Wednesday, January 28, 2009

screen shot from a news service photo

Finally, the Boston Globe has a fascinating series of photos showing people watching the inauguration.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Your Gazoobom and Twinkifier are not working."


That's just what I thought when the guy at Apple told me this, but said they it was repairable. Our new computer, sitting there all forlorn was carted away to the back room. I was sad and moped around and walked into walls when we arrived home Saturday afternoon.

It had all started on Tuesday evening. I watched the Inauguration, streaming down two websites in order to catch it all. When Dianne Sawyer got on my nerves, I switched over to Katie Couric, and if they both got on my nerves, I listened to NPR. The whole event reminded me so much of my experience in 2005, and I relived it all again, but was warmer this time.

Then that night, I couldn't get on certain internet sites. Google: fine. Gmail: fine. Our laptops worked okay, so I thought it must be the computer.

Our first Apple Tech Specialist

Wednesday I called AppleCare and got a girl in the Phillipines that kept calling Apple's web browser "Sa-Fairy." (It's Safari.) Her final answer? Archive and install--the answer they give for everything, sez Peter A. I guess they figure the machine worked when it left their factory and if I'd just reset it back to normal it would work again. I struggled on and off with this, trying to do my work. It's amazing how much I use the internet in my class, what with the class blog, the college website, and emails.

I couldn't do a thing until Friday morning, when I started the long process of backing up the hard drive. (Please--no comments from those Smarty Pants who consistently back up their computers.) I had a lunch commitment with an old high school friend and then a memorial service to attend to for one of Dave's faculty and then a dinner date with Dave and my brother. In between all that, I managed to get 170 gigs of stuff backed up.

Saturday morning, I get up early (a RS service project is on the books for 9 a.m.) and can't find the disks to do an archive and install. I tore apart three cupboards looking for them. Then Dave says, remember? We didn't get them? Oh, right. Call Apple. Get the Philippines. Nearly kill the blessed town idiot who's on the other end of the line. (Normal tech experience. If you can get to Canada's call centers, you've reached Nirvana.)

So we run the machine up to the Apple Store for our Genius appointment where the guys tells me about the gazoobom and the twinkifier. After moping around for an appropriate length of time, I set up the old G4 (the dust was an inch thick), turn it on, and Lo and Behold! It doesn't work. I can't access the internet.

First call to Charter, our ISP: Oh, unhook this, rehook that. Maybe it's you. It's probably you. We don't have any problems, so it is for sure. You. And while you're at it, we'd encourage you to upgrade to our 10 mgs speed because, well, I get credit for how many I sell and I want to go to London in June and we're having a contest.

Our First Charter Tech Specialist
Okay, I made that last part up, but the only way we could get a faster service was to "add on" another "line." Which means we added on cable TV in order to half our price per month (for six months, at which point it goes "up" but is still cheaper than having just one "line"). Now just go plug it in, she says to Dave, at which point he tries to explain to her that we won't be doing that. Why? Because the line to our internet is on the southwest side of our house, heading up the side of the wall into our daughter's old bedroom. And the television is on the northeast side of the house in the family room and we have no cable lines there. No, it's not a new house. No, the people before us didn't have cable either. Twenty channels. Yes, some are digital. Reception is great--an antenna, the size of our house is sited in the attic; we could be beamed up at any moment.

Second call to Charter: Um, we bought the new modem (thinking that was the problem) and we can't register it because you can only do that on a website, and um, the internet's not working. After entering in fifty numbers fifty ways, the guy says, we're showing a lot of outages in Southern California, but we don't show it in your area. We get the modem registered, but strangely enough when we "ping" them, it won't. Must be the outage is in your area after all. (At this point you should stick your fingers in your ears and sing LA LA LA loudly so you won't hear what we said back to him.)

Our Final Charter Tech Specialist
Third call to Charter: This time we got, in Dave's vernacular, an "A-stringer." DSN servers are down all over California. It's our fault, they say, but maybe it's still something you need to have someone come out and look at. Appointment: Wednesday morning.

By Sunday night, we had limited internet, but at blazingly slow speeds (can you say dial-up?).

Monday morning: Still slow, but I'm working working working, trying to catch up with all the postings and emails and Things I Have To Do and the phone rings. It's Charter. We'd like to cancel your appointment because, gee whiz, All is Well. Not so fast, I say. It's not so great over here. This has not been a trivial exercise at this house, that we've been down a week and by the way I'd like a week's credit on my account. You'll have to call Billing for that, Ma'am.

