Category Archives: General

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But, Your Honor, I’m a Farmer

Many years ago, I worked at a riding stable near my home on the seacoast of New Hampshire. My primary job was to clean out stalls, go on errands, and help bring in the hay.

The stables also included several acres of prime pasture land. Prime pasture land in New Hampshire often equals a source of hay, and riding stables go through a lot of hay. You might also be surprised the neighbors who did not want hay, would give away their hay in exchange for having their fields cut. So, helping with hay was a big part of my job towards the end of the summer.

Working on any kind of farm is hard work; equipment is scarce; and it is hard to complete every administrative task, like getting the one and only tractor registered with a proper license plate. If you do not have a vehicle registration, you can be fined.

Well one day it happened. The New Hampshire state police gave my friend Roger a citation for driving the tractor on the road without a registration. He came home dejected, because he had to go to court and pay a fine.

But his son, Ross, said don’t worry, Dad. Absolutely nothing is going to happen; and that is because this is New Hampshire, and you are a farmer. The minute the judge hears you were out haying, the ruling will be case dismissed.

Other family members weighed in with their opinions, and, even though the tractor soon got a registration plate, the court date loomed.

Well, Roger had his day in court, and although we wanted to have faith in Ross’ prediction about the magic of his father being a farmer, we were all prepared that Roger might receive a fine.

On his day in court, the judge asked to hear the defendant’s story. Roger started his story with “Well, Your Honor, I was in a hurry trying to bring in hay before it rained, and…”

Roger got no further. The judge said in so many words, “You were out farming? Case dismissed.”

And we all learned a lesson that day. If you are farming in New Hampshire, it almost impossible to do wrong.

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Lightening Up

First, this post The Pros and Cons to Being 27 and Living With Your Parents cheered me up. And reading a few of the posts in that blog made me re-realize something. As much as I love water meters, endpoints,  and programming in general, not everyone wants a daily dose of sleep aids, especially if they did not request them.

So, once our Recapituation is done (that’s the ritual of preparing the 3rd quarter real-estate tax bills — often more stimulating than sleep inducing), I’m pledging to turn over to a less boring leaf, if possible. An until then, may you have a wonderful holiday season along with some laughs.

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The Grain Hawk

A lot of people do not get how birds work. It takes a lot of fuel for us to fly, build nests, and just to exist, especially in colder weather. We have to eat often. We are not like dogs or cats.

Peachy, an emerald-backed peach faced lovebird who preceded me, was such a good flier, that he could fly upstairs following the staircase. That’s flying upwards at a 45 degree angle. Peachy was a fast flier. But after a flight, he would seek out food.

Pookie (the Cockatiel) and I get a varied diet of mash (cooked grains), Avi Cakes and Nutri-berries (from LaFebre). But, I never miss the opportunity to bulk up on grain. My favorite is rice. I do not fly a lot, but it takes a lot of energy to fuss and keep things the way I want them.

Lovebird [Hawk]

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Original Art

We work in the basement of our town’s high school. Affectionately, we call it the dungeon. In August, I purchased a piece of original art from an art show in Lowell. One of the presenters was local artist Linda Dunn. Today, the artist delivered the art, and my office will be that much brighter. Here’s to original art.

Birthday Party: Linda B. Dunn

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9/11: How Meetup Started

I belong to several Meetup groups, and received a very interesting email from one of Meetup’s founders. I am reprinting the email having received  permission to re-post here. It is a very nice note.

9/11 & us
From: Meetup <info@meetup.com>

Fellow Meetuppers,

I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week is
special because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many
people don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles
from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought
local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet
and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I
hoped they wouldn’t bother me.When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors
in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to
neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally
ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each
other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being
neighborly.A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring
people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was
born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and
grow local communities?

We didn’t know if it would work. Most people thought it was a
crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make
people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months
after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s
working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups,
Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of
100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one
thing.

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to
neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me.
They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and
motivate each other, they babysit each other’s kids and find
other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace
together. They make friends and form powerful community. It’s
powerful stuff.

It’s a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks
to everyone who shows up.

Meetups aren’t about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it
weren’t for 9/11.

9/11 didn’t make us too scared to go outside or talk to
strangers. 9/11 didn’t rip us apart. No, we’re building new
community together!!!!

The towers fell, but we rise up. And we’re just getting started
with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)
Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup
New York City
September 2011


Add info@meetup.com to your address book to receive all Meetup
emails

To manage your email settings, go to:
http://www.meetup.com/account/comm/

Meetup, PO Box 4668 #37895
New York, New York 10163-4668

Meetup HQ in NYC is hiring!
http://www.meetup.com/jobs/

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A Portal To The Past: Quick, Duck.

If you want to learn about options, hope and opportunities or the lack of them for some people; if you want to know something of the climate that led to the Women’s and Civil Rights movements; or if you just want a look into the past, I strongly recommend Mad Men http://www.amctv.com/shows/mad-men  I make this recommendation because of the times and characters, although using an advertising agency is brilliant, given 1960s ushered in the golden age of advertising.

In both Don Draper, the lead character of the show, and Roger Sterling, his boss and one of two partners of the fictitious Sterling Cooper advertising agency, I see my father, who was a complicated man I did not get to know well. Also, for me watching Mad Men is a portal back to a time I did not fully understand as a kid. And it took me years to understand as an adult.

If Mad Men were on PBS, someone might say it is a period piece.

It is.

Nothing is as simple as it seems, and Mad Men proves that completely.

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Self-Imposed Obsolescence

These days, life is a blur, but I’m not complaining. There is a new computer programming language to learn, Clojure, a web language to learn better, JavaScript, and new projects to be started. In my line of work, it is good to know as much as you can about a lot of things, because you have to juggle many tasks.

Nearly two years ago, my goal was to learn Python well enough to write effective code. Last year it was to complete two applications written in Python, an automatic configuration and meter reads manager and a web site running on Django. This year my goal is to write more sophisticated web programs utilizing whatever tools seem best. I’ve been able to create primitive, albeit useful, web sites for years, but none of them are sophisticated. That will change.

The aforementioned work was to support a major public works project to upgrade how water meters are read. I did not have to choose Python. I could have used older programming tools with which I was more familiar.  I chose Python for two reasons.

1) Python is known by a lot of people. In fact, it is the first Computer Science language taught to freshman in our high school. My work can be taken over by other programmers without a lot of research.

2) By implementing in Python, I learned something new and can do my job more efficiently. Python’s support library is starting to rival Perl’s, and that is quite a feat. If there is anything you want to do in Python, from parse a .csv file to file transfer that file somewhere on the network, you can do it easily in Python. To get to this point I declared my knowledge — or at least part of it — obsolete and set out to correct that problem.

I have seen other posts encouraging obsolescence. Two that stand out in particular are from Michael Fogus, one of the authors of The Joy of Clojure — http://blog.fogus.me/2011/04/21/never-feel-safe/ and http://blog.fogus.me/2011/05/17/become-obsolete/ . I feel like we were separated at birth. :)

Another way you can think about obsoleting yourself is to see that lying around being complacent does not help your career. Either way, a most difficult part lies ahead. Although people do not like change, if folks don’t change voluntarily, change will be forced on them. I would prefer to change on my own terms.

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