A week before Christmas, my laptop slipped from, yes, my lap, and clunked to the floor. When I scooped it up in some panic, I saw the screen had turned a purplish green, and had a crack running across it. But it wasn’t a crack on the screen itself; at first I thought it was a virtual crack, a tear across the silicon heart. Then I figured out it was the glass/plastic behind the plasma.

DH plugged it into his computer monitor, and I could see that the laptop brain was working okay, but like some poor coma victim, could not communicate with the outside world. Since a consult with the laptop repair shop would start at $100 (more than the old Dell is now worth) so the decision was made to pull the plug.

So the frantic search began for a new laptop. I had made a reconnaissance mission to Best Buy, and then came back home to research, research, research (on Dh’s laptop). First thing I found was that ‘laptop’ is 20th century lingo, and you now want to say ‘notebook’ to sound at all credible.  Second thing is that there is now  a ‘netbook’, the Mini-Me of lap..notebooks.  They are about the size of a kid’s paperback, and weigh approximately as much.  I was really, really taken with a netbook, but had concede that the screen was just too small for these boomer eyes.

DH came with me for the final; and we went on a wild goose chase to Frys, where the Toshiba bait and switch ($450) wouldn’t even boot up; then back to Best Buy, where the $399 laptop of my dreams was not  just out of stock, but out of  production.  I was desolate (DH will attest to that; since I wouldn’t speak to him on the ride home).  He said I could use his, but I wanted my own — to load up with all the junk that had slowed my Dell down to a crawl.

Lo and behold, I open the Sunday paper to find out Office Depot is has another model of my dream laptop on sale, with even more memory.  I impatiently go through the motions of farmers market, and hustle DH over to Office Depot.  There’s no notebook on display, which send me plummeting back to despair, but DH asks the nice clerk, who ascertains that yes, it is actually in stock.  I verify that it has a) a media card slot, b) 3 USB ports and c) wireless and I decide to get it.  I even shell out for the Office Depot premium protection that is almost half the price of the laptop, but offers security from any lap malfunctions.   Lucky that the surface doesn’t show fingerprints, because I have no money left to buy this

It’s a great little laptop (‘Laptop’ is easier to type than ‘notebook’, so heck with it, I’m old-fashioned):  sleek, light and fast.  I can actually surf the web while my McAfee virus scans.

Wonder how long that will last.

We went to two holiday parties over the weekend, and both houses were done up to the Christmas nines. Nutcracker scatter rugs, red candles on the mantel, tree-shaped soaps in the guest bathroom. Meanwhile, we hadn’t even gotten the boxes down from the attic.

I used to be good about Christmas. I had tree decorating parties. I made šližikai, I put up stockings. Now I can barely drape tinsel around the giant carp.   How did life get so busy?

I did put reindeer antlers on the dog and the cat. That has to count for something.

There’s been stories going around that Obama is not a ‘natural-born’ U.S. citizen. Total bunk, of course.  A big part of that is racism, but remember, John McCain had to contend with it, too.   No, I think part of it has to do with being born in Hawaii, which has that ‘other/non-America’ aura.  It doesn’t connect to the rest of the United States!  You can’t drive there!  It’s got exotic-looking people!  When I was growing up, it wasn’t unusual for tourists to refer to the Mainland as ‘The States’ (you still hear it a little bit, but usually from people over 60).   Even now, when Hawaii has almost every chain store imaginable, and Island icons (Hawaiian Tel, Longs) are being taken over, people can get starry-eyed when you say you are from Hawaii.

I’m actually surprised that the conspiracy nuts just don’t say Obama is lying about his age.  If he was born 3 years earlier (1958), Hawaii would have been a territory, not a state (yeah, still faulty reasoning, but marginally more plausible.)

In other local boy news, let’s hear it for Eric Shinseki!  Shaka, brah!

Early in the morning last week, Mr. Kitty got off the bed and started roaming around the house.  Then I heard him scuffling around on the rug runner, something he does when he wants to play.  What time was it?  I looked fuzzily at the clock.  1:30 a.m.  Oh god, he probably wanted something to eat.  Well, if I do that, he’ll want a snack every morning.  I’m just going to ignore him. 

Mr. Kitty darted in and out of the room, and Old Pup got fed up and lunged for him.  That roused my DH, who got out of bed and said, “What is up with the cat?”

“He’s hungry,” I said from under the pillow, thinking : you can feed him and then he’ll bug you.

