Surprisingly delightful leaf

I went on a bike ride down the old TaiTapu Rd this afternoon and the weather started to close in on my way back with a light misty sprinkle.

Turning onto Sabys in the gloom I almost ran over a brilliant red maple leaf, startling on the grey shingle road.  There isn’t a maple tree in sight.  I don’t know where it came from.  Its red was intensified by the droplets of mist it had accumulated, and you could even see the slightly orange shadows where the leaf must have been tipped away from the sun when it grew.  I stared at it, soaking up its vibrancy.

I love red.  I always have.  It’s not a calm color; it’s INTENSE and I ADORE it.  It was so fun to run into this one, unexpectedly cheerful for no good reason at all.

The computer is wrong!

“Ugh, what!?  This is impossible!”

Milo was struggling with 5 digit subtraction using the Maths Buddy program.  He started out confident; he had this topic nailed a couple weeks ago.  But he was muddling up the rules of borrowing, so he wasn’t getting the right answers and his frustration was mounting.

“Hang on, don’t go past that problem, let’s work it out so you can see what you’re doing wrong,” I advised.  Too late, he’d already skipped past the wrong answer to try again on the next problem.

“What!” he burst out. “This keyboard isn’t working!”  

“What do you mean, the keyboard isn’t working?”  ….but he’d already moved to the next problem.  “Write this one out on your paper so you can work it out,” I advised. 

“Is this right?”

“Well, let’s check it by adding your answer to the smaller number,” I suggested.  I’ve never been that quick at mental math.  “Nope, it’s not quite right.”

“Yes it IS!”  He typed in his answer and the red X appeared.  “Arg, this is stupid!  Mom, you gave me the wrong answer!”

“Milo, hun, I haven’t given you any answers.”

“The computer is wrong!”

I laughed out loud.  “Milo, if you don’t stop and learn why you’re getting the wrong answers, you’re never going to get them right.”

We repeated this conversation 5 more times.  No joke.  FIVE TIMES.  He clearly didn’t appreciate the humor in the situation.  Each round he might look at his paper and listen to an explanation for a few seconds before deciding that he knew it well enough and carrying on.  Fortunately, Maths Buddy doesn’t let him move on to the next level until he gets more than 85% of the problems right, so the natural consequence of his hard headedness was that he kept having to repeat the problem set, and he kept failing.  Eventually I moved into the kitchen and quietly ducked down behind the counter.  I saw him stand up in the chair and scan for me, then return to the computer, muttering and griping.

About five minutes later he announced success.  “FINALLY!” he groaned.  “Mom!  Mom?  Mom!  Where are you?”  After a round of the house he found me crouched behind the cupboard, reading.  “I’m done, let’s go to the skate park.”

The next day at work I stared at my computer screen.  Somehow the spray management software was saying that after we used Ascend on four different occasions, the inventory was higher than when we started out a month ago.  I scratched my head.  I pulled out the history to validate.  0.436 of a 5L unit was still greater than 0.352 of a 5L unit.  “Impossible!” I exclaimed.  “The computer is wrong!”  Then I thought of Milo and his Maths Buddy…..but this time I really did think the computer was wrong.  Could the calculator in the software have gone haywire?

Tonight I told Milo that something funny had happened at work.  My computer was doing three digit subtraction and it was getting it wrong.

“Well Mom, you should use your head, not a calculator!” he advised.

Touche, little man.


Mud pies

I went to work today without yesterweeks high expectations and decided to clear up the pile of media samples that had been accumulating behind my desk for the last few months.  It’s what I do when there’s nothing better going on.  It’s tedious because we don’t USE the results for decision making; the media is used the same day it’s made, so there’s no opportunity to catch a bad batch before using it.  The samples do serve to build up a story of what the normal pH and EC ranges are; the idea is that we have to know what’s normal to understand when something’s not normal.  But it’s also tedious because by the time I hit the doldrums enough to process soil samples, I have stacked collection of sample boxes built up like a proverbial brick wall.  Uninspiring.

