jumpingfish
 Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Thank You For Your Time

Simple questions he asked me, some of them lobbed softballs. At many I swung and missed, and at others I frankly couldn't swing in the first place.

What a waste of time! he must have thought. There's no need to take this conversation any further after those answers, he must have concluded.

So do you have any questions for me? he asked after we finished. It had only been 15 minutes or so since we started. Or anything else you want to tell me?

I hummed and hawed a bit. But frankly it would have been better if I had just said, No.

I don't expect to hear from him again, except perhaps to say Thank you for your time, but we have decided to pursue other candidates for this position.


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 Monday, August 28, 2006

I Thought I Saw A Leaf

In the silver light of early evening, a golden leaf fluttered to the ground from the canopy above. I caught its movement out of the corner of my eye, and I turned my head to look. It was no leaf, but a Mockingbird. I looked at it, and it looked back at me as it pecked around in the damp, just-watered ground about the base of a Monterey Oak.

I had some purpose in telling you this when I filed these words away, but now that early evening has gone and night has come, now that the silver light has yielded to blackness, I cannot for the life of me remember what my point was.

So let's just leave it like this: I thought I saw a yellow leaf but it was a bird. And that is all.


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 Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tea Talking

It's 2:30am, and those tall glasses of iced tea are talking.

The light on my desk illuminates the dust on the far corner of my desk. The computer fan spins quietly. The monitor glows in my face, but my fingers will not mouse anymore.

I think the tea just stopped talking.


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 Saturday, August 26, 2006

Time to Sell Myself

I sit in the study with my hands in my lap, eyelids drooping, looking about the room.

On the floor: disassembled hulks of hard drives from years past. It's time to let those go. On the lower shelf: photo albums arrayed chronologically. There's work to do there, and what about all the digital photographs we have? On the five shelves above: books -- real analysis, mathematical physics, algorithms, data structures, Forth, Java, TeX, statics, dynamics, structures, celestial mechanics.

The phone should be ringing any moment now -- a man asking questions about my background. I wish I could just talk about the books with him. I suspect that isn't what he'll be looking for.

Time to banish the droopiness. Time to turn my back on those shelves. Time to sell myself.


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 Friday, August 25, 2006

More than Halfway Home

A black crow walked the berm along the highway and pecked at something on the ground, barely lifting its head as our car raced by.

A long-lost cassette tape played on the stereo: U2, The Zombies. Trudy smiled from ear to ear, her head nodding to the music.

The setting sun threw its final rays over the fields. The tops of the trees glowed in a golden-reddish light. The clouds in the western sky were pink against an evening blue.

We were a little more than halfway home.

---
driving home to Austin from a weekend in Dickinson, Texas


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 Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Message from Michigan

From Michigan I heard these words on our answering machine:

A little wind has come up over the lake,
And the red sun is setting behind the trees,
And I think it's going to storm.

What kind of messages do you get on your phone?


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 Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Underground Mistakes

During those days on the hill under the green canopy of the Michigan woods, I stood in the dappled light and worked on my assigned task -- or one part of it, anyway. Back and forth I would walk, to get a shovel, to put a shovel away, to get a drill bit, to put a drill bit away, to cut a piece of lumber and then to cut the same piece again. I was hardly an model of efficiency.

And with all that walking across the loose sun-dried sand, and with all that digging, and with all the pounding I did for days with shockingly little to show for my work, I finally finished the job in time to return to Texas.

Thankfully, no one will see all the mistakes I made: the post holes that were too narrow, the angled cuts of wood that didn't fit, the odd set of screws and nails that I used to hold the thing together. Except for one spot where a flaw surfaces above the sand, those mistakes are hidden underground.

Davy you have such soft hands, my grandmother said to me in her later years.

It's true. Years at the keyboard are not conducive to the kind of hands a real man might want. And soft hands and physical labor don't mix well. So there I was, a soft-handed nearly-50 year old man, learning lessons one might otherwise hope come in one's youth. But I had soft hands then, too, you see.

Still, those mistakes are now underground. So let's just keep them secret between you and me and whoever it is that digs up my work 30 years from now.

Who knows where we'll be when that day arrives.

---
What I did on my summer vacation.
Michigan, USA


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 Monday, August 7, 2006

Old Is New

While the boys were down at the corner store, I put an album on the turntable. (Funny thing about having a lot of time on your hands: playing albums on the turntable seems so doable again.)

So I put on an album and turned the volume way up so I could hear it in the kitchen as I ate a plum. And the volume was loud enough that I didn't hear the front door open and close when the boys came home.

And as I came back into the living room, as I walked around the corner, I saw Stuart standing there in front of the turntable, mesmerized by the vinyl turning around and around. I walked up and stood next to him.

I'm just watching it, he said. Amazing how those things work.


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 Sunday, August 6, 2006

While Waiting for Potatoes

As I waited for my potatoes and bacon to arrive, nursing my cup of coffee between my hands, I scanned the room around me.

There was a woman with her mother and one-year-old-ish twins. There was a skinny girl with sparkling sandals devouring a basket of chips and a bowl of queso as she talked to a skinny guy who laughed and smiled and had a dimple in his chin. There was a father and mother with nearly teenage daughters. There were two women talking animatedly in the corner. The kitchen door swung back and forth: lunch for another table, a cart to bus the tables with, coffee refills. A woman came in thru the side door.

The woman came in the side door, and that caught my attention. The protocol in this place is that you come in the main door and wait to be seated, but this woman had come in the side and was quite plainly scoping out a place to sit. There was a table near the corner, and when she noticed it she turned to wave in two people behind her.

A second woman pushing a wheelchair poked her head thru the door and looked at the table. But there wasn't much room for a wheelchair there. No matter, the man sitting in the wheel chair had a different plan. He had spotted a booth in the middle of that busy place, and he was pointing to it.

He rose slowly and with great effort. As the women folded the wheelchair, he proceeded to walk to the booth, his arms swinging as if he were going to loose his balance on every step, his legs lifting his limp-hanging feet as if he were learning to walk for the first time, his torso leaning to the left and then to the right, his stiff neck craned at an angle as he moved.

He walked down the aisle with his wheelchair a half-room away. He weaved between booths and tables and sat down in his chosen spot to eat. And he got there on his own.

My worries pale in comparison to what his must be. My problems are trifles next to his. My fears are nothing.


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 Thursday, August 3, 2006

Reduction In Force

I brewed my last pot of decaf coffee down the hall this morning. I'd like to say that it tasted particularly good, but it didn't really. I guess that's ok, because I might otherwise be tempted to start drinking the real stuff again. You see, I'm going to have some time for coffee drinking, now.

I typed those words at my keyboard and thanked everyone for the companionship, laughter and lessons that were part of the last three years. Then I hit the Send button, quit my email client, quit my browser, logged out of the computer, turned in my badge, and walked out the doors at work for the last time.

---
big Sun Microsystems layoffs
Austin, TX USA


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