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December 2003

 

Our Story thus far:

Never let it be said I don't listen! A visitor pointed out the my attempt to make the journal easy for the daily visitor makes it very difficult for the rest of you, so . . . new posts will hence forth be added to the end rather than the beginning.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

How appropriate that my first journal entry deals with the bane and blessing of my life: Computers.

My brother, wise fellow that he is, just asked me a very good question. After listening patiently to my most recent lament, he asked me why did I bother? If I needed a new desktop, why not just buy (fill in blank) and be done with it?

Well...number one: Circotech.com Lava Lamp

Show me the package deal that gives you a case like that!  

Aesthetics aside, my first PCs were bought fully functional. My first windows 95 machine, fondly referred to as the SuperCow, was a Gateway. It was a perfectly adequate machine, and warrantee when the monitor went bad was hassle-free; support, such as I required, was good, but right off the bat, there were small irritants, mainly programs I didn't want, would never use, that were taking up disk space and getting visually in the way of an operating system already very different and cluttered from my clean and simple DOS interface.

Eventually, I reconciled with Win95, cleaned out the chaff (though that was pre-register cleanup programs, so those programs never really went away until the fateful day I actually reformatted for the first time and started over) but no amount of reformatting can cure crippled hardware.

As I got increasingly into the programs available, particularly graphics programs, I became painfully aware that the graphics card they included in the package was not the card advertised, but rather a "crippled" version, with none of the flexibility of the actual commercial card, which wouldn't accept the driver and software on the manufacturer's site, but rather only those distributed by Gateway.

Worse, I discovered if I replaced the card with a decent graphics card, my warrantee was null and void. Eventually, I decided to risk it, replaced the card, was delighted with the results and found myself on the slippery slope to ultimately putting together my own machine.

Now...I don't know that all the above is still the case with the package machines, certainly the packages are far more flexible now than they were seven years ago, but I'm now thoroughly addicted to the self-upgrade path.

For one thing, I do love the cases that are available now. From the first, I went hunting for the unusual. My newest, the lavalamp above, is by far and away my favorite.

But just as you ride a horse not a color, the real difference lies in knowing exactly what's inside, soft and hardware. I know the cards I choose, I know the software, and both are the real thing, not advertising deals. I've also learned a lot about how the computer works rather than just how to punch buttons, and there's not much that scares me off now. Sometimes I've learned the hard way, but I've learned. I'm no geek, I have to go back and remind myself of the details every time I begin to tinker, but I know enough that I've been able to help a lot of family and friends sort out problems.

Besides, I love putting things together, whether it's  3D puzzles, furniture, computers or (my newest thing) model ships.

Are there frustrations? Sure. The main one is determining when you have a faulty component, and unfortunately, those are fairly common, (or I've had unusually bad luck.) Unless it just doesn't work, if you're trying something new (like this most recent attempt to load Win98 on an SATA drive) it's hard to determine if it's something you've done or a problem with the component.

But that's all part of the puzzle.

And I love puzzles!

Friday, December 12, 2003

Today, I destroyed things. Sometimes you've just got to, you know? Actually, this destruction should have been painful. I spent many hours creating my beautiful computer armoire. It was gorgeous in my bedroom/office down in OKC, but somehow, here, it just didn't fit. 

So I broke it up.

Well...mostly, I took off the doors and disassembled them. The basic desk and upper shelving will remain. But I did bash out the center of the door fronts, for reasons I might divulge at a later date, if my intended round tuit ever gets tuited.

Back in OKC, CJC, Lynn Abbey and I all got these great Sauder armoires. Curiously, I couldn't find a single picture of mine. Says something about just how precious maybe it wasn't to me? I do think I have one somewhere, but it's not leaping out to be immortalized.

