Nothing to Say?

So, itʼs two months and a week since my last post. What else isnʼt new?

Well, jaw-droopingly enough, The Lovely One  has actually asked me to try posting regularly. (I know — tradition holds she hates any time I spend at the computer, even writing, and she has always thought my pathetic posts here on Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog were, uh, pathetic.) So at her behest more or less, letʼs  conclude the ten-week hiatus:

ClocksI have been doing nothing much with those 69 days. nearly nothing at all. (I did finish and revise a short story to submit for possible publication — the result still suspended in the atmosphere somewhere/somewhen. “Scholarsʼ Folly” takes Søren, sans Judah, from northeastern Iberia to Córdoba for a really bad day with supernatural intrusions, his subsequent ethical self-flagellations being reserved for what will become the following chapter in the final novel. However, that effort filled less than a week, really, the original composition having been part of my NaNoWriMo 2012 enterprises. The revised product was e-mailed for editorial consideration way back in mid-January.)

Today, having actually gotten a break from nearly daily snowfall (no lie — culminating in three days of flood-inducing rain), punctuated by regular weekly blizzards (both requiring me to shovel rather than head out to exercise first thing in the darkness before dawn), I did my time on the elliptical and came home feeling genuinely determined to do something (for once) today.* So here I am pecking away…

Unfortunately with nothing to say.

You see, that (lack of postable content) has been the major problem (other than lazily and worthlessly diddling all my time away each day) preventing the blog from acquiring updates. Nothing to say…

(And when I consider all that I found myself able to blather in 2010 when I did the post-a-day thing so glibly and logorrhea-cally, perhaps the current chastity of content seems less pitiful and more prudent. Perhaps.)

The same lackluster life (mine) has also prevented me from keeping my letter-writing particularly current (and I do need to write both to my long-suffering aunt and communication-deprived bother later today or no later than tomorrow). I havenʼt even added more than a few thousand words to my creative endeavors. Plenty of mental composition but nearly nary a word even smartpenned to paper for eventual upload into the (contemptibly frustrating) digital presumed-reality.**

However, even with this despicable deficiency of (for equally miserable want of better terminology) subject matter, I felt as though I must post something. So this drivel is it.


* Of course, my eff-viscerating, worthless computer has had other ideas: those first few sentences have taken some seventy minutes to get on the screen, as multitudes of pointlessly intrusive background processes have taken over the computerʼs processor cycles ahead of my considerably-less-than-feeble keyboard smashing (but regardless how fiercely I punch a key, for some reason Spotlight uselessly updating its database or the virus-protection programʼs mercilessly intrusive “Behavioral Injection” activities take precedence regardless). Yep, nothing has changed; and the computerʼs incompetence frustrates me and drives me away from the infernal screen/mouse/keyboard to do something that might seem potentially productive (or at least less emotionally traumatic) — like reading the Kindle instead (but more on that tomorrow). Appleʼs demonic apparatus and its meddlesome softwares even contrived to get me to delete somehow the original final sentences of the parenthetical conclusion of the paragraph above the one to which this footnote appends.

** And now, suddenly there is no ceaseless drive-grinding (blessed silence on that front for my tinnitus to fill with ethereal cacophony of unreal audio-effervesence instead), and the menu meter indicates merely four percent of the memory and processor active — thus my letters and words actually transfer from brain-and-fingers through the keyboard to the machine and thus the screen (and eventually, we hope, onto you). Astonishing.

Facebook Timewaste

Once again, I do have reports on reading (and recommendations thereby/fore), not to mention some travel and maybe even other items, for future posts — assuming as inevitably ever, the damned device permits.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Effing Mountain Lion

FML. My computer cannot keep up with my typing (and although I type relatively quickly, I do not type really, really fast, so anyone would believe that a modern — no, not contemporary, but still modern — computer could keep up with my only-human typing speed; that supposition would be wrong). So what is the problem?

The infamous chiclet-keyboard (with the inimitable Gwen Hernandezʼs incredibly useful Scrivener for Dummies right there, close to hand when needed.

The infamous chiclet-keyboard (with the inimitable Gwen Hernandezʼs incredibly useful Scrivener for Dummies right there, where it always resides, close to hand when needed).

Well, up front I should admit that I donʼt lways hit every key precisely (particularly on this damnable chiclet Bluetooth keyboard*). For example, that missing “a” in the previous sentenceʼs “always” is probably not the fault of the computer but of this user (of course, the spelling-correction feature is underlining the defective “lways” — both above and in this parenthetical insertion, but I intend to post this initial message for 2013 just as my computer — and I — create[s] it, more or less**; likewise, if I adntʼ mad Typinator change m regular mistyped “setnence” to sentence, that ould have remained wrong as well). I also, as suggested already, have a horrible tendency toward typos — dyslexic fingering that creates jumbled words with letters misordered, some of which I have programmed to get corrected*** (as noted above), some not. Both kinds, however, stir up Mountain Lionʼs intrusive correction suggester (putting up a blue suggestion of what I presumably was supposed to mean to type below the active word onscreen), which although helpful once in a blue moon, usually serves merely to slow down the computerʼs response to the continuation of my typing (which I guess could be resolved, at least somewhat, if I watched the screen and not my fingers/keyboard — as if that will happen at this very late stage in my typing life). Thus, third, I should acknowledge that I myself have created many intrusions into the ordinary typing process, some (if nch) my help to slow down th computerʼs acceptance and display of my maladroit dgitsʼ dance across the excruciatingly tiny keys.****

So some of my curet problems must be ascribed simply to me. (That boldfaced bit of idiocy is an automatic correction, believe it or not, for current!)

