Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crash! Part 3

When last we left my not-so-trusty computer, nuked by a stupid virus, I had just F11'd the hard drive back to its (allegedly) pristine 'factory condition'. This was done after making a backup on my new little external drive, bought just for this occasion.

That was the plan, anyway.

My first clue that things would not go as planned should have been the 'format this before using' instruction sheet, helpfully written in Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, German, Lithuanian, Swahili, Navaho, Nepalese, Papuan, Latin, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and pictures for those of us who speak English. My computer wouldn't even boot Windows--how the heck was I supposed to format the new drive? I'm sure there's some way to do that from the DOS command line, but that wasn't covered in the English pictures. Not to mention I'm allergic to anything done in obscure monochrome abbreviations. I avoid as much as possible the "C>:" (or "C-prompt" for non-geeks--and no, it's usually not prompt in its actions). It was bad enough going to the BIOS settings with its 1976 Pong-style graphics, but at least you get a little color there, and the programmers helpfully spell everything out, so long as you can speak 1337 computerese.

I followed the picture instructions to the letter. Or in this case, to the picture. After plugging in the hard drive, I was greeted with the question "Do you want to make a recovery backup of your files?" I said 'not just yes, but heck yes!' and pushed the appropriate button and waited for the backup. And waited. And waited. And waited. Once that was done, I hit F11, wiping the hard drive and loading from the recovery partition.

This was suspiciously easy.

I expected to jump through 18 million hoops and the obligatory "Do you want to wipe your hard drive?" "Are you sure you want to wipe your drive?" "Have you consulted HP, Microsoft, your loved ones, your friends, and the hackers' forums before you considered this?" "This will destroy everything you've ever made, copied, downloaded (legally or illegally), and listened to in the last 500 years. Are you sure? Really sure?" "Really sure with whipped cream and a cherry on top?" "OK, we can now proceed with wiping the drive, even though we know there's a simpler solution, but we're not going to tell you, ha ha ha." "There. All wiped. Are you happy now?"

I cheerfully plugged in the Maxtor, pulled up the copied files, and looked through the saved files. Only six files were there. Given that I have more than six games installed alone, not to mention all the other files, I was a tad suspicious that something was amiss.

The helpful Windows File Recovery Tool made some interesting choices in what it 'recovered' and copied. I found sample music from iTunes (but none of the music I'd loaded or downloaded). It copied some system files. My favorite was the Adobe PDF instruction manual, never mind the fact that all my actual documents, and Adobe PDF reader itself, were completely gone in electronic oblivion. Luckily, my trusty Hubby had bought a 5Gb card for the new camera, and I hadn't erased the pictures from said card when I uploaded them to my computer. The Good Lord must have been watching out for me in that respect.

It took me about a week to re-install all my files, games, music from iTunes, Firefox bookmarks and extensions, and so forth. You've not lived through computer hell until you've had to deal with lost iTunes music or trying to remember all your passwords.

But wait, there's more.

I discovered the hinge for the lid was cracking, and it was splitting from the screen along the side edge. So, I had to contact HP. And that's yet another story.

It's never a dull moment in my Geeky world....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

CRASH! Part 2

If you've been along for the blog ride, you've already seen CRASH! Part 1, in which I described the Great Computer Crash. It was not pretty. It involved a virus taking out my winload.exe file, which pretty much means that unless you fix it, you now have a very expensive paperweight.

Well, after discovering that the recovery disk (that HP made me make because it wanted to save maybe 18 cents by not supplying one) did not work, I checked out the HP site for support. I hoped they would have an easy fix. Yes, I know that was probably a delusional thought, but one can always hope. After searching the site for some time, it appeared my only option was to buy a recovery disk at $10 (plus shipping and handling), because a missing winload.exe file now constituted a 'problem', and HP will sell the disk to you if you 'have a problem'. I could also wait 7-10 business days for it to get delivered because I hate paying overnight charges. Well, that was entirely too long for this gaming Geeky Mom. I can be patient, but I'm not into suffering internet withdrawal.

Now, I could use the desktop, but that would involve kicking hubby off of his Oblivion game or the Terry Goodkind forum, neither of which he really wants. Sweet husband that he is, he would do it if he had to, but I didn't want him to suffer withdrawal, too. The laptop was very considerate in the timing of its crash, and it broke down while Jimbo was at work so that I could use the desktop to look up possible solutions. How's that for geeky--sitting at a desktop with the laptop on my lap at the same time.

Of course, fixing it meant going to the Lucasforums' General Tech Discussion forum, which is a far more debonair-geek name than "Help Desk." I figured if anyone would know how to solve this problem, it would be Trusty Friends stingerhs, Astrotoy7, ChAiNz.2da, or any of the other LF computer gurus. While waiting for their replies, I googled "winload.exe problem and my recovery disk won't work". Up popped an HP page on just how to solve the problem. Apparently, this page is so cleverly disguised that HP's own search engine can't find it. Maybe they should use Google.

So, how to fix the problem on my computer? Hit F11. That's it. One stupid key stroke.

It gave me the option to back up my files. I chose that and drove over to Best Buy to pick up a portable external hard drive. I discovered an 80 Gb hard drive costs about the same as a 4 Gb flash drive. Apparently, the 4Gb on the flash drive are gold-plated or something to make it that expensive. Well, I got home, plugged it in, and saved the files to the external hard drive. I F11'd the viruses into oblivion as I reformatted the drive.

Then all I had left was to reload the saved files. Did that work? I'll give you two choices, and the answer is not yes....

Monday, October 22, 2007

CRASH! Part 1

It finally happened. My computer crashed catastrophically.

I've owned a computer of some sort for 11 years, and used a computer in some way or another for the last 20 or so. However, I've never had a crash like this before. Sure, I've had the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) and black screens before, and I've had trouble with a bad sector or two on my older laptop. Still, I never had anything that required a complete hard drive reformat.

Until yesterday.

My computer had been acting a bit odd--Skype chat wouldn't respond when I clicked it, and OpenOffice just sort of disappeared--the shortcuts suddenly pointed nowhere. It was like the computer when "Huh?" anytime I clicked those. This happened shortly after I removed a porn post from Lucasforums. Being a. a super-moderator, b. a mom, and c. totally anti-porn, it was my responsibility to protect the young impressionable minds at LF from raunchy abject crap. Yes, I know that the kids can see all the porn they want with just a click of a couple links, but that's not the point. I am a Mom, and in the realm where I wield the Mighty Edit Button and Ban Stick, there shall be no Naked People.

So, there I was, checking out the new posts on the forum, when I saw a post in Italian. Since LF is English-only (I use the term very loosely in view of 1337- and IM-Speak), my internal Crap Detector (tm) red-lined. Unfortunately, it over-shadowed the Mom Sense (also tm) which was telling me "There must be Naked People in that thread." I have no clue how the Mom Sense developed. It just did. Many a teen has rued the day that Trusty Friend Rogue Nine cajoled me into the super-mod position, because it now meant they could no longer post their naughty pics and comments for any length of time before the Momerator caught it.

Well, I clicked on the thread. I saw a bunch of Italian links. My Italian is limited to "Buon Giorno!", "Ciao!", "Lorenzo di Medici", "Cappuccino", and a couple swear words my Italian step-mother taught me, which I shall not repeat here. The first five or ten links did not have any of those words, and unfortunately I did not read far enough down the long list. If I had, I would have seen 'erotici', which, while not part of my Italian vocabulary, is nevertheless equivalent to "Naked People" in Jae-world. I clicked a link. And promptly had my eyes assaulted with things I never wanted to learn. And undoubtedly picked up the charming little trojans that infected my computer.

A few days later, things on my computer started acting funny. A virus scan caught nothing. My spyware caught nothing. I went to C|Net's site and downloaded a more aggressive malware detector (HijackThis), suspecting some invasive spyware. Sure enough, the two trojans showed up, hiding out in my HP games. Fortunately, I don't play either computer Parcheesi or Sudoku on my computer. Why play those when I have Kotor, Kotor: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2, and my newest game, Guild Wars? So, the viruses had not exploded and spread everywhere, and I deleted the games to get rid of them.

All appeared well, and Skype went back to acting normally. I went to bed after shutting down the laptop for the night, thinking life was good. Silly me. When I turned on the computer the next morning, Windows cheerfully informed me that it could not load. I asked it, not so cheerfully, why not. It, of course, just blinked blankly at me and asked me if I'd like to do a scan. I informed it that I would like it to actually start, but if a scan was required to do so, then I would jump through that hoop.

I waited patiently (or not) until it beeped and said it couldn't find the system32\winload.exe file. This is Microsoft-speak for "You're totally screwed." Even I could figure out that if the program that loads Windows is corrupted, it is Not Good.

Using the desktop for a Google search, I learned that yes, a missing winload.exe file really does mean I was totally screwed and that I needed to load from the recovery disk, and so I pulled out the one I'd made shortly after I got the computer. HP, in its infinite wisdom (and no doubt the desire to save shareholders a fraction of a cent in costs) decided that it would not supply recovery disks for its users. You can copy the recovery files in a special partition to your own disk (which is easier said than done--HP doesn't like it when you play around in the recovery partition). You can also buy recovery disks from HP for $10 (plus shipping and handling), but only if you have 'a problem'. Can you check to see if your recovery disk actually works? Only if you want to reformat your hard drive. Needless to say, this isn't one of HP's better ideas.

