Tag Archives: Technology

Computer Woes and Whatnot

EmnyLou 012A couple of weeks ago I was sitting, minding my own business, at the laptop drinking coffee when Emmylou surprised me with a running leap into my lap.  It ended with coffee all over the keyboard.  I did all the things you’re supposed to do in such a situation to no avail.

The laptop keyboard refuses to work.  It’s had plenty of time to dry out.  The mouse and touchpad work fine, but no dice on the keyboard.

Sigh.

So, I bought a refurbished laptop with Windows 7 Pro on it, but that’s going back. The wifi wouldn’t work.  In a fit of desperation, I found an older model, but brand new laptop with Windows 7.  It arrived today.

I hate setting up computers.

Hate it.

Part of my job is tech support and I’m responsible for setting up new computers.  Right now, I have 10 laptops and 2 desktops waiting on me.  I didn’t need a disaster at home.

But I love Emmylou, I do I do.

No matter how many times I do it, there’s always a glitch, a problem, a snafu, a something.  Right now, the user interface for Facebook on the new laptop is unusable.

I’m disgruntled.

MarinedaddyIt’s been a lovely day, though.  Today is Veteran’s Day and I’ve been deep in thought about my dad’s Marine Corps experience as well as my own military brat upbringing.  I had my contractor out here to do a bunch of honey-dos that aren’t really honey-dos if you have to pay, but you know what I mean – just minor repairs to this and that.  Well, minor, except maybe for the roof.  Hoo boy, I don’t need bad news there.

I’m getting my mojo back.  It’s been a long two and half years, but I feel like I’m settling back into myself.  We’ll see.  I’m hopeful.

2 Comments

Filed under November 2015

I hate vacuuming.

uprightI hate to vacuum. Passionately hate to vacuum. It’s not a mere dislike or simple dreaded task, it is full blown animosity. The only machine I share the same feelings for is Beelzebub of Bobbinhood.

With vacuuming, I have two current machines to torment me and a lifetime of ones that mocked my efforts at clean carpet.

I believe my feelings for vacuuming stem from two sources: my mother loved to vacuum and I have exceptionally long hair. These are pertinent, really they are.

My mother finds vacuuming to be a life affirming activity – so much so that she vacuums when stressed, when ill, when happy, when sad, when the floor is dirty, when she’s bored, and as a preamble to any other housekeeping chore. The vacuum cleaner was the soundtrack of my childhood. Television programs, conversations between friends, secrets whispered into a phone were all drowned out by the roar of the Hoover or Dirt Devil or the Vacuum du Jour. If your mother is a passionate vacuumer, how do you rebel? By only doing it when a) the filth has come to the attention of the Health Department or b) someone is coming over.

canisterSince I don’t vacuum hourly, or even weekly, the debris is a bit challenging what with dogs, cats, a dirt road, and a not-particularly-fastidious human. Add to this 30” strands of hair that wind about the brush bar and you have a disaster.

If I could just vacuum and be done with it, I might do it more often. But no. Alas and alack. Each vacuum adventure begins with dragging the damn thing out, turning it on and finding it will not suck. The suckiest household chore of all and neither machine will snort even a whisper of dust. It has nothing to do with the quality of the machines. I think in a past-life I must have done grievous harm to inventor of the vacuum cleaner. It’s all I can figure.

I have hundreds of dollars invested in vacuums. All of them, after a dance or two about the house, become possessed by demons.

Each session begins with cursing. Then there is the application of scissors to cut the hair into manageable pieces so the beater bar will turn freely. Then there’s the cane I use to poke down the hose to free the clogs of cat hair, dust bunnies and the stray leaf. It can take up to an hour of fiddle farting before any suction is achieved. Just as I stroll victorious through the bedroom pushing the damn thing, it will attempt to suck up the dust ruffle, or the puppy, or a phantom and the belt will break.

I buy belts in six packs. From Amazon.

Another hour tearing the machine apart to figure out how to put the belt on. It’s different each time. I swear it is.

