Mar 07

Mistaken identity

There are a lot of other Pat Berrys in the world, and occasionally I hear from somebody who’s looking for one of them. But not often. So I thought it was remarkable when, earlier this year, I had three such experiences in the space of a month.

January 24: I received an e-mail from a woman named Lisa. She wrote:

I’m wondering if you are the same Pat Berry that was associated with the Marco Island Film Fest in Marco Island, FL? My friends and I attended the events held for the Guiding Light actors for several years. We have been trying to contact you through the film fest organization but telephones are out of service and I can no longer find your website.

I could have just written back saying, “I’m afraid you have the wrong Pat Berry. I’ve never even been to Marco Island.” But I thought it would be interesting to see if I could track down the film festival. I did some searches and determined that Lisa was correct. The festival’s website was gone, although it was still in Google’s cache. The phone numbers in the cached version were disconnected. So I called the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, and the woman who answered the phone said that this year’s film festival had been canceled. All of this seemed to suggest that the film festival was defunct. I wrote back to Lisa, informing her of what I had found out. (She thanked me for my detective work.)

January 27: I received an e-mail from a lawyer named Tom, who wrote:

Pat: Pursuant to our telephone conversation yesterday, attached are a basic will form and an estate planning questionnaire. For now, you and Julie may choose to delete the answers to the questions about net worth (assets and liabilities). It is not necessary to have that information in order to prepare drafts of wills for the two of you.

This message was obviously misdirected, and at first I was tempted to just delete it. But communications between attorneys and their clients are supposed to be confidential. The note I had received was harmless, but I thought I had better warn Tom before he sent me any messages containing significant private information.

I didn’t trust my ability to explain the situation in an e-mail, so I decided that I had to contact Tom by phone. But I didn’t have his phone number or even his location. However, the e-mail included the name of his law firm as well as Tom’s last name. After a little more detective work with Google, I was able to find the the law firm (it’s in Chicago). I phoned and left a message with the firm’s receptionist. The next day, one of the lawyers called back, and I told him about the mistake. He said he would make sure Tom was notified. I’m still not sure how Tom happened to send the note to my address instead of the right one for the Chicago Pat Berry. But apparently the error was corrected; I haven’t received any more notes about Pat and Julie’s wills.

February 14: Google Talk informed me that someone named Debra had requested permission to send me text messages. I didn’t recognize the name, but I told Google Talk that I would accept the messages. Then she didn’t send me any. I could have just shrugged this off, but my curiosity wouldn’t let me. So a couple of days later, I sent Debra a text message asking if she was someone I knew. She said, “Sorry – I was looking to chat with another Pat Berry.” I asked, “By any chance, is the Pat Berry you were looking for a female film festival organizer in Florida? Or a married man living in Chicago whose wife is named Julie?” Debra replied that her Pat Berry is female and works at an advertising agency in New York City.

Perhaps someone should organize a Pat Berry convention so that we can all meet each other. At most conventions, you wear a badge with your name on it. At this one, I don’t suppose that would be necessary.

Feb 10

The humans are weak

In a comment on Gail’s new blog, Bob wrote: “This often gives me the odd feeling that the grown-up future Laura is watching over my shoulder as I create her memories.” I’m afraid that Bob has not realized the truth about his daughter. That sensation of being watched is a warning from his subconscious mind — a warning that he (and all of humanity) is in terrible danger. As H.G. Wells wrote over a century ago, “minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

Jan 17

The luckiest guy ever

Here’s a health tip. If you start experiencing unexplained toothaches and blurred vision, ask yourself “Have I been operating a nail gun recently?”
Key quote: “If you’re going to have a nail in the brain, that’s the way you want it to be.”

Oct 19

Free your mind

If you believe that mad scientists exist only in old horror movies, you are sadly mistaken. I offer as evidence this press release describing an experiment (conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester) that involved a dozen ferrets and a copy of The Matrix.

Sep 29

Laura’s ring

Bob posts a disturbing report about his daughter’s new ring. Her use of the phrase “my precious” is chilling enough, but he also describes how, when she’s not wearing it, Laura keeps the ring in “a little zippered pouch.” That sounded eerily familiar. After a short search, I found the relevant passage in The Hobbit:

But who knows how Gollum came by that present, ages ago in the old days when such rings were still at large in the world? Perhaps even the Master who ruled them could not have said. Gollum used to wear it at first, till it tired him; and then he kept it in a pouch next to his skin, till it galled him; and now usually he hid it in a hole in the rock on his island, and was always going back to look at it.

I notice that Mount St. Helens is becoming active again, after over two decades of dormancy. Seismic activity is increasing, and scientists say it may erupt at any moment. This seems to have started a few days ago . . . at about the same time Laura found the ring. Surely this is no coincidence. If the volcano does erupt, I don’t think there’s any doubt as to what should be done. Bob must go to Mordor Washington and cast the ring into the fire.

Apr 21

I’ll bet this never happens to you

I was just chatting online with my brother when, from his point of view, I suddenly disconnected and vanished. When I managed to reestablish the connection a few minutes later, I explained what had happened: “My keyboard has a Power button, and I just found out what happens when a rat steps on it. Windows shuts down and the computer turns off.”
If you’re thinking that I need to call an exterminator, you aren’t familiar with my household. (Hi, Gail!) Our rats are pets, not vermin. They live in a cage, but we let them out to play and explore. This wasn’t the first time one of them has walked across the keyboard while I was chatting, but that normally just generates some random characters that I can easily get rid of with a few taps of the backspace key. Having the machine shut down is a little more difficult to recover from!