Monday, March 30, 2009

Final Pit Post

This is the last post on the current tech issue. I’m trying to remind myself that I have much to be thankful for:

1. The guy that I spend three hours on the phone with today (Monday) at least told me his name—Vanuatu. Oops…nope, that’s the name of an island group in Melanesia (west of Fiji). But his name is something like that.

2. That he was actually polite and didn’t try to tell me that problem was my fault. The first guy tried to imply that. Vanu actually apologized dozens and dozens of times.

3. I finally understand what was wrong with the computer. According to Vanu, it had a “weird” registry issue. Right. That was my first thought too.

4. Vanu took control of the laptop so that he was manipulating it from south India. Kind of cool, but spooky too—cursors and characters dancing across the screen.

5. After three hours on the phone, Vanu and I got to know each other very well. In south India it can get over 130 degrees in the summer. He told me the problem was “global warming.” I thought about disagreeing, but I really, really wanted the computer fixed.

6. And most importantly, after a total of six hours: three Saturday and three today, the computer now works!! I received an email tonight from Microsoft asking me to rate their service. I don’t think I’m going to respond—I have to be nice; I’m a pastor’s wife.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pit of Despair, Part Two

(If you have not read the Pit of Despair, please read that first)

“Microsoft” called me. At least, that’s what I called the guy who called because I don’t think he gave me his name. At any rate, “Mike” gave me the whole I’m-sorry-there’s-a-problem-with-your-system speech, which is the equivalent of We’re-here-to-serve-you-please-don’t-buy-an-Apple.

Mike told me, “With your permission, I will take remote control of your computer and diagnose and fix the problem myself.” To a confirmed Luddite like myself, this was like promising dark chocolate with no calories. Yes, please! Of course, like the fantasy of guilt-free cocoa indulgence, this was a lie.

He told the computer, “I will take charge now.” The computer told Mike, “Over my dead body! I will just refuse to download and install all the files, you imperialist swine.”

That left Mike with me. We started our dialogue. First, he took me to the programming structure, basically the bloated intestines that tells the program how to behave. We checked and changed many things. Mike was really happy and told me everything should be hunky-dorky now. Except that when I tried to run the program, it still went into a loop and the spinning circle of light spun and spun. (For those of you who don’t know, Microsoft replaced the turning hourglass with a circle of spinning light in Vista.)

We did lots of checking and downloading (though the irritated computer refused to accept almost every file Mike sent), still the spinning circle appeared whenever we tried to run the program. And though it didn’t physically change, the spinning circle of light morphed into the Buddhist circle of infinite suffering. About this time, I asked to speak to a supervisor. Mike said I didn’t need to speak to a supervisor.

After an hour and forty minutes, Mike thought I might need a supervisor (Duh!) But, of course, one wasn’t available and supervisors can’t make outgoing phone calls (apparently, they have no hands on their wrists). Mike talked to someone and wanted to try some razzamatazz, which didn’t work. Now, he thinks it’s a “Veesta” issue. Of course, since Mike’s company makes Vista, you’d think they could take care of that. But, apparently not.

I hate computers with a consuming passion!

Pit of Despair

The Lord has determined that I am in great need of sanctification. Either that or He thought I needed another techno-blog entry. And so, Luke’s Live OneCare (anti-virus/anti-computer evil) program stopped working. Neither of us knows when it stopped working, but my computer notified me that Luke’s computer had “issues.”

With a heavy heart, I tried to run the program on Luke’s computer. It wouldn’t run and threw his entire system into a fatal loop. My heart now feels like lead because it means I need to troubleshoot the problem.

And, guess what? Microsoft doesn’t provide you with a phone number. You have to go to their website. I click the link. Now I feel like I’m a spider hanging by a thread over the bottomless pit of software malfunction. But maybe it’s not impending doom that I feel swirling up from the pit. This could all work out. Right?

Wrong. Microsoft wants you to troubleshoot using their handy-dandy fix-your-problem steps. I try problem fix number one. Another infinite loop. I crash and restart the system. Probable fix number two doesn’t work either. Crash and restart. Probable fix number three is “download this fix file”—it will send Microsoft the information they need to resolve the problem. My thread is unraveling. I click "file fix informational download". Infinite loop number three. The thread snaps, and I fall into the pit.

