grrgoyl: (sunshine hate)
One of these days I'll go to the grocery store to find they've stopped carrying yet another favorite and thoroughly taken for granted item, and on that day, I mean it, I WILL JUST SNAP.

I'm drawing a blank right now but trust me, there have been tens of products over my lifetime that I bought regularly that can't be found anywhere anymore.

The most recent casualty in this list is my Ice Java. This is a Nestle product that was discontinued in the States in 2008. It's still made and sold in Canada, and don't imagine the thought of trying to find myself a Canuck penpal just to hook me up hasn't crossed my mind.

It's a coffee syrup you mix with milk for a delicious chocolate-flavored caffeinated beverage, and it got me through many a long, sleep-deprived RGIS January. It's not as caffeinated as true coffee, but enough to give me a caffeine headache on the days I skip it. And since it's zero grams of fat, I was planning to drizzle it on everything I eat (just kidding).

I've been ordering it online in semi-massive quantities, delivered to my door like I lived on a grocery loading dock. It was working quite swimmingly until I went to place my order this week, only to be greeted by the message "discontinued/out of stock." WHAT????

Frantic Googling ensued, all of which turned up only the desperate pleas of other addicts engaged in a similar search, some a few years old. Nestle's official company line was that sales were too low to justify the shelf space, which seemed hard to believe in light of the public outcry I was seeing, but I won't pretend to understand all the intricacies of the dog (food)-eat-dog (food) world of product marketing.

There were bottles being sold on eBay to be sure, but for around $10 a pop and my least favorite cappucino flavor. I'd rather drink a can of Coke every morning.

So my next Google search was for someone who might have duplicated the recipe at home. This gave me some hits on a recipe site, which seemed simple enough. I had found what I was looking for -- if it was actually a success remained to be seen. /suspense

At this point I suppose I should make it clear that I don't cook. Or bake. If pressed with simple enough instructions I suppose I can make do, but all the cooking in our house was done by my Navy father, who didn't invite assistance. Tery, ever the smarmy one, told me to pretend I was in Potions class with Professor Snape. So I set up my Snape cardboard standee in our narrow galley kitchen and started collecting my ingredients.

I had actually two recipes, slight variations of each other, which made me uneasy -- as a noncooker, I like to be told "go to the store and buy exactly this thing." I'm not comfortable with improvisation.

So one recipe called for Dutch baking cocoa. Another specified Ghirardelli's unsweetened: which is how I discovered my grocery store no longer carries Ghirardelli's cocoa powder. Remember back at the beginning when I said one day I would just snap? This wasn't the day, but it did make me ponder the possibility the universe just plain didn't want me drinking Ice Java any more.

I settled for Hershey's special dark cocoa powder, which at least had the word "Dutch" on the package. However, I couldn't resist hopping across the street to Safeway, which doesn't have a lot of selection but sometimes carries odd things King Soopers doesn't. Success! I bought both to be safe.

Let me be specific: I had bought everything else I needed at Kings. At Safeway I only got an 8-ounce can of Ghirardelli's. As I paid for the tiny can, I heard someone ask, "Do you need help out today, sir?" Naturally, not being a "sir," at least not for many years now (this happened all the time when I was in college) I didn't look up. When it was apologetically changed to "ma'am" I realized they were addressing me.

In his defense, he was obviously slightly mongoloid, but I still couldn't resist a sarcastic, "With this one little can? No, I think I can manage." I know, I'm a brute. Later telling Tery this story, she said she would have answered, "Yes, thank god! I barely staggered up here to the checkout with it!" Guess we deserve each other.

I got home and excitedly started my Potions class. I used the Hershey chocolate first since that seemed more readily available and I didn't want to get hooked on the Ghirardelli recipe only to have THAT disappear from the country too. Everything seemed to be going well and Prof. Snape was looking on approvingly, until the final step, that called for two tablespoons of instant coffee crystals.

The fact that I was going to such lengths to not lose my chocolate caffeine fix should be evidence enough that I'm not a coffee drinker. Can't stand the stuff. Absolutely vile. But sadly an apparently crucial ingredient in my beloved chocolate caffeine drink.

All the coffee drinkers of the world will probably answer with a deafening "DUH" when I ask, did you know there's a big difference between instant coffee crystals and ground coffee in a can? Don't take my word for it. Try dumping two tablespoons of ground coffee into a previously delicious chocolate syrup and see what happens. If you don't want to, I'll tell you: you get a big yucky clumpy mess of chocolate-coated ground coffee.

In my defense, King Soopers doesn't even carry instant coffee, so I was just trying to find the smallest can of ground coffee I could (note: This may not be true. Tery insists they certainly do. I insist just as hard it was the first thing I looked for, if for no other reason I didn't want a big honking can of coffee sitting around if it didn't work out. The world may never know the truth) (EDIT: The truth exposed! They do carry it. Somehow I didn't make it to the tiny 4-foot section further down the aisle past the 20-foot section of ground coffee. I'm usually more thorough (and observant) than this. I blame it on a lack of caffeine). Thank god Tery got home, ordered me to throw my horrific mess out (I was still hoping the coffee would dissolve while cooling in the fridge) and marched me out the door to Safeway for a jar of instant. I licked a stray spatter of chocolate syrup off my professor as I passed.

This had a much more desirable result. It comes close to the original drink, except the chocolate is wrong. Here's hoping the Ghirardelli's makes the difference.


As if life isn't already unfair enough, what with having gallstones and being terrified to eat anything, and my favorite morning beverage only being available in Canada, my damn computer died last week.

Not dead dead -- it would power on, then hang on the Windows XP logo screen. Thank god I had the new Windows 7 machine so I could at least work, but due to the aforementioned hardware kerfluffle, I spent three not-fun days operating my work software with keyboard commands rather than my pedal.

I searched the internet for a solution, where someone had posted a big fat lie about "repairing a Windows installation" from the boot disk. I had the boot disk, and saw the option, but selecting it seemed to only bring me back to previous menus repeatedly. The only option it would accept was a total re-format. It broke my heart to do it, but I didn't see where I had much choice.

Fortunately I had already moved most of my really important stuff to the Windows 7, including about 7000 nephew baby pictures that Tery would have had my hide if I lost.

Of course, my Windows software is from 2004 or some similarly long-forgotten era, so just reinstalling all the critical security updates is practically a full-time job in itself. And to my dismay Firefox has mysteriously stopped working -- the browser itself works, but all of my lovely add-ons give me error messages. Finally I (very reluctantly) removed it and trudged back to stupid Internet Explorer, which isn't as fabulous but at least doesn't tempt me to waste half my day uninstalling and reinstalling it in an utterly futile bid to get my add-ons back.

I even gave Google Chrome a try, hoping it might be close to Firefox. Did you know that Google Chrome isn't compatible with the Google toolbar? Madness.

I also was without my pedal for three days because did you know when you do a clean install of Windows, you lose your sound drivers? Me neither. I lost a day trying to track them down before it occurred to me to just go to the manufacturer's site.

