Category Archives: essays

All I Can See Are Flaws

On Monday we will roll out a software system that my team has been building for the last thirteen months. In nearly 27 years with the company, this is the software that I am most proud of. It is a system that coordinates new hires, people who are changing jobs or transferring locations, and people who are separating. It involves integration with many other systems, but it really does save people a lot of time over what they do today and it smooths the process for a person starting at the company on their first day, or leaving on their last.

It occurred to me that there is something even more remarkable about this piece of software. The very first meeting I had on this project was back on February 3, 2020–before everything began to shut down due to the pandemic. The first of what was ultimately 37 requirements meetings was held on April 21, 2020. The meeting, while involving people from all over the company and across most of our locations, was done remotely at this point. And since then, we haven’t had a single in-person meeting on the project. The entire software system was built remotely, with people working from home. Of course remotely-built software is nothing new in the open source world. But I think this could be a first for my company. And I’m really proud of the result.

That said, I am in a mode that is probably familiar to many software designers and project managers on the eve of releasing a product you have been working on for so long: all I can see are flaws.

I have a long punch-list of things that I am trying to get done between now and Monday and they all seem to be flaws in the system. These are not fundamental design or structure problems. This is more like a spot on the windshield that you missed while cleaning it. But it is all I can seem to see at the moment. I am so happy with what we have done with this system that I want it to be perfect when it goes live on Monday. And anyone who has ever used a computer knows that no software is perfect.

Still, I think it is useful that my brain is only seeing flaws at the moment. It allows me to focus on those things that matter, and not worry about the stuff that is already in done and ready to go. It means that every day, the system is getting a little bit better.

I was incredibly lucky on this project. I had a great development and testing team. It has been one of the best things about working where I work that I get to work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I learn from them every day, and I have been really impressed with how well our core team has worked remotely over the last 13 months. I’ve lost count of the number of “co-programming” sessions we’ve had that have worked out so well.

We’re in that final push now. This past weekend was the third weekend in a row that I’ve worked. Yesterday, I put in 11 hours, and I couldn’t sleep much last night because the stuff I have to get done was running through my head. So I was up before 5 am this morning to get started and maybe quiet my mind a bit. Four more days, and one more weekend to do, and the system will be live and in the wild. I am feeling unusually optimistic about this system–which is why I am glad that at the moment, all I can see are flaws. I think that will help to ensure we release the best possible system we can come Monday.

Morning Walks in Spring

Spring is the best time of year for morning walks. Winters are cold. Summers are hot. Fall has a chill in the air and you know it is getting colder. Spring mornings sometimes have a chill in the air, too, but you know the days are warming up and that makes all the difference.

Of all the springs mornings to walk on, I especially like those mornings that are clear and sunny. This morning I woke up, took a look out the window, and could see blue sky. The sun hadn’t come up yet, but there were hints of it in the east. My thoughts immediately turned to talking my morning walk. Even on colder mornings (It’s in the 40s as I write this) there is something about walking with my face pointed toward the sun that is rejuvenating. It makes me feel warm even though the air is cold.

A snapshot of this morning's walk.
A snapshot of this morning’s walk

There are a lot of people out in my area early in the morning. Some of them are walking. Some of them are running. There are bikers and dog-walkers. Sometimes I see someone doing yoga or mediating out on the big field of the park that I pass through. Some people raise a hand in hello. Others nod, or say a muffled, “Good morning,” through their mask. (The walkers, I note, tend to wear masks; the runners and bikers often do not.) I’m a smiler, but it is hard to convey a smile with a mask on. So I’ll nod or say good morning.

The park, just after sunrise.
The park, just after sunrise.

The hellos and good mornings are much more subdued in this area than they are when I take my mornings walks in Florida or in Maine. People there speak clearly, and are easily heard. “Good morning!” as opposed to a begrudging “‘Morning” in this area. In Maine everyone waves to one another. Even the people in the cars that pass by on the street. Walkers in Maine in Florida seems generally more cheerful and neighborly than those around here. I wonder if it is because many of the people in Maine and Florida are either on vacation or retired?

