Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Teh intarwebs are back! We survived one whole week without Facebook! Without Twitter! I had to write my drivel on a typewriter! We read books! WHAT DID WE DO BEFORE WE HAD INTERNET?

A new router was waiting on the front stoop last night in a plain brown box, same as they deliver porn to your doorstep, because that’s what the internet is, when it comes down to it. I unwrapped it with trembling hands and, while My Darling B was preparing dinner, took the box downstairs and made all the connections. Didn’t read the instructions. I’m a guy. A guy don’t need no damn instructions.

Oh yes he does too, said the internet, which stubbornly refused to reconnect to our new router no matter how many times I clicked the mouse. After working my frustration to a frothy head, I tromped back up the stairs, dug the instructions out of the box, poured myself a glass of wine and settled into a chair by the kitchen table. Now there’s a wonderful way to relax on a Friday night: Sipping a glass of wine while reading Quick Setup Tips For Installing Your Router.

First thing it says on the first page I pick up under the heading “service activation:”

IMPORTANT! Please make sure that you install your equipment after 8:00 PM on your Service Activation Date. You can only connect to the Internet after your service has been activated.

I glanced up at the clock. It was quarter to eight. Okay, that could be a problem.

After tromping back down the stairs to unplug the router, I read the rest of the instructions to make sure I didn’t miss any other helpful tips or deadlines. If you ever have to read instructions for installing a Pace N411 router, I can recommend a delicious white wine to go with it.

B had dinner on the table at about the same time I finished, and I had to clean up after dinner, so obviously there was no router installation going on then. My first opportunity to get around to it was almost nine o’clock, but I felt like a movie and I had recently come into possession of a copy of Anatomy Of A Murder, an awesome Otto Preminger film starring Jimmy Stewart, although in my opinion the ubiquitous Arthur O’Connell all but stole the show by playing the most convincing alcoholic I’ve ever seen captured on film. And if you’ve never seen George C. Scott when he was just a pup, you’ve got to see him hounding one witness after another as the assistant district attorney. Great stuff.

Anatomy Of A Murder is a surprisingly long film, over two and a half hours, so it was way past my bedtime when the final credits rolled and I was too tired to do any at-home IT work. Installing the router had to wait until this morning after the cats woke me at five-thirty on the dot. Don’t get an alarm clock, get a cat. No snooze button, but punctual as hell.

Installing the modem did not go well. I had to spend an hour or so in an on-line chat room with a customer service rep who called herself “Patti” and may or may not have been human, I couldn’t tell. She seemed to be using a lot of canned answers that sounded as though they’d been carefully composed by a team of professional writers months or years ago, but every so often she’d lapse into l33t sp33k or use a slang term that I didn’t sound right coming from an AI. Whatever she was, she fed me all the right instructions to help me validate our account and connect to the internet. B will be so happy when she finds out she can distract herself by reading food blogs and updating her Facebook status instead of polishing her resume.

Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

The cats may have locked me out of my laptop. When I came home this afternoon It was sitting on the sideboard by the front window with the top up. The monitor was dark and wouldn’t come back on so I had to force it to shut down. Then, after I booted it up again, I couldn’t get the mouse cursor to move or get any response at all when I tried the function keys, control-alt-delete or any of that other magic. Tried starting it up again in safe mode – still no luck getting it to respond. “You could call customer service,” My Darling B suggested, but we popped in a DVD and watched the second episode of Luther instead. It’s so strange hearing Idris Elba speak with a British accent after all those years listening to his Stringer Bell Baltimore lingo. And we’ve both got such a tin ear for Britspeak now that we have to turn on the subtitles. Still, there’s no question it was a much better way to spend my time on a week night than listening to hold music for sixty minutes while waiting for a tech support rep to answer.

locked | 10:05 pm CDT
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Saturday, February 19th, 2011

I locked myself out of my e-mail account at the office yesterday morning while I was suffering one of those brain cramps that won’t let me remember what my password is for nothin’! It’s a simple password; it’s not really even a word, which is in fact one of the rules you’re always told to apply when thinking up a password: Should not be a word in the dictionary. So I just stamp out a simple little pattern on the keyboard, easy to remember … except yesterday. No matter how many times I tried – and they only let me try just so many times – I couldn’t get it to accept my simple little pattern.