But sometimes boredom breeds a more creative solution, and this time I decided I’d use the zillions of samples to come up with a simpler methodology of testing, one I could hand off to the nursery that makes the soil, so perhaps those samples could stop coming to me.

“Your childhood paid off, eh? Sitting around making mud pies?” My co-worker trundled by moving a trolley from here to there with plenty of time to observe what I was up to.

And he wasn’t the first to comment about the mud pies as I stood stirring water into the stubbornly dry media. Usually the comments are around cups of coffee because the pH measuring usually involves rows of white plastic cups, but this new method did away with the cups and filter papers, hence the mud pie analogies.

“Yup,” I advised my co-worker.  “Tell your kids to go into science so they never have to stop playing in the mud.”

Drama Queen

The Drama Queen.
She had actually recovered from her funk by this time, but aren’t those clouds perfect?  The heavens ought to revolve around a six-year-old’s desires when she’s wearing a furry pink sweater, right?  We had sent our secret weapon (Milo) in to break the stalemate with the promise of an extra piece of cake if he succeeded in getting her to move from where her feet were rooted, offended that her heartless parents had declined to boost her into her chosen climbing tree during our walk in Victoria Park. And he did succeed, as he often does when she’s decided to dig her heels in against her unsympathetic parents.

He might not look like a convincing secret weapon, but he can wheedle and cajole, bribe and sweet-talk his way into his sister’s heart, when she feels the rest of the world is against her. Kudos, Milo!

The Coffee Shuffle

Titled “The Coffee Shuffle,” I picked this picture up in a store in Washington State probably 12 years ago. I love how uninhibitedly ecstatic these women are over something as simple as a hot cup of coffee. 

Now this week we’ve moved to Level 3, and for many of us socially isolated life hasn’t changed much, but there is one major development.  Restaurants and cafes are open for takeaways. Let’s all dance the coffee shuffle!

Breaking Isolation

NZ moved to “Level 3” in the brand new alert systems on Monday at Midnight.  That means that socially our lives are basically unchanged, still “enjoying the sanctity” of our family unit bubbles, but more businesses can be open.  In fact, any business that can be innovative enough to carry on without people contacting each other can open up….unfortunately that still means hair dressers are closed, and there’s a run on home hair dye kits at the grocery store.

There have been a lot more cars on the road as many industries start up again, and I added to the traffic as I made my way to work at Zealandia on Tuesday morning.  There was not actually a gorgeous sunrise that morning, but I felt there should have been to mark the momentous “back to work” moment.

I don’t know what fairy tale I was hoping for, but subconsciously must have thought it’d be better than when I left.  Maybe I thought there’d be more purpose and direction, because by now the business would be pared down to only the essential components.  Maybe I thought my great expertise had been missed over the last month and upon return there’d be a list of important tasks to get stuck into.

Instead I got my temperature zapped by a contactless thermometer, signed a piece of paper saying I would follow the Critical Covid19 Policy, then sat at my desk, thumbing through the to-do list from a month ago, long term projects that no one cares about.

Of course, my supervisor is also the general manager, and he’s had a wee bit on his plate of late.  Our sales were down 80% compared to April last year and I could see him through his office window holed up with the CFO pouring over spreadsheets.  I imagine that my little salary sitting in the corner wondering what she should be doing is small peanuts compared to the bigger picture of 270 employees, many of whom were also idle over the last month.

But as ridiculous as it is, I felt deflated.

I had a walk around the nursery.  Insects have calmed down for the year and diseases seem well in hand.  I went out to check on the crop outside.  It was a lovely sun-drenched day.  I went back inside to my dark desk and reviewed the pesticide pricing for our spray database.  I wondered what my kids were up to.  I filed emails in the proper folders.  I had my solitary afternoon tea.  My boss stopped by for a couple minutes between phone calls in the mid afternoon, and asked if I could put together a list of current R&D projects, to review the next Monday.  Next Monday!

I decided that staying home doing school with the kids would be more purposeful than going in to the nursery for the remainder of the week.