Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Dumb old staff meetings

Anyway, that’s been taken care of.

ON to the crisis, and my stellar skills at managing it.

On the computer front, the angst started building two weeks ago, when the class started. For all of Reba’s goodness, she does have a terrible problem in learning something if she has convinced herself that she can’t do it. Her nursing home job? Never done a single thing in her life like it, but learned it in about half a day. But, she knew she could do it. Computers, on the other hand, she has convinced herself over the years that they are completely undoable.

And when something is undoable, and she’s expected to do it, well, that’s when her brain turns on the floodgates on her eyeballs, and shuts down all rational thought. It doesn’t matter how much PowerPoint might be like Word, with little toolbars and icon buttons, and it’s just typing things onto a screen in a different way, to her it was like being given a piece of string and told to build Hoover Dam.

For a grade.

And class Monday night was no help to her. The guy teaching it assumes everyone is functionally computer literate, and when he says things like, “give me your work on a floppy,” assumes that everyone knows what he means. Reba understands, but she has so spooked herself and so psyched herself out that this is all incomprehensible (even though she DOES know what he's talking about) that she was on the verge of just throwing up her hands and saying she couldn’t do it and quitting the class.

Me? I figure there’s nothing I can do that will permanently damage anything, so if it’s something I’m unfamiliar with, I just start playing with it and figure it out. It’s a lot easier if it is something related to something I already know. So, my contribution to her anxiety was to let her know that all the stuff she was covering was simple to the point of inconsequence, and that if she would just settle down a bit and play with it, she’d figure it out in no time. I think this might be her instructor’s idea as well.

It doesn’t work.

The idea that someone else thinks it’s simple seems to have the inverse impact on her, so that the simpler someone else thinks it is, the HARDER it must be in reality. So, by the time class time rolled around last Monday, she was a puddle of inability. Even the simplest things, she was convinced she couldn’t do, and she’d ask questions about how to do things, and he’d tell her either way was fine, and she’d go into full panic mode because she could not make herself make a decision on two equally valid choices. Again, not really my outlook on life, so it was hard for me to see just exactly HOW terrified she had gotten.

And then there was the whole deal of not having PowerPoint. Again, since I never thought that much about it, I told her we could go over to the library, or go up to church Sunday and work on it there. No biggie, you know.

Well, yes, it’s a biggie. After we got home Friday, and after her one sole remaining potential stress-reliever was taken away from her (the possibility of a nice escape in the form of a movie) she entered a particularly deep blue funk. This was not helped in the least by the fact that Catherine and Jonathan had decided to be loud and childish. And loud. She just stood there, leaning against the door, staring into the pantry. SO, I figured some time out of the house might work, so I started to tell the kids to get their shoes back on and we’d all go out to eat. Not the best solution, especially considering how the younger two were acting up, but I figured it would be better than mullygrubbing at the house.

“I don’t want to go eat.” ::sniff:: “I just want to stay here.” Oh, no. And then, out came the anxiousness about having to study for her test tonight, and not knowing what was going to be on it, and not being able to do anything, and something from work, and the kids are acting up and we can never have a quiet meal with them in a restaurant, and it doesn’t matter how simple I think computers might be she doesn’t know anything about them. And then back to staring at the canned goods. “And I don’t know what to fix for supper.”

I grabbed the phone book. “What are you doing?”

“Calling Staples.” (They have an Easy Button, you know.) Found out the price for MS Office, and for PowerPoint just by itself. Mmm. Money. I detected a glimmer of the funk lifting, though. “Well, it won’t do any good because it’ll still take me forever to figure it out.”

“We’ll work on it tomorrow after I get back.”

“But that won’t be until after five.”

“Nope, I’m leaving at noon, and we’re going to work on it when I get back. Cat, get your shoes on, come on, we’re going to the store.” “Why are you taking her with you?” “Because she’s being too loud, and I need some company to help me shop for things. Now, get on the phone and order some pizza, and I’ll be back in a little while.”

“Can you take my car and get gas in it?”

What was I going to say, ‘no’?!

I had decided in there to go to Sam’s first and see how much their prices were for software before going on to Staples, so I gathered Catherine up, who was a bit put-out that she was being cut from the herd like that, but the promise of a trip to Sam’s was worth it. Into the car, down the hill, back up the hill, fill up the car with nice cheap gas, park at Sam’s, and announce that someone needs to go to the restroom as soon as she got in the door. “Yes, Daddy--I needed to go before we even left the house!” ::sigh:: “Why didn’t you tell me!?” “I don’t know.”

The universal answer.

She was walking with the peculiar twisting, cross-legged gait common to small children whose bladders are bursting, and I encouraged her as best I could to wait until we actually got to the restrooms before opening the tap. All the way to the back, past the snack bar, past the tobacco cage, past the interesting things, and then to the restroom. I sent her in the ladies side, and due to her influence, I felt the urge to go, too. Walked back out and waited on her. And, she showed up several minutes later. “Didya make it?” She looked at me as if I were crazy for even considering the possibility and said in a tone of great condescension, “YES, Daddy.” Good.

