Thursday, January 25, 2007

Littlest Things

Littlest Things

It's always the littlest things that make me happy. Lately, the little bit of tech in my life makes me smile. I'm having fun figuring it all out.

For Christmas I got a Canon digital camera and photo printer. I've only been able to take basice photos so far and I put the printer back in the box after taking it out to admire it for a while so I haven't printed anything. I'm going to take these things one at a time and figure out how to work them, starting with the camera.

Yesterday I was sorting through my junk mail and there it was. A coupon from Staples for a free case of paper three whole days from the expiration date. Talk about luck! A ream or two is one thing, but an entire case is just wondeful. This should last my family for six months or more. That means I can make it to the end of the school year without having to worry about scrambling for paper when Arabella leaves an assignment for the last second. No more rushing around to find paper for my mum who always needs a last minute print job for her home instruction students.No more Ye Olde Matey and I fighting for the last few sheets and rationing paper. We can print to our hearts content.

Staples gave up some paper, but their loss leader will definitely drive some future sales and got me to spend some cash on the spot as well. Win-Win. With all that printing, we're bound to run out of ink before we run out of paper. Conveniently, Staples will give you 3 bucks off new ink for each of the old cartridges you bring back. While we go through paper by the caseload at work, the coupon made me realize the value of buying a case of paper for home instead of one ream at a time. Meanwhile Arabella bought 5 bucks worth of gel pens she just couldn't live without. They also made another 40 bucks off me for flash drives.

The minute the coupon hit my hand, I knew it was a good time to stop putting off buying a new flash drive. I bent my last one pretty bad. It still worked but there was no guarantee it would keep doing so. I really needed to get all my stuff off the old flash drive before it died altogether.

As I was writing this someone came up and asked me about the cute and tiny new flash drive lying on my desk. I can't believe there are still people who don't know what a flash drive is but if you don't, let me explain.

You know what a floppy disk is and what it does right? And you also probably know that floppies just don't hold as much you'd like them to. Well, a flash drive is a small little stick about the size of your thumb, or smaller even, that is like a floppy on acid. You may hear them also heare them called key drive, thumb drive or jump drive.

Flash drives hold a ton of documents, pictures and music. They are tiny so they are easily portable. Even better they are easy to use. Plug and play, they plug into any USB port anywhere and make it really easy to find and use your documents immediately. They are also dead useful to drag and drop documents from home to key drive to work and back again.

Most come with a lanyard in the package because what is small is easily lost. Their smallness is deceptive because these are powerful little tools in addition to the incredible storage capacity. I was able to back up every single one of my documents and pictures from my hard drive from the past year to one that was 512 megabytes and still had plenty of room left over for whatever else I can put on it.

I was a little alarmed at the prices for the key drives at first. Two years ago, I paid around $24 for my original Memorex at 512MB. It seems I always hear and read news bits about technology prices dropping but drives at the same capapcity as mine were running $32 - $42. The higher up models at 1 or 2 gigabytes were a whopping $60 - $80 dollars. I was about to walk away when I saw this little beauty; a SanDisk 1 Gigabyte Micro Flash Drive on sale for the low low price of, you guessed it, 19.95. The sign at staples said you save $40 bucks which means I'm either getting the deal of the century or they're defective. The only thing I can find wrong so far is that the lanyard clasp it came with was a little weak. I simply attached it to my old lanyard and the problem was solved. Could something that simple really cause me to get something this great for such a small price?

When I plugged in my old key drive all it ever did was have Windows XP open up a file viewer window. When I plugged in my new one it surprised me by launching a short video demo. I almost skipped it, but the demo, with pretty graphics, was actually informative and interesting. It also showed me why those prices are up and just how much flash drives have evolved in the two years since I bought my last one. This one came with programs, games (Sudoku!) and so many other features it made my head swim. I will have to watch the demo again to find out all it can do but the most impressive thing so far is being able to use it as a portable drive for a Skype account. With my flash drive, a computer and a microphone, I can now make phone calls and retrieve voice mail from anywhere in the world where I can plug in a USB drive and access the internet.

No matter how you say it, that is just cool. 512MB Memorex: old and busted. SanDisk 1 gig: new hotness.