Sometimes, I can’t bear it. Just can’t. So I drag out the backup machine. This one is pricey canister vacuum as opposed to an upright. It’s even more evil as something somewhere is not quite right and the gizmo attaching the thinger that seals the hose to achieve suction often doesn’t. So we’ll play unhook it, clean it out, says a prayer or two, reassemble it, test, rinse and repeat until finally it will attempt to suck.

In anyone else’s hands, the canister would be an overachiever – sucking up furniture given the opportunity. In my hands, it leaps at the curtains which causes a circuit to trip and I have to take the whole damn thing apart to reset the circuit.

I hate vacuuming. I do. I really do.

I vacuumed yesterday. I didn’t do a particularly stellar job at it as machine 1 clogged, wouldn’t beat and broke a belt when I’m all out of belts and machine 2 wouldn’t suck for the first 45 minutes.

Still. There is some of my mother in me. I am enjoying relatively clean carpet.

 

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Filed under February 2014

Before sound, color, pictures, mice and broadband OR Uli is not a serial killer

I found this video languishing in a draft post (no text) and am wondering why I never posted it.

The video is dated 1993. By 1993, I had more than 4 years of hanging out on the net.

By 1993, my family and friends were heartily sick of hearing about my Imaginary Friendsand said so. I quipped they were not imaginary, just invisible. I was hanging out long before any graphic other than an ASCII drawing was possible.

The only color was provided by the eerie green screen and the only sound the bump and grind of the modem.  No mouse, just a keyboard.  Hard drives thousands times smaller than flash drives given away as promotional items.

I’ve been a relatively early-adopter of most technologies. I held out on the cell phone (and sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t be still holding out) and was “late” to Twitter even though when I began using it while most folks still didn’t know what it was.

I resisted Facebook for a long time. Meeting folks I didn’t know and, under normal circumstances, would never know was the charm of this new frontier.  Why do I want to talk on the net to people I see regularly?  The very term, seemingly already passe, Web 2.0 irked me.

I met some wonderful folks – many who are still part of my life and some I’ve lost track of.  When Usenet (the first social network sharing site) exploded, I became an addict.  Usenet died as Web 1.0 grew.  I embraced the new, because it really was new.  It really was improved.  Until it wasn’t.

Commensurate with the rapid changes of the Internet were rapid changes to hardware and software. I kept up, for years and years and years.

I’m weary of learning curves. Very weary. Exhausted, in fact. I’m tired of new versions of software that don’t do anything of interest to me that the old version didn’t do. In fact, it seems to me that much of new software is about as new as “new” editions of college textbooks. In short, it’s all just a bunch of switching stuff around to make it look new and reap some more profit.

Contrary to my expectations, I have met folks on Facebook that I couldn’t possibly have met otherwise and I treasure some of those relationships, but Facebook has gotten on one of my last nerves. [If you’ve been reading any of my whining, you know I don’t have a lot of nerves left.]

This nonsense of “improving” the “user interface” has reached critical mass. As mentioned, I resisted Facebook for a long time. I’m an uneasy user as it is. Facebook has all but killed a listserv I love.  If they continue to change things for the sake of change, my log-in is going to get dusty.

According to something I read years ago, nostalgia sets in at about 20-30 years at which time “retro” interest kindles. Disco had a short revival early in the millennium. 80s music is (apparently) experiencing a small revival. Fashions I wore in my misspent youth are appearing on runways.

I’m advocating for a retro-net – a place where nobody knows your name and you’re judged on your ability to communicate and defend an opinion.

Yes, yes, I’m waxing nostalgic. There were assholes in the Wild West of Cyberia. “Flame Wars” were routine. Misinformation was rampant – $250 cookie recipe anyone?

But I miss it in ways I don’t miss my youth. While I took some delight in being part of a new technology that the very idea of confounded most folks, the human connection delighted me. The ideas knocked me out. Introductions to new and fascinating topics of conversation rocked my world.  At lunch with friends, I would find myself saying, “Uli was just telling me. . .”  Who’s Uli?, they would ask.  “My friend in Sweden.”  How’d you meet?  My answer would, of course, lead to shocked expressions and tales of serial killers. If you knew Uli like I know Uli, you would smile at the idea of Uli and serial killers.

