Assembling An Office Chair

For those of you who are mechanically inclined, I salute you. For me, even Gary Larson’s School For The Mechanically Declined could not help me. I still marvel at what I learned from the ABC of Tools, a film I was required to see many years ago before becoming an electronics mechanic.

Today, I assembled an office chair, and thankfully, Staples had excellent instructions and all parts packaged and labeled by step.

Before Assembly

Still what gets me is reading the diagrams. But I made it.  I just took a deep breath, assembled the chair in private, so no one can hear the commentary, and eventually succeeded.

After Assembly

Calling All Polymer Chemists/Material Scientists

Many, many people have computers. That is a fair assumption, isn’t it? Some people have more than one computer, and some number of those have full, non-wireless installations. Non-wireless installations implies at least one pedestal computer, with cables that connect things up. There are even some of us who have more than one computer that share one monitor, keyboard, and mouse using something called a KVM switch, where K=keyboard, V=video, and M=mouse.

Connecting those computers are cables, made out of synthetic material that looks and feels like rubber, but is more durable and flexible. Ethernet, land-line telephone, and monitor cables come to mind, along with USB and parallel printer cables. (Yes, there are still a few parallel printers out there.) And, if you have my installation of two pedestal workstations and a laptop, KVM cables. It is very nice the cables do their job, but they do more than that. They start to take over.

I believe those of us who have computers, keyboards, mice, USB devices have a shared experience. The cables act like an organism. They cling, intertwine, and glom themselves together, almost like kudzu. They are by any other name a big pain.

Somewhere out there is an enterprising polymer chemist or materials scientist just waiting to make a big discovery and a lot of money. How about inventing flexible, strong cables, that don’t get stuck together. Who knows that by inventing that, you won’t discover a cure to a disease or find cheaper, greener, less expensive fuel.

The Pie Wagon

Some time ago, when he was in college, a student named Tom worked as a bus boy in a well-known inn, north of Boston. It was one of those upper-crusty establishments at the edge of a school’s campus. And even though the town, school and inn celebrated our New England heritage, they did so not too loudly or tastelessly.

The inn’s menu included fancy names for appetizers and entries, and there were not mere desserts, but a dessert cart which would be brought to your table upon request.

Tom worked with a waitress, whom we will call Josie. Josie was a little more spirited than the stately inn would normally hire, but she was hard working, and patrons liked her.

Commanding the whole operation was a very stayed gentleman, whom we will call Mr. K., who believed in a well run operation, and where everything was taken very seriously, especially the names of dishes, including desserts. He had the distinct air about him of a well-oiled Swiss watch.

So imagine, a night in this high-end restaurant in the upper-crusty inn, where the food, service, and your satisfaction were taken very seriously, when at the end of one patron’s dinner, Mr. K. directed Josie “Please take the dessert cart to table six.”

And Josie, far enough out of earshot from Mr. K., turned to Tom and said:

“There’s goes that knucklehead again telling me to take the pie wagon to table six. Why doesn’t he call it by its right name?”

A pie wagon, let alone plain pie might exist in a less grand establishment, but never in the well heeled inn North of Boston.

This story has stuck with me for over thirty years, because Josie created equality for all desserts, fancy desserts and a humble slice of pie and perhaps for all food. One person’s Battle of Bunker Hill Beef could stand next to a diner patron’s open-faced roast beef sandwich, and Crème Brulee could sit next to grape nut pudding.

If you go to a restaurant, I hope you enjoy yourself. If you still have an appetite for dessert and a dessert cart is available feel free to indulge. But as that cart rolls towards you, please don’t forget that by any other name it’s a Pie Wagon.

Bon Apetit!

Big Yellow Keyboard

Big Yellow Keyboard

2012 is my year of change. After learning of newer, more ergonomic keyboards, and newer keyboard layouts like Colemak, I purchased a new keyboard from TypeMatrix http://www.typematrix.com/ . The keyboard was well-built; the company was excellent to deal with; and I recommend them highly. However, I just could not adjust to the layout, let alone learning a different key map. Most, but not all, of us use the traditional Qwerty keyboard.

Then my wife, the financial brain trust of our family, had seen an infomercial about a big yellow keyboard with large keys. So, I bought one with my own money, or two to be exact. So far, so good. One key sticks when struck very hard, but the problem is passable.

When these keyboard(s) arrived at work, my boss said a co-worker would have to spray paint the keyboard black, so people would not be temporarily blinded by the yellow keys, and also indicated — jokingly — that I would be in hot water, if any big yellow keyboard requests came in. Another co-worker started laughing, and said she could never bear to look at a keyboard like that.

So, yes, I purchased two keyboards from one of those infomercials — “So don’t forget, order before midnight, and we will throw in this set of steak knives with your keyboards.” — the keyboards are of reasonable quality, and they have bright yellow keys with black lettering.

So, they remind me of bees, and I’m quite fond of bees.

Holidays And Education

Years ago, my employers paid for my courses. When I finally became a software engineer  at Digital Equipment Corp — June 1985 — DEC picked up more of my education costs, because my courses were directly related to my job, programming.

I do not like wasting my time, so I learned everything I could, and did the best job I could on the mostly programming homework. Also, failed courses were not reimbursed.

When I took my last course required for graduation from Harvard University Extension School — Anatomy and Physiology of a Computer — Mrs. Highpants took my rough circuit diagram drawings and drafted them, so all the wires went were they should (that kind of help was allowed in the course). However, Mrs. H. was very glad when four years of coursework was over.

Last Summer, I signed up to take an on-line course on a 5 year Lisp dialect, called Clojure. The course was supposed to start in September, but depended on a book that was not released until November. So, the course started on December 5th.

If you want to ruin your holidays, go ahead and do something like this. I was naive, and did not reschedule. All in all, I’m glad I’m taking the course; we are now about to start week 5 of 6.

However, I get nervous when my beloved spousal unit Mrs. Highpants cuts me slack on household chores and responsibilities, even though she is both impressed and shocked about the amount of work this course is taking.

When I’m freed up from my duties, there is always the worry that yet undiscovered chemical Slugazine might be released into my system. Even though I was born in the 20th century, it might as well have been in the 19th as far as who does what and when. Let us just say I had to undergo civilizing and I am glad for it.

So, to those of you who want to self improve, please try to avoid taking courses that span December or other times of the year when major holidays occur. You might be happier.

A Holiday Tradition: Printing The Property Tax Bills

I get all sentimental at this time of year. We can enjoy the holidays once recap is completed. recap is the proposing of the new property tax rate through excruciating digestion and overall combing over of the town’s finances, which are then submitted to the state and the rate approved by our Board of Selectman all for DOR’s approval. Then finally the real-estate tax rate can be set.

What follows bears a striking resemblance to Festivus especially the airing of grievances and feats of strength. What actually happens is as follows:

We get the new tax data.

Then we check the data first to see if it looks good.

Once all that is done, my colleague in the Treasurer/Collector’s department and I run a test billing run to make sure everything works; you know, kind of like a dress rehearsal.

Finally, we transfer everything to the live production system; run the bills; and our department (IT) prints the bills on a thirty-five copy per minute duplex printer.

You would think the whole thing would be go off without a hitch, well, it’s Smooth as Silk (at 2:20 ). There is always some minor problem that needs fixing, and then it’s over and at 9:15 in the morning it’s not Miller but breakfast time.

Finally, we are done.

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.