Blog of Stories

There are 35 blog entries within the category of Stories

The Golf Ball Injury
Story circa November 22nd, 1997 | View Post
One evening over the Thanksgiving holiday during my freshman year in college, I took to the local driving range with my little sister. I had been learning to play golf earlier in the summer. One of my roommates, Donlee Cone Smith was an accomplished golfer and a rather good teacher. I was neither, but he was doing his best with me.

The interesting thing about our local driving range is that was uniquely designed by a guy who won the lottery. Evidently he used some of his winnings to develop and presumably patent a system that automatically placed the ball on the tee for the golfer. It was a pretty cool device. All you had to do was tap your golf club on a lever and a PVC arm would drop down into place, set the ball on the tea, and then retract itself. Just when it seemed golf could not get any lazier, this guy proved the world wrong! The relevance of this detail is that one key component to golfing is how one stands relative to the tee. It took me a number of swings to find a good setup, but once I got perfectly into place, I didn't have to move. This presented a pretty big advantage to non-golfers like myself.

As a result to all of this, I was actually hitting the ball really well that evening. One after another, I was driving well beyond my typical norms. My sister, just 13 at the time, was seated in the bench behind me. If it seems strange that she was just watching her brother play golf, keep in mind that 13 is a pretty young age to be independent. I think she just enjoyed the fact that I would take her out and about, the adventure otherwise being unimportant. In this instance, it's good that she was there with me.

After I'd gone through about half of the balls, I sliced the hell out one shot. It was at this moment that a huge flaw in the driving range was inadvertently discovered. There were metal rails extending beyond the area that one could shoot. The ball I sliced hit one of these metal rails (to the right of me) and before I could even finish my swing came back and hit me square in the head over my right eye. I was likely immediately knocked unconscious. As I started to fall to the ground, the momentum from my swing continued and my golf club bent itself around the metal rail to the left of me. I have no idea how long I was unconscious for (likely only seconds), but as I was lying face down on the AstroTurf I could hear my sister chuckling behind me. She later explained to me that she thought I was just playing around as I typically did.

When I rolled over in her direction, I was holding my right hand above my eye. I could feel the injury that I had sustained, but had no idea just how severe it was. As I removed my hand, my sister screamed and realize that not only was I injured, but that I had a protrusion literally the size of a golf ball just above my right eye.

I was in a very blurred state from the injury and only vaguely remember another golfer from a few stalls down coming to my rescue. He picked me up and brought me inside insistent that the place call an ambulence. My sister instead got in touch with my parents and they came and picked me up instead. Another trip to the emergency room ensued.

I was told that I was extremely lucky the injury pushed outwardly from my skull. Evidently an inwardly bruise of that size could have resulted in serious brain injury or other complications. I was also lucky enough not to have fractured my skull. I was perfectly fine just a few days later, albeit became the only of my friends to have ever rendered himself unconscious with a golf ball.

It was many years later before I was comfortable at a driving range again.

My sister sent a package to my college dorm a week or so later. The package contained a note taped to a golf ball that read, "The golf ball that so viciously attacked you". I still have it.
The Coke Machine
Story circa October 22nd, 1997 | View Post

Jeff Smith filling up a bag with our prized sodas
While there were many, many tiny acts of vandalism that occurred in my freshman dorm room, one of the most exciting ones was that of the Coke machine. It was exciting only because we had heard the details of this particular trick through the grapevine and assumed it was just an urban legend - and a bad one at that.

The idea someone explained to us was that if you managed to inject salt water into the internal machinery of a Coke machine, then for whatever reason it would provide you with free sodas. The idea was that the salt water, being highly conductive of course, would short out the machine and this was the trigger response for a failure. Again, I realize this sounds entirely improbable.

Since my roommates and suite-mates knew that I generally didn't consider consequences to most anything, they encouraged me to give it a go. We got a container of Morton salt and a regular iced-tea pitcher with a nice pouring spout. For whatever reason, the hot water in Dobie was exceedingly hot and this made the experiment all the easier. I filled about 1/6th of the pitcher with salt, filled the rest with hot water, and then stirred them together for a few moments. The water being as hot as it was allowed the salt to dissolve very easily and efficiently. In fact, I distinctly remember how powerful the salt smelled likely due to it supersaturating the water.

