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Saturday, October 31, 2009

A nightmarish week

My computer crashed last Sunday. I was trying to install the new Windows 7. But it got caught in an endless loop of rebooting. I couldn't even get a desktop. I spent the entire day Monday trying to get the issue settled with the help of someone from Microsoft spending four hours on the phone with me. The problem was that she didn't speak any known language. And the closest she came to English was repeating back to me the things I told her I tried, telling me that those were the things I needed to do. Finally she said she would have to put me on hold for ten minutes, would that be okay? I was tired of yelling at her that what she was asking me to do I had done already multiple times, both on my own and when she told me to do them, so I said yes put me on hold. She said she had to look for something . I hoped it was a translator. After five minutes, the phone disconnected. I supposed she had found what she was looking for and had no more reason to talk with me. Anyway, I didn't call back. I just spent the rest of the day doing those same things over again.

Then on Tuesday I got on my laptop and sent out emails to all my clients who had sent me stuff that I was supposed to be working on but which was locked as email attachments inside my failed office computer. Sometime close to noon a Microsoft guy supposedly in Cincinnati called me, said he knew about my problem (scary, no?), and he could help me solve it. After going back over what the problem was, he said the installation had failed and the computer was being tugged at by two operating systems, neither one of which could get control of it. "Oh," I said, "you speak English."

The man then asked if there were any important files on my computer. I asked him to repeat the question, and after I told him yes, he told me I needed to start Windows from the installation disk and do a "custom install."

I told him when I tried that before I got a warning saying it would wipe out everything on my computer -- all my writing, all my contracts, all my client lists, all my billing records and tax files. "Is that my only option?"

"Yes it is," he said. "But it won't wipe out your files. You'll just have to reinstall all your programs."

"All of them? It will take all of them?"

"Yes. But you just have to put the disks back in and reinstall them."

I didn't see any point in telling them that at least half of all the thousands of programs on my computer were downloaded, I had no disks for them, and I had no idea where the product keys for most of them were. Probably in a series of email archives. What would be the point? This was my only option.

So he talked me through the steps of getting the installation going. Once it was running, he said it would take a while and would it be all right for him to call me back in 45 minutes?

What the hell. "Sure," I said. "That will be fine."

The installation program crashed once. But I restarted it, and just as the second run was finishing up, the man in Cincinnati called me back and asked about the status.

When the computer was running and I had a desktop, he asked if he could take control of my computer and show me where my files were. "Okay," I said. But when he tried to locate them, they weren't in the folder where they were supposed to be. He did a search on a file extension and couldn't find anything. Then he asked for the name of a file. I gave him one and he searched for it. Then he found it, found the location of the folder it was in and added it to my "library." He then released control of my computer and said, "So now you see where they are?"

It's too late to make a long story short. But I can make it less long than it would be. I didn't see where they were, but I said yes, thanked him, and spent the rest of Tuesday reinstalling some programs and searching for my files. I got Outlook working, but couldn't find my email files to pull into it. I did find a folder that had program files in it. Some of them worked and some of them didn't. I went to bed that night thinking I was never going to work again.

Wednesday I kept looking for files. I started to figure out where they were. Still didn't have my email. Couldn't make my FileMaker database work. But I did feel I was making some progress.

Thursday I kept stabbing at the computer but also managed to get some of the work done that was scheduled for this past week. And by the end of the day Friday, I had managed to restore my database program, complete this past week's assignments, and even find my email files.

Now it's Halloween, but I'm not scared.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Ecstacy of Morricone

How can you not love it when this man makes music?

And if you've not seen Once Upon a Time in the West, it should be on your bucket list.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some of us would never get where we're going.

I got the link to this video from High Desert Diva's blog, which if you don't know, you should definitely check out. Why don't we have more initiatives like this?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day Personal Effort Climate Change.

Today is blog action day, and the topic this year is climate change.

I don't really have a lot to say about climate change that others who know a lot more than I do won't say better. But I can talk about some personal changes that have occurred over the past couple of years.

