Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.
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» Monday, September 30, 2002
Home Shows–Only for the Rich Anymore?
Even before we had a home, James and I used to go to the Atlanta Home Show once a year. These were downtown at the World Congress Center and we’d always have a great time. We’d skip "the gardening junk" (although one year we did fall in love with the "bird-friendly" garden, which had teeny lawn portions) and attend demonstrations.
Eventually we couldn't make the schedule: the spring show was perpetually a weekend we were busy and the fall show fell on the last weekend in September, usually a work weekend for those in Government contracting circles like me.
Our new branch chief, however, has been trying to dispose of the nonsensical attitude that everything must be spent at the exact last minute, so this year, although the work has been steady, it was not excessive enough to require weekend work--a godsend since we had a double birthday party and an APAzine collation to go to as well.
So on Sunday, armed with discount coupons from Borders, we went "a-homeshowing" for the first time in years.
The Atlanta Home Show is now held at the Galleria (a.k.a. the world's most boring mall) in Marietta, and seems appreciably smaller than it did when we quit attending them over five years ago. I could swear the display floor of the World Congress Center was a lot larger than this.
I must admit now that after the last home show we did manage to make, we were dissatisfied with the exhibitors. When we first attended these things, there were a great deal of different products for the home. Some of these even included food vendors; we remember the year the Wisconsin cheese people came. They had a sharp cheddar cheese spread that was to die for; we nursed our container for months, having the delicious concoction as a treat. The Watkins people used to show up, and there were other special foods and mixes marketed. There were also displays of things in the home for kids, pets, seniors, young couples just starting out, small homes.
Granted, some of the regulars are always there. The Lustre Craft folks whom we bought our cookware from 12 years ago were in attendance (you do get what you pay for; this stuff is expensive, but I expect it to last for another 100 years, it's that good), also the other cookware people. The adjustable ladder people, the different mop vendors, the new window people, and the massage chair people were all there as well.
But the two main vendor types seemed to be for jacuzzi/pools and fancy glass doors (and a couple of cases, stained glass windows). You couldn't turn a corner without seeing big hot tubs or beveled glass. The other prominent vendor-type was for kitchen re-dos, which seemed a little more sensible--until you noticed the type of kitchen remodelings they were selling.
In short, there are fewer and fewer vendors there for people with lower incomes like ourselves. There were kitchen renovation plans there that probably cost half the price of our house (at least). (Heck, there were stoves there that were probably 1/10th the cost of our house.) There were things there we would have loved to have: a nice sturdy awning for over the glass doors, a professional stove, beautiful double-sash "lean in" windows, trim closet organizers with shelves and drawers, etc. Any one of them would have left us in debt out the nose.
Where are the things for us "ordinary Joes" who don't want hand-crafted stained glass oriel windows, hot tubs that would graciously support an orgy of ten, "tea houses" that cost $4000 (and aren't even screened in), automated homes, $800 closet organizers, and $20,000 home theatre systems? Is there no room to exhibit something other than commercial-grade (and price) kitchen appliances, mahogany cupboards, and granite counters? Not everyone makes six-figure salaries and lives in a home with a two-story foyer, landscaped backyard, and so much room they need two (or more) air conditioning units.
Home shows should send you off with ideas to make your house a better place to live, not how to stress yourself out with redecorating debts for the rest of your life. And certainly not leave you feeling poor and mean, like Bob Cratchit counting his shillings and wondering if he'll ever manage something comfortable for Tiny Tim...
» Thursday, September 26, 2002
Since the last time we'd tried to install the USB card it hadn't worked, I'd purchased a newer, USB 2.0 card (which didn't work either). Last night I plugged in the card and tried to load it again. Alas, the system locked up when I tried to load it--both times. James deduced that my elderly BIOS card probably couldn't handle the new software.
But...what the heck. I tried loading the old USB card, and by golly, it worked! Aha, now to load ActiveSync and get the desktop to talk to the PDA. For about ten minutes, I was tempted to bang my head against the wall. Then, as if they'd woken from a deep sleep, both units tweedled at each other and they were connected.
I spent an hour copying off finished e-books and loading new ones while Bandit sat on my shoulder and chirbled.
Now if we can only get the network card to do its thing...
