Statistically, I came out even today. I took as much apart as I put together.
We've had a weird problem with our LCD projector at the visitor center. All winter, there has been a blue blob in the upper left corner of the screen. This week, it started spreading. Thinking swapping out the bulb would make a difference, we did that, but the problem remained. We fiddled with it for a while this morning, which is always daunting because of the stern, written warning not to touch "anything" on the projector, lest an underling screw things up. Naturally, I started touching everything.
We wanted to check the lens and clean it, but that wasn't the problem. In the process, I screwed it out of focus. The lens in the projector is not a standard lens for that equipment, so it's a little bit funky. I made the picture blurrier and blurrier. With my already-stressed boss right next to me, getting ready to choke me, no doubt, for messing up the expensive-ass projector, I was getting a little nervous. As my boss turned to leave in disgust at me, I figured out that twisting it was not solving the problem, but pulling on the lens did. All was at least back to where we started. I decided since it wasn't the DVD and it wasn't the lens, the LCD screen within the projector must be failing. I proclaimed the LCD screen FUBAR. I hastily retreated while I was at least back to square one, the spreading, blue blob remaining.
Now I'm envisioning that the superintendent will read that last paragraph and that's how she'll find out and we'll all be in trouble. Please don't get us in trouble. If Gen Y can't fix it, it requires a professional.
After that, I walked out through the green grass and the falling snow - eerily like being in the mountains - over to the uniform cache to put things away, a lingering loose end to tie up in my remaining weeks. Miscellaneous junk had been piled up there, including an ancient UHF television. I decided not to mess with that stuff, since I had already "borrowed" two bottles of bleach from that pile and used them up. Who knows who might want the Swiffer. There wasn't much to put away, unlike the debacle last year as I hauled load after load of garbage bags full of uniforms we could not keep anymore. Mostly, there were size 10 jeans to put away. It went quickly.
After lunch, I headed up to the campground to begin construction of a new, gigantic rack that will house the new, gigantic projector there. It came in a big, heavy, black plastic box about 6 feet long with wheels and a handle wet with condensation inside the shrink-wrap. Inside the box were several brown paper-wrapped bundles of 1" square metal tubing in a variety of shapes. I found a nice, pleather bag filled with bolts, wing nuts, and "speedy cranks," and the instructions sheet. For some reason, the instructions looked like they had been written on a typewriter, mimiographed, and shoved into the nuts and bolts bag. Worse, there were no illustrations.
In the two hours that followed after unpacking everything, figuring out what was what, and starting construction, it became painfully clear that one or two drawings would have really sped the process. Once I got the shelves where they needed to be, or at least close enough for now, I had to admire the gall of the sadist who wrote the instructions to write "notice that the shelf fits neatly onto the 7" frames," as I cranked on the metal and pounded with my fist to get it to wedge in properly. Lastly, I was left with four pairs of "anti-sway bars." They folded four ways, had screw holes in two different directions, and I could not figure out how to use them. The instructions were no help because they said, "See illustration." I admit there was some profanity at that point. Only the noisy flickers outside heard me.
Back at the visitor center, I asked whether we had a picture of what this thing was supposed to look like when it was done. I was way off in thinking the anti-sway bars went crosswise when they actually, inefficiently, stick out from the sides in every direction, a trip hazard. We have two days blocked out next week for me to go and set the electronic junk up with the IT specialist. When the project is finished, it will be the culmination of many months of personal effort digitizing the park's slide collection, enhancing the photos, and organizing them into a massive file system that hopefully others can navigate and then show in presentations on the big projector for which I am building the big rack. It's a shame I'll never actually get to see it in action.
With two hours still remaining in the day, I set out to disassemble the aquarium in the visitor center and to liberate the rock catfish and the flathead chub that have been living there for quite a while. The catfish was there when I started work here in 2007; the chub was added over summer along with a bunch of minnows that the cranky old catfish ate. I thought of naming the catfish Garfield because of Garfield the cat in the cartoon, but then I thought of James Garfield, the President, which led me to also link Chester A. Arthur and the Cheshire cat. Long story short, I have been thinking of the catfish as Chester A. Arthur for a while.
With a little help from another ranger, I transferred 80 gallons of water from the tank to the janitor's slop sink down the hall. My boss thought there couldn't be that much, but I told her I worked in a pet supply warehouse and moved tanks even bigger than this one, and it was definitely 80 gallons. Once I worked the water down far enough that the fish couldn't try to escape in three dimensions, I scooped them up and tranferred them to a nice, big bucket of water. The catfish put up a struggle and got me fairly sprinkled with fetid aquarium water. I put the bucket into the back of a car and drove over to the river to set them free.
There was concern whether they'd survive the transition, and the ethics of releasing fish to potential doom via cold shock. I figured that they're fish and they'll know what to do, or at least fulfill their destiny to a greater extent than they could in a tank. The problem with getting them into a position to fulfill their destiny was that the mud was horrific down there. I got caked in bentonite practically to the top of my boots, working it into my only pair of uniform dress pants. Sinking into the mud like quicksand and as close to the river as I dared without descending the steep bank, I spilled the bucket out with a forward thrust to shoot the fish toward the water. My last glimpse of the catfish was it wriggling on its belly, riding the wave I created, slipping into the muddy river.
In my socks, I finished removing the rest of the water and set about taking the aquarium apart, putting the rocks outside and attempting to dampen the fish smell with some glass cleaner. We decided to move an existing display to the aquarium's place after the two-seater chair/table thing didn't quite fit in the space. It is well that the fish went home to the river; most people assume there are not fish in there because they are very good at hiding. Being good at hiding will come in handy out there in the wild.
If you catch a catfish that answers to the name Chester A. Arthur somewhere out there in the Little Missouri (he might be in Lake Sakakawea right now with all that current), tell him I said hello and that I hope he's having a good life out there in the wild. I bet he's burrowing in the mud right now, loving it.