D a v e H i s t o r y 
S e c t i o n   F i v e   - -   C o l l e g e 

Table Of Contents

  1. 1988/11 - Safety School
  2. 1989/08 - University Of Wisconsin
  3. Computing Ferrets
  4. The Great Ferret Battle
  5. Dave The Biker
  6. Nobody gets a 10
  7. 1994/05 - Graduation?
  8. My Friend's Psycho Mom

1:   1988/11 - Safety School
At first I didn't want to go to UW.  My parents had gone there, and hence
it was deemed "uncool."

After visiting the University I realized I was wrong, and decided that
was going to college.  I applied and decided that was going to be that.

At Thanksgiving of my High School Senior year, the conversation came up:

Gramps:  Dave, where have you applied to school?
Dave:    UW - Madison
Gramps:  Where else?
Dave:    Nowhere.
Gramps:  What are you going to do if you don't get in?
Dave:    I guess I'll have to pump gas, gramps.

This answer did not satisfy my gramps who was a very stubborn man,
so it was decided that I would apply to a safety school.

I got accepted shortly thereafter to UW - Madison, which is good,
since I never got accepted to my safety school.

2:   1989/08 - University Of Wisconsin
I went back to my roots and went to the fantastic UW in Madison, Wisconsin.
Nothing can describe this school and city to people who haven't experienced
it yet.  Suffice it to say, Madison isn't really in the Midwest, as it's
geograpic location might imply.

3:   Computing Ferrets
Two ferrets joined my family in Wisconsin.  Ferrets are, by far, the most
intelligent animals I've lived with (humans included).
Nobody believes me, but my ferrets used to turn on my computer and rename
my hard disk.  To paraphrase Dave Barry, I am not making this up.

Anyways, my ferrets sometimes shunned the computer.

I had borrowed some original disks from a friend of mine and had 
loaned them to another friend.  The friend I had borrowed the disks 
from had gotten them through work, so, suffice it to say, if anything 
had happened to these disks, I would have one less friend.

I was at work when my friend said that he'd return the disks -- it 
didn't occur to me until later that he might try sliding it under the 
door.  A basic rule in my house is that anything on the floor is 
immediately placed under my ferret's ownership.  I imagined the 
carnage - pieces of disk lying on the floor in a trail to underneath 
my waterbed (with a couple hundred gallons of water holding it down, 
anything that goes under the bed is theirs forever.  Much to my luck, 
my two ferrets - Maxmillion Fantastic and Sagittarius Excalibur - 
refused the temptation.

As I found out later, my friend showed up at my house, he tried 
sliding the disks under the door, exactly as I feared.  Just as he 
was leaving, the disks slid back out at him.  He pushed the disks 
back under again, and zip...  they came right back out at him.  He 
kept pounding on my door and yelling at me to stop screwing around.  
later that he called out my name and asked me to stop It took a few 
minutes of playing this tennis with the disks under the door before 
he realized it was my ferrets.  When I got home, there was the 
message on my door:

        "Dave, your ferrets are genuises!
          The disks are in your mailbox."

4:   The Great Ferret Battle
Speaking of ferrets and waterbeds, my ferrets decided that my waterbed
needed to be destroyed.  For those of you who don't have a waterbed, it's
a huge vinyl bag that sits inside a wooden frame.  The frame is lined with
vinyl so if you spring a leak, you just fill up the inside of the frame,
instead of your apartment.

My ferrets pulled away the covers and discovered that it was fun to chew
on the vinyl in the corners.  On a number of occasions I'd have weird
dreams about drowning, and then I'd wake up flailing in a pool of water
in my bed.

I decided that the ferrets weren't allowed on the bed anymore.  It turns
out that deciding this was easier said than done, and I was pitched into
a battle of wits against my ferrets.

A battle which, I must confess, I lost.

My ferrets used to get onto the bed via the couch, so I moved the couch
a few feet away.