» Wednesday, September 25, 2002
"The Time of New Tech"
(with apologies to Mr. Kipling; warning! "Neep" alert)
My computer, frankly, was driving me crazy.
It had been upgraded from Win3.1 to Win95, then recently to Win98 (original version). It was getting so that certain things didn't want to work on the fool thing. My modem has never told me the actually speed it was connected at, only one of about four ISP numbers worked, and it got to the point where I had to wait a minute or two before downloading e-mail because it had a predilection for kicking me off immediately after connect. James bought me a USB card so I could sync to my PDA (my dying laptop now being useless for the service) and not only did the software not load, but every time I booted up Windows it detected new software and wanted to re-load it, ending up in putting markers on every IRQ port on the system (one of the things I suspected was bolluxing up the modem).
I had minimal hard drive storage (2.1G) in this era of fatware, but it was enough for my use, especially since we were planning to network the computers (another piece of software that wouldn't work on my recalcitrant system; when James installed it, the computer wouldn't even boot). The solution was to reformat the hard drive and reload everything.
James, on the other hand, wanted a larger drive for the games he plays and the aviation photos he downloads, so some months earlier he had bought a 20G hard drive but not yet installed it (when he did try installing it, he put Win2000 on it; that just bolluxed up his system as he only has a 375Mhz and a more computer-saavy friend told us Win2000 insists on at least 600MHz). Luckily he could go back to his old drive until he worked out the problems, and eventually that's what I did as well: I bought a 40G hard drive on sale.
And then I swapped drives with James.
Let's face it, I don't download huge .jpgs of airplanes on my system. I also don't play tech-y large footprint games like aircraft simulators and shooting games. Pac-Man and Jumpman are more my speed. Even with two different graphics programs, Paint Shop Pro 5 and PhotoImpact 6, Word Perfect, Paradox, and my entire kaboodle of website tools, I wouldn't make a dent in 20G, let alone 40.
He installed the 40 first, with the usual amount of cussing, with Win98SE as the OS this time. (I reminded him, however, not to get too angry when things go wrong: it upsets the dog! When he tried to install Win2000 and it wouldn't work, his reaction sent Willow clinging to my side with wide eyes. "Daddy's mad at the Not-a-Walk.* Maybe I'm next?") Eventually it worked fine, except for the fact that the software for his video card had somehow done a bunk. For some incredible reason, Win98 only has video support for only 16 colors! We tried downloading the software for his video card, but it apparently was the wrong type, as it didn't work. He eventually just picked up a new card on sale at Micro Center.
Luckily with my system all that was missing (or so we thought) was the sound card driver for my computer. Win98 picked it right up--but now my video card wouldn't work! We cursed and then realized upon researach that the software for the fool thing only worked with Win95; no Win98 software existed. So we hunted around on the web, found the correct software driver for his old 32M video card, and now I'm using it.
The hard drive gave us minimal trouble and I spent one of my after-the-hospital rest days loading software onto the beast. I was perplexed when I reloaded Eudora and tried to substitute the old mailboxes for the new ones, something I had done before successfully: Eudora told me it couldn't write to them! "Duh moment" here–it dawned on me a day later that I'd backed up the mailboxes on CD-R and the files were now all "read only"! Once this was changed, they worked fine (ditto with my backed-up web pages).
The most annoying quirk happened when I loaded the software for my Intellimouse. We'd put the old modem (a WinModem, which James hates) back in the computer and reloaded it successfully, but it was still unstable and still didn't show the connect speed. It also only connected on one ISP number.
After loading the Intellimouse software, even that phone number quit working. Sigh. Good ol' Microslop efficiency.
James had needed to buy a new modem for his unit anyway, as a fruitless search of software files had not turned up the old modem software (of course, we found software from two or three previous modems, but not that one). The computer show at the Cobb County Civic Center was that weekend, so he made sure he bought a hardware modem rather than a software modem (WinModem), which worked promptly and efficiently when he installed it. So I bought one the other day. Golly, I can finally see what speed I'm connected at, and it has a cool little Intel diagnostic tool to boot.
Now if only the fool USB card will work; I have lots of nice "new" e-Books I want to load on my PDA...
