luck isn't always of the bad variety
Thursday, November 6 2003
My toothaches keep moving around between the various molars on the right side of my mouth. I can no longer tell if the problem is the teeth in the lower jaw or those in the upper. For most of the duration of my recent dental discomfort, I'd thought the problem lay somewhere in the lower right premolars or molars. But for most of today it felt as if the problem was centered in a string of fillings in the upper right molars. Throughout the day I was acutely aware of the fillings in these teeth - they no longer felt like they belonged there. They felt like a foreign body stuck to my teeth, a metal scab that needed to be ripped off by any available means. Meanwhile my bite on that side, always imperfect since the day the fillings were installed, had become intolerable. I could feel a little high spot there in the silver that was preventing my teeth from meshing perfectly, and doing so in a way that resulted in pains that shot upward like meat skewers into my head. It's just another burden I bear from the mistake of getting dental work done at a cut-rate storefront dental office on a corner in West LA. I wonder how many Iranian kids down along Santa Monica Blvd. have mouths that feel like mine does.
I went on a shopping errand today that took me to places such as Petsmart and Lowes. (Most of what I needed to pick up was related in some way to our resident animals.) I went over to the Hudson Valley Mall for not much more reason than to get a couple nasty food court egg rolls, and when I got back to my truck and drove off, I realized something was very wrong. My front right tire was completely flat. This was a test, my first experience replacing a tire on my pickup. Was the spare any good? Did I have the right tools? Lucky for me, it was still daylight, the weather wasn't too bad, and I wasn't on the side of some distant interstate. There was a weak drizzle falling, but it was barely worth noting. (I once replaced the generator in a Volkswagen Beetle (a fairly big job) with temperatures in the 20s and 12 inches of snow on the ground.)
As it turned out, I had all the tools I needed to take the flat tire off and replace it with a spare that had been winched up beneath the bed of the truck. I'm glad I had my truck's user manual, because without it I never would have figured out how to release that tire.
As I started lowering the truck down onto its spare, it was soon obvious that the spare didn't have enough air in it to do the job I was assigning it. As I stood there pondering what to do - take the spare off and roll it over to Sears to have them pump air in it? - some woman walked up to me with a little handy portable electric air compressor and asked if it would be of any help. I couldn't believe my good luck - this was exactly what I needed, yet at this point in my problem solving I hadn't even considered it a possibility. If I believed in a benevolent God, an incident like this would have confirmed my faith. All it did for me, though, was reconfirm that luck isn't always of the bad variety.
So I pumped air into my spare, lowered the truck down onto it, and made it home without further difficulty.
For the past day or so I've been experimenting with an installation of the QNX operating system on one of my spare Pentium-grade computers. QNX is a microkernal UNIX-like environment known for its small size and extreme reliability (embedded forms of it are used to control medical equipment and nuclear reactors). QNX is a proprietary commercial closed-source operating system, but it is free for students and tinkerers. So far I am astounded with it based on its performance on a 133 MHz Pentium having 40 Megabytes of RAM. It boots rapidly, and its Voyageur web browser renders pages as quickly as Mozilla does on my 1500 MHz Athlon. It runs far better than any installation of Linux I've ever seen. I was thinking that if I ever have a client who needs a computer that is as reliable as a proverbial toaster, I could whip together a QNX box using vintage equipment and an installation AbiWord. AbiWord is like the QNX of the word processing world (except it is open source) - it does everything anyone would ever want Microsoft Word to do, but its installation files is only four megabytes. Before trying out AbiWord today, I thought OpenOffice was the way to go, but OpenOffice is nearly as bloated and sluggish as Microsoft Office XP. AbiWord is to OpenOffice as QNX is to Linux.
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