Sauder.comSo, I stole this from the Sauder page:

Cute, eh? But I put this fabulous black lacquer finish on mine. Left the interior light. Worked very hard to get that finish to match my other bedroom furniture. Then we moved. When this massive piece of furniture was allowed to dominate an otherwise bare large wall, it was gorgeous but here, it has to go in the living room. It fits into a nook beside the window out onto Latah Creek. When opened, (which, let's be real, it usually is) it obscured the window. We've tried for three years to reconcile with the monster, and finally just decided it wasn't right. Turns out there's a very easy solution. Remove those huge doors, put in some wicker basket shelving on either side, and get another Sauder piece, a lovely lateral file unit that will match the pale interior.

So...today I demolished the doors. And it felt good!

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Well, I might as well get today's entry in, since I've run up against one of the weirder snags in my webpage-writing history.

Some time ago, I stopped writing my own code and began doing WYSIWYG using Namo Web editor. I did all my new buttons with their funky little rollovers, all was perfect on my computer. Then, low and behold, when I put the button images and new html pages up...two of the button images aren't there! I've deleted the buttons to the as yet nonexistent "miscellaneous index" page, but the little Stephie and Wesley button that goes to the first level of the GLGs is a perfectly live button!

Even stranger, two of their pictures aren't appearing. They're in there, but the code's not accessing them.  And I never even touched that page! (Except for the buttons at the top.)

In a word. ARGH!!!!!!!!

I've deleted said entries on the pages and reentered them in the theory that some matching parenthesis got blitzed as I moved buttons about, but still no go.

Weird, I say.

Update! Now, don't I feel silly? FILE NAMES! Windows has allowed me to get careless. I used & in the files names involved and, duh, the older server on which my website resides didn't understand it. I don't blame it. What kind of idiot uses & in a file name? (Don't even go there, Wesley. At least I figured it out.)

Double ARGH!!!!!

I'm going to go eat worms.....

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Has anyone else noticed that the most common topic of social conversation has shifted from babies and sports to computers? Housewives, business(wo)men, and engineers, it's the one topic on which everyone has an opinion these days. Pretty cool.

Today was curious, and ended up far more delightful than I expected it to be. Started out normal enough, sitting in bed with a lapful of computer and armful of Efanor (my cat) as I read through Harmonies of the 'Net. Shower, adding a few programs (Paint Shop Pro and the scanner) to the new desktop while transferring some video to DVD ... I was settling in for a day of computer cleanup ...

Then a call from an old friend. She was in town with her fabulous family, picking up #1 son at the airport and did we want to do lunch. Urp...thought it was next weekend he was coming home. Fortunately, she gave me an hour's warning. Quick cleanup of the kitchen (Does anyone else always seem to have a dirty kitchen? Ours gets cleaned religiously at least once a day, but it's always a mess when visitors arrive.)  Quick printout of the labels I was setting up the lavalamp to make. Quick application of war paint so I wouldn't scare the natives ...

Sharon and her crew showed up right on time. I wasn't totally embarrassed by the apartment, and we made an escape to lunch before the doors on the closets popped open. Lunch was great. This is a family of mathematicians, nano-techs and artists. Suffice to say, conversation was lively.

And mostly about computers. (are we beginning to see a common thread here?)

A stop-off at CompUSA for disks and those wonderful spring-loaded CD/DVD holders they're selling for ridiculously cheap...then home again. A bit of final cleanup, prep for the new file cabinet that's supposed to arrive tomorrow (it better!) and it was settle in for some work on the webpage. Fixed some links and some buttons, added the DAW short story anthology to the short story page (about time, don't you think? It came out in May 2002. ARGH).

And then, the dinos came on TV, and there went the evening.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The lateral filing cabinet arrived at last. It was supposed to be here Friday. It wasn't. I called the company and they said, yes, it was scheduled for Friday, but the delivery people must have run out of time. Monday. This was frustrating, as I'd spent the day tearing apart the armoire (including its filing drawer) and preparing the area. I'd expected an afternoon delivery, would put it together and Saturday we'd put the tree up. (We've delayed putting the tree up because I needed that space to put the file cabinet together.

