The Most Precious Thing… Journals

In the end, we loaded our technology (computers, hard drives with all the historical pictures on them), my old Smith Corona typewriter (yes-crazy!) and we stood holding what we decided were the most precious things… our cottage journals.

We began our first journal on our first day as we moved in to this place. Our kids’ friends wrote enthusiastic missives about how beautiful everything was. Our kids wrote about their feelings, capturing with words what their hearts were beating. “Powered down. Closed up. Fits perfect.”

The words of our son as he did his first final closing at age 18.

The journals number four now and have chronicled friendships, community losses, high points, low points, activities, picnics, first fingerprints of grandchildren, celebrations, achievements, jobs, retirements, comings and goings, weddings, funerals. Our life is there.

We carried the four journals to the boat. The most precious.

We were lucky, and so many of us felt lucky as the water bombing planes extinguished the fire and summer students were planted in the forest to seek out hot spots for a week afterwards.

We felt so lucky.

And so grateful. The journals are back on the bookshelf,  fuller still after the summer of 2016.

Source: The most precious thing…: COMMUNITY SECRETS | Barrie Examiner

I’ve thought about what I’d save in case of fire too. Likely everyone has at some point. I also think about my old diaries/ journals. I haven’t looked at most of them since the day I wrote the entry. At one point, moving from one place to another (again and again), I was at the point of throwing them all out. Journals are a link to our past selves. Sometimes a burden but irreplaceable too. I deleted an online journal I kept while I was going through a divorce. I don’t remember why I deleted it then. I’ve tried to get it back a couple of times but never found anything that worked. Gone forever, irreplaceable.

You Can Stop Upgrading Your Computer Now

The current generation of chips aren’t that much better than the previous, and the pace of progress is now slowing dramatically. At least as far as computing is concerned, we’re starting to look at a mature technological base. It’s possible your children will grow up with computers that are not much faster than you yourself are used to today. But that doesn’t mean that the computing is going to look the same.

The beauty of a mature technological base is that we can finally take stock of what we’ve accomplished over the last fifty years and learn to use it well. The beauty of capable computing, computing that is good enough, and cheap enough, is that it can be used in ways that expensive computing can’t. Cheap, capable, computing will enable a host of uses that were never possible before. After all, if your computing is cheap enough to throw away, what is it that you will be able to do tomorrow that you couldn’t do yesterday?

Source: The End of Moore’s Law Might Not Be A Bad Thing

I used to upgrade my PC every few years. Each time I could see a big change in how it ran and what it was able to do. Last time I bought a new PC I noticed there wasn’t much change. Then, a couple of years later, when I would usually have upgraded… I didn’t see the point. The computer I have was already as good and better than the computers for sale. So, I’m at the end of my upgrading. Unless something goes wrong and I actually need to replace more than just a hardware part, I don’t see any need to upgrade my PC again. It’s nice to be on an affordable plateau. Of course, I’m still not buying into cell phones which I see as glorified email, nothing more.

Perfunctory Moments

According to Miriam-Webster, the word perfunctory is-

Just kidding. I would never subject you to the moist handshake of essay openers. But while we’re on the subject, now is a good time to talk about your throw-away moments. The moments you have to get through the show the big plot point you can’t wait to write.

Take a woman about to discover a body. Or a killer. Whatever. How do you make the start of the scene stand out? To you, she may just be PERSON ABOUT TO DISCOVER BODY (housewife, 40s). To a good writer, she’s a woman in the middle of a day. Good day? Bad? Maybe she’s soaked from the rain. Maybe the paper bag of groceries is so wet it breaks. Perhaps a PEAR rolls to the front door of her apartment where the shadow of TWO FEET are visible under the door…

In some scripts the writer is so excited to drop a body (or discover one) the scene leading up to that moment could’ve been written by a computer program. I’m not even talking about a good computer program. A $4.99 in Fry’s discount bin, cutting edge of 1997 kind of program.

