Archive for July, 2007

Have red pen, will proof

Katie brought me a short essay around 10:00 PM tonight. It was a scholarship essay and she wanted me to proof it and give constructive criticism, which I was glad to do that, as proofing is definitely part of my job description. I asked her to tell me about the assigned topic, and she gave me a link which revealed, as I scrolled down, that the deadline for electronic submission was July 31, 2007. Uh, that would be tonight.

So I proofed and critiqued and made it bleed, and she revised, reworded and reprinted, and after several rounds of all that, I glanced at the clock (10:56 PM) and said, “Boy, I sure hope it’s not in the eastern time zone.” In a flash, that girl raced back to her desk, made the final changes, submitted it, and then sent me a copy to review. I was nervous. What if I found errors after she had already submitted it?

I need not have worried. It was letter perfect.

Now, if it had been my essay, a submission with only 30 seconds to spare would have caused a pounding head, sweaty palms, and a queasy stomach, but since it’s her essay (and I must admit she has been quite busy with several other intense writing projects lately), I’m staying calm, cool, and collected. But I know now to keep my red pen handy at all hours of the day – and night.

What can put a busy 46-year-old woman in bed at 4:00 PM?

Only a stomach virus. It has not been a terribly fun day, yet, but I am feeling a bit better. I was able to get through the boys’ math and more-or-less keep them going on chores and academics, but I was too sick to deal with supper (which Katie did, and she gets bonus points for doing it with Chef Andrew), or to take Josiah to his Boys Scout Court of Honor tonight (which Katie did). While they were gone, I slept and Andrew watched a movie. No great productivity for either of us, but it worked, and today that was what mattered.

Now I’m headed down to do the supper clean up (at 9:55 PM), and I just noticed there is a big beautiful orange full moon out. How pleasant!

It was the router.

When Internet and email ground to a halt yesterday, my ISP told me I had a “time out” error, which sounds to me like a misbehaving three-year-old.  I was told A) it would require a ticket; B) if someone had to come to the house would I prefer mornings or afternoons?; and C) it should be repaired by sometime Tuesday (this was on Saturday afternoon).

A few hours later, with me having done a grand total of absolutely nothing toward solving the problem, everything started working again.  I attributed it to Scott holding his mouth right, which was the only conceivable logical explanation.

It worked for two hours and then quit again, but this time with a different set of error messages.  By then it was late and I was tired, so I decided to go to sleep and hope that it would somehow work in the morning.

It didn’t.

Not only was there no email and no internet, this time my filter wouldn’t work (it had the day before when everything was down), and it gave me a serious message of doom.

Knowing that without the filter I wouldn’t be able to go online even if my ISP problems were solved, I chose to first call the filter folks.  They don’t have a toll-free number, but I also didn’t want to have them call back, because we’d be leaving for church in 45 minutes.  So I held.  And held.  And.  Held.  I decided that at 20 minutes I would hang up, even if they hadn’t gotten to me.  While I was holding, the following conversations occurred at fairly high volume.

Jo – Mom, do you have any more pairs of green socks I can buy?

P – Maybe

A – MOM!!! I don’t have any black pants!!!

P – True.  Wear what you have.

Cell phone on shoulder causing neck-ache – “Thank you for continuing to hold.   Your call is very important to . . . ”

A – But, MOM!!!

P – I don’t care

Cell phone on shoulder causing neck-ache – “. . . leave a number for a service technician to return your call in the order it. . .”

Jo – Where?

P – Go in the playroom, straight ahead in that cabinet, and  behind the door on the right there’s a box marked, “sell to Jo.”

Jo – I looked there and I sure didn’t see any!

Cell phone on shoulder causing neck-ache – “. . . continue to hold.”

P – Well, either I have some or I don’t.

A – Mom, can you. . .

P – I am not ironing anything.  Wear a nice pair of jeans.  It will be fine.

A – But MOM!!  (he bursts into tears)

Cell phone on shoulder causing neck-ache – “. . . call is very important to us.  All our service technicians are busy assisting other important customers like you. . . ”

And so it went until suddenly I realized the voice in my aching ear was saying something different.  “. . . leave your name, number and a brief description of the problem, and we will return your call in the order it was received.”  Great.  It had been nineteen minutes and they weren’t even going to give me the option of holding for one more.  We were leaving in 20 minutes, who knew which kids were dressed and/or had brushed their teeth, and I hadn’t eaten yet.

I hung up.

