Thursday, April 28, 2005


      It started with my entertainment center. For some time, I had wanted one so I could consolidate all my video and audio equipment. I confess freely to being a gadget freak. The more blinking lights and dials I have around me, the better I like it. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it, to quote a country wise man.
      This gadgetphilia led to a wall that was covered by a TV, VCR, cable box, video tape recorder, record player, compact disc player, AM/FM receiver, dual cassette deck, etc. I can make the electric meter on my house whirl fast enough to generate a breeze when I turn them all on. And let's not forget my speakers which are powerful enough to kill small rodents or other Congressmen.
      All this equipment took up a lot of room so I decided to buy an entertainment center. I went to my local furniture store (Slogan: "It's not just furniture; it's a huge debt, too") and began to price entertainment centers. I soon discovered I could either buy one or pay for a kidney transplant.
      I had just about decided to make do when someone (apparently someone who disliked me) pointed out that assemble-it-yourself furniture can be quite reasonable, or at least not as expensive as body organs.
      So I purchased what I came to call the Monolith. It was a huge cherrywood veneer entertainment center, but at first and second glance, it didn't look that hard to put together. I figured two or three hours at the maximum.
      Of course, that was before I opened the box and discovered it had over 500 pieces (not the box, the entertainment center, pay attention). The instruction book -- no kidding -- was fifty-one pages long. It was actually longer since it also gave its instructions in French. Three days into the construction, I would think of a man named Pierre somewhere who was having the same horrible experience I was and feel not so alone. The instructions were well illustrated and clearly written, and if I had only been a nuclear physicist, I could have understood them.
      A week later, I put the final piece on the entertainment center and vowed never again. If I ever move from this house, it will have to stay because it is too big to go through the door and I will never take it apart. Ever.
      The entertainment center looked good, but it had one problem: no space to store my compact discs. So I went to Walmart (Slogan: Low prices everyday except on the things you need to buy) and priced compact disc racks and ended up with an A.I.Y. CD rack. That only took a couple of hours to put together.
      And I figured that I was done with A.I.Y. kits, thinking that I preferred assembled-by-someone-else things.
      A few weeks later, however, I sat on my chair and, thanks to my A.I.Y. stomach and the age of the chair, went on down to the floor. I was stuck in the furniture frame, but fortunately lost enough weight after a few days to slip out. Just kidding; the fire department used the Jaws of Life to get me out, and boy, that smarted.
      Anyway, I needed a new chair and got one. No, I didn't put it together myself, but at the furniture store, I found two cherrywood end tables that matched my entertainment center. Matched perfectly -- even to being A.I.Y. Sigh.
      Still, they just took a couple of hours apiece. And as I sat in my new chair, looking at them, I began to think that maybe this assemble-it-yourself idea has some merit to it. They just need to branch out and produce kits like these:
      –A.I.Y. Girlfriend with a great sense of humor, a good personality, a fortune in the bank and undying affection for her assembler.
      –A.I.Y. Job where your boss would have at least the average intelligence of a slug.
      –A.I.Y. Career where you are the boss and you get to make life miserable for all your little underlings.
      –A.I.Y. Sports car in your choice of colors.
      –A.I.Y. Yacht with Bathing Beauties included at no extra cost (although you could buy the model without Beauties if you already have the A.I.Y. Girlfriend or the A.I.Y Wife).
      I think the whole problem with the world may be that it's A.I.Y. and we can't read directions. Think about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Godzilla thighs

      Not much medical adventure today. An ultrasound at the hospital given by woman who graduated from the Hitler school of charm. I'll get results over the next few days. Now for something completely different.

