SHARING MY WORLD – NEW YEAR’S DAY 2017

Share Your World – 2016 Week 52


What’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?

Vanilla. I love the taste and smell of vanilla. Especially fresh vanilla. We also drink vanilla coffee in the morning.

If you were to treat yourself to the “finer things” what would you treat yourself to? 

I’d love to have some stuff done to upgrade the house and I would get someone in once a month to clean. But otherwise? Life is good. Of course, I’m always up for a new camera and lenses.

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Have you ever been drunk?

Is there anyone who has never been drunk? I am the world’s cheapest drunk. Half a glass of wine will put me under the table and a whole drink with real booze? Call 911 — you’ll need a gurney.

I have never been a big drinker. If I had been a social drinker, watching the havoc alcohol has wreaked among people I love would certainly have ended that. Most of the heavy drinkers in my world are either already dead — with booze being one of the reasons why they are no longer with us — or they have rehabbed, dried out, and gone on the wagon.

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Alcoholics Anonymous is a wonderful organization. It continues to quietly save lives without government support or big fundraising campaigns. If someone you know is drunk more than they are sober, try to get them help before they die of alcohol-related illness.

Complete this sentence: My favorite supposedly guilty pleasure is… 

Expensive equipment. I love computers and cameras. My taste exceeds my budget many times over. My best defense has always been to watch for sales … and buy good, used camera equipment. I may be a generation behind, but camera technology doesn’t change dramatically from model year to model year.

They are always coming out with some sexy new camera that I’d love to wrap my paws around, but I can’t do that. So I wait and I watch the market and when I see a bargain, I grab it.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m hankering for the next generation of the Olympus OM-D … or the new Olympus Pen F. When prices drop, I’ll be waiting.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I’m grateful the holidays are ending along with what has been a politically traumatic year. It hasn’t been an entirely bad year, otherwise. It started out in Arizona — which was great — and I managed to get through the entire year without major surgery, serious illness, or a single hospital incarceration. Getting older is a bummer, but the alternative is even less attractive.

I am hoping that 2017 will be better than I expect. I’m very unhappy with the way the world is going, so my fondest hope is that it won’t be as bad as I fear. With my expectations set very low, it would be difficult to disappointment me.

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DISCOVERING SOMETHING ELSE – SERENDIPITY IN ACTION

Being a cast member on a movie set wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. I wasn’t sure what to expect since my experience with working on a film was drawn entirely from the media. Even subtracting 95% of what I thought I knew to align with reality, I thought something should be happening. I guess it was, if you were one of the stars or co-stars. Or even had a talking role.

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But extras? Which is what I was, though these days the term “extras” is out of favor and “background performer” is in. Whatever you care to call us, we got shuttled from set to set, fed lavish buffet breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Everyone chowed down with extreme prejudice.

Otherwise, we waited. And waited. Then waited some more. While we waited, we had to be silent. Don’t annoy the stars. Don’t be in the way. Don’t go anywhere — including the bathroom — without permission. Permission was from one of the dozens of assistants, those attractive young people running around with headsets and clipboards.

It was confusing, tiring, and dull. You never knew if someone might decide you or your group were needed in a scene, but even if you were never in any scene — entirely possible — you had to act as if you were about to be “up” any moment. Your presence or absence was (apparently) life or death. On a movie set, it turns out everything is treated like life or death. It’s a Hollywood thing.

It was mid-November. Night in Lowell, Massachusetts.  I hadn’t worn enough layers and I was cold. My feet hurt. Not to mention my back. I needed to pee. I was bored.

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The director was on the 128th take. Before the night was done, he would exceed 250 takes of this scene. It was the turning point of the plot. It included every member of the cast except a bunch of us “background performers.” No matter. We still had to be there. Just in case.

I wondered how much money I was going to make, just standing around. I didn’t think it was going to be enough especially since it seemed unlikely this would be the night Hollywood discovered me. I wished I’d brought a book, though in the dark I wasn’t sure if I’d have been able to read. That was when I noticed the woman. She was standing just off to my right, leaning against a street light. It looked like she was reading, but whatever it was she was holding wasn’t a book. Something else. It had a light attached.

