Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sophie Again

To make up for all the computer mumbo jumbo (of which I'm sure there will be plenty more), here's another picture of Sophie, Ann's dog.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cat Besmirches Mac Once Too Often, Rejoins Friends at Pound

Everything is continuing to be smooth and easy with the iMac.

Tom’s brother Paul is a huge Apple aficionado, so Tom asked me if we had been bonding lately. We have indeed been on the phone for at least an hour this week.

Using an external hard drive, I moved all of my files to the Mac, ditto my email and address book. I’d thought the email was going to be difficult because it was coming from Outlook Express 5 on a Windows 98 machine, and I spent quite some time culling detailed procedures from the web and psychologically preparing to lose it all, since I would rather lose it than print all of it out.

However, it turned out to be just as easy as anything else. I dragged the messages to the external hard drive and then into newly created personal folders in Entourage in the Mac, and all the messages were readable.

My one teensy problem is Microsoft Word files that I email myself from work. The ones I brought over from my PC open fine, but ones I mail to myself won’t open, because my version of Word at work is 2007 and the version of Word on the Mac is 2004.

I called Microsoft and immediately was connected to someone who, oddly, did not seem to be in India and who told me I had three free cases coming. (Once you run out of free cases, support costs $30; I’m not sure whether that’s per call or per case.) Under his direction, I downloaded and installed a converter, but it still didn’t work.

He said the ultimate solution would be to go to Office 2008 early next year, which will open both Word 2004 and Word 2007 files. I said the version of Office I have is, alas, not upgradable. He said they have a special offer right now where they will send you Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac for the price of shipping ($6.99!) if you send them the receipt and proof of purchase for Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, if you happened to purchase it between November 1, 2007, and January 14, 2008, which I did.

So—I hope you’re sitting down—I’m very up on Microsoft right now. I can’t keep it in any longer: Microsoft’s support is excellent! (And available until 9 PM weeknights, whereas AppleCare is only until 6 PM.)

I also decided to get a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard, which I use at home and at work and like very much, but that put me in a crunch in regard to USB ports—the Mac keyboard has a USB port on it, into which you can plug your mouse, but the Microsoft keyboard doesn’t, so the mouse needs to be plugged into the back of the computer now, or somewhere.

I called my mother to find out what to do about that.

“This call isn’t free,” she warned me.

“How much?”

“Fifty,” she said, in the even tones of a Mafia hit man, daring me to object.

“Fifty dollars?! Microsoft’s support only costs thirty dollars!”

Later she said, “We’re having a special today. Usually support costs fifty dollars, but today it’s seventy-five.”

She told me to get a hub, which I have done. This gives you several more USB ports. I also bowed to her relentless pressure and bought a thumb drive. “This will be handy if you want to get any stuff off someone else’s computer,” she said.

“I don’t want to get any stuff off anyone else’s computer,” I said.

“I don’t like the way this conversation is going,” she said. Mind you, this is someone who wears her thumb drive on a lanyard around her neck at all times.

So, everything is going great. My original plan was never to leave the house again, now that I have a nice thing on which to watch DVDs, but then I realized what this really means is that I’ll have more time for bike rides and doing things with people, since I won’t be spending so much time taking the bus to and from the movies.

I like watching previews and movies on the big screen, but it is time-consuming, and I’m kind of over people talking and text messaging during the movie (yes, we can all see your little light) and kicking the back of my seat.

Hammett is eating his watered-down wet food and, bless his heart, eating his daily glucosamine pill voluntarily, and, if you must know, peeing copiously and apparently without strain, so I hope his next urinalysis will show an improvement in urine concentration.

He is also coming to enjoy chasing a ball, and even leaping into the air now and then. Naturally, his preferred play time is right at bedtime, which means he’s all hyped up when I’m trying to get to sleep.

