Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Father's Day to the most ethical man I know

My Dad is the smartest and most ethical person I know. He's one of those super smart guys who can do calculus, probably understands string theory and can rewire anything in the house. I think he has at least three degrees from MIT and my sister and I attribute our ease with spatial relations to his genes. Unfortunately I still can't do calculus.

One of our favorite games as kids was to outsmart our Dad. Considering his IQ it was hard to do. But we succeeded in a way we could never have imagined with Tetris. The other day on NPR I heard an interview with Alexey Pajitnov who created Tetris 25 years ago this month and it brought back memories of how we performed this amazing feat.

My father was an engineer for Hewlett-Packard so we always, from about 1981 on, had the most modern desktop computer one could own. We never had an Atari or a Playstation or whatever kids had in the 80s, we had actual computer games. Initially in ASCII, then with color and graphics and finally, sometime in the mid 80s, Tetris.

Somehow, magically, my sister or I (I can't remember) found a key command pattern that froze the speed at the lowest level. Then we could on to level ten or eleven or even twelve, yet with the ridiculously slow speed a five year old could master. Even though my sister and I were always above the curve with spatial relations, for months my father could still not figure out how we managed to obtain our world champion-like Tetris scores. And then we fessed-up.

He was mad, no, furious. He blamed us for cheating. "NO, it's not cheating!" we tried and tried to convince him thinking he'd be proud that we so cleverly figured this secret key code out. But he was still mad and sat us down for a long lecture on cheating and morals and we squirmed through it, nodding our heads and then probably skulked off disappointed that he didn't see the genius of our computing.

But now, as a parent, I can see why he was so upset. You're supposed to raise honest kids, and I am fiercely honest. I never cheated in school, never even copied someone's notes from a missed class, and I'm the worst liar on the planet. Hey, I've never even once purchased Cliffs Notes, I read every assigned book cover to cover. If my little girl one days tries to outsmart me in a similar way by "cheating" at what ever game she's trying to beat me at I'd be mad and I'd sit her down for a secretly I'd be proud of her cleverness.

So Happy Father's Day weekend Dad! Thanks for the lecture on ethics, sorry for cheating, but I'm still pretty proud that I outsmarted you!!

Love Katie


  1. What a wonderful tribute to your Dad! He sounds like one terrific father!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Small Footprints

  2. Great story about your dad. He raised a wonderful daughter.

  3. Small: I'm working on that plastic blag blog in my head...perhaps at the end of the weekend I'll get to it, I'm working it into a blog about the final herring numbers for our river, strange I know but there's a connection :)

    Rae: thanks! you're the nicest person I know that I've never met (does that make sense?)


  4. Kate,

    That is a wonderful story, and a great tribute to your dad here on Father's Day weekend.

    Have a wonderful week,

  5. Your dad sounds great, I guess it takes having kids to realise how difficult the parent job is

  6. SQ and Lulu, thanks for stopping by! Parenting is by far the hardest thing I think you can do, and the most amazing thing as well :)


  7. Hi Kate,

    Thank you for one of the best Father's Day gifts I have ever received.

    Love - Dad

    PS -- I WAS proud of the two of you, but I couldn't show it...

  8. This brings to mind a Starship episode where Capt Kirk confesses he rigged the programming to fool the computer into his trimuph of being the only one to ever win out in starship school....
    I am not sure you were cheating - you were taking advantage of the system and as long as it did not involve money, lose people jobs or cost lives, then it was a minor trimuph for you.
    You would of gotten command of your own Star Fleet, by the way....

  9. Hi deborah,
    Ah yes, the famous kobayashi maru from the Wrath of Khan! My cute and nerdy husband loves to refer to that when he can't figure something out. THAT is a perfect analogy to what my sister and I were doing! Thanks for visiting! I have read some of your blog, looking forward to reading more! -kate


I LOVE comments!