I missed BehavioralInjector_64 using 83.3 percent of the RAM by less than a second before the screencapture camera clicked. Drat.

I missed BehavioralInjector_64 using 83.3 percent of the RAM by less than a second before the screencapture camera clicked. Drat.

On the other hand, and that other mitt is the thrust of todayʼs post, none of this was a problem before I “upgraded,” witlessly, moronically, to Appleʼs system 10.8.2, the savagely unready-to-be-released Mountain Lion. (I know I have moaned about this Windoze-like***** set of programming incompetence already, but… ) I have begun to discover that the problem seems to reside with the vast number of processes that think whatever unimportant background activity (like updating Spotlight or too-frequently backing up to Time Machine or whatever mds and mdworker, among too many other gnomically-named bits of coded nuisance, keep attempting to do behind my back, without my permission) is more important than the actual task at which I am genuinely at work (meaning that my typing or program-opening or whatever comes a distant third to whatever other disk-grinding busy-nesses are happening about which I do not care). And I am not the only one.

Some of the worst offenders are processes from programs I have installed (namely Syncoveryʼs totalitarian backup agent and Intego VirusBarrierʼs horrible BehavioralInjector — whether underscore32 or _64, the former being the more dictatorial and domineering). However, using Activity Monitor, I can quit those processes (usually — sometimes it takes ten or fifty quits to get BehavioralInjector to stay absent/inactive). Appleʼs own intrusions are not so user-friendly. Furthermore, that aforementioned spinning beachball has really gotten irritatingly omnipresent!

And that, my friends, is why I keep not getting much done. (Amusingly — and I intend that word literally, etymologophiles — these processes donʼt interfere with getting online. Much — see beachball reference above.)

Maybe now, with as few issues in the most recent paragraphs as there were, I can get back to work on important fiction (really).

* Really, Apple? You couldntʼ make a real keyboard that connects wirelessly? Really…

** The less being that whatever I noticed was wrong when I finished, I boldfaced. (And I wonʼt comment on what I may know were my own issues and what the fornication-worthless software/hardware permitted to be wrong.)

*** Another standard correction, which the computer currently finds nearly impossible to handle adequately is the transformation of straight apostrophes to curly typographerʼs apostrophes (and since I cannot get PopChar to function today — more computer trauma, I guess — I canʼt show a straight one). What happens is: all too often the apostrophe gets inserted after the final s in a possessive (I am coming to think because of the ridiculously slow and intrusive correction-suggester); several examples have occurred in todayʼs post.

**** That would translate as: “some (if not each) may help to slow down the computerʼs…” (Hmmm… you can tell that these footnotish interjections were created down here as I wrote because with these, too, the number of errors decreases with time. Interesting?)

***** Shall we enumerate every Microsoft Windows nonimprovement since XP (and most before)?

Did anyone get the punning initial acronym? Apple… ? (Itʼs not my life that I was addressing.)

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Oh, Yeah, Sadly, Itʼs “Tech Frustration (5)”

…evidently also known as the “marble of doom”

Among the (many) complaints registered at the (ineffably slow) App Store against Appleʼs (unutterably poor, slipshod, pathetically inept) major dose of incompetence, MacOS 10.8.2 Mountain Lion,  is the curse of the spinning beach ball — meaning that multicolored whirling circle which indicates that something is happening (but nothing relevant to what you just wanted to occur on your computer) although nothing ever does develop.

Wait, please wait… Wait… Keep on waiting…  Wait, please… Wait.

Since yesterdayʼs attempt at calm reason (and closure) to my endless agonies with the recently installed system “upgrade,” that curse has been the essence of my longsuffering digitized existence, so much so that I actually shut down my iMac yesterday evening, screamingly frustrated beyond toleration and belief at hours of naught but “spinning beachball” nothingness, knowing full well that starting up this morning would be just another intolerably prolonged procedure, involving several stalls and resultant forced hard restarts —until I succeeded in causing a reboot in “safe mode,” which recently, at least, has actually worked and from which I can restart successfully (adding a mere hour to my morningʼs start-of-business).

I have also learned more than I really care to know about various processes on my Mac that can eat up all of the available active RAM — some being Appleʼs intrusions and some evidently resulting from my virus-protection package, Intego’s Virus Barrier X6 (version 10.6.18 for anyone counting), or so say the various Mac discussion sites discovered by my googling queries on such arcane processes as “launchd” (and many related programmed routines) “mdworker” (and its associated agents), “BehavioralInjector_32” and about a half dozen more — some of which it is safe to quit and some not, each of which can overflood the available memory and leave my computer just an electricity-sucking, luminescent lump of inactive digital dung.