I sidled over.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“You’re reading? What’s that? I’ve never seen one.”

“It’s a Kindle.”

“OH,” I said, things clicking into place. “I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen one before.”

She looked up and smiled. “It’s wonderful. I don’t know how I lived without it. I can bring books with me everywhere, as many books as I want. See?” she said, and she began to show me all the cool stuff it could do. Like being able to bookmark passages, get definitions of words and phrases. And carry a whole library with her in just this little thing no bigger than a paperback.

I held it, turned it this way and that. “You know,” I said. “This might be exactly what I need.”

Certainly my bookcases at home were bursting at the seams. Anything that let me buy books without finding someplace to put them sounded like a really good deal. And this thing would let me take books everywhere without hauling a trunkful of paperback. It seemed a good idea. But the price was still too high for me and I wondered if I would like a book that didn’t smell like ink and paper. It was convenient, but it lacked ambiance.

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Nonetheless, that conversation stuck in my brain. Long after the movie — in which I did not appear, though I had one scene which was cut and left on the editing room floor — had faded into memory, I remembered the lady with the Kindle. When the new generation of Kindles was released and the prices dropped, I bought one.

Then I bought one for everyone in my family who reads books. And I bought another one that plays movies and audiobooks and checks email. Finally, I got an even newer one that does the same stuff, but better and faster. And bigger, lighter, and takes (and sends) pictures.

I can’t imagine life without my Kindle. I don’t want to. I’ve got hundreds of books, audiobooks, music, everything on it. It goes with me everywhere.

A week or two ago — don’t remember exactly when — I had to read a paperback. It was heavy. It was awkward. I couldn’t hold it in one hand. And where was the light?

This may sound like no big deal. Just another toy, one more electronic gadget. But it isn’t. It was a game changer. Finally, I could travel with a whole library of books. Audio and print. I would never again run out of reading material, no matter where I was in the world.

Kindle and iPad

I’ve gone through four or five iterations of the Kindle experience since. By now, all my friends have them. Many of us have several, in different sizes and styles. I can’t imagine reading without them.

And finally, after my most recent upgrade to the next to the latest version of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ super tablet, I gave my iPad to my granddaughter (hers was pretty beat up and mine has 64 gigs rather than 32, like hers). After I got the newest (for me, but there is an even newer version available and probably will be yet another generation shortly), I had no further interest in the iPad which had always annoyed me anyway.

So everyone is happy. Skyping and reading and listening and watching … all because I met a lady when I was briefly (very briefly) a movie extra in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Watson, the game is on!

FROM SLAVERY TO SPINNING: INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION IN THE BLACKSTONE VALLEY

AMERICA: BORN BANKRUPT


America was born bankrupt. We won the revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy was dependent on Great Britain. We had raw material, but it was Great Britain who turned those materials into goods for world markets.

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Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, British shipping, and British trade routes.

Everything has a price and we had no money. We had hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a less intransigent monarch on the throne at the time, we might have been able to do so. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” who were hellbent for battle, most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.

We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. Nor was the yearning to breathe free burning in every heart. What the colonists of North America wanted was simple. They wanted the rights of free Englishmen. We wanted seats in British Parliament. We wanted the right to vote on taxes and other policies that affected colonial life. A deal should have been reached, but George III was not a sensible, reasonable or judicious king.

The result was war, a staggering loss to England of their wealthiest colonies — and birth of the United States of America.

Winning the war was just short of a miracle. The colonies had little in the way of arms and no navy. We were sparsely populated. Existing militias were untrained, undisciplined, little better than rabble. That George Washington was able to turn this into an army was no mean feat. No wonder they wanted him to be the first President. And no wonder eight years of that terrible responsibility was more than enough for him.

French military support enabled us to beat the British. It was a loan, not a gift. We agreed to pay it back, so the French revolution was an unexpected and deeply gratifying development. It was like having the bank that holds your mortgage disappear taking your mortgage with it. It vastly improved our debt to income ratio. When Napoleon came to power and suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What debt?”