I really hate computers. It seems the more I learn about them, the more difficult they become.
grrgoyl: (pale man)
Well, no sooner was I going to report how well I've been doing with my new diet (lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks, even), when last night I had another attack just as bad as, and certainly lasting longer than, the one that landed me in the ER. Turns out Vicodin has almost no effect on me, so I might as well sell these useless pills for some profit.

It hit me about 8:30 pm. When the worst had passed I went to bed at 9, then woke up about three times in the next 7 hours to note the pain was still there. So I slept the whole night in a sitting position, since lying flat makes it ten times worse.

Tery's co-worker who had surgery informed her that the best I could hope was to delay the attacks. She said they'll go from one every 2-3 weeks to one a week, to the point where I'll be begging for surgery. Terrific.

I've filled out about three applications for assistance with my bills -- oh yeah, they've started pouring in. The highest so far is the ambulance ride for $1100. Plus $550 for my ER stay. $32 for lab tests and $57 for my x-ray (I can swing those). My sister the nurse says I can expect separate bills from the hospital (which I would think counts as the emergency room, but evidently not) as well as the doctor.

The good news is the people who sent those two big bills will take interest-free payments of $50 a month. My worry though is having to pay $50 to 4 or 5 people every month, depending who else crawls out of the woodwork with their hands out. That might become difficult.

So yes, help please. I don't qualify for Medicaid since I'm neither pregnant, unemployed, a veteran or making car payments -- no rewards for keeping my cost of living moderately under control. My beef is why can't I just sign up with one program as uninsured and have any assistance apply to all my bills, why so needlessly complicated? Well, I guess they aren't kidding when they say health care is in a sorry state in this country.

In light of this recent attack, I'm nervous about my plan to soldier through for a year until hopefully my employer's insurance will cover surgery. I don't know that I can stand this kind of pain once a week (or more often) for a year. And you're talking to a girl whose appendix almost ruptured because I only complained of "kind of a stomachache" to my parents for 3 days. Captain Stoic, that's me.


I still can't tell you if Logan is going to work out or not. He's extremely slowly warming up to me, and usually only if I feed him first. Only a cat has the nerve to hiss and swat at you while begging for food. I can actually pet him as long as Tery is nearby.

The problem isn't me -- the fact that the bird is still here is evidence of how much weight my opinion holds. No, unfortunately it's Francesca Sofia, who is learning how empty our promise is that she had the last word on his status.

The people who say getting two strange cats to eat together is a big step towards successful integration are full of crap. They eat together all the time. It doesn't stop the occasional fracas, which seems to depend largely on the time of day -- mostly my first hour of work in the morning, and at night when we're settling in for sleep.

We think Logan is just playing, but Kitten doesn't see it that way at all. She hunches down, ears flattened, making these hair-raising noises that sound like she's being raped and skinned alive simultaneously: truly one of the most horrible sounds you'll ever hear in your lifetime. Logan is tragically inept at interpreting this seemingly crystal clear body language.

Our sympathy has waned considerably when we realized that, in our 940-square foot condo, she pigheadedly repeatedly goes to find him instead of, I don't know, sticking to the 900+ feet of real estate where she can't see him. "AHA! I found you! And as a reminder...I STILL HATE YOU!"

The balcony, strangely, seems to be neutral ground

For now, he's keeping his bags packed just in case:

"Nobody knows the troubles I've seen...." The box isn't photoshopped in. He took to that like, well, a cat used to living in boxes

Best case scenario, we're going to end up with two diabetic cats with eating disorders: Logan because he's got a stray cat appetite, Kitten because she's stress eating.


Really quickly, why I can't use my new Windows 7 computer yet.

My employer's software doesn't work with Windows 7. So I jumped through all these hoops and installed Win 7 Professional to be able to set up a WinXP virtual mode. Which runs the software perfectly.

HOWEVER. Since my life is never simple, this isn't the end of the story. Also critical to my work is a foot pedal for controlling the dictations (which can also be done with keyboard commands, but that would be so ponderous and difficult my production rate would be halved). Despite plugging in with a USB connection, apparently the pedal is considered an HID (human interface device), which, naturally, isn't recognized by the virtual environment. HA!

So we have a really expensive Facebook-checking tool for now. On the bright side, perhaps by the time my employer becomes Win7 friendly, Microsoft will have worked out the surprising number of incompatibilities I've already encountered in my few short hours playing around.

Which begs the question: Where does Microsoft get off releasing software that doesn't recognize technology that's been working fine for years?


Now for some movie reviews (as always, cut for possible spoilers):

::Where the Wild Things Are:: )

The movie features the creature work of Jim Henson's Workshop, with CGI facial animation so seamless I couldn't see it. Max Records has the face of a boyish angel, but the truly rambunctious streak of a wild thing. The script has the vaguely nonsensical quality of a fairy tale, and evokes the aching sadness of the last summer of childhood before the first awareness of responsibility sets in.

4 out of 5 stars. Oh, and I totally want an adult-sized Max wolf suit.

::Avatar:: )

I left the theater the minute the credits started to roll, because this is a slam dunk Blu-ray purchase.

Naturally I spent today reading what others thought on Overwhelmingly favorable, but a few critics just couldn't get past the derivative plot ("Dances with Wolves in space") or the "environmentalist tree-hugging" message. They pooh-poohed the groundbreaking technology used, said it was overrated and that the movie wouldn't stand up to repeat viewings. I was made uncomfortable by the movie's defenders calling it the Star Wars of our time. That's what they said about The Fifth Element and that seemed to sort of fizzle out.

Of course let's not forget the blatantly obvious similarities to Iraq, or Vietnam, or the pilgrims on the Mayflower, or any other situation in our history when people with superior military force bulldozed over the weaker indigenous population.

I loved the movie because it was escapism at its purest (plus I hated Dances with Wolves and think it can only be improved upon, mainly by using anyone besides Kevin Costner) -- when I left the theater, I felt a wave of sadness that I had to go back to stupid old Earth. I wanted to live on Pandora, and better yet be a 10-foot tall, feline, graceful, fierce Na'vi. Experiencing that feeling is what movies were invented for, if you ask me.

4.5 out of 5 stars
grrgoyl: (Jayne momma's boy)
Remember when I said I was going to try to start writing shorter, more digestible entries? This is not one of them. But since I'm so super nice, I'll cut for length so the boring doesn't take up your whole f-list for a day.

::We need ANOTHER new computer:: )

ADDENDUM TO ADDENDUM: You started out in Austin, Texas, Win 7 Prof. What the hell are you doing in Utah???


::Everything must go! Especially this guy trying to rip me off:: )


I won't cut this or else you'll miss out on the pretty photos.

I'm excited because after watching "Cats 101" on Animal Planet, we suddenly realized what breed our Schminky Minky is (remember she was found in a garage with a litter of babies, no official credentials on her). She's a Norwegian Forest Cat!

Now when you rattle off such a grand-sounding title to people, they look at you like you've lost your mind and started thinking you're King Louis XI (or your cat is). But the thing is, she fits the description to a T.