I decided to try the ISP before leaving.  Maybe there was something evil going on besides the time-out error; something they would need to know about before there serviceman showed up at my door on Tuesday.  After holding less than a minute – after all CenturyTel has billboards in our area advertising their “award-winning customer service” – I got to talk with Beth, who was indeed very friendly and helpful.  We reviewed the error message situation, and I explained that the day before, I had been told that my “time-out” error would be fixed by Tuesday, but that it had started working Saturday night and then quit again.

We went through all the by-now usual stuff.  Enter odd IP address into address bar.  No, we can’t get online.  Power cycle all the equipment.  Netopia.  Which re-set button?  Oh, that little red thing?  I never saw that before.  What do I do, push it. . . ?  Oh, with the tip of a pen or something.  Yeah.  For five seconds.  Oh.  it’s going red now.  Ok… Yes, the DSL light is solid green.  No, not straight into the computer because we have a network.  Golly, Beth, I don’t think that wire will stretch that far.  Just a sec.

P – JOSIAH!!!!  Come here and plug the output of the modem straight into the computer.

Jo – I don’t think it will reach that far.

P – duh!  That’s why I called YOU,  handsome!  Here.  We can balance the modem on the side of the trash can.

P – Just a minute, Beth, we’re re-arranging the furniture. . .

A – Mom, do I hafftuh wear. . .?

P – Yes, and we leave in ten minutes.  Did you take your Amoxicillin?  And go brush!

K- Ummm. . . Mom?

P – JO!! Don’t drop the…

A- yes, I took it.

P – Great.  Katie, I’m trying to get the internet working.  If I’m still on the phone in ten minutes, you’ll have to go on and drive yourself.  I’ll pay the gas.

Jo – OK

P –  So you ran the yellow wire into the back of the computer?

Jo –  Yes, Mom.

P – But what about the wire you took out? How will you know which hole to. . .

And on it went, but eventually, I got online!  What a wonderful thing.  Email even worked, which was a nice added bonus.  Then Beth had me turn the modem off again, this time just with the power switch, and turn it back on.   Back online, I was to click “bridge set-up” (which makes me think of Two No Trump) and go through some more gyrations in order to “bridge the modem,” which really means, “if Scott’s really holding his mouth right, you will be able to plug the router back in and still get online.”

So we did, but we couldn’t, and my new good friend, Beth, gave me the number for Netgear (the router company).   I would need to call them and tell them what we have done (?!?!?) and that the modem was bridged, but the router might need to be re-configured and the setting should be PPPOE.

Thank you, Beth.

Off to church and home again, and I went straight to my desk to call Netgear.  They have some REALLY wanging music-on-hold, and I had to listen to it for about five minutes – which seemed like twelve.  Finally a guy with an accent (“Peter?  Stephen?” I couldn’t tell for sure what he said his name was and I was embarrassed to ask him to repeat it.) came on and asked how he could provide me with excellent service today.  I quickly came up with some really witty things to say, but decided to play it straight.

I told him about the Saturday “time-out” error and how it fixed itself three days early but only for a few hours.  I told him I wondered if it was the filter, but that I couldn’t get through to them to find out,  and so called back the ISP.  I told him that Beth said the modem was bridged and that the router needed some PPPOE, but that when we used the router I couldn’t get online, although I could when we went straight to from the modem to the computer.

Stephen/Peter had me type that same IP address into my address bar, and it didn’t work any better for him than it had for Beth, but I didn’t tell him that; him being a guy and all.  Then we went back to that DOS thing where they always have you type cmd/enter to get to that other black screen with all that blurb on it.  Now, I actually know that screen pretty well, because I always have to go there to fix Rosetta Stone when our dynamic IP changes.  But for Rosetta, I type ipconfig/all, and for Peter/Stephen I only typed ipconfig.

Well!   Up came some REALLY odd IP address, and from there he told me what to do to get online.  However, after several tries he deduced that the filter was blocking it.  He told me to disconnect the filter, but I don’t know how to do that.  He asked if there were any computers on the network that were not using the filter, and there is one – Katie’s.

Up I trundled to the third floor, shoved aside a pile of research material on her desk, and we tried to get back to where I had been on my machine.  We had almost gotten there when I bumped something with my shoulder than hung up Peter/Stephen.  I could have cried.

I dialed back to Netgear, and thankfully – because I had a significant headache by that point – their music on hold was not quite so wanging.  This time I waited about seven minutes and got a different tech support person, #2496, another man whose name I could not follow at all, and who DEFINITELY lives in India, Pakistan, Bangledesh, or Bhutan.  His accent was extremely hard for me to understand and he talked very fast, just to make it a little more challenging.

I told him about Saturday’s time-out errors, the ISP not working then working then not working, my lovely conversation with Beth, the fact that I could go online direct from the modem to the computer, but not through the router, Beth’s recommendation that the router be reconfigured and given a healthy dose of PPPOE, and how far Stephen/Peter and I had gotten on that process before I so rudely disconnected him.

