Friday, April 6, 2018

On fixing a fan



Two years ago I tried to replace a broken ceiling fan.

I had a little trouble fitting the cable clamp, and figured I crimped the wires too much.

Sometimes the voltmeter showed something, sometimes it didn't. I feared a short, cut off the circuit breaker when I wasn't home, and pondered.


And pondered and pondered and pondered. I may be the world's greatest ponderer. (Pondering gets you nowhere, by the way....)

I once worked in Port Newark, on the docks at the water's edge, moving tons of scrap metal day after day after day. Some men had cranes. I had a shovel.

I worked as a longshoreman when men still mattered as much as machines. We had a saying.

"If it don't fit, don't force it, turn it over and try again."

That's carried me for well over four decades.


I have always focused on the black wire, the live one, the one with the power and the glory. The neutral one, not so much.

In the States, our power is AC--electrons go here, than scamper quickly back to there. While the black wire has, at its peak, 120 volts more than the neutral, its strength relies on a differential, not an absolute. After two fucking years, I took the abstract and put it in the real world.

If the black wire is live (as it was) and nothing is happening, maybe it's because the electrons have nowhere to go. (If you're a first year electrician's apprentence, no, I do not need to hear from you.)

Pretty much every circuit has a switch, and switches are ridiculously easy to grasp. But people make mistakes.

I had assumed that the problem I had was at the point I was focused on--where the wires fell through the ceiling, the point where I had crimped them together a tad too much two years ago.


I opened the switch box--and there it was--the neutral wire connected to, well, nothing but air.

So now the fan and light work again, but that's not the point. The sun will rise tomorrow, the wind will blow. I can live without a lamp and a fan.

The point is this--the neutral wire matters every bit as much as the one that could kill me. Power makes us all drunk.

The folks making all the noise, controlling the money, hogging the airwaves, well, yes, they can make changes.

But the rest of us, the neutral wires, deiced what flows and what doesn't.



Throw your shoe into the machine. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Back into September light

September shadows return tomorrow.

March lettuce, started in the fall

The grackles, my favorite bird, are back, strutting around like they own the place, giving me the yellow eye, tossing over sticks and leaves and clam shells, eating pretty much anything that moves.

A lone crocus flower opened up for business, ready for any late winter bee foolish enough to wander out on this chilly, windy day.

Crocus!

I found the lettuce pushing up on the cold frame window. I may leave the frames open now, answering the prayers of the rabbits readying their nests for bunnies.

A March garden dinner sounds like peasant fare--kale, Egyptian walking onion, rosemary, various lettuces from the garden, bread and potatoes from Acme.

The first peas are tucked in the earth now, a week early, despite the nor'easter threatening to hit in two days. I have plenty more to plant.



As you get older, you realize you have far more seeds than you do time. 


Daylight Saving Time, again....

An hour shorter makes for a longer week... 

"...[T]he shift to Daylight Saving Time (DST) results in a dramatic increase in cyberloafing behavior at the national level."
DT Wagner et al, J Appl Psychol. 2012 Sep;97(5):1068-76

A quarter of the world's population will be groggy tomorrow. A few people will die traumatically. Students' test skills will deteriorate. A few more people will die of heart attacks. The stock market may crash.

And yet we still do it.

Stonehenge time
You cannot save time.

You cannot add an hour of sunshine to your day.

You can, though, manipulate human conceits. If nothing else, Daylight Saving Time is an excellent way to demonstrate to children the folly and the real consequences of humans believing they control more than they control.

Tomorrow my 1st period lambs will trudge through before dawn through blackened banks of snow to get to school. Broad Street in Bloomfield will look like the zombie apocalypse. We'll tell them to keep their heads up (or at least wipe the drool of their desks before they leave), but we are bucking millions of years of evolution.

Photo by Eugene Ter-Avakyan, cc-2.0

Humans need sleep. Adolescents (still considered by most to be humans) need more than the 97 minutes my kids average on Sunday nights.

And why not? What better way to prep for college and career readiness in the global economy than making students take life-altering assessments while comatose? Have kids knock down a few Xanax pills, and chase it with gin and Adderall cocktails to make it really authentic.




