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.