I encounter plenty of wild life on my morning walks, and look forward to it. In the spring, especially, I feel a little sad on those mornings when I don’t see ducks in the stream. Sometimes I’ll catch a few deer at their breakfast. Other times, I’ll run into our neighborhood fox. There are all kinds of birds. Often I can hear the rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker or two. Occasionally, I even spot one.

One of my ducks, bathing in the stream.
One of my ducks, bathing in the stream this morning

Halfway through my walk is a 7-Eleven where I buy an orange juice. It is my turnaround point. I return to the bike path from the 7-Eleven, shaking my juice, and then open it up once I am back on the trail. I take my time drinking it. Before the next break in the trail, where a street passes through, there is a recycling bin. I try to time finishing my juice just as I pass the bin so I can toss the empty bottle in.

I always listen to an audio book on my walk. Lately, I’ve been listening to books on the history of computing, and because I have a strange memory, I always remember where I was when I read a book. So thinking of my morning walks these days reminds me of these books. And since I enjoy the books, it adds to the delight of these morning walk.

These morning walks help wake me up. On my way back, I usually begin to think about the work I have ahead of my, planning it out in the back of my mind. I try to resist this, but it inevitably creeps in. I’m okay with that. I means when I get home, I know what I need to do and can started without any preliminaries.

Instead, I sit down and the keyboard, and as I begin to work, I also begin to daydream about tomorrow morning’s walk.

Some Notes for a Sunday

A few notes for a Sunday:

  • I am exhausted this morning from a combination of events. It’s like a perfect storm of parenting: (1) I’ve been working all weekend (to say nothing of all week) getting ready for a big software rollout on May 3. (2) I have now gone a week without caffeine. Yes, I’ve given it up again. I was desperate for a good night’s sleep and this just shows the level of my desperation. (3) The Littlest Miss kept us up last night with a rare full-out temper tantrum.
  • The temper tantrum was the result of us now allowing her to climb into bed with us until she had actually slept in her own bed for a few hours. She grew ferocious. She would scream “I want mommy!” and then make a guttural sound that reminded me of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. I turned to Kelly at one point and whispered, “After one of those screams and groans, I expect to here her cough ‘Gollum–gollum!'” That made both of us laugh, and I find it difficult to face a hysterical child when I am laughing so hard there are tears in my eyes.
  • So I didn’t sleep much. I finally got to sleep around 3 am and slept in until 7 am. Which means I am exhausted today, but I still have a full day of work ahead of me.
  • I started the day with a long walk to try to wake myself up, since I couldn’t turn to several doses of caffeine. I listened to The Soul of a New Machine as I walked. When I got back, I was awake, but felt no less tired.
  • The Little Man (no longer so little) and I got haircuts this morning. We were both in desperate need.

All of this is to say that I don’t have much to write here for you today. I have plenty of ideas, but I am too tired and too strapped for time to get you a decent post this morning.

That said, if you insist on having a decent post, I urge you all to head over to Melanie Novak’s blog and check out her post “The Posse Turns 40.” This post resonated with me, perhaps because at the end of this year, my own high school crew will turn fifty.

What People are Watching

A question I always ask myself first thing in the morning is what other people are watching on Netflix. Before looking at the newspapers or glancing out the window for some hint at the weather, I just have to know what people are watching. This is why I am so glad that Netflix saw fit to send me a message letting me know what other people are watching in my area.

Netflix defines my area as “United States”. This represents about 2% of the total land area on earth, so while it is not as specific as I hoped, it gives me means of comparison. I was hoping to learn what other people are watching in my neighborhood, and in particular, in the two or three surrounding blocks

According to this top 10 list that Netflix provided me, without my ever having to ask them for it, people are watching:

  • 2 game shows. They call this “reality TV” but these are nothing more than rebranded game shows.
  • a movie (The Stowaway) which seems based on a premise based on a science fiction story called “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin. The story was first published in 1954.
  • a kids cartoon show
  • an David Attenborough animal show, which I realize is a redundant way to describe animal shows.
  • 2 sitcoms
  • 3 other dramas

Let’s see, 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 10. Yup, that’s ten alright.

