Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Can Never Hold Back Spring

I'm so busy, there's just no time for blogging.  Things are looking better and better in the yard, though I haven't planted this year's color yet.  We are getting another storm tomorrow through the weekend -- yes, snow!  Saturday the landscaper comes to evaluate the sprinkling system and give me a quote on the project.  In the meantime, I have indoor projects lined up for the next few days.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Update on stereo boy

You all know whom I'm talking about by now - the guy in the house behind mine who plays his stereo so loud, I can feel it inside my house.  Yes, it's Sunday morning, but it makes no difference to him.

I was out around 10-ish this a.m. poisoning gophers (another story for another day), he was working in his front yard with the front door and living room windows all wide open and blasting his very fine stereo.  I should explain, he is slightly uphill from me and a street runs between our houses, and the front of his house faces my backyard squarely, so I probably get more benefit of his stereo than any of his other neighbors.  Today's selection had kind of a folksy flavor at first -- sort of an Irish or Chieftans sort of sound - at first.  I didn't mind so much and decided to just enjoy it, though unfamiliar to me.  Then it changed and became a blaring rap sort of thing with the Irish background continuing on and foul language in the "lyrics".  It was awful and I wondered what his church-going neighbors with small children thought of it.  I looked up at his house and at him just as he stopped working and looked at me.  Eye contact.  And then, a North Salt Lake cop drove slowly up the street between us.  Stereo boy looked at the cop and then back at me.  What just happened?  Did he think I called the cops?  He probably did.  He didn't look friendly.  He didn't wave.  Neither did I - the moment had passed.  I gathered up my gopher poisoning tools and moved to the front yard out of his sight.  I noticed the "music" got turned down.

I have no idea whether the cop stopped and talked to him or not - I was out of there too fast.  But maybe just that shared look and the coincidence of the cop driving by was enough to make him do the right thing and turn it down.

Honestly, hasn't this guy heard of I-Pod?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's true, getting old ain't for sissies

Spent a few hours of work with my son and daughter-in-law digging weeds and grass out of flower beds and spreading bark mulch as they prepare to sell their house.  Had lunch, came home, and crashed.  Slept for about an hour and woke up aching everywhere.  It's so frustrating to me to lose endurance, strength, energy, and then to hurt like crazy on top of all that.  I want to be able to work as hard as I always have in the yard, but I'm hitting a wall and I am reluctant to admit it.  For now, my plan is to pace myself - not make a marathon out of it.  And continue to hire help with the heavy lifting. 

And I need to remember, it's been a very sedentary winter for me and these first days outdoors are bound to be taxing.  As time goes on, it will get easier.

UPDATE:  Two hours later, and doing much better.  Pulled myself together and got out to do some errands.  I'll admit to taking a couple of Advil first, and that had to have helped.  While at Lowe's, I purchased a little garden wagon that is more my size than my big wheelbarrow (currently being borrowed by my son and possibly permanently to be left with him).  I bought bags of top soil and steer manure for the small garden along my patio.  Irises I planted last fall are already coming up there and I will plant some dianthas in there right away as the deer don't seem to like those and they will tolerate whatever cold temps we still have coming this spring.  I managed a stop at the liquor store and grocery store while I was out, made it home and got everything put away except the wagon which I need to assemble.  Whatever my other limitations, clearly I still have what it take to shop.  Tonight I'll watch a movie and relax.  Up early in the morning to prepare that little garden and maybe assemble the wagon.  I have some fun things planned in the evening, so I'll remember to pace myself in the yard.  Next week, I call Alberto again to come and help me with some more things.

In the morning, I'll try to get a picture of the daffodils, they are starting to look pretty and it's so nice to have something blooming.  Eight deer crossed the road in front of my car this evening just two houses down from mine.  Most of them are babies  Oh my, a population explosion.  My poor flowers!  They've even started eating the day lilies.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

To ENTER or not to ENTER, that is the question

I write instructions--tell people how to use their software programs, the custom ones we create where I work. It’s a fairly easy job for me, low stress, occasionally challenging, rarely overly-taxing. I’ve been doing this in some form almost continuously since 1981. I’ll be happy to do this until I retire.

For the most part people like my work results and thank me for the help it gives them. But every now and then there’s a bump in the road. Like yesterday.

A young woman involved with one of my projects decided that we must never say ENTER when instructing someone to put data into a field; we must say TYPE. She quoted for her source the Microsoft Style Guide:

Correct: Type your password.
Incorrect: Enter your password.

Sadly, the young woman is somewhat new to the corporate world, and she did what we all know is sure to escalate the matter and extend the discussion: she copied her supervisor and mine in her email.