Our shipping industry was in its infancy. We had few ships or sailors, minimal access to world trade. The British ruled the seas and being soreheads, refused to share it with us. It would take many years before we could challenge their ascendancy on the seas.

WHAT DID WE HAVE?


Slaves and land. Sugar and rum.

If you who think slavery was an entirely southern institution, you’re wrong. Although slaves lived mostly in the southern colonies, they were brought to these shores by New England sea captains, held in New York, Boston, and other northern cities, sold to slavers at markets in the north, then sent south to be sold again to individual owners. The entire economy of the nascent country was based on slaves and their labor. The institution of slavery could not have persisted had it not been supported by business interests in the north.

The new-born United States had, for all practical purposes, no economy. We were pre-industrial when European countries were well into the modern industrial period. We had no factories. We had no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws or central government. Our only thriving industry were slaves.

Although there was an abolitionist movement, it was tiny, more sentimental than real. From north to south, slavery made people rich. Not the slaves, of course, but white people. Landowners. Farmers.

In the industrialized north and the agricultural south, fortunes were made selling human beings and profiting from their labor. When it came time to write the Constitution and transform a bunch of individual colonies into a single country, the Devil’s compromise was needed. Abolishing slavery would doom any attempt to pass a constitution, so slavery became law. The groundwork was laid for the bloodiest war America would ever fight.

It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. This evil lives on and its legacy still remains — and probably always will.

HOW COME WE COULDN’T FIND A BETTER WAY?


Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?

Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in civil war. In other words, they did knew it would bite us in the ass. They could keep slavery and form a strong nation — or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.

Was it the lesser evil? Hard to say and it’s a bit late to second guess the past. It was obvious from the get-go there was no way we were going to form a nation if slavery was banned. From private writings by members of the continental congress, we know every delegate understood the issue of slavery would eventually be resolved by war. Decades before the revolution that began in 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies.

“The Great Compromise” was written into law. The Constitution was approved  — and a later generation fought the war. Which, apparently, isn’t yet ended. The right and moral thing went head to head with the bottom line and lost. Sound familiar?

Eighty years later, 630,000 lives (more or less) would be the butcher’s bill for the compromises made in 1789. An ocean of blood would be the cost of ending America’s traffic in human lives. Many more years would pass before this country’s non-white population would see anything resembling justice, much less equality.

When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

ABOUT THOSE MILLS


Slaves, rum, and sugar — the triangle of trade that kept America’s economy alive — was profitable for plantation owners, sea captains, and other slave traders, but it didn’t generate a whole lot of entry-level job opportunities for average working people. A lot of people needed work, even more needed trade goods and dependable sources of income.

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Most people didn’t own ships and if they did, were disinclined to take up slaving. It was never a profession for “nice folks” and a fair number of people found it distasteful. Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but the actual process of buying and selling human beings was more than they could stomach.

So as great political and legal minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft a document to build a nation, other great minds were seeking ways to make money. It’s the American way.

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In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how. The river had power … but the area is rough, dense with trees, rocky. And the river is full of twists and turn and drops. The river was full of potential, but it would require inventiveness and planning to harness it.

AMERICA’S INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION BEGAN ON THE BLACKSTONE


Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed people — especially those with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcome. This was a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Slaterville Mill -- oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

Slaterville Mill — oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

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By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

THE BLACKSTONE CANAL


On the Blackstone, mill owners urgently needed a more efficient way to move their goods. The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it worse than useless for shipping goods. Horse-drawn wagons were slow and expensive. The trip from Worcester to Providence took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads and in winter, was often impossible.

The Blackstone Canal in Uxbridge, Massachusetts

The Blackstone Canal in Uxbridge, Massachusetts

When the weather turned bad, the roads were impassable. Which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SLAVERY?


Mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a top dog on the international scene.

It also eliminated and further need for slave labor in the north. Why use slaves when you can pay almost nothing to free men who will provide their own food, clothing, and housing? Sometimes the lines between free and not-free are not all that clear.

BUILDING THE CANAL


The Blackstone Canal took 4 years to build, from 1824 to 1828. The main canal runs alongside the Blackstone. In some places, the canal and the river are one. There is an extensive network of small canals, many on tributary rivers like the Mumford. The main canal was designed to handle large barges. It travels in a relatively straight line from Worcester to Providence.