So my ferrets climbed onto the couch and merrily walked across a windowsill.

So I put a fan in the window that blocked the windowsill.

So my ferrets pressed against the windowscreen and climbed behind the fan.

So I pushed the fan against the side of the window so it would block their

So my ferrets pushed the fan over to one side, walked behind the fan, and
pushed the fan back.

So I screwed the fan into the window.  They took a new tactic and
started to climb the sheets, forcing me to actually start making my bed
for the first time in 20 years.

So then my ferrets started leaping onto the bed from a nearby desk.
Flying ferrets!  I had to move my desk.  I thought it was over, the
bed was untouched for a few days...

But then I came home and my ferrets were destroying the bed again, and
I noticed that they had dragged a box across the floor to use as a step
onto the bed.

I had to clear off my entire floor and the first two shelves of my bookcase.
The ferrets were turning me into a clean freak!

I thought it was over - the bottom 18 inches of my apartment were cleared
of any tools of destruction.  But then my ferrets noticed that the waterbed
was about two inches from the back wall, and they could shimmy up that

I gave up.  I consciously decided that if they wanted to destroy my waterbed
then I couldn't stop them, and I'd just have to sleep on a normal bed.

They never chewed on my bed again.

I think they were just toying with me.

5:   Dave The Biker
So, I had read something about the Wright Brothers, and I was sitting
around one summer feeling inspired, and it occured to me that I could
probably replicate their feat.  Sure, I'd seen airplanes, and sure I
*already* knew that it could be done, and I could take advantage of
modern engines, but I had never learned anything about aerodynamics
and had never built any sort of vehicle, so it seemed ambitious enough
to attempt it.  And if I actually succeeded, I could pretend that I
was as great as the Wright Brothers.  At least in my head.

So, I had this good friend Justin.  (Still do :).  He owned a handful
of small motorcycles as a young teenager, including a "Hodoka" (I know,
I hadn't heard of the company either) and a vintage Ducati cafe racer
that he was trying to fix.  He regularly did a *FULL DISASSEMBLY* of his
cycles, regardless of whether they were working or not before hand.

And I mean *full disassembly*.  He would reduce the motorcycle into it's
smallest components, spreading them out on the garage floor.  The shocks
would be in pieces, the engine was in pieces, the carbs were in pieces, and
the frame of the bike was sitting, lonely, next to the whole mess.

It should come as no surprise that Justin ended up as a motorcycle mechanic.

Anyways, Justin's mom was psycho, so Justin managed to get put into a
foster home out in California, which was good, but he left all his cycles behind.

And it occured to me, that he might have a working engine that I could
use for my plane, and it might even be in one piece.

So I was going to make a frame out of two by fours, build a prop, mount the
engine in front, wheels on the bottom, and make some wings.  Maybe even a
rudder.  The intention was to just get off the ground, not fly around.
I figured that I could start at one end of the street and cruise down to the
other, and maybe before the end the wheels would lift off the ground, and
I'd be famous!  (again, in my head)

So I call Justin to ask him about his cycles, hoping the Ducati (the biggest
one) had a working engine.  His response was that in fact, the whole Ducati
was in one piece and working, and I could have it.


So - my brain started churning.  I'd never thought of having a cycle before.

Maybe that made more sense than a plane.

I spent a few days trying to get Justin's mom to call me back.
Did I mention that she's psycho?

She finally calls me back, to let me know that she's thrown the motorcycle away.

But the bug was in my brain.  And it wasn't too longer after that that I
purchased a (1981?) Kawasaki 440LTD, my first bike.  Vroom!

6:   Nobody gets a 10
I was in Physics 201 with my new geek friend Keith Johnson.
Keith and I used to download games onto our calculators and play them in
class, one of the main differences between Keith and I was that Keith would
keep playing even after being confronted by the professor in front of the
whole class.

