Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Technology Panic Attack

As much as I think that I’ve kept my computer use and online life in perspective, I am still amazed at how helpless I feel when, for whatever reasons, the technology doesn’t work.

Case in point. My two-year-old laptop started acting flakey during the middle of the summer. Quite frequently, the operating system wouldn’t boot up, which required my forcefully shutting the computer down by pressing the power button. Sometimes I needed to apply pressure with my index finger for a few seconds. I always managed to get it working again, usually by starting it up in ‘safe mode’ and then restoring the system to an earlier point in time. One day a few weeks ago, I discovered that this roundabout approach didn’t work for me anymore. Every option I tried led me to a same result, a cycling through the same series of three troubleshooting screens. With three other computers in the house – a desktop, JoAnna’s laptop, and a netbook – I decided I could hold off on taking it into Madison Computer Works, a business that I’ve visited more than I would have cared to during the past few years.

Fortunately, I always make a point to back up my files. In fact, I keep most of them in three locations: laptop, desktop, and flash drive. A lot of my letters and journals are stored on multiple flash drives.

While printing a copy of last week’s letter earlier today, I experienced a paper jam, one that I had to fix by removing a panel at the back of the computer. It’s an awkward procedure due to the congested area when the printer sits. I must have done something to make it unhappy as it refused to accept, or even acknowledge, any printing jobs that I subsequently sent its way.

I felt a bubble of panic and fear form in my chest.

This can’t be happening, I said to myself, as I imagined the various ways this malfunction was going to impact my life.

But it was happening. When I clicked on the “Devices and Printers” button, I discovered that the both the ‘PAUL-PC’ and ‘HP Photosmart C4380 series” icons (shown below) sported a warning sign – literally.

The computer froze during the troubleshooting process, and the only way I could shut it down was to unplug the power cord. Then, to my horror, the desktop started to act in the same manner as my laptop did during its final death scene.

This program can not fix the problem, a message on the screen taunted.

Not. Happy. At. All.

In desperation, I turned off the power strip for a few seconds. When I attempted to boot up the computer again, my online life magically returned to normal. The little yellow triangles had disappeared, and the printer now works just fine.

Brought back from the brink.

Actually, it got worse before it got better. I attempted to set up JoAnna’s laptop to the printer and started to go down the same path as I did with my laptop and the desktop. I was ready to be committed….or take up residence in one of the Middleton Public Library’s study room. (I think the problem with JoAnna’s laptop had everything to do with her battery being 1% charged. Even with the power cord plugged in, it wouldn’t respond.

Even though everything is back to normal, I still feel some tightness in my chest. But a bike ride will take care of that.

The Domino Effect in Mattress Advertising

I have to admit this relatively unobtrusive ad is rather clever.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Notes from the Two Weeks After Andy's Birth

Random thoughts I jotted down into a pocket-size notebook.

Friday, September 18, 1987.
After a hearty breakfast at Arneson's (ham and cheese omelet, American fries), I drive to the hospital. JoAnna and Andy have been given the OK to leave. While Jo takes a sitz bath, Dr. Ellis inspects Andy. He's a bit on the yellow side, the doctor comments. You might want to bring him to the office tomorrow for a bilirubin test.

Not a peep from Andy on the drive home. I keep wanting to look over my shoulder to make he is comfortable. The way his head is hanging, he looks extremely uncomfortable.

Jo and I spend most of the afternoon playing with Andy, watching him sleep, letting the wonder of it all make us feel like the most special 3some in the world.

I decide to attend System Celebration at the Heritage House, glance at my watch while I'm there, eager to dash to the car and motor home in the fastest time possible.

Alice, Cindy, and Gale are visiting us on Andy's first night home. Andy is fine until 3:30, then stays up for the rest of the night. Jo is exhausted, not having gone to bed until midnight, so I keep Andy company until a 7 a.m. feeding. Sometimes he's very quiet and stares at me contently. I am able to read him all but the last page of a story. When Jo takes over, I crash until 10:30.

