November 04, 2003
I've been having a rough month or so, technology-wise. My iBook went wonky on me while I was on a trip to Cleveland, and I just barely managed to make a backup of my essential files using the built-in CD burner before the computer became totally unusable. The computer is now at the shop being repaired.
I bought a large capacity external hard drive (120GB) for archiving purposes, and it was dead on arrival, so I returned it.
My cheapy little Epson inkjet printer has pretty much sucked since day one, and it finally reached the point where it would just shut itself off when halfway through printing a single page, so that went back to the factory for a replacement under warrantee.
So I'm currently managing my e-mail using a web interface until I get back my main machine. Because my main machine is a Mac, and the other machine I have at home is a PC, I can't access my e-mail archives until I get back my main machine, which is making it difficult for me to follow up on threads from last week, blah, blah, blah.
The point is, I seem to be temporarily in this little Bermuda Triangle zone of healthy electronics, which is a weird place for me to be given that I've lived in high tech ever since my grammar school days. Think of it like being an accomplished chef who, for some inexplicable reason, finds himself burning everything he cooks for a week or two. It can shake up your world view.
While all this is happening, Paulette thought it might be a good idea to clean out the garage, and there, lo and behold, we have an old PowerMac 7200 in storage. There's nothing wrong with the unit. It works (or at least, it worked the last time we used it, but I don't dare plug it in right now with my current Reverse-Midas Touch), it just happens to also be old and obsolete.
Rather than have it take up space in our garage, I figured we might be able to sell it. Who knows, maybe we could get a few hundred bucks or something for it.
Looked on eBay, where things always sell for more than their worth, and found dozens of Mac 7200s for sale. Many of them were posted with a requested starting bid of $9.95 and a "Buy It Now" option of something like $20.
Oh, and nobody is bidding on them! Not one had a bid.
So what we appear to have here is a big ol' paperweight. Since it would appear that we're not likely to get much money from it on the open market, Paulette and I have decided that we'll be happy to give it away for free to a good home.
If we can't find a good home for it within the next few weeks, it'll find a home at the local PC Recycling Center.
Anybody out there want a PowerMac 7200? Drop me a line and let me know if you're interested.
Work is not supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be work. The German lady in this article may have a point.
November 06, 2003
I'm cleaning up my office. Going through the piles of paper is like going through an archeological dig into my own past.
What were the hopes and dreams of, and what kind of person was "Allan Rousselle 2000"?
Yes, I'm going through piles of paper that date back three years, so I guess one of the immediate answers is, "He was a disorganized paper piler."
He was also, apparently, into writing bad haikus:
makes all of my words come out
in order the wrong
When not making fun of the handicapable, he was apparently into social satire:
Don't wait for the rhyme
If this were a haiku, then
You'd be po'm by now.
And this little gem shows the judgemental side of Allan Rousselle 2000:
a bad idea
In short, it would appear that the Allan Rousselle of 2000 isn't all that much different from Allan Rousselle 2003. Hubba, hubba.
November 12, 2003
A month or two ago, a friend posted a note to a list we're both on saying that it's time for an Alexander update. Alas, alack, I've been woefully remiss in sharing the news about life with Alexander Benjamin.
So here's the news, so fresh that the pixels aren't even dry yet. In fact, I snapped the picture to the left earlier today, so now you know *exactly* what he looks like as of this writing.
At his fifteen month check-up a few weeks ago, where his measurements were taken and he received a number of shots (including a flu shot) and the like, the pediatrician said that his weight is not keeping up with the rest of him, growth-wise. While he's still around the fiftieth percentile in height, his weight is in the bottom five percent of children his age. In short: we have to fatten this kid up.
It's a completely different problem from the problem I've been having, weight-wise, and I hope it bodes well for his metabolism as he gets older. In the meantime, however, it *is* a problem.
Three days after the check-up, as we were starting to see some improvement in how much he was eating, he got sick with flu-like symptoms and threw up everything he'd eaten during the latter half of the day... and he kept throwing up. Roughly every fifteen minutes. The poor guy. The thing is, he was otherwise happy and having an excellent day.
The night was not so excellent, as I stayed up with him until he was finally able to go to sleep and not be awakened by the need to vomit. The next day, he was a little better, and he was able to drink by around noon without causing him to throw up anymore. However, he had zero appetite, and it was days before he started to eat anything other than milk. For about two weeks, he was eating *less* than he was before the doctor told us we had to fatten him up.
I'm pleased to report that his appetite is coming back, and he no longer looks like a poster child for a Sally Struthers Save-The-Children campaign, although he was definitely looking a bit scrawny during bath time for a little while there.
Aside from the fact that we need to fatten up the kid, the big news is his emerging personality.
One of the things that gets more prominent each passing day is how much he enjoys music. The other day, we gave Paulette's old stereo from college (which still has a working turntable) as a gift to a friend of the family who is in high school. He (the gift recipient) had never seen a record player in action before, so his father took out his old records (from *his* high school days) and showed him the proper care and feeding of vinyl records.