Physically they're known for their long coats (it's cold in Norway. Though frankly it's a bit wasted when she spends most of her day on the softest bed money can buy), particularly their full neck ruff, big bushy tail and tufty toes (that was the point we perked up). Their faces are equilateral triangles with big eyes and tufty ears. Built sturdy, they're the distant cousin of Maine Coons (I've always thought she was part Coon). Emotionally they're calm, confident, intelligent and faithful. I don't think I need to add any more to that statement.

A Google image search turns up lots of examples to back my claims, but I chose this one to show you:

For comparison, here's Mitten:

Thanks to Tery's efficient new labeling system, there can be no mistake. I love how she left out an entire syllable

Totally unrelated, after rewatching some Firefly, I decided I couldn't go another day without Jayne's cunning hat. Fortunately eBay is crawling with them:

I do believe I got me a Halloween costume already for next year. I also just noticed there's a Norweign Forest Cat with me in the picture. Faithful.
grrgoyl: (Jayne momma's boy)
My computer died this weekend. Did anyone miss me? I thought not, bastards.

Same apparent symptoms as its predecessor: Reluctant to power on all week, then Friday just flat out refused completely. The good news was it's only 6 months old so still under warranty. The bad news was there was a 2-day waiting period before anyone would even look at it, according to the girl at Micro Center. GodDAMMIT.

Most people, when faced with a bonus two days off from work, are happy. Me, I spent it fuming over the money I wasn't making (and watching movies. Lots of movies. More later). I tried using Tery's computer at the hospital, but was quickly reminded of the primitive torturous experience that is dial-up. No flitting around the intraweb as the whim takes you, no sir. You've got to be totally committed to that page before you type in that address. ARGH.

So Friday and Saturday were essentially wasted (though I did get a 4-hour nap in before work Saturday night. Luxury!) Sunday Tery suggested we go see Knocked Up (more later). I didn't mind, but Sunday might be a crucial day -- it was the day someone would finally be getting to my computer, and as I suspected it was probably a simple 15-minute fix, I expected to be called any moment to come get it. So it was that as the end credits started to roll, for the first time ever I was the annoying person flipping my phone open to check my messages before the lights came up. I didn't like doing it but it had to be done, even if it was for nothing.

Monday. Now I was getting twitchy. I awoke at 6 a.m. from a deep sleep and the first thought in my head was "My computer had better be ready today." Then it was like Harry Potter DVD release day: I lay awake imagining not the joy of being reunited with my baby, but the various furious rants I would subject the person to who told me it hadn't been fixed yet. Oh, I pitied de fool who told me I had to miss 3 days of work without pay (Monday is normally my day off, but I was hoping to pick up a shift if everything went as planned).

Micro Center doesn't roll out of bed until 10 a.m., so I watched some of The Fisher King on AMC. Even one of my top 10 favorites of all time couldn't calm my nerves. FINALLY 10:00 arrived and I called. Do you know what those fuckers told me? They got to it first thing on Friday and tried calling me then. So who to be angry at? Them for not trying again Saturday, and Sunday, or I don't know, leaving a message? Or T-Mobile for not leaving any indication whatsoever on my phone to alert me?

So I got angry at no one. I went to pick it up without so much as a scowl, because this turn of events was so unexpected.

They did tell me the power supply was fried and suggested the culprit was my surge suppressor. Despite being a fancy shmancy $100 strip, it IS over 10 years old at this point so I couldn't really argue. I went directly to the suppressor aisle to buy a new one, where I found all types and sizes ranging from $5-$100. Why would people buy a $100 surge suppressor when it's recommended that you replace them every 1-2 years? Probably for the same reason they buy CPU towers with transparent panels and neon lights running through them. Me, I just want my work access and porn and I'm happy; I couldn't care less what the tool looks like.

Overwhelmed, I jumped at the chance when a salesman offered help. To my shock and amazement, he made a beeline for an unassuming $10 number. I was skeptical, but he was adamant that they were the leader in the industry (APC was the brand) and offered a guarantee to replace any equipment that got damaged while using their product. I would have looked around some more, but he was absolutely 100% sure this plain-looking strip was all I needed. I was just gobsmacked over not being talked into the most expensive item on the shelf. And at $10 a pop, I'll gladly replace it every year.


Now, smorgasbord of movies. After dropping off my computer and under the assumption I wouldn't see it for 3 whole days, I detoured to Hollywood Video on the way home, with varying results.

Altered: This caught my eye because it proclaimed it was from the director of The Blair Witch Project. I admit it -- I liked BWP. I think it was one of the scariest movies I've ever seen that never showed you anything and downright impressive considering the shoestring budget. I also insist that anyone who didn't find it scary has never been in the woods at night, which can be pretty damn creepy even when you aren't lost.

Altered, sadly, is nothing at all like BWP. The director went and got himself more of a budget, more no-name terrible actors, and made himself a stupid, waste of time alien horror movie.

::Spoily Spoily #1:: )

People need to stop using the "From the director of _____" line to sell movies. And "Terrifying...Disturbing...Horrifying....Heart-pounding" are a few of the promises made by the back of the slip case -- obviously written by 7-year-olds who have never seen anything more frightening than a Teletubby, because my pulse never once exceeded my normal resting rate. 1 out of 5

The Fair-Haired Child: This was much, much better. It's part of the "Masters of Horror" series, which I've found to be better than commercially big horror movies. This chapter is directed by William "House on Haunted Hill" Malone (he also did Feardotcom, but the less spoken about that the better). (Ironically in light of my above statement in Altered, I specifically chose this because of Malone.)

::Spoily Spoily #2:: )

Despite being less than an hour (55 minutes), minute for minute this far surpassed Altered for fright value, IMO. 3.5 out of 5

The Fountain: This is the Hugh Jackman/Rachel Weisz vehicle that looked stunningly beautiful in the trailer, with not much indication of a plot. And that's exactly what it is -- beautiful cinematography, beautiful CG effects, beautiful Hugh, and what seems to be an attempt at a plot that will give you a brain aneurysm if you concentrate too hard.

::Spoily Spoily #3:: )

The music is terrific, the visuals stunning, the story a messy hodge-podge of crack-induced mythologies and philosophies. If ever I could have been saved by the "From the director of _____" advertising, it would have been here: This is the lovechild of Darren "Requiem for a Dream" Aranofsky, a similarly confusing movie that also looks like the result of a wacky tobacky all-nighter. Tery informed me as the ending credits rolled that I was henceforth no longer allowed to pick movies for us (Ryan came over to see it too). 2 out of 5, just because Hugh is so very, very pretty.

Last but not at all least (thanks to Altered), we saw Knocked Up. Do I need a summary of this one? Doughy loser Ben somehow hooks up with supermodel material Alison and they make a baby together. Suffice to say that this review should begin with the phrase "Speaking of the result of a wacky tobacky all-nighter..."