I walked out of my dorm with pitcher in hand and proceeded down the hall to the Coke machine. By this time I had a small audience behind me. I carefully started to pour the pitcher of hot saltwater into the coin slot of the machine. While a lot of it spilled down the front, a lot of it also managed to go in. I was probably about half-way through the pitcher when we started to hear what sounded like an electric motor shorting out. It was a sporadic hum at first, but eventually started getting louder and more consistent, almost like a broken door buzzer.

Finally when I was about 3/4 of the way through, there was a loud sound and the Coke machine literally dropped every single coke in the machine. We could hear the sodas fall down the shoot and saw them quickly bottleneck in the dispenser at the bottom. Celebrating and somewhat euphoric from such a stupid suggestion actually working, we bagged up all of the sodas and brought them back into our dorm.

I'm not positive, but I think this became somewhat of an urban legend in the dorm itself as I distinctly remember people asking me if we could really do it. Even stranger is that we continued doing it for months to come, but somehow or another never got questioned about it. Apparently nobody ever took notice of the fact that our dorm room was filled with hundreds of soft drinks and meanwhile the Coke machine right outside of our dorm was often covered with a salt precipitate, empty, and changeless.

And so it happens, if you pour hot saltwater into the coin slot of a Coke machine, you can enjoy the rewards of free sodas!
The .22 Quarter
Story circa October 18th, 1997 | View Post
Over the weekend of October 17th - 19th of 1997, and while still a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin, I took a weekend trip up to a friend of a friend's ranch near Plano, Texas.  Jake Shaw (whose parents owned the ranch) was in school with a number of my good friends, namely Jon Weitzel, Nate Christianson, Tom Kelley, and Kelly Dotson.  I drove up to Waco on that Friday afternoon, picked up Jon and Jake in my F150, and we proceeded to drive another 2-3 hours north to the ranch.

There are probably a dozen stories worthy of telling from that particular weekend (hunting catfish, Jon and Jake recreating Woodstock, throwing bullets into a fire, and on and on), but this particular one is with respect to a .22 caliber rifle, a quarter, and shrapnel.

Jon and his girlfriend at the time, Meredith Watson, were already off doing their own nightly thing and I was hanging out in the kitchen with Kelly Dotson.  I don't recall if we were playing quarters or how the idea of the quarter came about, but at some point I thought it would be cool to make it into a trinket for her necklace.  Having played with the .22 all day long, I knew it was sitting outside on the porch and so I went outside with a project in mind.  Of course, I was well beyond a safe level of intoxicated when I decided I could just shoot a hole through the quarter.

My first effort was to shoot downward and into the ground.  I placed the quarter on the grass outside and centered the barrel of the .22 over the quarter.  Without much thought for what might happen, I pulled the trigger expecting to see a positive result.  It did not work.  Instead the quarter got pushed an inch or two into the ground and had an enormous dent in one side of it (this would later lead to another story).

Although I'm sure I was amused with what had happened, I was still intent upon accomplishing my original goal.  I took another quarter out of my pocket and this time instead of shooting into the ground, thought it wise to shoot into the air.  I pointed the barrel of the gun straight up and placed the quarter atop it.  With the quarter balancing over the center of the gun barrel, I gently pulled the trigger.  The quarter flew up into the air and landed on the ground below me.  As you might imagine, it was pretty hot, but it DID have a perfect hole through the center of it.

I excitedly walked inside to deliver my gift to Kelly.  She looked at me and asked what had happened to my face.  Perhaps it was the alcohol, or being the nearly innocent and unintelligent age of 18, but when you break metal apart, that metal has to go somewhere.  As it happens, the shrapnel from the quarter sprayed through part of my face at an angle that covered part of my nose, cheekbone, and the outside of my right eye.  Thankfully none of it actually went into my eye.