      I am huge, and something has to be done. Maybe something involving the same people that recently helped capture a rampaging hippo that was eating entire fields of grain. Don't argue with me. We're talking monstrously large. My thighs alone are Godzilla-like and could rage around Tokyo, knocking over buildings and eating tons of sweet-and-sour chicken and an occasional slow-moving Japanese.
      One would think that with all the stomach problems I have had over the past year or so, I would have lost some weight. I have, but frankly, illness as a weight loss plan is never going to be popular (except with super models who deliberately seek that Death March look). Also, I seem to have reached a stable weight, stable in the sense that I am not losing below it and not in the sense of being steady as I jiggle quite a bit. (Jiggling, by the way, only looks good on Santa Claus and Dolly Parton. On me, it looks like a whale having a nervous fit. All I need is a peg-legged harpoon-armed madman shouting, "Avast ye, behemoth!")
      Before I started Weight Watchers, I turned to my old friend and nemesis: Thin-Quick. If you are unfamiliar with the product, Thin-Quick is one of those diet drinks filled with all the protein, nutrients and minerals you would need to build a '56 Chevy, not including the driver-side mirror. It's a thick shake-like liquid that your spoon will stand up in, until it's slowly pulled to the bottom, looking frantically around for a life-saving branch. About 15 years ago, I lost 45 pounds on Thin-Quick. It works, but a problem arose.
      The liquid base of Thin-Quick is skim milk, and due to my stomach problems (my stomach isn't finicky; it's downright surly) I have to avoid milk, although it's okay to date cows as long as we don't get serious and exchange rings. Luckily, Thin-Quick comes in juice flavors that have no milk in them so there is no coating between your defenseless tastebuds and its sheer unadulterated wholesome goodness. Whee.
      The Thin-Quick with orange-pineapple flavor is the best of the flavors I have tasted so far. The grape-orange-kiwi is okay. The orange-strawberry-banana would gag a garbage disposal. The makers of the juice Thin-Quick put orange in everything. Probably for the vitamin C or perhaps they own a thousand groves or maybe they just like the color. It could be that they think it overpowers the taste of everything else in there. (That would explain the orange-motor oil flavor.) The orange taste is strong enough to reach across the table and slap you silly.
      One of the things I liked about Thin-Quick is that you can drink your lunch, and that doesn't take much time, compared to my regular noon meal of a turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, rack of lamb, side of beef and a small dinner salad. You barely get the food on the table before it's time to go back to work. (I had an acquaintance who also drank his lunch every day, but I haven't seen him since they put him in rehab. He was not drinking Thin-Quick.)
      Another thing I liked about it is that it cuts down on food bills. You drink a Thin-Quick and the recommended glass of water, then you are done eating for a while. It's filling in a blimp sort of way. So you don't need to buy as much food.
      Now, Thin-Quick is not a miracle worker. It just helps curb a person’s appetite. If you are thinking of using it or a diet drink like it, here are a few tips.
      1) Do not drink Thin-Quick as an accompaniment to a meal. You wouldn't think people would do that, but they do. Thin-Quick is a meal, not a beverage to gulp as you enjoy fried chicken.
      2) Buy the large carton. You will be drinking it at least two times a day. The cans pile up. They are recyclable so there is a pleasing sense of environmental activism when all you are really doing is trying to lose weight.
      3) Exercise some. You have to. Sorry.
      Now Weight Watchers is working for me, and I will eventually break this plateau of weight loss, but Thin-Quick has a lot to recommend it.
      Just not its taste ... unless you like orange.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

This afternoon

      I'm going to stop pretending to know what will happen to me in this mess. I went to the surgeon this afternoon expecting only to talk to him and maybe a brief examination. And I thought we would schedule the surgery.
      But no, instead we did needle biopsies. (I should have realized we were going to do something when he kept marking on me with a felt-tipped pen, but I didn't, not having it done before.) The left side of my chest is swelled up like a balloon -- a cliche, but I'm too doped up on pain pills to do better. The biopsy needle looked as big a drill bit. Okay, not that large, but it was large enough that I could see the hole in it. And tomorrow I'm going to the hospital for an ultrasound and a couple of other tests.
      Then I will meet with the surgeon again next Tuesday at 3:30 after he gets the results, and we'll see what happens from there.
      The surgery will happen soon after, but these tests will reveal how much I will need and how serious it is. I feel better knowing that at last I will have some answers; even if they turn out to not be the answers I hope for, it will be better than this uncertainty.
      Because he had numbed my side, it didn't hurt so I returned to work. Big mistake. By the end of the day, my side was letting me know it had holes in it. It was unhappy. So I came home, took some pain pills and slept until now.
      I like the surgeon. He seemed knowledgeable and sympathetic. He gave clear explanations and answered all my questions.
      So even though my side feels like a ferret is gnawing on it (not a cliche, but not very good, either) I feel better about my medical care. Anyway, that's the news. I'm going to go take some pills and go back to bed. Catch you tomorrow when we have yet another medical adventure.

