Thursday, December 30, 2010

Biggest Lesson of 2010


Just tried to log on to my bank account and failed the security questions. Don't you hate those questions? You fail just because you forgot to put an "S" on a word or capitalize your high school. And fail the questions twice and you are locked out.

The worst websites for security are banks of course. And oddly enough my insurance company. How often do you log on to your insurance company web page? With me it is twice a year and it seems as if every time I have to redo my password or some security question. I have come to expect problems but I have no problems generally with my bank account. In fact this is the first time I can remember being asked my security questions. Has my identity been stolen?

That would be the icing on the cake for 2010. This year has been so horrid I refuse, like other friends, to take inventory of it. Instead I have done a couple blogs on best memories and best gifts in an effort to accentuate the positive and ignore the negatives. This blog is about the biggest lesson of the year: I am not in control. I am helpless like the early blooming rose that gets hit with a killing frost.

Yes, I knew I had no control over the economy or rising electricity rates or a very cold winter. But I thought I had control over my health and H1N1 proved I didn't. At the beginning of the year it looked as if the court case would be settled but it still isn't.  And before anyone asks I haven't a clue. I was smug about backing up my computers but who knew the external hard drive would fail. Or my computer expert would blow it. Or that Microsoft would again lie about Windows and I would need more upgrades on software than I can afford.

If any one single event proved I was helpless it was my extended battle with HP over the faulty computer. And maybe I battled so hard on that losing front because I wanted just one small thing to go right in 2010. I wanted to win just one tiny little battle. Several friends lost the biggest battle.

So while I am thrilled to just have some frost on the petals I am setting no goals for 2011. That seems like a total exercise in futility. I am just going to keep on keeping on one day (sometimes one hour or minute) at a time. Like I learned riding roller coasters, all you really can do is hang on for the ride.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sneaking Past the Sleeping Tiger

A spiritual center

As 2010 and the year of the Tiger move toward close (February 3, 2011) I find myself tharned.

Tharned:  Describes the act of a person or animal being frozen in terror, e.g. a deer caught in the headlights.

Perhaps originally found in Richard Adams's novel 'Watership Down,' the term was also adopted by Stephen King for use in his novel 'The Stand.' Michael stood tharn while the grizzly bear bore down on him.

It has been a rough year. Some attribute it to the Chinese Year of the Tiger and hold out hope for the much gentler Year of the Rabbit ahead. Others take solace in the fact of how much worse can it get? Lots! But I refuse to go there. I don't even want to give conscious thought to anything bad. Instead over the last week I have immersed myself in four wheeling with my sister and getting acquainted with my Windows 7 and new computer.

Surveying the remains

Four wheeling has been more fun. The weather has been unseasonably warm and the roads clear largely of any mud or snow and we have managed to go where we had not gone before, discovered new churches and new real estate bargains and broad new vistas.

A brighter outlook

I have considered various images to use for an Epiphany card having skipped the "holiday" mood. My card making software does not work on Windows 7 and an attempt to download a newer version was thwarted. It evidently is one of those things I am going to have to order and have mailed to me. But since all my three years of files are either frozen on a non-working external hard drive or lost by the nerd that ruined Charley V (my last desktop) I don't need to stick with that software. In fact cannot even upgrade software I owned because all that registry information went south with the files. If I had $300 I might get the whole Corel Suite but this was a year that had a lot to do with lack of money.

But there were spurts of money that allowed me to replace the computer, Charley V, with Charley VII. Charley VI was a dud but caused enough problems to make me retire that name. I managed to save up for the flat screen TV of my dreams with the blu ray/Internet streaming player. Now to just get technically savvy enough to stream netflixs. And my sister gave me the Nikon D90. I see the closing days of 2010 as a time to start over quietly. I want to tiptoe past the end days of the tiger, hunker down with art, catch up with my new technology, and try to get back up to speed on both as well as my life. I have felt behind the 8 ball for months. Maybe by Chinese New Years I will be ready to hop.

Checking out the wreckage of the past

Sunday, December 26, 2010

That Was the Christmas that Was


Christmas 2010 is now in the past. But what a great Christmas it was. My sister and her two fur kids came up from San Fidel on Christmas Even. The weather has been beautiful here so after opening presents Christmas morning we loaded the dogs in the jeep and hit the back roads.

I would have begun this blog with pictures of the dogs wading in Coyote Creek, or the Pussy Willows that believe it is spring but I left my camera at Jessica's and Ronnie's last night. We went there for a grand Christmas feast for ten. Ronnie did smoked turkey and brisket. He is a master of the smoker, and Debbie and I came away with some leavings to have in sandwiches for today's vehicle exploration. We hear tell there is a new road we have not yet tried. After we pick up my camera this morning we will be off. Weather should be an unseasonable 42F and sunny today.

