Spring Cleaning

Inspired a bit by Marie Kondo, perhaps, I’ve been doing some spring cleaning this weekend. I haven’t actually watched her Netflix show or read her book, but it’s hard not to run into references to her work lately. I caught her appearance on Colbert, for instance, and listened to a Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about the show recently. And I’ve gotten a kick out of some of the anti-Kondo backlash that’s been showing up on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet. I know that it’s all exaggeration and/or misperception, but some of it is entertaining. This Washington Post article is a good example.

Anyway, it’s a three-day weekend (for me), so I’ve got some extra time. I thought I might get an “easy win” by going through a box of old college papers and throwing most of them away. I assumed the box was mostly full of notebooks from my RPI days; I don’t really have any sentimental attachment to old differential equations notes, so those could be easily discarded. Alas, the top few inches of papers were actually from my K-12 days, including stuff from grammar school, middle school, and high school. Most of my old notebooks from those days had already been discarded, so this was stuff that I’d previously decided to keep.

I managed to talk myself into throwing most of this stuff away, after scanning it in. So that slowed things down a lot. I only got through maybe the top inch of stuff in the box between today and yesterday. (And the box is about 12 inches tall.) So, visually, it doesn’t look like I’ve put much of a dent in things.

Since having to reinstall Windows 10 a while back, I’ve been trying to come up with a good solution for scanning. I couldn’t quite manage to reinstall the old Canon software that came with my printer/scanner, and that I’d been previously been using. For now, I’ve settled on using the Microsoft Windows Scan app for scanning to JPG/PNG format, and the freeware NAPS2 for scanning to PDF. I’m not completely happy with either, but they’re actually a little better than the old Canon software in some ways.

Anyway, I’ve been scanning old photos and single-page documents to PNG, and multi-page documents to PDF, for the most part. I’ve come up with a naming convention that starts with the year, so my First Communion certificate is named “1975-first-communion.png,” for example. (And the actual certificate is now in a garbage bag in the dumpster behind my apartment building. Sigh.) I’ve been putting them all into a folder in OneDrive named “Andy-childhood”. My intention to to stick anything up to my high school graduation in there. Having the file name start with the year will make the files appear roughly chronologically.

Spending time on all this seems a bit self-indulgent, but I’m ok with that. It’s not like I spend a lot of time rummaging through old grade-school report cards, in general. I don’t think I’ve looked at the stuff in that box in twenty years.

I’ve come across some pretty funny stuff in that box, including a short story I wrote, titled “An Interstellar Christmas,” which is all about Santa making an appearance on an interstellar spacecraft on Christmas Eve. I didn’t put a date on it, but it looks like it’s probably from 1979, when I was 12.

I also found an issue of my middle school “newspaper,” also from 1979, that had a page devoted to a creative writing assignment that included submissions from three students, including me. The assignment, I guess, was to write something resembling a haiku about several people we though were interesting. (It wasn’t really haiku, but I think it was supposed to follow some kind of pattern.) My entry covered Aesop, Ben Franklin, Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Francis Scott Key, Charles Schultz, and Lou Ferrigno. (Another kid covered Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Muhammed Ali, James Bond, and Dracula. I’m not sure if the exercise was supposed to include fictional characters, or if this student just thought James Bond and Dracula were real…)

My best find, though, was in yet another box (which I started to poke around in, and quickly gave up on after realizing it also wasn’t going to be an “easy win”). It was a notebook from my senior year high school English class. It was a journal that we were supposed to keep over the course of the year, and hand in for grading occasionally (probably once a month). So it had entries from September through June of my senior year. This was really a goldmine of oddball stuff. Early in the year, the teacher had us write about specific reading assignments, so there are some one-page reports on essays by folks like J.B. Priestly, Winston Churchill, and Virginia Woolf. Stuff like that. Later, he gave us looser themes, so there are little essays on Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Will Eisner, and my feelings about the college application process. Very late in the year, I wrote some fairly personal stuff relating to how I felt about leaving home and going away to college. Since we were handing this book in to the teacher regularly, and getting it back, there are notes from him throughout, such as “you, without doubt, are an interesting person!” and a scribble asking if he could borrow the Harlan Ellison book I was writing about in one entry. (I don’t remember if I ever lent it to him, but if I did, he gave it back, since I still have it.)

I also came across a reference to the old Fahrenheit 451 video game that I’d been playing around that time. That sent me off on a little side quest, since I had really fond memories of that game. The game is playable from this page at archive.org, if you want to try it out. It’s also playable and downloadable at myabandonware.com. The description there makes it sound like it’s probably not as good a game as I remember, though.

So, anyway, I had a lot of fun reading that notebook. I went as far as scanning the whole thing in. It was 70 pages, so it took a while, but I was listening to an audiobook while I was doing it, so I was using the time wisely.

I also managed to shred some of my parents’ old bills while I was doing all this stuff, so, between the old school paperwork, the shredded bills, and a bunch of other ephemera, I managed to fill two garbage bags.

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