So, another weekend with no tree.

This morning, I'm waiting. Surely it will be one of their first deliveries. Noon arrived. No file cabinet. 1:00. I called the company. "Gee, we can't do anything about it. If it's not there by 4:00, call and we'll ship another. " I had this image of a huge delivery truck with our poor little filing cabinet clear at the back and another day's deliveries ahead of it. Personally, it seemed to me we should have been first on the list.

Finally, 3:30 and a call from some woman: "Are you expecting a delivery from? Are you in? Where is that?" and an hour later, a rather elderly man and woman of questionable athleticism appear at my door with a very damp, ragged-edged box, complaining about the climb up the stairs. Down in the parking lot is a small van.

This company specializes in office furniture! this is one of the smaller items. Go figure.

I unpacked the pieces and for the most part, they were fine, if a bit damp. I'll call Sauder and explain, and maybe they'll send me a new top without a wrinkled edge. If I never see those delivery people again, it will be too soon.

The company who shall remain nameless from whom I ordered it will probably not get my business again. That piece spent the weekend in highly questionable conditions and should have been delivered first thing this morning. Free delivery isn't free if the piece is damaged.

The good news is, the cabinet is put together and ready to go to work. Like all Sauder's pieces, it's cleverly and solidly designed, and I think I'm really going to like this arrangement.

Tuesday,December 16, 2003

There's nothing like a power hickup to screw up an OS install. I began putting my backup system together at last this AM.  Everything going swimmingly, I thought I'd get the first Win98 install done before we had to leave for our chiropractic appointment, which is an all afternoon event for us, our chiropracter being in Pullman, a 90min drive away. Well, it seemed to be moving along, so I left it to do its scan/reboot/scan/reboot thing and went to my nice shiny new machine to do email. Suddenly, over in the corner, #2 machine shut down. Just---quit. ARGH! What now?

Power glitch. Funny thing, UPSs only work if you plug into them.

I think dirty power's the source of a lot of the problems we've experienced this fall. The old UPS quietly bit the big one, and a history of clean power here made us careless. As the cold weather set in, the power's gotten a bit more chancy. We got a second, cheaper UPS for this system, and I think it will do the trick.

Anyway, I started #2 up, got a check sum error, brought it up on the Startup Disk, and got various doom and gloom messages, including an inability to find the CD-Rom. It was then, of course, time to leave for Pullman.When I got home, I turned it on and it booted right up and continued the install. Still, I didn't like the way it installed, so I reformatted one more time and reinstalled. It's now up and running with all the endless Windows updates successfully updated, and the whole thing running smoothly and backed up to my "little" 10G drive.

Tomorrow, the tree goes up!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The tree is up! No ornaments, yet, but the tree is up. Love these new fibre-optic trees. They're the perfect solution for those of us with allergies on the one hand and light fetishes on the other. I love lots of lights on a tree, and I like them to flicker, but historically getting the tree lit without looking like a mass of wires has been a day-long challenge. The fibre optic trees are filled with flickering, multicolored lights and takes about ten minutes to set up and "fluff" into place. Love it!

So does my cat. He lies on the floor, staring at it endlessly. So far, he hasn't tried to eat it, which is a relief. He does like to chew on sticky-out things.

Decorations are going to be pretty minimal this year, I think. The tree, a garland over the TV, the hearth wreath and the carousel.

I'm faced with a curious problem web-page speaking. I compose it on my laptop, a Toshiba with a ridiculously fine screen resolution. What looks tiny and almost unreadable is huge on some monitors. I'm trying to find a happy medium, so if anyone has any suggestions or observations, please pass them on.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Wouldn't you know it? The moment I try to be accommodating to a good argument, someone else comes up with "I liked it the other way." COMPROMISE! Each day's entry will appear at the top (right here) and will then be moved to the end of the queue below. Sheesh...

