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Getting Along Fine Without It

By Earnest Long

Copyright 2017 Earnest Long

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Nothing like taking something out of the box or for a few hours doing so, finally seeing the screen, adjusting a few things so it prints, saying good-bye to your father who’ve you’ve spent more time doing something with today than for you had done for years, who finally leaves to your new computer, you feel exited and then deflated.

I do have a head start because I have used my father’s computer that has exactly the same software. But that was not my own and I only used it intermittently when visiting my parents.

My room can return now as it was with only the addition of a computer.

I switch off the screen for a second and take out a pad. On this, I make a note: 'Things to do with computer'.

I begin to write to it but switch the computer on again and type it in.

When I’ve finished I add in dates and seeing this looks clear I start another WP file and call it schedule and copy and paste between the two.

I think of what I have to do. And some of this can be done today even.

Next, I have a cup of tea.

My handwritten diary will be a good thing to type in. I consider adding to this my study notes but feel disheartened when this reminds me of the last time so long ago that I read them anyway.

After a few hours, I’ve typed up a few pages of diary and look at my work. Very nice, lovely headings, good graphics, all look good.

I take my handwritten diary notes but don’t have enough room on the desk for them. This really is not good enough. I open my file I mentioned before I write, 'Buy paper files' and to my schedule, I add 'Computer/paper filing system'. If however my diary is on computer, why do I need it on paper? This perplexes me and I have no solution for it.

Opening my spreadsheet program I look at what you would think was familiar if it didn’t look a little strange to me still. What should I type in? How about expenses, starting with this computer but then dad paid for it so whilst I consider phoning him up to ask it is not really my expense.

A few hours later, and a sense of familiarity is creeping in.

In a flash of inspiration however, I write on my pad 'computer' and next to it 'x hours'. I open a file, type this in, and then add, 'Wrote WP file, y hours'. Beneath that, I write 'spreadsheet, z hours'. On top of one column I write 'NAME' (I couldn’t think of anything better) and the other 'HRS'. ‘X, Y, Z,’ – they tell me how I spent the last few hours but then I wonder how any of this is different from my pad or a back of an envelope. Actually, I do feel it is different and it leaves me feeling a little dazzled. I look at the pad and then the screen; hold up my written notes so I can see them almost both together. Somehow, I can see myself in an old faded photograph of long ago, as if transported in a dream, a dream I had as an infant. Or someone I can’t see or hear is telling this same child some words of wisdom that sound like some muffled conversation of adults when he has gone to bed. There are muffled words and some sort of exclamations. This is though he does not really know the matter of which they speak. But this as if that could matter when he is not able quite to hear and does not rise from his bed to hover on the stairs and listen in like his brother did now he remembers wanted to know what they, his parents and grandparents were saying. His brother returns to bed after what seems to be an hour downstairs and says he was beaten, giving the detail that his father did the beating and not his grandfather who threatened him with the belt tomorrow. Yet looking at these figures on screen I sense that I have seen something, gone into the half-light of those stairs lit by the light from the front room and seen the shadows of the grown-ups on the grey floor of the hall. And sometimes in my wildest dreams, I hear some words clearly spoken as if intended for me. Then, there is laughter. It is a cynical, disparaging mirth. Now in my dream I am a teen, if these are dreams. I see a folded paper, symbols, words that have a meaning, a smile to greet me. And I cannot doubt that this smile is genuine. Though, by the passage of time, her words may not be so well remembered by me. Nor do her feelings change so quickly now. As a teen, I would walk in the park, talk to her, and not worry much as to future. Nor would I worry about what anyone expected of me or would want me to say. This is when you could just put words together. And in doing this, you could be with someone for an hour or two/ Then, I suppose you would talk. Words are symbols that stand for something else. To talk rubbish is not to realize the meaning of the symbol.

The computer tells me something as these figures, x and the rest do. Numbers tell a different story. When Lady Macbeth wrings her hands, we know she is in anguish, sleep walking, and her distress shows it bounds. Books have been written about numbers. Numbers are more precise, numbers mean things words can’t show and numbers inform words.

The ghost of my dream returns for I had supper and slept poorly since I typed in these numbers. Perhaps it was a dream of yesteryear, does not quite tell the truth, and does not exist in the bright light of day. Elation fills me.

What had passed on a day like this? What can I remember of the day and not the dark hours of night? Many hours I spent reading in my parent’s house on a summer evening, or when the sky was high, I had pulled the curtain to avoid the glare, when my mother told me to go out in the garden and enjoy summer whilst I could. Or the long winter’s evenings when I watched television and my father read the paper, these winter evenings that were not upon us yet this time of year.

