21 Nov

Your Work

“Look you have a gift. Life is precious, and eventually you die. All you are going to have to show for it is your work, and whether you did a good job or not.”

Charles Bowden, 2005 (died Aug 30,2014)

It’s good but sounds better when he says it.

20 Nov

We were so poor

Sometimes a friend sends you an unintentional writing prompt (as part of a longer message). In this case, “We were so poor that we thought new clothes meant someone had died.”

I read his mail on the bus ride to work this morning. It left me with two choices: follow the links that trailed his opener or take the “we were so poor” challenge. But, I suck at one liners (a timeless crazy smart skill now making careers in social media), so I wrote something that ended with a silent “and…” (sorry kid, no drumbeat–you better explain yourself). So here you go, written on a phone while riding the 30 minute AM express from Beaverton to downtown PDX, with helpful suggestions from autocorrect fixed from the original:

We were so poor that when we learned someone had died the first thing we thought was new clothes. Depending on how closely the deceased was to our sizes, the limits of our mother’s tailoring, and if our father could sneak into the loved one’s home before most of the neighborhood went on alert. Especially Mrs. Mosby, who supplemented her income with a permanent table at the flea market. Where our parents often bought our clothes when we bought clothes. I once heard them whisper that the pockets in flea market clothing were always empty.

One year, when my father’s Local went on strike for all of October and no one had died locally for several months (busting the National Average, mom said) a wind storm took down a big fir tree in our back yard. My brother and I had just gone through one of those all knees and elbows growth spurts, and nothing fit except our briefs which mom could stretch three sizes before busting a seam. She went down to the library and found a book on Pacific Northwest Coast Indians, then showed us photos of natives in bark clothing and how they made it pliable by chewing it.

We were so poor I know what bark tastes like. But that wasn’t as bad as my best friend Lee who had to wear socks made from old cats.

Honestly, our town was so poor that year (almost everyone who had jobs worked through the Local) there were kids coming to school who shared clothes, taking turns huddling in the locker room while their sibs were in class. On the schoolbus everyone gave everyone else eyeball privacy.

Our town was so poor we had standards.

12 Nov


It’s funny how much we need to touch a thing, even through an electromechanical surrogate, to feel deeply about it. Most of space exploration involves travel out, in, and around, and the photos, sounds, and other data bring ooohs and aaaahs, but not till “we” land do we gather round the screen and feel like we’re part of something larger. Yes, it’s a huge technical challenge to land, especially on a hurtling chunk of whistling badlands, but that’s not why the swell of emotion. It’s the difference between we saw it and we made it.

06 Nov

A Day in the Background

I spent a good chunk of my day updating my netbook from Mint 16 to 17 (XFCE) –really a background task that took an hour of hands on time. The netbook with its limited resources wasn’t really happy with v16, so I gave 17 (Qiana) a shot. I didn’t have much hope–its only one version, right? It turns out that almost everything about it is better, including a performance bump. I also added a nice Google Drive sync client called Insync. (I’d make a joke but I can’t recall the names of which boy was precisely in which boy band. Unless you called the Clash a boy band–or perhaps a band of raucous lads.)

The upgrade would have taken less time if I hadn’t tried to cheat it first and just update without doing a clean install. The former didn’t work, the latter worked well, and the changes in the UI were often better than those I had configured previously. Good show, Mint.

06 Nov

WordPress Fatality

Today WordPress dished a fatal error message when I tried to hit the admin login screen, essentially a “class not found” error from a php script in a Google security plugin. The solution, after several other attempts: FTP into my WP install, browse into the plugins folder, and delete the Google folder. In other words, I used a hammer. I don’t recall exactly what the plugin does, but I do know that (based solely on my ability to reach my dashboard and type this entry) that things are back to normal. I’ll dig into it and determine if it’s a useful plugin.

If you are maintaining your own WP install, you’ll find that there are more error messages that solution search results, Horatio. I feel like I got lucky. It’s also another reason to do some plugin weeding.