After I was locked out, the computer invited me to recover my password by answering the challenge questions. When the IT people set me up with a computer account five months ago, I had to select five challenge questions and provide my own personalized answers to them. One of them, for instance, was: “Who is your favorite president?” Inasmuch as I have a favorite, that would have to be Theodore Roosevelt. When I had to answer that question yesterday morning, though, I was presented with this conundrum: The window for the answer was only big enough to hold seven or eight characters, so the answer wasn’t “Theodore Roosevelt.” I must have answered “Teddy” or “TR,” or “Teedee” – his family used to call him “Teedee” when he was a wee little lad. No wonder he grew up to become such a badass.

And it turned out all the questions presented similar conundrums. I knew who my favorite teacher was, but did I answer “Mrs. Klingenhofer” or simply “Klingenhofer?” Was my first car a “Volkswagen” or a “Veedub?” That sort of thing. So no matter how many times I tried to answer the questions – and, again, it will let me answer only so many times before locking me out – I couldn’t get it right.

So I called the IT help desk and asked them to unlock it and, after it was unlocked and I could sign in again, I reset all my challenge questions and made the answer to all of them “etaoin shrdlu,” the name of the first man to successfully pick his nose on the moon. Or something like that.

etaoin shrdlu | 6:56 am CDT
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Sunday, November 21st, 2010

image of B's laptop bandaid

My Darling B got tired of her laptop staring at her while she’s surfing food porn web sites. It’s got a little built-in camera at the top of the flip-up screen that she could use to take photos or record videos of herself if she were so inclined. Since she is most vehemently not, she has used it just once, to record our New Year’s wishes to our adoring crowds last year. So it’s really no more than a novelty item that gets used once in a blue moon, usually when alcohol’s involved. (This appears to be typical for many a video on internet.)

She never thought much about it since then, even when stories surfaced in the news about people using laptop video cameras to watch users in ways that did not not at first seem all that creepy until sitting down in front of a laptop with a camera lens staring at you. A few seconds of that and you’re sure the whole world is watching you.

At first, B tried to use common sense. “It’s got a little red light that comes on,” she reasoned, or whistled in the dark, take your pick. “Nobody would be able to hack into my laptop and turn on my camera to watch me without turning on the little red light.”

“Riiiiight,” I answered her, patting the back of her hand, “that would never happen.”

She stubbornly stuck to her common-sense, rational approach to her video camera until yesterday, when we heard a story on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me about the Kinect, Microsoft’s new game accessory that lets you control your XBox by standing in front of it and gesturing. Not only can it see you and recognize what you’re doing, it could also (according to Microsoft), or absolutely would not under any circumstances (according to, again, Microsoft) be used to send targeted advertisements to your television set.

Coincidentally, after B heard that, she covered her video camera lens with a band-aid. She still maintains she doesn’t think anybody’s watching her, but why take the chance? It’s Pascal’s Wager applied to Big Brother.

I See You | 9:49 am CDT
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Sunday, June 13th, 2010

I do love Ubuntu (like Windows, but free) (yes, free), but getting it to talk to my wireless network is going to drive me to drink. Or something. What do maddening things drive you to when you already drink?

After spending about an hour and a half trying to get my laptop to talk to my network I had to get up and work out my aggressions, so I grabbed our largest weeder out of the garden shed. It’s got a handle that’s six feet of solid hickory and a sharpened V of iron on the business end that can slay any weed that grows in the green, effective earth. Striding across the yard with that weeder in my hand I feel as though I could repel Hannibal’s army, so it’s perfect for slaughtering the monstrous crown-of-thorn thistles that have infested the far corner of the lawn out front.

These beasts are not like the nettles that sprout and grow up six feet tall if you let them. The crown-of-thorns grow very close to the ground. If you want to get rid of them, you have to get the blade of your weeder well under the ground, probing until you can feel the trunk of the root. That’s why a stout weeder with a sharp blade is essential. Once you’ve connected, slice it off at least three inches beneath the surface and pop the crown of the thistle out. You’ll have to repeat this several times over the course of the summer with each weed before it finally spends every calorie stored in its roots and gives up the ghost.

Or you could just spray Round-Up on it, but where’s the challenge in that? You can’t work out your aggressions after wrestling with an intransigent software system by pumping a little Round-Up on weeds. BORing!

nettled | 5:56 am CDT
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