The magic box

Passages

30 November 2010
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And so another November has come to a close. And with it, so many dreams. Wow, I am coming from somewhere dark. It is dark outside – the incredibly shrinking daylight is getting to me. I am considering the idea that having snow on the ground might reflect some light from the moon. It has helped that the Christmas lights have sprung up all over the town. But it may be time to get a farm yard light.

Henry had his adenoids removed and tubes put in his ears in the middle of the month. The surgery was low key. His recovery was easy and fast. Despite my hopes, his internal volume control has only been notched down slightly.

Arabella is talking more and more. Bewwa enjoys her time with Gra’pa and Meemaw (Grandpa and Grandma). She wrestles with Hiyee (Henry) at every chance she can get. She is relentless, brutal and feels no pain or fear. She wants to follow Mi’enda (Miranda) and hang out in her bedroom. And as tough as she can be with Henry, she wants Miranda to paint her nails. Bonus for when they glow in the dark.

We had parent teacher conferences for the big kids. They are “Secure” in their work. Very secure. Henry is having a hard time expressing his upsets in words. Miranda is learning classroom management skills.

I have the Christmas cards back from Shutterfly.

Miranda now thinks it is a tradition to shop at 3 am on Black Friday. She is tired and grumpy by 6.

The cold that swept through our family in October after our trip to Texas has lead to antibiotic November. Rob has a sinus infection that won’t quit. I officially had pneumonia (much improved, but still a follow-up chest x-ray away before cured can be bandied about).

And I am going to start a new job in about 2 weeks. It has been a tense month for me. Excited for what’s ahead.

And catching up on 30Rock on Netflix has been amazing. I know the worst case scenario is that Netflix may either A. break the internet through overuse or B. break Net Neutrality, but I still love it.

perfectly good

21 June 2010
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I could say that my thoughts on the perfect (the enemy of the good) were keeping me from writing. I may have to file this under good enough, the enemy of the perfect, but really life has just been sort of busy and boring. We’re on the lazy river, y’all.

But it was the Pig that has drawn me back to the computer. I’ve utterly failed at my assignment to take a photo of Rob with each of the children for Father’s Day. Sorry sweetie!

Today at the grocery store the bagger didn’t come over and bag my groceries. And the cashier kept jamming stuff down the lane, smooshing my produce and even the boxes.  This annoys me to no end. When I was younger, PnS offered full service or self-bagging lanes. And I always choose self-bagging. I like bagging my groceries. When I am paying adequate attention, I would group things as I put them on the conveyor belt to be rung up, just so they’d be grouped for me to bag. Living in Chicago and specifically Dominick’s broke me. They insisted on bagging. And then never took advantage of my carefully selected boxes that fit just so in the paper bag. They would put 4 things in a bag and then declare it too heavy to add more. So I gave up. Pick N Save usually insists on bagging too. And when I am with small small children and the bagger is reasonably quick, I have gotten used to it – the random assortment of cleaning supplies and fruit. The frozen meat and bread.  After our move to the northern burbs, I accepted that all of the grocery stores bags, even when I don’t really want them to. The Pig and Sendiks are both reasonably good at it. I’ve even gone so far as to used parcel pickup!

Which brings me to today. I had a half full cart. I noticed my food being pushed into each other. I leaned around the cart and started bagging. Just the frozen stuff. When I have dared start bagging in the past, I have always been interrupted and then return to my place at credit card processing stand. And I was, for 1 bag load. Then he disappeared and never came back.  The cashier didn’t start bagging. I finished up. I signed my name. I almost complained to the manager as I left. But I remembered that I actually like bagging, so I didn’t.

But I do wonder what I did wrong. Was I just supposed to wait for him to take his own darn time to walk over, ask me what sort o bags I want, then start filling 22 bags?  The me from 10 years ago would have felt like I got away with something today. The me now feels like I’ve upset some weird social construct. Darn soft living!

Since I am already mulling my own  insanity… I am stuck on electric consumption. I don’t want to suck my children’s future world away with vampire appliances wasting electricity. But I think the change has to come from the appliance makers. These are my two biggies:

Laptop power versus backup. OK, I love the earth. I spend too much time on my laptop. I should put my laptop to sleep when I am not using it. Yes? But I love my data or I wouldn’t be using a computer at all. I have had a catastrophic hard drive failure, at least once. I have a backup hard drive. (I know, still not enough if the house burns down). The backup is set to run every night at 11:30. I’d set it earlier, but I am a still working at 11 often enough to make that annoying. And while the backup is running, my computer is dog slow. I want it to run updates from Microsoft and backup when I don’t want to use it. And I’d like it to sleep all of the other times I am not using it. And there is no such setting in the power management center. I reduced the time at which it puts the laptop to sleep when not in use (screen shut) and every morning it would have to run the backup when  am trying to check my email quickly before the day begins. And not having a backup sucks too.  And worse. And whether an internet backup service will slow me down while I am working is my fear for that well. And I don’t see how that could work while it is asleep, if a local connection can’t work.

