Tag Archives: learning curve

Educating Darby

In her previous home, Darby led the good life. She had other dogs her size to play with and got to go running on the beach every day. She also, apparently, didn’t have to do much of anything she didn’t like. Take grooming, for starters. “Oh, no. That pulls my hair. Hurts. Don’t do don’t do don’t do!” Head jerking this way and that to keep me from getting anywhere near her face with a TOWEL! Comb? Scissors? Forget it.

Darby at her shaggiest

Darby at her shaggiest

Same with her feet. Trim toenails? NNOOOoooooooooooooooo! Thankfully, I’m persistent. To the point of stubborn. If she wants to pull her foot away, I’ll just grab it again. It came down to me just holding her foot until she relaxed, then bringing the clippers closer, and waiting her out again until the new panic attack subsided. Over and over and over.

A few times I had to just practically sit on her to pin her long enough to get one foot “done,” as in toenails trimmed, mats clipped out from between toes, etc. When I was successful, she would sometimes go through a sea change and let me comb that foot a few days later without all the histrionics. Oh, she can be a drama queen.

I was told I needed to “get tough with her,” but I figured that would just make matters worse. I decided good old quiet, calm, dogged, pig-headed persistence was the answer.

Did I mention that Darby is a sensitive flower? She cowers at a harsh tone of voice, drops to her belly in a boneless, seventy-five-pound heap of unhappy if she gets confused about what I’m trying to get her to do. Not optimal when trying to teach “Stand,” so I could comb her belly.

I never let her decide when it was time to quit, but when I did stop “torturing” her (usually because my back was killing me from leaning over), I gave her lots of praise and special treats, then put her in her crate with a few more special treats and gave her time to calm down.

She’s been here over a year, now, and things have changed. She still doesn’t love having me comb her face and trim her nails, but she tolerates those things better all the time. The shorter hair-cut helped keep her hair from matting as quickly. Fewer mats mean less hair-pulling and pain. She’s about due for another trip to the groomer, by the way.

Now it’s time for “big dog” training. Learning to heel and stay, sit without me having to push her butt to the floor, answering reliably to her name, walking on leash like a respectable individual. Yeah, this is going to take a while.

It won’t be the kind of good life she had before, but it will be a good life with me.

Everything has a Price

– Or – Nothing is Ever as Easy as it Looks

I recently discovered – re-discovered, really – that a glass of wine has a pleasantly relaxing effect on painful muscles and joints. But…more than one glass relaxes those muscles a little too much, making it more likely that I’ll fall down and undo all the good of the first glass. A fine line, indeed. And then there are the calories. Why is it, I wonder, that you have to burn 3500 calories to lose one pound, but only have to eat 20 or so calories to gain ten pounds? Seems largely unfair. Hugely unfair. Bloated with unfairness. Oh, well.

I’ve been walking regularly – 2.25 to 2.5 miles 4 or 5 times a week – to get back in shape, help manage my back pain, and just co-incidentally, take some of the edge off Junior’s boundless energy. Somehow, this is also making me not lose weight. Oh, I know, I’m gaining muscle, but that doesn’t actually show on the scale. It just looks like my weight has not budged in three months. Ugh. Why give up Klondike Bars when there’s no return on it?

I had thought it would be relatively easy and painless to take of some extra pounds once I started walking regularly. After all, it happened once before. I had a part-time job in a lab at the local Vet School. The lab was located on the second floor off a building about three quarters of a mile from the parking lot I was allowed to park in. I walked to the building and up a flight of stairs to get to work, and then back down the stairs to the parking lot when I got off. Ten pounds just flew away. Of course, I was carrying a small back pack at the time with about 3 or 4 extra pounds in it, and was on the ragged edge of menopause at the time. I have no idea if the menopause part had an effect, but I’m about to decide I need to start carrying that back pack again. That’ll be fun when it’s 90 degrees at 7 a.m.

But then, of course, the job ended and my dad died and I ate all those Oreos. And the ten pounds came back. That part was certainly easy enough.

Then there’s this whole computer thing. I seem to be naturally attracted to the hard way to do things. I could just save up and get a new laptop, but I decided instead to get a new memory card to try and speed up this old one. In theory this is supposed to work. In theory, it’s even supposed to be a simple operation.