*I believe this designation is from an old Gary Larson cartoon, something to the effect of "What the dog thinks of your things." It had drawings of a computer, a television, sports equipment, etc., all labeled in the dog's mind "Not-a-Walk." When Wil looks mournful, we're apt to say to her, "Awww, poor Willow. Daddy's playing with the Not-a-Walk and not you."
» Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Guilty confession: Okay, if I had to watch one useless network program, it would be The Other Half, a smorgasbord of silliness featuring Danny Bonaduce, Mario Lopez, and Dorian Gregory. Topics include what men say that women misinterpret, the different types of women you meet on a date, recent fluffy self-help books, a tanning booth, foods, etc. For fluff TV, it's reasonably intelligent, without the dregs of society you see on Springer's disaster or Divorce Court, and, okay, all the guys are cute...
» Monday, September 23, 2002
The doctor says I may go back to work on Wednesday. There is a rule that anyone who has had a possible cardiac-related incident must wait 10 days from the occurrence to return to work even if they have been given a clean bill of health.
The doctor says I may take my beta-blocker in the evening. Hurrah! It makes me woozy for a few hours if I take it in the daytime, but the nurse at the hospital said I had to take it in the morning.
I was upstairs tidying the room Bandit stays in at night and in the daytime; the television up there is not attached to cable. In the times I have sat up there, whether getting over a cold or just "resting," I've discovered that watching broadcast TV is about the best incentive to read a book ever. :-)
The main thing I discovered was that on daytime network TV, the ambulance chasers are king. Almost every other commercial is for some earnest person talking about how they were injured on the job and how their employer refused to pay until they hired some lawyer. The saddest thing I saw was actor Robert Vaughn doing one of these commercials!
» Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Oh, cool thing that happened while I was reading the bound St. Nicholas mentioned in the previous entry: these are the November 1885-April 1886 magazines, which include the original appearance of Frances Hodgsen Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy. Also in the magazine is a series of articles called Personally Conducted, written by Frank Stockton, who was famous for his fairy tales back in this era. Personally Conducted is a tour of different European cities and areas (if you tour the Mark Twain house in Hartford, Connecticut, a copy of Personally Conducted is one of the books sitting on the table in the library), and the article that interested me in particular was a tour of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the surrounding area.
If you have ever seen the web page I did for my mother, I tell that her parents grew up on the island of Ischia, which is just off the coast of Naples, both the children of tenant farmers. My grandfather evidently had the stepmother from Hell and my grandmother, all of nine years old, was the one who would mend his clothes for him and fix him a proper breakfast.
In Stockton's article about Naples, written in 1886, he briefly mentions Ischia and a bad earthquake they had had on the island two years earlier in which many people were killed. This would have been 1884, when my grandparents were both about eight years old. So when I talked to my mother on Monday, I asked her if her parents had ever mentioned the earthquake. Yes, she told me, this was how my grandfather's mother had died. In trying to protect her baby (who died), she was struck on the chest by a falling rock and never recovered, dying a year later.
Just so odd to pick up a 116 year old book and find something that pertains to your own family in it...
Life Is What Happens...
Sunday was a busy day. We went to Harry's Farmer's Market first, then tiptoed our way through the mud and mist to attend the small craft show at Jim Miller Park. It was sparsely attended due to the weather, so we were home by two. We read the paper, then James started working on his computer and I was getting sleepy, so I decided to do a couple of things that "wanted doing" in the kitchen, including mounting the potholders in a different place so they wouldn't be in the way when we cooked (this involved making pilot holes and climbing up and down on chairs to mount the new hooks). Then I decided the kitchen needed a good scrubbing before I cooked and went to work with sponge and Lysol disinfecting wipes.
I include all these homely details to assure you I wasn't being a slug all day.
After supper, I had Bandit on my hand and was talking to him as we climbed up the five steps into the kitchen from the den.
In the middle of the kitchen I suddenly felt as if there had been a great rush of blood to (or perhaps from) my head. I felt hideously giddy and my heart was suddenly racing, so hard that it only took a moment before I was out of breath. Holding Bandit was a danger, I suddenly knew. If I passed out--and I certainly felt like I might--he might be hurt. So I immediately took him back downstairs. On the way past the bathroom, I turned on the light and could see myself in the mirror. I could clearly see my pulse pounding at the foot of my neck.