Netflix was not only kind enough to send me this message today, but they sent me another message with a reminder: “Don’t forget to finish The Crown.” What would I do without these reminders? If Netflix hadn’t prodded me, I might have forgotten that I hadn’t finished The Crown. I might have forgotten that I began to lose interest at the end of Season 3, and pretty much lost complete interest after Season 4 episode 1.

It is nice to know that part of the fees I pay to Netflix are used to tell me what other people in my area are watching, and reminding me to finish watching things that I haven’t finished. I think this, as opposed to producing good television, is an excellent use of money.

Taking a few minutes out of my day to see what people living in the 3.797 million square miles we share in the United States has its uses. It reminds me that (a) I am not missing anything, and (b) my time is better spent doing things I enjoy than watching things that other people are watching just because they are watching them. It’s reassuring to know that the few seconds I waste looking at what other people are watching represent hours saved by not having to watch the shows themselves. Was it Douglas Adams who wrote about the device that watches television for you? Netflix’s kind message reminds me that there are hundreds of millions of people watching TV for me.

Being mildly prodded to finish watch a series that I’d already started is a different matter. If I don’t like a book, I give it up as soon as I recognize I don’t like it. There are too many other books in the world I want to read to waste much time on one that I don’t like. If I was still in school and had to read the book whether I liked it or not, that would be one thing. But I am not in school. No one is grading me on whether or not I finish The Crown (except perhaps a Netflix algorithm). I’ve moved onto other, more enjoyable things.

It Used to Be A Fun House

All the girls in the family have been watching a lot of Pink videos and singing Pink songs lately. This has been my introduction to Pink, whose songs I’d never heard before mainly because I listened to other stuff. I knew there was a performer called Pink, of course, but that was about the limit of my knowledge.

One of the songs they sing and listen to has been stuck in my head for a few weeks now. The name of the song is “Fun House” and it has one of the most disturbing and incongruous lyrics I’ve ever come across:

It used to be a fun house /
But now it’s full of evil clowns

“Why,” I have asked my kids repeatedly over the last few weeks, “does the house have to be full of evil clowns?” Everyone knows that clowns themselves are bad enough but evil clowns raise the specter of movies like Poltergeist and novels like It.

My girls think my reaction to the song is amusing. Several times a day I will walk up to them randomly and repeat the lyric as though I am pondering how such a think could be. “It used to be a fun house,” I’ll say solemnly, “but not it’s full of evil clowns.” At this point, my youngest (nearly 5 years old) will remind me that, “I’m gonna burn it down, down, down.”

I’ve given this a lot of thought–too much, perhaps. The line would make much more sense if it used to be a fun house, but now it is an evil house. For one thing, there is a nice parallelism to that. For another, it is a natural rhyme, rather than the slant rhyme created between house and clown. The girls just give me strange looks.

I’ve offered them alternatives to evil clowns, equally incongruous, but less freaky than evil clowns. For instance:

It used to be a fun house, but now it’s full of evening gowns.

which scans perfectly and is worthy of a Weird Al level parody. But if I sing that lyric, the girls become irritated and say, “Nooooo, Daaaaad, it’s evil clowns!

It used to be a farmhouse, but now it’s full of L. Frank Baum.

They just stared at me.

I think we’re stuck with evil clowns at this point, but I don’t have to like it. Still, I can’t seem to get the song out of my head. They made it worse for me yesterday by insisting I watch the video, complete with evil clowns with glowing eyes.

I want to make it clear to everyone that I have nothing against evil clowns. Some of my best friends are evil clowns. My problem is entirely with incongruous lyrics. Why “evil clowns”? Why no, “wedding gowns” or “awkward nouns”? The mystery of it has me spiraling in an infinite loop that my daughters find particularly delightful.

When I Have No Idea What To Write About

At least 60% of the time when I sit down to write one of this essays, I have an idea in mind. Sometimes I think it is a particularly good idea I am nervous that I won’t carry it off the way I want to. Other times, it seems like a worthwhile idea, but not a great one, and I fear that it will show through in the final product.

The other 40% of the time I have no idea what to write about. I have a list of ideas, but often they don’t hit the right buttons for me at that moment and I am left staring at a blank screen. What to do?