Also—and here he is courting a one-way trip back to the SPCA, I’m afraid—he keeps rubbing his snout on the Mac’s monitor. I think he is fascinated with its glossy reflectiveness, as am I.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Critical Manners and Mac

I have finally purchased a new computer—an iMac—which means I can buy a digital camera and put pictures of every little thing here. I feel like a real person now, similar to when I got a ladder and when David and Lisa gave me their microwave.

I’d been putting this off for a long time, because I hadn’t recovered from the trauma of buying a PC ten years ago: the tears, the rage, the late nights, the feeling of utter helplessness, the million calls to technical support, the overwhelming desire to hurl the thing out the window and—ahhh!—see it smash on the sidewalk below.

I signed up for Netflix after I ordered my Mac. The Mac arrived three business days later (all the way from China!) and my first Netflick arrived that same day, a Harry Potter movie.

I picked up the final Harry Potter book from the library this week. The library has 500 copies of it, literally.

When I bought my PC, it seems to me it came in several boxes, including many manuals totaling hundreds of pages, and a variety of CDs, so I vowed that, to avoid getting frustrated, I would start by reading the documentation for my new Mac carefully, taking everything one step at a time.

When I opened the box, I was surprised to see that all it contained was the iMac itself, and a slim box with the keyboard in it. The keyboard box turned out also to contain the mouse, precisely two CDs (for reinstalling the OS if necessary), the power cord, a minuscule remote, and a small booklet. That was it.

The first task was to get online. I figured I would try to use the DSL installation disk I have, find out it was the wrong disk, make eight calls to AT&T for a total of two hours on the phone, have to wait for them to mail me the right thing, etc.

What actually happened was that I unplugged the Ethernet cable from the back of the PC, plugged it into the iMac, and I was online, just like that. Similar happy experiences followed, and what I had expected to require at least a week of agony was easily accomplished in minutes.

My first computer, which I had for about ten years, was a Mac SE, with 1 Mb of RAM, a 20Mb hard drive, and a nine-inch monitor. After that, I got the aforementioned PC, which I also had for about 10 years.

I might have gotten another PC this time around—it would have been cheaper and I wouldn’t have had to learn much of anything new—but on a recent visit to Ann Arbor, my mother, like a drug pusher, left her Mac in the room I was staying in, and after I used it for a while, I just wanted one.

Last week I went to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Volunteer Night, which happens on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. The last time I went, years ago, about six people were there. This time, it was a congenial crowd of 20 or so, folding letters to send to SFBC members and chatting about this and that. It was pleasant. I plan to go regularly.

On Friday night, I went on Critical Manners, the courteous, much smaller alternative to Critical Mass. About 14 of us tooled about town, stopping at red lights and stop signs. We rolled over to Pier 39 and back to Market St. That is also something I will plan to do every month.

When I got home, I had a great chat on the phone with David and Lisa.

On Saturday I picked up 48 rolls of toilet paper from Rainbow (Seventh Generation 500 sheets per roll, the good stuff, very economical purchased in bulk) and went back for groceries. I made lentil-potato-tomato stew and my coworker’s caramel oat bars, which are scrumptious.

I used a small electric grinder to chop the nuts, but a few pulses turned some of the nuts into powder and left others as whole as the day they were hatched, so I think I’ll try the knife method next time.

Saturday evening, I watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was absolutely excellent—my favorite Harry Potter movie to date.

On Sunday, I sat in my big chair reading much of the day, with Hammett snuggled next to me, and in the evening, I went on a bike ride to look at Christmas lights with a group of about 50 people. One woman had mounted her iPod on her bike and had speakers in her panniers to play us Christmas music at a rousing volume.

In Japantown, we stopped and spread out the treats we had brought to share and had an impromptu party. The Bike Coalition does a night ride every month, too, so if you are an SFBC member, there is no excuse at all to sit at home, even if your home has an iMac in it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Olive Oil Straight Up

A few more tidbits from my recent trip to Ann Arbor: When I arrived, I presented my father with a bottle of fruity Unio olive oil, which I had wrapped very, very thoroughly to prevent it from soaking everything in my suitcase. He undid the cap and immediately took a large swig, delighting his audience.