Tuesday afternoon: We have internet. 10 mgs of it and apparently we didn't have to sign up for the cable TV after all. The internet is blipping along. I'm on my old computer (new one's still being repaired, but Justin Hass (Peter's buddy) says they'll order us a new display because ours had a hairline scratch on it (not my fault) and they'll call me.

Welcome Back.
(And by the way, two thumbs up for Obama's Inauguration and BOTH of Michelle's dresses.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This Inaugural Concert was cool. Dave and I watched the whole thing (streaming as we're non-cable-ers). Lots of people there and lots of enthusiasm.

I liked seeing Stevie Wonder, Peter Seeger (This Land Is Your Land was a terrific song), all the famous people who I have no idea who they are, but finally saw them on TV, and seeing the VIPs rock out to Garth Williams.

Everytime they had a clear shot of the Lincoln Memorial, I thought of my sister Susan, who once told me that was her favorite memorial of all. Mine is the World War II Memorial, but they have a clear view of each other.

Susan, this photo's for you.

And this one too, taken at dawn the last week we were there for our sabbatical.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just so you know. . .

The Inaugural Program
(All times Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday)

6 a.m.
-- Inaugural prelude by the United States Marine Band

6:50 a.m.
-- Musical selections by the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus
-- Call to order and welcoming remarks by Sen. Dianne Feinstein
-- Invocation by the Rev. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest (Orange County)

8:38 a.m.
-- Musical selection by Aretha Franklin, "My Country 'Tis of Thee"
-- Oath of office administered to Vice President-elect Joe Biden by Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens

8:48 a.m.
-- Musical selection by composer John Williams, "Air and Simple Gifts"
-- Yo-Yo Ma, cello
-- Itzhak Perlman, violin
-- Gabriela Montero, piano
-- Anthony McGill, clarinet

-- Oath of office administered to Barack Obama by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

-- Inaugural address by Obama
-- Poem by Elizabeth Alexander
-- Benediction by the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery

9:30 a.m.
-- National anthem

Note: Precise times were not provided for all events.

Source: Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies
(They also will have streaming video.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I have a class website (Blackboard) run by our Little U that I like quite well. However, many students, after running into a password wall, give up and never try the site again. Some of this may be because my demographic is more rural, with a wide range of income levels. One young woman, her long hair always perfectly shiny and combed, opened her dark-rimmed eyes wider in astonishment when I explained to her that I expected her to access her email and Blackboard on a regular basis, say more than twice a semester. "I have an email?" she asked.

So, this semester I set up a class blog where I can place my Course Calendar, funky pictures, relevant comics and art, plus update any changes to the calendar. Since I'm giving them Tuesday off to watch the Inauguration, based solely on a selfish desire of mine, I needed a way for them to engage and at least be aware of this historical occasion. (When I told a new student that her last name was the same at Obama's new Chief of Staff, she looked at me and said "What?") I decided I would have them post a response to the Inauguration to our class blog.

So, as I dismissed them today I asked anyone who didn't know how to post on a blog to come up to the front of the class before they left and I'd brief them. I had seven in one class standing around my table and about the same number in the second. I launch into my demonstration. Mind you I'm doing all this in the air, with hands waving, pointing and clicking in abstract because our Little U has no money for Smart/Wired Classrooms (and really, generally that's OK except for things like this) but there I am trying to get the message across with air clicks on invisible buttons, fingers moving on an invisible keyboard typing word verification.

One swarthy very clean-shaven (head and all) young man is following me along and I think he's looking at me like I'm reciting the Gettysburg Address in Russian. Another young woman says she's such a dolt, but could I go over the word verification again? Not a dolt, I say, just learning a new tool, and I reprise my act.

I feel for these students, thrown into college and cyberspace and clicks far away from the comfort of their pocket cellphones with their closed circle of faces and names and experiences. No smart phones in this bunch, just screens that flash baby pictures, smaller-town phone numbers, and Mom opening her Christmas gift.

When I arrived home this afternoon, I did a screen capture and posted it as the first entry on each blog, complete with instructions.

I guess I have lived in the stream of the internet for so long now it always surprises me to find outposts where a functioning email address is a Big Deal, where a blog is a Strange and Unusual Food, like the native peoples on the Virgin Burger King commercial, surrounded by outsiders mimicking how to hold the burger, like me clicking and typing in mid-air.