When your script is finished, go back to your big reveals – especially those after throw-away moments – and ask yourself if you really need to throw those moments away.

Every scene we read is time we give to your script. Throw-away moments let us know if you value our time as much as you value your own.

Source: Reader’s Lament: Perfunctory Moments

This post comes from an abandoned blog from 2013. I like this post. The idea of all the little moments in our day and how even the big events have little moments before, during and after.

How would you write the scene with the woman who discovers a dead body? What was her day like up to then, what mood was she in and how is it she (in particular) was in that right place and right time to find the body? She may not be the lead character in a story, just some woman written about and then not heard from again.

The Art of Coffee at the Keyboard

Who says you can’t glue yourself to your computer and still have a fancy, hot coffee? We want it all and we want it good. So, I’m coming up with ways to have better coffee, without having to put on your coat and be kind to any others in line at the coffee shop.

Make a Stand

Even the oldest, most worn-looking coffee mug, will look fancier if you put it on a pedestal, a short one. I use an old mouse pad I didn’t want to throw away. It elevates my ordinary coffee to a slightly new level. It also makes coffee circles a quick clean up. Just rinse the mouse pad instead of having to clean things off my desk first.

DIY Coffee Art

Of course you can learn how to do your own coffee art. But, that would take time and more equipment than I have on hand. Instead… use a clear glass coffee mug and add cream (or milk, etc.) slowly. Let it swirl around and create patterns. Don’t stir it until you’ve enjoyed the art.

If that doesn’t work for you go with a coffee doodle. Create your own stencil with your last rejection letter. Once you cut out a shape place the stencil over your coffee mug and let some cocoa powder, or cinnamon drift down. It works better if you don’t drink it black but I’m not telling you how to drink your coffee.

Seasonal Coffee at Home

Add a dash of flare to your coffee with cinnamon, a teaspoon of hot chocolate powder,  a touch of pepper, a lick of salt or little vanilla. Make your own pumpkin spice with actual pumpkin pie spices which you can buy in most grocery stores I’ve ever been in. A bit of extra festivity needed… try liquor. I’ve got whiskey at my desk to add when the coffee gets too cold.

Another idea (if you don’t mind crunchy bits between your teeth) is to add doughnut sprinkles and other small but edible things to the outside lip of your coffee mug.  I don’t highly recommend this. But, I don’t add sugar to my coffee, it may be a great idea for those who do like sweet coffee.

Milk It Up

Heat and then froth your milk. You will need some creativity if you don’t have a frother. A French press pot is nice because it can double as a milk frother (just don’t become a wild and crazy plunger and end up getting it stuck, or breaking the pot). Microwaving the milk does an okay job. Don’t walk away while it’s in there and then remove the milk from the surface (unless that milk clog thing doesn’t bother you).

Frothy milk does change the taste of the coffee. It’s creamier. You can use skim milk and get more froth, likely due to having less fat content in the milk.

Put a Lid on It

I will drink cold coffee, by necessity. I don’t love it. Somehow, coffee gets much colder, faster, at my computer desk than it does any where else in the house. I’ve tested this theory countless times.

I tried buying fancier coffee mugs, those thermal types with take-out coffee lids. They didn’t make much difference and they were a nuisance to wash since they are not dishwasher happy. Instead, I now put a lid over my coffee. Any bit of paper works well. An entire letter still in the envelope does a better job and it gives me something to do with the bills I don’t want to open yet.

Another plus side to having a lid – it keeps the bugs out. I admit I have ignored the odd tiny floating fly when I really did want to finish my coffee, but those occasions were rare. Likely there were more occasions when I just didn’t notice the little floaty thing or it sank… well do you really want to go into the details?

coffeeart

Now you have some ideas to help you with your coffee while you write away at the computer. Hope this helps!

Note: I don’t know the source for this image. I found it on another site which had reposted a lot of images. It just suits this post so well. 