Boy, did I open up a can of worms, or what? I should never have asked for HTML input before looking at the code for the page in question.  WHAT A MESS! I'm soooooo embarrassed. I've played with the format several times and had no idea how much chaff  was building up. It's better now.

Let me set the record straight: if I had the time, I'd write my own code. My initial webpage, which still constitutes the core of this site, I wrote after having taught myself HTML by studying the code of pages I liked. I don't go in for bells and whistles, though I'm having fun with the rollovers and a few small animations. But there's a choice, WYSIWYG or no updates. I'm not going to just write words on an empty page and writing code is multiple keystrokes that could go into writing story. Ideally, yeah, I'd go in and clean up each page. I have in the past. Trying to get this updated and establish a regular schedule of updating, I've gotten careless.

Secondly, I do check the site on all the house computers and at a variety of resolutions, but it was OK on all of mine. I got a couple of comments that made me wonder, so I asked.

Thank you all for the (wonderfully contradictory) input!

My apologies to those whose browsers don't accommodate rollovers. I'll get straight alpha-links up ASAP. Does anybody out there like my little buttons? (Sigh...)

As for work (work?) I'm closing in on the end of Harmonies of the 'Net's final read-through.  Should be starting back on Rings of Change come this weekend. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Hmm...almost a week since the last post. Bad Janie! Bad!

Here, I thought I'd just missed a couple of days. Lessee...what's happened since the last post? Oh, yeah, this weekend I did the seasonal baking. Very subdued this year: a few Russian Tea Cakes and Chocolate Crinkles (Stevie and Wesley's favorites...have to keep the "kids" happy, you know.) I was going to give Divinity a try this year, but the weather didn't cooperate. (What does weather have to do with candy? If you believe The Joy of Cooking...everything. It needs to be clear and cold. It's been cold, but wonderfully misty/foggy, so...no divinity. At least not yet. If it clears, I'll still try.)

Cleaning has been my main time consumer...I'm determined to get this house organized before 2004. Funny how much difference getting the computer corner reorganized made. The big lateral file cabinet was exactly what we needed. Carolyn's gotten our papers all nice and organized, and our small drawers on either side of the computer are perfect for our particular needs. I really have hopes that this arrangement will last. One of my main roundtuits was getting the ex-couch backs relit. The couch we shipped up from OKC was just too large for the apartment, and the springs were going and taking our back with them, so earlier this year, we bought a couple of chairs and ripped the couch apart, keeping the beautiful, upholstered lightbox style frame.

The rewiring wasn't that big a deal, but it required some parts and in the way of things, the lightboxs became the repository of...stuff, which made finishing them just that much more difficult. Once we got that corner reorganized, the "stuff" steadily disappeared, and I began to see a Monster House checkmark moment within reach. So...today I got the last one finished. YAYAYAYAYAY!!!!

Computers are running fine. Have begun to figure out the record restoration software that I've only had for, oh, five years. Had to get a turntable with a preamp built in, then Abbey told me her Hoontech sound card eliminated a lot of the hiss, and I got an attack of sound card envy. Took a while, but I finally got my new soundcard, and it does seem to be doing the trick. Still can't get it to route the input signal from the turntable to the line out, but it's doing the digital capture just fine, and once I have the wav file, I can hear it through the speakers and do the cleanup work. Got a lot of LPs, but also have a number of old 78s I'm hoping to restore. Wish me luck!

Monday was Hair day...I've been watching TLC's "What not to Wear" with some envy. Not the clothes so much as the hair-cutting guy. The things he does with a razor are truly wonderful. I've been wanting to get my hair shorter, have been whacking at it the last few months testing lengths, but finally had to admit that the look I wanted was beyond my ability to achieve. I got the front, but that's just a start. So...I went on a quest for a local place that stressed regular education in modern techniques and found a real winner. (You have to understand...there's a reason I cut my own hair and have for forty years...as well as several other brave and trusting heads of hair. I've never had what I would call a good commercial haircut, let alone what Carolyn calls a "What not to Wear moment.")