Anyways, we were listening to our professor describing the class on the
first day.  This was one of those mongo classes that had a few hundred
students every semester.  Part of the class was a weekly lab and our prof
explained the lab grading system like this:

"Labs are graded on a 10 point scale.
 Eight points is an A, this is a perfect lab report.
 Nine points is a perfect lab.  It better be ready to be published
 if you think it's going to get nine points.
 Ten points.  Nobody gets a ten.  Nobody has ever gotten a ten."

Keith and I looked up from our Tetris games and glanced at each other.
We knew we had been challenged.

We let it slide through the semester, scrabbling in our report notebooks
like everyone else.

The very last lab we prepared.  We spent the week prior setting up an entire
paper for the lab on my computer, complete with graphs and force diagrams,
and a beautiful color front page.  Hey, this was around 1991, and printing
in color was a big deal back then, okay?  We figured out all of the
calculations beforehand and worked backwards from what we knew to be the
right answers, and figured out what the approximate measures we'd need to make.

Actually we did that for most labs, it was funny to "measure" the time it took
a ball to drop in a gravity lab order to learn about error margins, and "just
happen" to end up with the value for specific gravity as measured for *that
building* within 5 decimal places.

Our T.A. humoured us.

On the day of the lab we packed up my trusty Mac SE/30 and my color printer
and hauled them into the lab.  We did our measurements and typed them into
the doc we'd setup, it figured out everything, and we joked around while
waiting the 10 minutes or so it took to print.

The best part was when we took Phy202 the next semester and we got to
hear how he had to change his lab grade speech because someone *had* got
a ten.

7:   1994/05 - Graduation?
It was my final semester.  I had just accepted my "dream job" at Hewlett
Packard.  Right before my graduation, I receive a letter from my University
letting me know that I wasn't going to graduate.

It was quite a fight, but finally my University addmitted that they 
had made a mistake and I was able to get my degree without taking 
summer classes and losing my job like they had initially demanded.

The ridiculous thing is that something like this had happened to my
mother at UW when she in school.

8:   My Friend's Psycho Mom
One of my best friends in the world has a mom who is crazy.

Now, see, I don't mean she's crazy in the metaphoric sense, I mean
she is truly insane.

Anyways, at one point I was hanging out with my friend over XMas break ('91 or '92?)
in Illinois, and we decided to drive up to Madison for the weekend
and hang out at my apartment.  Much to our surprise, there was a message
on my answering machine from Martha Lassy Burkhart, his mom.  Even more to
our surprise was the message itself, which can only be explained by hearing it:

  Mr McFeely [aiff] [transcript]

Evidently his mom had decided that I was not only gay, but trying
to molest her son as well (wouldn't my girlfriend have been surprised!).
It's not clear where the wrestling reference came from, since we
had never actually wrestled.  In fact, it's not clear where any of
the message came from.  "Mr McFeely?"  Now I'm a part of Mr. Roger's

It's especially great that it was on my answering machine, did
she figure I might not hear it?  Anyways, the advantage of that is
that I saved the tape, and here it is for your listening pleasure
more than a decade later.

In a distant postscript to this story, I was later rooming with my friend
in San Francisco (hey, maybe she was right! ;-)
Anyways, one day an unexpected letter from Martha Lassy Burkhart arrived on our
doorstep (6/14/2000).  He was kind enough to show me his mom's letter.
We had a few chuckles.  My favorite excerpt was:

  "It seems Dave is succesful financially.  Jews always seem to be
   spendthrifts and excel financially.  I know you will say he has no
   religion but I know his parents are Jews and that is the way he was
   raised, with Jewish values."


She's Mrs. McCrazy.

Enough said.

  • Created by make_faq from Marginal Hacks

    GetDave.com - all the current Dave Pointers. DavidLjung.com - my semi-professional home page. Daveola.com - my narcissistic home page. DaveSource.com - Dave's geek site MarginalHacks - I have an elegant script for that, but it's too small to fit in the margin. DaveFAQ - answer all your questions here. DavePics - my photo album.
    Site Index