The one thing I don't have on mine is music which I understand takes up a lot of room, but you can still get a ton of MP3's on one of those things. I think it took Ye Old Matey over 500 songs to fill up his 512MB drive. He'd been saying he meant to get a 1 gig and he was happy in the way that only guys can get over new tech toys when I gave him one of the two I bought.

Which has me ready to take the leap into ripping my cd's and finally getting an mp3 player too. For the first time since I was a teenager, popular music has grabbed my attention again. Lily Allen, Jay Z, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Fantasia, Ludacris, Chingy. Recently it seems that my life needs a soundtrack comprised of not only my old favorites, but new music as well, especially the music of my youth which means hip hop and lots of it. According to the mini brochure that came with my flash drive, it seems they make MP3 players as well. If they don't have iPod type DRM issues, I may just get one.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Stewart, Colbert, Olbermann

It's not simply a matter of disliking George W. Bush anymore. It's realizing the amount of damage he has done to this country, global diplomacy and simply the entire planet that I can only wonder why America itself has not erupted into Civil War.

Except I can answer that question. Because in the first Civil War as with the American Revolution, there was an armed citizenry. Now every thug and wanna be gang banger has guns, but the law-abiding citizens, for the most part, have been hoodwinked into the backwards thinking that owning weaponry and handguns is practically illegal instead of our Constitutional duty. How many times have you heard the hogwash that "if you own a gun, you are more likely to shoot a family member (gasp, maybe even one of your children) or the family dog than you are a burglar;" there's also that other common fallacy that "if you own a gun, it is more likely to be used against you than to protect or defend yourself."

I swear, I used to listen to this crap until I realized that the people who were constantly quoting these falsities were cops who were carrying, you guessed it, guns.

However you don't have to carry a gun or do anything stupid with it to fall on the wrong side of the law these days. All it takes is dissent. Disagreeing with George W. Bush is a one way ticket to jail and if you look at the cases of these District Attorneys, not toeing the party line will certainly land you in the unemployment line.

Take heart, dear America. If you feel that you just can't speak out, don't worry, there are at least three folks who are taking it on the chin for the rest of us.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert:

Cut from the same cloth and tailored after Bill O'Reilly, these two have sashayed satire to the top way of fighting to keep America a Democractic Republic.

From Jon Stewart soliciting Condi for sex to Stephen Colbert's masterful takedown of the Bush Administration and the sycophantic American mainstream press, these two are an act not to be missed. They have made it safe for us to not only discuss everything that we see and hear, but made it ok to laugh about it all. It seems that laughter is the best medicine no only for what ails us but as soothing syrup for our worst fears. It also makes us realize that maybe, there's nothing to really laugh about and just how serious we need to be about staying involved and staying informed.

Keith Olbermann, however is having none of this satire business. He has decided to take on the right-wing nemesis head on through his show ending Special Comments. Once slightly humorous, they now have a biting edge that dares you to even grin and demands that everyone, including George W. Bush, recognize just how far we have crossed the line between Democracy and Dictatorship.

If you are not watching Stewart, Colbert and Olbermann, you should be. Take a few minutes out of your day and watch the following if you haven't already.

Keith Olbermann- The President Who Cried Wolf
Stephen Colbert - White House Press Association Dinner
Jon Stewart - Jon Seduces Condi

Monday, January 15, 2007

King Holiday

My mother was born in Stuttgart, Arkansas to my A.M.E preacher grandfather and my schoolteacher grandmother. As a preacher they moved frequently but eventually my grandmother, tired of moving, bought a house in Memphis, Tennessee which became home base as my grandfather traveled to different churches throughout the 13th A.M.E. district.

My mother was not only in Memphis when Doctor King was shot but they lived near the Lorraine Hotel where the shooting happened. In my grandmother's house, there were unpatched bullet holes there as constant reminder of how my family lay on the floor in the rear of their home during the riots that ensued after Doctor King was killed.

I was every day of 20 before my mother relayed this to me. Why it never dawned on me before then that my mother had been at ground zero for this horrifying series of events I can only chalk up to being naive and unwilling to put two and two together.

For when I had gone south to visit my grandmother in the summer, she had driven me past the Lorraine hotel and explained that this was where Dr. King was killed. Even then, at age 7, I understood what this meant, but even my grandmother didn't tell me about the riots and the fact that my own family had been in jeopardy.