Now, our friend's old record collection consisted pretty much exclusively of old Rush albums with the occasional Bob Seger or Dire Straights album. So, the son put on the Bob Seger album, and Alexander started dancing up a storm to the music. Then it was time to try out a Rush album, and Alexander still kept dancing. It was quite a sight to see, little Alex bobbing up and down and trying to figure out the beat to a Rush song (which, of course, has no regular beat).
A few nights ago, Paulette and I rented the movie "A Mighty Wind" to watch at home. This movie is a "mockumentary" of the reunion of several fictitious folk bands from the 1960's. The movie was part parody, part homage to the great folk legends of the '60's (like Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Kingston Trio). Every time a song came on, Alexander would go into his little dance.
We're thinking of getting the soundtrack to the movie for Alexander, since we know he likes the music. :-)
Alexander still doesn't speak much, although he babbles incoherently all the time (much like his father). He's starting to show that he understands speech, however, and he is getting very good at responding physically even if not verbally. If we're getting ready to go out to the park, for example, I can ask him to find his shoes and he does -- and he brings them to me to put them on him. Then he brings me my shoes. You can ask him questions about whether he wants a particular thing, and he'll respond by shaking or nodding his head. (And then he'll act consistently with the response he gave.)
He can sign for "more," "done," "book," and "what noise does this make when I bang it against the glass table repeatedly?" He can say words that approximate "shoe," "bird," "cheese," and, alas, "no." (Plus, of course, the earlier mentioned "up," and "balloon".)
Speaking of speaking, he's signalling me right now that he's tired of my doing all this typing, and he wants me to read to him. So, I'm going to go.
Oh, one last thing. We've finally started a bedtime regimen, and he actually goes to bed *awake* and manages to fall asleep all by himself, without much protesting. It's been a long time, but Paulette and I are both happy to finally be at this point. :-)
November 26, 2003
For the writing workshop I took a couple months ago, I was assigned to read the first book in the Harry Potter series. I read it. I liked it. Nothing great, but it was pretty good. Good enough for me to decide that I'd go ahead and read the others in the series when I had a chance.
Eventually, I got the chance, and I read book two. It was quite good. So I read book three. It was *wonderful*. So now I'm reading book four.
Book four is kinda funny in that, after I was 240 pages into it, the main conflict was just finally set into motion.
Don't get me wrong: the first 240 pages had a lot going on, and the writing was very smooth, and each scene and situation pulled me seamlessly to the next. But I was beginning to wonder when we were going to get to the meat of the matter, when it finally got set up in the mid 200's.
No biggie. I enjoyed the reading experience. But once the meat of the matter was introduced, the story began to absolutely sing. The author's storytelling just gets better and better.
My favorite aspect, both as a reader and as a writer who wants to improve his craft is the way the author handles plot reversals. I have mentioned elsewhere on this website (here, in fact) Connie Willis's lecture on plot devices from when I was at Clarion West, but I'll recap my interpretation of what she said on the subject:
In a "reversal", the plot or action suddenly veers off in another direction from what was expected. The reversal can be good *or* bad. It doesn't always have to be bad. A really good reversal changes the goals/questions for the characters involved.
In Harry Potter Book Four, the reversals frequently change the goals for the characters, and they are very, very well done. I'm impressed, also, with the way the author raises the stakes each time.
But that said, the author also introduced an interesting plot problem (for me) in the form of a universal get out of jail free card.
I'm about to comment on a few specific plot points in the novel. If you don't want to read about them (ie, if you haven't read the novel and don't want to spoil it for when you finally get around to reading), then don't read the rest of today's entry.
SPOILERS and a rant:
Harry, at one point, is given the task of snatching a golden egg away from the protective custody of a fire-breathing dragon. In order to do this, he must begin the task armed only with his magic wand. But, a-ha! Harry has been taught how to use his magic wand to "summon" other objects. So, he summons his super duper broomstick from way back in his dorm room, the broomstick arrives, and he flies around the dragon, distracts it away, and snatches the golden egg. Voila, Harry has completed the task without getting killed.
I may have made it too obvious here by the way I explained it, but can you see the problem here?
If Harry can summon things with his wand, why would he summon his broomstick so that he can fly all around a dangerous dragon? Why not just summon the f-ing egg in the first place?
But the problem persists. Harry is later given another task where he must go to the bottom of a lake to rescue his friend from the custody of mermaids and mermen. So he tries to figure out how to get down to rescue his friend. DUH! Why doesn't he just use his wand to summon his friend up, instead?!
The author may not have realized it at the time, but she gave Harry a tool that will enable him to get out of just about any jam he could get into. It's like giving the Starship Enterprise a freakin' transporter and replicators!
I am learning a lot just by seeing what the author does so well with regard to plot reversals. (In fact, the way Harry's friend ends up snatched by the merpeople is very nicely done and totally changes Harry's goals and his mindset in a way that definitely engaged me.)
But I have also learned another valuable lesson: think about the consequences of any powers/resources you give your main character, and make sure that they don't subvert your later plans just to get out of a jam now.
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