Over the years I have developed a process for working myself out of these situations. It is straight-forward, if a little time-consuming, and always seems to produce a satisfactory idea or two. It goes like this:

  1. Pull one of my Andy Rooney essay collections, one E.B. White essay collection, and one Isaac Asimov essay collection off the shelf.
  2. Flip through them randomly to remind myself of the wise variety of topics that they wrote on in their columns.
  3. See what ideas pop into my head.

This procedure always seems to work for me. I did this, for instance, last Friday evening when I couldn’t think of anything to write about. In my flipping about some Andy Rooney essays, I came across something he wrote on weathermen. It reminded me of how we like to talk about the weather, and thus my piece on talking about the weather was born.

This procedure doesn’t always trigger an idea based on something I see. Sometimes the idea comes from a different direction. Today, for instance, at loss for an idea, and knowing what a busy schedule I had, I pulled various collections off the shelf (step 1) but before I even began to flip through them (step 2) an idea popped into my head (step 3). That idea, of course, what to write about what I do when I don’t have any idea what to write about.

It should surprise no one who reads this blog that Asimov, Rooney, and White are the three biggest influences on my in terms of style and subject matter. Asimov write mostly (but not always) on scientific subjects, translating them into something that a layperson like me could understand. No surprise then that I should occasionally write on software (technology) subjects and try to write them in a way that everyone can make sense of. Rooney (who was himself highly influenced by E.B. White) wrote on everyday things. So it is no surprise that I write on everyday things, now and then, trying to find humor or irony in them, and only occasionally succeeding.

White is more of an aspiration for me than an inspiration. He also often wrote on seemingly mundane subjects (chores around the farm) but his style made the pieces sing. I think I’ve still got a way to go before people start to say, “I detect some E.B. White influence in your writing.”

Coming up with a good idea when trying to write an original piece every day is something of a challenge. Quality sometimes suffers under the pressure of the self-imposed deadline. And yet I am surprised by how often the last-minute idea and the last-minute writing gains the most notice and comments. It just goes to show that there is no point trying to predict what readers want. I write what makes me happy, and hope that others enjoy it as well.

And now that I’ve finished this piece, I can begin the puzzle anew and start thinking of an idea for tomorrow’s post.

Reading Phases

I seem to be caught in the midst of one of my occasional reading phases. This is when I read many books on the same subject in a relatively short period of time. If I look through my reading list, I can find quite a few of these phases. They often last five or six books before I move onto a different subject. This one has lasted 9 books so far.

I find the history of computing fascinating, perhaps because I grew up with computers, and perhaps simply because I enjoy history. This recent phase has seen me go through the following books:

In the background, I have also been slowly making my way through Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter.

So far, my favorite of these books has been Brian Kernighan’s UNIX: A History and a Memoir. I also really enjoyed George Dyson’s Turing’s Cathedral.

I’m not quite ready to give up this phase. As I was dosing off last night, thinking about my morning walk, I realized that I would miss listening to the Alan Turing biography. There are at least 2 other books I hope to get through before this phase ends. They are:

Of course, I am open to others if anyone has any suggestions.

Meanwhile, to balance all of the technology, I’ve started a second attempt at reading Page Smith’s biography of John Adams. There isn’t an electronic version of this book, which means for at least a small portion of my day, my eyes aren’t focused on a screen.

College Years

Like the wartime years of a civilian solider, they lay so much outside the real world that they had about them a certain unsubstantial, dreamlike quality.

I came across the above passage in Page Smith’s biography of John Adams, which I started to read again yesterday afternoon. The passage refers to Adams’s days at Harvard. I’d underlined the passage in the book the first time I attempted to read it and wrote in the margin: “Yes! This is exactly what my college years were like–never seen it described this well.”

My college years are mostly a blur with little remaining except some scattered memories here and there, and some ancient Word documents (version 5.5 for DOS) with papers and notes. One of my bigger regrets about college, silly as it seems, is that I didn’t begin keeping a journal then. (It wasn’t until nearly 2 years after graduation that I finally started one.) John Adams college career covers 8-pages of an 1,100 page biography. But it was Smith’s words, about those days having a certain dreamlike quality that resonated with me.