On then to the computer boxes. OOOoohhh, Office for Students and Teachers! Coool! And pretty reasonable. “Requires Windows 2000 or Windows XP.” Not cool. We have Windows 98, and I had decided the other day to upgrade it to use the Windows ME disc I purchased two years ago (and never got installed on the kids’ computer) but now, this was yet another upgrade I was going to have to get. ::sigh:: It’s only money, though. And cheaper than paying a therapist to discuss someone’s self-confidence issues. Got a copy of Windows XP Home edition, as well.

NOW THEN--before anyone writes in to say what I should have gotten, don’t.

Pulled the slips of paper, went and paid, and sat down to wait for them to go retrieve the boxes from the tobacco (and computer software) cage. Catherine wandered away for a moment, and I had one of those heartbeat skips that such activities bring, but I saw that she had locked herself onto the stuffed animal claw machine. I absolutely hate these things--they’re nothing but a good way to waste a dollar. Actually, they aren’t even a good way, although they are a bit more family-friendly than sticking a lengthwise-folded dollar bill into a stripper’s g-string.

But, anyway, she was wanting to play on it, and I was in the process of telling her “no” when I noticed that this one only cost a quarter. Despite being a miserly skinflint with a heart of lead, I figured I could spring for a quarter. She grabbed the coin with her chubby little fist and fed it in. First pass with the claw, no animal. Second pass, say--HEY! Whaddya know! The little stinker actually got something! A squishy stuffed monkey, with a lime green sparkly disco/space suit style outfit as a body, and something embroidered on the front that I finally figured out sometime yesterday actually said “Spa’ts.” I kinda looked like Sparks, or something, which would have made some sense given its sparkly clothes. It didn’t really matter, though, because she was awfully happy with it and smooshed it to her chest with a headlock.

Got our computer stuff, headed home. Pizza, wings, etc. of which I only ate a small nibbling bit, because I now had lots of work to do. The funk, though, had edged back up to where it was more of a non-repro blue.

By now, it was around 8:30 or so. First order of business, installing the new version of Windows. After all the introductories, it said it should be finished within 83 to 97 minutes. More like three hours. Nothing untoward came up, no problems, it went on just fine, but just MUCH slower than anticipated. Then, time for Office. Did that. In this time, all the children had gone to bed, wife had gone to bed, I had watched Dave, Conan, and the execrable Carson Daly, and along about 1:00 a.m., I had a nice spiffy new XP machine running Office. Huzzah! Said with the long zzzzzzzz common to cartoons of people snoring.

Went to bed, then got right back up and showered and got ready for my eight o’clock shindig at the Scout camp. Before I left, I turned on the computer and got PowerPoint up and running so just in case someone got brave, she wouldn’t have the onerous chore of trying to find PowerPoint using a new interface.

Planning meeting--good turnout, good information, and good comments from everyone about the whole gamut of issues facing my lovely hometown. And good to hear that no one said they wanted Trussville to be like any other place--you know, the “Why can’t we be like X-burg or Z-ville,” stuff. People like it here, and want to make it better. That’s hard to beat. (By the way, did you know there is no other town in the U.S. with “Truss” in the name?) Did some gladhanding and such, and then, as they were all breaking up into groups and getting ready to eat piping barbecue from Jim ‘n’ Nicks, I left. ::sigh:: Good-bye, free barbecue.

Got home, found that all of the leftover pizza was gone, went upstairs to see that Reba had made an effort to do something, but the effort had caused the rapidly fading blue funk of the previous evening to halt, and reverse course back toward cerulean again. ::sigh::

So, I got her to get her class notes--“But he hardly even give us notes!”--and her disc that has all his assignments on it, and we sat down.

For the next six hours, we sat at the computer side-by-side, as I went through the entire process. Including, “Okay, you click on where it says, ‘Start’.” I explained the whys and hows and wheres, “BUT IT SAYS ON HERE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO SAVE IT TO A FLOPPY DISC, OR A ZIP DRIVE, OR A FLASH DRIVE, AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT ANY OF THAT IS!!” Yes, it had gotten to where it was like trying to tell Oldest something--all of the lack of self-confidence, all of the impatience, all of the getting waylaid by inconsequential things. I explained that all she had to worry about was saving it to a floppy--“One of these plastic things?!” Yes, one of the square plastic things. “WHERE DOES IT GO!?” Right there.

On and on.

He had a step-by-step guideline or tutorial on the disc he gave them with a couple of sample projects, and then the homework. For some reason, he had it as both an .html and as a .ppt file, and she had already started the one that was an .html presentation, but, whatever. We switched back and forth to her project from the tutorial after EVERY. SINGLE. LINE. “Click on File…” Switch windows, click on file. “Scroll down to…” Switch windows, scroll down.

We managed to work through both the sample problems and her first assignment and saved them all on a square plastic thing, and then got started on the last assignment, when it was time to take Oldest to the party.

Next: Emotions run high. Imagine that.

But first, I have to go eat lunch with My Friend Pam the Liberal. Yea! Be back after while.

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