A seventy-minute wait last night left the memory overfull and the cursor a movable spinning beachball. A marble of doom. So I finally, frustrated, shut down…

And felt much better almost immediately!

And then the new day dawned…

Right now, my memory meter (I having earlier quit several of the noisome processes already today) is not glowing all red with usage overplus, but nevertheless for every letter I attemp to tpe ere* in Scrivener, I only get a few, the calculated result being somewhat worse than uploading my hen-scratchings with the smartpen for interpretation (OCR?) and transformation into digital text. Maybe itʼs a sign that any work I accomplish today was meant to be handwritten?

And Lady Lovelace forfend that I should attempt to use the control-click over my own typos for a fast revision — oh, no, that just means two solid minutes of the dreadful beachball spinning.

Lus he disk is being ccsed nns I hbkgrn — Plus the disk is being accessed nonstop in the background.

Snarling sarcastic “thanks” for hindering all efforts, Apple… **

* That this is the kind of utter putrid crap my computer puts out when I am trying to type at a normal speed — I meant, “I attempt to type here” but as an example I left it as was (that passage at least being partially comprehensible, unlike some of the previous skips that deprived this text of whole words and phrases and ran letters ten words apart together into a nonsensical jumble).

** Babbage forbid that I might actually be able to use this computer for something other than its own care and feeding.

Now letʼs discover how many hours of pointless beachballing must be involved in transforming this file to HTML, copying said code, pasting into WordPress online, editing and proofreading and eventually posting…

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Technological Frustrations (4)

I had intended to detail the many frustrations and hours of hangs and freezes and days of re-installation of MacOS 10.8.2 Mountain Lion. But I have begun to bore even myself, and after the not-just-offline-but-off-computer-altogether experiences of last week, I have begun to forget everything I had fumed inside and planned to write.

I think Iʼll just bring this recent thread of technological frustrations to an end — let us hope not just a temporary conclusion.

My wifeʼs laptop is operational but not up to snuff (meaning service pack 3 level and thereby able to support her bought-and-paid virus protection). My iMac remains always on so it doesnʼt have to restart (which Mountain Lion, at least on my computer, cannot do — boot reliably). We remain frustrated… by technology…

Joys of Technology

A glimpse at the Kindle Reader app in action (on top of this post in composition)

On a brighter note, we have new technological toys with which to play. The imminence and arrival of mine kept me distracted from any kind of real accomplishments for well over a week. And my wallet suffers not merely from the acquisition of these new devices but an addictive loading of information and entertainment.

I bought us both Kindles (our first — unlike her early-adopting boss, I thought I would save my cash and acquire my Kindle for well under a hundred bucks*). Mine is indeed the very (currently) cheapest, most basic, old-fashioned, ad-spewing version of the product. In black, with the little buttons and square four-way steering tool at the bottom. And I adore having 200 books (many of those absolutely free or utterly the cheapest possible — and collections of dozens of books in each**) in my pocket wherever I go (no more deciding which books to take on vacation now!).

However, I mostly sought out electronic reading devices for The Lovely One. Ever since her emergency eye surgery in 2008 (for a detached retina) and the consequent reshaping of her eyeball, she has found it very difficult to read. With the Kindle able to present text in various sizes, it should make reading more pleasant and possible for her. And she has the new Paperwhite Kindle (again, I fear, the least expensive of those models), so she can even change the font (within the five available possibilities), not needing to tire of incessant Courier and Helvetica, as I apparently must too often endure. The Paperwhite also illuminates itself, so she can read in the evening, or in bed (as I seem always to do). She may still need her “cheaters,” but now she can read (we hope)!

Aside from my greedily filling about a quarter of my Kindleʼs drive with books new and old (and not all of them freebies or buck-or-two volumes as time has gone on), I have no gripes or qualms about this bit of technology, new to us…


Perhaps I am as stupidly ignorant as I suspect and suggest, but I find the Kindle Reader app for Mac rather ridiculously does not permit a user to copy the text he or she is reading. As I wanted to pass on to My Beloved (from an e-book travel guide I had purchased for Kindle use) a tidbit of information about our intended destination for this yearʼs approaching vacation, this limitation frustrated me (see, the titular theme does indeed persist) until I realized that I could snap a screenshot of the appropriate selection (now, through several software bundle purchases having no less than four screen-capturing programs***) and use PDF Pen Pro to OCR the several sentences into selectable, editable text.

Satisfactory? To be sure. (At least so far… )

And now for some Andalusian research in advance of NaNoWriMo, drawing nigh.

* I had the same attitude/policy toward the iPod — preferring to have my MP3 player for hundreds less than the original prices (and, until recent years, more and more file storage). Itʼs a lesson deriving from my late youth, when calculators were the cutting edge of novel technology (and which not I nor any of my family could originally afford) but which consistently halved their previous prices, while improving the device, year after year, buying season after buying season.