Did my recovery disk work? I'll give you two choices, and the answer is not 'yes'....

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Geeky Mom Uniform

So there I was in the store, buying underwear, wondering what kind to get. This came about because Jimbo had determined that it was now a requirement that all underwear shall be a. Free of holes and b. Thick enough so that light may not pass through freely. Suddenly about 5 sets of underpants disappeared, representing about 1/3 or more of my collection. I was informed, in fact, that Jimbo was not going to wash anymore of my underwear until I had purchased some more. I'm quite happy with comfortable underwear, even if it does have a small hole here or there. Holes do not bother me, unlike some of my family whose motto is "Don't wear anything that you don't want the ER nurses to see." Apparently, they think the staff will be simply appalled at holes in underwear. I cheerfully point out that if they've gotten to the point in the ER where their underwear is in view, a. they'll be too sick or injured to care, b. the staff is going to cut off the underwear anyway, and c. have seen so many naked body parts that they couldn't care one iota. This does not make my family members feel any better.

Off I drove to the store, because while I do not mind underwear with holes, they still must be clean underwear with holes, and I do not like doing laundry. Since Jimbo had thrown out a whole bunch, I'd have to wash underwear like every 5 days or so, and that was just not an appealing thought.

I went to the usual 'white cotton brief' section, because that's what I typically buy, when I actually buy underwear. It occurred to me that this must be a geeky mother thing. Let's face it, white cotton briefs are not teh hawt and sexeh, which works pretty well since geeky mothers are not generally teh hawt and sexeh, either (and if you are a hawt and sexeh geeky mother, God bless you!!). White briefs may be geeky, but they're also comfortable. They stay where they're supposed to say, and they do not ride up in places where they should not. If I have to sit on my tushy at the computer, I am not going to sit on a bunched up wad of fabric. So, I bought 2 packages of white cotton briefs. I also broke out of the geeky mother stereotype and (shock of shocks!) bought some bikinis. In colors and patterns no less. If I ever end up in the ER, I think the nurses will make more comments about the bright polka dots than they would have ever made about a few holes. :D

Sunday, September 30, 2007

1337 pwnxorz IM SPK!

Being the wife of a military Reserve soldier, I thought I'd had my share of acronyms. We're routinely treated to such literary gems as "The Sgt. will bring the DD-214 to HQ on the QT before going on his CONUS R&R" and "1LT will est. an LZ at 0700."

Medicine is even better. I get to write interesting things like "Disp: 5 ml. Sig: ii gtt OS QID PRN", which is to say "Dispense: 5 milliliters, and signa: 2 guttae in the oculus sinister quater in die pro re nata." Apparently, someone in a flash of great brilliance (and a sick sense of humor) decided to use Latin abbreviations in prescriptions, because, as we all know, medicine is made even more comprehensible by using a dead language to describe it. In case you're wondering, (and who wouldn't be?) it means "give the patient a 5 milliliter bottle of the medicine with the instructions to put 2 drops into the left eye 4 times a day as needed."

Now, I've been on a few forums, mostly medical but some for my Renaissance re-enactment group (membership in which earned me at least 6 points on the Geek test). We speak pretty much all English there, though occasionally a little Latin and Greek leaks out in the medical terms. So, when I joined Lucasforums, of course I thought they'd speak English there, too. Silly me. There was not only one, but two, count them, two, geeky languages I now had to learn.

The first is instant message speak, or 'IM Spk' Now, mind you, IM spk to me means a bizarre combo of 'intramuscular' and 'superficial punctate keratitis'. It's pretty much impossible, since the cornea has no muscles. Since the person using IM spk at that point was a 13 year old kid whose goal in life was to make every headshot in Battlefront, I concluded that he must not be meaning it in the medical sense. After much research including, but not limited to, plugging "IM spk" into the Google search box, I learned it meant 'instant message speak'. I also learned that, OMG, i d k how 2 IM my bff Jimbo 2 get DP nao. Frankly, I can type real words faster than I can say "i h8 IM spk".

The second is 1337 5|>34|<, which, for those of you who have not pwned n00bs with more HS skillz than spent time earning As and Bs in Real School, means 'leet speak'. This one's even weirder. In fact, you know it's really geeky when it shows up in a Wikipedia article with a bunch of bizzare little symbols under orthography. You know you've reached 'new language' status when you have an entire alphabet posted in in a Wiki article. I've mastered some of it. I have 101 or LOL, (for laughing out loud), teh pwnage, n00bxorz, and OMG. There're also the lovely ones STFU and WTF, which of course mean "Sort the Files Uselessly" and 'Where to, Freddy?" My favorite is "!!111!!oneone!!11eleventy-one!!111!!!", which is pretty much equivalent to "DUDE!!!"

I'm hoping that the language doesn't change too much between now and the next few years when my kids hit the teen years. I already have to work hard enough keeping up with all the languages as it is without adding in teen-speak, too. :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Geek Handwriting

Women are supposed to have lovely handwriting, right? Well, you already know I'm a Geeky Mom, and not an Ordinary Mom. Therefore, I do not fit into the Typical Woman mold.

My handwriting totally sucks.

It's sucked since I first learned to write. Now granted, I learned to write before I got my first pair of glasses. Since my vision at that time was 20/2000 (that's right, 2000 with three 0's) without glasses, it sort of put a crimp in my ability to see the chalkboard and follow how the teacher was making the letters. So, I have a lame excuse. When my high school English teacher announced that if anyone could print more legibly than handwrite, then please do so, I switched back to printing and never looked back. It's not much better, but at least some people can read it (including me). My dad quipped when I graduated doctor school "So, did you learn how to write badly yet?" I quipped back, "No, it was an entrance requirement--you had to have bad handwriting just to get in." My signature is so hard to reproduce even I have trouble re-creating it. I had to go in to get something notarized the other day and the lady at the bank told me the signature on the document didn't really look like the one on my license. Well, try fitting a long name on the 1/2 inch wide box the DMV gives you and see if it looks the same anywhere else. Fortunately, I have multiple picture IDs with a scrawl that looks at least within the same style, if not exactly the same, so everything was fine, if temporarily annoying to me. I could gripe about the anal retentive banker, but it really is my writing.

Needless to say, when my son hit elementary school, I had no small amount of angst about how I was going to help him at home with printing and handwriting. I can't even color in the lines, how was I going to teach him how to print letters, even with the big thick pencils and the wide-lined paper? There was no hope. It doesn't help that he inherited my writing ability.

The education system in our town, happily, is quite progressive technologically (at least philosophically), and rather than make him copy c's and z's endlessly to try in futility to make writing semi-legible, they just assigned him this little device called an 'Alphasmart'. It looks like the electronic typewriter I used in college, minus the paper and really expensive ink ribbon. So, all he has to do is type in his answers and book reports and such, and he's in business. It shows up on the screen, and he saves it when he's done and it's stored right on the device. He takes the Alphasmart back to school, the teacher reads it on the screen, and grades it from there. This was something I could handle, because as a Geeky Mom I totally understand anything remotely looking like a computer. In fact, I taught his teacher last year how to add attachments to her school email (which was different from her computer at home). I don't do the PTA thing, I do the Techno-geek mom thing in the classroom instead. It works very well.

When I talked to the teacher about the fact that if he uses the Alphasmart all the time instead of writing, he'll never learn to write properly. She pointed out that with the way technology is going, by the time he grows up, they probably won't be doing much writing anyway. Everything will be done on computers or by texting. Good thing my kids have a Geeky Mom.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ever wonder where the socks disappear to?

Raise your hand if you've ever lost a sock in the laundry.

Any of you who have not raised your hands, shame on you for lying. :D We all know that washers and dryers have a strange affinity for socks.

Washer: Hey, Dryer!
Dryer: Yes, Washer?
Washer: Hey, check it out. He's got a basket of SOCKS!!!!!!
Dryer: We'll be eatin' fine tonight! You want the colored ones or the black and white ones?
Washer: I've got the bleach thing happenin', so you take the colored ones. Besides, I can't stand Hello Kitty Pink or Smurf Blue. Makes my tub out of whack and then I pound and walk all over. It's not pretty.
Dryer: Oh, no problem. I'll just make those ones 'lost' in the filter or shoot them out the vent for you, then the kids can't wear them again.
Washer: Hey, thanks!! I'll make sure to use some extra Downey as a treat for you!
Dryer: That's totally awesome!!!

At least I thought it was a washer/dryer issue until I saw this on the i can has cheezburger? site:


Suddenly it was all clear: maybe my cats did something with them. Perhaps they thought they were some kind of weird mice. Perhaps they have a nest of left socks somewhere in the house, and I have yet to find it. Perhaps they have a tiny mantle inside their covered litter box, and they were hanging them by the fireplace with care. Maybe they rolled them up and made balls out of them to bat across the floor--a sort of floor sock-hockey.

