DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

Trio No. 3 – Today you can write about anything, in whatever genre or form, but your post must mention a dark night, your fridge, and tears (of joy or sadness; your call).


It was a dark and stormy night when the power went out. I knew the first windstorm would knock down the line. Why can’t Mass Electric take care of business before it becomes an emergency.

Stormy Skies - By Marilyn Armstrong

I stood with my head leaning on the refrigerator. The big, metal box was silent. Not a hum or a vibration came from his hulking presence. No little happy tune this night. The only sounds I could hear were the howls of the first winter storm of the year.

storm coming

There was nothing I could do but continue to stand there. Lurking, occasionally emitting a soft, gurgling moan. Poor refrigerator. There he stands, messy — covered with magnets, the messages and events of a household on his metal hull while he waits, as do we all, for the power to return. Waiting and worrying. How long would this outage last? If I call the power company, they would lie to me or tell me they “were working one it” and they would “let me know” when it was fixed. Don’t they think I would notice when the power turns on?: Like when all the lights come back? Not to mention the computers, the heat, and the water pump?

I, with tears of sadness and frustration trailing down my cheeks, knowing all my food is in that fridge … and the electric company is holding it for ransom.

Was my silent fridge crying too? Only the shadow knows and he’s not talking.

february snow 05

THE AMBIVALENCE OF A NEW COMPUTER

side view alienware closeup computer

We all want cool toys. The latest (hugest) iPhone. The hot sports car. We want all of it. Now, please. For this, the credit card was invented. I believe after the world ends and only cockroaches remain, Visa will still be sending threatening letters to cardholders.  The price tag is part of my ambivalence even though I was wild to get my paws on a computer so incredibly hot that it would virtually sear my fingertips. Most of the mixed emotions are because setting up a new computer is a total immersion experience into tasks simultaneously critical and intensely boring.

72-alien-102914_14 computer keyboard

It arrived yesterday. Packed in a beautifully designed box so nice it feels wrong to throw it away. So I haven’t. Yet. It’s on my dining table. Every time I go into the room, I am amazed at how gorgeous it is. That’s just the box.

I was caught short when it arrived. Dell had told me to expect it on or near November 4th. Although I know Dell typically delivers early, this was very early, beating their “expected delivery date” by two weeks. Not that I’m complaining. Just explaining I wasn’t ready to immerse myself in the experience known as “setting up a new computer.” It’s immersive because once you begin, you can’t stop until you are done.

alienware side view computer

Perhaps if you use your computer just a little, swapping to a new computers is a plug-and-play event. Not me. According to my last backup from a couple of days ago, I have 40,000 photographs and 3,000 documents. A lot of stuff. And that’s just data.

Applications needing installation included Photoshop. Lightroom. OpenOffice. Audible. Kindle. Chrome. All the other stuff I’m forgetting. I can’t skip any of it. Setup isn’t only installing. You can’t plunk an application onto the hard drive and you’re done. You have to configure it too. And let’s not forget configuring the computer itself. I have specific preferences for how my computers works. I want it to shut off when I close the lid. Not sleep or hibernate. Turn completely off. I want the power optimized for performance — no dimmed monitors. I want updates to self-install when the computer is not in use and then, only important updates.

I want everything to open with a single mouse click. I need on-screen text bigger than standard. I want the mouse marker thick enough to spot easily amidst text.

I also wanted to make my keyboard glow like a rainbow and the alien head glow green — because on this computer, I can.


alienware computer front full

It was late morning when the carton arrived with DELL splashed across it. My stomach gave a flutter.

Unready though I was, a shiver of excitement with an undercurrent of fear goaded me to action. It unpacked easily. I plugged it in. Turned it on. It went through its self-setup. This is Windows 7 Professional — I’ve never used it before. I’m not clear what the difference is from plain vanilla Windows 7. I’m counting on the computer to know what it needs and where to put it.

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It asks me to give my new baby a name. I call him “Alien.” What else?

alien specs

Seven hours later, it’s all done but the fine-tuning. I’ve transferred my data from the new external hard drive, programmed my rainbow keyboard (totally cool).

I’ve never had a computer that felt this good under my hands. Beautifully designed and solid. I am surprised how much I miss the larger screen of my 15.6 inch XPS. Alien is 14 inches. Not tiny, but not large. A good portable size and the monitor is remarkably crisp, clear, and non-reflective. I have a 23″ monitor in the other room, so I can always plunk my butt in my office chair and use the big high def monitor. Maybe I will, maybe not.

I have yet to install the printer and I need to make a variety of small adjustments to the computer and various applications. Mostly, it’s done. Including today, it has taken about 10 hours.

