Exit Stage Left

And that’s a wrap – after 43 years of working in IT, it all ended January 29. Quietly, I did my last actual work on Thursday documenting a few things. COVID caused the company owner to close the office in November, and my projects had dwindled, so it’s been a pretty quiet final couple of months. I realized recently that I had worked in six different decades – the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. I worked with Oracle version 4, 5, 6, 7. 8. 9, 10, 11, and 12. That’s enough. I left thinking I should know more than I do, and probably know a little more than I think I do, but that’s probably applicable to most everyone. As we used to say, it’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t always been real fun. Now on to something else…

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Adventures in Stargazing

My interest in astronomy began in the 4th or 5th grade when I had to write a report on Jupiter. I got a Sears 60mm refractor for Christmas that year and I was hooked. No astronomy clubs in the area – I never dreamed there was such a thing. I would get up in the middle of the night and go out for an hour or so.  At some point I decided to see something that was low in the south, and I set up my telescope on the roof.  For whatever reason, my parents didn’t object!  I remember our roof was made of chipped marble over I guess tar of some sort.  Only roof like that I ever saw, I guess it worked, I don’t remember any leaks, but you had to be careful walking around up there.  I would get up in the middle of the night, go out and climb up the ladder and observe for a bit. I can’t imagine that lasted too long.  My dad gave me a copy of Olcott’s Field Book Of The Skies, and while I don’t have the scope anymore, I still have that book, and I still love it.  Many, many nights with that and a flashlight with red paper over the lens. And all the library books I could find – mostly Patrick Moore back then.  Lots of fond memories of nights just looking at the stars, without all the stuff I think I have to have now.  But all that stuff I think I have to have now helps me see more than 5th grade Harry ever dreamed of.

Another memory from the 60s… Millsaps College had an observatory, the only one nearby.  Somehow my dad found out they were having a viewing night for their astronomy class, and got permission for us to join in.  They had a huge telescope – well, it was a 6″ refractor, but all I knew at the time was it was huge compared to my 60mm. Years later I found out that it was a 6″ refractor with an Alvan Clark primary. Now I have a scope that is twice the size, but then…wow! Jupiter was amazing.  Sadly, the observatory fell into disuse and neglect, but a few years ago the college did at least some restoration, to the observatory and the scope.  In 2017 a friend who is a professor at the college let me know they were going to have a limited open house at the observatory, would I like to go? Oh heck yeah!  Such a fine way to relive a little of young Harry’s fascination with the world of astronomy! 

6″ Clark refractor at James Observatory, Millsaps College, Jackson MS
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Let’s say you’ve been working on this novel. OK, let’s be honest – you worked really hard on this novel for about six months, then life, and your real job, got in the way, and the novel said “that’s alright, I’ll wait for you”. And a month’s pause became three months and then six months and then a year, and then more than a year. And you want to go back to it, you want to really dig back into it. How do you start? Read what you’ve written from the beginning? Read the last few chapters? Just start writing and sort out the mess and contradictions later?

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We Had A Dream

Shining city on a hill
Damn we let that one slide
In the fading sparkle of a thousand points of light
We didn’t keep hope alive
We killed it and threw it off the bridge
to the twenty-first century
Fear is our constant companion
An abusive lover
That tells us not to dream
We could have done better
We chose to do worse
But once we did have a dream

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It’s hard to shed the feeling that a fundamental change has occurred, that “normal” won’t ever be normal again. At some point, we’ll come out of this, but how many small businesses and local restaurants will come out with us? When will we feel comfortable going to lunch with friends? When will we feel comfortable going back to work, or school, or church? For me, this may well be the end of my working life – before it all began I was pondering how much longer I would go, now that I’ve basically been off for nearly two months I’m pondering if I want to go back. It’s been like a dress rehearsal for retirement, and I’ve enjoyed the change in my sleep habits, not waking at 4 or 4:30, not constantly worrying about what might be going wrong at work. Walking away from all that offers new opportunities, but present circumstances stop you from taking advantage. The isolation presses on me at times – because my wife and I have been pretty strict about social distancing, I haven’t been inside a store in two months, I’ve had very little contact with friends, church might as well not exist. My only outlet has been a few trips to Home Depot, ordering online and doing curbside pickup of some things I needed to do some projects. I’ve caught up on lots of projects during this time, got the yard and garden looking pretty good. How much longer do we stay like this? I don’t know. While some businesses are opening up again, some restaurants are resuming full service, people are going to work and play again – we’ll be staying home, watching to see if the infection rates start to rise again. Time will tell.

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