Category Archives: Who does this guy think he is?

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]


“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.)


Downtown. Ah, I still love Petula Clark 50+ years later. You could tell me she was an antifeminist, homophobic racist, and I would still love her (with some judgement — but understand, that was rhetorical, she’s as innocent as can be, as far as I know). Downtown pops up in my workout playlist at least once a week. Nowadays, the song has taken on a ‘chamber of commerce’ feel — hey, everybody, free parking after 6pm Downtown! I don’t know if I originally caught the wistful melancholy, but it’s still groovy, man.


“Just like downtown.” My high school chemistry teacher, Mr Kapriva, used to say “just like downtown,” explaining for the benefit of his young charges that it meant “cool.” Mr Kapriva liked me because I sat in the front row and wore a tie and carried a briefcase. (It was an act of rebellion, at the time — the 60s lasted until 1973.) Each day, he would acknowledge my tie. It seemed to kill him that I bought my ties at a drugstore (3 for $5). Just like downtown.


Mr Kapriva had great hopes for my academic potential but did little to enhance it, though he was kind enough to give me a medal at the end of the year. It wasn’t until college that I had serious lab experience, which taught me I love cleaning glass but hate memorizing highly structured data. (I need to build my own structure.)


Mr Kapriva’s chemistry colleague, Mr Palmer, might have been a better teacher. Certainly, their colleague, Mr Duncan, intimidated the hell out of me (which is why I never studied physics except to the extent it inevitably overlaps chemistry and math).


I liked Kapriva but my favorite teachers were able to make me feel special while insisting I prove it. Like Ms Kraft (Algebra) and Mr Kokonis (Calculus).


“Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you … You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares” Downtown. Cool.


When I was a kid, my dad developed the habit of bringing me beer mugs as he went on business trips. (That didn’t seem the least bit odd, at the time.) Eventually, I picked up the habit of buying beer mugs on trips of my own. At its peak, my collection numbered over 100. I displayed many of them in bookcases. I washed them once or twice a year. 

Decades ago, decades after the habit started, I got rid of most of them. I kept a few mostly for their beauty and potential value (doubtful). I know where a couple of these originated. Here are a few.

Only a few are authentic Kruge mit Deckeln aus Deutschland
Only a few are authentic Kruge mit Deckeln aus Deutschland
Only a few are authentic Kruge mit Deckeln aus Deutschland
Only a few are authentic Kruge mit Deckeln aus Deutschland
Only a few are authentic Kruge mit Deckeln aus Deutschland
Only a few are authentic Kruge mit Deckeln aus Deutschland
Only a few are authentic Kruge mit Deckeln aus Deutschland

The Night Eisenhower Died

General Dwight David Eisenhower died the morning of March 28, 1969 in Washington, DC. I was soon to be 14 years old. The night before he died, something extraordinary happened, something I’m remembering 51 years later.


I doubt that at the time of his death, I appreciated how respected and beloved Eisenhower was. It would be decades before I knew of his vision for the Interstate Highway system (mixed blessing / blunt instrument that it was). Even longer before I heard his warnings against the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (why is that 3rd leg always forgotten?). That warning is more relevant today.


But none of this mattered to me at the time. What mattered was something unprecedented, something you can’t imagine in this age of 24 hour media choices. In those days, TV signed off, went off the air, each night, posting a bizarre image and blaring an awful tone to wake anyone tired enough — or drunk enough — to fall asleep with the tv on. Static ruled the night.


But not this night. For the first time, not just in my life but ever, TV stayed on to be ready to tell the nation whenever Eisenhower died. I don’t remember how I knew this was going to happen. I was a child of television (and CocaCola) and my biological parents indulged me in many ways, including letting me stay up this night.


To fill the hours, my DC-area station broadcast movie after movie after movie — did I stay up all night? There was Gypsy and Auntie Mame, both masterpieces with Rosalind Russell. Was this the first time I saw Goodbye Charlie or Some Like It Hot (Tony Curtis in both)? Or John Goldfarb, Please Come Home or What A Way to Go (Shirley McClaine and Dick Van Dyke — “Hop. Hop. Hop to Hoppers.”) Some of these must have been on other afternoons, after Dark Shadows, no doubt. (I hear the theme to the Early Show as I write this.) They couldn’t all have been on that night. (I’m sure about Auntie Mame.)


But, Grandpa, why this random synaptic dump now? Well, we may run out of TP and ammo, but we never could have imagined running out of media. It’s everywhere, so much so, one can binge and binge and binge while they crank out more. Perhaps you remember the Writers’ Strike? (And Dr Horrible?) While everyone everywhere holds their breath, the Industry does, too. How long before there is figuratively “nothing to watch”?


So, while you scan online for hand sanitizer, I’m stockpiling beloved films. It’s a life-long list. Perhaps, I’ll save On The Beach for last.