I'm Re-booting my LIFE right now

Aug 29, 2008 at 11:38 PM
WARNING: Skip this post if you're not interested in my tech-babble or listening to a rant. This is an unabashed rant. It's my blog, I'll write what I want to.

My computer crashed. This may not seem like a big deal - but the last six years of my life I have been happily working away (my job is in my computer, I'm a website designer/internet person extraordinaire) from behind the gorgeous sleek lines of a purring, happy beast better known as a COMPAQ Presario. I loved that machine, dusted it regularly, ran all the good programs to keep it virus/spyware/adware free. Ran disk check and defrag, maintained and removed unneccessary files, and generally did everything you ought to.

I didn't realize it harboured a secret hatred for me. That Presario, with it's amazing graphic load ability had been simply coaxing me into submission prior to the pounce, not until last Thursday when it killed every piece of data in it. And unfortunately, it pounced while it was defragging and so it turned into a sort of murder-suicide. Data gone, but it killed itself, torn apart by partition amnesia and disk damage.

Thank god for backups - I saved nearly everything onto my laptop as a backup, plus I had a SeaGate external drive onto which I backed the entire thing up.

So, imagine my horror to discover that NOTHING fixed this. It ended up needing to go to the nearest hardware guru, who called to tell me today that the hard drive was DOA and there is nothing that he can do but try to get it mirrored onto another drive, or some such greek.

I'm an INTERNET person, I don't speak hardware. So I simply said in a weak voice, "Uhm, OK, whatever you have to do, do it. That sounds OK." Pricetag = about a week's food. Not so bad. When I was a kid, you'd have had to pay more than we pay for brand spanking new MACHINES now, just to get the old one working again.

So, anyway, for the time being, I'm working off my laptop. Since it has all my client's files and data and work-related stuff backed up onto it, I thought I'd be good to go.

Despite losing about two weeks of work - probably permanently. At least I'm not out of business. Right?

No. It's not the hardware costs that get you, it's the software costs.

Thank god there is so much open source stuff out there, or this would have cost me a couple thousand dollars...

First I had to update FireFox, then re-download all my favorite Firefox extensions - which is a trick when you can't look up your original list:

  • Web Developer
  • Alexa Toolbar
  • Server Spy
  • Search Status
  • Sage
  • PDF Download
  • Live HTTP Headers
  • Download Manager
  • BugMeNot
  • ColorZilla
  • etc...
I think I probably still left five or six of my old favorites out. Plus I had to have a bunch of extensions that let me use my other tools via Firefox.

This is the machine I THOUGHT was already ready - I've been using it while traveling for a while. But apparently one or two days never really brought me around to wanting my usual tools.

I didn't have full-use versions of:

  • NoteTab Pro (had to reinstall with my original license key)
  • All the NoteTab Pro clip libraries I am used to (the ones I myself created are simply POOFed, I guess)
  • TopStylePro (had to find original license key)
  • WinZip (again, original license keys are hard to find sometimes)
  • WS FTP Pro (more original license keys to find)
  • NVu
  • HTML Tidy
  • Download Manager
  • Offline Explorer
  • GSiteCrawler
  • AdWords Editor
  • GIMP
  • OpenOffice
  • ColorCop
  • Meazure
  • MWSnap
  • PHP (still not working)
  • Zend (whatever, not working)
  • and lots (I mean LOTS) of others I'm forgetting right now.

I've been installing my little brains out on this laptop. But you'll notice my list does NOT - repeat NOT - include Dreamweaver or FrontPage or any of the other WYSIWYG editors. I don't use visual editors - but I own NVu entirely and only for using to view, understand, and convert Dreamweaver and FrontPage creations down to something I can actually play with. Any WYSIWYG editor honestly creates horrible code - I cannot imagine that anyone would allow the electrician to leave their house having left 20 tons of unrequired wires running every which way inside their walls, but people let those god-awful pages represent themselves online all the time.

Thank goodness the laptop had Photoshop from when I bought it second-hand - that's flipping EXPENSIVE. I don't know why I wanted the GIMP and Photoshop - but I do. I use both. Don't ask why.

And it already had Pidgin on it - so I can chat.

Anyway, despite that it could have been worse, it feels crappy to spend SO MUCH TIME getting back to full operational status.

That doesn't count the little USB tools I've had to buy to make my laptop operational - thank goodness I'd been buying those up for a while. All I still need right now is a USB keypad entry thingee. For numbers. I can't use the little numbers on the qwerty keyboard system. I want my keypad back!

