Stories from a Life I Didn't Plan

Month: October 2014

Technology on Tap

Technology on Tap

Having technology on tap can make life very much convenient. They say when it rains it pours and in recent months I have found it to be true, especially in the case of various kinds of technology that have become quotidian necessities. But my non-relationship with technology needs a little bit of background. Over the summer, I moved from a quiet cottage to an apartment in a remodeled Victorian on a well-traveled street in the third largest city in California in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Soon after moving, the screen on my trusty laptop went a pixelly green and then black. Absolutely nothing. Although I am not a hardware savvy, I could tell the screen was at the end of its life of useful function. So, I put it away and just pretended it did not exist for a couple of days. After letting it rest, I again tried to boot it up and got the same blank response from the display. When I had done this a couple of times, I slowly awoke to the reality that this computer needed some serious attention. However, as I was still in the throes of moving, I did not have the time or energy for it at that moment.

Busily settling into my new-old home, I was intent on finding just the right spot for each thing, and in many cases the right spot was the Salvation Army donation center just a couple of blocks away. However, in the process of moving furniture around late one evening, I ended up with my well-used and fairly elderly tablet falling about four feet and landing with a resounding boom from the impact of its metal cover against the historic hardwood floor. At first, it went all red and white stripes and black screen that were sometimes scrolling and sometimes static. In one moment of thoughtlessness, I was not just down one laptop, but one laptop and one tablet!

The good news is that I was busy unpacking, cleaning, and settling in. As a matter of fact, I was so occupied with pressing household tasks that I practically quit eating. While it was a pleasant surprise to accidentally lose weight, that is a subject for another day.

For a few days or maybe a couple of weeks, I didn’t miss my ailing technology much at all. But, as I settled into my new-old home, I found that not only were my laptop and tablet kaput, but my cell phone received an inconsistent and weak signal and my little television did not receive even one local station!

By now, I felt like things were getting out of hand! With life readying to move into high gear, I decided to take my laptop into a nearby repair center to ask what it would involve to repair or replace. After a big move, my budget for replacement was non-existent, so I hoped for a simple, economical repair. The tech at the service center confirmed the display that was in fact faulty, not the hard drive or motherboard or anything related to information processing. However, it would still cost $500 to replace what I call the screen. I suppose the screen is pretty important since the display of data on the computer is indispensable. Well, I already knew I could buy a new tablet for $500, so I simply had to decide which option would work best for me.

In the meantime, with desperation for technology and the ready connection it brings to people far away starting to set in, I decided to look into tablet repairs. Since the aging tablet was no longer under warranty, I learned the cost of the repair would be as much as a new tablet. Armed with the knowledge that the tablet was not worth fixing, I conveniently started gently and strategically banging it around trying to get something inside it to reconnect and give me a decent display. Finally, one of my frustrated taps against a solid surface resulted in a grainy, green pixel display. I was over the moon. Finally, I could reconnect with the 21st Century world!  My tablet green pixel display tablet went with me everywhere and before I knew it, I had knocked it off of a counter and it had landed glass face down on the stone tile floor. With apprehension, I picked up the tablet and held my breath as I turned it over to look at the display. Not only was the picture still discernible, but it was the clearest display I had seen in months!

The good news is that tablets provide much of the functionality of laptop computers, so there was a lot I was able to accomplish with my trusty old tablet. Life went on and I developed a new normal as I limped along with the combined efforts of my resurrected tablet, an old, fossilized laptop, and a hare-brained mini notebook. Each one provided a slightly nuanced function in my newly emerging technological world. Somehow, it worked. It was neither efficient nor enjoyable, but it worked and life moved along–tediously, but at least we were moving along.Technology on Tap

After more than two months of making this tedious ensemble of technological wonders work, I found a shop, Friendly Computing, in Redding where I could have my laptop repaired for less than half of what it was going to cost in the third largest city in California. Although I had to leave it there and return to life as I know it in the city, over the weekend I was reunited with my laptop and its beautifully crystalline display.

Suddenly, life is quite a bit less tedious and infinitely more clear! Now that the majority of my productive technology is back in working order, perhaps I will find the desire and creativity to solve the issue with my lack of television stations or maybe I will just give the television a good tap!

