Saturday, January 25, 2003

We got a little snow last night. It seemed almost retaliation for my rant. We'll give you snow, just a little, just enough to remind you how pretty everything can be in winter. It did snow long enough for my retired neighbor to go out and shovel twice. I'm not sure if he got more than an inch of the shovel wet.

The dreaded winter cold remains about the same. I slept a little better last night because I was under the influence of an assortment of over the counter drugs. I spent the daytime hours of the last two days watching T.V., because I'm unable to concentrate or sleep. Most of the time I stared at the wall around the T.V., dreaming of the funky, built-in shelves I want there and the power tools I'll need to build them. I've probably been watching too many of those trading rooms decorating shows and have gotten too ambitious. Yes, I can make anything out of MDF!

Friday, January 24, 2003

To the rest of the country: We scorn your snow. Here, we know that winter isn't snow. Snow usually means balmy days above zero. Nights with clouds are warmer than clear nights. Here, true winter is the bright, sunny two weeks in January when we enter the deep freeze. We measure these days by the wind chill. Without wind, we can convince ourselves it's not so bad. You step outside and your nostrils instantly freeze shut, thus preventing the dry cold from sucking all the moisture out of your body. Gloves and boots that normally keep you toasty warm, barely keep you from frostbite as you wait for your car heater to catch up or as you sprint into the nearest building. You can keep your stupid snow. The winter carnival will go on. (I wouldn't mind the cold so much if we weren't all sick. Cough. Cough.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

We received a very nice memo at work today outlining the measures management was taking to address our fundraising/budget shortfall. One was that full-time staff will have the option of going down to 36 hours per week while keeping full benefits. With a few other cuts, we're hoping that that enough people take advantage of this to make up the shortfall. I would like to do it, but the pay cut is a little scary. Four extra hours a week for writing would be very nice. Anyways, for those of you who are doing well, please don't forget that nonprofits all over the country are facing decreased individual and foundation giving as well cuts in government funding. We need your support more than ever.

In keeping with the budget cut theme, I'm jumping on the list bandwagon and sharing my favorite free utilities for PCs. These programs make working with donated PCs and no technology budget to speak of a lot easier. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Pdf995 You can create .pdf files from MS Office applications with this program. The free version gives you an Internet pop-up ad every time you use it. For $9.95 you can get a license key to turn the advertising off. Since Adobe doesn't provide a nonprofit discount on Acrobat, this is a huge savings.

2. Adobe Acrobat Reader
For most people, this one's been an essential for years. Even if you don't need to create .pdf files, if you use the Internet you're going to need to be able to read them. I'm constantly amazed by the number of I work with who aren't familiar with .pdf files until they need to download and read them.

3. Aladdin Stuffit Expander
This program unzips compressed .zip files and will run on a variety of platforms. If you haven't got a program like Winzip preloaded, this is the free alternative. I'm still running into people who don't know what this is until they receive a zipped file attached to an e-mail. You can purchase the full version, Stuffit, that allows you to zip files starting at $24.99 for the home version.

4. Diskeeper Lite
Windows NT and 2000 need defragmenting just like earlier Windows version even though they say they don't. I noticed an immense difference in speed the first time I ran Diskeeper Lite on a Windows NT machine. You have to register to use it but it's worth it. I dream of someday installing the full version which automates the defragmentation on all the PCs in our network. Diskeeper starts at $29.95 for the home version.

5. Sysinternals PageDefrag
Diskeeper Lite can't touch the paging files and registry hives which also tend to bloat on Windows NT, 200 and XP. Pagedefrag will defragment those files on start-up.

6. Spybot Search & Destroy
I've used a few different spyware detectors/removers but found this one the easiest and fastest. I used it last week to clear up a Xupiter infestation on a workstation. I'm still not sure how it got through our safeguards, but it was gone in minutes with Spybot. Patrick M. Kolla and his PepiMK Software have made this available as freeware but it works so well, I think everyone will want to make a donation to him. He needs it to pay for bandwith, etc.