Meanwhile the southeast part of the United States is under an ice and snow alert. My sympathies. I hope all of you had a great Christmas Day. Check this space tomorrow for photos of our off road adventures.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best Memory of 2010

Debbie's Arch
A friend on Facebook asked about best memories of 2010. I guess I have rather been stuck on the worst memories of 2010 so I think Scott for bringing this topic up. I am going to devote some time each day in the remaining week of the year to come up with another nice memory of the year.

First is this arch in Lavender Canyon in South Canyonlands, Utah. We were four wheeling in a restricted/limited access area quite all alone and with no trail guide and no markers as to whether we were going right or wrong. And also no named arches that we knew of. In fact until we began seeing them we were not even aware this narrow canyon had arches. Debbie spotted this one first from the other side. Alan and I thought she was imagining things and it was not until we passed it and could view it from the other side that what we thought was just a depression in the cliff face was clearly and opening.

The day alone in the Lavender canyon was an awesome one with lots more arches discovered and photographed. It was a gift in a year that seemed to only get worse as the days passed. But now I am aware that there are these little gems hiding. BTW this day's download of digital images is largely gone with the destruction of the old desktop but fortunately I had uploaded many of the special ones to my FlickR account. Sometimes you get lucky.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What I Really Hate About This Time of Year

Parties! I am not, never have been, a party animal. I was a terribly shy child. I learned at sometime to act as if I wasn't but it was hard work. Alcohol in my youth helped me fake it more easily but after giving up that crutch I find large groups terrifying unless I am behind the podium or on the stage. In short in order to deal with large groups, containing friends or strangers, I must have a defined purpose: Speech, role, agenda, photographer,  my art. Parties are work for me; not fun.

And since my CBT nine years ago, large parties are exhausting. And I don't mean just wiped out the next day but maybe a whole week. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy small affairs. Petite little groupings of 8 to 10 people whom I mostly know, but even those I like sparingly. The trouble with the Christmas holiday season is there are too many of those even to honor them all. And too many people decide to erase all their obligations for the year with one huge party.

I have pretended to be out of town but this causes issues with the one or two little dinners I want to attend. I have tried saying I don't like driving in the dark and hostesses have even arranged rides for me with other guests. Most of my long standing friends know me and will extend provisional invitations giving me the number of friends I might know to make me more comfortable, but totally aware that if I don't show up it has nothing to do with our friendship. But I do make new friends and getting them to understand I probably won't be at their grand affair is not easy.  They have seen me perform at a gallery reception and don't understand how exhausting it is so the truth seldom works. But why should I have to bare my soul anyway? Why doesn't, "sorry, I cannot make it" work without bruising their feelings? It is nothing to do with the host or hostess but with me. I don't like to party!

When I have to give a party they are open house affairs so people can come and go and not create a panic attack because of my people claustrophobia or I have a couple or two over for dinner. But even those small sorties into entertainment require a lot of downtime for me before and after. I like my solitude or my friends individually or small packs. I would not make a good elk. I fear herds.

Monday, December 20, 2010

TW3 and Lunar Eclipse and Solstice


Going to get a bit airy-fairy here so if you are a non-believer in the effects of planets upon our lives skip this blog.

I was siting here with my first cup of coffee, considering the past week for my TW3 blog, and scanning my way through Facebook News (is that an oxymoron?) when I hit the link from Big Sky Astrology regarding eclipses and solstices. Seems this solstice eclipse is going to be in 29 degrees of Gemini, my sign, and it has not occurred for 19 years. That got me looking back at the changes in my life 18 to 20 years ago. Dynamic time for me. And there is no denying that the last year has been very dynamic. So I went Googling. And at another site where I found the image above I found:

In a spiritual point of view, a Lunar eclipse intensifies tremendously the power of a regular Full Moon: the Tibetans say that a Lunar eclipse multiplies the karma by 1000!…Whatever you do on a Lunar eclipse, + or - 5 days, can have implications during years on your karma… it depends on what we wish, what we ask for and how we act on that particular moment.

That certainly got me looking back at the last five days which is roughly what this weekly blog is about anyway. Changes are often not dramatic but subtle and five days ago my battle with HP over the Pavilion desktop changed: I realized they were not going to give a single inch. It was all about me having to take their replacement for the faulty computer like it or not. It has been shipped and will arrive here today on the eve of the eclipse and winter solstice. Hopefully it works, but by e-mailing customer service I have gotten permission to by pass tech support and ship it back if it does not immediately boot up. More on that issue later. I have grown very weary of the entire matter and yet they have sent me another customer un-satisfaction survey to complete. Like that has changed in the two weeks of this battle and the 5 other surveys I have taken for them. I do get the feeling they don't read them.