Being an elderizing codger, I still use a calculator — seems so much more direct and simple than booting a computer (assuming, of course, that such a procedure, starting up a computer, is even possible) and then opening a calculator program.  — Not quite aged enough for sliderule mastery, though…

** complete Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraft, Victor Hugo, H. Rider Haggard, James Joyce, Dostoyevsky, Dickenson, Poe, Shelly, Keats, Yeats, Walter Scott, Robert. E. Howard, the Babylonian Talmud in English… (I could go on — you know I could — but you have endured enough. For now.)

Besides, check my screen-capture illustration for todayʼs post to see some more of my recent reading.

***  — I still choose Voilá for constant menubar presence and use, although SnagIt, Clarify and Skitch remain in the Dock (and I would appreciate any input or feedback on othersʼ program preferences and insights).

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Tech Frustrations (3) — Apple Edition, part one

Having resurrected Janetʼs laptop (at least to an almost acceptable point, admittedly lacking virus protection), I proceeded almost immediately to screw everything up to an almost unbelievable degree by upgrading my iMac from Snow Leopard (MacOS 10.6.8) to the current Mountain Lion edition (MacOS 10.8.2 — with another improving update already available and suggested).

Big mistake. Huge, as a matter of fact.

My computer couldnʼt even restart the first time after the Apple App Store application had installed the new system. (And I had hesitated over the many complaints in the reviews section, wondering why Apple didnʼt think anyone needed an installation CD from which to restore the system when necessary, and it has been necessary — five times up to now, and thatʼs not shutting down daily as I had formerly done). And the installation took four hours (maybe a little more)!

I made my twenty-dollar mistake on Thursday evening, September 27, and I was frustrated and computer-deprived for the next three days, reinstalling the system all over again twice (and learning all about what the new installation had done, not to mention getting almost instantly sick of that tan cordillera/sierra felineʼs glare). The biggest flaw (for me at least) with Mountain Lion is that the software cannot restart from a hard shutdown/restart (meaning pushing the little  power/startup button on the rear left of the computer when everything suspends activity unalterably — freezes or hangs) or in my experience from an ordinary restart sequence (even the one Apple imposes with the installation — and upgrade — packages).

As I reported in my own review of the product once I had successfully gotten my iMac operational again (the following Sunday, then Monday):

Got really tired of seeing this visage on this screen in the past three-and-a-half weeks (five times, friends and comrades — so far)

Installed Mountain Lion (MacOS 10.8.2), foolhardily, Thursday afternoon (four days ago, as I write) — net result: couldnʼt get my iMac to fully restart afterwards… Constant, invariable hangs/freezes once the lovely new constellation desktop picture loaded.

Reinstalled said system, using the hidden Recovery partition this installation creates (and, buyers, do make sure you already know your Apple ID and Password [and LAN/Wi-Fi access code/password!!] without software assistance when installing this premature ejaculation of a product) on Friday evening after a whole night and day of forced restarts after start-up hangs, but no go on fully loading on restart, even after the four-hour download and installation. 

However, Saturday morning, inexplicably and without any changed approach on my part, when I tried another start-up, the system loaded and worked… until some programs wouldnʼt open and I decided to restart the computer… Naturally: hang city all over again…

No luck all day Sunday, either (even leaving the stalled start-up alone for hours and hours). The “consult the Apple Support Forums” option presented by the recovery partition merely takes you to standard info, no real help. Except perhaps for restoring from Time Machine and runnning Disk Utility (no problems of that kind in my case), none of the options works without internet connection (thus the need to have your LAN password ready before trying anything from the recovery partition).

Reinstalled for the third time this morning, Monday, and even before the promised three hours and 41 minutes (download and installation) had elapsed, we were up and running. Wowza.

Iʼm planning to leave my poor, abused machine continuously on for a long time today (tomorrow… into next year?) to let Spotlight index (if it actually is — estimate is back up to 20 hours, after ten hours on). And get three or twenty good Time Machine backups complete. Surviving so far without troubling Apple support by phone, although they were VERY helpful once in the distant past.

Anyone think I can afford to shut down (ever) without needing to reinstall yet again?

Hardware Overview:

  •   Model Name: iMac
  •   Model Identifier: iMac9,1
  •   Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
  •   Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
  •   Number of Processors: 1
  •   Total Number of Cores: 2
  •   L2 Cache: 6 MB
  •   Memory: 4 GB
  •   Bus Speed: 1.07 GHz
  •   Boot ROM Version: IM91.008D.B08
  •   SMC Version (system): 1.45f0

Not really recommended, based on my experience. I should have heeded all those earlier reviewers with problems!

Too harsh, thinkest thou, O Gentil Reader? Itʼs only gotten worse…

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

More Kitty

As I have started again to attempt a more-or-less regular journal, I thought I would finish the series of old entries that I had posted earlier, here and here. If nothing else, trying to compose a daily record (well, more or less daily) has gotten me to use MacSpeech Dictate more regularly, again.

We left off at the end of February/early March, so here are the remaining entries from those early attempts. I am amused just how fast the regularity fell off as substitute teaching increased and then I got the job with the Census.