From my computer, I email Microsoft and tell them the operating system, the problem, and explained that I tried all their website fixes. A few hours later, I get an email from Lily. In her email (which has grammar errors, including improper verb tense shifts—English is not her primary language), Lily has the wrong operating system instructions and then tells me to do exactly what I told her that I already did.

But I do them again because who knows. However, the results are the same: infinite loop and restart. Three times. I email Lily again.

An hour or two later, the phone rings.

Microsoft phone person: Hello, Connie. Your computer problem fixed.
Me: No.
MPP: Oh.
Me (assuming these people actually communicate): Yeah, I emailed Lily and told her that all the stuff she had me do didn’t work. And I tried—
MPP (interrupting): I not technician. Just calling to find out.
Me: Right. The program still isn’t working.
MPP: So there is second problem?
Me, (sighing, clearly they aren’t using their computers to communicate customer information. Isn’t this why people buy Microsoft products?): No. I have just one problem.
MPP: Oh. You have identification number?
Me: Yep. (Then, I proceed to read off a 13 digit number—if they have to use 13 digits for a problem id number, they have way too many problems)
MPP: You want phone call tomorrow?
Me: No. No phone calls on Sunday. Can Lily call today?
MPP: Lily can’t call—she email only.
Me (thinking: Her English is worse than yours? What a bummer.) saying: Oh.
MPP: Someone else call today. What time is latest?
Me: 10pm
MPP: Okay, someone call between 3 and 8 tonight.
Me: Eastern or Pacific?
MPP: What your time?
Me: Eastern.
MPP: I make note of that.
Me: Great. Thanks.
MPP: Good-bye.
Me: Bye.

I hang up and say to Ariel: What was the point of that call?
Ariel: That was Microsoft’s we-really-care-about-you-as-a-customer-so-don’t-buy-an-Apple phone call.
Me: If I could afford one…

Now I’m freefall in the Great Pit of Computer Despair, waiting and hoping that I’ll get a native English speaker. Or least, someone who understands how verbs work.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Wet Slipper

This morning dawned dark, and rainy, but that was okay because I let myself sleep an extra half hour—what else are dreary days for? I dragged myself from my warm covers to the kitchen to boil water for coffee. Yes, we use a French press—it’s the only way to experience caffeine the way God intended. After I put the kettle on, I stepped into a puddle in the middle of the kitchen.

Normally, any unexplained puddle of water is blamed on Jezebel. But even my befuddled brain knew that since she was still in her kennel there was no way that I could blame her. I took off my wet slipper and sniffed. Rainwater. Not good. So not good. That this point a little adrenaline made its way to my brain, and I heard a dripping sound followed by a splash.

Rainwater was leaking from the middle of the window frame, splashing onto the ledge, spilling onto the counter, racing over the edge, pouring to the floor, and streaming to the puddle into the middle of the kitchen floor. Heavy sigh.

Cal got up and said, “How’s the basement?”
Me: Basement’s good. Kitchen’s bad. (See, I really need that first blast of caffeine.)
Cal: The kitchen?
Me: My slipper’s wet.
Cal: Right. (Cal knows that there’s a connection somewhere, and I’ll get around to it.)
Me: The window frame’s leaking, hits the ledge, flows onto the counter, hits the floor, runs to the middle of the kitchen. And I stepped in it.
Cal: Oh, guess we’ll have to do something.
Me: I cleaned it up and put a bowl under the drip.
Cal: I mean so it doesn’t leak anymore.
Me: Right.
Cal: I was thinking of sealant and flashing. It might be a bit ugly.
Me: But the kitchen will be dry, and my slipper won’t get wet. (I really hate wet slippers.)
Cal: Precisely.
Me: I can live with ugly. Now, if only there were a way to uglify the basement.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Less is More

In Bologna, Italy, the annual Children’s Book Fair is going on. (Okay, am I the only one who thinks it’s odd that the fair is being held in a city with the name of a hideous lunch meat foisted upon unsuspecting children? And what does this mean for children’s literature?)