Monday, April 25, 2005

More news

      My blood tests came back good. Nothing conclusive that says I don't have cancer, but nothing that says I do. That's good. Tomorrow afternoon I meet with the surgeon. I'm both dreading the meeting and looking forward to it. I hate the idea of surgery, but I'm tired of this uncertainty. Of course, he won't tell me anything tomorrow. We'll just discuss the surgery and maybe do another ultrasound or some other test. And we'll schedule the surgery.
      It's been strange. I feel like I got on some sinister roller coaster a couple of Thursdays ago, and I can't get off. I just have to hang on and see where I go. Fortunately I have a lot of friends and family who are riding along with me, their hands holding me on so that I don't fly off. I am profoundly grateful for those hands.
      It's starting to thunder outside. I should shut down my computer, unplug it from the wall; I don't need any more trouble with it. The wind is rising. I can hear it in the trees in my backyard. The windchimes have a manic sound to them. Tibetan monks believe windchimes keep evil spirits away. I wonder why I thought of that. A splatter of rain just hit the sliding glass doors. Good night.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

My weekend

      Saturday my roomie and I went to a downtown art gallery and saw a lot of beautiful paintings and pottery. Then we went to a pet store and looked at all the strange animals. Too many snakes and spiders for my taste, but the hamsters, fish and birds were cool.
      Afterwards we went to Wal-Mart and bought a lot of groceries. We then went to a local Mexican restaurant where I ate like a pig, but a little neater -- I didn't put my feet in the trough.
      We came home, unloaded groceries and then watched Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I have about 25 A&C movies and hope to collect more.
      Today I didn't do much other than church and watch TV. Right now I'm typing this as Lucy Lawless (of Xena fame) stars in the Sunday night movie Locusts. It's good to see Lucy again, but the movie is bad.
      Wish I didn't have go to work tomorrow. I could do with a couple of weeks off, but that's true of almost everyone.
      I worked on rebuilding the local theater group web page, but didn't get it finished. I could have if I had just devoted all my time to it, but I decided that I didn't want to spend my weekend doing that. I'm committed to the group, but there are limits. I reached mine. I'll get it done. If someone complains, they can do it. I will happily give it to them.
      I wrote on Dragons Gather some. It was nice to disappear in a world of my creation for a while. I'm not sure if I wrote anything worth keeping, but I got some words on paper, and that feels like a victory right now.
      I hope your weekend was good, and your week is better. We all deserve good lives, don't you think? I think we do. Good night.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


A scan of another one of my boxes.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Some news

      I received some bloodwork results back yesterday. No infections. White blood count a little high, but that's all. Nothing conclusive either way. I meet with the surgeon Tuesday afternoon, and we'll go from there. I'll let you know more when I know more.
      Last night, my roomie and I went to a little Italian restaurant. I had an salad with the house dressing and baked lasagne. Both were excellent. A older woman played various tunes on the piano as people dined. The restaurant has various paintings from local artists hanging on its walls. Pretty cool.
      We came home, and then I took a brief nap. I talked to one of my cousins for about an hour and then watched Whose Line Is It Anyway? WLITA is one of my favorite shows. Then I read for a bit and went to bed. A good night. I hope you had a good one, too.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

No news

      The bloodwork results didn't come back today. Maybe tomorrow. I'd sure like to know what they are. I got asked what the bloodwork is for. They checking for cancer markers in my blood, possible infections, and what makes me as charming as I am. Hopefully they won't find the first two (although I'd take an infection over the first one) and naturally science won't ever be able to explain my sheer animal magnetism because that's magic. Ahem.
      This evening I worked on rebuilding the web page for my local community theater group. All that formatting and information was lost when my computer died. I should be able to finish the rebuild this weekend if things go well.
      I'm glad tomorrow is Friday. Work has been grueling this week, more because of my stress than really the job itself. I'm looking forward to this weekend. I'm hoping to get a couple of projects done, one of which is to box up some books to donate to my hometown library. I need the space on my shelves, and I think I can find about 30 or 40 that I won't miss.
      Oh, I added a new item to my page. To the left, you'll see a Quote of the Week. If you have a favorite quote, let me know, and I might feature it.
      I think that's it for tonight. Have a great day tomorrow and a wonderful weekend. As always, you have my thanks for your continuing prayers and support.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


