Standing Desk

My home office is in the living room because that’s where it’s easiest to roll the portable air conditioner and set it up for the season. I gave up trying to thread the flimsy exhaust tube into the flimsy plastic window insert and the flimsy holder on the back of the air conditioner, because one end of the tube or the other always pops out. As soon as one end is repositioned, the other acts up.

Instead of struggling for another season, this time I made a new window insert out of a piece of cardboard, cut an opening in it for the tube, and jammed the tube into it so tight it squeaked. Then I taped the whole thing into the window frame. I attached the other end of the tube to the air conditioner unit with enough tape to pave a road. It all works great except every evening the mosquitoes get in no matter now carefully I try to seal every crack and crevice around the window with yet more tape.

If that isn’t enough to establish my technical cred, let me add that my standing-desk desktop-table-scaffolding thing arrived yesterday and I successfully heaved it onto my table without breaking off the legs. The table is from Target: a long-ago roommate got it for a song because it had been a floor model and was scratched. It’s stable enough except that the wing nuts that hold the legs to the body have crumbled, so the table is held together by the correct positioning of the legs squarely beneath the top, friction, and gravity. Jamming it against the wall provided even more stability to withstand the shoving-on-top of the standing-desk-approximator-thing.

After that, I had only to briefly depress the cleverly hidden handles depicted in the single page of wordless installation instructions, and then pull. The monitor and keyboard shelves lifted themselves up with elegant swiftness, like a starship preparing to launch. It was a beautiful moment. Then I slapped my laptops, monitors, keyboards, and mouses into position, plugged everything in, flipped a few switches, listened to the chorus of hoots and bleats, gazed upon the splash screens splashing correctly, and was filled with contentment.

The Boston Computer Society used to hold interest group meetings in a small brick building on Mass Ave almost directly opposite the Porter Square T station. Of course, the BCS met in lots of places. The other location I knew well was a cramped suite of rooms near the Kendall Square movie theater. In that space you could try out new software. Back then, you couldn’t download a demo from the web; the Internet didn’t exist, exactly. There was ARPANET for academics and industry, but nothing for regular people. If you wanted to try a new software program, and if the manufacturer had given the BCS a review copy, you trekked to those rooms near the movie theater. If a desktop computer was available, had the right operating system, and was functioning, and if the software was available at the time you showed up — for me always a weeknight, after a trip into Cambridge and a hunt for a parking space — you could start loading the program, floppy disk by floppy disk, and hope that there would be enough time after installation to actually try the program before the place closed up for the night. You could also page through the brick-sized user manual that came in the box. Because software came in boxes in those days.

At the little building opposite Porter, I attended a series of meetings about …. oh God, do I remember … no… what I do remember is that there was an old woman who came—pudgy, plump, shapeless, utterly geeky, keeping up her end of the conversation with nerds a third her age—confident, happy. I wondered how she could be so happy. She was old; not even a vestige of youth remained, and I didn’t think she had ever been much of a looker. And yet there she was, chatting away, trying things out, making suggestions, telling stories!

Do you know how many women confidently tell stories in mixed company, especially if more men than women are present? Even now, in 2020?

I liked her; I didn’t like her; she annoyed me; I envied her; I was afraid I would end up like her; I liked how contented she seemed. I didn’t want to be like her but, you mean, you can be happy just like that? The way you are?

Well, what is a fulfilled life? What is a worthy life?

July 26, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

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