Once I gave up with HP (I won the battle of them not repairing the first computer but sending me a new one) my focus changed to painting, photography, and exercise. Friday was the 7 Years and 7 Ladies event at the Artspace Gallery. We are very dynamic ladies. Those seven years have not been easy for any of us but we have survived. And we have continued to grow as artists. I find myself wanting to branch out in a different artistic direction; paint not just pretty pictures but ones that speak to myself and my growing client base. So maybe that is part of what I am asking for. Certainly the week ahead with the eclipse and solstice is a time to look inward and seek what it is I want for my future. Or ask what it is the universe wants of me for the future. And Listen!

Whether you believe in astrology or planetary influences or not I think it is always good to stop now and again in our lives and take stock of where we are at and where we are heading.  What we really want. So often we get stuck in the just keeping on keeping on; putting one foot in front of another without consciously thinking of the path we are on. And this last year that has been a level of success; just maintaining some sort of balance at the plate when the universe kept throwing bean balls at my head.

The next week will be a powerful and reflective time for me. No idle wishes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Curses, Foiled Again


I told HP on Sunday I wanted a shipping notification within 48 hours or I was canceling the replacement HP Pavilion order and getting a refund instead. And low and behold the HP Case Manager did indeed get a shipping notification to me.

However, Fedex has yet to receive the HP desktop computer to ship. For a while this morning the Fedex tracking number provided me by HP even said it would get delivered today. Frankly I was leery of that one because it gave a ship date of the 11th and I didn't give them my ultimatum until the 12th. I must admit this was a rather clever ruse. Too bad they are not as clever at giving good customer service.

Meanwhile someone is marketing is sending out e-mails saying I can still order a computer today and get it before the end of the year. Interesting since I have been told I would be very lucky to get the one I essentially ordered in November before the end of the year. Really HP get your script straight.

Is this sort of game playing really dastardly or no? Could Snidely slip so low.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

TW3 - the week of HP


I would like to say HP is the Grinch that stole Christmas but I am not sure they are any worse or better than 99% of modern business. It all comes from Mexico or China with support teems in India or Texas (both have impossible accents) and CEO's in the United States that only care about the bottom line and not customer satisfaction.

I am so sick of being asked to take on line customer satisfaction surveys (even my computer nerd that destroyed the original HP had one) that I tell them it is really simple just note unacceptable for everything you ask me to rate. It doesn't help that because I do a very base rate on Qwest (because basically they were the first firm this year that lied to me) it is costing me 3 cents a minute to be lied to by HP.

You know when they say this call may be recorded to ensure customer satisfaction? Well, I am thinking of recording them on my end to compare the lies they tell. Supposedly they have an open file on a computer (might HP case managers use Dell?) with my record up and yet I have to tell them again and again the story. I think I saw this interview technique on a Lie to Me TV show. I give up. I am ready to sign the confession! Now I am not even trying to get the computer sent to me before Christmas. I am trying to get them to let me cancel the order and give me my money back before 2011.

This morning why I couldn't was a bank issue. My bank has no problem with it. Then if I expedite shipping I could get the computer faster after built so why cancel. Fedex ground will get it here in 2 days max because of where it comes from so why pay more? Then it was I could buy a floor model with an inferior processor or if I wanted the Intel 5 processor I could pay a couple hundred more for a floor model. Two days ago they had no floor models ready to ship - cancellations by other dissatisfied customers? But then 4 days ago they were going to charge me for the one I ordered.

I escaped to Santa Fe for two days with my sister to avoid having to communicate with HP. We had fun. I came home to more HP issues. HP shipped me the warranty which Fedex says they left on my porch. This is the warranty for the computer they cannot send for 18 more days. But their order status page looked like they might have shipped the computer too and left it on the porch. I called to see if that was the case and to cancel the order if it wasn't. I have been on the phone with them twice today to cancel.

I am so sick of this entire issue I am taking a 24 hour computer break. If HP let me cancel my HP order and had the money in the bank I am not sure I could stand ordering another computer. I am sick of computers. I am sick of corporate lies. I am not even logging into this machine on Monday and maybe not Tuesday. Ergo I am doing TW3 now. Hell, if this experiment goes well I might cancel DSL, the computer order, and all e-mail, and Facebook. I seem to remember being a lot happier when I was not lied to all the time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why, HP, Must I Be Punished?