The DVR on the television is the same issue again. We’re supposed to unplug our television to prevent it from using power when no one is watching TV. Except that the few hours I do watch TV, I’d like to watch a show I actually like, one not on at that time. A DVR is a fabulous thing. I don’t think anyone should watch TV without one. The DVR should be able to spread its goodness and happiness with low electricity appetites.

I hate these choices. They pit the immediate responsible choice against a nebulous and potential global gain. A hard sell even on a liberal like me.

it may take 18 years

16 February 2010
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I am reading The Pillars of the Earth for a book club. So my skimming may be noticed. But I doubt it. The book is 900+ pages. The scope is huge. I can’t quite claim it is taking away my blogging time, but something is. And a book sounds better than my daily binging on NUMB3RS.

In news of the first order, my laptop’s hard drive died last Monday. I think I am nearly through the 5 stages of grief. I spent 2-3 days in absolute denial – I’ll just run upstairs and check my email. Oh, I’ll check the bills files.  Oh sure, you can play on my laptop, child. In 2005, I lost a computer to a massive hard drive failure, which I have come to think of like heart attacks. Some times, hard drives go bad. And data can be restored. Like a stent. Or a heart replacement. I seem to have really bad hard drive problems – the drive is unusable, the spindle doesn’t spin, there is no Hope.

The 2005 debacle did push me to make backing up my data a higher priority. After sporadic DVD backups, I bought an external hard drive in 2008 or 2009. And it saved me, mostly. I have all of the photos. I lost about  a week, as the hard drive was sending little hard drive signals that it was dying. But I didn’t know it. Despite its SMART system, it didn’t send me a message like “back up all your data, the barbarian horde is coming.” It did keep restarting and had a hard time coming back on.

In January, the family room computer, which was my old desktop computer, had a motherboard problem. (brain tumor?) The hard drives had been flaky and Rob doesn’t have time to build computers anymore. We did the unthinkable to ourselves circa 2000 – we went to Best Buy and bought a clearance desktop. It works. And as I am typing on it right now, it is a good thing in our lives.  But it isn’t my old desktop – it doesn’t have the programs, the bookmarks, the settings of my life. And that’s why I feel so a sea.

This hard drive failure has shown me that having pre-installed software, while convenient, is worthless in so many ways. My laptop is being reborn as Rob’s Ubuntu laptop, mostly because Ubuntu is free and we don’t have a free way to install the Windows Vista license we bought with the laptop. I am taking over Rob’s Windows laptop. I am pleased that Adobe is going to let me re-download my legal copy of Dreamweaver -I have a 3 year time-limit. Still not perfect, but better than the new copy of Office I had to buy for the family room computer. We had legal copies of Office, but not on a disc that I could just install.

This post-mortem excuse-apolooza is not as entertaining as it might be if I had more distance and less rawness. I also got a winter cold the weekend before my laptop died. So I was congested, gooey, feverish and cold, exhausted and drugged up…and having no laptop made me just sad. After a visit to Best Buy (how can this be?), I saw an adorable HP laptop. And the price was almost fair enough. But it turns out for a freelance job, I need to connect with a 32-bit version of Windows. So no new laptop would work. Thank goodness I can take over Rob’s laptop, I guess.

The only file I lost, I think, is my bills files in Excel. For some reason the most recent backup was from August 2009. The vagaries of backup are mysteries I don’t understand. My priorities going forward are definitely to keep up the automatic backups. They saved my bacon. But I have to figure out a way to not lose my software. Maybe I need to rent software? Would that help?  Probably not with an OS…

I have been thinking, so more posts soon. I hope.

amusing myself since Friday

3 October 2009
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1. On Friday morning, I noticed that my bright yellow bag of chocolate chips had a little brown corner that said “all natural.” Now I love chocolate chips. Have them in pancakes most mornings. But all natural is not their selling point. A marketing has been led astray there by some weird market research numbers. Especially because I think in the world of chocolate, some parts of the world (I’m looking at you, France) would have us Americans call our product “chocolate” for its lack of cocoa butter content.

2. Henry wants to find a Pokemon of Megatron from Transformers. It would be a wild, Pokemon, of course, according to Henry. And the trainer would yell, “Megatron, I choose you! ” And it amuses him so much he could fall down. ROTFL. And it was very important I knew that at bedtime tonight. I think there is a  joke here I don’t get, but that rarely stops me from laughing. Sadly.