I let James know there was something wrong, sat down and tried to relax. I've had palpitations before, but only when I've had caffiene. This was more like the "spells" my mom has in which an activity can cause her heart to flutter because she has a sticky valve. (Don't know the medical name for it.)
After a half hour, it was evident this wasn't going away by itself. James got me some clothes and we drove down to Wellstar, which is the closest emergency room. Once they found out my heart rate was 190, they whisked me in the back and attached me to a monitor machine, gave me an IV saline drip, eventually smacked a nitroglycerin patch on my arm (to slow my heart rate), and generally fussed about. While I was frightened I was by no means out of it and it occurred to me with only slight amusement that I felt like I was in an episode of Emergency.
We had gotten there at 8:30 and by midnight they'd gotten my heart down to about 115-120. We sat and watched the TV that was in the room (saw most of Pleasantville) and talked to each of the doctors, nurses, and technicians who wandered in. I couldn't have been in that bad a shape because they did unhitch me several times to wander to the bathroom on my own.
They also contacted Kaiser Permanente, who said I needed to be moved to "their" hospital, Northside.
So about 2 a.m. or thereabouts I wended my way across town in an ambulance. The attendants were very nice and the male member of the team took vitals and kept me calm while we made the trip. James followed, with a short side trip to take poor Willow out for a last walk and bring Bandit upstairs to bed.
So we were ensconced at Northside at about 3 a.m. Between the bouts of being monitored and questioned, we tried to sleep, but James had only two hard chairs and I gave him my pillow, trying to rest on a folded up sheet instead. Heck, I had the bed and it wasn't very comfortable anyhow. Our 12-year-old Sealy Posturepedic is more firm than this mattress was. My back was aching in minutes and I never could lie flat more than a half hour at the time, a bit of a pain since I had an IV shunt in either one arm or the other the entire time and couldn't lie on that side.
Of course the first fear was that I had had some type of heart attack. Over the course of Monday and Tuesday I had several tests, including many blood tests, a stress test, an echocardiogram, and a sonogram on my legs (checking for blood clots). I was supposed to have a CT scan with a dye, but I'm embarrassed to admit my claustrophobia emerged full blown and I ended up hysterically crying and curled up into a fetal position during the "test run" the tech did before inserting the dye. They tried another type of test, but I found I could not even clamp my nose shut and breathe in through a mask without having some type of panic attack.
Since all the other tests turned out normal, including a specific cardiac blood test, save for one cardiac enzyme that was "off," the cardiologist and the doctor decided I did not need the CT scan. The enzyme might just as well be "off" because my heart had been beating at such a rapid rate for some hours. I was still pretty funked about it. I managed through a CT scan some years back, albeit without the dye, and thought I could do it again.
The doctors and nurses at both places were quite nice, although it was a bit much to be woken at 5:45 a.m. just to check my weight (blood pressure I could understand--but my weight?; did they think it had run off somewhere in the night?). (I also want to know why modern blood pressure cuffs are so darn tight! My upper arms are sore!) At Northside, Monday's day nurse found James a chair that unfolded into a bed, which he gratefully used Monday night, as he had to be at work Tuesday to get the monthly ad out. She also calmed me down both times after both panic attacks. Tuesday's day nurse explained all the medications to me and even found me a regular dinner (no one ever changed my dinner order after I had all the tests, so I was on a clear liquid diet both days; consomme has never tasted so good!) right before I was released that evening. We also talked about books while I was waiting for James to come pick me up. (They have "how are we doing?" cards you can fill out when you leave and I put good words in for both of them.)
In the meantime between tests I watched TV (thank God, they have cable now; I could watch HGTV, which is like comfort food to me, and episodes of M*A*S*H on fX) and read the St. Nicholas bound volume James had brought with him when he stopped at home.
The doctor's verdict was that either it has something to do with incipient menopause (I have been having hot flashes lately) or it may be severe acid reflux disease (a good possibility since lately Tums is my friend). She also indicated there might be stress factors that she didn't know about that could have contributed to it. The cardiologist gave me a beta blocker just in case--I also had two doses of blood thinner at the hospital--and I also have something for acid reflux. I'll see my doctor on Monday and probably have more tests. The doctor thought the beta blocker dose the cardiologist prescribed was too high for me and told me to keep an eye on my pulse. It does make me a bit woozy.