There are also other alternatives to the magic disappearing socks:
1. my son took off his socks on the sofa and one of them ended up between the cushions.
2. my daughter took hers off in the bathroom before a bath and it got stuck under the vanity.
3. my hubby dropped one in the basket and another on the floor. Note that this happens with some frequency.
4. half of mine got shoved under the bed, the other half made it to the laundry basket. The next time we had laundry, I send the other half down, but the first half mysteriously disappears.
5. my son took his socks off in his loft bed and didn't bother to bring them down with him in the morning, and he now is sleeping with 3 weeks' worth of dirty socks. How he doesn't get grossed out snoozing with that many stinky socks, I'll never know.

Will the single-sock problem ever be solved? I doubt it. The cats, washers, and dryers are too addicted to them now, and there's no chapter of Socks Anonymous nearby.

Just for more laughs, here's another fun pic for you:


Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy 20th Birthday, Nemesis!

Online friendships are great things, not the least of which is their complete fun and geekiness. Where else but online can you make friends worldwide without ever leaving your computer? It's like the ultimate in penpals without the postage, unless you collect stamps, in which case it doesn't work quite as well. The only bad thing is dealing with all the different time zones when you're IMing someone.

Me: I have to get to bed. It's getting late.
Trusty Nemesis Emperor Devon: What? It's only 10:30!
Me: Dude, it's 12:30 am by me--I'm in Central. I have to get up in 7 hours to get into my geeky mini-van and drive the kids to swimming class.
Trusty Friend Jasra: I don't want to hear any complaints. It's 5:30 am here and I've been up all night IMing you. Do you know how much it sucks being 5 or 7 hours ahead of you all?
Emperor Devon: Bah! You all can sleep late--it's Saturday!
Me: Some of us get our lazy bones out of bed before noon, you ornery cuss!

Now, when I signed up for Lucasforums, I was interested in learning about the Knights of the Old Republic computer games. I thought if I met some decent people there, that would be a plus. I didn't realize how many friends I'd make who are truly as geeky as I am, and I definitely never anticipated acquiring a Nemesis, friendly or otherwise.

Emperor Devon was a friend prior to becoming a Nemesis. He joined quite awhile before me, and so I'd gotten to know him through various posts and replies, and he kindly helps out with editing my fanfic, The Adventures of Jolee Bindo. He's also an ornery cuss at times, besides being a lot of fun, and I take great delight in making sure he doesn't get a little too full of himself, since that is one of my duties as a Geeky Forum Mom. He, in turn, takes great delight in pointing out that it took me forever to learn how to recolor those stupid red shoes that Exile wears at the very beginning of the Kotor: TSL game. He is quick to point out that it took him a whole two minutes to accomplish the same. I retorted that not all of us have $650 to spend on Photoshop for the sole purpose of changing pixel colors in a game. I have to spend my hard-earned dollars for things like, oh, feeding the family, paying the mortgage, making sure the electric bills get paid, that kind of stuff.

Anyway, we became friendly Nemeses when Emperor Devon decided one day to have a little fun in the "Male or Female?" thread. He declared he was now "Empress Devon." "She" even made up a female avatar (Lumiya), because as we all know, having a female avatar on the internet automatically changes your gender and makes you female. Apparently it's some Man Law (tm) that males are not allowed to upload female avatars. I should note that Woman Law (tm) does not specify this, as we are savvy enough to realize that yes, people actually do lie on the 'net.

Well, having changed thousands of diapers, I know crap when I smell it, and the patented Jae Crap Detector red-lined. This called for action. I started a forum search to find any historical evidence that he--rather, she--had actually posted anything that indicated that 'she' was actually still a 'he'. I would like to note that this is one of the few times in life where the research skills I learned from my history major actually paid off. So, for those of you that are history, philosophy, or Greco-Latin majors, or worse, grad students, take heart. The enormous sums of money and time you've spent on your degree will actually get justified at least once in life.

It took me exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes to find the evidence showing 'she' was really still a 'he' and post said evidence in the thread for all the world to see. Well, truthfully, it took less time than that, since I had to cook and eat dinner with the family. I think it took me a whole 5 minutes or so to find a good post. Actually, I did it to protect 'her' from getting hit on by the other forum males, because 'she' was inexperienced in the matters of handling horny male teens, 'her' previous experience as a horny male teen notwithstanding. It was my duty!

He, naturally, was suitably and amusingly annoyed that I'd busted him so quickly. When he asked rhetorically about what to do with his Lumiya "Dark Lady of the Sith" avatar, I PMd him and said something about probably deserving the title after calling his bluff. I think I joked about being his nemesis. He cheerfully sent me the avatar and I uploaded it, changing my title to "Emperor Devon's Nemesis". It was not long before he changed his title to "Jae Onasi's Nemesis." This prompted Trusty Friend Char Ell to comment "You guys are too funny--'I'm your Nemesis!' 'No, I'm _your_ Nemesis!'" I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at that post.

So, we have been Nemeses ever since, even going so far as to make it our greeting to each other when both of us show up on IM.

Me: Nemesis!
Trusty Nemesis Emperor Devon: Nemesis!

And I only have one more thing to say in this post to my Nemesis:

Happy Birthday!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

You Know You've Played Neverwinter Nights 2 a Little Too Long When....

Weird things happen when you play a computer game for awhile and then Skype with a Nemesis a little too late, like really strange dreams. This all started yesterday when I played Neverwinter Nights 2. In my current campaign, I'm playing a female Sun Elf wizard and my PC casts spells a lot--well, pretty much all the time. For those of you not familiar with the game, when you play some of the spellcasters in the game, you choose your spells from a large list to fill up slots in your 'spellbook'. You can change the spells in your spellbook as needed to adjust to the situation at hand. Once you fill up your slots, you then 'rest' to activate them. This means that you can pick a bunch of nasty fireball and lightning spells to take out all the bad guys. When they're all dead, you trade the spell out for one to unlock all the locked treasure chests in the area if the rogue isn't handy. Then you rest, unlock all the chests with your unlock spell (which, for some reason I can't fathom, is called 'Knock' in the game instead of the more sensible 'Unlock'), scoop up all the goodies, switch back to the killer spells, rest, and go on to the next area of monsters.

So, I spent a good while doing just that in order to get to Act 2 and meet up with Sand, who is hands-down my favorite NPC in this game. He has an acerbic wit, and the game developers gave him some of the best lines in the game. His quip when you encounter a red dragon in the fire giant mountains made the price of the game worth it alone. Anticipating more witty comments from him since I planned on keeping him in my party more this playthrough than my first, I played quite a bit yesterday to get to the point in the game where he joined my party.

Then I finally took a break from the game after dinner and Skyped with Trusty Nemesis Emperor Devon for awhile about the existence of God, debate styles (and my lack thereof), and general Lucasforums gossip, not necessarily in that order, but definitely far too late into the night. I finally went to bed and got about 6 hours' sleep when Jimbo, husband-god that he is, brought me a cup of coffee. I was still in that twilight stage of sleep where you dream for awhile just before you wake up, and the coffee woke me up the rest of the way.

Me: Honey, you are a husband-god for bringing me coffee.
Hubby: Thank you. I like being called a god, you know. I didn't want to wake you up too soon, though.
Me: That's OK, I was having a really weird dream.

Hubby scooted me over on the bed a little to sit down next to me. Apparently he thought 'weird' meant 'bad-dream-nigh-on-nightmare' and was prepared to comfort me. He didn't quite understand that in this case when I said weird, I meant 'really, truly, it's weird'.

Hubby: So tell me about this dream.
Me: Really, it was weird.
Hubby (soothingly): I understand, dear.
Me: Well, I dreamed I was in the bathroom, and I had to blow my nose. I had two spells--stoneskin and 'blow-my-nose', and I had to use the 'blow-my-nose' spell to, well, blow my nose.
Hubby: You had a spell to blow your nose?
Me: Yeah--isn't that weird?

At this point, hubby, who has played Neverwinter Nights 2 and knows about the stoneskin spell and the general workings of the game, started howling laughing. Thank goodness he had sat down, because I don't think he would have been able to stand laughing that hard. It was like he'd turned into a giant muscle spasm.

Me: So I blew my nose, and it was really gross. If my sinuses had been that bad, I really would have needed a spell to get all that stuff out.

Hubby continued laughing so hard he could hardly breathe.

Me: So I got all the stuff out. then I changed the spell out for a new one--don't remember which one--and rested on my knee in the bathroom to activate the new spell.

Hubby was now lying on the bed twitching, past the point where he could make much more than squeaky sounds as he laughed.

Me: I'm not quite sure why 'blow-my-nose' was a level 4 spell. I mean, it was ranked right up there with stoneskin, for heaven's sake. I think at the very most it should be level 0. I was also amused that I had the foresight to change that spell out and rest. Not sure which new spell I picked.

I finally had to stop talking and drink some coffee so Jimbo could recover.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sharing Birthing and Baby Experiences the Geeky Mom Way

It's a Required Mom Thing. All moms are required to discuss baby information and birthing experiences with each other. Put two of us moms together, and we will without fail end up discussing a. how horrible it really was to give birth, b. how jealous we are of those women who say they just breezed through a two hour mild labor and pushed the baby out in one big grunt, c. the baby's poop consistency at any given time and/or how old the kids were when potty-training finally, Praise the Lord, happened. It's like it's instinct or something.