In theory, this old laptop has enough memory, processing power, and everything else to run a lot more stuff than what I’ve got on here. Only it had been slowing down so much that I found myself duplicating what I had been doing when I first got it – when it had the hated Windows OS installed. I would open my Thunderbird mail program, check my emails, and then close Thunderbird. Then I would open Firefox – or I would launch Firefox and go pour my coffee while I waited for it to open. If I had my music program running when I wanted to look up something on the Internet, I had to remember to pause the song or just quit the program, because surfing the ‘net was not compatible with listening to tunes. Therefore the decision to upgrade the memory.

My laptop had 526 MB of RAM installed, but could be expanded to 2 GB. I figured one new memory card with 1 GB extra RAM would probably be plenty. When it arrived in the mail, my brother offered to install it for me while I was at work, if I could find a set of instructions for him. That part was not a problem. There’s a whole community of Thinkpad users on-line, with links to PDFs of the user’s manuals. So I came home from work to a laptop with over a gig and a half of RAM – that wouldn’t boot up. It would hang up in black screen, or it would hang up at the IBM screen, or it would get all the way to the Ubuntu opening screen before it would hang up. Aahhhrrrrggggg!

I went on-line and signed up for the Thinkpad users forums and posted my question. A moderator came back with a suggestion that I take out the new card, take out the original memory card, and install that one in the “auxiliary” slot. If it still didn’t boot, that would mean the memory slot was bad, and if it did, then the new card was probably defective. I (of course) got the instructions mixed up, because (of course) I had to turn off the computer to work on it. I put the new memory card in the “standard” slot, left out the old card, and started the computer. It worked like a charm. Then I decided to experiment and put the other card in the auxiliary slot. That worked, too. I reported all this on the forum, and the moderator suggested that I should run a memory test on that new card, all the same. Wha?? I guess it seemed kind of fishy to him that it worked that way. So more fumbling around on my part trying to figure out exactly what these people are even talking about, so I could make this test thingy work. Changing parts is not a problem for me. After all, I was a jet aircraft mechanic for four years. But there was a reason I was taking off panels and changing tires and fuel tanks, and not working on the avionics equipment.

Anyway, long story short. I’ve got both those memory cards installed. My laptop works a treat. It’s way faster than it was, and it can multi-task. I can listen to music while I surf the web and I can keep my e-mail open all at the same time. Woo-hoo! I’m such a geek. Sometimes the end result is worth the pain-in-the-ass price.

A Monumental, Colossal Error in Judgment

Yes, it’s probably redundant to use monumental and colossal together, which just shows how much emphasis I want to place on the sheer enormity of the stupid I walked into. I took a class last spring semester, and I enjoyed it. It was a mediation class, part of the overall legal assistant education program at the junior college where I work as a testing center administrator (part-time). I somehow got it into my head that maybe I should just go ahead and take the rest of the required courses to become a legal assistant and basically start a new career. I didn’t actually need the math class I took during the first summer session for the program, but I wanted to take it to prove something to myself, and I did.

Then I took an introductory psychology course, which is a requirement, and I really enjoyed that class, too. Plus I was loving the grades I was making — A in Mediation, B in Math Analysis, and A in Psych. I was feeling invincible. Then fall semester started, and I was signed up for Intro to Law, Intro to the Court System, and Family Law, all on line classes. Oh, my stars and garters. I am not loving these classes. In fact, I already dropped two of them. I have to take my first exam for Intro to Law tomorrow morning, and even though I have a pretty good grasp of the material, I really should be doing a better job of studying than I am by sitting here making up stuff to put on my blog.

What brought it even more home to me that I was trying to cram a square peg (me) into a round hole (anything but science) was when I went to visit my friend who works for the department I got my Bachelor’s Degree from at the local university. She also teaches a biology class at the junior college where I work — where I once worked as a part-time biology instructor myself. The reason I left had a lot to do with lack of preparation on my part, and some to do with issues involved with caring for my ninety-something year-old father. All that aside, I’ve never really lost the desire to teach again, and I’m thinking of asking the department head if I might be able to have another shot at it. Because it’s obvious I have no future in the legal profession.

Why I never want the learning curve to go flat

I love learning new things, and sometimes re-learning old ones. I’d like nothing better than to go back to school full time and take a bunch of math classes, and not let math kick me in the butt this time. I’d take more chemistry, and biochem, and organic chem, and extraterrestrial chem. And I’d take every art history and art appreciation course I could find; and anthropology and philosophy and physics. And languages. I’d get a PhD or three. Just for fun.