The smaller canals allowed mills to move goods to places not immediately on the Blackstone. Small barges could move cargo between towns and mills.

Little canal along the Mumford, a Blackstone River tributary. Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Little canal along the Mumford, a Blackstone River tributary. Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Big barges were faster and cheaper than horse-drawn wagons. A single barge could haul as much as 35 tons of cargo and only needed two horses going downstream.

The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges have become walking paths. The barges are gone, but small boats can enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD


Ultimately, railroads were the game-changer. As soon as rails from Worcester to Boston, and Worcester to Providence were built, the canals were abandoned. Business boomed.

The Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories at the end of the 1800s. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.

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By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was horribly polluted. Fortunately for the river, though not necessarily for the valley’s residents, this was the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast. One by one, the mills closed their New England facilities and moved south. By 1923, almost all U.S. cotton was grown, spun, and woven down south — in Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Alabama. Without the mills and factories, the population in the Blackstone Valley’s towns began shrinking.

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The hulking empty factory buildings were left as reminders of the glory days of the American mill industry. Also left behind was massive pollution of the soil and the water.

POLLUTION


In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. It was time to clean up the mess. There are also many areas where the soil is toxic, so full of hazardous waste it may never be usable for any purpose.

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We’re still cleaning up. Although not as bad as it was, the watershed has a way to go. The river’s tributaries are less polluted than the main parts of the Blackstone. Against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from at least one sewage treatment plant in Millbury and there are quite a few nuclear generating plants in the area who dump water into the river, too (but the government doesn’t readily admit to it — now there’s a shocker, right?). It’s hard to fathom what reasoning those who favor pouring sewage and wastewater into our river have. Save a few pennies, destroy our drinking water?

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The battle to save our world from greed never ends.

Good news? The birds and fish are back. American eagles nest in my woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows to catch fish that breed there. The river is alive despite man’s best efforts to kill it. This is a battle we need to win.

AVAILABLE TODAY! THE OPERATOR – KIM HARRISON

THE OPERATOR, by Kim Harrison, is now available online and in bookstores.

It’s been a long wait since the first book in the series. I have missed Kim Harrison. After reading so many bad books, picking up this one was like a breath of fresh air. Good prose, realistic, natural dialogue. A  complex plot without a million dangling loose ends. A professional, dedicated author at the top of her game. A really good book.

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While you read this, pretend you are in the bookstore of your dreams or maybe your childhood. In one of those old leather chairs, tucked in the corner. With a little table and a standing light by which to read. I’m going to hand you the book. It’s new and the binding crackles when you open it.


Kim Harrison, whose series “The Hollows” produced a long run of best-sellers, has a new series. The first book in the Peri Reed Chronicles was released in 2015. That was “The Drafter.” It introduced a dystopian near-future world without magic, but with technology indistinguishable from magic. A science fiction thriller that feels real and now.

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Science it may be, but there are people who are born with a genetic ability to use it. Such people are called drafters.

Drafters can manipulate time. Not like traveling through a wormhole or time machine. More like making a precision adjustment of as much as 45 seconds, or as little as a blink. Just enough time to undo a fatal bullet or catastrophic error.

Peri Reed is a drafter. She used to work for the ultra super secret (and thoroughly corrupt) government agency known as OPTI. Now, she’s free and alive — and trying to stay that way. Peri has lost many memories. Years worth of memories. Some memories have been replaced by false ones. Some are just gone, leaving holes in the continuity and fabric of her life. She wants her memory back, but not if the cost to get them is going back to work for OPTI — or any other agency. How to win freedom and control of her life? Regain her memories without selling herself to whoever makes the best deal?

operator-image-amazonPeri Reed isn’t just any drafter. Peri is the drafter. The best ever. Which is why everyone wants her — and she wants none of them. Yet, she needs help. There’s no way she can reconstruct her past without assistance from at least a couple of the people hunting her. Dare she trust anyone?

Everyone is making her an offer. Everyone is lying.