Stonehenge photo by Resk, released to PD

Yep, a repeat--I ilke cycles....

Friday, March 9, 2018

Lenten prayer

Wheat in our classroom window a few years ago.

The miracle was not so much the resurrection, such as it was.
The miracle is that any of us are here at all.




Amen.




Thursday, March 8, 2018

Snow day!

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.


I love teaching, and even a bad day teaching beats a good day at work. I once played a doctor in real life, and "snow days" meant bringing an extra pair of underwear to the hospital.


I occasionally ask students what they would do with a million dollars--and they are not allowed to invest it. Really no point in making scads of money if you have no idea (beyond surviving) what to do with it.

Snow days are a good day to take inventory--teachers are occasionally blessed with free time. (I am not sure how many teachers get how blessed we are to be in this profession.) How we spend it tells us a bit of who we are and what we want. 

So I cataloged my snow days. Here's what I've done the past couple of days: 
  • I scrubbed the labels off about 50 bottles.
  • I bottled 5 gallons of beach plum melomel, each plum picked from a couple of backyard bushes.
  • I tended to my eggplant and pepper seedlings.
  • I shoveled some snow, something I enjoy.
  • I read a stupid mystery--I am always reading stupid mysteries.
  • I contemplated what I can do better in my classes, finished a set of plans, toyed with a lab. 
  • I planned my next melomel--thinking of dropping some vanilla beans in a clover honey mead. (I have 4 empty carboys and only one with a blooping airlock.)

  • I chatted outside with neighbors.
  • I visited some students.
  • I read Science magazine
  • I worked on a NYT crossword puzzle.
  • I chatted with my local liquor store guy (been going to him for 34 years now) and bought some beer.
  • I drank some beer.
  • I wrote a blog post (or two), and started two letters. I am not so good at finishing letters.
  • I resurrected my Twitter account, only to put it down again. 
  • I watched the snow fall.
  • I watched the snow melt.

Before I go to bed tonight:
  • I'll order a few more seeds.
  • I'll plant some lettuce.
  • I'll wash some dishes, do some laundry, take out some garbage.
  • I'll watch a hockey game with my adult son. I am truly blessed that he still wants to hang out with his Dad.
  • I'll dabble some more in school plans--I know I'm supposed to complain about this, but it gives me joy.
And I'll breathe and break down some organic compounds into CO2 and water, inch a little closer to my final breath, thump a few thousand more heart beats.

How we spend our snow days serves as an accounting of how we spend our lives.




It's a good life.
If you read nothing else today, at least read Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day."




On mending a fence

Near Higbee Beach
The earth breaks.
The rains come. The mud heals. The sun returns.
Then the earth breaks again.

For a few dozen cycles of the billions life has been around, you get to share the dance with others, ignorant of where the music comes from, but audible if you listen.
The fence post a few years ago.
The nor'easter blew over a stockade fence post I dug into the earth a quarter century ago. I got out my tool bucket,

A couple of my tools are from my grandfather. He was born in the 19th century, an ocean away. He ran away from home, ended up on the front for two weeks out of three for a several years "fighting" for the same folks who starved his people not so long ago. He lost all his teeth (a toothache bought you an extraction and a day off the front) and got shot in the back of the neck ("I'll be damned if I got shot in the front, I was always running.")

I do not use his tools because of his stories--I use them because they still work. But the stories make the tools feel warmer in my hands.

As I was digging out the dirt from around the post, an earthworm wiggled halfway out of its hole, looking a bit concerned that the earth had disappeared. (I do not communicate well with worms, but it was wiggling a bit, and seemed stressed). After a few minutes it scooted back into its hole.

Cabbagehead jelly seen on an evening paddle

Many have danced before you, mostly not human. We've only been dancing on this earth a short while--but it's no more earned than the air you just breathed in.

I forget this most days.
Today is as good a day as any to remind myself.




And maybe a better day than most--thinking of a few of my lambs today,







Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On a bad day, good news


Expo markers used on the floor to draw models of DNA replication do not come off easily.
Another minor disaster in a day of teaching.

Kids you love more than you know get sick.
And almost always get better.

And here's hoping and praying that one more does.

Amen.



She's going to be OK....