And I want to read almost every book that comes out, especially if it’s about science. I know I’ll never get through even half of them, but I want to give it a shot. I never want to stop putting new knowledge into my brain. And I never want to get complacent about what I already know. And so I’ll never turn into my dad.

I know a lot of people who think I’m nuts for wanting to go back to school — for even considering it. That doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me that a lot of people don’t like to read — who think they had to do too much reading when they were in school and they’re done with that. That’s a completely legitimate reason not to do something. That’s how I feel about ironing — that I did enough ironing as a kid in school ironing my uniform blouses, and later in the Air Force ironing everything that wasn’t tied down. Unfortunately, I have to iron some of the shirts I wear to work now because I no longer have a job where I can wear jeans and tee-shirts, darn it. I am working on finding shirts that don’t require as much ironing as some that I have. I would gladly stop completely, so I can relate to anyone who doesn’t want to do something that they find unpleasant.

But I watched my dad slowly lose his mind, and I don’t want that to happen to me. He wanted to live to be 100, and he got pretty damn close. But he thought he could do it just sitting on the couch watching re-runs of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” and claiming he was “too old” for other activities or learning new things.

I will not will not will not let that happen to me. And so I’ve already started back to school — part-time — and I’ve already taken one math class. In summer school. One whole semester in five weeks. I made a “B” dammit! I’ve never made that high a grade in math in my life, and I’m pretty frakking proud of it. And last night at work when a student asked me for some help with one of her algebra problems, I was able to show her a function she could use on her graphing calculator that she didn’t know about. Two months ago I could use a graphing calculator to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and waste everything else it is capable of. Now I know a few more of those uses. But there are a lot more I have yet to discover.

And I’m just like that calculator.

After procrastinating…

…for a few weeks, I got all the technical issues finished to make the blog move permanent. Crazybasenji.com is here to stay, and you don’t have to use the .wordpress part any more. I’ve been dragging my feet largely because I’m not as confident about all this tech stuff as I sometimes act. And I tend to decide to do something before I’m even sure I’m capable of following any directions that are supposed to help me. It usually surprises me to find that enough of it translates into something I can follow, that it makes me look like I know what I’m doing. If I keep stumbling around long enough, maybe someday I will.

Oh, no! Not another learning experience!

A former co-worker had a bumper sticker that said,”Oh, no. Not another learning experience.” I feel just like that today, with all my sore muscles, after planning and executing the Responsible Dog Ownership Day event for the local kennel club I belong to. I learned a few things.

  • It’s never too soon to start planning an event, but it’s possible to start planning too late.
  • The volunteer helpers you start with may not be the same ones you finish with.
  • If you’re in charge, it may mean you’ll be doing everything.
  • People who don’t want the job usually keep their mouths shut about how well you’re doing — or not.
  • You will always get way more suggestions for things to do than volunteers to help make it all happen.
  • No one will complain that it was over too soon.

I have never thought of myself as a “people person” or a “joiner” or even a little bit outgoing, so taking on a job like this was a bit like volunteering to go roll around in a fire ant mound. One of those “What the HELL was I thinking!?” moments. It has always been my habit, when someone gets upset about something I’ve done, to think that they are mad at me, they blame me, they don’t like me. Me, me, me. But we all learn with age, sometimes even when we try real hard not to, and I’ve discovered that it’s not always about me. Who’d’ve thunk it?

I don’t mean to give the impression that the event was a failure, or a disaster, or that everyone was mad at me at the end. This is more about the nightmares I was having for the weeks leading up to it than anything that happened on that day. I always imagine the worst. I was expecting nit-picking and criticism every step of the way. I expected to come under fire for a long list of things I “should” have done, but wasn’t able to do because I realized it would be entirely up to me to make it happen, and I just didn’t have the time.

But the long and the short of it is that I will probably volunteer to plan the RDO Day again next year, because I learned a lot, and I had fun. Only this time, I plan to start planning next week.

As if Social Media wasn't confusing enough…

…have you seen all the social media management tools out there? Sheesh. If you have more than one social media account, you can use one of these “buckets” to keep them all on the same page — or screen, if you prefer that term. These are just the ones I’ve used.

