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A story about Tom's daughter, engineering; puns and a basketball game

Far too many people I run into mistakenly believe that I sit around the house all day, writing. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, I don't write every day. That would be crazy. Writing every day would make me, like, a writer. I learned very early on that I wasn't going to become a Serious Writer. I don't drink; I don't use drugs; I'm not a necrophiliac. There was no way I was going to be screwed up enough to be a great writer.

I actually do write most weekdays, but I have lots of free time. I work out every day (it's not easy maintaining this physique) and then I take on other projects. Over the years, I've run a Cub Scout troop, volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club, spoken to high-school and college classes about being a writer, done a lot of coaching, and tutored dozens, if not hundreds, of kids. People know that all they need do is ask and, if I can't come up with a good excuse not to do it off the top of my head, I'm there for them.

And thus it came to pass that I found myself at the Sporting Chance gym near River & La Cholla. As some of you may know, my daughter, Darlene, is an Ivy League-educated civil engineer. Her Master's thesis was entitled "Understanding Mobility Performance: A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Cornell University in Partial Fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science." It's hard to believe, but the thesis itself is even sexier than the title.

It's really funny. When I introduce her to someone as my daughter, the other person says, "Pleased to meet you." But if I say, "This is my daughter, Darlene. She's a civil engineer who specializes in computerized traffic flow patterns," they respond, "What the hell is wrong with Ina and Thornydale?"

She works for an engineering firm called Psomas. (She and her work homies play on an indoor soccer team called The Silent P's.) There's another engineering firm—Kimley-Horn—in the same building and they're natural rivals. There has been a little bit of friction lately. Do you know what happens when two engineering firms are mad at each other? They hold a meeting.

Adam Gomez is an engineer at Kimley-Horn whom Darlene knows from basketball. To settle things once and for all, Adam challenged Psomas to a basketball game. The conciliatory theme of the friendly contest would be "Let's Build Some Truss."

(I guarantee that at least four engineers got hernias laughing at that.)

I also referee basketball sometimes (another way to pick up some easy money, as long as you're able to deal with the petty whining of guys who used to be good in basketball back in the day—but aren't now—and those who were never good in basketball and definitely aren't now). I was asked to referee the game, which was held at the Sporting Chance building.

When I walked in, the two teams were warming up. It's stereotypical and unfair to assume that engineers are not athletic (although one guy on Darlene's team did lose his glasses during pre-game lay-ups). Darlene's boss, Alejandro, is a super-good soccer player. If he lived in South America, the fact that he's a bad-ass engineer and a super-good soccer player would probably enable him to be elected President of Peru and Ecuador. But, here in America, being a bad-ass engineer and a super-good soccer player just means that you're a bad-ass engineer.

Darlene's big boss, Matt Clark, played college basketball at Bucknell. You might have seen him strutting around McKale a couple years ago when Bucknell came to Tucson and kicked the crap out of the Wildcats in the first round of the NIT. (It actually was only a couple years ago, but it feels like it was on the other side of Kevin O'Neill.)

The game started slowly, with Kimley-Horn holding a 2-0 lead after four minutes. Darlene hit a three to give Psomas a brief lead, but then Adam (who leads one of the toughest men's leagues in town in scoring) answered back and Kimley slowly took control of the game. The lead was 10 at the half and Kimley cruised to the win. During the game, one guy dove on a loose ball and his momentum carried him several feet. I was going to invoke the Slide Rule, but...nah!

Darlene has always been this all-around spectacular person. High-school Valedictorian and five-sport athlete. She played college basketball and volleyball and is in her high school's Athletic Hall of Fame. She's not defined by what she does, but civil engineering does play a big part in her life. (To mess with her, my software engineer son, Alexander, calls her Tacoma Narrows. Look it up.)

Her iPod workout playlist includes "Life Is A Highway," "Expressway to Your Heart," and "Ease on Down the Road" from "The Wiz." (I've always tried to get her to listen to the blues, but she resisted until I told her the story of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil at the crossroads.) Someday I'll introduce her to the old Steve Winwood band, Traffic.

She also likes going to the movies. Her favorite actor: Jeff Bridges.

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