A Lap, A Desk, A Quiet Place and Time

I’ve been “gone” more or less from blogging for about 3 weeks now. The “why” has been interesting for me to observe…

Prime Cause was “The Road Trip”. But the root was simply lack of supportive infrastructure.

In the past, using a regular laptop and on short “on the the road” runs, I’d managed to keep posting. Often by the expedient of a posting at each end of the run and not much in the middle. Occasionally posting at a Starbucks during an extended stop. As I’ve noted before, the “real keyboard” on a laptop is a key bit of kit for production touch typists like me. This time was different, in a couple of ways.

First off, the similar “way” was that I’d only had room to take a tablet (with mini-bluetooth-keyboard in a floppy stand). As noted in the past, that’s OK (barely) for short typing, but woefully inadequate for anything other than very short notes / comments and minimal articles.

The not so similar: No control of schedule / stops, no work surfaces, constant “social engagement”, near constant “things to do”, minimal kit, no control over length of stop at places with free WiFi.

For most articles, I like to include quoted text and some graphics. That becomes a Royal Pain with the lousy way to ‘mark text’ using a touch screen instead of a mouse. Then there is the whole “three key strokes to get a special character” problem on the touch screen via one finger hunt and peck… So for things like typing HTML, it slows to a dead crawl to put in even a simple link. Yes, the mini-keyboard gets past the special character thing, however…

It simply demands a “work surface” to be usable. Especially in the sort of ‘floppy folder’ that most tablets use. It is simply not possible to use one of those on a lap. Things just wobble and fall down. Add in that I spent a week ‘in transit’ with only sporadic Wi-Fi access, and the whole thing starts to come apart.

So what was “the trip” that caused this result? An old neighbor / friend who had returned from living abroad was moving to a new home in North Carolina. He needed some help. I volunteered. On “move day” he showed up with the equipment we would be driving across the country (Honda Van), and there was just enough room for a “carry on sized bag” for me. Yup, one airline sized bag space was kept empty, and the passenger seat. So yours truly had to leave a few things behind. Laptop bag and workbooks included (i.e. no briefcase of “work stuff”). So it was life on the road with minimal kit.

Next up, we were headed cross country more or less non-stop. We did put one overnight in a hotel in Amarillo, but that was taken up with a “1/2 way dinner out celebration” and some real sleep in a bed (not napping in a car seat in motion…). So there was a table, and maybe I’d have been able to make a go of it with the tablet, but the ambition and time were scarce. Next stop, North Carolina… Again with minimal ‘food and fuel’ stops. (We also got to dodge a major snow storm and dropped down from I-40 to I-20 at Memphis, then circled to I-95 at the coast and back into Raleigh from the far side, avoiding a couple of States worth of snowed and iced over roads.

At The House where we were unloading the van (and the large “18 wheeler” truck trailer that arrived a few days later), there was no furniture nor any telco / WiFi. So 3 or 4? days were spent sleeping on the floor with a blanket or two (and coat in a bag as pillow) until we got beds and a breakfast table set up as things arrived, or were bought locally and we moved them using the (now emptied) Honda Van we’d driven cross country or a rental truck for larger bits. The Friend set up on the breakfast table for his “work space” for remote contract work. Initially we had no Wi-Fi, and while we eventually got it installed, that was about 2 days before I was back on the road. I suppose I could have gotten a posting done then, but frankly, I was a bit fried. A week on the road, another week of picking up local bought furniture and moving / installing it, setting up a kitchen enough to actually make a meal of near-normal food (finally something other than sandwiches!) and a day lost to fighting T-Mobil and discovering that my “Mobile Hot Spot” could never be made to work until I went to a T-Mobile shop and bought another SIM card as they “expire” if you don’t use them for a year. Yes, you must pay them for the privilege of being able to buy their service!. Needless to say, I as not amused…

I suppose I was also a bit under-energized from several days sleeping on a carpeted floor in minimal blankets with not much heat. (It was snowy outside and the heater would shut off at night, or drop to ’60 something’ settings that was about the same effect). At any rate, I was a bit fried, the space did not lend itself to ‘desk work’ and the connectivity was nil most of the time. When it DID come up, I spent those couple of days just trying to catch up with the world having been effectively disconnected from it for 2 weeks.

Then Another Road Trip

Then I got to do another road trip. My Florida Friend showed up to get me down to Florida where I’m renting a room. (Yes, I’m “bi coastal” and have “digs” in Florida again). We got to spend the day driving, and having dinner with his son in Jacksonville.

It’s not really possible to “make a posting” when you have been effectively isolated for 2 weeks, with one person nearly constantly engaging your attention, and then spend a day “on the road” again being engaged pretty much all waking hours.