Me: Man, I'm glad my kids are potty trained.
Other Mom: How old where they?
Me: Three for each. You?
Other Mom: 29 months.
Me: You're so lucky!
Other Mom: Well, not so lucky--I had really long labors with each one.
Me: Trust me, it couldn't be worse than my first. 36 hours, got to 10 cm and pushing, and I still ended up having a c-section. It's like running a marathon, getting 3 inches from the finish line, and having them yank you out of the race. Granted, it's for a good reason, but still, it sucks.
Other Mom: Wow. That is a bad labor. Mine was only 35.
Me: Epidural?
Other Mom: Absolutely. The only breathing a woman has to learn for labor is 'epidural'.
Me: You got that right. We don't get Hero Points for being in pain.
Other Mom: What do you think of the new baby food packaging?
Me: They got rid of all the cute glass jars, but at least plastic doesn't break in the diaper bag. Which, happily for me, I never have to carry again.
Other Mom: Watch out--saying 'I'll never have to carry the diaper bag again' is a surefire way to end up pregnant again.
Me (ducking my head and looking around to make sure no one else heard): Oh, you're right. Better not say that!

Most of the time, we moms will get together in mom-friendly settings like playgroups, church functions, meeting in the grocery stores, that kind of thing. We'll stop the shopping cart and talk to other moms for 45 minutes (while the ice cream melts) about the merits of breastfeeding. Playgroups and church functions are lovely excuses for us to talk about who potty trained, who's pregnant again, who had the easiest and hardest labor, who's weaning, and a host of other mommy things that we could never talk to others about, such as men. Men just don't get some of these things, not having the ability to a. give birth and b. breastfeed.

We Geeky Moms, however, have a new outlet for our Geeky Mom-ness. The internet. Where else can we send emails to have these kinds of conversations? Blog about the latest potty training techniques or IM a group of mothers about our kids going to kindergarten? Check out websites on different birthing options? It's hard to contain myself with all the Geek options available to me. I just login and go, and it's instant electronic mother-bonding, and I don't even have to get out of my PJs to take the kids to a playgroup.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Geeky Moms and Comics

There is some unwritten rule that Moms are not allowed to buy comics, unless they're buying them For Their Kids or are 'Serious Collectors'. It's OK to buy comics until you get out of college, or maybe turn 25 or something, but definitely not after after age 29 and/or birthing children. I'm not sure what it is about comics that oozes immaturity. Granted, the writing isn't Pulitzer-prize level, but they're fun to read. What's not to love about an Elfquest graphic novel or a Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (aka KotOR) comic? I get more of the universes I love in a fun package.

Of course, this leads to some interesting conversations like this--on Skype chat, of course, because that's appropriately geeky.

Me: I gotta run. The kids and I are going to Rockheads to pick up the latest KotOR comic.

Trusty Friend Rogue Nine: You are such a geek. :D

The smiley, naturally, is very important to avoid misconstruing 'geek' as a pejorative. :) Of course, Niner's an admin at LucasForums and showed me how to Skype and set up my IRC in the first place. People who live online should not throw virtual stones. :D

Anyway, I have to be one of the few moms who goes into the store to, get this, buy my own comics. I go to Rockheads about every 2 to 3 weeks or so to see if the latest issue of the KotOR comic is out yet or to browse the racks to see if there's a new D&D adventure module or book.

There is a particular group of guys who are somewhere around late high school to college age who are usually there when I stop by. I almost wonder if they live there--the owner has a soda and snack machine, so all they need are some sleeping bags and they're set for life. When you're in college, you can live on banana Twinkies and Coke, you know. Real food isn't required. They're typically playing Warhammer or Magic, arguing over which Pokemon is better, painting miniatures, or running some wargame with said miniatures on one of the big tables set up for just that purpose.

I've been there often enough now that they're starting to recognize me (although granted, I'm not exactly a forgettable character). After the kids and I leave with our purchases, I can just imagine their conversation goes like this:

1st guy: Dude! Check out that mom! She just bought a comic!

2nd guy: So? She's got kids. They always get comics.

1st guy: No, man, the kids had their own. She's holding a KotOR comic, you know, the newest one that just came in today. She's getting it for herself!

2nd guy: You're whacked. No moms read those things. It's gotta be for the kids. Or maybe she's a collector.

1st guy: I'm telling you, she was really checking it out while they were waiting to check out, dude. I mean, she was actually reading it.

2nd guy: Man, if she's that geeky, her kids are doomed.

Wait til they find out that we play D&D as a family to help the kids improve their math skills.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


I have a love-hate relationship with mosquitoes. I hate them and they, unfortunately, love me. Apparently I have the kind of blood that is the equivalent of a fine mosquito Beaujolais. For some reason, they ignore my husband and home in on me. It's not just the nearby mosquitoes that stick me, either. They apparently have little mosquito cell phones and contact their buddies to come munch, too.

"Hey, Bobbie?"
"Yeah, Janice. Whaddya want?"
"Listen, Bobbie--Jae's outside! PAAAAARRRRRTTTTTYYYYY!!!!!111one11one!!!oneone!!!"
"Same house?"
"Yeah--the one with the 'meat here' sign that we painted in IR above the door"
"Cool. We are soooo going to feast. I'll bring the carbon dioxide and we'll really make it a party!"
"Awesome. I'm going to go call Marcia, Jan, Cindy, Dixie.... Hey, bring some friends, too, Bobbie!"
"Will do! Laterz!"

Then they proceed to descend down upon me. I can have on 4 cans of Deet, have 18 bug zappers humming, one of those new-fangled mosquito bait kind of things, and enough citronella torches burning to bring out the fire department, and they'd still find me. It's just not fair.

It's really sad that on the 4th of July when we were setting off our complement of fireworks, I actually wanted to go sit in the smoke to get rid of the darn things. No, don't ask if those were legal fireworks. I have not investigated the state code on fireworks here. Nor do I want to. Ignorance is sometimes bliss. Suffice it to say that a. ours were not as big as the guy's down the street, (his required a cannon to launch), and b. no police came to visit. Since the fireworks were out in the middle of the street, we could all have plausible deniability, not unlike politicians. "Who, us, officer? Oh, no, we found them in the street like that....Why are we all sitting at the edge of the street in lawn chairs?....We're watching our neighbors' fireworks...Oh, no, we'd never dream of lighting illegal fireworks....Oh, these are too big? Well I'm sure whoever put them in the middle of the street will be very grateful for that piece of education. We'll make sure to tell them."

After getting bit like 12 times, I figured out where the wind was blowing and would have moved my lawn chair to that spot had it not been in the middle of the street. I didn't want to become squashed by a car as effectively as I squash mosquitoes, so I lived with not being able to sit in the smoke.

What we need is for some great geeky mind to come up with a mosquito vacuum that sucks them out of the universe. However, I'll settle for something that sucks them out of my small corner of this world.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Accidental Novel

Honest, I never intended to write an entire novel. I certainly never intended to write an entire novel about a character in a video game. It was just supposed to be a 30-ish page little story about Jolee Bindo training a Padawan, and it kind of went a little nuts from there.

The Adventures of Jolee Bindo sprang to life one night when I got a sudden picture of Jolee grousing about having to train a stupid apprentice Jedi who insisted on using a lightsaber and blaster at the same time. I'd posted about the intelligence of wielding a lightsaber and a gun and using both at the same time in a LucasForums thread. Should you be unconvinced of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of such a thing, try waving a broomstick around while shooting a water pistol at a picture of Nancy Pelosi or George Bush (your choice) nailed to a tree. It doesn't work very well, no matter how motivated you are to make a bulls eye.

Anyway, I posted another reply in that thread and included a little vignette on the trusty LucasForums of Jolee that I'd just written on the spur of the moment, thinking that if the image made me chuckle, others hopefully might also be amused. Well, they were. If Trusty Friend RedHawke knew he'd end up creating a monster by putting a laughing smiley in his reply, however, he might not have been so quick with that complimentary post. :D

Thus inspired by the fact that someone might find a Jolee story entertaining, I started writing 'a little story', thinking I might be able to make something fun in the fanfic section. Fanfics, for those of you who do not share my Geekiness, is fan-made fiction. There's an entire forum devoted to fanfics (, and for those of you who love the Knights of the Old Republic games as much as I do and run out of fics to read on LucasForums, there's another forum just for Kotor fanfics called Kotor Fan Media. Imagine--entire forums devoted to fanfics about a Star Wars game. Here was not one, or two, but an entire flock of tech-silver sheep creating stories for this game, and I was right at home.

I finally willed up the courage to create a thread for my little story. I had no small amount of angst at posting my writing for a bunch of strangers to read and comment on. You don't know what 'intimidating' means until you post a story and hope no one rips it to shreds. However, Jolee grabbed me by the throat and was quite insistent on having his story told. I _had_ to write it--the words and pictures came out whether I wanted to or not. In fact, I was rather consumed by the whole process for close to five months, which reminded me a bit of college courses, except they're a good month shorter. I think I was married to the laptop for that whole time, and Jimbo probably would have wondered where his wife had disappeared to had it not been for me muttering in frustration when I got writer's block.

