Tuesday, March 2 2021

the thinkpad nipple, mornings, and chicken wild rice soup

page banner

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Tuesday. This morning, my story is hot coffee, sunshine, and amusing computer problems. I slumped into the couch with my Thinkpad this morning and I noticed that my trackpoint wasn't working. If you don't use a Thinkpad, the trackpoint is the name of that little red nipple wedged between the G and H keys that can act as a mouse. In fact, most Thinkpad users don't even use the official term "trackpoint". More often on the forums I've seen it referred to as the thinkpad nipple, but there are some other more embarrassing anatomically analogous nicknames that have no business in this journal entry.

So my laptop has a dead nipple. I'm not too worried about it. It's a pretty typical Thinkpad problem, and I'll probably have a lot of fun figuring it out later. First, I'll boot the computer off of a different USB to make sure that the software isn't to blame. If it's still dead on a different boot, I'll take apart the keyboard and re-seat the little ribbon that plugs into the body of the computer. I can't stress this enough - none of this is as bad as it sounds. Thinkpad parts are pretty sturdy and it's hard to screw them up. To be honest, the fact that I feel confident working under the hood is a compelling testament to the build quality.

As an side, the term "re-seat" is a great word to throw out when you are trying to sound like a knowledgeable computer user. To "re-seat" is to just unplug something and immediately plug it back in, except it sounds a hundred times more helpful. Go ahead and drop that word next time you're at Best Buy, and watch the employee's eye twinkle knowingly. Ah, one of us, he'll think to himself, and then just like that you're in the inner circle.

It's a computer hardware kind of week. Along with fixing my own computer, my sister Kelly left me a bag of old tech goodies. She's got an even older Thinkpad than mine that won't charge, a couple of hard drives, some USB keychains, and other loose laptop parts. I gathered that she's tired of storing these things in her house, but too worried to throw them away for fear that something in the pile is worth a lot of money or is storing personal data.

Here's another good tip. If you have a hard drive and you're certain you don't need it anymore, hit it with a hammer or drill a hole through the middle. That is one of the only ways to ensure your personal data will be truly unrecoverable. You might think that submerging it water would be a more clever way of disposing of it. Water might short the hardware where the hard drive interfaces with the rest of the computer, but the disk is still in tact. All someone would need to do is dry it off and fix it.

Sip. What a beautiful day, and a beautiful time of the year. Marissa and I are hitting that sweet spot in the early spring where we feel productive, and it helps that we're both fully recovered from getting sick. Yesterday we dusted off the home project board and gave each other marching orders for the week. Marissa is picking up where she left off with the basement stairs, we're going to clean the main floor windows, and this Saturday we're going to do a test run setting up Marissa's art gallery tent.

This morning while I was coming out of the shower, I heard Rodney click his light on. He didn't see me peek my head through his door, so for a minute or so I quietly observed him sit up straight, rub his eyes, yawn, and stare at his bedroom wall.

"How's it going, dude?" I asked. His eyes darted in my direction.

"Oh, hey dada," he smiled. "I come out now?"

"No not yet, dude," I replied. "Why don't you read a comic book or something."

Rodney looked down at the stretch of chilly hardwood covering the distance between his warm bed and the stack of Spider-Man comic books on his desk. He decided it wasn't worth it.

"Um, no thanks," he replied. "I think I'll just relax." And with that, he straightened his back, blinked, and then proceeded to just stare off into space.

Kids are interesting in the morning. Without things like coffee and social media, they do interesting things to warm up their brain. As I write downstairs, Rodney talks to himself, makes noises, and throws his toys around.

I remember when I was younger, in the mornings before school I used to sit at the edge of my bed and stare out my window. With my towel still wrapped around my waist, I'd pick a song on my morning mix CD and listen to it on repeat. On most days, it was Eye of the Tiger. On sad days, I listened to Jars of Clay's Love Song for a Savior. And to celebrate Fridays, I'd play Relient K's Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry.

For dinner yesterday I made chicken wild rice soup. What a treacherously difficult soup to perfect. The base starts off like a chicken noodle, only with wild rice. Wild rice takes a long time to cook through especially at a simmer. And then at the very end, you need to add a thick beschamel. It can't water down the soup too much, otherwise you have to reduce it down again.

And that's what happened last night. I made an error somewhere in my mental soup calculus, and after adding the beschamel at the end I was left with a product that looked like vegetables floating around in a latte. I cut some bread so tide our hungry family while I boil the liquid away. I finally gave up, and cheated with a little wadded up ball of flour and butter.

"What are you talking about?" said Marissa. "I think it turned out perfect."

"Thanks," I said. "I think I fixed it, but the way I see it soup is like landing a plane. It's one thing to get it done, but before I call myself a 'pilot' I think I should be able to do it without snapping the landing gears, skidding the wings on the ground, and making everyone on board think they're about to die."

Soup is dangerous in that way. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Have a great Tuesday.