Not only is it necessary to have a lap for the laptop, but you need to have “quiet time” to focus on it and some news flow / information access.

That, then, results more or less in another ‘recovery day’ after arriving at after midnight and unpacking.

OK, so maybe THEN a posting opportunity? No, not quite…

I’d “depot-ed” the Banana Boat (yellow Mercedes Wagon) in Florida last time I was there, as it was in need of work. So “first up” was finding a place that could rebuild the exhaust system of a 36 year old Mercedes… Then there were the ‘meet and greets’ with his family and our mutual friends. After that, once again the “tablet is not a laptop” issues (though with Wi-Fi access on a consistent basis at last) and again bit by the lack of a quiet place to use it. Kitchen table? Um, folks sit there and want to ‘interact’. Rented room? No desk, and the table doesn’t work on a lap as a laptop. Etc. etc. Before you know it, it was Superbowl Weekend and even more “social interaction” as we were planning and conducting a Superbowl Party.

At A Desk, At Last

So now I’m back at a desk, and in a place with “quite time” available and with full Wi-Fi and a real keyboard, mouse. All the essentials, once again.

I also have a new found appreciation of just how much it matters to have a stable physical place to type and cut / paste, along with the quiet time to do so.

My ‘backlog’ of things to post about has grown to the point where it will take me a month to work them off. My “to do” list of non-blogging things is a month longer now, and added to it is “figure out a better way to be bi-coastal and still post reliably”.

One key item is clearly just to get the HP Laptop fixed or replaced. I need a real keyboard, real screen, and real mouse to do effective production of articles. While I have that in a couple of forms in California, I don’t have it “on the road” and the setup in Florida is lacking in “work surface” for the setup I have there. (Note to self: Get a desk or similar in Florida…)

Another key item is just to realize that one can be socially engaged to the point were everything else is precluded. When “on the road” on my own, or staying in a hotel, I have LOTS of control and LOTS of quiet time. When “on the road” with shared drivers, especially in their vehicles and on their schedules, you have nearly no control of what happens, when it happens, where it happens, or if you get any quiet time.

Oh, and make sure the portable WiFi Hotspot works BEFORE you head out…

So I’ll be playing “catch up” for a while, still, as I’ve finally gotten to a workable workspace; and as I work out just what kit will really work for a Florida Workspace in a rented room in a shared house.

(One possible I’ve looked at is just getting an RV. Something “workable” is about $5k to $15k and that’s doable. Then I’ve got the table, the quiet space, the ability to make meals and coffee / tea, etc. etc. Just add WiFi Hotspot for $35 / month or so. This also avoids a lot of packing / unpacking and ‘shuttling stuff’ between ends… We’ll see. I’ve not done much with RVs, so it’s a new investigation for me. But adds the ‘where to park it when not at that end’ for both ends…)

Why am I doing this? Because I’m looking for a job in Florida. Frankly, California State Government has alienated me to the point where I’m no longer a Californian. I’ve moved my “center of gravity” to Florida during my last contract there, and the major goal is just to get’er done on moving my stuff out of the State along with me. That depends on a house in Florida, not just a room, and that depends on a job that can support that house during the transition. (Frankly, I only [briefly] came back to California due to my Daughter moving out of the house here and nobody watching ‘the stuff’. Not a good idea to leave a house full of everything abandoned for 6 months…) Part of this ‘road trip’ was to get experience with moving a house full of stuff. The Carolina Friend used something like U-Pack-It that is a full on truck trailer. I also visited some friends in Florida who used “Pods” and got a first had report on them too. ( I also got to stack a load of lumber inside the house they are building… but that’s another story ;-)

At any rate, as of now, I’ve got a room, a car and both an address and drivers licence in Florida. Now all I need is a job there ;-) And I’ve got the logistics worked out for moving “the stuff”. (One key bit I’ve learned is that it is far far better to go through your lifetime accumulation of shit and flush the worst of it rather than move it… You want to pick up / move / set down each object just once, and if that first ‘set down’ is into a trash been, so much the better…)

So for the next few weeks I’m likely to be in California, going through things and sorting / tossing / evaluating. I’ll also be doing a job hunt in Florida from here, and figuring out my next return to Florida. ( I have another car here to get ‘road ready’ and might end up driving it over. Or I might need a fast flight for an interview, with luck). I’ve also got to work out a better road kit for doing postings, and get my wireless Hot Spot worked out. (Pop more bucks to T-Mobile? Buy a different one? Get the one I used last time in Florida working again? Decisions decisions…) I’ll keep you posted if I’m “on the road again”…

In Conclusion

While in North Carolina, I was a bit surprised to discover I was going to be doing ‘pick up / move’ of a lot of locally bought furniture. This included no less than three full sized sofa sets. We’re talking very large sofa with 2 love seats or love seat / recliner sets. Yes, that’s a total of about 9 pieces. Oh, and three marble topped end table / coffee tables. (Not to mention beds, breakfast set, etc. etc.) The good news is that I found I’m still in shape to do it. Just 2 people moving each thing.