I am not a full generation removed from Jim Crow. Dr. King was killed in 1968. I was born in 1971, only three years later and Ye Old Mate was born the year before. Our parents; and I must reiterate, our parents, not only our grandparents were subject to the humiliations of segregation and Jim Crow; Whites Only signs, sitting in the back of the bus, rear entrances or no entrance at all.

And for all those who think that this only happened in the South, my mother moved to Cincinnati in 1970 and she will tell you that things in Cincinnati were not much better.

It is now 2006. Many white people are willing to denounce racism as a thing of the past. There are black faces on television an in movies and there's probably at least one Shaquan or Sheniqua where you work. You may even have black neighbors. Oprah Winfrey, the patron saint of white women everywhere, has done more to convince people that they aren't bigots than any other living person on the planet.

Is racism over?

There are neighborhoods we still won't go to unless we absolutely have to and then it is with the resignation that it's not if we will be pulled over but when. There are jobs where I have been ostracized, promotions my mother never received, and jobs Ye Old Matey was never considered for because of race.

Black people and "black language" continue to be the butt of many jokes on television, in movies an even on the radio.

Black men continue to be first and foremost victims of police brutality and are still considered too "dangerous" to be brought in alive. Whites are talked down off the ledge. Blacks are still targets for the first eligible kill shot.

Oh, I know, you'll come with a dozen different reasons why we get pulled over or how maybe we just weren't "the right fit" for whatever job. Or why that black man was way scarier than the white guy who did the same thing?

One person, possibly, you might be able to explain. Three people? Possibly. Now multiply this experience by every black family in America.

Explain it to my mother.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Deb Lite

Every now and then I Google myself. Sounds dirty doesn’t it? Well, Googling your own name, blog or website is an exercise in self-gratification however in this case only my ego is being stroked.

Recently I’ve joined in the fun at Yahoo Answers. I was trying to decide on whether to go with Sirius or XM radio for Ye Old Matey's Christmas present. While I was googling for more info about satellite radio, I came across Yahoo Answers and decided to post my question there.

What I quickly discovered, however is that answering questions is a lot more fun than asking them. I delved into the family and relationships section, tossing in my two cents on a couple of questions.

Then something really scary happened. Someone chose my answer as “Best Answer.”

Woah. I’d chimed in on a pretty serious problem a man was having with his son and I was pretty far down on the list of responses so it wasn’t like he just chose the first answer. He’d actually read the answers and decided mine was best.

Sorry kid. I hope you like military school.

Then there was the guy that asked “if breaking up is always painful.” It wasn’t so much the breaking up part of his question but the part about pain that struck a chord with me. After I lost my baby two summers ago, there was so much pain, I didn’t know if I could cope. I had no desire to die, but I did feel suicidal and I couldn’t reconcile the odd feeling of wanting to bury myself in a hole with my burning hope and desire to find a way to go on living. I was two seconds from picking up the yellow pages to try and find a counselor or therapist when I finally googled the word suicide and came across this page. These simple words helped me understand what I was going through so much.
Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.”
That’s all it’s about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn’t even mean that you really want to die - it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. If I start piling weights on your shoulders, you will eventually collapse if I add enough weights... no matter how much you want to remain standing.
The Yahoo Asker didn’t include much about his breakup or even what he was going through, let alone mention the word suicide. But I know now what I didn’t two summers ago: when people have enough mental stress and heartache, “pain” is the codeword for “I’m about to give up.”

I answered his question as kindly and gently as I could and I hope it actually helped. He chose my answer as best answer, but I hope he feels that I wasn’t just being kind but that I’ve really been there and hope that he makes it through.

Now when you answer a question, you are asked to provide a link or source for your information if you have one. I was afraid to link to the suicide page, lest the young man think he was suicidal and then he’d have something else to worry about.

However, when I googled Deb Lite yesterday, I found that someone had linked to my blog as a resource for a question answered. It seems some youngster had wanted to know if there is a minimum age to buy condoms. One of the answerers listed 3 websites as sources and a link to my article Denied was among them.