3. I am addicted to Method bathroom wipes. And I ran out. But this summer, I bought the Costco facial cleansing wipes, which comes in 5 or 6 convenient containers. Today,  the bathroom sink was dirty. So I said, why not? And the facial wipe did a shockingly thorough job. So thorough, I think it cleaned faster and harder than the Method wipes. Just now, it looks like maybe the finish on the sink isn’ t nearly as shiny. Hmmm, I put these wipes on my face? I may need to reconsider that.

4. I decided to check pour Numb3rs on prime-time-on-demand after a well designed promo spot. (market research for the good). I had watched the pilot of Numb3rs in its original viewing, found it interesting but not compelling enough to seek out and never watched it again. I laughed at out loud when one of the math theories they used to catch the “random” serial killer was the very same math theory described in the very first episode. They even referenced it, “do you remember that case?”  What are the odds? What at the odds? I suppose David from the show could tell me….

5. Chevy Chase on TV, weekly? Community is not as a guest spot? The celebrity gossip suggests he is as much a jerk as the characters he laughingly portrays. Without the laughing. I psychically predict at a later date he will make a contract demand and be replaced by another actor, Valerie Harper style. Is Dick Van Dyke still in action?

6. Despite television’s place in my thoughts, I have been busy. We went to fundraiser for a worthy cause that opened with a tequila tasting. That is definitely an approach to get people drunk enough to open their wallets. Then today I sat in the woods while Rob did an orienteering course. There was nearly as much drunkenness on that course as the night before. Significantly less wallet opening. So is life.

on the fall season

30 September 2009

The TV has started! The TV has started. There is a sweet, nostalgic giddiness for me to the fall premieres. The shows and characters that have come back…will they still be good? Can the writers keep it up? And what new show will hit the home run? And in my mind, you have to be home for it all. Every night for a few weeks until they cancel that show with so much potential, quirky characters and a bad plot or time slot. But our DVR has changed all that. OK, it has been 5 years since I’ve really been tied down to the TV schedule. But there is still a September thrill.

And now Time-Warner, which has an annoying DVR is so many ways – no 30 second skip, the 8 second back is weirdly unreliable, an awkward interface in so many ways* – has one killer app. Prime-time on demand. Wow. I didn’t get the season pass on Community. And there it is. And the Good Wife. And I missed an episode of Monk.

I have been watching entirely too much TV. And with the two big kids in school all day and the little kid not able to ask for specific shows, I am watching grown-up TV. Ahhh.

Community: I did not expect to find the writing so crisp and funny. I think everything Joel McHale has ever done has been a waste of his talent. The pace of the jokes almost feels like Aaron Sorkin on Sports Night. As a huge Sports Night fan, I can only hope Community doesn’t go the same way.

NCIS: LA: I loved the cross-over intro to the LA cast last Spring. I fell for NCIS in the first or second season.  After I hooked Rob, we caught up on all of the episodes we had missed over the years. NCIS is still solid – it doesn’t let the character arcs get in the way of the weekly mystery. I still remember feeling annoyed that Moonlighting stopped functioning as a mystery show when it got caught up in the David/Maddie romance. NCIS is part of the Donald Bellisario universe. JAG was first. (And many other shows.)  NCIS has now spawned NCIS:LA. But NCIS:LA is from someone named Shane Brennan. And for the record, so is NCIS now.

I digress. Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J are great. I can only hope that if the show gets a season to shake out…it will be a very different creature. The technology and the toys are nice. The team chemistry is good. Are they going to go after terrorists? Find a niche?

The Good Wife: I found myself cringing as I watched the first episode of this show. The pain of marital betrayal and returning to work felt so raw. I wonder if there will be anything left after that pain lessens.

Accidentally on Purpose: I want to like anything with Jenna Elfman in it. I am not comfortable with her being old. She doesn’t look old. And having Ashley Jensen play the sympathetic Scottish best friend who sees to drink and leer a bit too much, a total repeat of her Ugly Betty character,  seems unnecessary and boring. And what is up with the sister?

I have finally started watching Monk in its final season. Is it the final season? I have tried over the years and couldn’t suspend disbelief. And this year, it seems funny and clever. I feel late to a party.

* It is common for us to admit we hate the TW DVR. The lists starts with: if you record a show in progress, there are not option. So you can’t set up a season pass or extend the end-time from that screen. If you forget to set up a series pass on a show on tonight (Say, Glee), it will saw there are no programs found for the future. And you won’t get your pass. The method to order the series passes, while easier to find that the TiVo, is time-consuming and backwards. You have to go into each program and set its priority. Not rearrange the list. New series passes are placed at highest priority, which is the exact opposite as TiVo. It may not be terrible, but it is hard to adjust. There are no folders.

The only thing I can say I really like is that when you go onto the Guide, it visually displays you what you are recording in the future.