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A Cause for Celebration

It’s National Grammar Day!

Who wants to join me tonight for a sentence-diagramming party?

Any takers?

No one?

Bueller?

This has been, probably, the best National Grammar Day I’ve ever had. After last night’s trip to the Apple store to get a second opinion on my beloved laptop’s failure (she was booting to a black screen) I was excited but cautious. The most helpful Apple Genius I’ve ever spoken to explained that it was the exact problem Hugh had diagnosed Monday night (while I was being useless and crying over spilled milk… er, fried graphics card). He told me that he could fix it in house, that it would normally cost close to $1,000, that it would be free, and that he could do it by Saturday morning.

Rewind.

Saturday morning is so much sooner than 6-8 weeks from now. I rejoiced. I thanked the gentleman profusely, and I left Norma in his care. Skipping the few blocks back to the metro, I inundated Dad with this exciting news on the phone because otherwise I would have stopped and told a complete stranger. When Rebecca got home I shouted a few “YAY!”s at her and made her hug me. I overflow with joy at the thought of my girl getting cared for and healed during her in-patient stay.

I slept much better last night, knowing she was on the mend.

This morning the miracle-working Apple Genius called and left the message that would come to be known as the best National Grammar Day news ever. He had already fixed my computer, and I could pick it up anytime. I YAY-ed at my computer, my co-workers, some friends via text, and my 10 followers on Twitter.

But today’s celebration isn’t just about my reunion with a working laptop. There was a birthday in the office today…

Pam’s!

The newly formed Birthday Committee (our boss loves birthdays) got her flowers and gathered everyone to wish her a big Happy Birthday. I was a really sneaky inside man and distracted her so she wouldn’t run from her desk. Maybe some day I’ll get her to tell me what life was like when she was 25.

And, since I had my camera out at work…

Elizabeth mocked my chair’s height and my general stature.

I showed off my beautiful mouse pad. It was a birthday gift the year I started this job.

Devon illustrated how proud she is of her star for winning trivia in February. Yes, we hold a trivia contest every month.

That picture is a contender for the best I’ve ever taken.

Happy Friday from the office!

Reading 102 or The Steve Jobs Effect

I may have made it clear yesterday that I am a staunch supporter of real live books, preferably of the old, used and free variety. But I have to contradict myself a tad and admit that I’m a bit of a hypocrite.

I understand the beauty of reading a book on something as small and light as a Kindle — I once tried to read The Emancipator’s Wife on the metro and it was a miserable failure. It is the size of a dictionary and quite the hassle to hold open with one hand while clinging to a handrail and dear life with the other.  I gained two things from that attempt: slightly strengthened forearms and an $11 late fee at the library. I never finished the book.

Having helped my 79-year-old grandma learn how to use (and love) her Kindle, I also learned that e-readers let you increase the text size if your eyesight isn’t what it used to be. I may only be 24, but I could really get on board with this idea. Squinting is finally starting to get difficult — and painful. I also learned that the Kindle store has a lot of classics for free! I loaded Grandma’s Kindle up with a bunch, to which she responded that Mark Twain is getting a little long-winded.

Though I can concede that these possible advantages to using an e-reader exist, I would still feel like I’m cheating on my library card, the books I’d never discover on Amazon, and my ability to judge my reading progress based on the number of pages in my left hand versus my right hand.

And yet, despite my distaste for reading electronically, I make my living working on an electronic publication.

Yes, I’m ashamed. My cheeks are red and I’m hanging head in self-disgust.

Enter the iPad2.

Twitter was all abuzz yesterday about the iPad2 and caught me at an especially vulnerable time. With Norma Jeane out of commission, I could fall in love with anything that has an internet connection and and a glowing apple right about now. I’m not even sure what the advantages of the  iPad are, but I think it lands somewhere between an iPod and a MacBook? Either way, I am at the mercy of Steve Jobs’ product unveiling whims.

I’m headed to the Apple store after work today for a second opinion on my laptop’s demise. Hopefully, sometime between now and then, I muster the self-control to not be tempted by the shiny, new, functional Apple products I will encounter.

Here’s hoping I leave with a working computer.

And here’s hoping it’s the one I walked in with.

I miss her, and so does Prince.

Kindle Shmindle or Reading 101

Since I’ve recently developed trust issues with technology, I’m growing ever fonder of my library card. In a library, I don’t need an internet connection to walk among the shelves, perusing at my leisure. Going to the T’s in fiction, I don’t only see Tolstoy and Twain and the so-called best sellers. I can see the bad with the good, the popular and unheard of.

And the best part, to choose just one, is the books. Solid, tactile, used, wonderfully scented books. And I can hold onto them, flip through them, read a little of each if I want to.

I can get completely distracted from the mission I arrived with, and leave with a book recommended to me by the stranger I chatted with on the way in, whose kids were busy discovering the joys of Junie B. Jones.