I have vague memories of my first day at college. I’d already met my roommate at an event earlier in the summer. But I met two other people on that first day who became among my best friends.

I remember little of my time in classes. I can conjure up generic images of taking notes in large lecture halls, or sitting in semi-circles in smaller rooms. I remember various lab classes in the evenings, but not the specifics, except for one time when an experiment of mine went awry, and I handed a test-tube full of bubbling iron filings to a friend and dashed out of the lab. I remember countless philosophical debates in various dorm room floors into the wee hours of the night. (How I managed to stay up so late eludes me, but I was young…)

Certain images stick with me: riding my bike to class early in the morning and crossing past the bell tower. To my left was one of the science buildings, ivy creeping up its walls. For some reason, it was the ivy that made feel like I was actually in college rather than high school. Friday night or Saturday night second-run movies in one of the lecture halls. The one that stands out most in my mind was Dead Again with Kenneth Branagh.

Looking back on it now, the way it seemed to me was one day, I was there on the campus for my very first day. No long after (but actually two years later) I’d moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with my two roommates. After that, it was all study and work all the time and then, on a hot June day, I was filing onto the stage to receive my diploma. It really does have a dreamlike quality when I look back on it.

Reading that passage in Adams biography comforts me somehow.

Log from the Sea of Pfizer, Dose #2

(See here for the first dose)

Friday, April 16

  • 11:00 am. Arrived at the pharmacy for Pfizer dose #2.
  • 11:15 am. Jabbed in the left arm with the vaccine. Sat in the waiting area for 15 minutes reading Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum. Was the only one reading.
  • 11:30 am. Felt fine, not even any pain in the injection site. Collected my things and headed home.
  • 12:00 pm. Took a photo of my completed COVID-19 vaccination record card.
  • 12:20 pm. Received an email from my doctor’s office inviting me to schedule my first Moderna vaccine before April 30.
  • 3:33 pm. Called my doctor’s office to thank them for the offer, and let them know that I’d already gotten a better one. Could they, by the way, update my records to indicate I’ve been vaccinated. Was asked which vaccine I received and the dates.
  • 4:00 pm. Received message from doctor’s office asking for dates of vaccination. Sent them again.
  • 4:12 pm. Received message from doctor’s office asking which vaccine I’d been given. Send it again. Asked if they actually read the messages they received.
  • 5:30 pm. Noticed first signs of feeling “off”. It’s the feeling I get when a fever is coming on. It almost feels like it emanates from the base of my neck. Try to ignore it.
  • 5:45 pm. Eat a bunch of wings for dinner. Kelly has been in bed all day today (her second dose was yesterday) and if I am tomorrow as she is today, I wanted to at least eat something tasty first.
  • 7:30 pm. Felt a definite stiffness in my neck, upper back and shoulders. Still no pain whatsoever at the injection site. Headed out for an evening walk to get some fresh air.

Saturday, April 17

  • 12:30 am. Woke with symptoms similar to flu. Aches in neck, back, arms and legs. Fever. Fever dreams. The only thing missing was the stuffy head, runny nose, sore throat. It was odd because I expect those symptoms when feeling this way.
  • 3:30 am. Lots of aches and pains to say nothing of the fever dreams. They involve some complicated rules for sleeping out out by the Royal family, while at the same time, I find myself adrift on a fishing boat in the sea of Pfizer, part real life, part video game.
  • 3:35 am. Took some Advil on the hope of quelling the dreams. But they resumed as soon as I returned to bed.
  • 8:15 am. Woke to sunshine. Other than feeling tired, every single one of the symptoms is gone. No aches and pains, no fever. No soreness at injection site. It appears to have all run its course overnight.
  • 9:00 am. Went for my morning walk with no effects of last nights fevers. Maybe I will be able to get in a full day of working after all.
  • 11:00 am. After working for an hour or so, the chills started again, and that tingling, sensitive feeling across my skin started up again. I took some Advil to head it off at the pass.
  • 12:00 pm. Chills and sensitivity is worse despite Advil. Made some lunch with the idea that I’d be going down for a nap with the Littlest Miss shortly after lunch.
  • 1:50 pm. Napped with the Littlest Miss and feel better than before, but still not 100%. Aches and chills are gone, but a lingering haziness remains.
  • 4:20 pm. Neck and back pains creeping back in. Suspect the Advil is wearing off.
  • 5:00 pm. Took more Advil. Then went out to the shed to get the deck furniture which I had promised myself I’d get setup today no matter how I felt. It took a while, and I was worn out afterward, but I got it done.
I got the deck furniture setup late this afternoon.
  • 7:07 pm. I think I am through the worst of it. About 32 hours after the injection, and just under 26 hours after feeling the first symptoms.

