29 January 2011

Hardware Heck

So, OK, I'm sitting at my desk this morning, reading my e-mail or whatever, just minding my own business, and the display on my brand-new laptop begins to slowly fade to white. It then gradually darkens to a kind of streaky gray.

Now, I'm not a hardware person, but this is not looking good to me.

It's not really a brand-new laptop, truth be told. It's refurbished. You know – just as good as new, but a lot cheaper. The place I used to work always bought refurbished machines, and the IT guys at a software company should know, right? Since they're the ones who have to fix them if they break? I've had pretty good luck with refurbished computers in the past. Although, now that I think about it, I did have the motherboard replaced twice on my last one. But that was a long time ago. It's run without a hitch since, and Scarecrow has been using it since his (refurbished) machine died. And fortunately the IT guys where I used to work also recommended buying the 1-2 day on-site repair service, you know, just in case.

So, after a long troubleshooting session with a very nice man who spoke impeccable English in a call center in India that needs a little better acoustic insulation between cubicles, someone will be out Monday or Tuesday to fix it. And, in the course of troubleshooting, the nice man suggested connecting the laptop to an external monitor, which I wouldn't have thought to do. Apparently the problem is the display; the computer works fine. The monitor makes the laptop somewhat less portable, but it beats being without a computer until sometime next week.

Isn't it wonderful the way technology enhances our lives?

27 January 2011

St. Scarecrow

On the radio this morning I heard a piece about a guy who had an unfortunate encounter with an officer of the law. I wasn't really paying attention so I didn't catch the details. Apparently Bad Things Happened, and the guy got his head slammed into a concrete wall. He is now totally and permanently disabled.

I started listening when they talked about how his wife has to take care of him 24 hours a day. She has to feed him. She sleeps in the same room, because she has to wake up three times every night to turn him so he doesn't get bedsores. She's a saint, they said.

Fortunately the $10 million she gets from the lawsuit will make it possible for her to care for her husband for the rest of his life.

Unfortunately for Scarecrow, I did not have the foresight to acquire a disability that is somebody else's fault. He feeds me, he wakes up three times every night to turn me over, and he does a lot more besides; I will need this help for the rest of my life, and nobody is going to pay him $10 million to do it. Yet it appears he's willing to do it anyway.

He says I would do it for him if our roles were reversed, and while I like to think that's true, I'm not really sure I'm that good a person. He's just a good guy. I wouldn't say he's a saint. He doesn't believe in them anyway. But he's a really good guy.

So, in lieu of $10 million, I thought I should tell him that I love him and I appreciate everything he does for me. Since it seems kind of self-serving to tell him this while he was actually doing something for me, I wanted to wait for a time when he wasn't. The opportune moment, kind of thing. I had to wait a long time. I hadn't realized how much of his time he spends doing things for me.

The beginning of our care partnership was so gradual that I can't remember how it started. He just started helping me do things that were hard for me. Some tasks I did not want help with, no way, no how. (I can sometimes be a little stubborn that way.) He allowed me to struggle, and when I finally gave up and let him help, he never asked why it took me so long. The number of things I resisted assistance with were so few compared to the number of tasks that somehow Scarecrow assumed without my ever realizing it. When someone reads your mind so much of the time, how irritated can you get when they occasionally provide help you don't want?

As Scarecrow started helping with more and more of the things I used to do for myself, we evolved some very complicated procedures that I can't imagine anyone else ever figuring out, and even if they could, I can't imagine anyone but another ex-wrestler being able to perform. Even for $10 million.

I'm glad that woman and her husband were compensated for the injury that was done to him, but nobody's going to pay Scarecrow $10 million to take care of me. I guess he's OK with that.

19 January 2011

Good Enough

Sometimes I read something that just stops me in my tracks. It might be prose so perfect, so beautiful, it's like music. It might be an essay that is so insightful and elegant, so well-written, so much better than anything I could ever do even if I worked at it for a million years, which of course, being a lazy slime weasel, I wouldn't do, that I'm embarrassed to be caught trying.

After I read something really good, I am not inspired to write anything myself. Quite the opposite. It takes a while before I feel like howling again. I can't come up with anything good enough. I don't really have anything much to say, and I'm not that good at saying it. I can't offer knowledgeable comments on events of global import, or pithy observations on the human condition, or erudite analysis of, well, anything. I rarely have exciting events to recount, even setting the bar for 'exciting' pretty low. Nothing momentous or noteworthy. I'm tired of writing about MS (actually, I'm always tired of writing about MS and MS-related stuff; it is, however, a regrettably abundant source of topic material), the dogs haven't done anything despicable (another regrettably abundant source of topic material), and there's nothing much else going on. Just life.

But, you know, it's my life. And I can write about it better than anybody else.

It's good enough.

As usual, somebody else already said what I think I'm trying to say better than I could.