Tuesday, March 3, 2010

Subbed today, all day, Mr. Mac. All went well, some classes were even fun and enjoyable. During his lunch/sixth hour prep I churned out 7 to 8 pages of Mantorville. Was going to dictate it now, after school, but I took too long checking mail and Facebook and getting Turner Classic Movies to send me e-mail reminders of March movies I might want to watch. Thank goodness tomorrowʼs blog post was already done. All I had to do was add in a new paragraph or two and make one change I forgot to change yesterday.

Currently reading: Moorcock’s The Fortress of the Pearl, Howard’s El Borak, and Kuttner/Moore collection Two-Handed Engine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Watching two of the neighbor children play in their backyard on Monday evening, I was enchanted by the two young girls. They were using sticks as play swords. And I was interested that the older one was so caring of her younger sister, instead of using her greater size to simply dominate the play combat. With her long dark hair caught in a flowing ponytail, her body enbulked in a red, puffy thermal coat, as she bobbed and weaved and accepted thrusts from her sister, she never simply overpowered the littler child. In my own youth my younger brother Paul and I frequently played combat games in the yard. For hours. For entire days. Unfortunately I never showed the tender care of this lovely girl, seeking myself always to be the top dog, the dominant figure, the star in our little narratives. It was always The Adventures of John and Paul, me first, notice, never Paul and John. I have a lot to learn, and it makes me sad, even today.

Yesterday, I was proud when the House passed the healthcare reform bill! Today I took the test to apply to be a census taker.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Just discovered Scrivener, in association with an update to PDFPen. As of right now, it appears to work well with MacSpeech Dictate! I’m excited.

Substituted both Monday and Tuesday. Monday was my experience with third graders. Although I was nervous, not really knowing what the procedures of elementary were, it went very well. I really liked third-graders, and they at least pretended to like me. I wanted to take their picture at the end of the day, but I only had my cell phone, not my camera. I see them again on Monday, April 12, for Art fifth period, and I intend to shoot them then.Yesterday, was my first time teaching Art. Except for one class of 14 later in the day, it was a breeze — just two or three students each period. I wrote five pages of my Sepharad story, getting Søren and Nathan into the Red Tower and down to the floor where they expect to find the jade statuette. Also gave blood after school.

Sent Stephen his birthday card today.

Have been awakening at 5:00 AM to run. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday last week (since I had to substitute all day on Wednesday — and took the tests to be a census taker Tuesday morning). Monday, Tuesday, and today — so far — this week. Just 4 miles still, but I’m doing it, and it feels better to have it done at 7:30 than have it looming ahead of me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Clearly I haven’t written any of these in a long time. I did keep subbing, but of course the Census called, and I had to drop subbing for that. Last week I drove daily to Eldridge for crew leader training, Monday through Thursday. This week I have been desperately trying to get organized and prepared to train a crew of enumerators. I just got off the phone from calling 17 people scheduled for my session at the Maquoketa Community Center. Unfortunately most of those calls ended in a message on their machine, which means I’ll probably have to call them all back soon.

The Census is still the big news. Not much to report otherwise, except that yesterday in connection with my Census work I decided to buy a GPS for the truck (which can also be transferred to Janet’s car). So far I like having it a lot.

Please notice how MacSpeech incorrectly prefers digits to words (“4 miles” instead of “four miles”). It also made me laugh on Saturday, while dictating new journals, that the program knew Kahlúa (right down to the correct diacritical marking, as I just made it insert here as well). Funny what the programmers think is important to include automatically.

Sadly, no one has attempted to guess why “Kitty.” Have the Holocaust Deniers won so much of the day (wrongly and vilely)?

I quit (at least so far, with a bookmark in place) partway through the Morcock novel (it got dreary and dull for me, sorry Mr. Michael), and the El Borak and Kuttner books are short story collections (novelettes or novellas for Howard), so I can read one or two and put the volume aside for awhile, as I have done with both. I also acquired via used books on the internet  —, ebay or (I donʼt remember which one) Howardʼs historical stuff, so I have also been dipping into that, even as I have also been working my way through the Leiber Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series again (good to investigate what I donʼt want to unconsciously use for Judah and Søren, whose adventure I must update here soon).

Right now, as of the past weekend, I am finishing a third-reread of Wilbur Smithʼs old The Sunbird, the book I first bought in 1972 that introduced me to his stuff. As with Tarzan, I may just have a literary essay to post on that book.

I really do have  to discuss my pleasure with Scrivener one of these days as well…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Here, Kitty Kitty…

Oscar Wilde

Aaargh! I keep working too much (that and wasting what time I do get to myself). At least the job is supposed to end this week. And it should, too. As a crew, we are down under 150 questionnaires to complete, which is an amount that we should be able to do yesterday and today (although that leaves me checking that 150 in two days as well as the work binders). Personally, I am hoping it all got done yesterday and that I am checking it all for the last time this afternoon. In the meantime, what with proofreading/checking and phone calls, I need to devise a quick and easy post for this last day before the weekend that wonʼt take much of my time late in the afternoon on Thursday.

So I guess itʼs a good time to revisit the past again, and that means a return of the journal entries from just after my acquisition of MacSpeech Dictate. (They amuse me anyway.) And itʼs pretty simple for me just to copy the text from NeoOffice and paste it into the WordPress text box (as I will do momentarily).

