Tech in the Trenches

Carl T. Holscher fights for the customers.

Page 2 of 132

Day 92

The weekend is here again. Or is it gone already? How is it already 7pm on Sunday? They fly by without a trace.

Well, there is some trace. The new butterfly bush we planted yesterday after finding Country Nursery, a lovely little nursery. It meets my internal passing grade of a quality mom-and-pop nursery because you can never quite tell whether you’re supposed to be where you’re standing or not. Everything flows together.

Butterfly bush with purple flowers in green grass.
Butterfly bush, pre-planting.

We didn’t know this nursery existed until passing it on the way to Meadows Farms, the only nursery I know from frequenting one near the farm where I grew up.

Their prices on everything were far below anything Meadows Farms or Home Depot/Lowes can offer. As we talked to the woman behind the counter, she said “We order what people want to buy.” Which seems like a perfect way to do business.

We did buy a selection of indoor plants form Meadows Farms. A found a pair of cacti I allowed myself to buy after keeping the one I bought last year alive and doing well. Add to that a coleus (the red fuzzy one).

Annie got a Snake Plant and a ZZ Plant. Both hearty for shady indoor climates, which is our house.

This is our life now. Watching the birds at the feeders. Clearing areas to plant more bushes and flowers around our house. Annie is on a mission to remove anything that’s only green. It has to flower. It has to look pretty. And if it’s going to, it has to look pretty for as long as possible.

She lived in California when she was young and remembers the flowers everywhere, all the time. So while Maryland isn’t the same climate, replicate as much beauty as possible.

Purple flowers of butterfly bush up close.
Butterfly bush up close

Hibernation

I feel I’ve been hibernating.

I changed jobs in early March and the pandemic hit. I spent my days of government contracting waiting… Just waiting…

Then I took a job supporting Web Conferencing Platforms. You know what that means?

I support Zoom and Webex.

I had no idea the world would soon revolve around Zoom. It would be on the lips of millions of people across the world. Suddenly I had a skill set in massive demand.

My LinkedIn emails have never been so glowing. So many people are looking at your profile it crows seeking approval.

But while professionally I was a hot commodity, my days became a blur. I would stumble into my office at home and sit down to work.

Thankfully I had worked in that room for the past two or three years. It was well suited to the task at hand.

I was not.

I was learning Perl and how to call APIs. I was trying to sprint on the treadmill of Zoom’s constant changes. Their legal troubles. The public relations issues. But thankfully, no downtime. Say what you will of the company and their questionable choices, it has been solid and did not break under the weight of the world.

I would spend all day in that room. With periodic trips to fill my body with water, coffee and Coke then and relieve myself of the after effects of the same. My days were a blur. Even when I was able to stumble out of the room, I was often called back by the ding of an instant message or chime of an email requiring my skills or knowledge.

I wish I had kept a log of that time. It’s all a blur to me now. As the days continue to be. I wake up Monday morning and go to sleep Friday night in the space of a day.

The weekends come, or as my wife says, “that’s when I get to spend time with you.”

My week days feel short and frantic. My weekend days feel long and fulfilling. The weekend itself passes in the blink of an eye but those days I cherish and spend the time with my wife in our yard. Watching the birds at the feeder. Exploring post-apocalyptic West Virginia in Fallout 76 and finding the time to record a podcast.

It is somehow June. We are 12 days into June officially. Though I continue to insist it is February 243rd. That’s what it feels like.

The world has stopped and melted away into a fog of memory and remember whens.

At the same time, The World has become larger and more urgent. There was a protest march a block from my house this week.

There is a pandemic raging on.
Fueled my inept, uncaring leadership. The government has failed my wife and my family at every level.

While I am overwhelmed with work, my wife has seen 80% of her business vanish in a flash. She is self-employed and if it were not for telehealth she would be entirely our of work.

The Federal Government has failed her.
The State of Maryland had failed her.
Montgomery County has failed her.

She had applied for aid and waited… and waited… and waits.

Waits for aid that will never come.

We are living opposite lives in the same house. She is a Night Walker while I struggle to maintain a daylight schedule.

She looks at a business she spent 5 years building successfully get destroyed in a heartbeat. I look at a career that went from pause to hyperspeed.

I struggle to contain my work day and still have something left for her at the end of it. She stares down 22 hours in most days and tries to fill them.

I feel I’ve been hibernating since this all began. I don’t know what day it is. I have no clue what month we are in. Are there important events or milestones approaching?

I can only see the current day. Then I collapse. And start the next one underslept and overcaffeinated.

We have been in lockdown for 90 days.

On Semi-professional Bird Watching

I am a semi-professional bird watcher now. It started when I was working from home in my last job. But now that I am home and nowhere else I’ve been enjoying it (and them) all the more. It started with one feeder. A bright yellow feeder I could load up with seed and let the sparrows take over.

Then I got two suet feeders (once I learned what suet was). That’s when the woodpeckers started showing up. The downy woodpecker and red-bellied woodpecker take turns visiting my yard and are beautiful in their own ways. The red-bellied one is a particular treat as he’s a large bird that likes to linger and eat his fill. He’s also one of a few birds I’ve seen willing to take on a Blue Jay. Did you know Blue Jays are territorial and will fight and kill other birds? I didn’t until I witnessed one take down a little sparrow and found a Cardinal I suspect met the unkind claw of the murder bird.

Downy Woodpecker

The third feeder I got sticks to a window with suction cups. After some trial and error (and moving it to the second story of my house because squirrels will climb the window screens to get to it) it found a home outside my office window. I get daily visits from the downy woodpecker which is a delight. Until a family of European Starlings moved in and decided it was their. I counted as many as 4 birds crammed into the feeder and at least three young birds in the group. They were very boisterous and made their presence felt in my backyard.

I continued to be surprised and delighted by the number and type of birds my little yard is able to attract. The Mourning Doves along with the woodpeckers are my favorites. Though I am convinced all Robins need to have little top hat and monocles. They stand so tall and upright when they patrol the yard for food. They look so proper.

And doves always sound sad. If you hear a sad mournful call, you have doves nearby. I love how they waddle along living their life. Doing their own thing. They, like the Robins are ground feeders and instead of competing for the bird seed at the feeder, wait below it for the sparrows to make a huge mess when they toss it all over the place. Working smarter, not harder is the Dove way.

I can’t talk about bird feeders without mentioning squirrels. They like to crawl up to the feeder and hang from it and feast on the seed there. Recently, they’ve taken to knocking it out of the feeder and piling it up underneath in a little spot where they’ll sit and feast.

Squirrel

I don’t mind the squirrels so much in that they eat the feed. But they scare off all the birds at the feeders. I don’t need to look at squirrels. I can do that any time. I want to look at birds as they come and go. I haven’t gone as far as buying any feeder that claims to outsmart squirrels (because I don’t think any of them will actually work). But I do have a baffle I am going to put on the shepherd’s hook holding the seed feeder and see how it does.

Maryland State troopers have issued more than 1,000 traffic citations and warnings on highways in suburban Washington since March 15. On Sunday alone, troopers cited 22 drivers who were traveling at least 25 mph over the 55 mph speed limit on a section of the Beltway in Prince George’s County. One driver was caught going 136 mph.

Surge in speeding, reckless driving in America during pandemic

I’ve been listening to the drag racers going down our local roads here because they’re straight. The very few times I’ve ventured on to the interstate it’s been a NASCAR event.

Driving to the grocery store and back have become exercises in “let’s see if this car is going to pull out in front of me” and “I’m going to drive in two lanes at once because my phone is more important.”

I hope our lost tax revenue comes in from these wreckless people.

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