Computer woes, sickness, and Holland

I haven’t been posting much lately, mainly because my computer is visiting the great Apple store in the sky. Actually, I think it’s either in Memphis or Houston, two cities I personally haven’t visited. Long story short, I am getting a long-standing problem with my computer fixed. My basic thinking here is that if I can get my current computer to last another year or two for the $300 I am paying for repair, it’ll be worth it. I write about this on my official blog in more detail here.

But what’s killing me here is that my repair has been delayed. I thought that this would be a quick enough turn-around, maybe as long as five days, tops. But it is looking like it could be much longer than that. This sucks. With Annette’s computer, Will’s PC, and two computers in my office at school, I certainly have adequate access. But not having my computer with my stuff is really killing me here. For one thing, I’m not able to use my computer with my stuff on it. Not right. For another, Will’s computer is a somewhat old PC and the keyboard on Annette’s laptop drives me nuts– a sticky space key makes all the words run together.

Anyway. Hopefully I’ll get some word on my missing iBook in a few days.

(Slight Update: Apple emailed me and informed me that my iBook is repaired and ought to be back this (Friday, May 12) afternoon!)

In other news, I have a cold that simply will not go away. I am relatively sure that it is not allergies, though that may be a factor. In any event, it’s something all of us around here have, and there is not a whole lot in this world than the feeling of being sick in the spring/summer time. The only plus of it all is I haven’t been eating much lately because of it and I’m down another pound or so.

So, all of this combined has delayed my posting about our road-trip last Sunday to Holland, MI as part of their annual “Tulip Time” festival. I spoke with my parents about all this a bit on Tuesday, and they kept saying “oh, that’s just like the tulip thing they do in Pella, Iowa. Oh, you wish, Pella. The Holland festival is THE place for tulip and Dutch celebrating in this country, my friend.

Actually, most of the “big” events are going on this week and this coming weekend, including appearances by (I shit you not) Three Dog Night, Frankie Avalon and The Oak Ridge Boys. Not together, of course, on different nights. Anyway, we were in town on the somewhat quiet opening weekend.

After a kind of crappy lunch where we couldn’t even enjoy a beer because of the area’s overly strict Sunday alcohol laws (Annette was right– we should have just grabbed some corn dogs and went with it), we got into the spirit of things by wandering around a very nice little downtown area.

Gimme candy!
One of Will’s favorite stores was an old-time candy store, the kind of place that had pretty much everything you could imagine in bins that you could buy by the pound. Here’s Will supervising the weighing of some jelly beans.

Then we found our way to the very nice Windmill Island Park. Here are a few pictures:

Big ol' Windmill
Here’s the reading why they call this “Windmill Island,” a mondo-gigantic 240+ year old windmill. Though we never figured out why they called it an “island.”

Tulips everywhere!
And here’s why they call it “tulip time.”

Black tulips
Here’s Will in front of some pretty cool black tulips. Really, they were a very very dark purple, but close enough to black.

In any event, a good time was had by one and all, though I have to say that the whole fascination with tulips in general escapes me.

Unofficial Notes on a trip to Omaha

Technically, I am on a business trip since I’m giving a presentation at a conference here in Omaha, NE at Creighton University– I guess I’ll write about that later on the official blog– but I thought I’d post a few miscellaneous and unofficial notes on the trip out here so far. For what it’s worth.

  • Got to the airport my regular two hours before the flight and I had about 90 minutes to kill. Which is fine– I would much prefer to be way too early than a little late. And which was also good because I sat at the wrong gate for about a half-hour before I realized what was going on.
  • The plane was a fairly small jet, not a “puddle-jumper” prop engine deal, but not exactly plush, either. I think it sat about 40 people. Anyway, things are going fine when all of a sudden, there is a loud “WHHOOOOOSHHH” noise in the cabin. I turned to the woman sitting next to me, who had also turned to me, and we both had a “what the…?” expression on our faces. Turns out there was a “minor” leak with some kind of door, but we weren’t losing cabin pressure, so the problem was determined no big deal. And I guess it wasn’t since we got here, though the rest of the flight was noisy, sorta like leaving the window in the car cracked while on the interstate. It seemed to get colder, too.
  • The woman I was sitting next to was a sociology professor at U of M-Flint. Small world.
  • Inexplicably, I saw a woman getting on and off the plane clutching a box that (according to the box, at least) had a pyrex glass cassarole dish in it. An odd carry-on choice.
  • So far, downtown Omaha, NE is nicer than I would have thought. Here are a few pictures from a brief afternoon walk:

Downtown Omaha park of some sort

This is a park/walkway of some sort right downtown about a block from my hotel.

Cute French restaurant/wine bar

There’s an area here called “Old Market.” It’s not a huge area (but hey, neither is Greektown in Detroit) with a whole bunch of cool little restaurants and stores like this one.

more Old Town

Here’s another shot of the Old Town area.

Another to do list item: get rid of aluminum foil cap

For all kinds of different reasons, this has been kind of a bad week for me in terms of blog posting (obviously). The in-laws are visiting right now, and so far a good time is being had by one and all, and I might be able to get back in the swing of things next week, unless the stack of essays I need to grade falls over and smothers me. Deep sigh.

Anyway, in lieu of actually having something intelligent to say (and I have a whole thing working in my head about how both the Democrats and Republicans are lyng about the whole WMD thing in Iraq, though the Republicans are clearly the bigger and more dangerous and more expensive liars), I offer this link to a study about the ineffectiveness of tin foil skull helmets.

iTunes and silent movies, all in one week

I had two multimedia “firsts� this week.

First #1: I bought a complete album online, the Dave Matthews Band new CD, Stand Up off of the iTunes store. By the way, don’t give me any shit for liking the Dave Matthews Band. I’m too old to really care what is (or isn’t) hip, and I was listening to them before they caught on with the frat boy crowd. I like ‘em, so sue me.

