Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

On the Passing of Vitriola

Written By: Anachan - Aug• 14•15

A few years ago, I was a serious gamer . . . of a sort. Three nights a week, I met up with 24 other people whom I had never met in real life to kill Internet dragons. I spent time out of game researching the best gear for my on-line healing character, and I watched videos on strategy. Weekend evenings found me in game, gathering materials to prepare for the next week’s raid. To me, my commitment to my “guild” was as strong as a high school athlete’s commitment to their sports team, and the friendships I made have lasted through years, even though I have retired from the team and moved on to other goals.

One such friendship was with an individual who went by the name of Vitriola. We chatted in-game and over e-mail on a plethora of topics. Vit was an absolutely amazing and multi-talented person:  a master at chess, a gourmet cook, a professional-grade musician, a former navy serviceman, a current computer programming contractor, a serious gamer, and a gentleman who treated everyone with respect and made the entire guild laugh with his humor. I learned his real name in the course of our correspondence: Lloyd Linklater.

In January, I got a distressing message via the guild messaging system: Vit had suddenly learned he had terminal stage 4 cancer, and the doctor had given him 6 months. Immediately upon learning he was terminal, his company had fired him, but Vit maintained an optimistic attitude. “These are bumps in the road, and such things happen,” he told another guild-mate and me, when we expressed outrage at this move.

Vit beat the odds: He made it 7 months. This evening, after the first leg of the journey to take my daughter to college, I opened my e-mail to discover a message from my guild-mate, telling me Vit had passed away. There, in the ladies’ room of the pizza restaurant, I burst into tears. When I could make myself presentable, I returned to our family’s table and opened up the guild forum to see if there was any more news. A delightful surprise was a link my guild-mate had posted, a series of autobiographical stories Vit had posted. I eagerly reread the stories, reading them aloud to my husband and daughter and laughing at Vit’s writing style and humor.

In honor of Vit, I would like to reprint those stories here.

Posted August 17, 2011:

I was born in Chicago during the Eisenhower administration. I was mostly raised in Germany by my grandmother. I have a brown belt in 3 martial arts but no black belts. I did win a northern California championship in Chinese kenpo two years running. I earned a degree in music in classical trombone performance. I played with the chicago civic orchestra while I studied at the wheaton conservatory.

I was very good at several sports and played rugby in college. I ran 6 miles a day averaging just over 5 and a half minutes per mile.

I joined the navy and served on a submarine named the USS Pintado. We did a lot of cold war stuff. We got the world record for longest time under the polar ice cap at 11.5 weeks. During this time, I earned a degree in electrical engineering.

After the navy, I worked in hardware but changed to software gaining considerable notoriety while I was an engineer at Borland writing and technically reviewing a few books. After Borland, I became a contractor and here I am still.

I was a pool shark until a spinal tumor left me permanently handicapped. No need to get maudlin over that. Everyone has bumps in the road and that is one of mine. No biggie. I was married to the most wonderful woman in the world for more than a decade but kidney cancer respects no man. That was a long time ago and I have come to terms. FTI, she was a mathemetician and physicist.

I have a master rating in bridge. I have written some chess books that I just published myself for circulation to the students of the one that taught me to play. He asked for analysis on openings that no one had looked at yet and I did that getting a variation named after me in the process. Yay

I have written a novel just to see what it would be like. Ophie is the only one in the guild to whom I have given a copy so far. No idea if he ever read it.

I have taken 3 years of Hebrew, and 4 years of latin and greek in the process of getting an advanced degree in theology. Yes, despite how salty I can get at times, I am that kind. Even peter was prone to swearing up a blue streak. Maybe it is a sailor thing as he was a fisherman but I try to behave myself.

Over the years, my work has taken me around the world. The boat pulled into many ports. I was even close to starting an international incident in japan but the XO stopped us in time.  but that is another story.

I have worked in London and Bolivia. I was on a musical tour and appeared in a group on the national TV station in Honduras. They told us that we had to play their national anthem for the performance. The problem is that we were given the music as we were ready to go on. Well, that is no big deal. Sight reading is just part of the gig. But…

I do not know if you have ever HEARD the national anthem of Honduras but about killed myself trying not to laugh at it. All this on live TV to an audience that would not see the humor of it all. I barely made it through all that. Try playing a trombone when you are also trying to stop laughing!

Posted August 17, 2011:

The story of how I scored as having the highest IQ in Germany.

I was in school in Germany. This was not an American school but a German one, though my main (homeroom, I think it is called in the US) teacher was Czechoslovakian. The schools were all to give IQ tests to their students and I was included in that.