The last time I posted some of these entries, I was irresistibly reminded of one of my favorite sources of quotations, Oscar Wildeʼs tasty The Importance of Being Earnest. I first encountered his witty work as a high school junior when Vince had us put on the play in the fall (I had wanted to be Jack, unaccountably and stupidly, but the role went appropriately to a significantly better-looking classmate; perhaps I overestimated my own personal stiffness of performance, not realizing I made a better Algy, much to my enjoyment now). I also felt driven to direct it myself at Andrew, encountering academic difficulties that forced a noble young man to take on one of the leads in the last week of rehearsal; the show went pretty well, even with the almost insuperable barrier of three set changes each night. Generations of drama students also had to enjoy it in the springtime as our (not really accurate) example of a well-made play.

From Act Two, when Algernon is posing as wicked brother Ernest to get an opportunity of bunburying with Jackʼs ward Cecily (who like Jackʼs own beloved, Gwendoline, keeps a diary, peculiarly)…

CECILY. Oh no. [Puts her hand over her diary.] You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication. When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy.

Publication in this case must be merely electronic.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Fritz & Frites French-German Bistro

Good weekend. Diane and Steve came about eight on Friday. I had spent the entire day pretty much cleaning up the house. But the work felt good even though I was tired.

I got up early on Saturday — about 7:30 — to shovel couple inches of snow that had fallen Friday evening and through the night. It took me about an hour. They were all up when I came back in. I waited a bit for Steve to get out of the shower and cleaned myself. Janet and those two went down to the Old Lumber Yard before we all headed off to Galena.

We wandered the Main Street, stopping in half a dozen stores, including that place where they serve all the sauces for you to taste. We wandered on up to Fritz and Frites, where we ate lunch. I had spinach quiche with a salad. A few more shops until about 2:30, when we headed for home. I dozed over the first of three Conan comic collections from SFBC.

Cooked steaks for supper with baked potatoes, salad and cheese bread. Went to bed about ten.

Sunday Janet had me make waffles for breakfast. Diane and Steve left about eleven [MacSpeech foolishly insists on using digits, dammit!], at which time Janet and I took a walk, going all the way downtown via Summit Street. Then out to Wal-Mart for some supplies. Getting ready for the weekly chores through the afternoon.

Olympics. Angus burgers for supper. I did not feel well. Showered early and went to bed by nine. Snow started falling around seven, so I was up early today to shovel snow, but only about an inch of icy stuff had fallen, and I finished in just a half hour. Ate four waffles about noon. Right now just about one.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Subbed in Andrew yesterday afternoon in periods five, six, seven, eight. For Gloria Petesch, Home Ec (although they donʼt call it that any more). Wasn’t too bad; actually enjoyed most of the classes. She had me show movies, which worked out great. Only problems were eighth period. One girl insisted on eating chocolate, as if I wasn’t watching. Expletive deleted.

Now I want to watch Swiss Family Robinson, which was the selected film/lesson? for that last class.

On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, wrote about 5000 words, unfortunately a good portion of them for the blog. New idea — turn my time-travel-onto-the-steppes story into a planetary adventure à la Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Right now it’s about 9:40 AM, and Janet’s getting her nails done and visiting the library before we go grocery shopping later on. Still enjoying the Olympics. The pointlessness of all of what I’m putting in here explains why there haven’t been entries for a few days.

Must get Aunt Alaire’s copy of “Details, Details” in the mail very soon: I think it’s now two weeks.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Here is what MacSpeech Dictate created while the microphone didn’t go to sleep (from music perhaps?): as a is a is no and I know I will go with you will is you will to know you will go and I will and you will and I knew him or him him him him him him him him him him will him know him as is a where are you going to be a worm and you and him and he is on is him and him and him and him and him and him

Nice, isn’t it?

—Can you see what made me think of these entries yesterday, even Wednesday? That potential planetary romance has been on my mind.

Swiss Family Robinson may well have been my very first movie experience as a child (it is definitely the first as I remember it), possibly at the same movie theater in downtown Rock Island where I later won a chemistry set.

And that wraps up February and begins March (as you could have told yourself by reading it, I realize). There is more, but youʼll only have to endure it if I get desperate for material again. (Which is exactly what I may be this weekend.)

where are you going to be a worm” — thatʼs an interesting bit of found poetry… No?

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Digital Time

The hairy knees are a nice touch (sorry, folks). Have I told you all about the clock/thermometer “egg”? And notice the infamous red notebook on the HP printer…

I hadnʼt thought about it much, but I just paused to realize that my “new” iMac, onto which I am putting these digitalized characters via the Bluetooth wireless keyboard sitting lightly on my lap, is a year old (the not-currently-being-used microphone and MacSpeech Dictate just over four months old). I finished making monthly interest-free payments in early June, as mentioned here already, so my equipment by contemporary electronic standards is pretty ancient.