::Spoily Spoily #4:: )

I had such high hopes. I read review after review on Fandango proclaiming this to be "the funniest movie in years." People left the theater with "sides aching from laughing so hard." Yeah, it's funny, if you're into stoner humor, fart gags and endless jokes about male sexuality. While I enjoy those things from time to time, I need a little more to get me through 2 hours. Judging from my mostly silent fellow theatergoers, I wasn't alone. It did feel good to tell Tery that I was laughing on the inside, however (her excuse for not laughing at my movies) 1.5 out of 5

Boy oh boy did I miss my computer.
grrgoyl: (U2 iPod)
A Super Bowl party is a damn lonely place if you don't care about sports. I went to Tery's bar, City Pub nee Toby Jug, for the promise of a free half-time buffet and the chance to see Ryan (which I never miss). It was loud, boring, and the only food that appealed to me from the buffet was a hotdog and nachos with toppings. In between a shouted and only partially-heard conversation with Ryan I caught myself watching the game, which was ludicrous given the fact that I understand only the bare minimum of how it's played and really absolutely could not have cared less who was playing, let alone winning. I left immediately after the half-time show to spend a much more enjoyable evening alone at home.


I heard back from the IRS once and for all. The good news is they agree that I don't owe them $2000. The bad news is the last line of the letter was something to the effect of, "You may have gotten off easy this time, but we'll be back, my pretty." Lay off, Mr. Taxman. Have you run out of Enron executives to investigate?


I hate computers. I love them, but I hate them. My ability to make any given program/hardware work falls somewhere above that of my father (at the 0 end of the scale) and below my friend Gerry, who bandies about lots of fancy terminology but doesn't by any means know enough to make a living at it (or maybe he does and just enjoys the thrilling inventory life instead).

I want to use my cheap, no-frills, secondhand laptop basically for two things only: to read Snarry at night in my bed, and to occasionally write a journal post for days like today when I'm sick and tired of sitting at this desk. I had achieved both goals handily when I got my brother-in-law's wireless modem card working for awhile. Then, stupidly, I unplugged it for some reason and when I tried to use it again weeks later it had stopped working.

I fiddled with it endlessly, tormented by the knowledge that it had worked fine at one time so should logically do so again. If it had never worked I would have stopped much, much sooner and wasted much, much less time. But nothing I did would establish a connection (well, specifically it APPEARED to have a connection, but every page I visited produced an "unable to find server" message).

Fine, I thought. I'd go back to the old days of using a floppy disk to transfer data (the laptop has a CD drive but not a burner). Until I looked more closely at my new desktop and only then noticed it didn't HAVE a floppy disk drive. It has no less than 4 different openings for presumably various sizes of memory sticks, but floppy disks, nada.

My choices then were to go back to eBay in pursuit of either an external floppy drive to retrofit my new desktop, or an external memory stick drive to upgrade my laptop. You see, this is why I HATE computers. Nothing can ever be simple. I then thought I had reached a compromise by buying a USB data transfer cable, which arrived yesterday. What the auction failed to mention was that to use this deceivingly simple tool, one needs to set up a network. I don't know what I was expecting. Probably what I always hope for with my computer and rarely get, that I could plug in a "plug-and-play" device and it would magically start working without requiring any extra effort from me.

Network. The very word makes my blood run cold, because it was a word I encountered repeatedly in my exhaustive efforts with the modem card, and I never once found a simple, straightfoward, plain English explanation on what it is, how it's used, and how one creates it. And, as far as I can tell from spending about an hour on it last night, it's not possible to establish a network between a brand new desktop running Windows XP and a laptop of indeterminate age and limited capacity running Windows 98. If it is, I don't want to know because I'm sick of playing with the damn thing. Sick to death.

Simple. I want things simple. Back to eBay I went and bought an external floppy drive for my desktop. It's also USB "plug-and-play" but claims it only needs drivers for Windows 98. (Drivers. Another word that raises my hackles.)


Speaking of computers and Snarry, when I got my backup disk from the good people at Action Computers, one of the things they saved was my own humble effort at a Snarry story. I went back and reread it, and it rekindled my interest in writing it. It wasn't as bad as I remembered, and I also forgot how fun it is to write dialogue for Snape (who is almost as snarky as me). I'm toying with the idea of eventually posting it on one of my Snarry communities (if I can ever think of an ending). The only thing preventing me is the fact that those people gush over just about everyone, regardless of talent or lack thereof. I would honestly prefer it never see the light of day to having insincere praise heaped upon it. So far the only person privileged enough to read it is my beloved Bear, who never talks to me but I love her anyway. Maybe I can entice [ profile] ohdeve...I mean, [ profile] yammerhead with it. He's back and he'll never admit it, but I suspect he couldn't resist the allure of the Snarry.


Finally, I keep putting off writing this because I've been trying to limit my posts to one topic, but since this is a miscellaneous dump I'm including it here.

A movie review 18 years in the making, ::Die Hard:: )

This movie has undoubtedly stood the test of time, especially in comparison to two movies I've reviewed in the past: The Lost Boys which came out the year before and is now hopelessly dated, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that came out 3 years later and is retarded and dated. With its story of a terrorist attack on a skyscraper, it could be argued that it's more relevant than ever. So, Alan Rickman + Bruce Willis (not an annoyingly horrible actor like other action heroes) + still a great story + with still pretty decent effects = 4.5 out of 5
grrgoyl: (Snarry sepia)
I'm updating now because Ryan and I are seeing Pan's Labyrinth on Sunday and I have every expectation of loving it and writing it up in glowing detail.

J., the full-time overnight woman at the kennels, is on vacation this week. Unfortunately for Tery, who had to fill in for her last night and again tonight (I stepped up Sunday night). However Dr. K stayed Tuesday night to keep an eye on some patients of hers. She told Tery the next morning that she used to spend the night at the hospital all the time, but admitted to suffering some paranoia due to the break-in. She said she walked all the big dogs and had one dog left when she swore she heard a sneeze on the other side of the fence. Unfortunately the last remaining dog was a Yorkie, no one's first, second, or even third choice in an attack breed.

Not actually Lady, but you certainly get the idea

She told Tery she tossed Lady up the stairs with a whispered, "Good luck!" and locked the door behind her as fast as she could. I've had Lady the past two weekends, and I personally wouldn't have even bothered, knowing her penchant for dashing across the yard to cower under a folding chair without doing any business whatsoever.


I got another letter from the IRS yesterday. If you'll remember, they claimed I owed them about $2,000 awhile back. This letter 2 months later, however, was merely to inform me that my case was being examined and they'd get back to me. And here all this time I was just assuming no news was good news. Let it never be said that the IRS does anything too hastily.


My data remains trapped in the corpse of my old CPU. I put off going to Action Computers (many thanks once again to [ profile] dopshoppe, my knight in shining armor) because I didn't think I had any money and I would've felt damn foolish saying, "Here's my computer. Can you help me? Oh yeah, but I can't pay you until the end of the week." Then Tery came home from a night at the bar crowing about finding someone with a friend who could do it for free. This is one of the perks I can see about hanging out in bars: You can usually find someone who knows something about just about anything you need help with. However the drawback to relying on this kind of help is that you have to wait for the unlikely intersection of free time in schedules plus tracking them down again at the bar added to hoping they aren't too far along in their drinking before you get there. To further complicate matters, like I mentioned earlier I would ideally like to salvage some (a lot) of Snarry from the old unit and would feel infinitely more comfortable asking someone as a paying customer. I don't know why it makes a difference, it just does. I'm going to Action on Monday, Alicia, promise.