DH went into the kitchen, turned on the light, then said flatly, “He’s got a mouse.”

That got me out of bed, and I got DH a broom.  He trapped the mouse, and then swept him across the floor, away from our fascinated cat.  Poor mousie, he bounced against the baseboard, and stayed there, trembling.  Before Mr. K got his act together, I picked the traumatized mouse up in a hand towel and tossed him out back, no doubt to be a snack for a passing owl.

We went back to bed, but Mr. Kitty prowled the house for the rest of the night.  That mouse was still around, he could smell it!

So even though one of my earlier posts disparaged Mr. K’s hunting technique, he proved that he’s still got it, and continued to prove it when he nabbed another mouse the next morning.  With the consideration that Mr. Kitty is known for, he hunted this one down at 6:00 a.m.  DH shoved his furry orange behind out the door (mouse still in mouth).

I set up traps, well out of paws reach, and Mr. K held vigil in the laundry room, but no mice have been seen.cat_skull

Not to be outdone, on our Tuesday morning walk, Old Pup dashed towards the drainage pond in our local park.  I figured she was chasing the ducks, but then I heard her barking, and, as I got closer, something else snarling.  Oh, no, she’s cornered a raccoon.  I could barely make out Old Pup’s pale shape in the morning gloom.  I called to her, but of course, the prey drive was roaring in her ears, so I paced the water’s edge, and hoped I wouldn’t have to go in after her.

Finally, the Pupperoon gave a final bark and moved away, towards me.  I would like to state, for the record, that I don’t blame the raccoon for any of this.  It was in its territory, minding its own business, when a huge galumphing animal burst through the reeds with murderous intent.

Old Pup turned around; maybe she heard splashing or movement.  She went deeper into the pond.  I shone my little flashlight in the water, but only caught the gleam of two little eyes.  There was more snarling, then a yelp, and Old Pup’s head disappeared under the water. 

Not the real raccoon but a simulation

Not the real raccoon but a simulation

Oh god!  The raccoon was trying to drown her!  I waded into the water, shouting.  Old Pup was  back up, swimming towards me, and I could just make out the raccoon head somewhere on her back.  I swung the metal end of the leash towards it.  I don’t think I got near it, but the raccoon decided discretion was the better part of survival, slipped off Pup’s back and disappeared into the dark.  Immediately, Pup turned around and tried to swim after it.  I grabbed her tail and hauled her ashore.  The Puparoon immediately ran along the shore, trying to track it.  Finally, I was able to grab her collar, leash her, and drag her home.  Riding high on adrenaline and the chase, Old Pup was thrilled.  Her tail was high, her ears alert, her step prancing.  Soaked from the waist down, shoes squishing, I wasn’t nearly so happy.  Back home, I rinsed her under the hose (the pond water isn’t very clean), then had my own shower (with hot water, thank you very much), and related the whole tale to DH.  Under the kitchen light, we could see bloody scratches on her muzzle and ear.  Taking a look into her bright eyes and happy smile, she seemed to consider them worthy trophies.

One of the most-quoted lines from Republican veep nominee Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech is, “You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?  Lipstick.”

Governor, I’ve worked and played with pit bulls, I know pitbulls, I am friends with pit bulls.  Governor, you’re no pitbull.

Most pitbulls I have met are sweet, non-partisan souls, who would rather lick a person into submission than lay teeth on them.  They can be hazardous around cats and squirrels, but unlike most hockey moms, can often be taught to leave smaller critters alone.  They bear fewer grudges than your average politico.  I haven’t known one to wear lipstick, but some have painted toenails.

I run a program, Paws to Read, where children can read to dogs, and two dog members are pitbulls:  the effervescent Egg and Monte the Magnificent.  Egg is cream colored, with big dark eyes and a nose made for kissing.  He is always ready to play, but easily settles down.  Monte is a huge brindled hunk.  Like the Rock, he is daunting to look at, but is a serene soul who is unfazed by hordes of small children.

Not any Joe Blow dog can join the program.  They have to be tested and certified therapy dogs, safe around people, obedient to their handler.  Therapy dogs are invited to hospitals, schools and libraries.

Hockey moms or beillergent governors?  Not so much.

I don’t have permission to put Egg’s or Monte’s picture up here, but here are some other pibbles I’ve been lucky enough to know:

Look at that smile!

with apologies to Mr. Sendak

The weeks Lin wore her librarian suit/and made mischief of one kind/and another/the system called it “Web 2.0” and Lin said, “I’ll text you up!” so she was sent to bed without texting anything.