The summer skies outside my window were fading slightly, the light had a dull, worn look to it, and my bed is smoothed exactly as it was at 9 am that morning, the towel from this morning's shower on the radiator. All was as I had left it. The view from my window was indifferent and I did not look out.

I wrote up my diary now, an inconsequential description of going to the shops that I must I though because I had typed have written more than once though I couldn’t find when I had mentioned exactly the same thing even going back through the pages since the start of the year.

I made another note “Diary, q hours” and planned a time that evening when I would type it up onto my spreadsheet.

Opening the WP package I made a table with rows for date, start time, end time and what I had done. I printed this off and wrote in the times on it from my notes, some of them I could not locate already and some periods of the day were not accounted for. I thought of a name for table and wrote it in along the top in capital letters: THINGS DONE. I transferred all that I could find that was not on spreadsheet and view my totals. ‘Writing Diary’ as I called my scribbling took less than hour, whilst typing diaries gave a different figure of a few hours. I wandered what I would do when I typed it up straight away but left it at that for now. Perhaps writing a diary is different and typing my handwritten notes would be outdated. I edited the table and added a column for ‘things to do’. And I wrote what I would do the next day, having as I did to print out two sheets to fill it in. Finding this unsatisfactory when I filled in my spreadsheet, I produced two files for each with differently labelled columns. After this, I again felt deflated.

“You asked for a computer,” my father said resignedly. “Now, make use of it.”

Really, I wanted this machine more than anything else I did right now. He had brought some paper, I could tell taken straight from his home and not even put in a wrapper.

“That’s your paper!” he exclaimed though I could not remember asking for any.

“Don’t waste it!"

He said this wearily as his parting remark.

I added, 'Don’t waste paper' to the things to do list. After that, I wrote “Chat, 4.15 pm, 5 pm” for the time he had stayed. I wasn’t sure ‘Chat’ was the right word.

Looking round for something to do, I read for a few hours until I could have my supper – the hour now being right for it.

Studying the next morning, I wrote up an essay on what I had learned and went to the park. I wrote when I got back as the chill of the evening was setting in ‘Park, 4pm, 6 pm’ and ‘Read paper, 7 pm, 8pm.’

Eating lunch with a friend, I asked her if she had a home computer. She replied politely that she had thought of doing so I nevertheless pursued the matter and asking her if she knew about computers. Receiving an answer in the affirmative, I asked her if she knew what I was describing.

“I know how a spreadsheet works.” was her only remark before I felt obliged to drop it.

For the rest we chatted about the stuff in the paper. After we finished we kissed affectionately for a few minutes. And I felt much better when I went back to my room than I had done on other occasions.

I picked up and read a novel for a few hours finding the book interesting.

You have to work if you want money for a girlfriend,’ is the old adage. Thus enamored my computer was the way to restart my studies assiduously and have some gauge of the hours spent studying.

The application of learning to type faster to take less time on typing whilst typing up notes before I could type that fast and well left me again dejected. Well-formatted typed up notes were an improvement however on handwritten ones. And whilst I learned to format my notes better, this could not be tested now I was too tired to see if the reading of them was improved. The euphoria of starting this task had ended in disappointment.

For the rest of the day I watched TV and flipped the channels writing as the last thing I did before I went to bed: ‘WTV, 8pm, 10pm’.

Morning is a good time to start things but start in a good way by going out and buying breakfast. On returning, I switched on my computer and printed my two forms. Having done so, I studied all morning reading page after page of a thick tome. Black ink like some old fashioned antique in my grandparents' house filled my senses again like as a young child when I looked forward to visiting them. For years, my parents had sent me to school on a cup of tea, my mother not wanting to cook. I had passed all my exams. But some things you can change if they make more sense to you now, they will work now and change your circumstances now if the past cannot be.

A week passed and I could know as I returned on that Monday afternoon that I had a week to type up and view. From the park, I had bought a snack for the afternoon with my spare money. My chat with M, who though she had kissed me again, let me recognize for myself that we could only be friends because I did perhaps lack something of some sort. This was a conversational piece, topics of conversation and an ability to interest to her in that way. Coming back, however, I did not feel deflated but had some task still to do that day and for some time to come.