Every day I'm slipping further and further into a full-blown Alan Rickman obsession. I recognize the signs, I've been here before. Whereas I'm not quite at the point of hunting down every frame of film he's ever appeared in ever, I HAVE broken down and bought a used copy of Die Hard. Typically movies featuring such macho bravado bullshit that Bruce Willis seems to specialize in turn my stomach, but I remember Hans Gruber being particularly delicious, AND the disc features commentary with Alan (though in a peculiar "text" form that I've never seen in all my DVD watching -- it's positively criminal to have a commentary with Alan without using his voice, but this is how desperate I'm becoming). Not to mention the best line in the movie (and arguably of the whole man's career) belongs to him: "I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite." S-NAP!!

I even bought a special 2-disc edition of Dogma in hopes of there being even a few seconds more of the Metatron, but alas. However, I haven't quite become desperate enough to spend good money on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (see my scathing, hate-filled review) and if I ever do, I will probably keep that fact to myself.


My Alcoholic neighbor, who was soooo offended by the sight of Tracey's screen door hanging half open, has had 4 bags of trash on her landing all week. Thank God she's given up running to me with every little whining complaint about Tracey.

Coming soon: Pan's Labyrinth!!!!!!!!
grrgoyl: (wall)
Oh Lord, what a day.

It all began when my computer died, for good this time. It's been terribly cranky about waking up in the morning for about 6 months now, but today it was well and truly DOA.

My plan was to bring it back to Micro Center based on the phone tech support guy's belief that it was just the power source and therefore an easy fix. On my way I had to stop for gas first, where I encountered my second problem. When I finished pumping, the trigger was stuck on the nozzle and it wouldn't stop. I panicked and, quite stupidly, pulled it out of the tank, dousing my coat with gasoline. GodDAMMIT.

I got to Micro Center and disappointingly was told that the power source was fine, but the motherboard wasn't passing the message along to power up. The guy assured me that replacing the motherboard might cost almost as much as getting a new machine, but they wouldn't know anything for sure without running diagnostics. Fabulous. So I ponied up 60 ill-afforded dollars just to have them diagnose the problem. Then, even though I had stripped down to my sweater, the guy 20 feet away behind another register asked the room in general, "Why do I smell gas?" I red-facedly explained I had had an incident at the pump.

I stopped to pick up some cables in a (probably useless) attempt to bring my crappy old laptop up to snuff so I could at least work in the interim (where another sales associate sniffed the air suspiciously and I had to own up to my condition yet again), but I couldn't resist swinging through the sales department to price new computers, where I saw a brand new unit with all the trimmings I needed for only $450. Thank God computer prices have dropped so much. I retreated to my car and discussed with Tery, deciding it made no sense to try to fix a nearly 4-year-old machine when new ones were so cheap.

So it was across the street to an ATM to empty my savings (*sob*) and back into the store (after changing into a clean sweater I had in my trunk) to cancel the work order and reclaim my much-needed $60. Out again with the old CPU, back in again to buy the new one.

As I stood at the register waiting for the clerk to count the sizable stack of $20's, someone tapped on my shoulder and offered to shake my hand. "How are you today? I'm the store manager. Just wanted to thank you for shopping with us!" Okaaaaaaay. Either he's a VERY friendly store manager, or my admittedly erratic behavior set off some warning bells on the security cameras. I wouldn't be at all surprised (or offended) if each and every one of my $20's received the counterfeit pen test after my departure. Nor would I be surprised if I was heretofore referred to as the "gas girl" (though that MIGHT offend me).

So here I sit with an awesome new machine. Everything would be shiny if I could stop thinking about all the stuff I've lost. All the downloaded music, all the family photos, all the very valuable internet bookmarks that I used for work, not to mention a fairly impressive collection of Snarry fiction and art (which, I'll confess, I wasn't too keen on the tech support folks at Micro Center catching a glimpse of). This is even worse than a system crash because the data isn't destroyed, just inaccessible. Does anyone know anything about transferring data from one hard drive to another by using the same CPU? (or, for that matter, the best way to get gas out of clothing? Everything still reeks after two laundry cycles.)
grrgoyl: (Good grief Charlie Brown)
I've had my first experience with, and I'm happy to report it was a positive one.

In the wake of the massive influx of DVDs I'm undergoing (I'm calling them "birthday presents" when they would more accurately be described as an "ill-afforded shopping spree," but that's our little secret), I noticed suddenly that our DVD rack was near full to bursting. The latest haul: Crash, The Relic and Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. Winging their way to me as we speak: South Park Season 7 and an as yet undisclosed title from my friend JeffyJeff in England (which is the only one that can rightfully be called a "birthday present"). Since it would be unrealistic to pretend that I'm never going to buy another DVD for the rest of my life, something had to be done about the storage shortage.

Last weekend I sprang into action, dragging Tery down to Lowe's to enact my original plan for the space -- a shelving system that would not only look less like it belongs in a dorm room but would have the added benefit of future expansion possibilities without bringing in still more mismatched furniture to our living room. Such a system was installed, not without the exchange of angry, tense words (which usually characterize any attempt to get Tery away from Nascar/baseball/golf on her days off), and it looks quite breathtaking.

However we were then left with an extra DVD rack, too nice to toss in the trash but too large to sell on eBay. I remembered my friend Gerry trying to get me to buy a used computer monitor off Craigslist (advice which I ignored at the time, but it has proven useful after all). Worth a try, I decided. I composed a brief ad, posted it and went about my day. Imagine my surprise when I received a reply about four hours later from a guy claiming to already have two identical units and looking for a third to match. What were the freakin' odds?

I was at first delighted to be getting rid of it so handily, but my delight soon gave way to doubt. What WERE the odds that this guy just happened to be cruising the ads and found the exact same unit that matched his within four hours of my posting it? The odds that he might actually be some kind of sexual predator or torture killer searching for the keywords "pick-up only" seemed far, far greater. It's sad that we have to worry about such a thing, but in this day and age you hear the most gruesome stories happening as a result of someone's foolishly misplaced trust.

We began a steady email correspondence to arrange a pick-up time. I mentioned this was my first Craigslist transaction and subtly hinted at the amazing coincidence of his speedy reply. He reassured me Craigslist was funny that way sometimes. He told me he was an ex-military man who could find his way easily to my house after being overseas and described his hectic night work schedule, personal details that I felt were completely unnecessary and therefore probably all part of his act. The more he tried to soothe me, the more he sounded like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Even his screen name, "Robdaddy," seemed like a carefully calculated element of his harmless image; "Awww, he has kids, he couldn't POSSIBLY be evil." In conversation he sounded like a nice enough guy, but hell, even I can seem nice in emails.

The night before our rendezvous I only half-jokingly asked my male co-workers if any of them wanted to hang out with me until the transaction was completed. They laughed at my (half) joke. C'mon guys, I'm not asking you to replace my bathtub, just sit there and look manly and intimidating! People asked why I didn't just do it while Tery was home, and I explained that if he was going to kill me, he could just as easily kill Tery too, leaving a house full of orphaned animals. After they'd all had a jolly good laugh at my expense I said that if I didn't show up to work the following night they would know the reason why. And that they'd all be sorry when I was gone (okay, this last was actually muttered darkly to myself).