Saturday, September 19.
A more structured day. Andy is kept on a regular schedule. He's so well-behaved, such an angel. I call the doctor's answering service during the afternoon to follow up on Dr. Ellis's concern about jaundice. A Dr. Meyer returns my call, says there isn't much that can be done today since the clinic closed at noon. All we can do is monitor Andy's skin color.

Paul arrives for a brief (24-hour) visit and gets to see his new "nephew".

On his second night at home, Andy wakes up for his middle-of-the-night feeding, then promptly returns to sleep and wakes up again when we are ready to get up.

Sunday, September 20.
Basically a repeat of Andy's angelic behavior on Saturday. During the afternoon, while watching TV, I put Andy on my chest and let him fall asleep.

Andy appears to break into a smile when I stroke his chin, the sides of his mouth.

After an 8 o'clock feeding and playtime, Andy gets a little cranky, takes awhile to settle down. I check Spock's advice; he reminds me that swaddling Andy should help him fall asleep.

Monday, September 21.
Andy's first trip to the pediatrician's office. Naturally, he cries after the nurse pricks his heel but settles down immediately afterward.

My staff is amused when I describe Andy's efforts at a smile. "It's probably just gas," says Sheila. Actually, some of his smile-like facial contortions have been isolated, not part of a series of contortions.

Jo calls just before 1. Andy's bilirubin count is up slightly but not seriously. We'll need to go in again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22.
Andy proves to be a bit more restless after his middle-of-the-night feeding. When I first put him back in the bassinet, he quickly complains. I cradle him for another half hour, until he is sound asleep enough to be returned to his bed undisturbed.

Don't get up til 8:15. Andy awakes at 3:00 and 6:00. The first time I stay up for an hour with him. The second time we snuggle in bed with Mom.

Sunday, September 27.
Both afternoons – Saturday and Sunday – Andy is especially cranky. He cries and nothing will keep him quiet. On Saturday afternoon, I ride my bike on a meandering route that circumferences Lake Mendota so I miss the worst of it. All of it, actually. Andy falls asleep as soon as I return. Early Sunday afternoon we take Andy shopping to Kohl's and Shopko. I consider this family outing to be a mistake. Andy starts to get cranky shortly after we enter Shopko. I return with him to the car while Jo finishes the shopping. After an extended period of fussing, I lean back on the couch in the family room, cradling Andy to my chest, his head resting on my left shoulder. He falls asleep within 15 minutes.

Monday, September 28.
Andy sleeps until 8. For awhile I thought that I might not get to hold him before leaving for work. He continues to be an angel at night. Once he's fed and his diaper is changed, he's quickly back asleep.

Tuesday, September 29.
Andy has his first physical since leaving the hospital. I was surprised to learn that even though he weighed 9 lbs. 12 oz. at birth, his weight dropped to 9-4 when he was discharged. He has only gained an ounce since then. Nothing to worry about. He's such a big healthy baby anyway. Otherwise, Jo reports that Andy behaved well at his exam. Even though he was stripped down to his diapers, he hardly cried at all.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Free Haircut in Middleton

I swear this guy looks familiar.

Another surprise visit from Eddie. He stopped by the house just as I was getting ready to run a few errands – groceries for supper, primarily. (I’d grown tired of leftover turkey loaf and beef stew, the entrees I prepared for JoAnna and me on Monday and Tuesday.)

“What brings you home?” I asked, pleased to have him interrupt my solitary day.

“Haircut,” he said, pointing to his head.

I thought he looked a few weeks away from one, but Eddie does like to keep his hair cropped short.

“Where are the clippers?” he asked.

“In the cabinet above the dryer,” I said.

When he packed to move into his dorm two weeks ago, I suggested that he bring them along, but he chose to leave them at home.

He also grabbed a chair and placed it on the driveway just beyond the open garage door. I rounded up an extension cord.

“Which attached should I use?” I asked.

“Didn’t you use the ‘4’ last time?”

“I thought it was the ‘5’. You don’t want to look like your junior year picture.”