On April 30 I will be through my 2-week post vaccination period. That would be a great weekend to hang out with other vaccinated friends, but I have a big rollout happening that weekend and so I will be working. Maybe the weekend after that?

Talking About the Weather

I am going to talk about the weather. I am likely in bed at the moment. I say likely because I am writing this in your past in order to discuss my future. I received my second dose of the COVID vaccine yesterday (your time) and if my experience is anything like Kelly’s was yesterday, I am likely going to be here much of the day. I am, therefore, going to talk about the weather. I will have more to say on the second dose in Sunday’s post.

There are great weather talkers and there are those who could care less. My friend Eric is a great weather talker. I don’t mind talking about the weather, but I don’t like talking about it as much as I used to. I liked it best back when I was learning about weather in flight school. Pilots like to complicate things that should be simple. Instead of a simple, “Clear skies, light winds out of the west, temperature 70 F, barometer 29.95” they have a cryptic way of reporting the conditions. Here is the current weather for nearby Reagan/National airport in this cryptic form: KDCA 162352Z 28011G21KT 10SM FEW065 12/00 A2981 RMK AO2 PK WND 28027/2341 SLP094 T01220000 10167 20122 53020

Some people like watching the weather on TV. There are TV weather reports. Weather apps have made these reports seem excessive. Why listen to someone drone on about the weather when you can see at a glance exactly what the weather will be for the next 24 hours with usable accuracy? My dad likes to watch the Weather Channel. The day we got an entire channel dedicated to nothing but the weather is the day we became a truly decadent society.

I find the weather reports surrounding hurricanes particularly ironic. One the one hand, you’ve got your anchors telling people, “Evacuations are now mandatory. Now over to you, Fred.” Fred, of course, is the weatherman who is reporting live from the belly of the beast. He is the old man, “going opposite to the flow,” as Irving Berlin might say. It is always a bit confusing. They are telling people to flee, and here is someone doing the opposite, doing essentially what a satellite might do without putting anyone in danger.

On the wall just inside the sliding glass door that leads to the deck, I’ve got a nice analog weather station that gives me temperature, pressure, and humidity. Those three readings, combined with what I see outside is really all I need to know about the weather.

Of course, I have a weather app on my phone, but I much prefer the little command line script I have. I type “weather” and it gives me a simple, one line report. I typed it just now, for instance, and here is what it said:

⛅️ +54°F →13mph

If only the TV weather reporters could be so brief.

I don’t mind the weather report at the back of the Metro section. It is usually concise. And Martin Weil’s short write-ups on local weather in the Washington Post always amuse me.

I decided to write about the weather is because I am feeling under the weather. I was curious about that idiom. It apparent comes from mariners on old sailing vessels. When a sailor wasn’t feeling well, there were taking below deck to protect them from the weather. Depending on where I ended up, I could very well be below deck (downstairs, in the guest room). At the very least, I am below blanket, which for our purposes here is equivalent to below deck.

Declaring “To-Do” Bankruptcy

It would be nice if we could decide one day to declare to-do list bankruptcy. We would just admit to ourselves that the stuff on our to-do list is never going to get done. We’d toss the list away and start fresh. I was thinking about this today because I have a lot of things to do and it seems the list is never-ending.