But the following morning dawned with an even more dire problem at hand. We had lost our internet connection! The modem sat practically lifeless with only one light on, despite several system reboots (my cure-all for any computer ills. Call any tech support line, I can almost guarantee this will be the first thing they tell you to try). I scheduled an emergency service call with Comcast and sat despondently on the couch to wait for them and Rob, my potential rapist/killer. Just typical of my life, I thought, that I had to spend what could be my last day on earth without internet access.

It was while trying to fill these empty hours that I became uncomfortably aware of just how internet-dependent I have become. My thoughts drifted occasionally to what I COULD be doing, all of which unfortunately guessed it. "Oh yeah, I got paid Friday. I can order South Park now" -- No, you can't. "I could catch up on my friends list" -- Too bad. "I need to list some more items on eBay" -- Get over it already. And of course, the biggest annoyance of all: "I could be working and earning money" -- Knock it off. And frankly this conversation is becoming tiresome. Even after Rob came and went without incident, my modesty and pulse intact, my first thought was "I need to go back to the site and delete my ad" -- Oh for god's sake I can't believe what a LOSER you are.

Comcast came and went equally without incident (the outside connection had somehow come undone), but by that point I was too exhausted from hours of doing nothing and opted for a nap before my night job. Rather anticlimactic, but my life frequently is.

But tonight......TONIGHT! I'm going to see Silent Hill. I've invited no less than 3 friends to go with me, I'm THAT scared to see it alone. I also found used copies of the video games (chapters 2-4, chapter 1 is evidently out of print and sellers are taking full advantage of this fact), the last of my "birthday presents," the playing of which will have to wait until after the movie thanks to the work week from hell I just finished. This movie looks so scary I'm actually nervous that I'll have nightmares (which is probably silly; the only movie that has ever given me nightmares was a little shark flick in the summer of 1975), but I'm willing to risk it because when I feel scared I feel ALIVE.
grrgoyl: (wall)
Yesterday I finally got a full day off (not for lack of RGIS's attempt to take it away, but I've been clinging to the thought of it like a life buoy). I was going to clean the house, burn a DVD, watch some movies, maybe fool around with some new audio conversion software I just got (analog recordings to CD). It was supposed to be nice and relaxing and enjoyable.

But the gods must have picked up on my plans, because halfway through the day my computer crashed. It just locked up, rebooted itself, and came up to a pleasantly-worded but completely unwelcome DOS screen that said so sorry, but Windows started unsuccessfully. It helpfully gave me several options, a few safe modes, returning to my "last known good configuration," or starting Windows normally, all of which only brought me back to the same DOS screen.

Not knowing what else to do (and feeling vulnerable, scared and alone without the Internet available to help me), I tried the emergency recovery CD that came with my computer. I balked at hitting "OK" when it explained that it would have to delete the "user partition." I called my brother-in-law, who I perceived (falsely, it turns out) to be a computer whiz. After a couple of hours of internet research he didn't have any other options for me. Poop. So I went ahead with the recovery CD, praying it would just affect Windows and not all my applications and personal files. But since I was praying to the same gods who thought it would be fun to crash my system in the first place, they just sniggered cruelly behind their hands.

After about an hour it was up and running the pristine, virginal state in which I bought it. >: (

Gone were lots of Very Important Things. Photos (including wedding pictures we hadn't bothered to print out yet). A folder full of reports I had meticulously saved from extremely difficult doctor dictations for future reference (thank god the rest of my work material is on the company's server). A folder full of downloaded music (mostly Tery's, so not such a big deal there). Text copies of snail mails I had sent to friends and unnumbered miscellaneous fun pictures and programs I had received from friends. All my Quicken financial records (my backup floppy proved unreadable for restoring purposes). All of my beautiful applications, of course, though most of them not a big hardship to reload.

Switching from AOL to Comcast ISP turned out to be a two-edged sword. I didn't have to spend an hour reloading any software (AOL), but I had lost all my IE bookmarked websites, most of which I didn't bother to remember the addresses of because that's what bookmarking is for.

I won't lie to you, there were tears shed. And some gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. And a fair amount of assuming the fetal position. I can say with pride I resisted the urge to wail, however.

A computer crash is a lot like a house fire, I had time to realize while waiting for multiple programs to reinstall. I know because our house burned down when I was 8, and all of my childhood possessions were reduced to smoldering, charred pieces of unrecognizable debris. It was traumatizing at the time, but at least I didn't lose really important things, like financial records and wedding photos. Granted rebuilding a house involves a little more than sticking a disc in a tray and clicking on some buttons. But like a house fire, in a computer crash you don't realize everything that is missing until you try to resume your normal activities. That's when stuff that you've been taking for granted isn't there anymore and you sigh as you add it to the list of things that eventually need to be replaced. Like special fonts you've downloaded. Settings that have returned to their defaults. Websites that no longer recognize you. (As I'm undergoing today) a constant barrage of Windows updates being downloaded and installed, interrupting your work. Programs you've been using for months reverting to their trial/evaluation status and needing activation codes again. Losing access to your LJ tags (which I just now noticed. WTF?????????)

I am reminded of that corny (but beloved) 80's movie, Electric Dreams, when Miles' computer literally controls every aspect of his environment, from dimming lights to making coffee. I'm not THAT dependent, but a dismaying amount of my everyday life is inextricably tied into my computer -- which I didn't realize until I didn't have it anymore.

Computer problems really, really SUCK. Needless to say my next purchase will have to be backup software, because I can't go through this again.

Speaking of AOL, a few days ago I received a letter from them threatening to cut off my service if I didn't provide them with valid billing information. Lo, almost three full months to the day after I cancelled my account with them. Sheesh, AOL. Now you're bordering on the psychostalkerish. I told you, WE'RE THROUGH. Would you PLEASE try to move on?? Maybe you need counseling or something. I'm hiding my pet rabbits, just to be on the safe side.

Me: I'm sorry, AOL. It's over.
AOL: I will NOT be ignored!!!

Edit: Solved the LJ tag mystery at least. I thought I was logged in, but wasn't. This illustrates perfectly what I mean by daily routines that didn't require maintenance before a computer crash.
grrgoyl: (Tick)
Still no word from the guy who only wanted to dabble in eBay selling to toy with my emotions and waste my valuable time. As much as I'd love to move on and buy elsewhere, apparently recently portable DVD batteries have become quite the hot item and I had to begrudgingly admit I would be getting a hell of a deal (especially with free shipping)...that is assuming I could ever get the guy to hold up his end of the bargain. So since my latest email to him is apparently being ignored, I did the next best thing and tattled to eBay. This might seem like an extreme reaction, especially considering he had me cancel my payment so I'm not even out anything at this point. But if the situation were reversed, if I had won the auction but then not paid, he could similarly report me and be well within his rights. This is why there are reminders all over the site that listing an item and bidding on it is a binding contract.

