. No more stuffing for me.

Except for Thanksgiving. I was addicted to Thanksgiving turkey stuffing, especially my grandmother’s turkey stuffing. There was something unique about her stuffing.

We never figured out what made it unique, and she could never tell us what it was. We watched her every year, joked that it was her sweat, or the water in Irvington, N.J., or her well-worn bowls. The secret, whatever it was, she took to her grave.

And now I must go make short work of at least one pile of my precious crap before next week. It pains me, it really does. So much of importance in that stack of paper, so much of significance, so much of….overflow.

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