To be honest, I thought the whole story would be 20 or 30 pages, maybe 40 tops. I'd never written anything longer than 23 pages prior to that, and that was my senior seminar paper in college. That was _supposed_ to be a long project. It didn't take me long to work through a series of vignettes and then decide, "Hey, Jolee's a Jedi, and so are the other main characters. I should send them on a quest!" Quests being something that all good Jedi should do regularly, particularly if it improves the LucasArts bottom line and/or the entertainment of other Star Wars fans. Before long, I'd gotten to 50 pages, and made the stunning realization--I was nowhere remotely close to being finished with the story. This was rather frightening, daunting, and exciting all at the same time. I soldiered on, buoyed by the comments by Trusty LF Friends Emperor Devon, Char Ell, Hallucination, Pazaak Princess, Pottsie, Renegade Puma, JediMaster12, and a long list of others. By the time I finished the story, I'd ended up writing some 200 pages and close to 100,000 words--an honest-to-God novel. About Star Wars. About a Star Wars game. About a character in a Star Wars game. It was all very geeky and wonderful at the same time.

I'm off to write up some comments on some other people's fanfics that got entered in a little contest. Feel free to come join the rest of us tech-silver sheep. :)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Birthday reminders

I was a bad kid. I forgot my Grandma's birthday. Yes, you can whack me profusely about the head and neck with a wet noodle. We should not ever forget the birthdays of our Grandmas. It's not that I forgot when her birthday was--it's June 13th and I didn't even have to consult my Geek Calendar for that. It's the fact that it did not register in my brain that last Wednesday was actually June 13th. I spent the entire day without once considering what the actual date was. I was just happy to remember to pick up my prescription, much less remember anything more significant. The date was also firmly planted in my brain as "Wednesday, the first full day of summer vacation for the kids and four days before my son's birthday and OMG he's turning ten!!!"

Now, I have calendars everywhere, including, but not limited to, all computers, the bedroom, my pocket purse calendar, my iPod, and the kitchen (both wall and fridge). On every one that can be written on, there's an entry on June 13th that says "GRANDMA'S BIRTHDAY!!!!" You would think this would be sufficient as a reminder. Apparently not.

I do have alarms on my computers and iPod, and I could try using those again. However, they're very easy to ignore. They give you a nice little beep or play some pleasant snippet of music, both of which I might hear if I turned down the volume on my iPod to a reasonable level. They're so easy to ignore because they're just too darn polite. The message of these pleasing little beeps and bits of music is this: "Oh, Jae, we're so sorry to disturb your day by intruding upon you with this news. If you would be so kind as to click on the gently blinking icon, which cycles very slowly so as not to overly distress you, we would be most grateful for your momentary attention. We now return you to your previously scheduled Geek activity, and we hope you can forgive us for the inconvenience upon your time."

Of course, I truly appreciate polite alarms, because if I'm in the middle of something, a raucous alarm would scare the snot out of me. This would be bad if I'm actually doing something Important, which is far more often than Jimbo ever thinks happens, but that's another blog subject. Anyhow, the polite alarms are way too easy to forget. The polite little chime rings, I think to myself "Oh, that's nice, a pleasant reminder that Wednesday is the 13th and therefore is Grandma's birthday. Thank you, polite alarm!" Then I get sucked back into whatever is happening at the time, such as driving the van or refereeing the latest child battle over whether it's going to be Lego Star Wars or Star Wars: Battlefront playing on the PS2.

What I really need is something that is less polite. I need something that says, "Hey, you!! Yes, you, Geeky Mom!! It's June 13th! Yes, the 13th of June! You know, 9+4, 10+3, 17-4--that makes it THIR-TEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!! Got it? Well then, go call her for heaven's sake!!!" Then it needs to be hooked into my phone system so that it repeats every 7.2 minutes until I actually call her, at which point it'll say "Glad you finally remembered! See you next year!" That might help me remember a birthday better. Provided I remember to turn on the alarm, that is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Men, Women, and Computer Repairs

Jimbo and I are geeky enough to accomplish some of the simpler repairs and upgrades to our computer. No, we are not geeky enough to convert from Windows to Ubuntu (although we are geeky enough to know what that is) or read code, though I have picked up a book on basic HTML to figure out how to put the stupid Adsense code into the right place, since the directions here assume you have a Master's degree in mind-reading. I've followed the instructions to the letter and the thing still won't work. That's a discussion for another day. :)

However, I have learned that men and women approach computer repairs very differently. My style:
1. Read all the instructions before starting.
2. Get all necessary items, including but not limited to appropriate tools, anti-static mat, anti-static wristband (you can't have too much anti-static), a can of dust-off, and appropriate computer-repair music. For computer-repair music you have to have Enya, Yanni or something with zamfir flutes. It's like Computer-Repair Valium for those times when you just want to beat the snot out of the computer because it's not doing what you want it to do, and it's laughing at you as it gives you the BSOD.
3. Consult the internet computer repair sites, and determine make, model number, size, shape, color, personality of the creator, as well as date, time (including seconds) and moon phase of manufacture of the part to be replaced so that you purchase the correct item the first time. I hate making multiple trips to a store, even if it is Best Buy.
4. Consult Consumer Reports to see if there are any articles on said item, and get its Reliability Data, even if I have absolutely no intention of doing anything different from our current course of action. I just feel better consulting it.
5. Consult and print off multiple online diagrams and articles on how to accomplish a repair, because I've discovered that nearly everyone has A Secret Tip. You can never have too many Secret Tips for tech repairs.
6. Find a safe place to put all screws that come out of the case. Place screws in separate tiny baggies that are labeled with locations those screws came from. Identify and label (at least mentally) all parts and where they come from and what wires are attached where.
7. Have phone charged so I can call Dad, who's done programming for a living.
8. Have the Computer Abuse Hotline number available in case I feel like smashing the computer into little bits.
9. Have another computer with online access available should the above not work as you planned. Note that none of the above will _ever_ work as you planned, unless you have a PhD in computer repair. I bet even Gates swears at his computers now and then.
10. Have Diet Pepsi available in a spill proof container, because, as you know, caffeine makes any project go more smoothly. You gotta have spill-proof, because the Probability of Liquid Disaster increases by natural log zillion if you have an open container.

The Male method:
1. determine it's the DVD drive causing the problem
2. Go to Best Buy and return home with something about 4 hours later, which may or may not include other things unrelated to the DVD drive.
3. Open up the case, unplug everything, plug the DVD in, screw the case back together, and discover the hard drive now also does not work.
4. Say a few choice words.

Now, this all started when the DVD stopped working during the climactic end battle of Jimbo's campaign through NeverwinterNights 2, which is a very fun game. This meant that when the DVD burned out, it went from being a mere annoyance to be repaired within a week to 'Dire Emergency That Must Be Fixed Now'. I pointed out that the cost of a DVD drive was half the cost online as it was at Best Buy, and we would still get it in a couple days, even overnight if we wanted. This did not deter Jimbo in Making Neverwinter Nights Work Again, which had now took on the tone of 'epic quest'. I suggested that he take the case off and pull the old DVD out so that he'll know what to get. After all, this made sense to me--then you can match the one you have with the correct one in the store. He thought there was only one kind, and so he declined to do that. He wanted to get going right away so that he could continue mortal combat with the King of Shadows. So, off he went to Best Buy.

Normally, Best Buy is about a 25 minute drive from our home. So, I became a tad concerned when he still wasn't home about 3 hours later. However, he was fine, and when he returned home he was the proud owner of a new DVD drive, 3 blues CDs, and a bottle of Diet Pepsi. He proceeded to unscrew the case and took apart the various components, and discovered one very important thing: there are different kinds of DVD connectors, and he had the wrong one.

After a few choice words and some hand signals in the direction of the computer, he grabbed the old DVD, the new DVD which he now had to replace, and drove back to Best Buy. Well, since he now felt the true urgency of the call of the King of Shadows, it only took him about 47.2 minutes to get back home. I didn't ask him if he'd been speeding.

He promptly discovered that the new DVD was about .2 mm too tall for the top slot that the original DVD drive came from. He did discover that it would fit if he switched slots with the DVD and CD player, and so he unplugged the cord that plugs into both and reversed the hardware. He turned on the computer--not only did the DVD not work, but the CD now was also out. This did not help Jimbo's mood any. I decided it was time to consult the Starwarsknights chatbox, because a variety of Trusty Friends happened to be chatting, including stingerhs, who repairs computers at his job, and Kitty Kitty, who has put all her computers together herself since before the Commodore 64 was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Well, we first determined that the DVD had been the Master and the CD had been the Slave, and we needed to flip a couple switches when plugging them into the new slots. While Jimbo went to work to reverse the social hierarchy of the hardware, Kitty Kitty and I broke out chat-singing the Depeche Mode song "Master and Servant" and had a fine geeky time. Jimbo screwed the case back together (with an extra screw left over) and restarted the computer. The computer decided it would not recognize the hard drive, as if the hard drive were now a foreign country and we had not established diplomatic relations with it. This did not help Jimbo's mood one bit.

