The Greenhouse Incident

Sometimes my wife Snowball’s projects don’t even sneak up and build slowly, they explode fully grown from the start. An example of this is the hobby greenhouse that we have. Pearl Harbor could not have surprised me more than what happened on a late spring day many years ago. We were sitting on the front porch enjoying a refreshing beverage. As the UPS truck pulls up Snowball says, “Oh that must be the greenhouse I ordered.” This being the first I had heard of any plans for a greenhouse, my mouth opened but no words came out. I just walked over to the truck and helped the somewhat overwhelmed delivery guy haul four 200-pound boxes to the garage.

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Some Signs of Spring

I’m sure I’m not alone this year when I say “I hate winter.” But I did find something about the freezing carnage to like. Winter is the great equalizer. Everyone’s yard is covered with snow. You can’t tell who has the worst kept blue grass, who planted the prettiest impatiens or who has the most dried up hostas. Not only that but everyone’s car is the same color. We’re all driving around in the same drab, grey, salt-licks on wheels. Even the rust around the wheel wells has taken on the same dull white hue. Continue reading “Some Signs of Spring”

A Trip to the Art Gallery

So a couple of months ago the wife tells me she’s entering a piece as a student in a college art show. I was excited because she hasn’t entered a show like that for a long time and everyone always loves her art projects. Last weekend we attended the show which was about forty miles away. I had seen the piece but I was looking forward to seeing the other people’s work that she had been telling me about. My inner art appreciator was very excited about the trip. I didn’t realize I needed to invite along my inner adventurer too. Continue reading “A Trip to the Art Gallery”

Blizzard Watching From a Distance

The most watched channel in our house at least while I’m home is the Weather Channel. I’m probably the only person in the country that is disappointed when it’s sunny and calm from California to Atlanta. But the last couple of days the coverage of this storm lining up and hitting the northeast has been nothing but a marvelous popcorn-and-pop distraction that I’m happily watching from the fifty degree and sunny midwest. But don’t fret, I have a bad feeling our turn is coming. And if you’ve been paying attention you already know how I feel about snow. Continue reading “Blizzard Watching From a Distance”

My End of the Year List

Every one does lists this time of year and I’m not gonna be any different. It’s a way to celebrate the ending of the previous year and beginning of the new. Except that my list really has nothing to do with last year and very little to do with next year. My list is just “What’s pissing me off right now.”

  1. My wife. You show me someone whose spouse doesn’t piss them off and I’ll show you someone living alone. Don’t get me wrong. I love my wife to death. I wouldn’t be able to find my socks without her. But my wife is always dragging me into the middle of some hair-brained scheme. It’s like living with Lucy Ricardo only with skills and I’m Ricky Ricardo only without the accent. But just like those two, we always hug it out at the end of the episode.

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Why Do You Want a White Christmas?

I don’t think some people realize what they are asking for when they say they want a white Christmas. Remember, the Christmas holiday season is one of the busiest travel times of the year. Also many of us still have shopping to do. So what you are really asking for is weather conditions that will cause delays in airplane, train and automobile travel. Conditions that will make even walking dangerous due to icy sidewalks.

This year it looks like the area I live in is not gonna get heavy white stuff for Christmas. But I’m not sure that makes up for the years when we had to walk through shoveled sidewalks that were reminiscent of World War 1 trench warfare and drive on streets full of wishes and hopes. The white snow matching your white knuckles as you wished it wasn’t so slick and you hoped you didn’t hit anything. Continue reading “Why Do You Want a White Christmas?”

How to Learn Stuff

The only thing a college degree really proves to an employer is that you know how to complete a four-year long project. Of course for many of us even that takes much longer. I’m sure you all know what the types of college degrees are – BS, MS and PhD – which stand for Bull Shit, More Shit and Piled Higher and Deeper.

The most important thing you need to learn to survive in life is how to learn. Sometimes this merely involves paying attention. Most of the time you need to put in some effort. Never be afraid of learning how to do stuff by doing it wrong. Trial and error is a time-tested way of learning. The most ineffective method of learning is relying on others to help you or even worse, blaming others for your own inability to learn.

I worked in the R&D department of a data warehouse where they hired me to replace an employee who had a PhD. He may have had a degree but he wasn’t able to use facts to make something work. He was always spending so much time writing what he called ‘pretty, pretty code’ he never finished a project that worked.

I was at the data warehouse only a few months and had already designed a user interface for a new product  and re-written code to rejuvenate some old products when someone asked me “Whats your degree in?” After I stopped laughing I said that depended on if he thought an Associate Degree in electronics technology actually counted as a degree.

At one point there was a new product they wanted to develop which monitored microclimates and reported the information to niche customers. I already knew some general knowledge about meteorology from hanging out in the weather department at a TV station helping them with their computer problems. (That’s an example of using the “Paying Attention” method.) When I found out I needed to learn more about the specifics of microclimates I said “I’m going to B&N. I’ll be back after lunch.” I came back with an armload of books which I read drinking in knowledge about things like pressure ridges and downdrafts. A big  hint here is:

Don’t judge a book by its cover – judge it by its index.

I knew that even though I had some small experience in meteorology I was going to need more than that to make the project succeed. I wasn’t afraid of putting the effort in to find out what more I needed to know for the project.

When I was computer tech at another place I was one of three techs managing several hundred machines. One day one of the other techs and I were talking about how files are saved on a disk at machine code level. The third asked how we knew stuff like this. We both said we just read the books and played ‘what if’ with the software code. This goes back again to not being afraid of getting it wrong the first time. To do this there was quite a bit of effort and dogged research. Effort which the third tech some how never managed to put in. There were always too many video games to be played instead.

The three best ways to learn stuff: Books, Books, and Books. Then experience. Above all have no fear to experiment. How else can we expect to keep those Idle Thoughts coming?

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