Enough bitching for now.

And BTW, if you ever wanted to do what I do for a living, I do believe I just gave away the farm. :) I'm not worried though. These are only the TOOLS of the trade, or at least the tools for doing things in my exact controlling, perfectionistic way. There is no tech knowledge buried in them that will do everything for you. Just owning a pair of ballet shoes won't make you a Baryshnikov. So I feel fine giving you the list.

Any ideas for where to go from here? I'm not gonna be using the laptop forever... When I switch away from it, I want something that works better than the POS I no longer trust.

I'm actually thinking that it might be a really good idea to ask my uncle (a really great old-school programmer, he's been at it since back when you had to actually study and excel in your field to end up working in programming) to finish up that Linux box he's been talking about building for me. Maybe it's time for me to just start scooting over to the new tech. I hear better and better things about operating in a window-less Linux environment every day. I doubt ALL of the above tools would be usable on a new box - but at least it would have a stable, sane OS to sit on. I could adjust, if I knew my machine wasn't a big insane beast underneath a coat of polish.

Windows has NEVER been good to me. It loads slowly, steals system resources, won't give them back, it crashes far too often doing just plain normal every day things, leaves bits and piece of old files everywhere it wants to, takes up immense space that it really shouldn't need to, and doesn't really operate as though it considers me the "master of my own destiny". I always feel like a guest on my own computer ("why's it slow now? Oh, it's automatically downloading a self-checking program without asking me. Well. Uhm, I guess I'll go sip a cup of tea." and "Why's my internet being limited now? Oh. It's because windows downloaded a 312 MB update last week. Nice of it to warn me!") And Windows as totally unintuitive ways to handle simple tasks that shouldn't be too tough. I already know I hate Windows. So do most of the rest of you (at least the sane ones). But, my hatred has gotten much much worse since I found out that Windows was the particular bit of the beast that killed my job last week. I was down for the count, TKO, for DAYS.

I don't like MACs either - I like to be able to gut around in the works of my programs and that's not how MACs like to work. In my brief experience with them at least. They are not workable for me -- I simply don't like the overly simplistic interface of a MAC. I feel like it's talking down to me. Beats me why. (Maybe it's related to my "mom issues" - she and my step-dad swear by MACs - they always seem to have the latest model.)

Anyway, so I guess I'm realizing that I actually WANT to transition over to a nice, clean Linux box. Maybe. Any other ideas?

(Or really, any box that won't flip out and randomly destroy itself for no reason at all. And that has room for the few hundred websites and related files, hundreds of programs and related files, etc, that become the standard detritus of a job like mine.)

I can use my old windows machine to store archives or something. Or maybe I'll just gut it and make it into a breadbox. I actually need one of those.

Blackberries and Apples

Aug 28, 2008 at 3:28 PM
It's harvest here. Nothing formal or organized, just that the weather's perfect and the fruit are ripening and it's always a shame to waste that.

And the girls do their level best not to waste a moment of it.

So for the past few weeks, we've been eating a lot of homemade, wild-ripened blackberry pies and we've got the makings for about 20 apple pies sitting in a bucket in the kitchen, from which we ocassionally pilfer a snack or two.

I remember very well the magic of this. There is something absolutely impossible to learn from television - something that can only be learned by doing - about turning a few hours of gathering into a useful, amazing product that you simply made out of your own purposeful action. You cannot get nearly the same satisfaction from a perfectly-made store-bought pie, as you can from your own humble, crumbly, far-tastier, home-made, self-obtained pies.

And it's a lot of fun to be the mother of these particular gatherers.

People scoff at the hunter-gatherer stage of human existence, but I do believe it was the requisite beginnings of the lofty goals we've now obtained as a species. Or at least are working to obtain.

The recognition that you can shape your environment to your own needs and that you can turn nothing into something are a simple plain-as-day beginning to the recognition that you can master the universe. And you know you are doing something as timeless and satisfying as any other basic function of life.

So my kids are learning to master the universe. One blackberry at a time.

Bullheadedness

Aug 25, 2008 at 11:26 PM
After vaguely wondering what Charlie was going on about, I came out on the porch last night - I was killing two birds with one stone, really. My first reason was to see what Charlie was up in arms about, and the other was to read and enjoy life.

Well, I found that a very large white male (a bull) was taking up residence in my front yard.

Three nights earlier Charlie didn't bark at all when the bobcat was in the yard. (Charlie's advice appears to be: Cows are dangerous. Watch out! Lethal wild cats are no problem. Just ignore them.)