  1. TweetDeck — I used this one before I ditched my Windows and went Linux. You have to download and install it on your computer. It also requires Flash, which you also have to download and install, and I haven’t figured out how to do that on my version of Linux yet, or if I even want to. So, for me, TweetDeck is out. But it was handy, while I had it, to be able to see my Twitter and FaceBook pages side by side and send one update to both at the same time.
  2. HootSuite — This one is all online. You just sign in to your dashboard like you do with your FB page, or your blog, or Twitter. Supposedly you can have a bunch of “streams” going at once. I have yet to figure out how to get FB and Twitter open in the same tab. At present I can see one or the other, and I can do that in Firefox. HootSuite lets me post one update to FB and Twitter at the same time, like TweetDeck did, and it has its own URL shortener, and you can also schedule an update to be posted at another time. I tried it yesterday and the update didn’t show up, so I don’t know what I did wrong. That’s what I get for not reading the “how-to” before I try something new. My standard operating procedure doesn’t always work, but hey, sometimes it saves me a lot of time reading instructions when it’s just as easy to figure out how something works by actually using it.
  3. Gwibber — This is my Linux-specific version of TweetDeck. I think it’s kind of new. It seems to have “issues.” Some days it works, other days it won’t even open. No rhyme or reason, it just won’t awaken. When I can get it to open and work properly, it shows my Twitter and FB streams merged into one timeline, which I kind of like. It’s kind of like mixing your peas into your gravy and mashed potatoes. You can still clearly see the peas, but the other stuff makes them stick on the fork better. But some people object to that much proximity among things on their dinner plates, and so may not like what Gwibber does. But you can choose to just see one stream at a time on Gwibber. It’s the “home” feature that blends them.

There are others. I don’t even know what their names are. And there are apps for various smart phones, iPad, netbooks, and who knows what all else. Of course, I only use Twitter and FaceBook, but with these things you can add your WordPress blog, Flikr, MySpace, Tumblr, Linkedin, and a whole slew of other social sharing networks. Whatever floats your boat.

I often feel like I’m being left in the techno dust by the younger generations. I know that using all this stuff to its maximum potential is the way of the future way-of-the-future wayofthefuture (obscure movie reference), and I really wish I could get a better grasp on it. It appeals to my creative nature. Even though I always maintain that I really still see my computer as a typewriter on steroids, it’s way more than just a writing tool. It’s a whole Alexandrian library, a Post Office, and a news desk (and at times a massive time waster). I would much rather have all these options and be able to use only a fraction of them at some minimal level, than not have them at all, and miss out on some of the things I’ve discovered in the past several years.

Alien Planet

It didn’t look that different from my previous home. I could breathe the air. The sky was blue, the grass green (except where it was starting to turn a dry, crispy brown), the temperature hot. I could find my way around okay. Places I visited looked much the same. And like it or not, I was here to stay. Might as well start moving in the furniture.

I thought I would start with my music. It was no trouble to download all the albums into the shiny new audio player. None of the titles looked mangled — “Let It Be” downloaded as “Let It Be,” etc. Excellent. I wasn’t sure whether I got the volume controls set up correctly, but figured all I had to do was press “Play” and find out if any sound came out. Woops. Got a pop-up. “You do not have a decoder installed to handle this file. You might need to install the necessary plugins.” Gah. Like suddenly finding myself on the wrong street where I don’t understand much of the language. How the hell do I find out where to get the decoder and the necessary plugins???? (And could it be a decoder ring? Because that would be very cool.)

Okay, this is not the opening of a science fiction story. But it could be. Here’s what happened. I’ve been a non-fan of Windows since Windows was invented. I’ve used it plenty, always on computers “at work” that were hooked to great big servers and had a lot of RAM and everything else necessary to hurl that top-heavy operating system around with a fair amount of speed. At home I had Commodore computers, then Amiga, then Mac. They all had their own issues, but they didn’t need to have frakking Windows installed for me to do what I wanted to do on a computer. Then I got this laptop. I got it used, and it had Windows XP Pro installed on it already. I was planning to take an online course that required use of a Windows computer. Ugh. My frustration reached new heights. Opening a program required the patience of a saint — of which I am not one. It got to the point where I would click to launch Firefox, and then go fix my coffee, or start a load of laundry — and then maybe my browser would be open when I came back.

After about a year and a half of this nonsense, I was about to crack under the strain. I ended up not taking the course, and just kept using this laptop because it was a little newer and a bit faster than my old iBook laptop, but not that much. It seemed like I spent half my time at my computer waiting for it to decide to do something. Going back to using the iBook wouldn’t solve anything, because it is too old to update to the newer Mac OS. Then I remembered Linux.