I consulted the Chat Box Help Desk once more, and they suggested we check all wires. Jimbo insisted all wires were secured tightly. We then, for approximately the next hour, took a tour through the Bios settings, checked temperatures, input commands, and did a variety of other things to make the hard drive and computer want to re-establish diplomatic relations, all to no avail. Kitty and/or stingerhs mused that the hard drive might have fried because Jimbo was not using anti-static toys. Since all the save games for NWN2 are on that computer, that really made Jimbo start using words I had not heard since he smashed his thumb with a hammer while re-roofing the garage (thumb and roof are doing well, thank you). With language like that, he was going to need to ask for diplomatic immunity from the hard drive, I think.

At some point during all this talking, cussing, and grumbling, Jimbo suddenly noticed that there was a rainbow-colored wire just hanging off of the hard drive in open space, like it was modern art or something. He actually said "I wonder where this plugs in." It was the power cable for the hard drive, and once that was properly re-attached, the hard drive and the computer suddenly talked to each other and became geopolitical allies once more. Kitty Kitty and I tried hard not to roll our eyes at this, but we failed our Will Saves rather badly. He replaced the computer case, with only 4 screws left over.

So, yes, about an hour after Kitty first suggested that all wires should be checked, the computer was back up and running, and the King of Shadows met his demise.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Assimilation Team

My church is Geek-Friendly. That's not the reason I love my church, of course--there's a great pastoral staff, great people, and it's a great time worshipping. Just the same, I appreciate our church's commitment to ministering to those of us who fall into the Geek category.

We have more than just the usual TVs and DVDs, and all the gadgets make my geeky heart happy. We are blessed with a sound system that has more buttons and levers than some small radio stations. I'm assured that they even all work and are not there merely for decorative purposes. The sanctuary computer runs the Powerpoint slides. The slides are used to display the lyrics to songs we sing that are still Too Cool To Go Into The Hymnal. In addition, the pastor uses it for the different sermon points. This is A Good Thing (tm) because at any given time, my mind can go off on a variety of tangents, including but not limited to different Bible verses, a variety of historical thoughts, fanfics, Star Wars, writing, tornadoes, get the picture. The outline on the screen lets my brain beam back down to where it belongs.

The church has a website, including MP3 downloads of the pastor's sermons. I imagine they'll be podcasting soon, which I think would be delightfully geeky. They also have a wireless network, which means I can log in when I bring my computer to the Welcome committee. Since I'm the secretary for the committee, this means I can type up the minutes at the meeting, spellcheck, and email them as soon as the meeting is done. This is good because then I can't get distracted by friends, Star Wars, blogging, writing, tornadoes, etc., and forget about it until about 32 minutes before the next meeting. Of course, this also means I've now become very accurate in reporting the minutes, which may or may not be a beneficial thing for other committee members. :D

I knew, however, that we had achieved True Geek Inclusiveness when I opened the church bulletin today. There was a list of the new names for the teams, which are replacing committees. I scanned down this list. One team is designed to help new members become involved in the church, and I was in heaven when I saw the name.

It's called the "Assimilation Team."

You can imagine my first thought. "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!" How many churches do you know that include sci-fi in their team names? I just thought that was seriously cool. Until I had another thought. Since I'm the secretary for the Welcome-Committee-Turning-Into-Assimilation-Team, did that make me a Borg Queen? That was disturbing. Even though I am not a vain woman, mechanical implants and a bald head are just not good looks for me.

You know what would make my church just uber-Geeky? Changing our mission statement to "We are Immanuel Baptist Church. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!" I have the distinct feeling that having my family and me as members means the Church has already met its uber-Geeky quotient, and further geekiness would make it explode or something. We wouldn't want that to happen, now, would we? We should keep the old mission statement in that case. :)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Geeky Housecleaning

Trusty Friend Samira would agree with this but would be far more diplomatic about it.

Geeks suck at housecleaning.

It's not that we want to live in a cluttered house, it's that we just don't notice the clutter. I have a little pile of books in the bathroom and another large pile by the side of my bed. That's because I might read one or two of those at a given time, and frankly, if I'm stuck in bed or the bathroom for awhile, I want to have a nice choice of reading material. So, I walk by the pile of books in either place and never notice that to anyone else it's not 'a nice choice of reading material', it's 'clutter'.

It's not helping that we still, six years after moving into our home, have moving boxes that have yet to be unpacked. I told Jimbo the other day that I should just take those boxes unopened over to the Salvation Army to donate them, and he nearly had a heart attack. I'm the Queen of Packrats and the mere suggestion that we should throw away a broken shoelace gives me angst. I mean, that broken shoelace could be used to tie something should we ever be in a situation requiring a MacGyver-style rescue. If we ever get attacked by the latest Evil Organization Determined To Stomp Out Democracy For Their Gain, I will be prepared. I have my broken shoelace, a kitchen knife or three, duct tape, a spare sock, and Hershey bars (you can use them to stop sulfuric acid leaks besides eating them, you know). So here we are, six years later, with some boxes still decorating the corner of our bedroom. Good thing it's a big bedroom.

Anyway, there's this curious phenomenon that when something has been in a spot long enough, you stop noticing it. For Packrat Queens such as me, you stop noticing stuff about 0.3 seconds after you set it down. Then you set stuff down on top of the other stuff, and it just builds until you have a four foot tall pile of things, at which point I stop because it's inefficient to reach any higher than that to find things in that pile, should I ever need it about four years from now when the guys from the Evil Organization show up to take over my town. Never mind that my town is incredibly boring and would thus be of absolutely no interest to any Evil Organization. I have thought up this possibility, therefore It Could Happen and I Must Be Prepared.

Clutter usually does not bother our family, because we're all geeky to some degree. That is, it doesn't usually bother us until someone from outside our family comes over and (horrors!) actually wants to come into our house. This happened a couple days ago when my DSL went out.

Usually, when you call any utility to report a problem, they take a good few days to show up. I'm sure it's because they have important things to do like eating lunch and arranging their tools artfully in their toolbelts. So I was stunned when I called AT&T to report the phone/dsl problem, and to my undying surprise, they actually said "we can send a guy out this afternoon!" I was elated and horrified all at the same time. It was thrilling to have someone come out that quickly, but the lightbulb went on: My House is Dirty! Thus began a frantic scramble to clean the house, or at least get the scattered toys, used juice boxes, and baskets of clean underwear out of places that could be viewed by those who are not family.

Now, when I clean, my bedroom is the last thing to get attention. First, it still has those boxes to be unpacked. Second, I never make the bed. Why? We're just going to get back in it in a few hours. Third, the dirty clothes basket sometimes overflows. Fourth, I have stacks of books everywhere. I don't let anyone outside of my family up there, so it doesn't require the same attention.

I thought I was safe concentrating on the downstairs, where all the wiring and utility-looking stuff lives. Boy, was I mistaken. The phone guy wanted to see our router. I had made the mistake of taking it upstairs to our bedroom the night before to see if it would work in a different jack and had not taken it back downstairs. Well, when he said he needed to see it, I nearly had a heart attack right in front of him. Suddenly, I could 'see' the clutter. And it was Not Pretty. I had visions of him going back to the AT&T center in the evening, taking off his toolbelt with all the other guys and saying "Man, you should have seen the messy bedroom I had to be subjected to in my Quest to Fix Things!! I nearly fell into a bunch of moving boxes that must have been there like six years or something!!" I was mortified. I vowed to do better.

Now, of course, I can see the clutter again, and it's bugging me. I have to start cleaning it up. Maybe I'll start that this weekend.

Monday, June 4, 2007


You can tell a lot about a person by what sites they've bookmarked on their browser. People who don't search a lot don't have a lot of bookmarks. Jimbo goes to a few sites--our history group, a few gaming sites, Lucasforums, some work-related places, and a couple other places that interest him. He doesn't do a lot of browsing at home.

My bookmark list is a little different. I search the web a lot, so I have, oh, about a zillion bookmarks. This, however, became a problem when I had to scroll through two pages of bookmarks just to find a D&D site I wanted. So, I decided to organize the bookmarks into folders. While I was doing that, I thought about which ones needed to go into a folder, and hence out of direct sight, and which needed to stay in the main list.

Weather, Lucasforums,, some webmail sites, a couple medical sites,, kotorfanmedia, Wizards of the Coast, a couple computer places, a church site, and some other Star Wars related sites made the main list. Now that's a geeky list. I mean, the Storm Prediction Center gets top billing, for heaven's sake, followed by the National Weather Service sites for my region and city. You don't get much more geeky than that. There are no women's sites, no soap opera bookmarks, and no beauty blogs. If I want to use something once or twice, I just google it. would make it to the list, or at least the bookmarks in folders, except that it's faster to type the site than to click through some folder lists, so I don't bookmark that one. I'd also bookmark Barnes and Noble bookstore, except that would mean I'd have no excuse to drive there and get books, so I've intentionally left that one off. Well, left it off the main bookmark list, anyway. It has some cool forums on writing so it stays in my folders.

My grandmother, on the other hand, has about eight soap operas bookmarked, even though she watches them every day, some dog sites since she has a few poodles, and about three different greeting card sites. I'd probably bookmark The Young and the Restless, which is the one soap opera I actually like. The rest make me want to pull out my hair, because so many of the characters' problems would be solved if they actually talked to each other instead of talking to everyone else but the person causing the problem. Of course, then they wouldn't have years of stories to tell. She's happy having all those bookmarks on soap operas, though, and that's what's important.