Anyway, back to the bull. I knew this one. He gets loose from Old Man Eisenhart's property once every so often. He's wily. The bull, not Mr. Eisenhart. Although nothing against Mr. Eisenhart - i really just don't know. Anyway, this bull is just too smart for fences and tack. He is almost as tall as me, and always looks like you've just done something disgusting and he's waiting on your apology. He was scuffling his feet and staring me down. He obviously knew he was where he wasn't supposed to be, but danged if he was going to give me credit for recognizing it.

He shuffled around, looking highly affronted that I stayed up on the porch instead of running away, and watched me settle into my chair. He made a snuffling noise and walked closer. (How dare I enjoy the evening's cool breeze!) He looked like he was itching to say "get outta my yard!" but had no words for it.

Charlie flipped out, and started looking at me in between barks. He was barking at the bull rather more than even Charlie Underfoot usually does. Because I wasn't listening to the barks, he went for the bigger effect, jumping up and down while barking. Obviously, Charlie was trying to tell me he could take 'im.

I said "Sure, I know you could, Doodlebutt. But you're going in the house." And I shoved Charlie (sometimes known as "Doodlebutt" or "Godammit! Get off my feet!") through the door into the house.

Tucker, who knew better than to be bothered by cows, stayed laying in his favorite spot. He looked at me sidelong like to say, "You better tell that whippersnapper to calm down or he's gonna be killed by that bull," and then rolled over a little and stretched his neck.

"I know, I know - He'll learn. You did, you know."

My attention back on the bull, and Tucker's attention on me. Catching a train of thought, I remembered what I was doing. Oh yeah, Snuffling match. So I snuffled back at the bull, pumped my arms down at the same time, stamped my foot good and hard. Like an angry housewife making a point. And I stood up straight and -- in the country dialect that both Tucker and the bull know better than the Queen's English, said -- "GITTawnouttaheyah! Gwohn, GIT!" and then the big white bull looked at me like he was reassessing me, so for good measure I said "HUH" and shooed my arms at him. He turned away. The only way to impress a bull with yourself is to act like one. Snuffle and move around a little and be bullheaded. And be behind a lot of fence. Preferably with a strong door behind you to disappear into.

He understood my meaning, but didn't gitohnouttaheah. That hadn't actually been my intention. I just wanted him to recognize that I was in my spot and he was in his.

I settled into the teal upholstered art deco armchair that sits (facing the sun in the day) on my front porch and started reading.

Charlie took up barking at the door again after a few minutes.

The bull settled down to eating the grass, and was soon enough joined by several young ladies, where they promptly enjoyed the rest of the evening imbibbing their own cud, snuffling, and laying down plentiful cowpies for posterity.

The bull stayed right next to the house, in my yard, until about 6:00 AM when he decided to take his herd off to their next whirlwind gala in some other field. Normally I wouldn't care. Bulls getting loose is pretty common around here. Comes with the territory. Literally.

I only know that's when he left my yard because that's when Charlie decided to let me sleep.

Silly dog.

Dress Up and Skits

Aug 14, 2008 at 10:31 PM

Today there was a "slaves to fashion" routine. The girls put on nearly daily skits for my amusement. 

Today's was about conflicting ideas of what is most fashionable. Miranda was "Ashley" a California girl with a terrible sunburn, and Aurora was "Arrabella Minionetta" an italian girl (eurotrash). 

"Ashley" thought doubled up articles of clothing with undies on the outside was cool. 

"Arrabella" thought that wearing your pants as a sweater was cool, plus lipliner as a necklace.

They argued and the girls descended into fits of giggles.

Guess which one was which from the photo...

Missing you guys

Aug 8, 2008 at 9:43 PM

Hey! I was looking through an ancient email folder full of updates from people I haven't seen or heard from in ages. I was looking for an email having to do with one of my spyware programs, and it was in my old personal emails somwehere. 

Anyway, it made me realize how very many of you I haven't heard from lately!

Kathy & David, Diana & David & Ada, Snow & Gage & Rain, Robin & Elijah, Maya, Tyra, Margaret-Maggie-for-short, Shug, Quinn, Zanner and all the rest of you.

I magically heard from one of you right after. I love how that works.

Update me if you want to. Drop me a line.

I really am interested. I don't even have TV here, so it's easy to entertain me. No need to wait for big news.

P.S. For those of you interested, I'm not in Costa Rica yet - trip was postponed.