On the other hand, my old PowerMac 7700 is still in use. I intend to use it today, if thereʼs time this evening, to print a bunch of envelopes for bill-returns (our city services, water and electric, and our private garbage collection donʼt send return envelopes with their bills) as its version of Now Contact and the old GCC Elite 600 printer work better on that job than this new thing and the HP Photosmart 3210 All-in-One (although I think I will learn the right way to put envelopes in the HP printer so it can print them from now on). On the famous third hand, itʼs probably time I emptied the four hard drives attached to that computer and got it ready to donate to the Salvation Army or something like that. The PowerMac, as added onto, features the original 500 MB internal, which seemed huge when I acquired it in 1994, laughingly so today, and three externals of varying sizes, ranging up to 500 gigabytes, also laughingly small today (the new iMac has a terabyte of space on its hard drive, and the external I bought at Samʼs Club for Time Machine back-ups also holds a TB; I have only used less than a quarter of the space on the internal drive, and I have saved essentially everything that I have created or that has come my way this past year, including the initial drafts of many posts and the associated pictures for everything — no stinting or compressing whatsoever… yet).

The old PowerMac no longer has its original processor though, as I replaced it some time after the turn of the century with a much faster one (and even with the narrow bus on that machine, the speed is still pretty good (it made my school iMac, a first generation model, seem pokey until I finally succumbed for my final year to the allure of a newer iMac, the version earlier than the one I now use, the version that convinced me I could live with Mac OS X). Although the replacement/upgrade processor came with very nice, explicit instructions (so unlike any do-it-yourself lighting or shelving or window shade you might buy at a local box store — no naming Wal-Mart here because theyʼre not alone in stocking such pathetically explained stuff), removing the original chip and card and installing the new one was the most high-tech personal accomplishment I have made. Any other repairing/improving I have ever done is really pretty much analog (if that word is still in vogue for “old school,” a phrase I really donʼt accept well).

Regardless, I was simply realizing that my “new” machine isnʼt really new at all. Not in digital years at any rate.

Now if I could convince myself that I need/can afford that Bluetooth headset for which I didnʼt pop when I bought the speech recognition software… Then I would be really cool and up-to-date.

Not at all.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


The time is nearing to take on the turbulent fools of the American Right…

Does it know more than I ever did?

Like yesterday, this post is going to be pretty brief. I spent all of Thursday doing nothing but visiting the doctor and working on our taxes. All day. It was miserable and tedious (but then all of us taxpayers know that). The only writing I did all day was numbers and related words and names in the TurboTax software. And I discovered that I had not computerized any of our records except for the basic stuff Janet and I worked on together about a month ago. I had a big day of work — more than I had realized. And in the end, I got chicken and have not yet e-filed either the federal or Iowa returns (I figured I would have Janet take a look at the information with me before I actually pushed the file button with my mouse).

Worse, however, than the usual tortuous tedium of collecting, recording and calculating all the receipts and forms is that our tax return dropped dramatically this year (I guess I should be glad that we aren’t having to pay the government any more money, though). I know that having half a year of actual employment and half a year of retirement may be making things more difficult, but I fully intend to have W-2s coming in as well as the IPERS monthly payments for years and years to come.

Loud and Mindless Slaves of Corporate Greed

However, unlike my teabaggy friends on the Right, I don’t thoroughly mind paying taxes. As long as the government provides services (like, say, a full and fair national health program — not what we’re hoping to get, unfortunately, from the bill[s] currently in Congress, thanks to the vocal idiots organized and galvanized to do the dirty work of undermining good legislation for the big insurance companies and health corporations) I am happy to do my part to fund said services. —What is it with Righties that they want to slog and drudge as the corporate serfs, the demeaned slaves, of huge corporations reaping mega-profits that benefit us ordinary citizens not at all? I don’t see any kind of freedom in being manipulated by distant interests that see me and use me as nothing but a protoplasmic tool.

I think I need to post a good rant one of these days on the subject of freedom, personal and social, because I seldom hear the word being used in any sensible manner. Thinking all day of taxation with representation (sorry, rightist dupes, we voted for them all: they’re our public servants, not our lords and masters) and how the system we all endure is being interpreted as an invidious attack (somehow) on our freedoms has gotten me steamed (that, or the frustration of tax tedium).

But I’ll try to let myself cool (and e-file our taxes) before undertaking my actual political rant.

I hope that today I can actually do some real writing. Well, after I complete about a dozen recommendations for former students that I have agreed to create…

(Oh, I hope we all enjoyed the teaser first line intended to lure hits from my Facebook friends when the post announcement appears in their News Feed.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


My substitute-teaching substitute career seems to be taking off. I got a half-day job a week ago today, and then as I was getting out of bed on Tuesday morning, the phone rang with an invitation for an all-day job. Of course, I didn’t even hesitate to give up all my plans for Tuesday and actually go to work. (For all you readers who are former students—I got to be Mr. Mac.) It was an enjoyable experience, although as I admitted to one of my former colleagues (now that I’m just a temp sometimes, are my former colleagues still “former” or are we colleagues again?), when you are substituting, each day kind of feels like the first day of school every time—that same nervousness which anyone who has taught will probably recognize.

from the Andrew website

The kids behaved well, and Mr. Mac came up with generally enough work each period to keep the class busy. With his eighth-graders I got to play English teacher briefly, reviewing the plan and parts of a friendly letter. Since almost every class completed some kind of assignment, the best part of the day was not having to grade one blooming thing.