      The chest x-ray came back today, and my lungs are clear. That's good news! The bloodwork isn't back yet, but I should start hearing the results on that tomorrow. I'll let you know.
      Getting an X-ray reminds me of those ads in comic books for X-ray glasses. The ads always showed a guy looking at a girl and seeing her underwear. Makes you wonder what Superman was looking at, doesn't it?
      A bit of history about X-rays: On Nov, 8, 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was studying a piece of equipment called a Crooke's tube. During an experiment, he noticed that a fluorescent screen across the room started to glow strangely. The glow appeared to be caused by some unknown rays coming from the tube. He attempted to block the rays with cardboard, but the screen continued to glow. Then he made an amazing discovery: If he put his hand between the tube and the screen, he could see an image of the bones in his hand.
      He named this new form of radiation "X-radiation" (X standing for unknown) and immediately realised how important this would be for medicine and science.
      A week later, he took an X-ray photo of his wife Anna Bertha's hand that clearly showed her wedding ring and her bones. The photograph excited incredible interest in the public and the scientific community. For discovering X-rays, Röntgen received the first Nobel prize in Physics in 1901.
      X-ray images, those black and white films that you see on CSI so much, are created by the way that different tissues absorb X-rays. Calcium in bones absorbs X-rays the most, so bones look white on an X-ray image. Fat and other soft tissues absorb less, and look gray. Air absorbs the least, so lungs look black. (My lungs looked perfectly black, a good thing.)
      And that concludes our Mr. Science lesson for the day. Take care and have a great tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Brief update

      My computer has refused to let me online all evening until now, so I will briefly update you as I'm tired and need to get to bed. Gotta keep up with my beauty sleep so that I don't disappoint all my fans ... ahem.
      They did a chest x-ray and some bloodwork today. Naturally no results yet, but I should hear something tomorrow or the next day. And then maybe I will get some answers. So far, I don't have any, but I know how to ask more knowledgeable questions at least.
      Thank you for your prayers and support. I've been overwhelmed by your concern. Thank you again, and I will update you as I learn more, hopefully tomorrow or the next day.
      Take care.

Monday, April 18, 2005


      Well, a setback today. I got called by my primary doctor this morning, and there was a mix-up when the nurse was making my appointment with the surgeon. I won't see him until next Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. I was very unhappy. I wanted to get this over and find out what was going on and what will happen next.
      I'm going to meet with my primary doctor tomorrow anyway. I have some questions that I want answered. I was too shocked when this all happened last Thursday to function. I didn't take everything in that he was saying. I hope to get some answers tomorrow.
      Anyway, I'm hanging in there. I want to thank Crystal who has given me a lot of good information and advice on this. She must be a great nurse.
      I also want to thank Trixie and Frenzied Feline for requesting prayer for me on their blogs. It touched and moved me. Thank you so much. And thanks to everyone for your support and prayers. It means a lot. If loving concern healed, I'd be running a marathon now.
      Y'all take care, and I'll update you again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


      Sorry, guys. I didn't mean to drop a bombshell and then disappear. I just haven't had anything to say. Still dealing with it, I guess. Right now, we really don't know anything. And we won't know anything until after the surgery. I appreciate your calls, emails and prayers. Thank you so very much. Please keep bothering God about me.
      Mikey came to visit this Friday night and Saturday. We were going to get him next week, but we had to switch that. We had a wonderful time with him. He's such a loving, sweet, mischievous little boy. Truly a blessing in my life. And I was gifted with a fairly good day Saturday, less pain than I've felt in months. We played outside and enjoyed the wonderful weather. We had a great time.
      I just got home from church, and it's slightly weird to think that next week at this time, I will probably either be in the hospital or at home recovering from surgery. Life is odd.
      I don't want to forget to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Crystal! She had her birthday yesterday. She turned 29 ... which makes me only 28. I love new math.
      I have some things I need to get done over the next few days so I'm going to get to work on them. I meet with the surgeon on Tuesday so I'll let you know when the surgery is scheduled. I'll keep you posted. If I'm unable to post or email, I'll call ER and have him post for me. Take care and have a good day. No, really, please do.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