Well...I think I've found a winner. After some last minute Christmas shopping for my brothers who are (hopefully) coming in tomorrow, I went in to this salon, said I wanted someone expert in razor cuts, with opinions, and who wouldn't give me grief for the mess I'd made of my hair searching for that elusive look. They laughed and handed my over to one of their "educators" and she did a great job. I never knew I had so much natural curl in my hair! Once she zapped about 2/3s of the bulk (I have pretty thick hair) it began to take exactly the amount of curl I've tried to get through perms over the years! Go figure.

I had such a good experience, I went back the next day to turn over the color to them as well. Once I hit fifty, I decided I'd put up with the same hair color long enough. It wasn't going gray (never mind I'd earned a few!) and over the course of a few months, I tried several different colors before I found The One (Feria's Chocolate Cherry, with a bit of their dark purply-black to keep it from going coppery on me.) But all that experimentation is pretty hard on hair, and since it was long, it just kept absorbing it. Anyway, Amy turned me over to Alicia, who did a great job getting that same color, but with products that should be a bit kinder on the hair. Besides, they can get the roots and even it out with a lighter color on the already-colored ends, while I just sit there and get a head massage. Such a deal!

Tomorrow, I wash and style it myself...find out whether the curl is real or just their magic fingers!

Meantime, I continue to wake up about four in the morning, work for an hour or so, doze off for a couple of hours, then wake up and work again for a few hours before attacking the round tuits. Editing continues its slow, steady pace. Almost done.

Enough! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Super Solstice, and a terrific Twelfth Night to everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2003

10:32. Guess I'd better get writing if I'm to make a Christmas entry! We're sitting here watching Clash of the Titans . . . and I realize I never saw it! I certainly thought I had. Scenic, if nothing else, and Hamlin's got a very nice seat on a horse. Chip and Rog arrived around two o'clock this afternoon. After prezzies and chatting, we settled in for an evening of enlightening entertainment . . . Pirates of the Carribean, Real Genius, and now Titans. Works for me!

Efanor helped us unwrap the prezzies, then disappeared (typical) when the bros arrived. Once I inflated the Aero-bed, however, he was back out to join the company. He loves the aero-bed, having discovered its trampolene-like enhancements to the eleven o'clock crazy-cat tornado-imitation. He's settled now beside me as I write.

I can now let out the secret. I spent the last couple of days getting the ex-couch back lights back in action because one of the gifts I'd gotten for Carolyn was new acrylic sheet strips for the top. This sounds simple enough. I ordered it last week from a local place and they insisted, no problemo, Tuesday and the latest.

Hah! After I got my hair colored (see yesterday) I called to get directions to the place (I'd ordered it over the phone) and they said, What order?

ARGH! Well, while they looked for the order, I went to the storage room (to get the light fixtures for the long lightbox) then sat in line at the car wash for fifteen minutes, then called them back (still in the same spot in the line.) The gal who'd taken the order was back from lunch, found the order in the system, but it wouldn't be ready before late afternoon. Call back.

DOUBLE ARGH! That had been my window for traipsing about without Carolyn being the wiser. OK...Went home, did some work. Three o'clock rolled around and I called. The strips were done! YAY. However, the place was on the far side of town. Telling Carolyn I was going to go sit in line and get the car washed (no I never did get in the last time) I bombed across town, picked up the strips, then went and sat in line. After half an hour in line, I called Carolyn to say I was still waiting. She said, gee, why don't we go out to dinner. Give me a call when you get in the parking lot and I'll come down.

TRIPLE ARGH! I got the car washed, drove home, snuck in the back way, parked on the far side of the complex and hiked the strips over to the small on-sight storage unit, hiked back to the car and called Carolyn, who came down to meet me as I drove up in front of our building.

Sheesh...the things we do for friends....

But the new tops do look good!

Friday, December 26, 2003

Dad's birthday. Sigh.