Last week I went to the library to check out a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Since an article on Salinger’s WWII experience grabbed my interest in last month’s Vanity Fair, I decided it was time to give it a re-read. Incidentally, the library knew I’d been on a classics kick and had a whole shelf dedicated to the likes of, among others, Faulkner, Hemingway, Jane Austen, and my nemesis Wuthering Heights. There, I found The Catcher in the Rye but was distracted by everything else.

Along with The Catcher in the Rye, I checked out Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, which I’d never heard of. It’s only 200 small pages, so I’m giving it a try and so far so good. Which brings me to Reading 101.

I don’t know what Salinger was trying to achieve with this novel. I know that it started as two short stories published in The New Yorker, I know that it discusses religion, but I’m not researching anything else about it because I don’t have to. That is the beauty of reading for pleasure, which I did not learn until after college.

You don’t have to analyze, understand or care about a novel.

If you don’t like it, stop reading it. If it takes you weeks of strife to get through the first fifty pages, put it down for good. This is a skill we are not taught in school — the idea of reading just for the sake of reading.

I recently read Beloved by Toni Morrison. It was a dark novel about the haunting lives of former slaves in post-Civil War Ohio. The details were graphic and the flashbacks horrendous. My mental state was tortured along with that of the main character as the plot grew more and more vivid. It left me with knots in my stomach most nights before bed. While I appreciated the subject matter, what I was most interested in was Morrison’s prose. Because of that, I decided to focus on the faint love story in the novel, because I could. Because I did not have to write a paper discussing themes, motifs and symbols, I could take a quote,

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces that I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”

and connect it to another,

“Sethe, if I’m here with you, with Denver, you can go anywhere you want. Jump, if you want to, ‘cause I’ll catch you, girl. I’ll catch you ‘fore you fall. Go as far inside as you need to, I’ll hold your ankles. Make sure you get back out. I’m not saying this because I needa  place to stay. That’s the last thing I need. I told you, I’m a walking man, but I been heading in the direction for seven years. Walking all around this place. Upstate, downstate, east, west; I been in territory ain’t got no name, never staying nowhere long. But when I got here and sat out there on the porch, waiting for you, well I knew it wasn’t the place I was heading toward; it was you. We can make a life, girl. A life.”

and call Beloved a love story. Because I read it for me, because I wanted to.

And now I’m reading Franny and Zooey, and I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be funny or if I’m supposed to be worried for the characters’ plights. It doesn’t matter that all I can think of is the movie The Royal Tenenbaums. I am reading the book envisioning Margot and Chas as the main characters, because it’s entertaining. If I had to write a paper on the book — what I’ve read of it so far — it would probably be about its connection to the movie.

And I don’t think J.D. Salinger would mind too much.

Newsflash: I just did some research because I was curious and found that “The Tenenbaum children, all highly intelligent and disillusioned, are loosely based on the similarly disillusioned siblings from J. D. Salinger‘s Glass family stories, as director Wes Anderson revealed in a January 2001 interview,” from the Wikipedia article on the movie.

Maybe I did learn something about reading in school…

Goodbye Norma Jeane

I am heartbroken.

Lost.

Disconnected.

Spiraling into depression.

But mostly, I’m heartbroken.

My MacBook Pro that’s been by my side, in constant use for three years, is sick.

It was a Christmas+graduation gift from my parents in 2007. It saw me through my last semester of college, a 40-page paper about a YouTube video, CommLaw exam reviews, a six-minute slideshow of photos recapping the beauty of undergrad.

Together, we edited photos, wrote captions, copy edited articles, designed layouts, proofed, indexed and finalized a 464-page book. We wrote columns and editorials for the CT. We created 15 different versions of my resume, wrote countless cover letters and crafted eloquent emails to potential employers.

Lately, we’ve been processing hundreds of photos every few days, occasionally mashing together videos from my Flip and frequently researching grad schools and career paths. We’ve sporadically Googled the cost of living in other cities. We hosted brainstorming sessions for Rebecca’s wedding.

Now it sits unplugged on my desk, cold from lack of use.

In mere minutes Sunday night it went from researching Oscar nominees to barely breathing with a pitch black screen — the only visible light glowing from its backlit keyboard.

I kept my cool and went through Monday confident that after work my troubleshooting would bring it back to life.

It didn’t.

I called Apple support, but they wanted me to pay for them to tell me troubleshooting options — probably ones I’d already tried.

I cried like a child whose favorite toy met an untimely death out of a minivan window on a family road trip.

I called Hugh and asked if he had any idea what could have happened.

I stared blankly at the silver shell, holding the battery in my hand, convinced it was the traitor who self-destructed and took my whole computer down with it.

Rebecca gave me a hug, poured me a glass of Chianti, we turned on our shows and I put it out of my mind for an hour or so. But I woke up this morning feeling an emptiness that the 3.7 inch screen of my phone cannot fill. Droid just doesn’t.

Candle in the Wind has played on repeat in my head and I think about our better days together.

Hug your laptops, friends. You just never know how long they’ll stay with you.

You may also want to back them up every so often.

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