I also came to realize that it’s not exactly how I want to spend a lot of my life. So there’s going to be a much smaller set of ‘stuff’ in my future than the North Carolina friend has in his. (Then again, he has a family of 6 and it’s now ‘me and the spouse’ for us, so a LOT less house and stuff needed.)

It is far easier to move a load of uniform sized boxes with a hand truck. Most stuff that “goes” will be things that I can pack easily in just that kind of uniform sized box. “Weird Stuff” of low utility is unlikely to make the cut.

Why not hire a mover? Simple: Cost. Just don’t have the money for it. I’d love to get a job with someone who would pay to relocate me, but that’s just not being done much anymore, near as I can tell. Heck, even the California cell phone number put people off interviewing, so I’ve got a Florida Phone now too.

All of which kind of feeds back into that RV Lust. I could just dump most of the old worn out furniture (like our ‘seen way better days’ 20+ year old sofa) and load up the RV with “what matters most” and then the rest sorts into “dumpers” and “store in a pod” that can be shipped to a final destination as needed and as money is available to get a new home ‘on that end’. Anyone thinking I’m dreaming on this: Do note that I’ve lived aboard a 27 foot sailboat for a couple of years. A Land Yacht is gigantic in comparison. I’m well aware of many of the ‘issues’. Things like a 4 gallon shower and “pump out”. Cooking on 3 small burners. Fridge size of a set of desk drawers. Washing dishes in a 1 gallon sink. But even at that, there are things I don’t know. How to drive a Barge into a gas station and not get stuck. How to find a place to park for the night and not be out $200 and 5 hours of ‘set up time’, etc.

So I’ve learned a lot on this Road Trip, and I’m going to be learning a lot more during “my move” (whenever the final landing spot / job / house get resolved). But for now, it’s time for a week or so of ‘R&R’ along with some postings. I’m still a bit out of sync with the news flow and need a bit of a reality check.

For example, I got to watch the results of the Hillary and Bernie Show. Thrilled to see Bernie getting 60% and The Liar In Chief at 38%. Kind of says something. We’ll take an honest Socialist advocating proven failed policies (in dozens of countries) over an untrustworthy self-centered egotistical liar. Nice, that. I also got to watch the Republican Field shrink by the loss of Carly and Christie. Sorry to see Carly out, she was very valuable as a counterpoint to “Elect Me I’m A Woman” Hillary (who seems to think we don’t know enough about her nominal gender already…) Christie decided to take down Rubio on his way out the door. Oh Well. It will be interesting to see how all those minor candidates leaving so far (Paul and a couple of others, too) results in the Trump/Others ratio shifting. All that needs some ‘thought time’.

Then there is the present Market Meltdown in progress. (Posting to come later today). Mdm. Yell’en was the Talking Head Du Jour today. Basically confirming to me that The Fed has no clue what’s really going on. Did you know unemployment was under 5% and the economy is just great? Yeah, that bad. She seems to believe the ‘funny numbers’ that are now our official economic statistics. Ignore that for anyone under $100,000 / year wages have been dead flat for over a decade and jobs are hard to find. The banks and rich people are doing fine, and who cares about the labor participation rate anyway… That all needs a good bit of a think, too.

So, in short, “He’s Baaaack!” and ready to do some catch up. And some building to a better future and a more stable ‘in transit’ ability to perform as a blog host.

With that, I return you to your regularly scheduled life events ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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9 Responses to A Lap, A Desk, A Quiet Place and Time

  1. Power Grab says:

    Welcome back to the land of the blogging, EM! It’s good to hear from you.

  2. p.g.sharrow says:

    I can feel for you, I’ve done this several times, even to Alaska and then back. Recommend disposal of everything that is replaceable. MOVE MONEY not stuff! Get a good used medium size land yacht, 1ton truck size, about 26-28 feet. Livable parked or on the road and most anyone can drive it. Smaller is way too cozy, even if your wife loves you. Enough space for really necessary stuff. Anything larger is a real pain on the road or to park in most places. It can tow a small car easily, If you need a “dingy” for local running around and don’t want to move the “Yacht”.
    We are in the process of disposing of my lady’s Beauty Spa business. As our children and grand children live near by I guess we will just hunker down here in the hills above Chico. From time to time I think of leaving this state but then, I REALLY hate to move! Getting too old to do that another time.
    Getting a “JOB” looks to me to be a losing proposition. Independent Contractor might be your only good choice and the Land Yacht may turn out to be a good investment for such things. One job I worked at let me park “out back” for the duration of the job. Sure saved on rent and commuting. Might even be a good sales pitch. You can move in, fix their problem and then leave. A lot less commitment from their point of view. Good time to sell out of a Bay Area house as well. Good luck with any decision you make…pg

  3. Tim. says:

    Glad you’re back, I was getting worried!

