Thursday, July 15, 2004

It's the tail end of a tough series of days strung together with wonderful little moments like Kelly Everding's release party for her wonderful poetry chapbook (which I'll link to when I find it), a beautiful Sunday in Wisconsin at the cabin with my family, trying Moolattes at different Dairy Queen's (they were all different thicknesses, tastes, all good, but the local Oakdale DQ makes the best) and lots of great reading. I'd gotten spoiled at work with our little patchwork network of donated and cheap components working pretty well lately. We lost remote access from the Women's Shelter a few weeks ago and it took me two weeks to trace it to a malfunctioning network card in the server. TECHY STUFF FOLLOWS The card was pingable right up until the very end when it finally died and had earlier passed the manufacturer's diagnostics. I was mostly focused on the firewall and VPN configuration because I'd installed a software upgrade about the time we lost the connection. I had just fixed the problem and had started getting caught up on other things when we got hit by lightning Sunday morning when the big storm rolled through the Twin Cities. It brought down part of a plaster ceiling in the closet next to my desk and burned out a switch, a hub and most of our network cards, thankfully only appearing as a power spike on our server UPS log. I ran out right away to get a new switch which was the first piece of equipment along the path of destruction, trying not to be too crabby with the snobby sales clerk who said I should have had it plugged into a surge protector. (It was - and they're not a whole lot of protection when it's a direct hit.) Because I've learned to hoard things, I was able to switch out all the burnt out cards with their slower 10 mps siblings. At 8 p.m. that night I pretended to myself that I'd stop and get something from Dairy Queen as a reward for myself when I finished work for the night. At 9:30, I realized that DQ was just a pipe dream and dinner was going to have to wait until I got home. As I moved down the line of PCs, I raided everyone's candy dishes and scarfed down half of the bag of BBQ chips left on the table. Is it just me or do BBQ chips eat the roof of your mouth, too? By midnight, I'd found the burnt out hub and could go no further down the network line until I picked up a new hub the next morning. I had only one NIC card (one which failed to register on 2 different PCs) left when I reached the end of the damage. I think someone up there wanted to remind everyone just how valuable a staff person I am without diverting too many funds away from our services. Does anyone know if I have to switch out all the surge protectors now? END OF TECHY STUFF Last week, one of the women from the shelter was killed when she wandered away from her group of friends and fell asleep by a car in a parking lot and the poor owner of the car drove over her as he was leaving to meet a friend for breakfast. She had been drinking and had recently relapsed after a seventeen year period of sobriety. It hit everyone at the shelter pretty hard, and was made even harder by the fact she was encouraged not to come in that night when she called for a bed because it was obvious she had been drinking and would end up turned away or worse, barred from the shelter. The staff was trying to help her keep her bed, the shelter is sober and she had caused trouble in the past while drinking, but right now it feel to them like they sent her to her death. You do this type of work long enough and it happens to you, too. You can try to convince someone to go to detox or another safe place when they've had too much to drink but they mostly refuse. (It's amazing how fast someone can move if they want to avoid detox!) Over time, you might be able to get them to look at supportive housing or treatment, if they still qualify, but mostly you just hope to be a positive force or a safe haven. Tonight, I was down checking on the volunteer desk computer and chatting with some of the guys. One of them mentioned that Keith, a guest I knew quite well, had died of pneumonia a couple weeks ago. Keith was in his late forties, and had had a very tough life. Depression had hit him hard and I'm not sure he ever sought treatment for it, although I had enoouraged him to and I'm sure others did, too. He was always very sweet to me and would talk often about his lost family and life. I can't help feeling like both of these people were allowed to slip through the cracks.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Friday, July 02, 2004

A co-worker forwarded this link from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a Tour of Poverty. Their Poverty USA site, a great resource for education and advocacy, also has an interesting poverty quiz. One little fact from the quiz, "In fact, the U.S. child poverty rate is two-to-three times higher than other major industrialized nations."

One of the best parts of working for a small nonprofit is the outside our normal duty activities, especially when they involve the kids from our transitional housing program. Wednesday, I spent the day at the Twin Cities' amusement park Valley Fair with a group of kids to celebrate their perfect or almost perfect school attendance. Last year, I accompanied four teenaged girls and we went on all the scary rides (which I love), so I was expecting to be with much smaller kids this time. The girls this time were aged 10-12 and alternated between delightful and frustrating. They were still young enough to want hugs and sometimes reassurance before scary rides, but were also old enough to be stubborn and bicker when the afternoon crabbies hit. Once again, I rode all the scary rides (except the Steel Venom ride kicked my butt last year - I'm looking forward to a rematch) with multiple trips to the water drenching ones and the bumper cars. What ride did the four girls think was the scariest? The ferris wheel - the only ride I remember all four of my grandparents riding when I was a kid. This isn't even a normal two person ferris wheel, it fit all six of us (two adults, four girls.) I have to admit, though, the shrieking made it a lot more exciting. Anyways, how does this relate to the above post about poverty? At $32.95 for anyone over 48", this is one of the things that most low-income families would have to do without. A summer without at least one trip to an amusement park is a sad summer, indeed.