I was also told my blood pressure is too low and, while the dietician didn't want me attacking any salt licks :-), she didn't want me to take any low-salt precautions, either. I'm free to eat salty things and not have to worry about it. I've always said salt, not sugar, wakes me up; turns out I was right!
I also need--and this I've known--to lose weight. I'll ask on Monday when I can start using the exercise bike again, and James and I have been talking about taking Willow over to the National Park nearby for walks as we are both horrendously out of shape. I'll continue using the stairs at work (and not just because the elevator scares the bejeebers out of me) as well.
Sigh. End-of-fiscal-year has always strung me out, but this wasn't exactly how I wanted to escape it. A nice job editing manuscripts and/or typing them, or doing web page work was more what I was thinking of.
Anyway, we got home and Willow danced around my legs and Bandit gave me a blank look until he realized it was "really, really" me. We did have a cute happening that night: it began to thunder, something Wil is really sensitive to lately. When we went up to bed it was still rumbling and poor Willow sat at the foot of the stairs howling like a small wolf. Several times she sounded like she was trying to talk!
It thundered all through the night and when the alarm rang this morning, I was conscious that she was in the room. James said she'd been upstairs all night. He'd gotten up to use the bathroom, heard a jingle from the spare room, and found Willow curled up tightly on the futon next to the bird cage! I guess she figured if she couldn't be with "Daddy" she could at least keep company with "Brother." He said he didn't have the heart to send her away. :-)
So I get up every so often and walk about, am trying to "eat lightly" and with salt, have talked to my mom and taken Bandit to see the pretty bird in the mirror. It's what I'd started to do Sunday night, after all...
» Thursday, September 12, 2002
Oh, well. This week's Word of the Week on the local elementary school (see previous) is at least one word.
Of course it's also misspelled...
» Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Of all the little tributes and memorials I saw today, it was Bill Holbrook's Kevin and Kell that made me cry.
I couldn't find a local FM station (AM won't come in our building) that was broadcasting the New York ceremony, so I cast about on the web for a live feed. I found WABC, but grew increasingly grumpy as the announcers talked over the beginning of the event. When they broke into talk about their memories over Gov. Pataki's reading of the Gettysburg Address, which I'd particularly wanted to hear, I gave up on them in disgust.
Ironically I ended up watching a very fuzzy--but intact--video feed of the event off WABC's television outlet. Listened to almost all the recitation of the names of the people lost in the buildings, but nature got insistent about the time they reached the V's. At this point the listing of the names and the few short words put in by family of some of the lost had been going on for 2 1/2 hours.
We did see a nice special last night on GPTV called Stranded Yanks, the story of the stranded passengers and crew of the diverted American planes that were welcomed so warmly in places like Gander, St. John's, and Vancouver. One Canadian woman actually drove 12 senior citizens home to Iowa from Vancouver.
But the evening ended on a sobering note as we watched the last hour of the NBC special airing. It traced the countdown to 9/11 in missed clues and then followed four different families who had waited for news of someone trapped in the Towers. Of the four, only one family had a happy ending; the most affecting story was from a woman who was on the phone with her husband through most of his ordeal trying to escape and trying to make it out to the roof, and finally hearing his voice fade with the effects of the smoke and then disappear as the building collapsed.
» Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Late Update: Dragoncon, Day 4
Something odd happened over the weekend, which I'm wondering had anything to do why I'm home today feeling as if I'm about to cough a lung up.
Friday night on the way home we stopped at the QT gas station on Austell Road for a Marietta Daily Journal (they'd done an article in which ARTC was featured). The moment we stopped there, my nose swelled up and I sneezed.
It went away when we got home, but I awoke on Saturday with a sore throat. This happens often due to my allergy because of a stuffy nose. Once I had a drink and breakfast the soreness vanished. This also happened Sunday morning.
We were leaving Sunday night and I was thinking to myself how good I'd felt over the weekend. Three days away from the stuffiness and fluorescent lights at work had worked wonders. I felt lively and had energy and was quite happy.
