Saturday, July 4, 2009

Something there is that doesn't love a wall...

American poet Robert Frost is one of my favorites, and I often agree with him. But I'm going with his neighbor on the topic of fences. The neighbor in the poem said, "Good fences make good neighbors."

I'm extending a fence to close in a garden and close out a view of my neighbor's unkempt trash can area. Five years or so ago I put up some trellises, and they have been mostly adequate. Which also means, they've grown somewhat inadequate.

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall," but I'm looking forward to putting this one up. I'm a bit nervous, because this is the first fence I'm putting up on my own. It's kind of like taking a driving test. You do your homework. You practice, but you're not quite sure what will happen when you hit the real road.

I've created a plan, measured twice, and invested in the materials. They're in the back of the car, awaiting the hammer, the angle iron, and the light of day.

All I have today are the "before" pictures. I've removed the old lattices. I've mostly cleared out the construction site. I'm just waiting... for maybe... tomorrow. Or later today when it gets cooler.

Anyway, I just wanted to share what I've got done so far: a mental fence. (And I like it already!)

Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When work isn't work...

Today I trimmed a tree and a hedge. Guess who made me do it?

Nobody made me do it. I'm a grown-up!

I often tell my students that I read, I write, I research, and I do chores. Then I ask them, "Guess who made me do it?"

It amazes them that I do stuff because I want to.

Getting stuff done feels good. It looks good. It makes me happy.

I inherited a hedge when I bought my house 20 some years ago. I had to learn how to trim a hedge. I'm now own electric hedge clippers. I can use them and not cut off my fingers! (Or cut the cord, though I have done that before.)

I also inherited a holly tree. My former brother-in-law is a professional tree-trimmer. I've learned stuff from him. I can do an adequate job of tree trimming. (I can safely use a ladder, a pruning saw, and other pruning tools.)

Someone once said, "Show me someone who is bored, and I'll show you someone who lacks meaningful challenges."

I'm rarely bored, because I'm always on the lookout for meaningful challenges. No one makes me do this. I'm just happier if I do.

This is one reason why I don't have a desire to retire early: I enjoy what I do. It provides me with a host of meaningful challenges. Teaching keeps me from being bored. Teaching keeps me learning. (Owning stuff provides me with meaningful challenges, and so does family!)

I recently read a comparison between the old and the young. The writer noted that the old are always living in the past, the young are always looking to the future. The writer, obviously older, concluded that the old have it right, since the future soon turns into the past. I disagree.

Why not do both? (And add a third?) Remember the past, savor it and learn from it, but be young at heart: yearn for what's to come. The wise know that both the past and the future are partial illusions. All we really have is now.

Today, I used my past to enjoy my present: I trimmed some big plants with some cool tools! I had been looking forward to this day. I knew things would look better when I was done: and they do. (Plus I burned some extra calories!)

Work isn't work when it's purposefully chosen, planned for, enjoyed in the moment, and reflected on with satisfaction.

Tomorrow... or soon... I'm going to buy and install some new lattices for the star jasmine vines I bought recently. (Sounds like more work... or not...)

Monday, June 29, 2009

The war on technology

Have you ever noticed how quickly friends can become adversaries? It happens.

My favorite technology is my computer. I use it to access local weather, the time, my personal calendar, my blog, my e-mail, the news, music, and games. I spend more of my free time with my beloved computer than with the TV, my car, or my phone. (I still appreciate other forms of electronic technology, but my computer is my ally in the voyage of life.

But yesterday, it was war!

Over the past six months I've had two DVD/CD roms die and a video card go obsolete. After doing some research, I journeyed to my local (10 miles) electronics store and bought the components for performing necessary repairs. (I hoped I had the right stuff. I depended on the expertise of the Fry's Electronic's guys. They recommended this cool looking box containing an up-to-date video graphics card: $60)

Although this doesn't seem like a war, it's the only analogy that comes close. It's more than a dance, more than a contest, it's me against them! (Okay, it may not be the life or death of real war, but I live a sheltered life.)

Armed with no more than some experience, a screw driver, and a can of dust remover I began the operation. I did my own computer first attempting to replace the DVD player. It didn't work. The computer couldn't find the new hardware.

I called for technical support via the phone. I called my nephew. He's my son's replacement as my technical guru. My son is living in Canada, and he's harder to get a hold of than my nephew who lives close by. John game me a tip, "Try uninstalling the drive from where you have it, to where the old one was."

This is a little like, "Try it again Uncle. You can do it!" But I'm easy going, and I took his advice. Or at least I started to. As I was uninstalling the new drive, I noticed a loose wire. "Oh. There were three connectors, not two, like the diagram showed."

Abandoning my nephew's advice, I reinstalled the DVD player with all three connectors in place. Victory was achieved! (In fact, another drive that wasn't working before, joined in and recovered itself.)

My own computer was somewhat of a preliminary to the key objective: my wife's computer. She's a bit of a gamer and over the last six months not only had her DVD drive died, but two of her games quit working. Two new ones wouldn't play at all.

I had exchanged e-mails with tech support and as near as I could guess, my video card was obsolete. It couldn't handle the latest graphics in the new games.

*sigh* I've never done a graphics card before. I've done memory upgrades, but usually with my son's moral support.

I began with her DVD drive. It worked. (It was identical to the one I'd just installed on my own computer, so I hoped it would be easier the second time around. It was.)

Next, I began my assault on her computer's graphics card. But it was elusive. It hid. In fact, I had to search my manuals (on and offline) before I figured out, I don't have a graphics card. It's built-in to the motherboard. Hmmm...

I thought to myself, "Oh, well. Let's give this a try. I'll use this slot... Opps... not that one, but this one... C'mon, c'mon, dammit... c'mon slide in... oh, yeah!"

That's how I think when I'm working. Very complex stuff.

I plugged the monitor into the new graphics card, fired up the computer, loaded some drivers, and the computer surrendered to its superior. Our friendship was restored.

I'm happy. My wife's happy. Technology has been subjugated in the Evans household. Victory is mine. Ahhh...

(As you can see, I'm very self-satisfied. Some things are just esteem boosting. Being able to fix your own computer is one of them. I am delighted!)