The Operator is not merely good. It’s a great read set in a dystopian future world. Fast-paced. Elegantly written with an underlying ironic wit and refreshingly natural dialogue. The plot and characters are layered. Complex. Everyone has a secret agenda. Behind that are more secrets and even darker agendas.

In The Drafter, Peri and the gang had promise.

In The Operator, they fulfill that promise. Peri is brave and brilliant, dangerous and vulnerable. Passionate, with scary, lethal fighting skills. She’s had bad relationships. Lost everything that mattered to her. Made terrible life choices. Lives in a brutal world of danger and duplicity through which she must navigate alone, or depend on treacherous people with dubious motives.

If you love science fiction thrillers and are tired of reading the same tired stories, this will be a treat. This is a fresh story with an intriguing, original plot, full of Kim Harrison’s wonderful writing to sweep you into another world.


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Kim Harrison

THE OPERATOR by Kim Harrison is now available on Kindle, paperback, limited edition hard cover, and on Audible.com. This is a great book, one of the two or three best I’ve read over the past few years. Exciting. Action-packed with a complex twisting plot I dare you to guess.

Every clue Ms. Harrison drops is a real clue. The characters are mad and complicated, embodying his or her own mystery. Not only is “The Operator” worth reading, it’s worth reading twice.

Here’s a link to its page on Amazon. I’m looking forward to the Audible.com version which should arrive in my library today. I’m will happily read it again. Probably at least once more after that. There is a lot of depth to this story and back stories to the back stories.

I can hardly wait for the next book. It’s not over for Peri Reed. Not by a longshot.

THE AGENTS IN THE DELL – A THURSDAY RANT

I wasn’t going to bother to write this because you’ve heard it before. And you’ll hear it again. The same old sad story. Dell makes some amazing computers — yet they have what must be the worst customer service on the planet. I do not see how it could be worse. It is so bad on so many different levels, it’s hard to know where to start. But then, I realized I might as well write it. Writing it could make me feel better. Eventually, I will also find it funny. I’m nearly ready to begin laughing. One more cuppa coffee and I’m there. Laughing.

This problem — not a huge problem, mind you — was whoever put my machine together forgot to install the Adobe software I bought with the computer. Or leave a link — or give me an unlock key to download it myself. Knowing Dell as I do, I considered just forgetting it. Let them keep the money and move on. But it’s $80. A bit too much to let slide.

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The thing about Dell Customer Disservice, other than its general suckiness, is that they never connect you to the right department. They repeatedly ask for the same information, but whoever you talk to next won’t have the information and you’ll have to provide it again. If you ask for the number to which they are supposedly transferring you because you fear they will disconnect you, you can be sure the phone number is either no longer in service, or is completely wrong. The ones they gave me were either: (1) disconnected, (2) A cruise scam organization (you know, free cruise if you give us all your personal information?), and (3) Direct-TV. What I wanted? Sales Support for Alienware.

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Any agent to whom you talk will never read what (if anything) a previous agent wrote — so you are always back on square one. No one ever calls you back or can provide you with a number to get you to the same person again.

They put you on hold and forget about you. Or disconnect you. They transform minor problems that could be dealt with by any normal company in a couple of minutes, into a week-long crises.

The first two agents I spoke to insisted I really had the software and was too inexperienced with computers to find it. Both agents went poking around INSIDE my computer (remotely). Each independently ascertained that the software isn’t there, nor is there any download link for me to acquire it. So, finally, after I got a bit strident about it, they connected me with a supervisor (this identical scenario played out twice). Both of whom informed me that they would not be able to deliver it. The first said it would be another five days. What? A download?

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I was in “patience is my middle name” mode, so I waited. Five days later with no further contact from Dell, I called again. The first agent told me I would have to wait ten days more and disconnected me. I hit redial. When finally I got an agent, I shouted: “I WANT MY MONEY BACK.” I felt I needed to get his attention before he disconnected me again.

The agent (aka idiot) explained he could escalate “my issue” and maybe (only maybe) I would get my money back. He would “send a request” up to whoever were slightly more in charge than he was, but he could not guarantee they would comply. Because, he said, I probably already have the software and simply can’t find it.

