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Monday, March 3, 2003

Just because I won a prestigious award for first-year French students as a high school junior, or because I got an A in calculus in the fall 1967 quarter at UCSB, it doesn't mean that I can speak French or find the roots of polynomials. It doesn't even mean I can tie my shoe, and it's certainly no indication of any electronic knowledge or mechanical ability.

Having used computers for so long, I probably should know more about them than I do. I don't discourage anyone from thinking I can make them work, until I'm actually put to the test. Then I'm all self-deprecating. What I don't know would fill up the ocean, I tell them, and what I do know wouldn't fill a thimble. Then if given the chance I prove it.

Mom has been without a printer for a few months now. She has friends who don't have computers, and she likes to print interesting items out of emails and off the Internet for them. Suzanne and I thought it would be a good idea to surprise her with an early Mother's Day present, so she wouldn't have to bug us to print things for her. I mean, so she could print things for herself without having to— Well, maybe you know what I mean.

The first problem is that she's still running Windows 95 on her creaky old machine. With a dial-up connection yet. How primitive! What she needs more than a printer is a new computer, but we weren't quite in a position to do that for her this time around. We settled for the printer, because they're advertised as low as $49.

Unfortunately, the cheap ones are not compatible with her operating system. No USB port. Parallel cable required. That brings the price up a little, but not enough to discourage us. I found one model that was available from several online sellers. It wasn't available in their retail stores, but we could order it and pick it up right away locally.

So we ordered it, and this afternoon we got it. It was easy; you just walk in and show them the page you printed off their website, and they bring you your printer. We were congratulating ourselves all over the place about how clever we were to do it this way.

That's when the trouble started, of course, just as soon as we thought we had it made. Mom was surprised at getting her Mother's Day present two months early. It gives her that much time to remind us not to get her anything else, but she's getting a card whether she likes it or not.

The instructions that came with the printer were a little inadequate, but that wasn't the biggest problem. We eventually figured out how to load the paper and cartridges from diagrams that had no words, just red arrows pointing in all directions. I hooked up the machine, plugged it in, turned it on and restarted the computer. So far, so good.

When it asked for the disc, I inserted it in her CD-ROM drive. The installation wizard couldn't find the disc. The computer couldn't even find the disc drive. Repeated attempts and several restarts later, we knew we had to try something else. Install printer drivers from the hard drive? No, nothing new enough there to be of any use.

So I tried the HP site, found the driver and started the download. By this time it was 6:00 pm and we were all ready for the ordeal to be over. It wasn't going to be over for 1 hour and 46 minutes, according to the download window. Then about two minutes later it said 1 hours and 45 minutes. Another two or three minutes and it went down by one more minute. Like that. Forever.

Neither Suzanne nor I could stay there for 1 hour and 46 minutes, and Mom didn't want us there that long anyway, so we left her with the download still running. I'll go back tomorrow and try to finish installing the printer. I'm sure something else will go wrong, because I'm so amazingly clueless about what I'm doing. I can talk a good game, as long as it's not with someone who actually knows what I'm talking about. Then I'm exposed for the fraud I am.

But our hearts were in the right place, even if I left my brain in a jar by the door.


Big clouds, little clouds.

I drove home from Mom's into the most dazzlingly colorful sunset we've seen in weeks. By the time I got to where I could take a photograph, the sky had gone back to the natural slate-gray of early March in the northern hemisphere. It was a sight to see for awhile, though.

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All my DVDs went back to Netflix today. I'm currently reading Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler. I can't believe I hadn't read this one before, since I'm a big fan of hers. I love the quirky characters whose lives are led in unexpected directions by random circumstances. They always seem to have a way of looking at the world that seems odd to everyone around them, but not to the reader. Or not to me, anyway.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Stumbling Toward Spring
"It's not a three-day weekend I need as much as I need a three-day week."

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Couldn't be a lily or a daffi daffi dilly,
Gotta be a rose 'cause it rhymes with Mose!