One day we looked at Dad’s baby book, primarily to see a list of all the places he lived. Mom said it was too dark where we were sitting, but Dad said, “That’s OK. It will make it seem mysterious."

One morning Mom and I listened to the Metallica CDs she bought after she saw Some Kind of Monster. A great thing about my mother is that she is always willing to try something new, on top of the million enthusiasms she has of her own. If you scanned the titles of the thousands of books in the house, you would think 25 people with many interests apiece lived there.

She said that she liked the movie—when it was over, she was like, “Yeah, Hetfield! Yeah, Hammett!”—and subsequently obtained Load and Ride the Lightning, which I thought was rather amazing.

One morning I came out of the bathroom in tears ("Wah, my soon-to-be-departed bathroom!") to find Mom listening to Alice in Chains’ Dirt at a healthy volume, studying the lyrics. After a couple of songs, she said, "I feel better."

On the plane home, I was seated next to a fellow who eats a lot of raw foods, including green pepper sandwiches. It kind of inspired me, so I started eating more salads and raw veggies after I got home. My father serves a salad with just about every meal he cooks, which is a lot of meals.

Soon, however, I was tapering off the fruits and veggies and had moved on to Whole Foods pizza, cake and potato gratin. It’s kind of sad to see all the beautiful apples, citrus fruit and tomatoes sitting forlornly on the counter. I’ve been on a pizza jag lately and, after testing several, can say the best is Whole Foods’, for about $4 a slice.

I’ve decided I need to spend less time cooking, so I am only going to make one entrée per week, such as a big pot of soup or beans. Two weekends ago, I made two-bean chili with bulgur. This past weekend I didn’t bother to cook at all, since I know I’m going to eat Whole Foods pizza and cake all week, probably.

Since returning home, I have seen these DVDs with Tom: Talk to Me, about Washington, DC, radio disk jockey Petey Greene, which was very good; The Notebook, a romance featuring Ryan Gosling; and Harsh Times, in which Christian Bale plays a psychotic thug very effectively; he was terrifying.

Tom and I had pizza at Pauline’s one night. We sat in the old-fashioned upstairs dining room, by a window. The pizza was pretty good, though Tom was slightly distraught that dinner cost us $27 apiece.

Hammett’s transition to eating wet food is complete. He prefers it with extra water mixed in—like soup—so he is now very well hydrated indeed, which I hoped might eliminate any problems with his urinary system, but Dr. Press said this week, after a recheck, that his urine remains way too concentrated, which can lead to all sorts of problems, so I need to try to get even more fluid down him, plus give him glucosamine.

Most fortunately, he will actually ingest this pill voluntarily if it’s presented atop a spoonful of wet food at mealtime.

I’ve had to stop using Feline Pine cat litter. It turns out Hammett hates it so much he would rather poop in the tub, though he did drag a towel off the edge of the tub and use it to cover the evidence. I’ve concluded the world’s best cat litter is World’s Best Cat Litter, which is made out of corn, and quite similar to clay in terms of the cat’s experience.

It’s biodegradable and clumps wonderfully so anything deposited can be easily removed, with the rest of the litter in the box remaining apparently pristine. It’s not dusty and it doesn’t smell like anything to speak of.

I recently bought a second bicycle helmet, for wet weather. It has a visor to which I will affix a second visor, a Salamander Beak. It will look extremely foolish, but will, I hope, help keep the rain off my glasses.

All is going well in the vehicular cycling department. Taking undue focus off the drivers around me has wrought a miracle. I am cycling with tremendous tranquility and comfort, and can now hardly believe how scared I was when I started taking the lane as a matter of course, not that long ago.

David C. emphasizes that when deciding where in the lane to ride, whether a bit more to the right or a bit more to the left, staying out of the door zone should always be a key consideration.