I started to say something, but choked on my own words. Several deep, cleansing breaths later, I pointed out Dell had failed to deliver something for which I had paid. They do not get to NOT give me the product OR return my money. That’s theft. But my idiot said those were the “rules” and I said “we have other rules in this country and I want to talk to a supervisor. NOW.” My idiot assured me a supervisor would say exactly the same idiotic thing. I said that, were this to prove true, then I would keep going up the ladder to the damned president of the company if I had to, so put the supervisor ON the phone NOW.” I think I may have been yelling by then.

Got the supervisor. After he too explained that the software was ON the machine and I explained he should read the notes on this case number (yes, I had a case number) and he would see that no, I don’t have it and no, I’m apparently not going to get it, and frankly, I’m sorry I ever ordered it, and now give me my money back before I call the Attorney General and report the company (I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first) for Felony Stupidity and Customer Malfeasance.

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Eventually he said he couldn’t give me the $82.95 Dell owed me, but would $100 be okay? I said yeah, fine. He was still talking when I hung up. I’d been on the phone for three hours and the dogs needed feeding, Garry wanted help unloading the groceries and my ear was getting sore.

Yesterday, I was issued a refund for $82.95. Can I sue for emotional distress?

I still don’t understand why there is any problem. It’s a download. I could download the software on the spot from Adobe. I’d only bought it from Dell because it was much cheaper.

This is supposed to be (wait for it, wait for it) PREMIUM CUSTOMER SERVICE. I hesitate to imagine the standard shit they are dishing out these days to regular, non-premium customers.

I buy Dell computers in spite of Dell. The computers are great, but oh-lord-give-me-strength to deal with their “customer disservice.” This morning, they sent me a “customer satisfaction” survey. I didn’t bother to fill it out.

HOW DO THEY DO IT SO FAST?

It’s configuration central here and has been for a couple of days, though I hope to actual finish today and be able to move on to those other things awaiting my attention. I can hear the little voices of my undone tasks yapping in my ear. It’s like the whine of mosquitoes. I slap at them, but they keep coming back.

It’s not only the computer that is sucking up my time. It’s this stupid, horrible election. So much of my attention has been taken away from the stuff I really should be doing, I’m not getting stuff done, not like I need to. I can’t WAIT for this election to be done and over. I want my brain back.

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Meanwhile, I got my computer. I actually got it a week ago and it was not supposed to show up until the second week in November. Maybe they ought to have waited and sent everything at the same time, but as it is, it didn’t come with the software I ordered — or the peripherals I need. I ordered the computer and software from Dell. Yes, I know. The worst customer service on the planet … but some of the best computers. It’s like having your sister marry a man you really loathe, but they are a package deal.

One of the big changes in this new generation of computers is they mostly don’t come with DVD reader/writers, so you need an external if you are going to install software from physical media. I ordered the external DVD player/writer from Amazon. It’s the same one Dell sells, but $25 less with free shipping and 2-day turnaround. Also picked up a nice zippy 1 TB external drive and a cool mouse that scrolls side-to-side as well as up-and-down. Amazing how prices have dropped on some of this stuff.

Yesterday, the peripherals arrived, so today, I hunkered down and decided to make this computer function.

I installed Photoshop and Bridge. I finished moving files from backup hard drives to the new computer (which has two hard drives, a 1 TB 7200 rpm mechanical drive, plus a 256 GB solid state drive. Everything defaults to the C: drive — which is the 256 GB SSD — so I had to do some configuring. Not going to let that huge, D: drive sit idly by. I put all the photographs and documents there — and the Adobe stuff. I’ll leave the SSD for booting and other applications. Like OpenOffice and Audible Manager.

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All things considered, this has gone well. Smoothly. Photoshop and Bridge installed without so much as a whimper of protest, as did all the Topaz and NIK filters. The DVD external worked fine. The back up drives passed the data to this computer without a problem as fast as their little virtual brains could do it.

Nonetheless, it took a long time and I’m not done yet.