#2496 repeated an incredible string of (English?) verbage back to me at a high rate of speed and said, “does that describe your problem?”  I don’t know if it did or not, but I said, “sure.”

He took me to a lot of places I had been before, but at a certain point needed me to give him the IP for the modem.  For crying out loud!  Do YOU know the IP for YOUR modem?  Well, the modem is on the windowsill in our office, so I flew back down to the second floor and back to my own (filtered) computer.  Then #2496 had the audacity to tell me – quite rapidly – that we needed to go straight from the modem to the computer to get the modem’s IP.  Sheesh.

“JOSIAH!  Come in here with a good attitude and run this yellow wire from the modem straight into the computer – again.”

His attitude wasn’t so good, but he once again scooted the computer out, climbed behind it and shoved the yellow wire into some hole back there.   With the info thus obtained, I was armed and dangerous again, so back up to the unfiltered 3rd floor computer I huffed.  When I plopped into Katie’s desk chair, probbaly breathing heavily #2496 said – in .75 seconds flat – “Ah.  I am making you work too hard, eh?”

Actually no.  I’m just overweight and out of shape.  Now, where were we?  More screens, more buttons, more numbers dot number dot number number dot number, and suddenly, voila, I’m online on Katie’s computer!  Yay!  But wait.  That is not enough for #2496.  Now he wants to set the wireless one, despite the fact that that computer isn’t even on the network today.  So we click through a bunch of things and change an 11 to a 6.  I have no idea why.

Then it’s back down to the second floor to my own computer, but this time we need Josiah to put it back through the router, which he does, and lo and behold, I’m online on my own machine.  I do have Excedrin Pounding Headache #607, but I am online, and for that, I am grateful.

#2496 now asks me how his service was and I am candid:  “Your technical ability to understand, diagnose, and solve my problem is excellent, but because I am not familiar with your accent, it is very difficult for me to understand you.”  He was gracious and slung another half page of text into my ear in a mere 3.08 seconds, said he’d send me an email form about this customer service call, and wished me a nice day.

That was five hours ago, and if Scott is still holding his mouth right, I will be able to click “Publish” and put this baby online.

The tortoise and the hare?

Andrew can do his multiplication flash cards in 2:35.  Josiah did them today – without any prior practice; hasn’t done them in months – in 4:42.  Josiah is still ahead of Andrew in mathematical reasoning skills, but in the computation department, he’s falling farther and farther behind his brother, who is five, count’ em five, years younger.

What will I do when Andrew actually sails past him and we all have to acknowledge it?  And will Josiah be able to succeed in work and life if he can’t remember the basic math facts and has to think each one through?  I’ve been concerned for a while; now I’m becoming alarmed.

It’s not like we haven’t been working on multiplication for three years, you know.  (sigh)  I guess I just need to remind myself that God knew what he was doing when he gave us these particular kids, and he will show me how to help Jo.

She cannot be beat

I tried at Scrabble.  Katie and I like to play computer Scrabble over our network.  She ALWAYS wins.  I use to try to win, but I have now resigned myself to the fact that that is hopeless.  I generally try to lose by only 50 points, but today I lost by 60.  Perhaps I should change my expectation. . . maybe losing by less than 100 points would be more do-able.

Then tonight we decided to play one of our favorite board games, “Hail to the Chief.”  Katie gave it to me several years ago, and we both really like it.  It is set up as a mock presidential campaign.  In the first round you answer questions about the presidents (which president’s favorite flower was the red carnation?), and in the second round the questions have to do with the states and general US history (what year did the US become a net importer of foreign oil?).

At one point, I noticed that Katie missed a certain move that would have been to her advantage.  After her turn, I asked her why she didn’t take it.  She hemmed and hawed a bit and then admitted that it looked like she was going to win, and if she had taken that move, she would have won sooner.  She wanted to delay the game a little longer.  In short, she was going easy on me!

Yes, she won.  She always wins.  She cannot be beat.  I’m proud to be beaten by her twice in one day.

Size. . . 12?!?!

No, not my jeans; Josiah’s new shoes. = ) His black AIM/dress shoes have been too small for a while and he could stand it no longer. In addition, his 29/30 black dress pants (and his olive dress plants and all his jeans, for that matter) are too short.

To Wal-Mart we went, where he found a pair of 30/32 pleated pants that are a shade long and a trifle large in the waist, but which will work with a belt . It’s really hard to find much of anything in a 29 waist.