I never did have it checked up on by a doctor, so who knows if I still have shards of nickle and zinc in me.  Nevertheless, Kelly got her quarter necklace and I proved to the world that a .22 shell will go clear through a quarter at literal point-blank range.
The Stingray
Story circa May 31st, 1997 | View Post
After just having moved to Austin, Texas to begin college at the University of Texas, I spent the first summer of my time away from home in a provisional program.  It was essentially a summer program for those who were on the cusp of admittance, but still needed to prove to the university that the individual was not entirely without merit and should indeed be admitted. Basically, my high school grades were good, but not quite good enough to just get me into this huge public university. So I attended.  Fortunately I fooled the school. In the rather typical fashion I tended to treat college until I eventually pursued something I really enjoyed, I did just enough to get by. This is an irrelevant detail to the story of The Stingray other than the fact that I wound up starting college about three months before the majority of my friends and peers did and as a consequence, had to fill my time with the few friends I had there. Perhaps also worth noting is that until Austin, Texas became a significant city on the US stage, most of the city was shut down over the summer time as the reduced student population just didn't create the same demand for entertainment. So the opportunities of finding activities in the evening were much more limited than they would eventually become in Austin.

I had been assigned a random dorm roommate named Geoff Smith. Like me, he was from Houston, albeit not particularly close to where I grew up. I also acquired a pseudo-roommate who I had attended high school with named Donlee Cone Smith.  Despite the shared last name, there was no relation between them. If you met the two of them, that would be immediately obvious. Whereas Donelee was an athletic, socially normal, country-raised kind of guy, Geoff was a tall, lanky, quirky, socially awkward person. He was very friendly, but ever so different from both Donlee and myself.

Donlee had been placed in single-bedroom, sparsely-populated dorm. Needless to say he was often very bored and used to stay over at our place a lot, hence the pseudo-roommate. He would d hang out with me for most of the day, attend shared classes (when we did), and then often sleep on our floor. And although this was back in the day of Intel 486 chips and just barely Pentium branded processors, I had a pretty solid rig that my dad had bought for me for college. So I think Donlee appreciated the ability to not only have people to hang out with, but also a way to play computer games too. Incidentally, our respective girlfriends were good friends and both were still living in Houston.

Although I'd been to a strip club in Houston with my friends Daniel Putt and Roger Graham before (infamously known as the PPP), this was the first strip club that I had opted to venture out to in Austin - though it would not be the last.  The strip clubs made a habit of littering the cars and door knobs around campus with coupons for their respective clubs. All of the college material we were given upon arrival to school had equivalent coupons and ads in them too. Who knew that college kids were such big patrons of strip clubs? Geoff had never been to a strip club before and so of course Donlee and I were delighted in giving him that first experience.

As we walked inside of the club, our first bit of awkwardness was using a coupon. Yes, you can actually use coupons at strip clubs, but it surely has a stigma attached to it. So with our discounted entry fee, we we're already feeling pretty lost.  The PPP of Houston was been a pretty small club. It was notorious for hiring pretty unattractive dancers, often ones who were older or even pregnant (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it's not exactly what one tends to think of when imagining a strip club). By stark contrast, The Show Palace in Austin was a huge venue with three different stages and surprisingly very attractive dancers. Like the PPP, it was also an all-nude club. After a minute or two of exploring the place, we awkwardly found a little area around one of the side stages. We proceeded to sit down and watch the various shows going on all around us. At this time in Texas' history, it was extremely easy to get into a club with even the worst of fake IDs. That all changed around the year 2000, but this was still the late 90s. The club itself only required you to be 18 years old to enter, but you also couldn't drink if you were under 21.

The Show Palace was the kind of strip club that advertised BYOB. This just means that you could bring your own beer and alcohol into the club and then pay for mixers (like coke, sprite, lime juice, etc.) They weren't entirely uncommon and typically had the distinction of being all nude clubs. The ones that sold liquor tended just to be topless clubs. I was told it had something to do with insurance, but who really knows?

Though none of us had fake IDs, it didn't take long before some older lonely patron starting chatting us up. He was probably in his 30s, but when you're just 18 years old, that seems pretty ancient.

In any event, he invited us over to his area and offered all of us some drinks. Geoff didn't drink, but Donlee and I were more than happy to partake. Naturally we wound up talking with this guy for awhile. As we were all getting along, he eventually asked if we wanted one of the girls to give us a private dance. Before we could really even answer him, he had his hand in the air and called upon one of the girls he knew by name to come over. He paid her the requisite $20 and asked her to "give these young men a good show". He told us that her name was Stingray.