Anyway, writers, editors, and agents are all schmoozing—maybe there’s less schmoozing given the world economic climate. They’re deciding which books to buy and translate into German, French, Polish, etc. And vice versa. Though not too many books make the transition from a “foreign language” to English. About the only children’s book I know that has made the move is Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series.

But there’s lots of talk about the recent books and what’s successful. I don’t know this personally, of course, I’m still waiting for my invitation to arrive. But, I am following an attendee’s blog. The scuttlebutt is about the success of an American book series, which shall remain nameless, but is about vampires and teenage girls falling in love. It’s like Harlequin meets paranormal. Imagine Lizzie Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) saying, “I really like Mr. Darcy—in fact, I really love him even though he wants to suck my blood and turn me into the undead. But then again, maybe he doesn’t. Or maybe I really I love someone else. Yeah, that could be it.” You can’t imagine that? Neither can I. This is why P & P is classic literature, and the other book, well, isn’t.

One literary agent is quoted as saying, "Sometimes I wonder if something is bad enough to be successful." Maybe this is my problem—my book is too good. Maybe I should stop editing. No more hammer blows on the finger. Yeah, I could get into this. Less is more.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Need A New Hammer

I’m blogging now, not because I have some hilarious thought or incident to share. Nope. I’m blogging because I’m so sick of editing. I’m working on another edit of my Young Adult novel, Screwing Up Time. My hope is that if I do a really great edit, I might land a literary agent even though the publishing industry is in freefall. (BTW, whenever a massive publishing house like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt decides not to acquire any new books, the situation is bad. I used to work for Harcourt back before I had kids, which was a long time ago, and doesn’t mean they look at my work.)

At any rate, I’m editing yet again. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve edited this book. The fun part of writing is, guess what, the writing part. Writing is amazing—it’s like an addictive drug. (Caveat: the only addictive drug I’ve ever had is caffeine, but coffee is a legal stimulant so I’m good.) Writing is way, way better than coffee—why else would people write fiction, the chances of getting published are non-existent.

But the down side of writing is editing. Editing is like slamming your finger with a hammer repeatedly—it’s only great when you’re done, but then your finger still hurts. See, I can edit and edit. But then, you can always edit again (and you probably should). The accepted wisdom is that any writer can write, but the great writers know how to edit.

So, here I am slamming my hammer onto my finger, telling myself that it really doesn’t hurt. Maybe what I need is a new and better hammer. Yeah, maybe a rubber mallet would work better…

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Almost Worse Than Scholarships

Today I discovered something just as onerous as scholarship applications. Financial aid. Foolishly I imagined that once we turned filled out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which was pages of personal financial information and needs to done for each college student you have and for each school they apply to—at any rate, I thought we were done once we finished the FAFSAs. Guess what? I was wrong.

Instead, the school (University of Tennessee, Chattanooga) emails the student at an account they set up for the student to let them know that they need more information. This assumes, of course, that your child actually followed through in accessing that account (inputing all the new privacy numbers that they’ve been assigned—all of which came on separate papers) and checking it on a regular basis. Luke, who inherited his Luddite tendencies from me, didn’t bother to access and finish setting up the account since the system wouldn’t accept his numbers. He figured once he was registered he’d be able to do it. Thankfully, Ariel loves computers and eventually found the emails from Financial Aid. They were requesting multiple documents with which I was unfamiliar. So, I thought, “Hey, I’ll just call them and ask questions.” The solution seemed so simple. Having gone to a public university, I should have known better. But, I called anyway--you have to start somewhere.

Me: Good morning, my daughter received some emails about more paperwork that needs to be filed for her financial aid, but I’m not sure what I need to do.

Financial Aid person: I’m sorry but I can’t discuss your daughter’s financial paperwork with you.

Me, perplexed—clearly I’ve misunderstood something: What?

Finanical Aid Person: I can’t talk to you about your daughter’s financial aid situation—she has a financial privacy right.