I remember the amazement when it became possible to share photos – being careful to resize them.  Even with the blazing speed of a 9600 baud modem, downloading a photo could take an hour.  [My first modem was 300 baud and my first PC, by no means state of the art, was $3300 and loaded with nothing but a dos operating system.]

On Facebook, I’m more apt to get an invitation to play a stupid game before I’m offered a well-written opinion that causes me to rethink my own. Or to defend mine.

I’m offered cute pet photos, but no shaggy dog stories. I’m offered links to others’ opinions which presumably I’m to guess is shared by sharer. I’m bombarded by advertising and “friends” I only hear from when they’ve embarked on yet another MLM scheme.

Who decided 240 characters (or whatever it is) is all I need to describe my status? I sometimes need that much for a title.

While this blog gives me some of the leeway with words that I miss, it’s essentially a one-way communication. Oh how I would love to see my comment section light up with “you’re wrong and this is why” comments. Of course, that would necessitate I post something resembling an opinion that I’m prepared to defend.

Along with many of us oldtimers, I’ve gotten lazy about what I release to the wild. Perhaps because the wild has gotten too tame. Perhaps, because I have.

In any event, I miss it.

And, yes, this post is sans-graphics other than the video. Intentionally. Words rule.

7 Comments

Filed under December 2011

And another remote goes to live in the basket by the tv.

I’m sitting here watching the local news LIVE on my TELEVISION. My Agog-O-Meter is off the charts.

After puberty, I didn’t watch much television. I preferred books. With the advent of the cyber revolution, the Internet offered me all the entertainment I could handle (plus some). So even having the capability to watch 7000 channels, I mostly ignored the beast. UNTIL, against my will, I became addicted to Law & Order. I was appalled. I was embarrassed. It called for strong measures.

My New Year’s resolution for 2008 was to quit watching Law & Order. It remains the only resolution I’ve ever kept. Without a steady diet of homicide, pedophilia, rape, arson, corruption, and a justice system gone amok, I’ve been happier. You just can’t watch that crap day in and day out with consequences. That Law & Order is on at least one channel at every hour of the day doesn’t help.

I quit cold turkey and it was a lot easier than I thought. I would go days without turning the television on. So, I cancelled the satellite service which was installed years and years ago. The decision to get a satellite dish was made after (a) learning the Barn sits in a television broadcast signal “dead zone” and (b) after spending heaps of money on ever bigger, more powerful, unsightly antennas. The last antenna was only slightly smaller than a cell phone tower. It allowed us to get Channel 3 clearly, 8 on sunny days, 11 now and then, and 13 never. PBS was hopeless. I raised the only child born after 1970 who didn’t grow up with Sesame Street.

When the Green Bay Packers had their great revival in the mid-90s, Chef Boy ‘R Mine and The Ex couldn’t stand the thought of missing a game. 7000 channels including the local stations soon appeared crystal clear on our television moments after the DISH TV truck arrived at the top of the hill. (7000 channels, of course, necessitated a new television.)  The guys monopolized the television and I didn’t much care.

For the most part, I have not missed having television. The parts that aren’t included in that most part are being able to watch the news, not being able to watch Jane and The Dragon, and not being able to turn on one of the annoying morning shows while I’m trying to wake up and get motivated.

So, I figured out how to watch the local news on the computer. I joined Netflicks. I was reasonably happy. Then I learned about the Roku player – this cute little thing was going to let me stream Netflicks to my television set – not a beast by any means, but a larger picture than the laptop. The Roku came with a number of channels none of which included live newscasts.

I got greedy. I wanted news. On the television.

My television does not have a digital tuner. There’s nothing wrong with it otherwise – decent picture, right size for the room, and long-since paid for. When they pulled the analog plug, I couldn’t even get a fuzzy picture. If Armageddon occurred, I was going to have to listen to it on the radio or hope CNN had a livestream.