Quick Fiction Fix

I don’t remember what or why I wrote this. It’s been in a text file (unsaved) to my desktop since the weekend. The flash fiction that time forgot. How many times have you written something, finished it and then realized you had no idea why you started it?  Maybe it’s just me.

I feel asleep in front of the computer, looking up postal codes for Christmas cards. I woke up to a dark house and a darker computer screen. The power had gone out, again.

The fireplace was keeping the room warm and dimly lit. I might not have power but I had the essentials: heat, water and a roof to keep the snow from burying me. Likely there would be power again by morning.

So until then… watch a little TV… No. I laughed at myself. So dependent on electricity. Can’t even boil the water to make fresh coffee.

I got up to shut down the lights (to save power, right?). I checked the door locks. All was well. My foot was just on the first step to go upstairs to bed when the computer monitor flickered.

Without power there was nothing electrical working. I froze, puzzled. Was this some new paranormal phenomena? Some new scientific breakthrough?… Of course I had to go back to investigate.

An email was now on my screen. The rest of the computer was dark, no flickering lights showing the Internet was connected or the computer had power. In every science known to modern man it was impossible for an email to show up on my computer and yet, it was there.

No sender name or return email address. Just a note “See you tomorrow”.

I wasn’t going anywhere tomorrow. We were expecting a heavy snowstorm, it was a Sunday and my Christmas shopping could be put off for a better day. No one was coming here. I liked my weekends quiet and alone when I could get them that way.

I decided there was some yet unknown scientific principle at work, or the message was for the invisible aliens living in my house and not meant for me at all.

Low Disk Space Problem with HP Mini Laptop Solved

hpminilaptopSource: low disk space mesage HP tools drive E? – HP Support Forum – 1370993

I have a mini laptop which kept giving me low disk space warnings. I blamed it on Windows updates. But, when I took time and looked into the memory, I found a different culprit. It was HP Tools. The system restore files had filled all the available space on the drive E. Once I deleted them and set it to not continue saving restore points it stopped warning me about ultimate destruction and general doom and gloom.

So now I have my mini laptop back. Hooray!

 

Can’t Start Computer with USB Device Plugged In?

First, check for an update to your BIOS.

Go to your computer manufacturer’s site and look at the support section. Find your computer (for mine is an HP h8 1211 and I can find the update files on the HP site). An update to the BIOS may be available. Back up your data, if you haven’t already. The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is pretty deep in the important software which runs your computer so it is a good plan to be cautious when updating it. While it updates and installs do not open anything else. Let it run, likely just 3 minutes and then it will want to restart. You won’t need to do much during this process, just wait for it to finish. My BIOS update went smoothly and I am back up and typing again right now.

If the BIOS update does not let you use your USB device then the next step is to go into the running of your computer and check the BIOS settings.

This is not a scary thing. Just take your time and only save the section you are fixing. Anything other than what I post below you should just get out of without saving. It may sound risky with the warnings but it is actually a simple process. The hard part is catching your computer at the right point while it boots up.

If you can, find the directions for this process on the site for your computer. They should have a write up geared to your PC specifically.

To check your BIOS settings:

  • Reboot your computer. This means shutting down and starting back up or just doing a restart.
  • Before Windows starts up click F10 (those keys in the top row, above the numbers). Some computers use F8,F11 or even the Enter key instead. So it does help to find out which your PC will work with.
  • Next up you will see a plain text page or one with simple graphics and not many colours. Look for System Configuration. Then Boot Order Select.

You should see the items ordered as follows:

  1. DVD/ CD Drive
  2. HDD
  3. Network
  4. USB Devices
  • Save those settings, change it to those settings if needed and then save. Now just back out of there with the escape key and reboot your computer.
  • If you are not feeling good about doing this ask for help rather than take it on yourself. I’m not a computer expert but I have been mucking around in the internal workings a few times. I do think I used to be braver than I am now though.