      I went to the doctor today, mostly to discuss lupus, but also to check out a problem I've been having. I've had this chest pain ever since I got sick back in January. The left side of my chest has ached like I pulled a muscle, but it didn't get any better.
      Tuesday night it was hurting me quite a bit. So Wednesday I made an appointment with my doctor for today.
      Let's not draw this out. He found a mass on the left side of my chest. It's a growth of some sort. Tuesday next week I meet with a surgeon, and apparently I will have it removed Thursday or Friday.
      And that's pretty much all I know at this point. They don't want to do a needle biopsy on it because if it is cancer, that could spread the cells, and the mass is close to lymph nodes. So the decision is to remove it since it has to come out anyway.
      I will probably have to spend a couple of days in the hospital, depending on what the surgeon finds and how extensive the mass is.
      Am I scared? Yeah. But it could be a cyst or simply a benign growth. And if it is cancer, it doesn't seem to have spread. My lungs, heart, liver, etc., are all fine. So I might have to have a couple of rounds of chemo, but that should be it. I'll worry about that when I have to worry about it.
      Naturally all this is based on what we know now. We'll know more after the mass is removed. I'll let you know when the surgery is. A couple of my siblings are going to come up for the surgery if they can.
      I'm still in shock over this, I guess, so I don't have any particular thing to say. I just wanted to share it. Words have always been how I've dealt with things. Somehow it makes it better to see them. Maybe it's the illusion of control or whatever. Anyway, I would appreciate your prayers.
      One more thing, and I find this -- well, not really funny, but ironic that last week I was moaning about my computer. Talk about a perspective shift.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

poets & sunflowers & woods

      I mentioned NarcissusWorks a couple of days back. Anny offers a blog filled with exciting poetry and beautiful art. I asked and received permission to repost one of her poems here. I love this poem and find myself repeating lines of it to myself during the day. One suggestion: Read it aloud. Good poetry is meant to be spoken. You need to taste the words as they roll off your tongue. The overt meaning will be clear, and you will be able to access the deeper levels. Enjoy.

poets & sunflowers & woods
poets and sunflowers
poets and woods

I can remember Hoelderlin,
or Dino Campana –
......................not Pound
not Montale, or Dickinson, or
Majakovsky, Nietzsche for that matter

even if the world was different
they’d already anticipated, felt in a distinct way
the existentialist cry of all

something more Dostoyevskian when
nature goes with an interaction of the one
to the one – that romantic lore à la Keats
when spring erupts and poetry opens rusted selves
to the élan of a nonexistent departure towards the dream

but you’ll have to paint sunflowers with the exactitude of each
thick and light colored petal –yellow orange rose rose with white-
imagine woods fresh with resin to grasp it, or linger with the
Impressionists, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Verdi’s Requiem

the landing into an orchard with the heat or frost
pests biting your naked calves arms neck, buzz
in your ears, poison to keep them away, its stench
that glues down your throat, this the world of the wood
of the sunflowers meandering their heavy heads
after the glowing -unseen by us if not by reflection-
........................celestial body

dancing on the spiraling notes of gut stringed orchestrated violins
veloce, velocissimo, the piano! with turgid callas & drops of honey
in crystal glasses full with wine diamonds extracted from the womb
of earth deep from your right elbow during an anguished sleep in dark
adult nights to wake up to write about poets and sunflowers or poets
and woods poets & sunflowers & woods with spring to come

Copyright 2005 Anny Ballardini. All rights reserved. Posted by express permission.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


      You wouldn't think 500 to be a large number. I mean, it doesn't seem large, particularly compared with, for instance, the national budget or the number of news stories about Brittany Spears. But it's larger than you think. Particularly when it's the number of words you trying to add to a story. Even more so if you were me attempting to write on my book last night.
      I type fairly fast. I average about 80 words a minute, after subtracting my mistakes. Mavis Beacon and Mrs. Fears should be proud. (The former is a renowned typing instructor who lent her name to a typing instruction program that I spent hours with -- the program, not her, but she is a hottie -- and the latter is my high school typing teacher.) If I could write as fast as I can type, I'd be finished in a little over six minutes. And sometimes it does work that way; the words pour out fast. I've had a couple 2,500 word sessions, but that's as rare as an honest Congressman. Most of the time, the words have to be pulled out by their roots. They battle me the whole time. Last night they just about did me in.
      I knew it would be tough. Before my computer crashed -- I've started dating events in my life as B.C.C. and A.C.C. -- I was rolling along with the book. I was writing 500 to 600 words a day on it. Not that impressive, but trust me, it builds up. For the past week, I've done little or no writing, other than angry forum ravings … uh … postings on the site of a particular software program. Still, I've written nearly 75,000 words on this book. I wrote them in health, in sickness, in poverty and in more poverty. So how hard could it be?
      I primed the pump. I read the two previous chapters to set the story in my mind again. Then I read what I written on this chapter. Oh yeah, Chapter Nine, the evil chapter. The chapter that hates me. And the feeling is returned. So I decided to scrap it completely and start it over, reasoning that a fresh approach would help. Except, after an hour of wrestling with it, I thought, Hey, maybe the old chapter isn't that bad. I mean, it's not perfect, but I could learn to live with it. So I went back to it. Another 30 minutes, and I gave up and went back to the new writing. Even harder this time around. So then I thought maybe I could combine the two and create something new and beautiful. This is the flawed thinking that drove Dr. Frankenstein. The result was about the same, although no villagers tried to burn my home.
      I finally got the words. But it took three and a half hours! I hope it goes better tonight. Otherwise, expect this book sometime around 2011.
      By the way, this posting is exactly 500 words long.