In the shoe department we lingered and sashayed and dallied – not by my choice. Josiah insists that several conditions all be met in this one pair of shoes. They must:

1. be solid black all over

2. be large enough for his massive feet

3. be regular – not wide – width

4. have extensive padding around the back of the heel

5. be as comfortable as tennis shoes

6. look as nice as dress shoes

7. cost less than $25

Josiah tried on shoe after shoe after shoe after shoe after shoe, none of which was perfect, and he just couldn’t let good enough be good enough. In his defense, that is understandable. They’re his feet (we refer to them as his “boats” ), it’s his money, and only he really knows just how much fancy footwork AIM entails.

I told him I’d take him to a real shoe store and he could probably find something suitable there. I even had a $5 off coupon for a shoe store in one of the outlet malls. He asked how much they would cost. I thought about Scott buying dress shoes for work. . . it seems like they were often in the $60-$100 range. I told Josiah that.

“There’s no way I can afford that!” (especially if he will outgrow them in six weeks)

I finally told him a decision HAD to be made right then and there, because I was simply unwilling to grow old and gray standing in the men’s shoe aisle at Wal-Mart.

He eventually chose a pair that fully met conditions #1, #2, #3, and #4; partially met #5 and #6, and failed #7 by only $5.00. They were size TWELVE! And the young man shows no signs that he is done growing! You’d think with feet that long he would trip over this own toes.

Fifteen facts

1.  Andrew’s right ear is infected.

2.  Katie will make a great mom.

3.  Josiah cannot leave home until he has memorized the multiplication facts.

4.  Josiah may never leave home.

5.  Our SJ-B clinic has not yet (after five days and two reminders) faxed my records to the SJ-O clinic.

6.  I think I will really like my new doc at SJ-O, even if she never receives my records.

7.  Walgreens 20 miles north of us has a DRIVE-THRU pharmacy.  What a concept!

8.  If your front tires are worn bald on the outer edges (probably because you knocked the front end out of alignment a month ago when you hit a piece of tire tread in the highway at 65 mph), then Wal-Mart will not rotate your tires.

9.  When the home phone doesn’t have a dial  tone, DSL doesn’t work, the wireless router doesn’t work, and there’s no internet or email.

10.  Some people will do ANYTHING to get out of setting the supper table, including having a massive, gushing nosebleed.

11.  By getting our phone and DSL back up in seven hours when they said it would take 24, CenturyTel exceeded my expectations.

12.  If Andrew takes a flying leap/roll onto our bed, which is topped with a white comforter, his landing will rip the scab off his right elbow.

13.  It’s quite hard to clean multiple blood splotches out of a white comforter.

14.   If a boy who is supposed to be going to sleep chooses instead to pick his nose, he will come running down the hall with handful of blood cupped under said nose, hollering, “Mom!  Get a lot of Kleenex, quick.”

15.  It’s easier to clean blood puddles off wood floors and soles of boys’ feet than off a white comforter.

Unable (or just unwilling?) to leave well enough alone

Our children all use the Rosetta Stone computer program to study foreign languages.  My machine is the server and Andrew uses it for Spanish.  Josiah and Katie study Spanish over the network on their computers, and Jessica studies Chinese over the network on her computer.

This afternoon, Katie tried to do her Spanish, but could not open the server; neither remotely nor on mine.  A full-page error message was displayed, and I had never seen it before.  Katie did what “help” recommended (reinstall Java), and of course it was no help at all.

I asked Josiah if he had done his Spanish yet.  Yes, he had.  Had he had any trouble with the server?  No, he hadn’t , but he had done something to it and that was probably what was causing the problem now.  What had he done?  He had tried to import a file.

Please note that there is absolutely no reason on God’s green earth for any file to be imported to the Rosetta Stone server.   All you do is open it, use it, and close it.

What file had he tried to import? “Oh, one on the desktop,” he replied vaguely.  Hmmm… I never use my desktop for anything except CCleaner, so if there are any files there, they are most definitely not mine.

Which file on the desktop, Jo?  What did you do, try to import a Roller Coaster Tycoon file or something?”

“Actually yes, it was a Roller Coaster Tycoon file.   I can fix it for you.  You just have to open the server and then I can put it back the way it was.”  That, of course was just the problem; we COULDN’T open the server – not for love or money or logic or anything else!

I called the Rosetta Stone technical support department and talked to Kristy, who listened to my problem and then laughed.  I told her, “I bet I am the very first customer you have ever had whose son tried to import a roller coaster game zip file into the Rosetta Stone server.”  Yep, I was.  She needed information about what Katie had done to try to fix it, so I had Katie talk to her.  That girl knows way more about computers than I do, anyway.