Okay, enough of that, or it’ll tip over from stupidity right into sacrilege.

Since my desk and work area is composed of various stratification of materials, I was very curious about the various To-Do lists: WorkHack, Tadalist, Todoist.

Workhack is very WYSWYG, which made it easy to get going.  It is very, very simple,  and once I found you could visualize by size, the huge font point and glaring colors were manageable.  My design-oriented DH would absolutely hate it.  Bad points:  1)you can’t edit the tasks once you type them in, and you can’t make sub-categories (i.e, ‘Lamorinda Reads’, and all the stuff you need to do under that.) 2) WorkHack is meant to be bookmarked, so most useful if you use one computer.  The other two are accounts, so can be logged in from anywhere (or put on your deli* account if you’re one of those)

Tadalist definitely had the worst homepage.  It was very cluttered, and the you could not see any sample pages, and why would I going to join if I couldn’t see what the pages were like? (Aside:  This reminds me of Blockbusters horrible webpage.  They won’t tell you about their rental plans until you give them your personal info) There are supposed to be links to actual Tadalist pages, but they were either dead accounts or had gone private.  And then there are no instructions.  At all.  A mostly white screen pops up with  ‘My Lists’. What the @#$% ?  After my third try, when my blood pressure went down, I finally saw the little FAQ on the side.  Tadalist (which is quite a horrid name:  ‘Ta-dah a list’? ) and the next one, Todoist, operate on the principle that you have projects, and each project has sets of tasks to be completed. As opposed to WorkHack,  which just has you make a list, hierarchy be damned.  Once I figured out about projects, I was able to merrily create.  You can even RSS your list (to yourself, I guess) if you happen to be one of those.  Bad points:  1)  You can’t sort anything by date or urgency; 2) you can’t show your tasks on the main list page, only when you go into each individual list.  Tadalist does this intentionally, keeping things simple [somewhat]; 3) Tadalist upsells their other programs.  Pretty low-key, but irritating nonetheless.

Todoist.  OMG.  Obviously designed by geeks or engineers.  There are so many add-on-doohickey-web-thingys that it took me a while to figure out how to start a list.  The homepage boasts that it is simple and intuitive, but it is neither.  However, unlike Tada, there is a LOT of help info on Todoist, in the form of screencasts, which show you how things work.  The screencasts are a bit tedious (the creator/narrator could have used a tighter script), and obviously you can’t use it for a quick referral, but essential for figuring out this thing.

Todoist (another odd name) has a learning curve like Lombard street.  You can do a LOT in Todoist.  You can make hierarchies, date them, color-code them, make sub headings.  Bad points:  you have to figure out how to do these wonderful things. That takes time.  Lots of time.  Hope none of your projects are too pressing, or your deadlines will be shot to hell while you try to create your projects lists.  Todo* reminds me of Doug Adams wonderful Last Chance to See.  While observing an obsessive bird, Adams thinks of how he will happily spend the day creating a program that will pop-up a window on a certain part of text.  The creator of Todo* reminds of Adams.

In conclusion, I haven’t quite figured out which of the three works best for me.  They do all have their good points and bad points.  I like the ease and color coding of WorkHack, and the hierarchy of Tada*.  If I get the time to sit down and figure out Todo*, I can see that being very useful.  At present, I will continue to scribble in my calendar, and tape little notes to my monitor and above my desk.

I subscribe to some podcasts (geek confession:  I actually prefer to listen to radio broadcasts than music), most notably Radio Lab.  I also recorded for our very own CCCL story podcasts.  You need to be careful with podcasts and pick a story that can stand on its own without the pictures.  We are such a visual society (and getting more so with every technological advance), that we forget that words can paint a picture.  Seems like some of the writers and editors forget this as well (especially artist/writers).

Vodcasts add the visual element, and many layers of complication, since you usually have to ramp up the technical sophistication.  The Fort Allen library video showed a nice variety of shots:  long, close-up, overhead.  That meant a lot of camera shots and a lot of time editing.  On the other hand, after the library video, I watched a craft video on the making a coffee sleeve into a cuff bracelet.  This video was just a close-up of the hands.  While there was a bit of editing, it certainly wasn’t as fancy.  But that would be a cool thing for the library — to make a craft, and then show the book and have a subtitle:  “for more projects like these, check out…”  Not sure what kind of copyright violations that would be.