Monday, April 11, 2005


      I have a lot of things to cover so strap in and let's go to it.
      First, my computer is finally back up. Slower, but chugging along. I spent all weekend reloading drivers, updates and programs. I tried to load only the programs that I actually use: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Print Master, Hello, Picasso, OpenOffice, and three or four others, including a Spongebob Squarepants game that Mikey likes. I still need to load my scanning software and my web publishing program, but I hope to do that tonight.
      Second, while placing my old drives in storage, it occurred to me that I had two other old drives from previous computers, one an eight-gig drive and the other a 20-gig drive. I couldn't remember formatting them or doing anything with them. It look several hours, but I finally got both of them up and running. To make a long story short, I found a lot of my writing, including the three books and one play! And even more important, I found all of those irreplaceable photos of my mother and father when they were young. (I'd found several on CD, but not all.) So I lost about 10 years of my writing. Still ugly and discouraging, but I feel like I won a small victory. Four big losses remain, all of which will be hard or impossible to replace: My family newsletter, many photos of my family, hundreds of poems and story fragments, and Torrich.
      The last one is especially important to Cartoc, Roen and Amber. They read my blog occasionally, and I thought they might as well know that I have to do some regrouping. A couple of years back, I'd made an effort to type in all the material so that I wasn't drowning in paper. Yes, I should have backed it up. No, I didn't. If you guys have notes, please email them to me ASAP. In fact, any material, especially Gottehemah-related, would be appreciated.
      Third, I'll be resuming my regularly scheduled posting, starting today, assuming my computer continues to function. I also have resumed daily backups, using the good old COPY command. And I will be checking the files to make sure they copied. This has been so discouraging that I'm thinking my next computer will be a Mac. I have a couple of friends to have Mac computers, and they love them and swear by them -- much better than swearing at them.
      Fourth, I like numbering lists. Seems so orderly. I've always been a big list maker. It's a nice feeling to cross the items off. Gives me a push to keep on working.
      Fifth, I'm glad to see Night-rider is blogging again at Sweet Sweat. Missed her while she was on vacation. Also, have you checked out the poetry at NarcissusWorks? Anny does a good job in highlighting various poets and their works, including a few of her own excellent poems.
      Sixth, my books is stalled, but I hope to pick it up again tonight or tomorrow night, depending on how much trouble my computer is. While I think I'd like to write for living, when things like this happen, I'm glad -- or at least reassured -- that my job doesn't depend on my words. Carolyn, Holly and other writers who depend on their writing to pay their bills have a tough row to hoe. I don't envy them ... for the moment.
      Seventh, I made tomato and basil bread last night for an Italian dinner tonight. (Don't be impressed. I used a bread machine.) Man, it smelled delicious. I wanted to cut off a freshly baked slab of it and slather it with real butter and enjoy, but I resisted. It will be good tonight.
      Eighth, I really blew my diet this week. If it was chocolate, I ate it. If it was fattening, I ate it. Nothing like stress to make me reach for the cream-filled oatmeal cookies and Pringles Salt-n-Vinegar potato chips. I dreaded my Saturday weigh-in and almost skipped it, but hey, I only gained back two pounds. Much better than what I expected. This week I will be good and lose those two again.
      Ninth, my friend Nancy loaned me the three latest books in the Marcus Didius Falco mystery series by Lindsey Davis. The series takes the idea of a hard-boiled private eye and adds the twist of setting the stories in ancient Rome. The adventures of Falco and his lovely love Helena are well worth reading. Thanks, Nancy! You're a sweetie!
      And 10th, a sincere thank you to everyone for your support during the computer crisis. I appreciate your well-wishes and prayers. Feel free to send cash ... No, not really. (Really ...)