Was it worth it?

Alienware keyboard computer side

I love the way Alien feels. I love the keyboard, the graphics. I don’t understand why the hard drive is only 5400 RPS. My XPS is 7200, but that option wasn’t offered on any of the Alienware machines. Why not? So everything is supersonic — except HD read/write. Yes, I can tell the difference. The speakers on this computer are okay, but the ones on the XPS were great. A lot better. If I want better sound, I’ll have to use headphones or a clip-on speaker.

Nothing is perfect. Not the car of your dreams or my new computer, but it’s close. It is definitely what the doctor ordered for what I most need. It handles even the heaviest graphics without a hiccup.

Just to give you an example, while it was importing and sorting 36,000 photographs into Lightroom, the computer also installed 64 Microsoft updates. I turned down its offer to reboot after installing the updates because it was still finishing sorting all my photographs into a continuous timeline, something I’ve wanted to do but never had the strength of character to attempt.

Wow. Really. Wow.

MADAME ZTHULU, SOOTHSAYER, SUMS UP OCTOBER

In Retrospect - Yesterday you invented a new astrological sign. Today, write your own horoscope — for the past month (in other words, as if you’d written it October 1st).


As if yesterday were not bad enough, now you want me to write about this soon-to-be-over month as if it hadn’t happened yet — but like someone had the prescience to know what would happen. And write about it like a silly newspaper astrologer.

Well, the jokes on you because I used to be one of those silly newspaper astrologers. I quickly learned no matter what twaddle I wrote, someone always thought I’d nailed their life. A soothsayer can, it would seem, do no wrong. And really, this assignment is just a version of “What did you do on your vacation” turned backwards. Or sideways. Or something.

Hocus … … … POCUS! and WHOOSH. A puff of mist rises from the crystal ball. My eyes are wide, like saucers — small saucers like those that come with demi-tasse cups.

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Mist in the morning, Peachum, Vermont

“Madame Zthulu,” I cry, “what does this mean?”

“You will travel far and wide,” she croaks ominously. “But slowly, very slowly. You will see everything as you pass it. Your number is … ” And here she pauses and rummages in her sack to pull out a pack of cards with big numbers on them. I’m pretty sure I can see numbers on both side of the cards.

“Hey, aren’t those flash cards for learning multiplication tables … ?” I start to question her, but she cuts me off.

“HOW DARE YOU INTERRUPT MADAME ZTHULU,” she thunders. I crumble in the face of her wrath. Or is that wreath? She’s got a really nice wreath on the wall of the tent and I get up to look at it. I just love handicrafts.

“SIT!” she says, and points. “What was I saying?”

I sit. “You were going to tell me my number,” I say, humbly and quietly.

“WHAT?” She shouts. “Speak up. Don’t mumble child.” Child? She must be blind, not merely deaf.

“YOU WERE GOING TO TELL ME MY NUMBER,” I repeat.

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“Right you are,” she says and pulls a cards from the pack. “Your number is 28. You will travel either 28 miles — no that can’t be right — or maybe by route 28,” and she looks at me, apparently hoping for confirmation but I shake my head. Sounds like the wrong road, but I’m probably the wrong person to ask.

“Then,” she says, certainty returning to her tone, “You will travel at 28 miles per hour and do this for many hours, many days. But the scenery will be just gorgeous, really. You’re gonna love it.”

And she puts out her hand, palm up. International soothsayer-speak for “pay me,” and I do.

As I exit her tent, I realize it’s gotten terribly foggy . I’m completely lost. Again.

LIPS THAT TOUCH LIQUOR

Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States.

The separate (but closely related)  Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition, including the definition of “intoxicating liquor” — for anyone who needed an explanation.

VotedDry

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor. Or you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room — a barn door-sized hole — through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition who had never imbibed before. Whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive, and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

prohibition-6

Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created an entire criminal class based on rum running.

There are no fewer gay people because we make their lives difficult, any more than segregation made the world safe for stupid white people.

Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want? How is that better or more moral?

This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes a lot of pain and suffering. As often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before.

Throughout history, laws designed to force everyone to do what someone else deems “right” have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly failed. You’d think citizens and lawmakers alike would notice this recurring theme, but remarkably, we seem unable to connect the dots.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything at all, probably because no one is aware history is repeating itself. Many of our citizens apparently don’t know any history, so how could they?

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcoh...

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from being a minor group to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920.

No one has had a drink since!

The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, they are meaningless. They won’t understand what you mean, but a bit more confusion can’t hurt them. Saying it might make you feel better.