Life on the Road–Making Do

We’re on the road again–actually just back in the old Montana haunts, but without the amenities of home.  The Unix Curmudgeon is holding court with his laptop on a cardboard box on a filing cabinet, to align the screen with a second monitor provided by $CLIENT, along with a wireless mouse and keyboard also on loan.  So, this setup is not dissimilar to the temporary office at Chaos Central.

The Nice Person is making do with her netbook at the local public library and coffee shops.  We recently upgraded our eight-year-old copy of Quicken, for various reasons, most having to do with bit-rot and missing features not supported by Wine on Linux.  So, our financial records now reside in an XP virtual machine on the big Linux workstation back home.  We can connect with it remotely if we have to, but that’s never fun with slow wireless connections and limited screen sizes on the mobile devices.

This trip is a more or less extended contract work session, originally intended to keep level of coverage for on-site staff vacation replacement, but the current workload deferred the absences.  Nevertheless, there is enough excitement to keep busy, which is why we’re on retainer in the first place.  Being on-site for an extended period is much different than the focussed effort of per-incident billing that is the norm for this sort of consulting, but immersion in the day-to-day system activities also results in a big-picture view that justifies the extra expense.

Meanwhile, the Nice Person has planned activities as well, that are less focussed.  The inconvenience of not having access to the comforts of home require some workarounds.  Like the Curmudgeon’s makeshift workstation arrangement, she has been sewing in the empty ex-home, on a rickety occasional table, sitting on a rickety chair, but finds the bare carpet convenient for quilt-top layouts.  However, like the coffee-shop forays for Internet access, she relies on the local quilt shop classroom to do cutting and ironing.  Last week, she attended a quilt retreat with the old gang, and we’ve had a bit of time to visit with other folks we know, so it’s almost like a normal existence, if a little sparse.  Our mornings are spent sitting in the living room on lawn chairs, drinking instant coffee, but even that has some ambiance compared with spending mornings hiding in the fiber studio at Chaos Central waiting for the kitchen chaos to subside when the children get the grandchildren off to school.

Thanks to electronic billing and banking, the bills don’t pile up while we’re gone, but the fact remains that all of the places we call home need personal attention from time to time.  We left Chaos Central at the mercy of the ever-encroaching English Ivy, against which we have been waging a losing battle.  One weekend in Montana was spent removing walls and shelving in the garage to convert the craft workspaces back to potential parking area, in hopes of attracting buyers who expect a garage to be a garage, and another weekend in winterizing and continuing the on-going maintenance and construction in the off-the-grid cabin formerly known as the Y2K Bunker, 200km to the north.  The war against spotted knapweed around the cabin has been set back this year, as well.  We’re beginning to realize that, in the dozen years since we started building the cabin, our average length of stay there is 20 hours, at infrequent intervals, so it remains a work in progress.

So it goes: it’s not retirement, it’s a return to the road warrior days, before Unix, living out of a suitcase and indulging in portable hobbies to keep some semblance of stability and continuity to working everywhere and nowhere in particular.  We can see why a lot of folks encumber themselves with motor homes in later life, forsaking the garden, orchard, and porch of a permanent dwelling for the freedom to be where you need (or want) to be.  But, that’s not for us: not all of our activities are that portable, and we like our porch.  Besides, total mobility depends on the ability to shed some of those real-estate commitments.  Meanwhile, it’s getting close to time to head back to Chaos Central to collect the cat from the Kitty Hotel and see if the children and grandchildren (who moved in 10 months ago) have moved away yet…

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