Had a lovely, lazy day watching DVDs.  Had this great notion to go see Return of the King . . . Seemed like a good idea here in the comfort of home; got out in the traffic around the theaters, and decided to have dinner out and go home and watch more DVDs. I've never seen traffic like that! People are nuts. It's not as if they're one-day sales. Sheesh. Just as well...I really wanted to watch the other two again before I went to see Return, much as it would be fun to see it with the bros.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Ate too much for breakfast, waved the boys off on their trek across the state . . . and crashed. Serious snooze time. Carolyn did the same.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

I finished the rewrite! YAYAYAYAYAY. Now I can finally get back to Rings of Change! Might even start posting word counts. I got the coolest gizmo from Carolyn for Christmas, and it's already proving highly useful. It's a Lexar USB port JumpDrive. Two hundred plus megs of storage on a gizmo no bigger than my thumb. I tend to work on two different laptops, one of which doesn't have a floppy drive. It lets me move the working file back and forth easily without having to have both machines "live." Not only that, it means a constant backup. Pretty cool. Also will let me keep backups while traveling.

Also watched the Fellowship of the Ring tonight. What a magnificent movie. Once again, I'm glad the trek to see Return failed. Looking forward to watching the extended version of Two Towers tomorrow night.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Started getting up to speed on Change. Have about 60,000 words so far and must say I'm relieved and delighted. Haven't looked at it in well over a year, and have found only a couple of very minor changes to make. Oh...the relief! Now, if I can just remember what I'd planned to do with it . . .

Watched the extended version of the Two Towers and was, once again, blown away by this magnificent adaptation. The added material is nice . . . especially all the bits with Boromir and Faramir (probably spelled wrong) . . . but not vital. As with Fellowship, I was so impressed with the editing done to get the movie down to the "acceptible" theatrical release time frame.  In neither case did I (who have never read the books) get anything truly necessary from the extended version that I didn't get from the theatrical version. Some really nice "chocolates" but not the meat and potatoes of the story.

And yes, I wrote correctly, I've never read these books. It's possible I will finally make it through them, now I actually know where they're headed, and have some wonderful images for the characters, but in all honesty, I just never got into them. I don't know if it was the timing, the writing, the hype, or the Hilderbrandt Brothers artwork, but I was utterly unable to get into them. I've always been cognizant of the great debt our genre owes to Tolkien, but even that feeling of "obligation to read" couldn't keep me awake, once I began reading.

Why, then (you might ask) can I possibly call it a "magnificent" adaptation (considering I have no idea what it's adapting?) Because I'm watching it with someone (Carolyn) who read and loved the series before it ever hit American bookstores (she found it in the original British editions in the library) and could quote the dialogue. She loves the series. As both a critical consumer and critical writer, she approves of the movies (to put it mildly) and I, as about as critical and ignorant a consumer as could enter the theater am both entranced by the movies and eager (once I've seen the third movie) to read the original books.

In fact, it's been difficult since the first movie not to start reading, but as with the Harry Potter series, I've got only one chance to see the movies as an innocent consumer, so I'm avoiding reading them until I've seen the movie. If I'd begun to read Fellowship and really gotten into the characters, I don't think I could have stopped reading the other two. So...I just didn't start them.

Guess what I'll be doing in 2004?

On the CJC front (though I should let her post it first) she finished her book! Can't wait to hear it...probably next week. Having finished, she's now braving the reformatting and reinstallation of ME on her laptop. Predictably, this did not go textbook perfect.

I'll leave it to her to explain (and if she doesn't....there's always tomorrow.)

That's all for now!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Went to see Return of the King at last. Wonderful. If you're one of the handful of people who have waited longer than we did to get there, go see it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Went to see Return of the King again. The reasons are varied. One. loved it the first time and wanted to see it in the theaters again before it went away. Two, had AMC passes we had to use before the end of the year. Three, we found a parking spot. Four, there were things about it I needed to sort in my head so I could get some sleep. More on that in the Write Box. Still recommend it without qualification.