To know now that I a lot of time chatting, when not studying or reading, to the man who lived downstairs and whom I met in the shared area of the house. He was a man with a bad back who could not find work. And he listened always to what I said, had an interest in history and reserved any political opinion however. Also, he spoke of pretty girls he saw whilst out as if they might fall for a man is his forties with a balding pate, and conservative dress sense made only passable by a choice of a designer shirt. He gave me quite a lot of advice on women, such as it was though I do not fully recall. One thing he did say was that woman liked to be treated to flowers, to avoid women with husbands and he said as well how I might tell if they had one. To my chagrin he said women who were older and looked like that had a few bob were quite likely to married. Once he talked about a girl he had nearly married, but she had been seeing someone else the whole time. He answered patiently all my questions and I marveled at his ability not to have to start any conversations himself. Also, he spoke of his interest in history that went something along the lines of how social disadvantage was a bad thing as he movingly spoke of conditions in the industrial revolution and then giving an economic history of department stores. I couldn’t match in particulars though I did try and talk about what interested me on my trips to the library of which he was intensely attentive. Talking about books is good I thought to increase your scope of reading and your understanding of them but he rarely asked any questions and bored quickly. His own books were a mystery and whilst he owned many, he did not seem to have read them. Maintaining he had read them all he would disappear for a few hours and come down ready to converse on this or that obscure and not quite fashionable matter. A problem with all these conversations was that during all of them the TV was on and I could not pay attention to both at the same time so felt cheated of if not one than the other.

My spreadsheet this first week to my surprise put my time for ‘chat’ at such a large number of hours that I spent most of my everyday downstairs on the ground floor when I could do better if I stayed in my room. I had stayed in my room and read for some time in the past mainly because I knew I had not one friend or acquaintance that would mean I ever left my room. After six months or so of this, I had no girlfriend and a slightly better understanding of some hobbies and studies.

Perhaps, the TV being on all the time accounted for most of this. But clearly, the TV on most of the week against the dozen hours spent on studying and reading my novel meant that I would have to change it. Though now, I considered I knew this without a spreadsheet.

On the page in front of me, I wrote (and later typed up as a Task list to edit):


DO DON’T

Read novel Write essays nobody will read

Study Chat

Read newspaper Watch TV

Have a breakfast

Stay in room and read

Go out occasionally

PLAN

Study to get skills

Read more to get better conversation

Exercise to improve looks

Better looks, conversation, and skills will get me a job

Also, better looks, conversation and job will get me girlfriend

On my visit to the library, I spoke to a young librarian because I wanted a book on statistics to use my data from the spreadsheet. Seeing her pack some books on the shelves near the section she had shown me, I spoke to her a bit about what I had done. She was young and whilst I had seen her before in the summer holidays helping from school, her familiarity with her work and her keenness to learn by her regular trips up to the desk to ask questions showed she had chosen this as a career move to my eyes. She was in fact studying a non-library course at college she revealed so my preconceptions may have been all wrong. I knew that I could not prejudge someone by what I could see of them and nor what little I knew of them. So, I asked her if she knew about stats and she told me indeed she did though seemed mute when I asked her if she had done a course in it. Having found the newest book on the shelf and ignoring the rest, I took a few books that I wanted for revision and bade my leave having talked for quite long enough.

For the next few weeks, I studied stats at my desk most days and by the end of this period felt confident to use it. For the most part the book reinforced my understanding and I was grateful for such a well-written book. Whilst this may not make sense and I do not know if it does for you dear reader, a positive relationship is one where if the one thing increases then so does something else. And this is shown on a line graph because the line will go up and down between each point the same as for something else it's positively related to. If it’s negatively related then one line goes up when the other falls. Thus, an increase in one is associated with a decrease in another for negative relationships and in positive relationships, they both increase. One may cause the increase or decrease in the other but you do not know which one or if a third factor causes both.

For the first month,

Watching TV is negatively related to chat weekends but positive weekdays

Reading novels is positively related to chat week to week but negatively weekends

Positive to study is reading the paper

Reading novels is negatively related to study

I felt euphoric that I had actually worked this out – I has set out to do something and seen the result. What it told me was that I should study and read the paper weekdays, read novels towards the weekend, and that I did more in the morning than the afternoon on those days I had breakfast whilst the reverse was true on those days that I didn’t.

In all I has spent a few score hours analyzing the data to come up with this. Over the next few weeks, I would spend a few score more. Not all the relationships were maintained if any but when I divided up what my goals were (reading, study, going out to the cinema) against what my avoidance goals were (chat, watching TV…) the relationship was always negative.