We stopped at the QT on the way home for a Sunday paper and once again the odd stuffiness and sneezing began. There must be something in the area, we thought, that I was allegic to. And boy did it do a number on me this time! I sniffled throughout the night and didn't sleep well. I was still stuffy when we set out for our last day at the convention. It still appeared to be my allergy as, when we drove past the QT, I began to sneeze again.
We spent an enjoyable morning watch the Babylon 5 reunion panel. Both Julie Caitlin Brown and David Allan Brooks came in late due to having a great time at the previous night's Jefferson Starship concert. As on a previous B5 panel, the cast was in rare form egging each other on.
I was feeling a bit worn out, but still attended the Doctor Who panel about the future of the series. They had a small trivia test and I received a season nine Who booklet for answering correctly the question "What is Ace's real name?" (Dorothy.)
James went on for another stroll of the Dealer's Room, but I decided just to stay behind and listen to the Harry Potter Books v. Movie panel. This was lively as one panelist was definitely not a fan of Chris Columbus, the director of the movie. James, sweet thing, came back with a watermelon cup for me.
Our last panel was the Blake's 7 one I had been wanting to see, as B7 is generally ignored at recent conventions. It was, sadly, sparsely attended, but it was a Monday afternoon. Many people had already left the convention.
Unfortunately by the time we got back upstairs registration had already closed, so we couldn't buy memberships for next year.
It was very obvious by now this was more than an allergy problem, so James and I went home so I could nurse whatever it was. It turned out I had a low-grade fever as well, and the stuffiness progressed and a cough appeared as the night went on. I didn't fall asleep until about 4 a.m. this morning. Despite aspirin and copious glasses of water, I am still coughing and stuffy. I've been coughing so hard, in fact, my ribs hurt.
What a disappointing way to end a great weekend!
» Sunday, September 01, 2002
Dragoncon, Day 3
Since the panel we had wanted to see at ten had been cancelled, we took somewhat of our time going in this morning. We headed to the Dealer's Room first, where the zine distributor let me trade in the duplicate for two smaller zines (Shadow Chasers, if you're interested, a very short-lived series that I only saw one or two episodes of, but I have grown to love the fanfiction). James also bought a book on rocketry and technology in the media.
Next we went to Peter David's Star Trek panel. We talked a little about Trek, but the bulk of the panel was his usual reading: this was not from one of his Trek novels, but from a book due out next summer, a sequel to his recently republished Knight Life.
I'd left my PDA in the truck, so we made a fast detour to the garage before returning to the dealer area. James bought some Sluggy Freelance books and I bought a critique of the Blake's 7 series and episodes.
Here we parted for a while: James went to a spacecraft talk and I went to a panel that was ostensibly about guest stars on Star Trek: the Next Generation, but kept wavering toward Babylon 5 since four of the five panel members (Andreas Katsulas, Julia Nickson, Julie Caitlin Brown, Lisa Wilcox, and Carel Strueyken) had been guest stars or regulars on that series. Julie took the lead in the panel and it was quite funny.
We then staked out places for the new MRAP stage comedy/musical, Welcome Back, Potter. Yes, Harry returns to Hogwarts to teach (and Snape still hates his guts) and his students are misfit imports from America--the "Warthogs," Barbarino, Horshack, and Epstein, the two Halliwell sisters Phoebe and Piper, their long-lost sister "Hotzie" Totzi, and Tabitha Stevens. Cordelia Chase and the Doctor somehow also made their way into this hilarious concoction, which featured songs based on music from Grease, Damn Yankees, and Cinderella, among others. (The capper was "Let's Go to Hogwarts Again.")
We kept our seats and munched our snacks through the interviening hour and a half (I'll skip the small altercation with security) so we'd have a good view for ARTC's two pre-masquerade performances, the 50s space opera spoof Rory Rammer, Space Marshal, and the infamous Special Order, a.k.a. "The Bookstore Play," about a mysterious and imposing customer who attempts to order The Necronomicon (the real one) from a bookstore and what happens when the volume actually shows up. Fiona Leonard's performance and the climactic scene usually leaves us with lumps in our throats.
We stood and chatted around the ARTC table, which was one of the nicest parts of the day. for another hour before heading home.