I am thoroughly enjoying the Roku.  If you have a Netflicks account and aren’t otherwise able to stream it to your television, I can highly recommend the Roku.  If they would just provide me with live newscasts, I would be a content, fulfilled woman.  But they didn’t and I wasn’t.

Well. A friend gave me a digital converter box and a set of rabbit ears. I didn’t figure it would work very well considering the rabbit ears, but I hoped it might pull in one channel clear enough to keep abreast of current events. I also acquired an ancient tiny portable television as I wasn’t about to pry the “big” television out the armoire in order to hook up gitchies to whatzits that might get one channel. And besides, I didn’t want more stuff hanging off the television – between the stereo receiver, the DVD player, the VHS player and the Roku there’s more than enough cords, cables, boxes, and remotes.

So, I hooked it all up. Even without the rabbit ears extended, I immediately tuned in the 3 major networks and a bunch of other stations I’d never heard of. The picture was beautiful. As fate would have it, one channel was playing the news, one had Law & Order on, and another had Jane and The Dragon playing. Even PBS came in clear as a bell.

I was agog.

So bug-eyed, I disassembled it all and hooked the converter and rabbit ears to the “big” television which was a pain in my pudgy pitoot. Moving everything into the armoire resulted in a loss of PBS and the Jane and The Dragon channel, but I can get them back if I fiddlefart with the antenna.

I am state-of-the-art now!  Relatively speaking.

It’s been a good week to be me.

Now I’ve stayed up too late watching the tube and probably will get up too late to tomorrow to see Today.

[Really, I don’t understand the appeal of late night talk shows. I swear my IQ dropped 10 points watching Jay Leno.]

6 Comments

Filed under January 2011

Mashed Potatoes and the Internet

Today, a Facebook Friend said

 ♥ instant mashed potatoes. Yeah I do.

 Now I haven’t met this person in real life, but one of the wonders of Facebook is that such details aren’t all that important in cultivating a real friendship.  However, I told her that this love of instant mashed potatoes might be grounds for our breaking up.

Mashed potatoes are not just a high-glycemic carbohydrate.  When the tuber is boiled, combined with milk and butter, and mashed, the resultant gestalt is home, family, nurture and nature – in short, love on a plate.  If the potatoes contain a few lumps, the effect is intensified.

Piffle - NOT a great value.

Instant Mashed Potatoes go with take-out Thanksgiving Dinners and gas station champagne.  Just because somebody sells it, doesn’t mean anyone should buy it.  Some things are travesties of the spirit. 

I was a small child during that era that Mad Men is making trendy.  Dinner was at 5:00 and involved meat and potatoes most days of the week.  Sure there were buttered noodles and converted rice as well as fried, baked or boiled potatoes, but mashed potatoes were the norm. 

When we moved to Hawaii in 1967, we were met with the potato problem.  Getting spuds to the islands was expensive and they arrived rotten.  That first box of mashed potatoes entered my mother’s kitchen.  Mashed potatoes were such a norm it didn’t occur to anyone to eliminate such from the menu in the absence of real potatoes.  I suppose if for some reason Thanksgiving found me without a home-cooked feast, I would succumb to Bob Evan’s take-out offering just as I have, on occasion, succumbed to gas station champagne.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and champagne my favorite party drink.  Still.  These are travesties of the spirit.

I cannot stress this enough, I am never going to post in my Facebook status that I  ♥ either one.  Let’s not get silly.

When we were stateside again, the return of real potatoes to the table was a delight.  My brother was beside himself.  He was so young when were in Kaneohe that he had no memory of real potatoes.  He fell in love with Idaho’s export.  The first thing he would do when presented with mashed potatoes was to look for lumps. 

 My mother did not use an electric mixer to mash her potatoes.  We had the tried and true masher.  And those things take work.  Only someone with a great hatred of lumps in the mashed taters would use one of those things long enough to eradicate every potato chunk.  Lumpy potatoes became a sign of non-instant potatoes.  Whoever mashed the potatoes in our house, and we took turns, did so intentionally leaving lumps.  Lumps made my brother happy. 

