All posts by mjh

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That which is no more

Like many houses in Albuquerque, our old house had a niche in the hallway intended for a phone, including a slot for a thin phonebook. Even when we had a landline, we never used the niche for that purpose. Instead, it held a kachina most of the time, as well as my keys and wallet.

Years ago, our friends Ann and John sent us a stained-glass piece which happened to be exactly the size of a small window in the front door of the house. It was a natural fit. Imagine our surprise the first time we saw the sun shine through that stained glass to illuminate the niche by chance, if you believe in serendipity. This didn’t happen every day. Indeed, most of the year the blue light shone elsewhere. However, every February and October the light appeared in the hallway and over a few weeks’ time it drifted toward the niche until it full illuminated the niche a morning or two.

Twice a year, we watched this progression. Now, it is no more. The niche, the door, and the sun are as they have been for decades. But we are gone and we took the blue light and kachina with us. Now, we watch for movements of light in our new house. This will take time.

This video is 10 minutes realtime but I have sped it up 16x.

alignment of the niche sped up

My Space

We’ve lived in our new house 8 weeks now. We settled in within the first two weeks. We love the house, the neighborhood, and the location closer to the river bosque.

I spend a couple of hours at a time in the morning and the afternoon in this room sitting on the couch reading on the big screens or a tablet. In the evening, Mer and I spend another hour or two watching tv and looking at photos or videos.

The window looks out onto our deep porch. Under an evergreen at the far end, I have set up several bird feeders, a fountain, and a birdcam. I look out on bird theater all day long. Right now, it is mostly bushtits and yellow-rumped warblers, plus an occasional flicker or nuthatch. Overhead most days, we see and hear sandhill cranes and geese. The cranes will leave in a month or so.

Note the baseboard hot-water radiant heater. It is steady and nearly silent heat, not the jet engine roar of forced-air we had at Quincy. The carpet contributes to the quiet and warmth.

That door is to a closet that extends and wraps under the stairs. The door to the room is off to the left of the photo.

I’ve had that window shade for 10 years. The chair was Mer’s mom’s.

PC Training & Consulting

When I moved to Albuquerque in 1984, I found a part-time job teaching computer classes at the brand-new Sears Business Systems Center (separate from Sears, both long out of business). I interviewed with someone from out-of-state. On my way out of the store, I introduced myself to the manager. Later, when I had the job, he said I was the only interviewee who did that.

One of the classes I taught was beginning WordPerfect (remember that?). There were 3 students in one session: two were secretaries and one was a retired guy who typed badly with two fingers. We made it work. He became a client and friend.

To vent about WordPerfect: it felt like programmers who never worked with documents created it. Who thought it made sense to put left and right margins under one menu and top and bottom under another (as one small example). I was amazed I had to convince some people how much better Microsoft Word was when it came out.

It was the part-time-ness of that job that led me to become an independent contractor or self-employed. When I registered my business, I named it “PC Training & Consulting.” (See the footnote.) I did business for over 30 years. Much of the time I was teaching or writing — I’ve already written about that.

The footnote: years into this, I met a new colleague at UNM Continuing Education who presented her card with “PC Training and Consulting.” Uh-oh. What should I do? I didn’t want to be a jerk but I didn’t want to “lose the brand.” I told her as much and next day her card said “PC Consulting and Training.” Fine with me.

The End of an Era

I taught people to use person computer software from 1984 to 2014 or so. Imagine: 30 years. Those were heady days spanning DOS 1 to Windows Umpteenth. There was no public access to the Internet (always capitalized, damn it!) or any of the things we take for granted now.

I worked hard preparing for classes. That uncompensated prep-time allowed me to feel comfortable and flexible in class. It is second nature to me to outline and organize.

I’m an introvert and find more than two people at once exhausting, especially strangers. However, I loved teaching. I loved seeing the light go on and helping people move toward the level of comfort and appreciation of technology that I feel still.

My teaching days petered out as I moved into writing computer and photography books. Writing is a different pleasure. Like teaching, writing requires organizing information and presenting it effectively. I suspect anyone can teach or write but doing both well and having fun is another matter.

All this comes forth as I look back well into retirement. I’ve been going through a couple of boxes of paperwork from UNM, TVI (pre-CNM), and my consulting. The last to go were copies of evaluations. I made those in part for ego and in part for self-defense if anyone questioned my qualifications.

Looking at these evaluations, I’m grateful for the feedback. I’m happy people appreciated my prep, my knowledge, even my sense of humor. While most were positive, there were some harsh ones, including one I still wince remembering 25 years later.

Here’s one that stands out:

“Mark has presented this tricky topic with agility. HIs gentle approach and his ability to retain control over the material while free-falling toward complex topics are both admirable. His guileless humility is also quite encouraging, allowing the thought that everyone in the class — including him — is working hard toward the achievable goal of mastery. An excellent instructor.”

This reminds me that when UNM Continuing Education was drafting a blurb on me, there was a disagreement among the staff about referring to me as “nurturing,” a word I find appropriate. Some thought it diminished my authority.

Here’s another:

“Mark is a cutie… overall, presentation was very good and easy to understand. Enjoyed the class very much…. I plan to return.” [use of ellipsis was the student’s]

Lastly:

“Thank you, Mark! You’re a great teacher.” [there goes my guileless humility]

Baby’s First Picture

I have a note dated 11/23/1954 from a radiologist to my Mom’s doctor (below). The radiologist estimates I am 4 1/2 months old then. Yes, my first baby picture is in utero. (I have the xray.) Surely, I am only 3 1/2 months old because it would be another 6 months until my birth. Guessing fetal age by xrays was probably more an art than science.

That would be weird enough but there is another xray from 3 months earlier (8/21/54), almost exactly 9 months prior to my birth. Was I there then or soon after?

I picture a cigarette-smoking, whiskey-drinking, hotdog-eating doctor ordering more xrays to confirm every ailment. I have two more near my first birthday determining my pneumonia had improved. Small wonder my Mom developed lymphoma. (I did too but mine wasn’t fatal.)