However, unlike some of those native peoples who needed a Whopper like they needed a hole in the head, my students need to jump in feet first and swim.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm spent.
Four days to revamp a Course Calendar means I'm just a sick-o. But it's done. Now I'm going to go and watch Katherine Hepburn while correcting my typos.

For your own viewing pleasure, I offer one professor's rendition of heart attacks.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I've been off from school long enough to ask Dave to wipe down the top of the refrigerator, and to discover (when I went to make waffles) that our old waffle iron had died but I hadn't remembered this fact until I'd ransacked the upper cupboard. But I haven't been off long enough to clean out the garage.

Regardless (notice how I used that correctly, although initially I typed "irregardless"), it's time to construct syllabi, Course Calendars, rethink assignments. So I slog through the web, trying to get other English teachers' take on this ancient and brain-sapping process.

I happened on one blog today and read through many sections until finding this one, a short treatise on finding Oneself an adjunct professor with a background and training in Creative Writing, hearing the siren call to write, but never quite getting around to it (like not getting around to cleaning out the garage?). I have no idea who this writer is (her "About Me" is fairly vague and generic and I do understand that helpful cloak of anonymity) but it was a feast to read (all the while, avoiding that Course Calendar writing).

She's been challenged to write her "4x4" or four categories, four items in each by another blog. This is her last category:

spirit (or the deadly sins approach to fueling creativity)

  • Envy stirred the other day as I ripped open the Amazon box to pull out the short story collection I'd pre-ordered four months ago, the third book of a woman from my high school class. I'll be checking weekly the New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, waiting to see the reviews that will no doubt be glowing (I read one of the stories in a literary magazine; it was wonderful). In addition to this classmate, two of my roommates from graduate school have, by my count, published between them a whopping ten novels.
  • The Faculty Without Offices come out of the woodwork for the beginning-of-the-semester meetings, announcing out of strange mouths their familiar-sounding names. Adjunct English, they explain to the full-time faculty at my community college who smile vaguely in their direction. I refuse the title. In my latest experiment I’m trying to let anger fuel my writing, anger at the system and colleagues who face the same under-prepared students semester after semester but, when a new full-time position opens in the department, debate whether they’d prefer a Specialist in Emerging Literatures or a Renaissance Scholar.
  • I tell myself that my greed is under control, not for boatloads of money (just enough for books and dental work and, maybe, some new kitchen cabinets) but rather for a secure job that gives me time and energy to write.
  • The fear is not of death, exactly, but rather oblivion, the old "Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain" syndrome. In her daily obituary reading, my mother, at 78, marvels at how long people are living these days; at 51, I see the teenagers killed in car accidents and the 4o-year-olds whose families request donations to Hospice in lieu of flowers. Two days ago my mother missed guessing the year of her marriage by a decade; yesterday she asked if the neighbor who'd been the best woman-friend of her adulthood was still alive (she isn't). It's time to write.
It wasn't until I tried to assign a label for this post, that I realized I'd never created one for that thing that haunts me in my teaching and grading, drapes itself on my shoulders throughout my day, and wafts through dreams: Writing.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

(sung to the tune of Happy Birthday)

Aw, thanks. I love you too. Thanks for remembering.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve (Dave and I with our friend Jonathan--a friend from grad school. We were at Jo's house--another grad school friend, and who taught Matthew 's English class in high school.)

Then to the New Year's Day tasks--taking down the Christmas tree.

Our stockings, with toys and decorations. I think Cynthia brought me that angel from Italy--but even if I'm wrong, it's still a good way to think of a sister on Christmas.

This is the oldest ornament on the tree. My grandmother Bickmore used to send a bit of money in every birthday card--five dollars. One year I went down the the little shop in Ladera and purchased this ornament at their half-price sale. I was still in high school, living at home in Portola Valley.

We have others that remind of us those we love as well--a hand-painted ornament from Annie Eastmond, candy cane reindeer from our Secret Santa one year, a china figurine from an old friend among others.

I like putting up the tree, but there seems always to be such a rush. Taking down the ornaments is a time for reflection, of thinking about Grandmother Bickmore and sending her good wishes up in heaven.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Here's some New Year's Fun:
Head to this website, type a word in the search box, and watch it go.

It takes books from and builds your word. When I did "Dave," most of the books had the word Dave in the title.