Decking the Halls in October

imageThat’s right! I’m decking the halls in October. My Christmas tree is decorated and the house is mostly decked with holiday ornamentation. A friend came over last weekend and we decided some Christmas cheer would really cheer us through this autumn. We put on some Christmas music and dug through storage totes looking for just the right things to brighten things up.

Some of you may be shaking your heads and saying it is too early. And, your anti-materialist sentiment might equate my premature decking of the tree with overspending and an overemphasis on material goods. However, those of you who know me will remember rightly that I am not all about material things.

The simple reality is that this time of the year gets really busy. I turn around once and it is Halloween. I turn around again and it is Thanksgiving. I turn around yet again and it is New Year’s Day. Christmas is a mere memory and I have missed it.

On top of my exuberance for all things Christmas, I find that life experiences have also shaped why I feel the need to have my Christmas Tree decorated already. For a number of years I lived in Ecuador, where neither Halloween nor Thanksgiving is celebrated. So, everyone, not just stores trying to boost lagging sales, puts up Christmas décor with soaring Holiday cheer and expectation.

In that tradition, my premature Christmas tree is lighting the way to a brighter and more promising winter.

Hands Free

What’s the Big Deal About Hands?

Who knew that hands free walking would become a hill to fight on.

I suppose when we all begin our chosen profession or vocation we anticipate an idealized version of our work. And if we do anticipate challenges, we know that we are prepared, passionate, and motivated enough to make a difference or to change the course of history by sheer will and determination.

However, as time marches on and the banality of fighting the good fight sets in, we are pestered by all manner of irritations, limitations, and prohibitions imposed by the powers that be, and we realize our efforts have little impact on the status quo. In the case of public schools, an archaic system that divides children into chronological age groups in order to prepare them for work in an industrialized society, shockingly little has changed over time.

In my conversations with a friend who teaches even younger children than I do, I have decided we are outliers. Our greatest frustrations come not from the little people in our classrooms, but by the shocking focus of big people on how classes of students walk across campus or other topics minimally related to student learning or well-being. On both of our campuses, even the youngest students are taught to march silently around the school with hands clasped behind their backs. Incredibly, these are not isolated incidents. Parents have advocated for and against this practice in various locations.

During a recent discussion about student walking without their hands free, I learned that at a school where the practice was enforced, a young student walking with hands behind the back had fallen, lost some teeth, and been badly hurt. In light of events, the parents threatened litigation and the school rethought its hand behind the back policy.

When my teacher friend, who is a trained dancer, explained how human arms are used for balance in dance, I quickly realized I was doing my young students a grave disservice. So, I headed back to school and talked to my students about how we were going to continue to walk safely, quietly, and without bothering anyone around us. We were going to walk hands free to catch us if we stumble.  Simply put, I wanted them to have their arms free to swing and to catch them in the event of a fall.

Freedom Walking Hands Free

One of the first times we made the jaunt across campus with this newfound freedom, hands free, I noticed one of my students moving freely, in a dancelike swagger. Such a little thing, but that option restored a modicum of individuality and freedom with noticeable results.

On any given day, you may now find my students and me flying across campus like airplanes or finding other interesting, yet safe means of moving from point a to point b. It has leant a lighthearted tenor to our cross campus movement that was absent. In an era when teachers compete with high tech graphics and audio, I would much rather my students fly across campus with energy and excitement than to form a silent chain gang drudging from one dull task to another.

Not everyone shares my appreciation of freely swinging appendages. At my friend’s school, a virtual firestorm has resulted from her decision to allow her students to move across campus hands free. The perception is that without hands firmly tucked behind the back, there is no order or safety. One day with hands raised in appreciation of birds flying toward them, my friend’s little students gleefully celebrated the act of flight and remembered an earlier discussion in class about birds. The unfortunate timing of a colleague walking a class across campus at that exact moment ensured that my friend was flown at by a staff member decrying the children’s raised hands instead of celebrating a real world experience practically conjured from a discussion that had taken place inside the four walls of the classroom.

You are asking yourself rightly why this would be worth blogging about. I agree wholeheartedly. This is a non-issue. Real issues would be how to advocate for much needed services and intervention to support these same students who are forced to walk around campus with their hands behind their backs or how we can encourage them to be excited about school, to be happy and successful, and to learn to dream about more than simply having their hands free to walk as they please.

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