When Kristy couldn’t fix it, she called in someone else.  All told Katie was on the phone with them for about 40 minutes, but at the end of that time, voila! the server opened and the problem was fixed.

Until further notice, the boys are banned from using my computer for games, Josiah will have to share his with Andrew, and they will both just have to GOI.

“For Gawd’s sake, get me to the church on time!”

It was a comedy of errors. Katie and Josiah needed to be at church B (some 40 miles from home) as soon after 10:30 AM as possible to do an AIM presentation shortly after 11:00 AM. She also needed to be at church A (36 miles from home in the same direction) from 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM to run the SongShow Plus computer. It projects the words to the songs onto two screens up front, and she mans it every Sunday morning for the 10:00 AM service. I needed to pick up Betsy (some four miles from church A) and get her, Andrew and myself to church A somewhat before 10:00 AM. Katie’s cell phone was dead.

I left the house at 9:08, and at 9:40, just as I was arriving at Betsy’s house, Katie called me. She was some 23 miles from home and had forgotten to bring the gloves. Now, any self-respecting mime knows that mimes must wear white gloves, and I, being our team’s glove-launderer-and-organizer did indeed have a grocery bag of clean, organized white gloves. . . at home on Jessica’s bed.

Katie, being the model of responsibility that she is, stopped at a pay phone (when’s the last time anyone in our family used a pay phone?!?) to call me and ask me (first) to call Tess, find out where she was, and see if she could stop by our house and get the gloves – a creative idea, but alas, I didn’t have Tess’ cell number in my cell – and (second) to call someone at church A and tell him or her that Katie would not be there at all and could somebody please find a replacement for her in the next fifteen minutes.

I was able to do the latter, but not the former, so Josiah ended up putting on his makeup in the car while they zipped home for the gloves. Everything worked out okay at both locations A and B, and now you know how it is possible to drive 129 miles round-trip to go to church.

Green giant chases bare-faced woman to town

I watered my beloved tomato plants this morning and picked a few to bring in, but as I was putting the hose away, I saw him: my dreaded, dastardly, exquisitely camouflaged neon green nemesis; a tomato hornworm. Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!

Since we planted tomatoes in raised containers this year, I assumed we would be spared those kinds of pesties. After all, the soil was new and sterile – apologies to any organic folks who may be reading this – so where could such a monster come from? I could see the damage he’d done, and he had left some droppings to mark his trail.

I’m not normally particularly squeamish, but I hate, hate, HATE grabbing those gross worms to pull them off. I tried to flick him off with thumb and middle finger, and it didn’t work. They grab on so tight and are quite hard to remove. In my fury, I ripped off the particular stem he was clinging to, tearing him nearly in half in the process, and flung him out toward the road. One down; how many to go?

I went in and consulted the internet, where I learned more than I ever wanted to know. He starts out bright green and as big as your thumb, with markings that make him look exactly like a fresh young tomato leaf. In fact, you can be within inches of him, searching diligently for him, and never see him. Three weeks earlier, he was the size of a grain of rice, and in one night, he and a couple cousins can completely defoliate an average tomato plant.

My choices were three: invite Mr. Hornworm to be part of our happy family; spend ten gross minutes every day seeking and removing him and his nasty kin one worm at a time; or apply chemicals.

I opted for #3, and again my sincerest apologies to any of you would have preferred #1

Later in the morning, I went back out to survey the situation. I found, removed, and murdered one of his much younger cousins, but could not locate the rest of his extended family. There was nothing for it; a trip to Home Depot was in order.

Insecticides would probably be cheaper at Wal-Mart, but no one in his right mind would fight the tourists to get to the heart of town on a Saturday. We used to go to Lowe’s for such things, but the new interchange closed off the access to Lowe’s and made it inconvenient, though not quite impossible to get there. However, Depot just opened on our side of town, and it’s usually empty, even on Saturdays. To Home Depot I must go.

The deal is that today was a day that I was ABSOLUTELY not going to go anywhere. Katie would go to work, the boys would be mowing then doing academics, and I would stay home, save gas, not shave my legs, and most assuredly not put on makeup. Ahhh, the easy life!

I was so eager to kill the hornworms and so eager to get back home and get things done that I decided the odds of meeting anyone I knew were slim. In my hairy and makeup-less state, I went to Home Depot and spent enough on the appropriate insecticide and sprayer to insure that every tomato I pick after today will be worth $29.95.

It’s windy now, and my friend Ortho says I am to wait till the wind is calm. I’m checking the trees every few minutes, and as soon as conditions are right, I will take fatal vengeance on Mr. Hornworm’s family. Sphinx moths they will never be.

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