Unfortunately, after a few months of this I did not have a girlfriend or a job. Why might this be? First, the hours spent on my goals were not so great. I had learnt a lot about the computer for this project, really a surprising amount, but book learning was not so much in total. Nor was reading novels and I had not read many novels if you want to take number of novels as measure. Though, I had not recorded them and could not remember now all the titles. My studies however were encouraging and I had done more over the time than at the start. Reading novels if anything was worse than before.

I went to the library to return my book on stats, met C again, and told her that I had found the book useful. But I spoke again quickly when I seemed to get nothing except surprise for revealing this fact. I told her of my positive and negative relationships and she nodded and said that no, she did not plan to do that herself but she was interested to hear that I had done it. Instead, she talked about her hobbies, going to college and wanting to find a job in her chosen field when she left. This was although she wasn’t that bothered if the chances of finding work in it that she explained to me were slim. I may be wrong on this when I did not actually ask her this question directly.

“How do you do?”

“All right,” said the girl laughing.

“You expect me to give you lessons?

“I have a life. And I've recorded what you want on your form, what else do you expect me to do?”

“Has it been explained to you that I have spent some time looking at your file and will do again for this project?”

“I could probably tell you it all.”

“Can you, what do you think you do with your time?”

“I know exactly.”

“Do you know how much time you actually spent in the library compared to how much time you spent in the bathroom?”

“Yes.”

She told the exact hours and we both looked at each other rather sheepishly.

“You’ve been using the university computer to do that?”

“I don’t really expect you to understand…I’ve looked at the data… what I recorded myself on your form… a bit of paper… I went to my lectures or most of them…not like I did anything wrong…”

“Do you think you’ll ever achieve anything with your attitude?”

“I don’t see why not, I study, I attend lectures, another few years and I’ll have my degree. Then, I won't be at university anymore and I’ll see. I don’t need a ticking off.”

“Alright then, we’ll co-operate than shall we?”

“I actually expect co-operation, I don’t care if you know I watch TV all morning, if I have terrestrial channels or cable or satellite, what I watch on TV if you can work that out, what time I go to bed, how many days I go out a week, what time I get up at weekends. But I came here to learn.”

“You’re getting quite carried away with yourself little lady.”

“That’s like my life I was telling you about, what I want from you is advice, which was why I did it, I don’t expect criticism.”

“All right then, can you remember what you read at the start of the week?”

She seemed uncomfortable.

“You only read novels at weekends when you see all your friends, could you tell me why that is?”

“Are you saying I watch too much TV and only see my friends at weekends?”

“I’m not going to get into silly arguments about watching the TV.”

The girl seemed to be sulking and muttered something under her breadth that the tutor perfectly understood though it was hard to imagine how he could have heard what she said.

“What you do here is no concern of mine…”

“I’ve passed my exams and attended lectures. What good are stats that say anything else? That proves my point that they only measure things and don’t give the real me, that don’t say I have a future ahead of me because I’m young and had worked towards it, by coming here of course. Also, I’m going to walk out of here and have a good life and a career, be way ahead of anyone else I met at school who didn’t go to university and even if so many go now. Who cares? All I wanted was a bit of advice….”

“Let us look at the data.”

“How many friends do I have?”

“I’ll ask the questions.”

“No you won’t. What days do I go out?”

The tutor tried to find it in her notes.

“See you don’t even know.”

“I have that somewhere here.”

“Don’t look on your computer.”

“Perhaps if you come back next week…”

“I want advice now, not in a week’s time.”

“What advice do you think I can give you?”

She began to walk out and then staying said, “You’re my tutor, of course you can give advice. You can because you have the solution, that’s why.”

“Alright, if you want solutions, then here are some. What time do you write your essays, what time do get up in the mornings, how many times do you wake up late because you have a hangover?”

But she had walked out.

Having written my diaries up finally, I designed an application using other software on my computer and pasted in each day’s diary entry into my computer. Underneath I typed in the things I had mentioned for that day. When I spoke about a novel I had read, I typed it in below the diary entry that appeared on the screen and moved onto the next one. Here I might type study or some topic of interest I had mentioned such as computers. Not all were directly the same the things. I wondered if I wouldn’t find that for each day, I did mention exactly what I did that day or more or less. So I wasn’t wasting my time if my personal journal was not the same as my time management data. To my surprise, I found the reverse of what I had thought. This was comparing the data from the form I had recorded my time use in hours with my personal journal. It said that when I did something, I mentioned it less week to week and when I mentioned something in my diary more I did it less.

“Doers are not thinkers.”

The End






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