When the test arrived, it was not like anything that I had ever seen. This was in the 60s and there were no machines to read multiple choice sheets with the answers marked in #2 pencil. In this case, the answers were in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces were a sturdy red plastic with numbers on each. The test questions did not have answers numbered 1-4 or A-D but had numbers that corresponded to jigsaw puzzle pieces. You put the piece that corresponds to your answer on a frame and went on to the next one. If your answers were correct, the puzzle would be fully assembled.

The test was to take the entire morning. The teacher looked at the clock then she said to start and so we did.

Well, I was new to Germany. While my German was fluent, it was not academically fluent. It turns out that the German names of chemical elements are nothing at all like English names. They are very very long and I did not know the difference between nitric acid and calcium chromate when it was written in German. Also, there were things that were problems even when I understood the wording. Fine points of German law I did not know. So, I was in trouble but, being a good scholar, I did what good scholars do in such circumstances: I reread the instructions looking for a loophole.

Well, I did not find anything, go figure. So, I read the part in the back. While going through that, I noticed that they explained the test and showed the completed puzzle in a small picture.

No way! They would NOT put the answer in, would they?

I checked the first answer to the options in the first question. Alas, no joy. Ah well, it was too much to hope for. Still, I wondered if the picture was at all accurate, so I assembled the puzzle pieces to match the teeny picture and they fit!

WOW!

I took my assembled puzzle to the teacher after about 40 minutes had elapsed. Every eye in the class was on me and the teacher stared. For the record, she was a wonderful woman and in this case, she just dutifully wrote down the time and said to go back to my seat and wait, which I did.

Well, now I have all this time and nothing to do. So, I asked myself how it could have worked. I looked at the solution and saw that the puzzle was in rows and columns without a regular edge. When you assemble a normal jigsaw puzzle, you start with the edge as there are straight lines. This had no such edges. That made me think and I wondered if it was a revolving puzzle. I took the right column and attempted to attach it to the left side… and it worked! I tried taking the top row and attaching it to the bottom row… and it worked! This was REALLY cool!

Well, it should be as obvious to you as it was by this time to me. If this test is used throughout the nation, there had to be different solutions possible. Add to that was the observation that it was sturdy plastic and I knew that this was reusable stuff. So, I decided to assemble the puzzle correctly.

I looked at the first question, placed the first answer piece and attached the next pieces. Then I looked at those questions to see if the answers had a choice that included the numbers that I had in that place. Nope. Not with the second option either. For me, it was the third one that was the winner.

Now, I had a correctly assembled puzzle. Now, what do I do with myself?

Well, I mentioned that I was a good scholar and so, I decided to go through the test and see what the answers were. I did that until lunch was called. However, rather than go to lunch, everyone crowded around me and my puzzle. I was on one side of the room and the puzzle on the other. People were either looking at the puzzle for the correct answer, which by this time it had, or asking me for the correct answer which, by this time, I knew.

No one asked me how I did it and they just assumed that I had it all correct when I went up the first time and actually knew the answers as I certainly knew them by the end.

And thus, I had the highest IQ recorded in Germany at that time. /flex

Posted September 27, 2011:

It sounds as though this has been interesting to some. Well, a sailor needs to have at least a few sea stories, so I thought that I would tell one of mine.

I was in boot camp in great lakes, Michigan. I arrived in mid January. For those of you who do not know, it gets cold there. Oddly enough, as cold as it got, we were mostly too hot. We wore woolen sweaters, pea coats, gloves and watch caps. Also, as they did not want us to freeze, company commander’s comments to the contrary, they kept us inside until we were ready to go so that we would go out, form up, march, and go back inside in as short a space of time as possible. We waited in all those woolens for so long that we were sweating and going into the ice and snow was a relief. Well, all this hot and cold, stress and what have you, and I would up with a bad case of bronchitis AND double pneumonia. This can make boot cap difficult.

My company commander was loathe to send me away to the convalescent unit because I always passed inspection and even saved us from failing one by helping one of the other guys, which he was standing right there to witness. Also, in the many written tests, I scored perfectly and brought the unit average up, which was important for a few things.

Well, when you have pneumonia, you have fluid in a lobe of your lungs. Double pneumonia means liquid in two lobes. When you lie down, for example: to sleep, the fluid moves around and you wind up coughing forcefully. Well, this kept me up most all night and, unfortunately, was not a help to the others as we slept in an open bay.

Eventually, I was sent to sick bay after an especially long night and wound up in a passageway waiting for a doctor to see me. Despite the many signs posted all over saying “NO SLEEPING”, I could practically hear the shouting, my head slumped and I was out.

