Mac the Book…

There’s someone I’d like you to meet. I can thank my good buddies at tech support, faux-James and faux-Jordan, for her appearance in my life. If they hadn’t terrified me about another impending computer- pocalypse, I probably wouldn’t have spent the next week waking up in a cold sweat and running down two flights of stairs to check on Huey.

It was time to get a Mac.

So I’d like to introduce you to my birthday MacBook.*

I decided to use a name from my someday-daughters-list to name her, because St. Matt has issued a double-thumbs-down-veto on this one anyway.

So, meet Dulcinea.

St.Matt pronounces it: Dull-sin-neigh-ah
I say: Dull-sin-knee-ah
Both are correct.

We’ll call her Lucie for short.

And Lucie is fabulous! Besides being adorably decked out in a pink&green skin that I designed myself (I am far too proud about this), she WORKS!

Unlike Huey, Lucie will communicate with our wireless printer. I’ve been printing things Just Because. So… if you want some puggle pictures, let me know. Lucie also has a “SuperDrive.” On Huey it’s just a CD/DVD drive, but on Lucie, it’s SUPER.

Did I mention she comes with a remote control? I love remote controls! St.Matt’s first Mp3 player had one and I was ridiculously jealous. Never mind that he repeatedly pointed out mine was waterproof a much more practical feature, and that he didn’t need a remote because the Mp3 player was strapped to his arm. I still wanted one.

And Lucie has one! I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but still… I have one.

If I disappear into a cloud of Laptop-Love full of unicorns and rainbows, I know you’ll understand. (Yes, I’m quite sure that Lucie will be a new Distraction Fairy).

… Or maybe because I’m so infatuated with Lucie, my blog explode with posts…. Er, and they won’t all be about lame-o things like how I learned to print and my so-far-just-fun-to-look-at remote control.


*Whenever I say MacBook, I want to sing Mack the Knife. Does this happen to everyone, or just me?

Virus Scan Wars

You know the moving walkways at airports? And how if you walk against the motor, you make no progress? Welcome to my day.

It started when I tried to open a file. I just wanted to peek at yesterday’s revision. The file wouldn’t open.

So I tried another file I’d work on last night: a friend’s MS that kept me up way-too-late. It wouldn’t open.

I tried everything I could think of, but neither file would cooperate. All my other Word files were fine. Not the end of the world, but it was a waste of a night’s work and a good *nudge* to update my virus software.

Updated. Easy-peasy. Started a scan.

While I was waiting, I figured I’d open the latest version of LUCKY MIA and re-do the chapter numbering since I had two chapter 31’s and no chapter 3.

Only, when I opened the file, it didn’t look like my story. It was a dense mess of text.

All the formatting was gone: Single spaced. No indents. No italics. Nothing centered. Hard returns deleted. Comments gone.

A chaotic block of words.

But not horrible, I figured I’d just open the file from the day before – I resave my MS each day as a separate file.

Clicked on LUCKY MIA 8-11: A chaotic block of words.

*Super-sized PANIC*
And thus began my adventures with online virus scan support, because when I looked in the scan log, it showed the software issuing ‘violation reports’ and ‘denying’ parts of Word*. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found double-spacing so offensive that it should be banned. And while I may overuse italics, that’s hardly a reason to revoke my emphatic privileges.

Off to ‘tech chat’ I went. First I had Jordan, who based on his syntax and creative use of the English language, is probably not really named Jordan Carter.

Jordan was confident he could fix my problems. Until I followed his instructions and they didn’t.

Jordan: Please proceeds by restarting the computer.
Me: Will this fix the problem & restore my formats?
Jordan: I recommend that you restart the computer.
Me: But won’t that end our chat.
Jordan: The chat session will be terminated.
Me: But what if it’s not fixed?
Jordan: (who I imagine is now doing a gleeful dance that he will be rid of me). Please contact online support if you require any more assistance. Refer to chat #844671
Jordan: It was my pleasure to work with you. Have a nice day.

I restarted. It was a mistake. Upon attempting to log-in, Huey-the-laptop informed me that “Unauthorized Changes had been made to Windows.” He then told the changes would “Limit Windows Functionality” which was particularly scary since it had been less than functional before.

Forty minutes and an entire stress-eaten jar of macadamia nuts later, I was logged in. The problem was NOT fixed (darn you, Jordan!). I scurried off to online support again and was paired up with “James.”

“James” has even less understanding of the rules of English, and he also might have been cooking lunch or mowing his lawn or something, because he took for-ev-er to respond to my pleading requestions.

After reading the transcript of chat#844671, James told me to do the same thing Jordan suggested.
Me: I’ve already done that.
James: Re-read my directions. This is for the VirusScan Program not to scan the Microsoft program.
Me: I followed your directions. It takes different steps, but both you and Jordan instructed me to add Word.exe to my exceptions list. It’s there. I checked.
James: Is the problem fixed?
*I visualize a kid in an elevator here – you know the one that repeatedly presses the same button like that will make it travel faster*
Me: No.

James: I will send you instructions. You open up Wordpad or Notepad and copy them incase we get disconnected.
Me: Ready.
…. Long wait while James stirs his soup or clips his toe nails.
Me: All set! James?
James: *directions* including: Press the Firewalls and Security Options button on the left side of the screen.
Me: I don’t have that button.
James: Then do not press it.
Me: Um, done?
James: Please follow the directions to exit the program.
Me: Okay, I’ve exited the program.
James: I will send you direction to exit the program.
Me: It’s okay, I right clicked and exited. I don’t need directions.
James: *sends directions*
James: Let me know when you are ready to proceeds
Me: (wondering if he read my last messages and why James and Jordan both struggle with ‘proceed’ Are they really the same person? If I start a new chat, will I get John or Jacob or Joe?) All set. What next?
James: Does the problems still occur?
Me: *checks… chaotic block of text* YES.
James: The problem is not with our software. Contact Microsoft for assistance.

