Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Year of Skills: Part 3

July: Bike Repair

July was positively lame compared to June. I know, I know, I'm sorry, but I can't keep up that level of glamor forever.

Another thing I can't keep forever--check out that smooth transition--is my bicycle. While we were in Ethiopia over Christmas, our next-door neighbor who never locks the doors (we live in Oakland: who doesn't lock the doors?!?) failed, yet again, to lock the door, and our bicycles, which we kept in a hallway closet, were stolen. Let's take this moment to mourn my bicycle, which I loved passionately.

Isn't it beautiful? Also, heavy.

In any case, in July I saw an advertisement for free bike repair classes offered at a chain of bike shops around here, and I thought that was the perfect skill for the month, especially as I was taking my bike into the city (and by the store) anyway to get to the pier for a sailing offsite for work. (OK, I can keep up that level of glamor forever, or at least for a long time.)

I expected the bike repair classes to be, you know, classes, but instead I was the only one who showed up, and I got a free hour of individual bike repair instruction from an expert. Not a bad deal, I say, even though the main thing I learned is that I'm not strong enough to pull off or put on a bicycle tire. Clearly if I plan on ever getting a flat, I should do some finger workouts first.

August: Programming

The company where I work is incredibly engineering-oriented; the company exists for them and by them and the rest of us are just auxiliaries. I'm not complaining, mind you, but it does mean that I'm intrigued by their skills. As I see it, I file a request for something to happen to the site or to one of our tools, and bam! some time later (occasionally some long time later) it's fixed. It's like magic! (Slow, slow magic.) I wanted in on that magic myself; not that I'd ever get good enough to be able to fix the site myself, but at least with some grounding in programming I might not be so incredibly bowled over by what our engineers can do.

There's not much more interesting to say about this one, and certainly no pictures. I started out teaching myself PHP with some tutorials online and books from the library, but I then expanded my repertoire to JavaScript because that's what Codecademy was teaching. It's fun, but I'm nowhere near confident enough to actually build anything myself. This, after quilting, is the skill that I continue to work on the most, mostly because, with the enthusiastic approval of my manager, I now get to use work time to practice. (Should I mention, yet again, how much I love my job?)

September: Canning

Mike's parents are impressively self-reliant people: they grow the majority of produce they eat, they built their own house, they even barter with friends who have sheep and bees. (Mike hates it when I say that because it makes them sound like they're hunter-gatherers in some pre-currency economy. So let me clarify: they trade cash for fresh honey. But from a friend! Someone they know!) Needless to say, I, the citified useless intellectual child of citified useless intellectual parents, think this is incredible.

With touching faith and optimism, Mike's mother thinks I could someday be the kind of homemaker she is, and, knowing how much I love her homemade jams, last Christmas she gave me a canning kit: mason jars, tongs, etc etc. I thought I would never use the kit--I like to eat other people's homemade jams, see; all of the joy but none of the work--but hey! It was the Year of Skills and I needed something to do in September, so I canned some heirloom tomatoes.

The canning process itself was fairly easy--chop up some tomatoes, put them in jars, boil away!--but because of that, I'm suspicious: what if I did it wrong? How am I supposed to know? I'd really rather not get botulism.

And thus, we have three small jars of tomatoes sitting in our kitchen still, waiting for the day that I give up entirely and throw them away. It was fun while it lasted.


Diane said...

I don't think I'm useless. I'm just not very useful.

Heidi said...

I'm pretty sure this is an awesome idea that I'm going to unabashedly copy next year.