As strippers often do, she started talking to us about her life, her boyfriend, how long she's been working, and other mundane and trivial details like that. It's always a little weird when a woman who has just been paid $20 to dance naked in front of you starts sharing her life story, but again, at 18 years old it seems like you should just listen. And so we did. At some point, we asked her why she was called Stingray. She didn't immediately answer, but it obviously piqued some idea in her mind.

She wasn't giving any of us a traditional lap dance, but rather just using one of the cocktail tables and a chair to dance privately for the three of us while this older gentleman just looked on. A short while later, she started telling us the kinds of sexual activities that she was into. Namely things to do with pain, submission, etc. She started telling us how she loved using candle wax as part of her sexual experiences with her boyfriend. She asked us if we wanted to see it and so of course we eagerly nodded approval. She proceeded to put one of her legs up on the cocktail table, the other planted firmly on the ground. Her legs were open rather wide at this point as she grabbed one of the candle jars from the table top next to her. It was lit and had a fair bit of melted wax sloshing around the top of the jar. She proceeded to lean back slightly, using her left hand to balance on the chair while her right hand handled the candle jar. She ever so gently started pouring the candle wax all over her lady parts, either genuinely or pretending to moan in a kind of orgasmic ecstasy as she did this.

Naturally this was well beyond any expectations that we had.

If you're familiar with the female anatomy then it may have already jumped out at you, but if not, I'll finish the story.

After another short while, the wax had stopped dripping and began to firm. She set the candle jar back on the table and carefully proceeded to remove the now hardened wax from her body. It came out perfectly in tact, a small drip even remained attached to the bulk of it. It had formed from drip running down her bare leg. She proceeded to set this wax mold on my knee, looked at us, and said: "that's why they call me Stingray".

If I hadn't seen it myself then I wouldn't have believed it were possible. But there on my 18 year old knee was a perfect mold of this stripper's vagina, complete with that tail from the wax that had dripped down her leg. And sure as she said it, it looked exactly like a Stingray. Perhaps more of a manta ray if you want to get really technical with it, but when you're 18 years old, are a bit out of your element, and strippers are making wax molds of their female parts specifically for you, it's just not the right time to get technical. So Stingray it was.
The Pinky and the Brain
Story circa March 20th, 1997 | View Post

The original Pinky and the Brain
During my senior year in high school, I had been given the unique opportunity to work on the school's first website. I was amongst a very small group of students hand chosen for the task. While almost all of us came from the AP computer science class, there were a couple of artists and graphic designers too. The program required each of us to give up our free periods and to forgo receiving any credit for the time slot. In my case, it also meant that I was in the computer science lab for almost three straight hours every morning, something that was just fine by me.

One of the few non-computer science individuals in the class was a good friend of mine named David Spencer. His father was a technical whiz with digital media and video production and David was beginning to follow in his footsteps. In fact, he was directly responsible for me getting into non-linear digital video editing well before Apple made it commonplace. He and I would spend hours at his house working in the earliest versions of Adobe Premiere through a dedicated fiber line that ran to his father's office. Much like myself, David definitely sat on the fringes of our web class. While we were both huge contributors to the project and genuinely did a lot of work (in many cases working with new media in ways that nobody else could), our social circles were a little different than many of our teammates. To put it another way, we occasionally would sneak a beer into the class and could frequently be found chewing tobacco as we worked on our projects. This was not a particularly common attitude of the highly intelligent and gifted people we were working with. I bring this point up only to illustrate that the two of us didn't worry about getting caught, much less getting into trouble.

One particular week in the spring of 1997, just two months before graduation, our computer science teacher, Mr. Cunningham, had to leave town. He was attending some sort of conference from Wednesday through the end of the week. Since we had an entire computer science lab at our disposal and no real oversight, David and I were inclined to infiltrate the school's computer system. The only question was how, and to what extent?

Just a few weeks earlier I had made a very interesting and accidental discovery.