This is where I went into oh-no-no mode.

James: I recommend you uninstall the virus scan, system restore, reinstall.
Me: Will that fix the problem?
James: I will send you directions.

I uninstall.

Me: It says that I need to restart the system for the changes to take affect. Should I do this?
No answer.
Me: James? Also, last time I restarted, I had real problems logging back in. Will those be fixed?
Loooong pause. Perhaps James is walking his dogs. Maybe he could come walk the puggles, b/c they’re getting a little impatient with my crazed computer staring.
James: Proceeds to uninstall the virus scan.
Me: I did. It’s uninstalled. It says I need to restart.
James: Yes, restart.
Me: But what about the systems restore and reinstall?
James: Restart first. I will send you directions.
Me: So will this fix it?
James: Follow the directions.
Me: After I do the systems restore, it should be fixed, right? So then, when I reinstall, is it going to recreate the problem? Should I ‘exclude’ Word right away.
James: I do not recommend that.
Me: But last time, when I started a virus scan it messed up Word.
James: I recommend you try it first.
Me: And if it recreates the problem, I’d have to uninstall, restore the system, reinstall.
James: I recommend this.
Me: Is it worth the risk?
James: Yes.

Clearly, James is willing to play fast and loose with my files.

I save his directions. And restart…. you may have noticed that James never answered my question about whether or not I’d have problems logging-in. That was an artful dodge my tech-help friend. Crafty.

Log-in screen: “Unauthorized Changes have been Made to Windows”

Thus commenced a 45 minutes of a loop where I put in my password, it give me this message & restarted. Since I was out of macadamia nuts, I ate blueberries by the handful and paced. The puggles trailed me in my stress-induced game of follow the leader.

To switch things up, Huey began warning me that my version of Office may be counterfeit. No. It’s not. It’s the same version I had last night. The same version I’ve had for 2 years. Unless sneaky software bandits crept into my house between the hours of 3AM and 6AM, it’s authentic.

Finally! Success. And Word works too! Only, Huey tells me he has updates he needs to install and he wants me to restart…

40 more minutes of me pleading… really, it is authentic, I haven’t made unauthorized changes, I love you Huey, work with me… I’ll try not to abuse italics, I’ll use those special screen wipes you like… Sleep mode? You’ve got it!

Six and a half hours later, I’m back where I started: the same two files still don’t work. And my virus scan is now, not only out of date, but uninstalled.

I could reinstall it like James recommended… but then I’d have to restart.

*I do not want to identify the company for fear that they will send me ALL of their viruses, since surely they have plenty.

Pink Laptops & Puggles

At the beginning of each year I have my students draw and discuss their favorite place to write. They sketch a comfy chair in a sunny window, a shady hammock in their garden, they draw snacks and pets and squiggly notes to represent music. One girl drew her pink laptop. Pink! I want one – sorry, Huey, if I could trade you in for a pink version of you, you’d be history.

And every year I feel like a bit of a monster as I do this. Because I don’t have comfy chairs or shady hammocks. And while I can sometimes play music to inspire those that like writing to music, and sometimes have silence for those that like that, I’m not allowed to bring in the puggle pair (I’ve asked), and I don’t have pink laptops to give to each of them. (Pink! I wonder if I could paint Huey…)

So essentially I have my students draw their ideal and then respond with a “Too bad. Enjoy your wobbly desk and clicky pencil that ran out of lead.”

But isn’t the world like this as well?

I have an ideal writing place: a desk made out of refurbished antique door that’s situated in a giant picture window with an amazing view. It’s got wireless speakers and a printer, and a laptop that could only be more fabulous if it was PINK. There’s a window seat where the puggles wriggle in sunbeams, a wall that’s painted with whiteboard and even a inspirational sign that reads: “And they lived happily ever after” so that I remember how stories should end on the days I want to throw my not-pink laptop through the picture window.

But how often do I have time to take advantage of this writing space? Um, never. My writing is slotted in during fits and spurts. Insomniac attacks and while cooking dinner. Composed while running and typed while trying to watch the weather, carry on a phone conversation, and figure out what Biscotti’s sneaking off to do.

Writing happens while waiting at the doctor’s office, I type ideas on Petunia (my Blackberry – she’s pink), while on the elliptical trainer (you’d be impressed by my elliptical handwriting, it’s definitely improving!), writing happens while I’m showering, driving, teaching, reading… living.

So why do I teach this lesson year after year if I can’t match their drawings of the ideal? For the same reason that I keep writing even when I can’t get to my writing nook to do so. Writing is a part of life – it’s not something that occurs only during a designated timeslot or the magical forces of the universe combine to create perfect conditions.

And one of these days I’ll find the time to clear the laundry and dusty post-its off my writing nook and use it as it’s intended . . . Can’t complain though, because as I type this, watch the Oscars, answer parent e-mails, Twitter, and plan dinners for the week, I’ve also got a warm dozy puggle in my lap, a computer that’s great (even if it’s not pink), and a great soundtrack on I-tunes. Ideal? No. But absolutely satisfying all the same.