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Flowers again as I test my computer.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

The blame game

      In the aftermath of any disaster, people look for reasons. They want to know what happened. They want to know who's to blame. It's a natural response to world that seems senseless. We want it to make sense. So we make it make sense.
      I've been considering my computer meltdown, trying to trace the threads of it.
      1. I write a lot. You wouldn't think that would be a contributing factor, but it is. I write so much -- my computer had at least 500 or 600 poems on it alone (including fragments of poems and ideas that I thought I'd get back to someday), four completed plays, five or six started plays, three completed books, four incomplete books, 30 or so magazine articles, nearly seven years of monthly family newsletters, etc. -- that it became impossible to print everything and store it. Thus, I started to rely on electronic back-up.
      2. I take and scan a lot of pictures. My computer had around 350 photos on it. Once again it was impossible -- and too expensive -- to print them all. Thus they stayed on my computer. I also relied on electronic back-up for these, but it was harder. Photos take up a lot of space on a hard drive. To accommodate them, I started copying photos over to CDs.
      3. I used to back-up a lot because my old computer -- the one before this one -- didn't have much room on its hard drive. I had to archive older photos and some writing because I simply didn't have room for them. I did backups due to necessity.
      4. Four years ago this Thanksgiving, I purchased a new computer. It had gigs and gigs and gigs of hard drive space. Back-up seemed less urgent and more of a chore. I drifted away from my weekly back-ups and went to monthly back-ups.
      5. I realized that I needed a better back-up plan after a minor computer scare. I purchased a second hard drive and got a program to "ghost" it.
      6. Everything goes as planned for a couple of years until a few months ago when my computer started acting funny. I worked on it and reinstalled the operating system, disk scan, virus check, spyware check, etc. It seemed to function, but sometimes it was quirky. It was out of warranty so I don't send it back to be fixed. It does what I need it to do.
      7. Two weeks ago, the problems get worse. I think that maybe my hard drive is failing so I make sure that the ghost program does a complete back-up of my programs.
      8. Sunday my computer is dying. It won't open programs, won't do much of anything. From the DOS prompt, I back-up my computer again using the ghost program. It takes hours to do. I look at the files on the second hard drive and see that they're there. I do not, however, open any of the files or check to see if they're okay.
      9. Monday, my computer dies. I attempt all the usual routes to restart it. No go. I'm upset, but I feel my data is safe.
      10. A computer repairman works on my computer. He formats C drive. There are some problems so he formats my hard drive again. Still it doesn't work. He does a "low-level" format. No go. He starts talking about me needing a new hard drive. He then discovers it's my processor gone bad. I can't afford a new processor, but he has a used one that will work. He reloads my operating system and a few essential programs. The reformats worry me a little, but I think that D drive is fine because he didn't format it so I decide I'm just being paranoid. (At this point, although I don't know it, it's too late.) At this moment, I've spent about $150 dollars. Cheaper than a new computer. I can handle this, I think.
      11. But D drive is not okay. A few months ago, Microsoft released a security update that messed up the ghost program. The company that sells the ghost program supposedly notified their customers that they needed to download a fix; otherwise, the ghost doesn't work right. I didn't receive the email. Which is odd since I receive plenty of their ads. But when I made the ghost back-up my hard drive over the old back-ups, I effectively destroyed them.
      12. I spoke with data recovery company representative on Wednesday. She tells me that three formats, including a low level one, and copying new programs to the hard drive make it unlikely that I'd get back much. And it's expensive. But they could recover some of it. She can't estimate how much until they look at it. I asked about D drive and explained the situation. She said that the two back-ups and the fact it had been writing gibberish as well as the ailing processor probably made a mess of things, but they should be able to recover some of the information on it. She says, "It's a shame your hard drive simply didn't fail. We successfully recover almost all data in over 90 percent of those instances."
      13. So Wednesday night, I removed the old hard drives and put in a new one and installed my operating system on the new one. I will keep the old drives safe until someday that I have the money for the date recovery company. Or maybe I will come across a cheaper alternative.
      14. The disasters kept coming. I discovered that only a handful of those old CDs will work any more. I tried them on my computer, my roomie's, a friend's computer and my work computer. But one in particular does work. I recovered some precious photos of my parents. It overwhelmed me for several minutes.
      15. I called the ghost company and burned the phone lines. Their response was basically that A) my version of their program was a few years old, and they no longer supported it, and B) they released a fix and weren't responsible for my failure to download it, and C) would I like to buy a suite of their tools, but D) they had no way to recover files. I hung up, but left several blistering messages on their forums. Doesn't help anything, but makes me feel better. I will never use them again and will dump their virus program, too, when the present subscription is up.
      But I mostly blame me. I should have checked those backups and CDs. I should have a third line of backup outside my computer. When things are precious, you should protect them as much as you can. I didn't go far enough. I didn't do as much as I should have. Most of the time, the world is forgiving of our errors of omission, but when it isn't, we pay. And sometimes the bill is horribly high.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I was wrong

