My New *#!@*%&*! Hobby

Just a few years ago Linux seemed to be a mystical concept that perhaps would be more appropriately positioned on the console of a large mainframe computer. Now, promoters of Linux have proclaimed that "the age of Linux for the desktop" is here.

My intention was to take all of the older (yet still operational, actually quite nice) boxes in my possession and load 'em up with Linux ("lean and mean") and one or two machine-dedicated application apiece. These devices would then be networked in such a way so as to talk with one another (ideally even giving commands to one another).

Let's qualify my expertise (or lack thereof). I learned BASIC, FORTRAN and COBOL in the late 1970s. I thought Windows 95 was the "best thing to happen to computers since sliced bread"; until the instability inherent in that o/s revealed that the bread, although sliced, was stale.

So I just kept loading simple BASIC compilers into older computers (speed? who needs speed? it's still faster than filling out forms by hand). I wrote programs that did only what I needed them to do; nothing more. My next toy was Lotus. I mastered Lotus so well that I won an award from the regional division of my employer by being able to rapidly compare pricing scenarios on up to four competing products at once. No other employee in my division had ever thought of utilizing the computer for anything except looking up part numbers and finding out if they were in stock.

Now envision a child who's built the Starship Enterprise out of Lego. Everything's in place; ready to go. He picks it up for it's "maiden voyage." Snap, crackle, pop... it folds and breaks into pieces on the floor. Well, that's me.


Apparently the learning curve for Linux is a steep, slippery slope (at least for a techno-moron like myself).

Friends have suggested "Why not take up Pastry or crafty things or something more immediately rewarding, like that?" Nope. No learning involved; and medical research suggests that people who continue learning throughout their lives are far less fallible to Alzheimer's and other unspeakable dementia-related maladies. A language? I speak five; and I still can't find people to talk to. Art? Another Andy Warhol I am not (although the thought of shaving my head and gluing on a nutty wig every morning has, indeed, crossed my sick little mind from time to time.

So back to the drawing board. I've applied to E2LUG but am expecting a lovely note (not unlike the ones I get from Platinum American Express) from them beginning with something like "We regret to inform you..." and ending "we look forward to serving you in the future when your qualifications meet our requirements."

So here I am, trying to figure out the difference between a GRUB, a Gnome, and various codec installers - learning. At least it's keeping me occupied. But I don't know who's more terrified, myself, my wife, or the household help. The stream of verbal vitriol flowing from my den these evenings (particularly when the screen freezes) rivals anything Linda Blair's character in "The Exorcist" was heard to utter. Although I think someone in the household is waiting for my head to do a complete turn, Exorcist-style.

I feel so much better, now. I've been mentioning my computer troubles to a few of my customers who're in the business, and they recommend that I read up, and learn by doing. This is often followed by the sarcastic "do you want some cheese to go with that whine?"

My sage is still making new leaves.

We walk this morning around the Sudbury Reservoir. The trail goes along train tracks, exposed, and we're cold, the wind cuts straight through the weave of our shirts. We move more quickly, and the blood warms us. The rocks are hard but between them are patches of leaves and water, railroad ties crumbling slowly. On the beach we find freshwater mussels, abandoned snail houses. Plastic tubs meant for nightcrawlers, beer cans and milk jugs.

Bleached bone curled and twisted skinless vines, mated together with angel's hair nylon lines. Fishermen have been bathing and the lake is floured with foam. Tufts the size of a soccer ball collect and get yellow in the catches and corners.

The signs says "No Trespassing - MDC" and we wonder how they expect us to access the trails.

Across the street we follow the trail down the side of a hill, scoping out places to stash a letterbox. We come to a tussle of rocks, stretching a finger into the reservoir.

On the rocks, I am standing, bendy, a sail. The little scrub pines are bowing but the standing boulder does not budge. This water is cold and clear in the fresh light. Stones skip easy in this busy-body water. We sit in the lee of the boulder, solemn guard, and talk of trees and mullein and johnny jump ups.

It is so warm. The air was fragrant today, fruitlike. My sage is making new leaves though the older ones are browning. The stalks are half an inch thick now. There is bittersweet all over my house, blood-berries clutching their yellow coats, half-shed. Next spring I will plant mint in the lawn and clover. Strawberries, just to spite the grass.

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