©1990 Joel Mabus
originally on the album Firelake

Sometimes I wish I had a better voice
to sing my song for you -
A voice so brilliant, rich and clear -
Soaring and gliding through the air,
Hanging the melody in your ear
The way good singers do.
But my voice cracks like a back porch chair,
Growls and groans like a big black bear,
Full of whispers, kinks and snares
And I sometimes miss the key -
But nobody sings my song like me.

(Joel Mabus is an amazing musician, singer, and songwriter from Michigan. If you ever get a chance to go hear him, do yourself a favor…)

10 January 2011

Well Now, That Wasn't so Bad, Was It?

Last Thursday night, Scarecrow went up to the high school to keep score at a wrestling tournament. And I stayed home.

It wasn't such a big deal, really. He wasn't gone that long. It was mostly an excuse to do what we've been meaning to do for years, but kept putting off. We had a home care person stay with me while he was gone.

Neither of us wanted to do this, but we need to have a backup plan in place in case anything ever happens to Scarecrow. Or, you know, he just needs a break. From me. Or whatever. So we'll have this agency send somebody to help out for a couple of hours every now and again, just so we've got somebody we can call if we ever need someone to take over for Scarecrow. For whatever reason.

So we did it. They sent a perfectly nice young woman who seemed willing to do whatever I asked of her. She fed the dogs. She reheated some leftovers, and fed them to me for dinner. She swept the dog hair and dust bunnies off of the floor, and, without being asked, took a damp mop to the kitchen tile, which was really pretty disgusting. That all took, I dunno, maybe a third of the time she was here. I'm just not very good at asking for help. I couldn't think of much for her to do.

No. That's not true. There was plenty to do. There was laundry. She could have trimmed my nails. I could have had her help me clear the detritus off the desk. There was plenty to do. I just felt bad about asking her to do it. Even though she was perfectly willing and cheerful, and that's why she was there, for pity's sake! Fortunately, I didn't need to go to the bathroom.

I'm telling myself I'll work up to it. This should be a real milestone, finally getting set up for home healthcare, but it doesn't feel like we're there yet. I need to learn to do this. I need to stop feeling like I should be entertaining the healthcare aide. We don't need to chat. I don't need companionship or conversation. I need to learn to ask for help with chores. I need to learn to let someone help me with those icky personal care things. I can do this.

There's another wrestling tournament next Tuesday. I'll need to be ready.

Who knew it would be this hard?

05 January 2011


I'm communicado again, more or less. That is, after having been pretty much in-communicado for the last couple of weeks. Having to choose between a keyboard (= voice recognition software) and a mouse (= head tracking software), and having to disable this before I could enable that, and applications crashing right and left, was making me kind of cranky.

Then Scarecrow's laptop died.

So I've got a machine that can't do what I need to do, and Scarecrow's got no computer at all. Tuffy's been using the laptop my former employer let me keep – that's how old it was – since her laptop was stolen, but it's running the wrong operating system. Before Tuffy took it over, I replaced the pathetic Windows Vista with Fedora, which I really like but Tuffy… ah… doesn't.

Everybody has their priorities. Some people expect to buy a new car every couple of years. I've never done that. I'm not a car person. For me, a car is just a way to get where I'm going. As long as it can manage that, I don't really care how old it is. Our four-year-old minivan still seems pretty new. We sold the car I used to drive, and since Tuffy doesn't drive, we're a one car family.

We don't have a travel budget and we don't eat out much. We don't have an entertainment center or a big-screen TV. No TV, no cable subscription or satellite dish, no game console.

We have our fiscally irresponsible hobbies. There are the dogs, for example. And we are a three computer family. At least.

So we bought a refurbished laptop, and we're playing musical computers. I'm shifting my stuff onto the new laptop, and Scarecrow and Tuffy are negotiating the allocation of the remaining two machines.

It will take me a while to figure out this new operating system, get everything installed and configured and what all. But I'm communicado again. More or less.

03 January 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to decide which I need more: a keyboard (that is, voice-recognition software), or a mouse (or the head tracker equivalent).

Not surprisingly, both voice-recognition and head tracker mouse software place considerable demands on processor resources; resources which my aging laptop does not possess in any abundance. The CPU, which was quite the ticket in its day, is just not up to the task. It was doing pretty much OK with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, as long as I was using a regular hardware mouse. However, replacing the regular mouse with head tracker mouse software, which is a total CPU hog, was just asking a little too much. They would both load, and run, but I couldn't... do... anything. If I opened a browser (Firefox) or an e-mail client (Thunderbird), they would crash. Same for my database and checkbook applications. Nothing spectacular, just...*poof*

By alternately disabling DNS or the head tracker I might be able to get through checking my e-m*poof*

Or not. Sending e-mail wa*poof*

I tried balancing my checkbook, but th*poof*

OK. I need both a keyboard AND a mouse, or their logical equivalents. I want both. And I need to have enough system resources left over to run applications without crashing.

Software is available these days that can do ever more magical things, if you've got the hardware to handle it. It's shallow of me, I know, but one of the things I miss about working for a software company was always having a computer that was fast enou*poof*

This is not a great time to buy a new com*poof*

Well cr*poof*