      It turns out that I spoke too soon. There are barely a handful of survivors. The loss is staggering. I was thinking that I hadn't really lost much of my writing and photos. I'm wrong. They're gone. My book is still safe as well as many of my poems and a few other things. Otherwise, my plays, some poems, articles, photos and more are gone. My backup program was defective and only saved files of gibberish. Over 20 years of files are gone. I am beyond sick and hovering somewhere around despair. I do have printed pages of a lot of things, including my plays and my books. It will take months to retype them into a computer. I'll have to scratch around in the dirt for what else might be left. I tell you it makes me wonder what's the use.

News from Ground Zero

      At the moment, there are a few staggering survivors of the computer meltdown. My data -- including my writing -- seems to be intact, as well as my photos and graphics. I don't know how I will get everything from this hard drive into a new computer, but at least the possibility exists. Fortunately the book is safe on numerous floppies and flash drives. I've always been paranoid about losing it. (Years ago, I once lost nearly 100 pages of a mystery novel when an old hard drive died, and there were no other copies. It taught me a hard lesson.)
       So ... what does this mean? I don't know. I used my roomie's computer to shop for computers online last night. I don't think I can manage to purchase one this month, but maybe next month. Man, I hate being poor. Enough whining. Truly I'm not poor. I have friends, a home, food (too much) and a lot of other blessings. Gotta keep remembering that. And I still have access to a computer at work, at the library and at home (my roomie's when he's not using it). So I'll make it. I'm afraid the blog will suffer some. I won't be able to post pictures for a while, and I might have to miss a few days there, depending on what I can work out on computer access. Oh well. Not the end of the world.
      The book is going to suffer, too, but it can't be helped right now. I can't write on it at work (not and keep my job!) and the library doesn't allow people to insert disks (They're worried about viruses). So I will have to use my roomie's computer when he's not using it. He uses it a lot. And should since it's his. So maybe I won't get it done by my birthday in July, which was my original goal. Or maybe I will. I'll just do the best I can, and we'll see. The July deadline was one that I imposed anyway.
      Email is also going to be hit and miss for a while, but I can access most of my accounts from my roomie's computer so I won't be terribly behind. My family newsletter -- already two months late -- will simply have to wait. I can't install all the necessary programs to produce it on my roomie's computer, not to mention that his printer couldn't handle all the photos and graphics. I may be producing simpler version with a photocopy machine until I get a new computer.
      I won't deny that I'm bit down emotionally. I've worked so hard on my debt reduction plan, and then I got sick for a couple of months and that's still going on and taking money, and now my computer dies, more money that I don't have. Kinda like a kick in the ribs after you're already on your knees. Still, like I said, I got a lot of blessings.
      And hey, a new computer is always a cool thing; even if it won't be top-of-the-line, it will still be faster than what I have now. I will have to buy a few problems on top of the computer purchase -- Microsoft Publisher (for the newsletter) and Adobe Photoshop Elements (my current version won't run under XP) and probably a couple others that I haven't thought about, but somehow I'll make it happen. Particularly if I can sell a kidney. Or two.
      That's all the news from Ground Zero. Y'all have a great day.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Computer Apocalypse

      My computer is dying a hard death. It may be software or more likely its processor is going. I'm trying to back up all my data before it goes dark. I'm using my roomie's computer to blog this. I don't know what I'm going to do. I guess I will attempt to buy a new system somewhere. I may be offline a lot, but I will try to blog when I can. Take care, and I hope to see you soon.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Computer problems

      Sorry I've been so silent this weekend. I'm having massive computer problems. I've spent most of Saturday and today attempting to get Microsoft Word to work. No go. Finally I gave up, deleted it (after having deleted and installed it 10 or 15 times) and downloaded OpenOffice. I'm still trying to see if it will work as well as Word. It might not be Word, though, that's the problem; it might be the system itself. I'm hoping that it isn't. I can't afford a new computer now. I simply can't. Wish me luck, and have a great week!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Bouquet of spring

Spring bouquet.
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