About a year ago, I was attending an adult discussion group at a UU church I was considering joining. The congregation was in the process of launching a major initiative to take themselves as much "off the grid" as possible. And nearly everyone in the discussion group was avid about being green. They were recyclers, solar power enthusiasts, hybrid car owners, and apostles for change. I found it a little disconcerting. I felt woefully under informed and under committed. Plus, I wasn't convinced, despite Al Gore, that climate change was an issue that was going to garner commitment from the mainstream, despite the group's insistence that the times they are a changin'.

One year later, I don't know much more. I don't know what my carbon footprint is, though I know what that means. I was convinced back then that climate change was important and ruining the environment. But I didn't really think I could make much difference. But something clicked and I started making little changes. Here are some of the things I've done:

  • I changed nearly all the bulbs in the house to energy saving fluorescent bulbs. I don't mind it takes a few seconds for the light to get bright when I turn them on.
  • I print out a lot of paper when I do my job. When I edit, even when I edit Web content, I need to print it out to do the final edit in hard copy. I still print it out, but instead of throwing the paper out, I turn it over and put it back in the printer to print the next file on the back.
  • When both sides are printed, the paper now goes into a brown paper bag (unless there is confidential information on it) that gets set out to be recycled on recycle day.
  • As often as I can, I empty my shredder into a brown recycle bag that I put out on the curb for recycling.
  • I found Greenoffice.com that sells recycled materials where I now buy as much of my office supplies as I can.
  • I put plastic jars and cans that have grungy stuff in them that I can't rinse out into the dishwasher so I can put them in the recycle bin when they come out.

Those are some of the things I do. There is more, but the point is even a little bit can make a difference, especially if that little bit makes me more aware of what more I can do. Each one of us needs to look at what we do, and then do what we can to make a difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Observances, part 2

"Domestic violence touches the lives of Americans of all ages, leaving a devastating impact on women, men, and children of every background and circumstance. A family's home becomes a place of fear, hopelessness, and desperation when a woman is battered by her partner, a child witnesses the abuse of a loved one, or a senior is victimized by family members."
"During this month, we rededicate ourselves to breaking the cycle of violence. By providing young people with education about healthy relationships, and by changing attitudes that support violence, we recognize that domestic violence can be prevented. We must build the capacity of our Nation's victim service providers to reach and serve those in need. We urge community leaders to raise awareness and bring attention to this quiet crisis. And across America, we
encourage victims and their families to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Together, we must ensure that, in America, no victim of domestic violence ever struggles alone."
(Presidential Proclamation September 30, 2009)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Nearly one in every four women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. Three women are killed by a current or former intimate partner each day in America, on average.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Fact Sheet
The National Network to End Domestic Violence

Please, if you are in an abusive situation, tell someone and ask for help. And if you know someone who is being abused, don't remain silent. Reach out and help. In the United States call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or TTY (800) 787-3224.

Internationally, The Broken Spirits Network maintains a database with contact information for organizations around the world that can intervene, provide support, and help stop cycles of abuse. You can find the directory here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October Observances

Two important observances this month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Be sure you check out Rachael Chatoor's "Standing All the Way" on her Blog.

October is also Health Literacy Month. All month long there are events going on around the world to bring attention to the importance of and advocate for understandable health information. Find out how important clear health information is to individuals and learn what people and organizations are doing to ensure that people get the kind of healthcare and health communications they need here.

Effective health communication is a two-way process.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My first acrylic on canvass or why I like to paint

As a preteen and adolescent, I drew and painted pictures with chalk and with pastel. As an adult I've painted with watercolors and used charcoal and pencil. A couple months ago, S and I took a one night "class" on painting with acrylics. It was really more of a social night out. Everyone in class followed the teacher's instructions and painted the same picture. We had stuffed mushrooms and martinis and wine and cookies and cake. At the end of the evening, the teacher took our photos with our pictures and put us on her mailing list for future such events. It was fun and totally relaxing. But I didn't get anything I wanted to call my painting out of it.