I’ve downloaded some music from “less than legal� sources before, but, besides not being quite legal or ethical, I find that it takes way too long and I as often as not end up with a file that isn’t worth listening to. I have bought music with iTunes before, but just a song at a time. This was my first full album, and I’m not sure I will buy a CD from a store again. It’s cheaper by a couple of bucks than buying the actual CD, and all I had to do was download it from the iTunes site to my computer and then to my iPod. Easier than going to a store by far.

Okay, not that big of a deal. But still.

First #2: We all saw the 1924 silent film version of Peter Pan Thursday night at the Michigan Theater. A couple of things made this a pretty cool night. For one thing, the Michigan Theater was pretty much sold out for the show. As Russ Collins (the guy who runs the Michigan Theater) said in his introduction to the show, it was probably the biggest crowd to watch a silent film in… well, in a long time, weeks at least. For another, it featured musical accompaniment by the Ann Arbor Symphony, conducted by Gillian “not the one from X-Filesâ€? Anderson. Cool music, too.

On the down-side, the show started late and we didn’t have Will home until about 10 on a school night. Not good parenting. On the up-side, it was pretty cool to see a silent film the way that it would have been shown way back in the day. After all, the Michigan Theater opened in the late 1920’s as a silent film theater, and back then, they really would have an orchestra for most of the shows (that and/or the extremely elaborate organ they’ve got there). Anyway, good music, good show, good experience.

Incidentally, this version of Peter Pan is quite a bit different from the Disney version, which isn’t surprising. I don’t have the time to rehash it all right now, but most of the intertitles (you know, the words that pop up during a silent film) come from J.M. Barrie’s original story, and it’s pretty clear to me where the whole idea of the “Peter Pan Syndrome� comes from. Weird stuff.

Messin’ with the Comcast Customer Service Weenies

We’ve had a Comcast high-speed internet connection for about a year now, and generally speaking, I’ve been pretty happy with it. I’ve only called customer service once (twice, if you count this unfortunate experience in Florida last year), and resolving that problem just involved restarting the modem.

Tonight, something more flaky has been going on. Actually, it’s been going on all day. First the connection works, then it doesn’t, then it works, then it doesn’t, then it works but it’s dirt slow, then it doesn’t work at all, etc. So I called Comcast support up and spent the better part of the night getting a non-answer.

I’ll spare the details, but the short version is I either have some kind of problem with my router, I have some kind of problem with Comcast’s modem, I’m experiencing some unknown and touchy local service outage, or some weird combination of all these things. It may very well be the router, but I think I’ll wait a while though before assuming that the Comcast customer service knuckleheads are right.

But beyond all that, I learned a valuable lesson tonight: never call Comcast customer service about your internet access because there is virtually nothing they can do to help you. This might be because they’re just kind of dumb, but besides that, it also appears to me that they have very few options to actually provide customers service.

So, in the interest of a public service to those of you who might experience some sort of Comcast connection problem in the future, here’s how you should deal with it, more or less in this order:

  • Restart your computer. If that doesn’t work (and it probably won’t),
  • Unplug your router and wait a few seconds. If that doesn’t work (and it might),
  • Unplug your modem and wait a few seconds.

Some combination of these three things really will solve most problems, and, as far as I can gather, it constitutes the bulk of the advice that Comcast customer service folks are capable (allowed?) to give. If these things don’t work and you have a router,

  • Turn off your computer and unplug the cable modem, plug the computer directly into the cable modem (that is, bypass the router), restart your computer and plug the modem back in, and see what happens. If that doesn’t work,
  • You’re screwed. At least as far as customer service goes because there’s basically nothing else that can go wrong. They literally can not offer any other sorts of advice, suggestions, or remedies. There solution is to start over again by once again restarting the computer, etc.

I suggested to my customer service person that perhaps it was an area service problem because it’s been so spotty all day for me. “I don’t think that’s it,� she said.

“Why not?� I asked.

“Because it’s not on the board.�

“What board?�

“There’s a board here where they post the service problems, and there’s nothing in your area.�

“Oh,� I said. “So, do you think it’s possible that, you know, this is a problem that might need to go on the board and be investigated?�

“We don’t put things on the board. They do that someplace else.�

I really wanted to ask what this “board� looks like because what I’m picturing is a bulletin board with pins on a map, or maybe stickies. Or maybe it’s a white board with erasable markings circling different “problem� areas.

But I didn’t get a chance. Instead, my customer service person asked if I had restarted my computer, if I had unplugged and waited ten seconds before plugging my router back in, etc., etc….

What’s really irritating about this is that ultimately, the Comcast weenies are probably right, it probably is something to do with the router. This would not be the end of the world since routers are relatively cheap. And yet, right now, as I type this message, things seem to be working just fine. Oh, wait, it got slow again…. oh wait, there it goes…. maybe I should get out and push….

Hey Ya, Charlie Brown!

See “Hey Ya, Charlie Brown,” a .mov format movie that remixes scenes from a Charlie Brown cartoon and the Outkast song “Hey Ya!” The funniest part is at the beginning; after that it gets a little repeatitive, though I guess the song does too.

Interestingly enough, I first saw a snippet of this as part of a presentation Lawrence Lessig gave at the Conference for College Composition and Communication this past March in San Francisco. That’s the “big conference” I go to for my line of work. Lessig’s talk, which was about issues of intellectual property, copyright, and the Internet, was one of the best I’ve ever seen at an event like this and he used this little video as an example of the creativity possible with remixing. If you’re curious (and shouldn’t you be?), you can actually listen to Lessig’s whole CCCCs presentation here. There’s some other cool links at that site, too.