Unfortunately the process to report a non-selling seller involved submitting certain technical information, namely the full headers of the incriminating email (i.e. "Sender's return path isp 97.610.56 net Mozilla" blah blah blah and all that). Since AOL is designed to be used by the lowest common denominator of the population, this information is not included on emails, nor is it immediately apparent how to get to it. After a perfunctory search through AOL's nefariously useless Help page (which again, is tailored to serve even (or only) the stupidest people on the planet) I swallowed my pride, squinched up my eyes and entered the AOL Live Technical Help arena.

I was eye-squinching in preparation for the obsequious bowing and scraping of the tech support person, and they didn't disappoint. This time I kept a copy of the session so I could include actual quotes (in case anyone didn't believe me). As you can see, it took Tech Live Janice quite a bit of ass-kissing before she could get to actually answering my question, I suspect a stalling tactic while she asked someone else what the answer was.

TechLiveJani :I appreciate this excellent opportunity to handle this issue for you :) (Praise Allah for giving me the chance to serve you, Holiest of Holy AOL Users!)

[Here there was a silence long enough to become uncomfortable, so I thought maybe she actually required a response to this]

Grrgoyl :thanks

TechLiveJani :No problem, I'm sure we can take care of that.

TechLiveJani :I'll do my best to make sure this is your last call for this particular problem. (Well, it's not as if it's been plaguing me night and day, tormenting my every waking hour. It really is just a quick, minor question because I'm too lazy to search the whole internet)

TechLiveJani :Elaine, when you get an email it automatically shows all the email addresses from where it has come from or to whom all this email has been sent.

TechLiveJani :When you open an email there is an arrow in the middle of that email on top. (See what I mean about "lowest common denominator"? Are there honestly people who go through all the trouble of Tech Support because they can't find the little "expand" arrow up there?)

Grrgoyl :I need to see the technical header, with the mozilla info and all that.

TechLiveJani :Could you please clarify more on this statement? (Because like most of our simpleton users, the only header I ever care about is the email subject and the return address...and I do technical support for a LIVING!!)

Grrgoyl :This is the example I was given: From: Received: from ( []) by mail (8.8.8/8.7.1) with SMTP id GAA15251; Mon, 22 Mar 1999

Grrgoyl :for instance

TechLiveJani :Are you able to open that email?

Grrgoyl :yes

TechLiveJani :Has it been sent from a NON-AOL address?

Grrgoyl :yes

TechLiveJani :Do you see a Details Tab under the email addresses?

Grrgoyl :ahhh...that's what I need. Thanks!

TechLiveJani :You're welcome.

TechLiveJani :Here you will get all the information. (*through gritted teeth* Yes, thank you. I can see it.)

TechLiveJani :Is there anything else I can assist you with at this time?

Grrgoyl : No, that's all I needed. Have a nice day

TechLiveJani :You too!! (Okay. Let's not make a big thing about this.)

TechLiveJani :Bye and take care :) (Please. It's getting embarrassing now.)

TechLiveJani :It has been my pleasure assisting you. ( Good day, madam....I SAID GOOD DAY!)


*peeling tech support lady off my leg*

I was mildly mortified that it was such an easy solution, but it never occurred to me to click on the "Details" thingie. And why don't they just put that on their help page? Still, this does not, repeat DOES NOT, put me in the same category as people who never think to try the "expand" arrow. Shut up.
grrgoyl: (savagecat)
Joke: What's the difference between America and Canada? Canadians think there's a difference.

Well evidently they think right. I know this because today I spent another 20 Minutes Of My Life That I'll Never Get Back on the phone with yet another Clueless, Making-$17-An-Hour-To-Do-Nothing techie over my email issues. We went again down her little checklist of possible solutions, most of which looked discouragingly familiar. She asked me AGAIN how big the email was. Apparently there is a way to check actual MB size (not that my mail falls even remotely close to the MB category), which unfortunately involves clicking on the mail in the "Sent" folder. I think my patience was stupendously admirable as I explained that I couldn't do that, as I CAN'T. SEND. THE MAIL. (is anyone even LISTENING to me over there??). With each failure my voice took on an even more smug, self-righteous, been-there-tried-that tone (purely against my will, I swear). She said they would check it out on their end, as it was entirely possible the problem was with them and not me (which I am almost certain of, based on Operation: Delete and Reinstall being a resounding disappointment), but for now I should try the AOL Canada website to send my mail (which worked like a charm because, like everything else, it is better made than American products). I asked when I should call back if I still had the problem, and she laughed and said I could call back as often as I liked. And instantly realized her mistake when I made it clear this wasn't nearly as amusing to me and I certainly had better things to do than chat with Tech Support all day. I kind of regret being so harsh, only because it earned me no less than four apologies for the frustration in embarrassingly quick succession.

Her last words to me were, ironically, "Thank you for using America Online." I thought that demonstrated a remarkable level of hubris, because if I can't do something as basic as send email (did I mention I'm paying $24 a month?) I very well might have to go elsewhere for my internet needs (which I say all the time, then always come crawling back to AOL. Damn their user-friendliness.)

grrgoyl: (fightclub)
I am quickly losing patience with computers. Or specifically, my computer.

This new intolerance began when it occurred to me just how many cumulative months I have spent watching a little blue download bar march agonizingly across the screen, moving as stubbornly slowly as a blue-hair Sunday driver on Tuesday. I imagine my life being measured in these little percent increments. There is plenty of time for all manner of such crazy thoughts while I watch the little download bar's maddeningly miniscule progress. Even worse are the download windows that generate a "time remaining" screen. What they fail to mention is that the time remaining is computer time, not human time. In this skewed measurement (not unlike dog years), "8 minutes" could actually translate into "20 minutes" or more. Please don't toy with me so, download screen. A little more truth in advertising, please.

In this same vein, I am rapidly losing my faith in tech support people. I had trouble with some software, software I've been using regularly for a year or more, which suddenly and inexplicably started producing error messages and stopped doing what it was supposed to (my long-time readers will remember said software from the infamous and aptly-named Computers Will Be the Death of Me post). It took over a week of going back and forth on the support message board before we solved the problem. The whole time I just wanted them to come out and admit they had no idea what to tell me, and stop wasting my time. But I did get a free upgrade to a new version that normally would have cost about $60. So it wasn't all bad.

This week my problem is with sending email via AOL. Sending brief (i.e. 15 lines or less) communiques entails about a 2-minute wait after hitting "send." Anything longer and the entire program locks up and has to be manually shut down via the task manager, with needless to say the mail in question refusing to go to its destination, hanging out in my "Waiting to Send" box like an insolent loafer, drinking all my pop and leaving the cap off the toothpaste. I've already had three tech support guys for breakfast. The first's advice was to restart the computer and shut down all applications running in the task manager, of which there were exactly 0...maybe he doesn't understand that applications don't show up in the manager until they are started. The second wanted me to email him my system info. Which sounds promising, until one realizes that the whole reason I contacted him is I CAN'T SEND LONG EMAILS. Brilliant.