I just got a new external hard drive with the plan of using it as storage for all my urban exploration photos and assorted other stuff. I’ve been keeping the photos on CDs and DVDs. It’s great to have them burned as a back up copy and no hard drive can carry unlimited digital photographs. However, my plan changed when I had one of my back up CD’s break in half. I’m hoping I can still recover the photos and other stuff from it, but… I’ve yet to actually try.

The external hard drive seems a much smarter plan. It’s not likely to break and I’m usually able to fix software issues. I did have some trouble at the start because my computer doesn’t like me to have more than the monitor, keyboard and mouse plugged into the USB ports. Even then, each has to stick to it’s own section: back, front and top. Two in the same section and… the computer will power up but just show a blank screen.

I know this is due to the boot order. At least, I’m hoping that will be the fixer-upper. I could have looked into it before when I set up a scanner. But, I don’t use the scanner so often. It was simple enough to leave it unplugged. Of course, then I began using it even less often because it wasn’t all set up and ready to go.

Anyway, my only concern about the external hard drive is not being able to power it off. It is always on as long as the PC is on. I’m not likely to back up every day. I don’t save that much on my hard drive each day. So, the external hard drive doesn’t need to be running constantly. The idea is for it to not be connected to the main system in case of a crash or etc. So, keeping it connected works against that part of the plan. Still, it will free up space on my PC hard drive, even though it’s got loads of it unused. I like keeping it light rather than letting it get bogged down.

This is a basic safety feature on laptops and PCs. The idea is if Windows is corrupted or the hard drive fails the computer can still be booted from a recovery CD/DVD or USB drive. At switch on PCs run through a short self-diagnostic program called the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). One of its functions is to tell the computer where to look for boot files. Usually the CD/DVD or USB drive is first, and if no files are found it boots normally from the hard drive and loads Windows. The solution is to change the Boot Order so the hard drive is the first boot device.

Source: Why won’t my PC boot up with a USB device plugged in? – Telegraph

Working in a Library at a University

I like looking at job requirements in the communications industry. This one was posted for a university in Ontario, a non-student position.

Requirements:
•Grade 12 diploma
•Recent college or university graduate (asset)
•One, up to two years, in a related public-service position;
•Demonstrated proficiency in typing and in the use of a computer;
•Ability to deal with the public in a courteous and professional manner;
•Ability to work fluently, orally and in writing, in both official languages, French and English.

Job description:
This position exists to facilitate the circulation of materials, including their loan, return, shelving and stack maintenance.
•Participate in all circulation functions involving the serving of patrons at the circulation desk, such as charging and discharging library materials, assigning a due date to loaned items, returning loans, shelving materials, registering patrons and issuing replacement bar codes while maintaining confidentiality;
•Collect and record various fines and monies;
•Issue photo ID cards (new, reprint or lost cards);
•Assist library users;
•Perform search requests for missing books by verifying call numbers and inventory status;
•Ensure proper shelving of materials;
•Maintain shelving of books, locate miss-shelved material and shift or relocate material;
•Participate in seasonal or special projects such as inventory, weeding and security;
•Perform other duties directly related to this position as assigned.

Move Words Around Like Pieces of a Puzzle

4. Move words, sentences, paragraphs around the page like pieces of a puzzle. The beauty of writing on a computer is that you can move words and groups of words effortlessly. Just reminding yourself of that tends to make it easier to find your writing flow. If you get your mind set that the words will be seen by the audience exactly as they flow onto the page, it can be paralyzing.

For those overwhelmed by the amount of ideas banging around in their head, jot the ideas down, one by one, in a loose cross between thought-notes and an organizational outline. Then, you can slowly work your way down your list, flushing out concepts into sentences and paragraphs without worrying that you might forget something critical.

via 8 Writing Strategies for People Who Say They Can’t Write | Entrepreneur.com.