Lumpy potatoes = good. = great = love =somebody cares about me.

As a family, we talked about this. Lumpy mashed potatoes were explicit in our family culinary lore.  Besides lumpy, we liked our taters with enough backbone  to form a bowl to hold the gravy or the butter – none of this whipped into frothy, drippy frenzy of tortured tubers.  Oh no!  Our potatoes had character and a stiff backbone. 

My dad’s spaghetti sauce was legend.  The homemade pizza pert near.  And we were known for the taters.  Some folks ate them politely, but with varying degrees of puzzlement.  After all, we didn’t look like slovenly folk who would half mash the potatoes and be stingy with the milk.

 As my burgeoning interest in cooking collided with my anachronistic interest in 50’s music, I became obsessed with Dee Dee Sharp’s Mashed Potato Time.  A good friend and I, Charlene, made up our dance we dubbed the La Hava” which we could even do on roller skates.  We had to make up our dance because You Tube didn’t exist and we couldn’t find anybody to teach us the real Mashed Potato

The La Hava was very versatile and worked for lots of the 50’s songs we loved – Leader of the Pack, Why Must I Be a Teenager in Love and The Last Kiss.  We must have been quite a sight – our teeny bopper suburban hippy selves rocking out to my mom’s music.

Joy to the World

But before La Hava and Charlene, there was Nancy and long afternoons in my living room with a Monopoly board, iced tea, and the top-40 radio station.  We were wildly, giggly, obnoxiously in love with Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog as was much of the country.  [I was also wild about Patsy Cline, but Nancy teased me about it and I remember one horrible fight over it.]

I wonder if she remembers the day she and I, my mom and some more of our friends (including Charlene) danced around the living room to Three Dog Night.  My mom had the tambourine.  Nancy and I were using wooden fruit for microphones singing loudly and unabashedly off-key – drunk on happy music and the ridiculous sight of my mother with a tambourine.  Or maybe it was Charlene and I singing off-key.  I have this tiny, incomplete memory that Nancy may have been musically gifted.  [To this day I still don’t know why we had a tambourine – we were not then nor are we now a family gifted with even the semblance of musical ability.]

I found Nancy on Facebook the other day.  Quite by accident.  After 36 years, it will be like building a friendship.  I haven’t spent any of my adult life with people who knew me as a military brat.  Who knew me before life started settling into predictable patterns.  It will be interesting to see how building a friendship with someone I was once close to compares with building one with someone I’ve never actually met. 

Dancing to Mashed Potato Time wouldn’t have been as much fun if we hadn’t had to invent the steps.  I’m grateful You Tube didn’t exist.  I’m delighted that Facebook does so that I could reconnect with Nancy.  I’m also delighted with Facebook’s penchant to bring me friends I’ve never met.  I’ve switched to a Kitchenaid to make my mashed taters these days.  If you time it carefully, the lumps remain.  Technology preserving the old ways in new ways – if you time it carefully.

I can ask Nancy if she remembers.  I can also ask her if she knows where Charlene is.  If the La Hava becomes the next viral line dance, you’ll know we three hooked up in a bar somewhere. 

14 Comments

Filed under October 2010

Faceboard Flitter Status

And since she couldn't remember, she played with photo editing software.

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Filed under October 2010

Frontier – Rooting for the Underdog

Reviewing my notes while on the phone with Frontier's Customer Service Call Center.

I meant to post Part 2 of the Frontier Saga before now, but my life kept getting in the way.

When I left y’all, it was 3 p.m. and I’d raised hell with Frontier Customer Service which ended in a promise that a technician would be at my house prior to 8 p.m. At 8:05 p.m., I entered into chat with yet another Customer Service Representative who was anxious to get me off of her screen. She was exceptionally polite, but we went through rounds and round and rounds of linguistic gymnastics in which it became obvious she wouldn’t or couldn’t let me talk to her supervisor.

I settled in for the evening. We chatted. I used words like “unacceptable” a lot. I also used the phrase, “No. I’m not going to call that number – I’ve called that number several times already.” After assuring me it was both impossible and illegal for a Frontier representative to call me after 9 p.m., I settled into the sofa  even deeper and she and I stared at a blank computer screen for a good while – just under 15 minutes.