No, I take that back. The best part of the day was the extensive lunch-prep period during sixth hour. I had taken along one of the composition books that Tara and Betty had given me during their little recognition ceremony at Thespian initiation of the year I officially quit coaching speech. (They gave me a whole wad of cute/joke gifts, most of which I have enjoyed and used in one practical way or another.) I had taken it along previously one day when I went to visit Janet for lunch in Dubuque, and while waiting for her to get off I had written a few hundred words and sketched some ideas out (so I wouldn’t forget them) for “Mantorville.” You read some of what I had written yesterday. During the free time I had (and I will admit, during time that students were working on assignments in a few periods) I actually churned out several thousand words continuing the horror story. You should be reading some soon—probably Monday. If this story ever turns into something marketable, that is successful working on Tuesday as well.

(By the way, isn’t anyone going to come up with a clever title for this apparently eternally untitled horror story?)

Even better, my presence at school has already created more opportunities to actually earn money. I will be subbing again next week for a part-day and for a full day again by the end of the month. Oh the joys of earning cash again. Everyone kept telling me that subbing felt freer than actual teaching. I must agree.

my current (but soon-to-expire) teaching certificate

When I first started teaching, oh those many years and decades ago, in the mid-Seventies, although we did have to learn about Madeline Hunter lesson plans, I can’t remember in those years doing any kind of stupid paperwork at all—no submitting lesson plans, no curriculum guides, no stsate-mandated garp whatsoever. (Of course as a new teacher, I also got thrown in with the sharks—I mean kids—with no assistance, no guidance except for whatever I might have accidentally gleaned from my education courses in college, no supervision, no nothing except myself. On the other hand, the State of Iowa considered me a “professional” educator: I had my Professional Certificate. Today my Department of Education certificate is known as a “Standard License.”  The not-so-subtle reprimand at educators seems obvious.) All we had to do was teach. Not so today. Well, unless you’re a substitute teacher.

In the last fifteen or twenty years of my career, I began to realize that the teacher was expected to spend, oh, about a third of one’s time completing required paperwork, and I don’t mean homework or even grades. I mean state-mandated curriculum guides (although God forbid we should call them that today; that term is so late 80s/early 90s, and Department of Education bureaucrats have to keep coming up with new names and new systems to keep us on our toes and to maintain their really-rather-pointless jobs).

The dreary time-wasting began with a requirement to complete Scope and Sequence documents, I think in the early 90s. I bought into this endeavor and worked very hard—on old Apple IIs and dot-matrix printers— to create an elaborate (and probably unreadable) formal listing of just what got taught in my subject areas from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. It seemed reasonable and important to chart the course of education throughout the district, making sure to avoid unnecessary repetition from grade to grade. Completing our scope and sequences did help focus our educational efforts. And I even willingly put them through the required revision less than five years later. But then came President Shrub and the No Child Loves Bush (NCLB) regulations from the federal government—gee, thanks right-wing dictators (to whom “smaller government” is a meaningless phrase with which to attack the Left while the Right actually invents huge increases in governmental intrusion into all aspects of private and public life). Now nothing mattered except mandated paperwork and mandated standardized tests. Endlessly, repetitively. And boy, did the State of Iowa Department of Education burst into a frenzy of required documentation.

This time it was known as Standards and Benchmarks. First, each school was to come up with its own standards and its own benchmarks (if you want to know what these terms were supposed to mean, check them out for yourself somehow), and we did. But within eighteen months of getting started, suddenly we were to make use of standardized standards and standardized benchmarks provided to us through mandatory sessions at our local Area Education Agency. At first, the schools in each region were going to work out amongst themselves their agreed standards and shared benchmarks (later, of course, the state imposed its own unoriginal S & B garpness). I remember at an early session trying to get the standards for high school English to be:

1] A student can read. 2] A student can write. 3] A student can listen. 4] A student can find information effectively.

Whoops! Far too clear and easy! Couldn’t do that, ever. Of course, the eventual standards and benchmarks—still available at the DE website—say pretty much that in less clear terms.

But standards and benchmarks are passé.  No Child Left Behind—oh, the irony of that lying phrase—put into motion a whole new world of educational jargon. And just a few years ago the State of Iowa Department of Education moved into even higher realms of pointlessness—the infamous Core Curriculum, for which they haven’t even yet come up with samples, but about which teachers have been attending required monthly all-day meetings for more than a year (and thereby recently provided me the opportunity for that all-day sub job on Tuesday).

Yes, I am being cynical. But wait: five years from now there will be a new set of requirements with all new terminology asking teachers to present in yet another way the same old information about what is happening in the classroom. And no one will read it. And by then even less will be going on in the classroom because more and more paperwork will have to be produced for no one to read.

Then again, if I bother to establish my substitute license, there will be all the more opportunities for me to replace real teachers in their classrooms and make money.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.