My second ex-husband was a virtual bigamist the whole time I was with him. His primary relationship was with his computer. But I probably learned more about computers just living in the same air-space as him than I would have taking classes from anyone else. Of course I didn’t learn it in any sort of logical sequence. But Linux. He talked about Linux. An operating system (was my understanding, at any rate) that didn’t belong to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs and would never put money in the pocket of either. I could live with that.

I did some reading on line about Linux, and found out that a lot of applications can be hung on the Linux “kernel” that make it easier to use for the less technically inclined. Great, I thought. Sign me up. I asked a local web design guru, Cody Marx Bailey, for some recommendations, and he said, “first, back up all your files.” And he meant somewhere off my computer. I already have a lot of stuff backed up on flash drives, but I got a two GB storage locker “in the cloud” at a site called Dropbox. Two GB is free, so I figured that should be enough for most of my stuff, especially if I zipped some of the folders. My music folder was another matter. All the music files were piled together with iTunes files and iPod files and whatnot, and rather than try to separate them, I just loaded the whole mess onto another flash drive. It was over seven gigabytes. It would have overloaded my Dropbox like Mr. Creosote.

Long story short, Cody also recommended I look at the Ubuntu distribution of Linux, and after a bit of mucking about, I downloaded a “low over-head” version called Xubuntu and burned it onto a CD. To make sure it was going to work properly, I ran it from the CD the first time and had a look at the desktop and some of the apps that came with it. I had just recently started using Thunderbird to handle all my email accounts, so I was happy to see that Thunderbird was part of the package. And it’s fast. Think Porsche 911 vs. ’64 Volkswagen bus.

However. Apparently the Exaile music player doesn’t line up with iTunes without some kind of additional gadget, which I don’t have or know where to find at the moment. But. I can put one of my music CDs in the drive and it will play just fine.

I am not worried. I like my new home. I may forget in what box I packed my favorite knick-knacks, but soon I’ll have them all around me once again. And Windows can bite me.

Site updates

Nothing stays the same. Especially in the cyberverse. Not only does WordPress update the blogging platform, but authors of the various themes make improvements changes that they publish to the WP site, which sends out little nags to those bloggers using those themes. So I got a couple of updates to this theme. Now all the navigation is in one place, on the sidebar. Click on a tab and a dropdown menu opens, where you can click on the page title, tag, or category or whatever, to take you where you want to go. Text links now show up as orange, making them easier to see (unless you’re colorblind — then I don’t know what to tell you).

There is a new tab on the top navigation bar to link back to the home page. I had to add this because whatever functionality used to tie my logo to the home page went away. You can’t just click on the picture of the dog to go back to the home page. Maybe that will be fixed in the next update. I know it’s possible to add some code to a file to make it work in spite of the update, but these things are a lot more complex than the files I learned to work with way back at the turn of the century when I was learning HTML. I’m such a dinosaur.

Word Camp, and the whole blogging adventure

I signed up to go to this thing as soon as I heard about it. It’s going to be in Houston (not that far to drive even in an un-air-conditioned car), at the Houston Museum of Natural History (one of my favorite places on the planet), I could afford the registration fee (a considerable consideration), and I figured I could learn something from it (if I record absolutely everything and listen to it over and over and over and over…). Well, you get the picture. Because I feel like a lot of what I’ll be listening to is going to be way over my head, in a language I don’t savvy, spoken by people less than half my age. WHAT WAS I THINKING??

WordCamp, in case you’re wondering what it is but aren’t curious enough to go to their site and check it out (the picture is a link, by the way), is a one-day workshop on August 7th, devoted to all things WordPress, which is the software supporting this blog. It is big time computer geekery. It’s like a whole other country. Or species. And I’m going into the middle of it. I have volunteered to help set up the breakfast and lunch so that I’ll be forced to interact with people. Light-years out of my comfort zone.

Well, okay, here’s the deal. I’m serious about my blog. I post a lot of nutty, fluffy, frivolous stuff on here, but I’m still learning and evolving as a writer, and as an artist, and planet maker, jewelry designer, basenji wrangler, and even maybe as a web designer. So I’m thinking that whatever it takes for me to up my game in any of these endeavors is worth a little effort. Even a huge effort in some cases, as may prove to be the case here. Time will tell.