While sitting in chat, I sent an abridged email to Ken-The-President knowing full well I was spinning my wheels, but what the hell.

Apparently, tying up a CSR in chat for more than an hour gets one a lot of attention provided one is polite, but insistent.

My phone rang. A very nice gentleman from Frontier was on the phone and I disconnected from chat. I’m sure that poor woman Snoopy-danced all the way to vending machine for sorely needed chocolate.

Multiple phone calls later, the Very Nice Gentleman assured me he was on the case and I toddled off to bed right around midnight.

The next morning, I was astonished to find email from Ken-the-President. Said email was not of the “thank you for contacting Frontier where you can be assured…” Oh no. It was a real, detailed response to my email. Ken-the-President assured me he was On The Case.

All morning my phone rang with various people from Frontier. At roughly 3 p.m., I left my office to meet the service technician at the house. Multiple problems were found and Dan-the-Repair-Guy was surprised I ever had a connection that worked.

Since it was not raining, the connection was working. Nevertheless, Dan replaced my wiring, the box, and the modem. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if it went down again.

It rained and I didn’t have a connection. I called Dan; Dan was puzzled.

Meanwhile, folks from Frontier are still calling me. I tell them all the same thing – the connection works fine until it rains. When it rains, I lose my DSL and acquire so much line noise that phone calls are nearly impossible. Some hours after the rain stops, whatever got wet dries out and the connection works perfectly.

Everyone is perplexed but On The Case. I still get multiple phone calls with questions that probe the exact conditions of the outages.

In my spare time, I surf the net for stories about Frontier’s acquisition of Verizon in West Virginia. The stories are Not Good. There are widescale outages that go on for more than a week. Fibernet, who use Frontier’s backbone, are especially not happy. The Public Service Commission is not happy. Lots and lots of people are not happy.

I search some more. I read business analysts who said before the acquisition that Frontier cannot possibly pull off West Virginia given Verizon’s mess.

I challenged Ken-the-President to “prove it” with respect to Frontier’s web page statement which reads as follows:

Welcome, West Virginia.

We are excited to be serving you.

Over the next few months, you will see that we do things a little differently than your previous Service Provider. Because for us, serving you is more than just a day-to-day operation. Our work is all about you, our customer. We have an ongoing commitment to servicing the communities we work and live in. It is about giving back, growing with our communities and supporting your needs.

It is remembering that you are a person, not just a customer.

As I told Ken, once I got in contact with a technician, I’ve been absolutely tickled by Frontier’s service, but that the call centers still need a lot of work.

I'm never going to pull off a back flip, but it's the thought that counts. Right?

I don’t pretend that any customer of any business should have to fire off an email to the president to get all of Customer Service on the same page, but I’m enormously impressed nonetheless.

I continue to read the news stories. Frontier is getting hit with just about everything that can go wrong going wrong. Powerful thunderstorms are wreaking havoc on an already havoc-ridden infrastructure.

Almost always, I root for the underdog in sports competitions (including politics).

I’m now rooting for Frontier to pull off the impossible – restore the communication infrastructure of West Virginia to a reliable state and, eventually, improve it without going bankrupt. Lots of professionals say it can’t be done. (Go Team, Go!)

My DSL still goes up and down like a yoyo. I still have the same problem – we’ve merely eliminated some potential causes. I fully realize that in terms of fixing the problem, I’m exactly where I was. But after years of Verizon’s nonsense, I have every reason to believe that Frontier does, in fact, care that my service is unreliable and is, in fact, Trying To Fix It.

In terms of the greater good, it is probably ridiculous that they stopped what they were doing elsewhere to work on my silly-ass little problem. On the other hand, they created an enormous amount of goodwill with me.

Welcome to West Virginia, Frontier.

[Connie dons a bizarre set of clothing which she hopes approximates that of a cheerleader and tries to think of a clever rhyme that will go well with pompoms and back flips.]

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Filed under August 2010