  • I have some focused development work I need to do this morning that probably requires a large chunk of time. Alas, there is no large chunk of time on my schedule to today. I could push off to tomorrow, however…
  • At 11 am I have my second COVID vaccine. Kelly got her second vaccine yesterday and today, she doesn’t feel great. I plan on working this weekend, but if I am not feeling great tomorrow, it is probably not the best time for focused development work.
  • There is a security light on corner of the house that is out. I need to replace the bulb. First I have to take out the old bulb and figure out what kind it is so that I know what to replace it with. Then I have to go find a replacement. Finally, I have to install the replacement. It involves getting the ladder out from behind the shed. This has been on my list for a while, but it’s not going to get done any time soon.
  • I need to get the deck furniture back out on the deck, and put up the deck tent. I was supposed to do that this past weekend, but it was raining and I didn’t want to do it in the rain.
  • My office could use a new desk. The Little Man got a new desk in his room yesterday (a new “used” desk) and it reminded me that I have been wanting a new desk for some time now. But replacing the desk is more than just picking out a new one. It usually has to be put together. I have to dismantle the old desk, which is going to involve a lot of messing with the cables behind the old desk. Since I want to do it right, I need a lot of time to do it, and I don’t have that right now.
  • While I am redecorating my office, I could use a new office chair. The one that I have had for around 8 years now is beginning to fall apart.
  • And I still want those French door installed between my office and the living room. I suppose I’ll get around to that someday.
  • The siding of the house above my office windows could use a power wash. That means getting hold of a power wash machine, and getting the ladder out from behind the shed, etc. etc.
  • I went through my first ink cartridge for my new fountain pen in just under a month. It’s been suggested that I should use bottled ink instead, which means I need to order the ink, and then figure out how to get it into the pen. I also need to watch a video on how to properly clean the pen. I think that one will be on my to-do list for a while.
  • The ants are back in the kitchen so the next time I am at the grocery store, I need to get some more ant traps.
  • I have a dozen or so post ideas that need to be written up at some point. A few of these require considerable thought and planning. I fear that the more work they require, the longer it will be before I get to them.
  • I need to order a new trash can from the county as ours is damaged and keeps filling up with water.
  • The fireplace needs to be cleaned out. I’ve been meaning to do that for the last month. I look at it every morning and tell myself that I’ll get to it today. Well, I figure I’ll get to it today.

I just made the mistake of glancing at the to-do list for work. That list is even longer and I was hoping to use this weekend to catch up on some of ti, but I suppose it will depend on how I feel tomorrow.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just chuck the list and start from scratch? I think that is exactly what I am going to do. In fact, I just wrote the following to-do item at the bottom of my to-do list:

“Declare To-Do bankruptcy.”

I’ll get to that item just as soon as I get to the hundred or so items that come before it on the list.

Mr. Fox Takes His Lunch

While on my morning walk the other day, deep into a technical explanation in the Alan Turing biography I am listening to, I suddenly noticed a large dog off to my right. I don’t normally see dogs without owners, so I paused to look at him (or, perhaps, her). I realized at once it wasn’t a dog at all, but our local neighborhood fox. I’ve spotted it before, once even in our front yard. There was no one else around, and the fox appeared as taken aback as I was. We both froze for a moment.

The fox then dashed across the bike path on which I was walking, across a small parallel street, and into the back yard of a nearby house, where it went behind a bush and pretended it couldn’t be seen.

The fox was much bigger up close than I remembered. It also carried with it its lunch. From both sides of its jaws was the limp body of a squirrel1. When we first ran into each other, I was too startled to snap a photo, and then he moved so quickly that I didn’t have a chance until he’d attempted to hide himself away behind a bush. That part was amusing because it was like an elephant trying to hide itself behind a thin tree.

I managed to get a photo of it there from a distance, and I’ve tried to focus the image as best as I can on Mr. Fox. It’s not a great picture because he’d run so far by this point.

The fox hides between tree and bush.

It made me laugh. I imagined him thinking, I am invisible. No one can see me. Not with this tree over here and this bush over there. I’ll just wait until this fellow passes and then I’ll be on my way.

Normally, this particular part of the bike path is full of people at this time of day, and I suspect it was the fact that it was empty that the fox and I had our little encounter.

  1. It took 3 tries for me to spell squirrel correctly.