Okay, this isn't a program, but it's been my most visited website (outside of Compaq and Miscrosoft - ewww!) while working on donated computers. It's never let me down in a search for a device driver I needed, no matter how obscure. You have to sort through some chaff but it's well worth it to search their driver listings before going anywhere else for older PC drivers. You have to register and then sign-in to use it.
I had the kind of weekend you can only have when you know you have Monday off. Hardly accomplished anything. Can I still blame it on the pleurisy? It's still there lurking, a dull ache that will grow as soon as I go off the anti-inflammatories again. I slept a lot. Dreamt of kitties, reconciling with estranged friends, and getting yelled at for walking around in an elegant, old mansion barefoot. In the mansion dream, I lied and said that the sole fell off my sandal and I was waiting for the glue to set. The woman scolding me wasn't buying it for a second.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

I found the Viking kitties doing a search on Led Zeppelin's Immigrant's Song. Alan says, "basically a step up from dancing hamsters," but it made me laugh. If you like the Vikings, you should check out the other kitty bands.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Another good quote that I couldn't resist sharing.
From the editors at Scientific American in their Feburary 2003 issue editorial on the politics of vaccinations, "Critics may gripe about whether the new Homeland Security Act fights terrorism well, but no one can say it doesn't do a great job of protecting drug companies from autistic children."
Minnesota Public Radio played a portion of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Beyond Vietnam speech from April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York in honor of Monday's remembrance. It was given a month before I was born, over thirty five years ago, but it's as relevant as ever. Here's my favorite quote, "... A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such..." You can listen to archives of the show on MPR.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Rain Taxi has posted Alan DeNiro and Kelly Everding's interview with Jonathon Carroll from World Fantasy last fall. What a treat!

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

I spent part of my vacation reading Jack Cady's The Hauntings of Hood Canal (St. Martin's Press - 2001), a damn fine book. I drove Alan crazy by constantly stopping to read him lines of dialogue and excerpts from the novel. I snuggled into bed to read each night with a sense of expectation that I haven't felt in a long time. I was reading good collections by Millhauser and Brockmeier at the same. I enjoyed them, but they didn't pay off in the pure pleasure department like Cady did. I also recommend Cady's short story collection, The Night We Buried Road Dog (DreamHaven) -- one of the highlights of 1998. I'm going to the bookstore tonight to see what else of his I can find.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

This was sent to me by a friend.
The Bush White House has an "opinion" line for you to call. So whether you oppose or approve of the proposed war in Iraq, give a call. The line only accepts calls from 9 - 5 EST, Monday thru Friday. Just call the White House at 202-456-1111. A machine will detain you for only a moment and then a pleasant live operator will thank you for saying "I oppose" or "I approve." It will only take minutes. They ask you what state you are from and then ask for your comment.

Note that the weekends are closed for calls. The president has said that he wants to know what the American people are thinking. Let him know. Time is running out. Then please forward this to anyone who might want to make a difference. Tell them what you think: 1 PHONE CALL EQUALS 10-20 PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T CALL, PLEASE PASS ON TO FRIENDS.
During vacation, I kept my resolution to avoid all computer technology for the entire nine days (unlike my e-mail addicted travelling companion.) For most of the trip we were at the boyhood home of Alan DeNiro in Erie, PA (site of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's Battle of Lake Erie.) I got to meet some of the older family members from the Polish side of his family. I was immediately reminded of my Norwegian-Minnesotan relatives except that staid Lutheran sensibilities might have been offended by some of the raunchy jokes. One of the highlights of the trip was seeing Youngstown, Ohio (site of many Barzak stories), and dancing with Chris on New Year's Eve. The low point was developing pleurisy on the last weekend which sounds as old fashioned a condition as my bursitis from the month before.

We arrived home to a bad smell and a note explaining the smell from our pet sitter. It seems that nine days may be two days too long to be away from our old dog. It took him six hours to calm down last night. I wasn't sure we were going to get any sleep. In the morning he seemed back to normal. Dogs are so forgiving.