  4. gallopingcamel says:

    California’s loss is Florida’s gain.

    When things settle down I hope you will find time to contact me. Today I am on vacation in Spain, returning home tomorrow. Then one week at home before departing for Kentucky to train some victims of Obama’s “War on Coal”.

  5. John Howard says:

    Moving is a biotch… wifey and I are headed for the Austin area. The taxes and wind insurance are just getting too pricey to live on the coast. Good luck in Florida,

  6. Larry Ledwick says:

    Glad to see you back on line, and to hear the adventure continues.

  7. Terry Jay says:

    We do 4 months a year in Alaska, currently a 5th wheel. previously a travel trailer. You need about 25′ to get a walk-around bed, else someone has to climb over someone else in the night. Overloading the tow vehicle can be a serious problem. No need to “set up” for overnight stops, just plug in and relax. May be a bit ‘bouncy’ when moving around, but OK to sleep. Motorhomes often have steering issues, and are often at max gross weight rating when empty. Just a caution, not a knock. If you look at one seriously, take it for a drive that will simulate the moving, freeway at freeway speeds for miles and miles. If you look at trailers, get a 1ton truck (350 nominal model). About the same price but will handle the load much better. May ride a bit stiff empty. The biggest issue with RV’s is to make wide, square turns in confined spaces. One option may be a Toy Hauler trailer. Should have a capacity of around 3,000lbs, and configured so the kitchen and bedroom and bath are accessible, while the living are has fold-up furnishings and can be stuffed with possessions. Should be a bit more than a Pod.

    My folks relocated from Ohio to SoCal in 1960. Dad had a job lined up and they rented an unfurnished house. Sold everything and used a 12’lx6’w Uhaul for the Must Haves. Slept on the floor and used an ice chest for a cooler and a ooleman stove to cook. Good Times.

    Call South Hills Movers in Pittsburgh, PA for a phone quote. Excellent service, I used them a lot for moving folks all over the country, and reasonable prices. May still be to spendy though.

  8. malanlewis says:

    Moving… after a lifetime or two moving every couple of years of so, I’m sticking right here (north coast of Monterey Bay). Climate’s perfect, no need to heat or cool our 800 sq. foot home (small wood stove for those three day storms that are coming back), local political scene is accessible and responsive. Nice mix of conservative and progressive neighbors. I think we’ll stay here for the rest of our lives, if we live that long.

    Traveling… passenger train is the only way to travel long distance. Amtrak now has wi-fi on its sleeper and business class cars. Comfortable, as much quiet alone time as you can stand, gorgeous scenery, plentiful, adequate food included with your sleeper car accommodations, interesting people to talk to when you want to. Haven’t flown or driven long distance since 2007. Just got back from Austin, Texas and off to Massachusetts for Memorial Day this spring and looking forward to a another pleasant train trip.

    Job/work… Simplify and work part-time. Health insurance is good nutritious food. plenty of sleep and exercise, no self-harmful habits. My wife and I are retired after ten years of part-time, now living simply on social security in a town with the highest housing cost in the country. No investments, just simple CDs and savings accounts. We’re good for as long as we can get out of bed in the morning.

    The grand political circus dominating corporate media is a mild distraction, easily held at bay with involvement in real politics on the local scene. Right here where we can meet our pols face-to-face at Trader Joe’s and People’s Coffee, walk into their office and sit down for a chat. Board of Supervisors, City Council and various and sundry commission and committee meetings provide us with mild entertainment just a 30 minute walk from home.

    It doesn’t matter where you live, it’s how you live that makes the difference.

  9. John F. Hultquist says:

    Likewise to all the above “welcome back” notes.

    Moving boxes – – search images for cardboard apple boxes
    Note the ones that are double; top and bottom (40 lbs. apples = bushel)
    Many have cut-outs for ease of picking up
    Stack well and crush resistant
    Big grocery stores get these; many get baled but you can ask

    keyboards My wife needs a new laptop. Either she is starting to go flaky or it is. I’ve been reading about current laptops and one of the biggest complaints is the keyboards. Such things have been made for about 40 years and they still can’t get it right.
    You and your readers may have suggestions. I’d like to stay under $1K.

    election: John Kasich (Ohio Gov.) might be a good POTUS. He seems to go unnoticed with all the other crap going on. Living in the great blue state of WA, my vote will be counted and discarded come November.

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