At this point I abandoned the online chat route, which frankly is hella annoying anyway. The tech people are obsequious and pandering to the point of being embarrassing. The conversation is peppered with "I'm sorry you are having this inconvenience" and "I am sure we can get this fixed right away. Thank you so much for your patience" and "Is there anything else I can do for you, Oh Glorious AOL User? Perhaps detail your car or balance your checkbook?" I believe in being polite, but Jesus. I don't need someone licking my boots, I just want to send some freakin' email. The third guy on the phone took me through several basic and ultimately ineffective attempted solutions. I could tell his frustration was beginning to match mine when he asked, "What are you trying to send??" as if I was emailing my friend the complete text of the 9/11 Commission's findings or something (which personally, at $24 a month for crappy dial-up access, I think I should be able to if I was really so inclined). He finally mumbled something about having to check with the server people and trying again after 24 hours. Translation: "I have no idea what to tell you." Later today I will probably uninstall the software and reinstall, typically a master problem-solving technique for almost every kind of software.

I wish I could find someone to pay me $17 an hour to sit on my butt and tell people to uninstall and reinstall. I wish even more AOL would work the way it's supposed to or lower their prices accordingly. Yeah, right...
grrgoyl: (Default)
Call me old-fashioned with unreasonable expectations, but when I spend $150 on a piece of software, I expect the damn thing to work. I don't expect it to do my laundry or feed the cats, but I do expect it to do what it promises and what it is designed to do.

This was not the case with the subject of my complaint.

One of the biggest rationales (I mean, reasons) for buying my new computer was to use the spiffy new kits I saw that promised to let you transfer analog VHS tapes to DVD. Perfect! Not only do Tery and I have hours of camcordered footage from early in our relationship (some of it quite hilarious and entertaining), but my newfound love for Alan meant getting a lot of his earlier material which was only available on VHS. It would sadden me to no end to watch any of these tapes slowly deteriorate over the years like a dying, fading family member, so I was very excited by the prospect of saving these things on DVD, which, while retaining the substandard VHS quality, would nevertheless not degrade any further.

I went with Adaptec's VideOh! capture card and Sonic MyDVD software (packaged together) based on the salesman's recommendation (plus I am SUCH a sucker for products so cleverly named). Serves me right for not doing any research and picking up the first thing I see on the shelves (unlike my friend Deb, who can't buy a toaster without reading at least two consumer magazines on them. She waited 5 years to buy her first computer before she realized that the Race Against Obsolescence was one she would never win.)

I won't even go into all the problems I had with the product as they are too numerous and technical to list. I visited the Tech Support website so many times that not only was I on a first-name basis with some of the troubleshooters, but I even got an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner at one of their homes. But to no avail, no sooner would I resolve one problem than a new one would pop up. It was all I could do to submit further questions without peppering them with a healthy dose of expletives. I was not in the least encouraged by the fact that the website had a "customer forum" littered with other casualties, people who had been fighting this battle longer than I, posting hopeless questions which invariably either didn't get answered at all or they were advised to buy additional software to supplement the Sonic package, or in some cases, told to go with a completely different company. I got to the point where I wouldn't even wait for an answer from the website, I would experiment on my own. One of my problems was solved by opening my computer up and moving the capture card to a different slot. It worked like that for a few hours, then it froze up again, and resolved by moving the card back to the original slot. I am no technogeek, but I AM fairly certain computer hardware is not supposed to be operated by constantly changing its position on the motherboard. I got to the point that I just stopped screwing the cover back on, because I would more than likely need to take it off again in a few hours.

Considering what a lethally impatient person I am, I really think I devoted more time than it deserved in dealing with this impossible software.

Today was the last straw. After fighting through all the obstacles noted above, and wasting at least 5 perfectly good blank DVDs on previous abortive efforts, and against all odds, I FINALLY got a video file to the stage where I could attempt to burn it. It went through its paces, looking very promising, then just at the final stage the DVD was rudely ejected and yet another error message appeared, "could not complete last command because" Jupiter was not properly aligned with Neptune or some equally meaningless explanation.

Tery just happened to be in the room at this moment, and for her sake I refrained from doing any actual physical damage to my surroundings. I just sat in the chair and gripped the armrests until I thought I might pull them off, uttering gutteral nonsense syllables of rage and frustration, then made several (pulled) punches in the direction of the monitor. She said the veins were bulging on my forehead. And needless to say, the cats had run for the hills (or the next best thing, the bedroom) even though in all my temper tantrums I have never done violence to either of them. My biggest rant was how it could possibly be legal for a company to even sell a product so riddled with problems. She of course had no satisfactory answer for me.

I calmed myself and sweetly kissed her goodbye as she left for work. Then I got dressed and headed straight for the computer store where I bought this piece o' shite. The store policy on opened software was an exact exchange for an identical item...well, THAT ain't gonna happen, so I had resolved myself to the unpleasant fact that I would have to bite the bullet and take a loss for the sake of getting some software that actually did what it was supposed to. I summarized my tale of woe to the salesman in that department who, upon hearing my system specifications, frowned and said there was no reason I should be having all these problems. "Well, tell that to my computer" I challenged him. But he gave me a ray of hope when he said I could exchange it for another unit, then if I still had trouble they would refund me and I could try something else. Huzzah! I wouldn't lose my $150 after all!!

So I rushed back home, viciously boxed up the original hellspawn capture card and installation disc, and flew back to the store. The pimply-faced clerk at the exchange desk was a little hesitant about taking it back, as I no longer had the original box (although all the components were present). It was then that I learned there are definite advantages to being a broad-shouldered, mean-looking, very-much-a-woman-on-the-edge. "Well," I said calmly but with an unmistakable you-really-do-not-want-to-argue-with-me tone of voice, "I obviously did not expect to have as many problems with this thing as I did. So I threw the box away." He cheerfully made the exchange and gave me back my receipt. I still wasn't satisfied, though. "Can you write a note or something that I already exchanged this thing once? Because I am NOT going through this process a third time." He gladly jotted a little note to that effect on my receipt.

I returned home, all the while chanting a bitter litany in my head...."There is NO reason why this one should work any better than the first one. There is NO reason why this one should work any better than the first one" but I was buoyed by the promise of store credit and the freedom to pick out something different once this one inevitably proved itself to be equally disappointing. I installed it slowly, following every instruction to the letter. It initially gave me an error message or two so I installed the update patch I had received for the original unit and the updated driver for the card. I even tried changing the slots one last time. The first effort to burn locked my computer up completely and I began to feel smug self-righteous vindication. In my mind I was already composing a letter dripping with sarcasm for my buddies at Tech Support: "PLEASE can I have the version that captures video AND burns DVDs now?" But I gave it one more go. And. It. Worked.

I couldn't believe it. So now another ugly scenario that I hadn't even thought of was occurring. I couldn't in good conscience return the product now, since it technically DID work eventually. Which meant I was stuck with software that would most likely continue to be unbearably hit-or-miss, undoubtedly cause me many more hours of frustration, but which might work occasionally if I played my cards right and made a virgin sacrifice or something.

We shall see. I made it very clear that it was here only for a probational period, and I WOULD return it in a heartbeat if it gave me much more trouble. I only hope computer software is as easily cowed as a rookie salesclerk.

Remember the good old days when all you needed to copy stuff were two VCRs and a $2 RCA cable??



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December 2011

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