Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing.

Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing.

A while back I was invited to talk to a 6th grade class on the history of the Personal Computer. They said I could have a much as 40 minutes if I could fill the whole class period.  Told ‘em I could do 40 minutes on the history of, and the mechanical principles of a toothpick. Of course I could do 40 minutes on the history of the PC.

I’ve talked to many groups over the years, over a wide range of topics, from small groups (3 people) to very large groups (1500 people) Yet one single factor of public speaking remains the same. You get their attention within the first minute you start to talk or else you’re wasting their time, and yours. Whatever you have to say will then fall on deaf ears as your audience goes to sleep. And you look really stupid talking to a sleeping group of people.

Had to think a while to come up with the attention grabber for the 6th grade.  I started off by telling the kids three things were going to happen. One was I would tell them about my first computer, and two I had a special present at the end for everyone who paid attention to what I had to say. And three, there would be an open book test at the end.

Told them little fellers that my first computer was so old it was made of wood. It had no mouse. It had no keyboard. It had no internal memory, only external memory. And the data storage system was not a disk like today, but made out of paper.  My first computer had only a data entry system and a manual delete key .

From there I talked about the very early start of PC’s. Not getting too technical, I talked about life of the PC before Microsoft, and how Microsoft became such a dominating force in the PC world. I talked of the role IBM had played in the  making of Microsoft.  Of how the marketing of Windows 3.0 became one of the best business strategies ever brought to the world marketplace.  Talked of my participation in the beta testing of a product called Windows 1.0.  The role Apple played in the education field and the creation of the mouse, along with “GUI” and how that little ditty changed the face of computing and in turn changed the face of the world. GUI.

As my allotted time was closing in on the 40 minute mark, I asked the class did anyone remember what my first computer was made of? The room was filled with waving hands and fingers of answers. They remembered. I had reached the 6th grade. For any speaker, be it a large group or the 6th grade, to reach the audience is a special kinda special feeling. They will remember you forever.

Right then told ‘em it was time to pass out the presents as promised when the program started. I then handed each child a #2 lead pencil. And proceeded to  explain the sharp point, well, that sharp point was for data entry. The other end was for deleting any data you didn’t want to keep. And the only other thing you ever needed to make that computer work was, not electricity, or batteries, only a piece of paper. Every one of the kids grasped the humor in the #2 lead pencil,  my early computer.

It was after the class, after the kids had left the room and before the next group entered that the teacher said “It seems the class as a whole got more out of your talk than I did, Mr. Howard. I didn’t quite follow your line of thought with your pencil”. I wanted to say “You’re a part of the problems with public education today”. I did not. I wanted to say “Wow! You’re dumber than a duck”. I did not. I wanted to say “And they hired you as a teacher for the 6th grade?” I did not.  One of the many good things I learned from my Mama is there are times when it’s better not to talk than to talk. So I just smiled and thanked that girl for the invitation to speak to the 6th grade class about the history of the PC.

Sometimes the devil just makes you do things. I was at the doorway of the class room. I could have walked thru and been on my way to the rest of my life, but I did not. I turned around, walked back over to the teacher, handed her a #2 lead pencil and said “I almost forgot to give you your own personal computer”. Devils are like that, yeah they are.

One of the many joys of springtime at the EastWing, is watching not only the world turn green, but also watching the birds of springtime. The little sounds of the springtime nights have not yet spoken up. The Peeps are yet to come, but those little boy birds, well, those little boy birds. Shewwwww.  The little girl birds are only wanting to eat the stuff I put in the front garden of the EastWing, while those little boy birds, I’m telling ya, those little boy birds they’re thinking ‘bout making whoopee!

Of the birds visiting the EastWing this time of the year, the Dove has to be the most gentle of all. Both the male and female dove, while on the ground, eat in the company of other birds a small fraction of their size. Of course I’m not breaking new ground here with my observation of the dove. Ya gotta keep in mind, Noah also knew about the gentle nature of the bird that brought the olive branch back to the ark.  Good thing Noah didn’t send out  a big black bird, else we’d all be living with Sponge Bob Square Pants today.

This has to fall under the old dog, old trick category. A few days ago, the Gray Lady went out to pee. Now for those who don’t know about the Gray Lady, well, the Gray Lady James is an old bird dog. A German Short Hair Pointer, moving into her 15th or 16th year. Either way, the Gray Lady is an old dog. She usually goes out to pee and poop and back to her couch. This time on her way back inside, she froze. I was watching from the EastWing as she stood frozen in time for a full 3 minutes. Now if 3 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time to you, try not moving a single muscle or blinking an eye for a full three minutes. Three minutes, that’s a long time.

Then as faster than you can blink, the Gray Lady dug a hole into a mole tunnel, stuck her whole nose in up past her eyes, right into the tunnel, and just like that, the Gray Lady had the ground mole in her mouth. An old dog had once again pulled off the same old trick. A bird dog for the ages. I’ll miss the Gray Lady James when her time on earth is done. But always remember that all good dogs go to heaven. After all, the Pup Baby, Mustina James is already there.

It was threeyears ago when I decided to reduce the amount of lawn being manicured at the EastWing. The effort was beyond my ability. The lawn being maintained was reduced by well over 50%. To try to justify the reduction of the lawn at the EastWing in mind, I blamed it on the high cost of fuel to operate the zero turn mower. In reality It was simply the lack of energy on the part of the operator. The high cost of fuel was the cop out that did not ease my mind.

Some times in life, it’s damn difficult to admit that there some things that you can no longer do as you once had the ability to do so. Maintaining the EastWing Lawns was just such a thing.  That was then, this is now. Two weeks ago, right out to nowhere, the She said “I want my lawn back”. “Get your lawn back, I will”, said I. After taking lessons from the master, I do recognize the power of the force.

And so it came to pass, that on a Friday afternoon during 4th month of the 2013th year of the Lord, a company was engaged to come to the EastWing and reclaim the “Lawn of The She”. To snatch the “Lawn of The She” back from the jaws of Mother Nature was the single mission assigned to that company. The battle has not yet ended, but the tide has turned in the favor of the She. I’m glad. Like I said, I do recognize the power of the force.

To tell the truth, I’m really happy the She wanted her lawn back. Even though the battle is not over, I’m glad we’re engaged. I’d forgotten how pretty the EastWing Lawn was, before I copped out, and gave up on the lawn maintenance. Sometimes pride gets in the way of common sense.  Welcome home “The Lawn of The She”.

Stay safe in Afghanistan.

From the EastWing,  Talking To The 6th Grade, Old Computers Made of Wood, The Devil In a  #2 Lead Pencil, Little Birds & Whoopee, On The Wings Of A Dove, Old Dogs & Old Tricks, The She & “The Lawn of The She”

I wish you well.