Maybe, just maybe, my blogging has stopped an underage pregnancy. Maybe my blog has kept someone from getting an STD.

Maybe military school will straighten that one kid out.

There’s an old church song that says: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.” Maybe, just maybe, my writing and my decision to keep blogging all the times I wanted to quit and say stuff it ‘cuz who’s reading it anyway…maybe I’ve actually made a difference in someone’s life.

At the turn of the year, I was seriously considering giving up blogging. It took me ten long days to even get up a post in the new year but now, I wouldn’t give it up for a million bucks. My blog has become a part of me. The voice of me. The voice I always wanted to give to the world but couldn’t.

Now I can. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Waiting

Waiting for my w2's so I can get my income tax refund, pay my Christmas debts and get a jump on paying for Arabella's summer activities. I've finally learned to register and pay for her summer camps in February and get it out of the way.

Waiting for George W. Bush to make his pitch to the American people and the rest of the planet tonight. Word is he's going to ask us to get on board with sending more troops to Iraq instead of bringing them home. If there is a God anywhere, this will be the final nail in the impeachment coffin.

Waiting for snow and even cold weather. It has been freakily, eerily warm. Great if you're in Florida but in Ohio, it's simply not normal. People are walking around pretending to enjoy the warm weather but in the back of their minds is the following thought: What the heck can we start doing about global warming before it's too late?

Waiting for my first local Dems meeting of 2007 and looking forward to carrying on with what I started last winter and getting back involved in liberal politics. YES. I said the "L" word. I am a flag waving, patriotic, liberal Democrat. I've always voted mostly Dem with a few exceptions but I've never registered before. The time for equivocating is over. I'm a Dem and that's all there is to it. Do I agree with everything they're up to right now? No. Are they a lot more in line with my views than the Elephant People? Definitely.

Waiting to find out if my not-quite-so-new temporary gig will be permanent. I've been there since November and I'm coming up on my 90 day mark where they decide whether to vote me off the employment island or grant me a salary and benefits immunity. I had several job woes last year and I've finally found a full time job that I absolutely love. Here's to hoping they like me as much as I like them and that I've finally found a place to stay for a few years, say 10 or 20.

Waiting for the last bit of my extended childhood to end. I discovered Harry Potter when my daughter was still in elementary school. I drug her to all the bookstore parties and pretended she had begged me to dress up but it was she who played in my world; and while she moved on to Lemony Snicket and eventually Eragon and finally Fushigi Yugi, I stuck with Potter.

My childhood was rudely interrupted by a series of unfortunate events that would have left even Snicket pulling out his hair. I went on to be quite a wild child which I now know was simply acting out because of abuse that went unaddressed for years. It wasn't until long after I had a daughter of my own that I was able to tackle this sad little chapter of my past. It's so very odd to sum up what has been an absolutely gut wrenching process in so few sentences but I hope that's a measure of how far I've come in letting it all go.

Discovering the Potter series was a reawakening of a lost adolescence for me and the internet only made it worse. I discovered both around the same time and I was simply obsessed with the books and chatting and debating the books with other adult fans (there are many)as if the fate of the universe depended on whether house elves will ever be free. As addictions go, it was relatively harmless although I let a lot of laundry and other housework go undone while I ran the gamut of Potter fandom activities. I am still an avid fan of the books but I am now able to sensibly enjoy the books without the weird, teenage-type obsession that was appalling in someone my age.

However some of the people I met online were growing up and aging the same as I. I still have grown up pen pals from all over the globe as a result. After seven years of participating in this fandom and posting at the same message board, this summer I'll finally meet a few of my Potter Pals at convention in London. One more thing to wait for and look forward to. Lucky me, if I'm actually in the U.K. when the book is launched.

For all that Bloomsbury and Scholastic keep saying that they do not have an exact release date for JK Rowling's final Harry Potter book, the fact is, the title has been announced on Rowling's own site no less as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The final blow to their strawman protests was the meetings noted by publishing insiders that JK and her people have had with postal services on both sides of the pond to coordinate the massive delivery of what will probably be the most anticipated book of my lifetime.

When I turn the last page of the final chapter, for me, it won't just be the end of the series; it will mean the last vestiges of my virtual childhood will be officially over...

I can wait.

Oh. W's speech has started already.