When my eyes opened, I was looking at the floor. What I saw was the floor and on it were a pair of highly polished shoes with khaki trousers attached.

I *knew* that I was in trouble.

I thought for a moment, said, “AMEN”, then looked up.

A crusty old master chief was standing there glaring at me with the kind of look that can only be developed after decades of faithful practice. He continued to glare at me for a few hours, as best as I can estimate it, and stormed off muttering to himself. Dodged a bullet!

Eventually, I got to see the doctor. He got out his stethoscope but did not use it. An orderly that was passing by actually stopped and backtracked to look in the room. The crackling of fluid in my lungs was so loud that he heard from the passageway. Well, it was time for me to get that transfer to the convalescent unit. Dang!

Well, there were perks, I suppose. For one, we did not have to march or do PT. Also, we went to chow and classes at our leisure and just hung about in the barracks telling stories and bad jokes. This kind of lifestyle is anathema to the gods of the military and there is a price to be paid for such an affront. In our case, it meant that we lost some of the privileges afforded to others. The privilege that plays in this is being allowed to phone home regularly.

When I was told that, I sent my mother a letter telling her that I would not be phoning home for a while. I was sick and they were not going to let me call, so she should just know not to worry and I would call when I could. I then forgot the whole thing and went about boot camp life until one day…

I was called into the division officer’s office. In navy boot camp, the division officer is a mythical creature that dwells on the heights of the navy’s version of mount Olympus. Even the thought of bringing one’s supplications to them directly was fraught with perils to be assiduously avoided. Nevertheless, here I was, the lowest of the low, being called to a direct audience with the avatar himself… and I had no idea why.

The senior chief walked me in and stood to one side, leaving me alone before the mighty desk and, was that a throne or just a regular chair that *seemed* throne-like, with the D.O. sitting in it glaring at me. I wondered if I could have run over his dog, possibly several times, but not having done any driving for weeks made that unlikely. While I was wracking my brain trying to figure it all out, he said, “WHO THE F*** ARE YOU???”

Note: It should be noted here that sailors in general, and boot camp in particular, do not speak in asterisks, but this is a public forum. Anachan, ask your husband for a translation.

Well, I had absolutely no idea who the f*** I was. And, while I was trying to come up with and answer he shouted it again, “WHO THE F*** ARE YOU???”

Note: the quietest I heard him speak was louder than the loudest sound I ever heard from either of my parents, so just keep that in mind for the rest of this.

Well, my thoughts started to clear and I found my much improved articulate self answering with, “ummm…”

He then asked, “Did you tell your mother that you not being ALLOWED to phone home???”

Me: “ummm… I might have, sir.”

He glared. “WHO THE F*** ARE YOU???”

More glaring.

Then, he turned to the senior chief and said, “you will take this <censored> to the phones. You will stand there while he calls his mother. You will wait until he actually gets her on the phone. You will PERSONALLY witness that he tells her that he is just FINE,” glare, “and you will bring him back to the barracks. You will stay there with him until this is done if it takes all night. Do you understand?”

Senior Chief: “yessir.”

Both of them glare at me.

“WHO THE F*** ARE YOU???” (The D.O. said that but I am sure that the senior chief was thinking it.)

Fortunately for me, I got mom on the first try. I tried to sound pleasant and care free while the senior chief glared at me. At one point, I waved the phone receiver and whispered, “want to say hi?”

I did not know that he could glare harder than he had been. I was very impressed. I wish I had a camera. Alas…

Did I tell you that I took chances even in the navy? Remind me sometime to tell you how I was part of almost creating an international incident in Japan. :sick:

Well, here is the rest of the story. I only found out about this a LONG time later.

After getting my letter, mom was talking to her dad. He asked how I was doing in boot camp. She told him that I was not being allowed to phone her. It was not a big deal and took little of their whole conversation but it seemed that grandpa was listening.

Here is the short version: grandpa was a retired navy chief. When he retired, chief was as high as enlisted ranks went. He served during WW2 and was, get this, a yeoman for Chester Nimitz. He made a few calls and the boot camp commander got either 6 or 7 admirals calling person to person to ask why in the hell I was not being allowed to call my mother. As if THAT was not enough, apparently I had a cousin that was a senator in D.C. He also called and leaned on the base commander pretty hard. Well, the base commander leaned on my division officer who, in turn, leaned on me.

Ain’t family grand???

For the record, after I got out of the convalescent unit I got back into my original unit, which was practically unheard of. I had a picture taken, which I sent to mom. I waited until after I thought that I had completely recovered but I did not look that good. If I can find a way to get the picture transferred to a jpg, I will append it to this.

 

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