I all fairness let me first say I am not really neutral on computers right not. I have been dealing for over a month with a three year old HP desktop computer that a local nerd, in the business to save computers, killed after losing 3 years of data.

Yes, I backed up, but to an external hard drive that failed. So I was forced to go shopping for a computer when I did not have the time nor the money. Nor quite frankly was I feeling warm and fuzzy about the boxes or the people that worked on them. But computer shopping I had to do. I am a small business and while I have a laptop for play I need the desktop for lots of year end business stuff and beginning of the new year submissions of art for fairs throughout 2011.

HP had a cyber Monday sale that extended through the following Tuesday and I found a computer, that while not the one of my dreams, met my minimum requirements, fit my budget and would be delivered within a week. The HP Pavilion arrived on December 6th and I unpacked and plugged it in. Suffice it to say I am not a novice at this, but the HP computer with Windows 7 would not boot up so I called tech support and was shocked to find that in spite of all promises to move their tech support back to the United States they are in Manila.

After 2 1/2 hours of trying to become belatedly bilingual I threw in the towel. The HP desktop would not even complete a short smart disk check and would not even begin a long one. I asked to speak to a supervisor. NOW. That took about 10 minutes of waiting. The supervisor, after getting my summation of the problem, wanted to refer the matter to a case manager (they are in the US) so they could get approval to repair my brand new, non-functioning HP computer.

Up to this point (well, accept for the NOW demand) I had been rather nice in spite of carpel tunnel from hitting F8, F9, F10, and F11 keys while rebooting. But repairing the HP Pavilion was not my problem. I bought and paid for a working computer not a repaired computer. They played broken record that they could not okay this. I played broken record that the only acceptable solution was a brand new working computer or a full and immediate refund. The Case Manager would call me back before 48 hours. I could only think of all the files that had to be rebuilt before the end of the year for my small business. Tick Tock.

Twenty-four hours, and two case report reference numbers, later I was called by a case manager. And like being in a doctor's office I had to again repeat all the symptoms of my still born HP Pavilion. I think they had the file in front of them and were looking for any discrepancies so they could negate my claim. Ok, I was getting paranoid. They did approve a new computer which they told me would be $35 more expensive. "Oh, no you don't," I said in a voice that made all the fur kids run and hide, "You eat that." We compromised on $5.35. Let them win the little issues.

I packed up the HP computer in its original box, printed out the approved pre-paid return label and dropped it off at the designated Fedex pick up spot. HP got it the next morning. Time was of the essence because I was informed they would not build my new replacement computer until the non-working HP was returned even though they have kept my money. I was pleased this morning to see they had processed my order. Build Date: December 28th! Maybe.

So I have two questions, HP. One, is why am I being punished for your errors on this Pavilion Desktop? And two, given that I would go pencil and paper before I went Dell, which computer company do I go to when I want to replace my HP Pavilion Laptop? Currently you are out of the running.

Customers used to be right. Now we have to prove we are not guilty and we are still punished via time and money for our mistakes. This mistake, HP, could cost me way through next June because of the fairs and exhibits I cannot apply for because through no fault of my own my old HP failed and my purchase new HP was trash. And your response to a small business owner that used your products has been hostile and frustrating.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Solstice a New Beginning?


My sister asked a thought provoking question yesterday: "Why do we believe things are getting better after the end of the old year?" Or what is the difference between December 31st and January 1st other than one is 2010 and the other is 2011 by arbitrary agreement.

It occurred to me, while pondering this issue, that there is none, but from somewhere the belief arose and has carried down to the present day seemingly unchecked by reality. The actual magical day might just be Winters Solstice instead. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth associated with this planetary event. And that makes a lot more sense than the new year. The winter solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 22 1/2° 26'. And while this is for just a brief minute the influence of a planetary shift has been noticed throughout the ages.

The Christian calendars have moved a lot around to benefit their perspective on life, but the Mayans had ten days, pinned by winter solstice, which did not belong to any months of the year. So from approximately what we would now call December 21st or 22nd till the end of our year.  So did the Druids. This year winter solstice is on the 21st in conjunction with the Full Cold Moon. Seems more likely that a shift in energies and attitudes can happen with this event than New Year's Day.

Or maybe this idea of a rebirth or new start is just something us humans require to let go of the bad luck or malaise of the past. We need to believe, especially in very hard times, that things can and will change. So whatever you pin your hopes on, I say go for it. I always do a ceremony at the solstice and yesterday, without thinking why, I bought four new candles. The fifth will be a white one carried over from last year's solstice. I will burn folded paper cranes, a couple springs of green from my solstice tree, and dried flower blossoms I have collected through the summer. And ask the blessings of the four winds and mother earth.