I had been thinking about painting with acrylics for some time. Not because I'm a visual artist. I'm not. My father was, but I didn't inherit that particular gene. I'd been thinking about it because I enjoy painting, and when I was working regularly with watercolors, it gave me a way to relax and forget whatever was stressing me. I wanted to try acrylics because the stuff I'd read about working with them sounded interesting.

My father had used them, but that's because he used everything, even some media he invented himself. When he painted, though, he generally preferred oils.

The one night class, at least, gave me some basics about handling acrylics and how to start working with them. So when we went to California this past summer, S bought me a basic set of acrylics and a few canvasses for my birthday. I thought about using them there, but didn't. When I got home, though, I selected a few photos I'd taken to use as subjects while I learned about the medium.

OK, drum roll, please.......................................................

I call it Path at Pine Cove, Twilight. I'm probably not going to frame it and hang it, but I'm not unhappy with it.

Since the photo I painted from is a twilight shot, the foreground is supposed to be dark. But the flash on the camera washed out the color. So I tried to take the picture without the flash and got (another drum roll please ).......................

If you look at the photo on the easel above the picture, you'll see this is actually the way I envisioned the picture turning out -- wonderful what digital photography will do to your work, but it isn't an accurate representation of what I'd done. So I took another photo. This time I got (you know, drum roll)............................

....the picture I wish I had painted!


I like to paint because I'm not a painter. There is no pressure. I don't have to be good. If I'm going to get something out of it I need to try to be good. But there's nobody standing over me saying I should do this and not do that.

My father would do that when I was a teenager and later when I'd show him some of the drawings I'd done as an adult. But that's what fathers do.

And there's no gate keeper judging me in terms of whether I get paid or whether anybody else gets to see my work or even whether I'll get more work from them. So there's none of the pressure I feel -- regardless of how much I like my work -- as a professional or a poet. When I paint, it's my time for me. It relaxes me, and that's good for my blood pressure and my soul.

Just me, thinking about what I see.

But something more happened with this painting. Something I hadn't expected.

When I work with watercolor, I do a painting, sometimes two paintings, in an evening--most of which paintings I don't keep. But it took me weeks to do this first acrylic. That's partly because I wasn't sure all the time what to do next and partly because of time. It was also partly because I wanted to think about what I was doing and about the mistakes I made so I could learn from this experience.

My "studio" is set up in a section of my office, which occupies the entire third floor of our house. The table where the easel sits is about fifteen feet away from my desk. The whole time I was painting the picture, the canvass stayed where, as I worked during the day, I could simply turn and look at it any time I wanted. I also saw it whether I wanted to or not whenever I'd get up from the desk or simply turn in my chair to think about the next paragraph or prospecting letter.

Every time I saw the picture, I saw something different. The mistakes I made, I would stare at for days. I was clueless how to fix them. But when I would figure it out, just by looking at the painting so often I would wonder whether I could mix the colors again so that the correction would fit with what's there. Then, I would simply look at the painting and know what to do. Sometimes I'd get up from my desk right then and spend maybe 10 minutes painting, clean up, and go back to my desk and back to work.

A couple of days ago, I figured out how to do a key part of the picture I was having trouble with. At dinner that evening, I asked S if she wanted to see what I was doing. When she said yes, I went up and brought the painting down. I was excited and started explaining what I'd done that day but soon began chronicling the entire process I'd gone through. I'd point to something in the picture and talk about how I did it or about a mistake I'd made and what I'd done to fix it or how the mistake had actually worked out better than what I had intended to do. And I'd explain what I had learned from that and what I would try to do with the next picture.

As I explained these things I realized something. I was looking at the picture the way my father looked at pictures -- his own and his students. I was solving problems in one of two ways. I was either calling on the advice and critiques he had given me over the years, or I was solving them with what I remember seeing him do or hearing him talk about doing while I watched him paint.

Sure. My painting is for me, and I'm learning about painting and about seeing. But a big part of why I like it is I'm also learning about my father's painting.