During a football camp that kicked off the practice schedule, Eddie volunteered, or so he has always claimed, to have his hair cut Mohawk-style. He didn’t like the results and ended up with a shaved head.

He insisted on the ‘4’ attachment, so I went to work. As I glided the clippers around the contours of his head, I was surprised by how much hair fell to the driveway. Eddie’s thick mane is courtesy of the Richard side of the family. Andy was blessed (cursed?) with the thin, wispy, and oftentimes disappearing Nelson hair.

Once I’d finished the haircut to Eddie’s precise specifications – he’s particularly fussy about the stray hairs along the back of his neck – he inspected the refrigerator and heated up a bowl of beef stew.

“It’s good,” he commented, “but it could be a little bit thicker.”

I feigned indignation at this critique, but actually I had thought the same thing after the first spoonful.

At the end of his two-hour visit, I gave Eddie a ride back to his dorm, which is located in an area of the campus that has lot of open space, plus tennis courts and at least one set-up for sand volleyball. As it was a perfect September day, the area was alive with activity. It made me recall the excitement I always felt at the start of each of my years at Buffalo. And for a brief moment, I even wanted to go back in time. But then I’d have to live the last 40 years of my life all over again. I’m very happy being where I am!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Sectional Method of Housepainting

Our neighbor Dave crossed the street for a visit while I was priming the north (bedroom) side of the house earlier this afternoon.

“Painting the house a different color?” he asked.

“No, I just putting on a coat of primer right now,” I replied.

“Why are you doing that?” he returned.

Painting is Dave’s second job. From the sound of it, though, he hires himself out for mostly interior jobs. Nevertheless, his follow-up question made me feel as though I was going about things all wrong.

“That’s how I learned to do it from JoAnna’s dad,” I explained.

Until he was hired by the City of Two Rivers Public Works Department in the mid-1970s, Larry worked as a painter’s assistant on a regular basis. In fact, the same summer that he retired (1992), he and Alice spent a week in Middleton while JoAnna and the boys and I were on vacation so he could paint the house. I recall his insistence that a coat of primer was one of the key steps of the process. And I’ve followed suit every since.

I use a different method for scheduling this chore, however. I don’t have the time or inclination to give it my full attention, so I take a piecemeal approach – one small section at a time. I figure that the last time I painted the side of the house I worked on today was at least ten years ago. We had cable installed in Andy’s bedroom around the time he turned 13. If I had tackled this section of the house after the installation, the coaxial wire would have been painted to match the house color. Boy, it doesn’t seem that long, though. And since this area receives no direct sunlight, it’s held up quite well. (It is, unfortunately, very prone to mildew blooms.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dull Blades

Not so bad on second look.

I couldn’t put it off any longer; the grass was getting too long and shaggy. And so for the first time since mid-May, I pushed the lawnmower around the front and back yards. No sons around to delegate this chore to. I would have preferred to take a bike ride, but then the pangs of guilt would have limited my enjoyment of it.

I’m not particularly happy with the results. The mower’s blades need to be sharpened. The mower itself, a Sears Craftsman model which we purchased 8 or so years ago, has received minimal maintenance. The motor always starts like clockwork after a few presses of the primer bulb, even after the unit has sat in the shed all winter, and runs just fine. Now the question is: Do you tackle this sharpening chore myself (the instructions I found online are more complicated that I would have guessed) or take it into our neighborhood hardware store.

I used to do this when we had a manual push mower. It worked beautifully the first two times, but after that it became difficult to tell where it had made a cut. The boys absolutely hated using it – oh, did they complain about it! – and at the end of a second season of less-than-adequate service, I gave up on it. The spring sharpening didn’t seem to have made a bit of difference – probably because I purchased one of the cheapest models.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

'Can you spell relief?'

It's the same old song,
but with a different meaning since.....

...I now associate it with tires or deodorant or yogurt.

According to Advertising Age, original music for commercials is in (let's welcome back the 'jingle') and licensing pop tunes is out.