Thinking to nip this in the bud, I diplomatically replied that there is some disagreement in the technical writing world over this usage, and I have chosen in my own writing to use ENTER as it is well understood by our users and is already used throughout the company. Clarity, I said, is my objective in my writing (copy to both supervisors).

Some huffiness ensued and then a flurry of emails ending (I learned today) with forwards to executives in the company. I surely have not heard the end of this.

My, but people take their rules seriously.

One co-worker forwarded to me a snippet from the UMASS technical writing style guide, also thought to be the definitive authority in the industry, to wit:

Correct: Enter your password.
Incorrect: Type your password.

Yes, they specifically give opposite instructions in this usage. What’s a technical writer to do?

I’ve been exposed to a few style guides in my time, and they each have their own take on all sorts of things. Being of independent spirit, I pick and choose what I like and discard others. It suits me. I'll split an infinitive, write incomplete sentences, I'll even start a sentence with AND.

And let me emphasize, I love language and its correct usage as far as that can be determined. I never confuse AFFECT and EFFECT. I insist that subject and verb agree. But I know the rules about ENTER and TYPE are blurry at best, and it is entirely within my purview to choose how I use them. And so I do.

The young woman’s supervisor did not like my response nor follow-ups from my supervisor, and kicked the matter upstairs to the execs. Good lord, the execs need to think about the usage of ENTER vs TYPE. I can’t wait to hear the outcome.

I’ll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Brain Challenges

This year my oldest child will turn 40.  When you have a 40-year old child, there's no denying you are getting into the "old" stage of life.  On the news they refer to people my age as "elderly".  It makes me laugh.  I'm definitely not thinking of myself as elderly.  But people age differently, and some of my age definitely do seem much much older.  What is the difference?  Is it how we think about ourselves?  Is it keeping ourselves fit in mind and body?  It is genetics?  Is it simple luck?

It's probably a little of all of those things.  We can't do anything about the latter two - illnesses and genetic predispositions can take a toll over which we have no control.  But we can certainly do plenty about the first two.

I was thinking about this today as I did the daily Sudoku on the Washington Post site.  I do that puzzle Wednesday through Sunday.  I skip Monday and Tuesday as they are too easy now -- I am solving them faster than I can put down the numbers.  The WP puzzle is rated by difficulty one through five stars.  The puzzles begin at one star on Monday and progress to five on Friday.  Then the weekend is usually a three-star on Saturday and five on Sunday.

My goal is to finish quickly without making mistakes.  In Sudoku, one mistake is fatal and you have to start again.  No guessing either.  A guess is simply a gamble.  Sudoku is a logic puzzle in which you use various techniques for determining the placement of numbers.  Sometimes you determine what CAN go in a spot, and sometimes you determine what CANNOT.  I have developed my own techniques and methods, but it still requires some thinking and deducing on my part.

I like to test myself as I play.  I look at a row/column/square and see how quickly my brain can determine what numbers are still needed there.  I am at my sharpest when I can take it all in in a single glance and know exactly the numbers needed.  I am at my dullest when I have to actually run through the numbers 0 through 9.  It is proof to me that my brain at certain times functions more optimally than at others.  And thus this game has become a little something more to me.  It's a way of watching my own mental capacity as I age and determining the things that seems to make me sharper.

I am usually pretty sharp in the morning after a cup of coffee - but not if I've had little sleep.  I'm very sharp right after a workday that has involved learning a lot of new material.  I can run through a Sudoku, make stunning Scabble plays, solve some tough crossword clues, sight-read piano music.  It seems my brain is most available to me when it has had some challenges and has had to work hard -- but is not yet over-tired.  I am not at all sharp right before bed.  I always have a crossword and a Sudoku on the nightstand, but it is often only a matter of minutes until I can no longer concentrate and I am falling asleep.

I'm rambling on a bit here, but this is all important stuff to me.  It helps me to see how people keep their brains fit and accessible into older age.  Two things seem to be important:  Sleep.  Mental challenges.  No doubt, food plays a part in this, too.

As I approach retirement age, I have begun paying more attention to what my retired friends do with themselves.  I worry that retirement will not offer sufficient mental challenges that I want and need.  Perhaps the puzzles and music do help but are they enough?  I can't answer that.  I'm still figuring this out. But I do have an easy way of keeping tabs on how I'm doing so far.

(By the way, I love the diagonal Sudokus that offer one more dimension to the puzzle.  I'm always looking for those.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Letting Go

(NOTE: This post has been edited from the original post)
A couple of very dear friends are moving away.  Not together, not even at the same time, nor anywhere near the same place--in fact, in completely opposite directions.  But far away.  A plane ride away.  One soon and one a little further down the road. 

Good friends are not just a dime a dozen.  It takes awhile for a friendship to take on that special level of trust, intimacy, and love.  When feeling sentimental, isn't it nice to listen to the old songs from the Great American Songbook?