Anyway, I have so many bookmarks that my folders have folders. I have folders on blogging, Star Wars, Lucasforums, Kotor and gaming, and by far the most populated folder, humor. The humor folder has everything from cartoons that people send me to Dave Barry to Onion article links. If it makes me laugh, it gets bookmarked and transferred to the humor folder. You never know when you might need to send someone a good laugh and I like to have a wide selection of subjects from the wacky to the most sublime wit. The 'my bookmarks' folder has subfolders with music, videos, computer, D&D, religion, and 'miscellaneous'.

The miscellaneous folder is my way of storing all those interesting sites on my list that I'm too lazy to make another folder for. It's kind of like the junk drawer of my bookmark list--it has a little bit of everything that you find useful about once every seven weeks to seven years. It's also that folder that you know you should clean out about once a year, but never get around to doing because you might end up needing something down the road. I should go clean it now, but I have to go check out the weather first, and then Lucasforums, and then my email....

Friday, June 1, 2007

Men, Women, and Internet Browsing

The other night, Jimbo was reading in bed while I was typing away on the laptop. He'd actually discovered a book that dragged him away from his Oblivion game, which is something just shy of a miracle in my view.

At some point, I chuckled at something funny that Trusty Friend Fuu had said on IRC. Jimbo, still reading his book, asked, "What did Emperor Devon say this time?" Trusty Nemesis Emperor Devon and I, along with a number of other regulars, usually chat in the evening on the chatbox. Jimbo finds his comments amusing and ornery all at the same time and enjoys hearing what my nemesis has said 'this time'.

"Oh, I'm chatting with Fuu at the moment," I replied.

"I thought it was just you and Dev on the chatbox." Jimbo had that look of 'my wife is confusing me. Again.' on his face.

I explained, "Fuu's private messaging on IRC."

"You're on two different chats?"

"Well, actually, five. Dev's on the chatbox, Fuu's PMing, and I have three IRC channels open."

Jimbo's look of confusion turned to complete disbelief. "You're having five conversations at one time?"

"Oh, no. Just three. The starwarsknights and lucasforum channels are quiet right now."

"Of course. Having just three conversations at one time makes it better. How can you talk to three people at the same time?"

Jimbo is not used to instant messaging, which is not-so-instant. You actually have to wait for people to type replies. It drives me crazy to stare at a blank screen waiting for a reply, which can happen anywhere from under a second to an entire day. So I do other things in the meantime. "While I'm waiting for one person to reply, I just click to a different window and IM there. It work just fine."

Then he looked more closely at the screen. "Just how many tabs do you have open? Fifteen? How can you keep track of all that?"

I explained, "That's easy. I just pull up email, and while it's loading, I go check out Lucasforums and make sure the chilluns are staying out of trouble, so while waiting for those posts to load, I go check the IMs, do a little research on Google, type a few sentences on the blog, and so on. That way I don't have to wait for loading screens." It's unusual for me to have only one tab open at a time.

"Oh, of course. It's all so clear now." If he rolled his eyes any farther, they would have probably rolled down the street. "You know, men don't do this kind of thing."

"What kind of thing?" I asked.

"Having five conversations while flipping through 15 different tabs."

"I only have eight tabs open right now."

"Only? Men just do one thing at one time. I only have one tab open, I do that one thing, and then I move on to the next thing."

"You have to multi-task when you're a mom. You have to referee a kid fight, answer the phone, plan the dinner menu, see what the weather's like tomorrow to plan what I'm going to wear to work, and check my schedule to see if I'm free to go out with another mom on Friday."

"I think I'll go back to my one task and read so I don't get a headache trying to keep up with all this," he grinned.

I grinned back and opened a couple more tabs on the browser to check out some more sites.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Zone of Parental Illiteracy

My kids' school is about five miles from our home. Walking is not really an option, especially if you don't want to listen to kids whining about how tired they are after walking about 2.4 seconds. So, twice a day, I brave the mini-van jungle surrounding school at the beginning and end of the day. You've never seen 'mad' until you've seen the reaction of a mom who's been cut in line by another mom. It's not pretty. All I have to say is 'Thank God for the Police'.

I've discovered something odd, however. Surrounding this wonderful institution of learning (the teachers and staff rock!) is this invisible zone that somehow zaps parents' ability to read street signs. I call it the Zone of Parental Illiteracy. It's particularly strong in the morning, and its strength is directly proportional to the number of minutes late the parent is when dropping off his or her child. Otherwise brilliant parents somehow have their brains sucked out of their heads when they arrive at the school at 7:41 am. The fact that we're frequently several minutes late ourselves means I see this peculiar condition pretty much every day.

Now, Geeks tend to Follow the Rules rather closely. That's because if we fail to follow rules when coding HTML or installing a DVD drive, Bad Things Happen. This is usually followed shortly thereafter by the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. The BSOD is the computer's way of giving us 'the bird'. We Geeks are a little sensitive about that kind of thing, so we try to prevent it as much as possible by following rules and instructions carefully.

It also drives us nuts when others do not follow the rules, especially in a school zone. I mean, we're supposed to be examples on rule-keeping for the kids, not rule-breaking, unless you're going for the goal of having your child live in prison from age 18 to whenever the warden's tired of seeing his face. It's bad enough that kids test our brake-stomping reflex by running across the street from between parked SUVs that block any view of tell-tale kid movement. It's a zillion times worse when a parent does the same thing, because you expect parents to behave like, well, adults.

We were running a little late this morning, and apparently the planets were all aligned in some kind of weird conjunction. This, of course, made the Zone of Parental Illiteracy particularly strong. I had to drive around a car parked without its owner in the zone marked "No Parking: Pick up and Drop Off Only." The owner could have parked just 50 feet back instead of taking up one of the spots closest to the school. I'll be generous and think that maybe this parent had to drop off two dozen brownies and had a sprained ankle that forced her to park there rather than an illiterate brain. It worked out all right anyway, because I ended up in the very front drop-off spot, which all mini-van moms know is The Prime Spot. As I pulled out of the Prime Spot, another mom passed me. She, apparently under the influence of a particularly strong dose of the Parental Illiteracy Zone, abruptly stopped in the "No Stopping" Zone. I'm not entirely sure what part of "No Stopping" is unclear, but it was. Anyway, she screeched to a halt and threw open her doors so quickly that I had to swerve to avoid making her a permanent addition to the front of my van. I've got lots of bugs decorating the front grille. I don't need people parts cluttering it up. Fortunately, I was able to avoid her and the oncoming van that had the foresight to anticipate my swerve by swerving out of my way. It was rather coordinated-looking, actually. If minivans could do the Macarena, that's probably what it would have looked like.

Maybe we need talking signs for the Parental Illiteracy Zones. It could say something like "Hey, you!! Yes, you, stopping in the 'No Stopping' zone. What, can't you read? If they wanted to make you the exception, they would have put your name on the damn sign!! Now get your minivan out of there before I call the cops!" That certainly would get a parent's attention.

The worst thing is that if this mom had waited like .3 seconds, she could have had the Prime Spot. Not only is this spot closest to the school, it also is a zillion times safer because the kids then don't have to run between parked cars and across a driveway busy with school buses. Apparently the Zone of Parental Illiteracy shared space with the Zone of Parental Stupidity today.

What I find curious is that the Zone of Parental Illiteracy appears to evaporate when a police officer drives around the school. Suddenly, everyone knows how to read. No one double parks, and no one parks in the 'No Parking' sections. The 'No Stopping' zones are blissfully free of stopped cars. Maybe the cops could just leave a squad car or two parked around the school block to keep the Zone of Parental Illiteracy at bay. That is, as long as they don't park in the Prime Spot.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day!!

I hope you had a good time today with family and friends. The family and I spent the day sleeping in, and then doing some yardwork to get ready to plant our petunias and sweet william. We also grilled out like every American does, and then played some D&D as a family in the evening. We had a happy geeky time advancing through our game and killing off hobgoblins and other monsters.

Doing yardwork, of course, meant that I went on a weed search-and-destroy mission. I loathe, despise, hate, and otherwise bear negative sentiments towards creeping charlie, and I gleefully sprayed Round-up all over the obnoxious little viney things. I couldn't decide today which was more evil--the creeping charlie or Trusty Nemesis (and Friend) Emperor Devon from Lucasforums. I bet Emperor Devon will send me a pot of creeping charlie just because he's ornery that way. He makes an excellent Nemesis. :D

While I was busy being the one-woman hunter-killer unit in the backyard theater employing my weapons of destruction upon the weeds, I thought about all the people in my family who are serving or have served in the military. Jimbo, of course, is in the Reserves and has been called up in the past (stateside thank goodness). My dad spent four years in the Navy. My great-uncle Fred, both my grandfathers, and Jimbo's father, who had passed away before Jimbo and I met, all served in World War II. My great-uncle Kenneth was killed in action in April 1945 fighting against the Germans. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously to go with the many other medals he'd earned in that war. I think about him every Memorial Day. I hope you remember our men and women in uniform, past and present, too.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Online purchasing

I am officially in love with online purchasing. That's saying a lot because I'm geeky enough to just about hate shopping. My sisters don't understand how I can go into a store, look at two things, try them on if they're clothes, and leave, preferably in under 12 minutes. Meandering around browsing through racks of items drives me crazy. Every time I go shopping with them, I take a bunch of clothes into the changing room and stay there for about a half hour or so. They think I'm having quality mirror time admiring all those blouses, skirts, and slacks, and they beam at me when I finally emerge with something new on. I can virtually hear them thinking "Ah, we'll make her less geeky yet!!"