Monday, December 6, 2010

TWTWTWXI


About now all my faithful readers are asking themselves just how long I can carry on this TW3. I know my Roman numerals up through thousands and no doubt can find the millions and trillions on Wiki if in the Ancient Roman world anyone even wanted to innumerate to that extent. And even in today's world it does seem silly at times. Today I am getting a new desktop computer with one terabyte of memory:
It really seems very silly because I have not used up a fraction of my three year old hard drive memory on the failed computer. I need one of those simplistic little examples my teachers used to come up with - like you could store three complete digital sets of the Encyclopedia Britannia and still have room for your personal photos.

My first computer had 16K and I just purchased a couple of the smaller memory sticks out there - 8GB each. I can supposedly store on just one 3,184photos from an 8 Megapixil camera. Or 501 minutes of MPEG-4 Video. That is like Gone with the Wind and Ben Hur if I could get it in the right format.

But don't worry about TW3MCM. On a more mundane note I got the holiday tree up this week and have been decorating it. I went for a smaller and more sparse tree so it showcased my decorations better and took up less studio room. Currently making more bows and flowers to put on it and give it a more Victorian feel. My mother had a neighbor that was batty about holiday trees and had one in every single room of her house with a theme specific to each tree.  I would put her in the same category as terabytes.

I have only broken on thing this week - a 20 year old Christmas moose but he is fixed. The one featured on this blog is only 19. The laptop as been acting recalcitrant so I did some cleaning up of programs and evidently cleaned up one or two I shouldn't have. Why don't they name these programs clearly? Anyway it would barely booth up my settings so I went back to a restore point. Once the new Charley VI is set up I am going back to baseline on the laptop with the recovery discs I made when it was new.

Well, time to get in the studio and get cranking on the three new pieces I want done by the 16th.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Computer Shopping and Learning Curves.

A friend asked me this weekend, "If you had never had a computer how would you start leaning how to use one?" I admit I was tired when this question breezed by me. I was also downloading photos and posting them on Facebook and checking my e-mail at the time. I think I stared at her. Dumbly I might add. So she asked when did I start learning computers and how?

I had the advantage I suppose to work for one of the construction management companies that led the field in using computer programs to manage multi billion dollar projects. We had Wangs and we programmed them ourselves. We were introduced to them by having them put in our cubicles with games the company had designed to get us familiar with the keyboards and functions. One of my early tasks was to enter line after line of Basic code into the DOS system. Line conditioners were just a thought at the time so I learned to save frequently. Almost killed a secretary that wanted to reset the Xerox machine by flipping the breaker. Did have a very nice and long talk with the Xerox tech on that one.

My first computer was a used Commodore 64. And I attended night classes to learn BASIC. I think that computer had 16K of memory. I just bought a small memory stick with 8GB. My brother worked for an insurance company on their mainframe. It took up almost an entire floor of the office complex.

There have been a lot of computers and a lot of changes since then. Frankly computers now seem almost to be their own life form. So my answer to Helene's question of how do you learn to use them would be, "They teach you how?" "They?", she asked. "The computers," I answered. I think what we had was a failure to communicate. And I don't know if I could communicate in my world without a computer. Some years back a friend of mine, now dead, and I said that there would be a time when the world could be divided between the connected and the non-connected. It is that time. Though, in all honesty, I must say there is a middle ground; the marginally connected.

I think I am in the elite connected group until I have to look for a new computer. Then I know I may only be in the marginally connected category, though I would like to believe at the top of that class. Charley V failed, as all my loyal readers know, and I began my period of mourning. Oh, yes, all the classic stages including anger and bargaining and denial. Yesterday I went shopping for Charley VI and realized how very much I missed out on since early 2007 when I purchased my now deceased desktop. My sister and others in the connected group kept giving me advice about requirements on RAM and processors. I definitely appreciate their help but I was going into sensory overload rapidly.

Charley VI will have six times the RAM of Charley V and an Intel Dual Core Processor several times faster. And, rather important for me, as I was able to opt out of those "free software programs" like Norton and Microsoft Office that I almost immediately take off (but with a great deal of pain and suffering involved). But will it be obsolete in three years? Yes, definitely. Given that I bought it on sale it is probably obsolete now. But in a few months I probably get to do this again with a new laptop. Traveler is after all six months older than the late Charley V.

So the question this morning is how did you get introduced to computers and learn to use them? What advice can I give my unconnected friend, Helene?