It reminded me of watching (I think it was ) NCIS the other night. Some fiend was copying a gazillion terabytes of data to destroy American via the Internet. Not only was this evil genius able to hack the U.S. government’s most secret servers (which I don’t find hard to believe), but they could transfer this massive amount of data in a mere few minutes. Wow. That I can’t believe.

With my brand new 3.0 USB Western Digital external drive hooked up to my not-all-that slow older Alienware computer (it’s got a core Intel i7 board in it), I’ve been backing up the documents library. It contains 177 GB of data and about 55,000 files. The file count includes a lot of hidden, system files, illustrations inside books and so on. Many of them are tiny. Nonetheless, this transfer from a fast computer to the latest greatest external hard drive has already taken more than an hour and looks very likely to take one more.

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How do they do it so FAST on television? They can transfer the contents of an entire super computer to a flash drive in less than a minute. And where did they get that flash drive? None of mine work that well. I’ve never seen one even close to that large or fast … and NEVER an error message. Nary a glitch. Amazing!

I’m SO envious! While I’m envying fictional TV crime series technology, can I (please, pretty please) have that battery that will run my laptop for a week without having to plug it in? Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the backup on the other computer to finish. Maybe tomorrow?

YOU’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT

An argument is a modifier in computer language. Anyone who writes applications knows this, but most “civilians” don’t.

If you are a computer, you are always arguing. Computer language, unlike regular language, is remorseless. Unforgiving. You do it the right way or it won’t work. Or worse, it will work, but not the way you meant it to work. You misplace, or leave out a comma, or put a space between characters that should not have one … or put an underscore where there should be a hyphen — and who knows what calamitous results may follow?


0x00000116-blue-screenA blue screen error message that begins with STOP: 0x000000116 is due to video card or video driver related issues. 


For those of you familiar with Windows, you would in any case recognize this as a video card issue. Hardware or software. Usually, it’s a driver. Sometimes, it’s more than one thing crunching together. The problems began with installation of a new driver. My system said “No way!” and expressed itself by a black screen crash. I backed out of it and restored the system to before I installed the driver. Lo and behold, all was well. Or so I thought.

I waited until a newer driver was issued. NVIDIA issues new drivers so frequently you never have long to wait. All was well until Topaz sent a new version of its Texture filter. This blew up Photoshop. I backed out of the update, but simultaneously, NVIDIA sent a new version of “GEForce Experience.” An entirely new app.

When I tried to install it, it blew itself out of the system. In all my years of computering in the high-tech world, I’ve never seen that happen. It didn’t even leave a shortcut behind. Nothing. A hole in virtual reality. I could not restore it. For some reason, it would not restore from System Restore, or the external hard drive backup .


I do system backups to an external device. I’ve been doing some version of this for years, first on tape, then on CD or DVD, and now on external hard drives. Never, in all these years, have I ever been able to restore the system or an application using a backup. They don’t work. Never. It’s infuriating.

Thing is, I knew that this would likely be the case. Instead of counting on system backups, I back up data. If my system or a part of it blows, I know I’ll have to fix it some other way. Think about that. Just … ponder it. Save documents. Save pictures. Save music, books, and all that “stuff.” But the system? You’re going to need, as Quinn said in “Jaws,” a bigger boat.


Without that application, I couldn’t update the NVIDIA video card at all, so I went hunting and found a downloadable version on their website. I installed it and it also cleaned up the mess the previous download had caused. I then realized there was a new driver waiting, too. Oh joy. Just what I needed.

I created a restore point (just in case everything went south) and installed the new driver. It worked. But I was still getting way too many error messages involving the video card. Topaz wanted me to change my video settings, which I did. Dubiously, but I’m a good sport. It was working okay until this morning, it blue-screened me in the middle of answering a comment. Not exactly a major graphics project.

I rebooted. I set the graphics card back to its original factory default settings. This computer doesn’t want “better settings.”

My computer has too many arguments going on. I’m losing it because all I want to do is get on with stuff.

Herein lies the problem with running an older operating system on a computer with components that need frequent updating. The updates are not (really) designed for this operating system (FYI, Win7 Pro). My computer was a wee bit wonky a couple of weeks ago. It is a lot worse today.

I am losing all the arguments.

ARGUMENT | THE DAILY POST