What they don't know is that I take about eight things back with me, only two of which I'll actually try on. I try one on right away in case they come looking for me. After all, they'd be suspicious if I was still in my regular clothes. Then I sit down, pull a book out of my purse, and read for a half hour while they go get their shopping fix. When I think enough time has passed or they come looking for me, I'll say "Oh, just a minute!" and shake some hangers or rearrange a couple of the clothes. I reluctantly leave my temporary haven, making sure the tag on the new clothing shows prominently just so they know that yes, it really is new. They're happy, I'm happy, and no one's the wiser. Until they actually read this, and then I'm hosed. :)

You can buy just about anything online you could ever think of, and some things you probably shouldn't. I don't even have to get out of my jammies to shop, and the stores are open at the ungodly hour of 1:24 am. Plus there's the added benefit of shopping with a computer, which makes my geeky heart very happy.

I recently bought three Lacuna Coil albums and two Evanescence albums from iTunes, and three Within Temptation CDs from amazon because iTunes doesn't have Within Temptation, tragically. Just a few clicks, and boom, insta-music. Only problem is, just a few clicks, and boom, insta-account drain. It's very, very easy to overdo it. It's no sweat to buy if you don't have to enter anything. You don't think about the money disappearing from your account if you just make a few clicks to select items. You only think about it if you actually write a check, swipe your card, or, heaven forbid in this modern age, actually give the clerk (hushed voice) cash. I've determined that to cut my online purchasing I should just delete the cookies on those sites. That way my information isn't stored by the sites 'for my convenience'. If I have to go find my purse, pull out my card, enter 16 credit card digits, a 4 digit expiration date and the 3 digit security code on the back of my card, I'm less likely to actually work that hard to buy something. Of course, this might be a good theory if I didn't have all that stuff memorized anyway. :D Ah well. I'm off to browse amazon now.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy 30th Anniversary of Star Wars

What self-respecting Geeky Mom would not talk about Star Wars on its 30th Anniversary?

I'm old enough to have seen it in 1977 in a movie theater. We only had to wait about half an hour in line for this movie that blew me away. Here was a movie had everything I could want in a movie then--a couple dozen different aliens and droids, lightsaber duels, princess rescues, jumps to hyperspace, space battles, and the good guy winning.

I was in sci-fi heaven from the moment the horns proclaimed the start of the movie and the intro crawled until the final notes of the credits. For those of you who weren't alive during that time, I can't begin to tell you how it felt to be sitting down near the front when the Millenium Falcon (finally) made it to hyperspace, or Luke dodged TiE fighters during the dogfight around Yavin. No one had ever seen anything remotely like it--the closest movie to Star Wars was Logan's Run the year before. The special effects are still stunning today, 30 years later, though DVDs do it about as much justice as eating fake chocolate.

Star Wars let us escape a scary world for a bit. While America suffered through double-digit inflation, the oil crisis, post-Vietnam angst, and the Cold War, George Lucas created magic in that galaxy far, far away. For those 121 all-too-brief minutes, we were transported to an epic space fantasy where we could be Jedi, princesses, scoundrels, and saviors. The movie reminded us during a difficult time that Princesses could be saved, Force-sensitive Jedi could use lightsabers , crusty scoundrels had hearts, and the Good Guy triumphed over evil in the end.

This was the first movie ever where people would camp out on the sidewalk just to get tickets. In a time when people went to movies twice at the most, people went to see the movie 10, 15, 20 times to see the jump to hyperspace, the lightsaber duel, or the final battle. Nothing ever had come close to creating that kind of fan devotion. It was in the news for months, and books, toys, and a host of other items filled store shelves. Much to the chagrin of etiquette experts, our traditional greeting changed from 'Hello, how are you?" to "Hi, have you seen Star Wars yet?" The movie reminded us during a difficult time that Princesses could be saved, Jedi could use the mystical Force, crusty scoundrels had hearts, and the Good Guy triumphed over evil in the end.

Thanks, George, for giving us A New Hope.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Electronics Packaging--Hermetically Sealed for Your Protection

I was on IRC yesterday, one of the Star Wars gaming ones of course. There were discussions of Pearl and Diamond Pokemon that day (which I am assured by my Trusty IRC Friends is supposed to be spelled 'Pokeymans'). They were talking about the combos that will pwn others, how to make them have eggs, and the fact that at some point during their life-cycle, you have to take them to a daycare. I should do really well with that part of the game when we finally get a Nintendo DS, because I have almost 10 years' experience taking things to a daycare. I am a daycare pro, and I'm psyched that there's finally a kid's game that includes something a Geeky Mom can totally relate to. Of course, it's not my son's birthday yet, which means I haven't yet bought him the Nintendo, which also means I haven't had the chance to 'fully test it out for my children's safety'.

Anyway, in the middle of that discussion, Trusty Friend StarWarsPhreak mentioned something about electronics packaging. This reminded me of the cigarette adapter charger I had bought for my iPod in case I should be traveling somewhere long enough to exhaust 6 hours of battery life. With gas prices being so insanely high, that's not going to happen any time soon, but I deemed a cigarette adapter charger A Necessary Item, so I bought one along with the iPod. I finally tried to open the package a couple days ago, and discovered it was 'Hermetically Sealed for Eternity for My Protection'.

In the Mists of Time (tm), electronics came in nice cardboard boxes with easy-to-open flaps, which meant you could get into the package quickly to get your item out and enjoy it. This changed awhile back because the Evil Packagers decided it'd be fun to see Real People like me try to open their creation. I think they sit in the back room of their company thinking up ways to torture us.

Evil Packager 1: "Hey, if we make the packaging out of 3 inch thick rigid plastic, people with arthritis will never be able to get it open! Bwa-ha-ha!!!"
Evil Packager 2: "Even better--let's make the edges really sharp when we blow-torch the package together. That way Real People will slice themselves trying to open it!! That'll show them that they shouldn't try to get inside the package!!"

You could use the edge of these packages as razors in a pinch. Obviously the packagers have missed the point that it's the thing inside the package that's important, not the package itself.

Even my kids had trouble getting the package open, which is saying quite a lot. We all know that the way to get just about anything open, such as nuclear containment devices, is to hand it to a child, and it'll be open in approximately .000054 seconds.

I had to conduct major surgery on the package before I could finally get it open.
Me: "Scissors!"
(son hands me scissors and I cut the packaging, trying to make sure I don't cut something important)
Me: "Pliers!"
(son hands me pliers, which I use to try to pry open the packaging)
Me: "Pipe wrench!"
Son: Mom! Don't smash it!"
(I put down the pipe wrench)
Me: "Spiderman bandaid!"
Son (looking at me like I'm crazy): "Mom, iPod chargers don't need bandaids."
Me: "Not for the charger, for me! I cut myself on the edge of this stupid package!"

We finally succeeded in our quest to Remove the Item from The Package, and charger is now sitting in my glove compartment where it'll get ignored until the oil companies finally decide that we've achieved bloodless turnip status and lower gas prices.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rest in Peace, Deputy Fabiano

I was actually running on time to pick up my kids from school today, which is something of a miracle because, well, let's just say I'm not known for showing up on time regularly for most things. I'm working on that. I still ended up at the school 20 minutes late for what is normally an 11 minute ride (assuming I hit the lights right and I don't go more than 10 over the speed limit).

I was late because I was stopped by Deputy Frank Fabiano's funeral procession.

Deputy Fabiano was shot on the 17th in what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop. The man who shot him was an illegal alien who apparently had been arrested in the past but had not been deported. Police caught him about three hours later, still armed, in a parking lot of an apartment complex filled with college students.

The fire trucks were blocking off the intersection that I approached in order to allow the procession to pass in safety and honor the slain deputy. I arrived just as the procession started, so I was able to watch as hundreds of police cars from across the country formed the honor guard that accompanied the hearse. Police lights flashed, and American flags fluttered as they drove by. Several helicopters flew up and down the route, following the huge stream of cars. I had seen this on TV when a Chicago officer had been killed in the line of duty, but I never saw anything like it up close like this. It was a heart-breaking, solemn honor.

It was a beautiful, warm day for such a sad occasion. It seems to me funerals should always be accompanied by rain, like angels are shedding tears for the departed one. Instead, God smiled and the sun shone joyfully, as if to let the the family know that heaven was brightened by Fabiano coming home.

People crowded the corners and sidewalks to pay their respects. The police officers and firemen controlling the intersection stood at attention in their dark dress uniforms as the long line of vehicles passed. Some of the people in the cars that were stopped around me actually got out to honor the deputy. It took 25 minutes for the entire procession to go by, a testament to just how special people thought this man was.

He left behind a wife and seven-year-old daughter. I'm glad that so many officers, family, and friends came from so many different places to show them how much his--and their--sacrifice means to all of us.