All of the computers and printers at our high school had recently been networked together. In fact, it turned out that this was the case for all of the computers and printers in the entire school district. While this sort of networking might sound trivial as the years tick on, it was an incredibly amazing concept in 1997. The very idea that one could create a file and print it across the entire school district in a matter of seconds was astounding to most people; it certainly astounded me. It was also not something that most people outside of the computer realm could really conceptualize at the time.

Almost all of the printers in the school offices were Apple Imagewriters that had been upgraded with network cards. When a user would send a file to be printed, the computer had to first establish a connection with the printer, often called a handshake. Once it established the network handshake, it would send the data along to be printed. Modern printers will store the file in the printer's memory and immediately let the sending computer know that the print job is on its way. The file then sits in the printer's print queue until it gets printed. It's a simple enough concept. But it's also not how our network functioned.

When a user would print a document on one of our school's networked printers, the handshake would occur, the file would be sent, but the handshake wouldn't conclude until the printer had successfully printed the file. On the upside of this methodology, you always knew when your document had finished printing. However on the downside, the print process on the local machine became tied up so long as the file was still in the printer's queue. But what would happen if the handshake occurred, the file was sent to the queue, but the network connection somehow dropped before the handshake was able to conclude?

We typed up a short, non-threatening document that read something to the effect of "Pinky and the Brain have seized control of this computer. Be afraid. Be very afraid." Since the entire district was networked, we set the document to print on every printer across the entire Katy Independent School District. We waited a few moments for the handshaking process to begin across the board, and then pulled the network plug out of the wall.

The discovery I had accidentally stumbled upon was that when a file was placed in the printer queue but the printer was never able to close the handshake (in this case due to the cable being unplugged), the file would sit atop the printer queue indefinitely. This meant that not only would the printer complete the original task, but every time somebody sent another file to the printer, whatever was atop the queue would print again. So one fine day in March, "Pinky and the Brain" became a cover sheet to every document printed across the school district. And oh how the hilarity ensued.

David and I both had a number of friends that worked as office aides. Although we didn't actually tell any of them what we had done, all of them pointed fingers at us within an hour. From what I was told, printers all around the school were alleging they had been compromised by Pinky and the Brain. Teachers and office workers were frantic that their computers had somehow been hacked. As the day went on, so did the printing. It continued on each printer until it had been reset or until the print queue had been manually cleared. Pinky and the Brain was everywhere.

When Mr. Cunningham came back the next week, he was quickly bombarded with teachers and office workers claiming their computers had been hacked; they accused his department of somehow orchestrating the attack, but had no idea what had happened, or how it had happened. He calmly asked each of them if anything appeared wrong with their computers other than the cover sheets. Of course there was nothing else and so he quietly and easily diffused the harmless situation. As I later learned, it turns out that he had been aware of this network flaw for quite some time. Although we never outright admitted to doing it, he definitely knew it was us. With a great smile on his face, he told David and I about all of the commotion it had caused and said he knew it was just a matter of time before somebody stumbled upon that network flaw. Needless to say, he found the whole thing in good fun and remained my favorite teacher well beyond high school.
The Swimming Classes
Story circa February 1st, 1997 | View Post
In my senior year of high school (1996 and 1997), I had been selected by my computer science teacher to be one of 15 or so people on the school's first web team.  After I quit playing football about three-quarters through the season, I even formally had a class change so that I could program for the school rather than just sit around in the weight room.

One of the tasks that came with this building the school's website was to take digital pictures of the various teams and clubs across the school.  It might also be worth noting that this was the first time most of us had ever seen a digital camera.  It was a flat and boxy looking thing by Kodak that shot at a resolution of about 320x200 (worse than the old flip phones).

I really have no idea how we never got caught doing this, but my good friend, David Spencer, and I one day discovered that the doors to the school's Olympic swimming pool and diving well were not locked during our web period.  So of course, one day we thought we'd give it a go and brought our bathing suits and towels to school with us.  Of course, we couldn't get dressed in the locker room and so just wound up changing in the pool area itself.  We spent the entire period diving off of the 3 meter board and when we were done, dried off, changed, and headed to our lunch period.

We continued this for weeks without anyone ever saying a word about it.