Me (obviously she thinks my daughter is much older): My daughter is 16 years old. She’s a financial dependent. And this is my financial information I’m asking about.

FAP: I can’t talk to you about your daughter’s financial aid because of her right to financial privacy.

Me: (I think, “My daughter has no finances—how can they be private? Especially, when it’s my finances we’re talking about!!") But because I’ve done this whole bureaucracy thing before, I yell, “Ariel!!”

Ariel comes.: What?

Me: This financial aid lady won’t talk to me—she can only talk to you. So, you get on the phone. I’ll tell you the questions I need to know the answers to. You ask her, and then tell me what she says.

You can imagine how ludicrous this was. I sat next to Ariel and told her what to ask. She asked. Then she told me the answer. And we did this over and over with each question—not to mention the clarification that went on with each question. I'm glad it's over—at least until the next thing. Right now, I'm waiting for the math department to return my calls. They don't pick up the phone, so every day leave another message on their answering machine. I'm hoping that like the unjust judge, they will finally tire of my messages and return my call.

Guess what? The math department finally called back. They have all the information for the scholarships. Next thing I’m waiting to hear about is Housing exemption (i.e., authorization to live at home). Luke got his exemption weeks ago. But Ariel hasn’t gotten hers yet. Ariel called them the other day (I didn’t call because I was sure she had a privacy right-to-not-let-your-parents-know-where-you-will-be-living-next-year). They rudely told her they’d email her eventually and hung up the phone.

And we still haven’t heard from the Orientation people on which week they’re going to assign Luke and Ariel. Heavy sigh.

I was shocked and appalled when I first read that wealthy parents actually hire individuals to do the whole application/scholarship/financial aid thing for them and their kids. I’m not shocked anymore. Is it any wonder that poor kids without aggressive parents don’t get scholarships and financial aid?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Southern-ism

When we first visited in the South before we moved here, we ran into our first Southernism.
Imagine the scene. We are in a local restaurant, not a cross-country chain, but a Southern restaurant. Luke has just ordered a hamburger and French fries.
Waitress: What kin' I get you to drink?
Luke: I'd like a Coke, please."
Waitress: "What kind of coke?"
Luke, scowling—this makes no sense to him: "What?"
Waitress: "What kind of coke?"
Luke, still scowling : "A coke."
Waitress: "Oh, you want a Coke coke."
Luke, looking at the waitress like she has lost her mind: "Yes."

On the West Coast they call carbonated beverages by their individual names (Sprite, rootbeer, etc.). In the Midwest they call them “pop,” in the Northeast they call them “soda,” and in the South they call them “coke.” Still, I think it’s bizarre to say, “I’d like a 7-up coke.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Plague of Bugs

Hurray! I’m better. Sort of. The fever’s gone, I’m up and around, but the congestion is still with me. It’s like a gift from the virus, a kind of forget-me-not. But lest you think that I could easily forget, Jacob is down with the virus. His high fever is gone, but the hacking cough endures. Plus, he’s got an oozing, peeling sunburn.

Jacob got the sunburn when we went to Coco Beach. The water was blue, and the sun was warm. It beat Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure hands down. Plus, I got to watch sandpipers. They are marvelous brown and white birds with long toothpick legs and syringe-shaped bills. And wonder of wonders, they let me walk into the middle of their pack and watch them. One thrust his beak down into the sand and pulled up a tiny clam-like shell. Before I knew it, he had the shell cracked open and gulped the mollusk down. Then he was on to the next meal. I tried to grab the shell, but a wave washed over it before I had a chance and pulled in out to sea.

I wandered down the beach towards the Cape Canaveral launch pads, which were visible from the beach. We’d hoped to watch the shuttle take off, but a fuel leak ended those plans. The sound of the waves crashing was so cathartic, and when I go to sleep at night, I try to hear it in my mind.

But enough for the glories of vacation, what about the rest? Take a drive down the highway or suburban street of Orlando, and you’re greeted with lots of screen porches. Not too weird. But then are these great screened behemoths that look like aviaries. Is bird collecting a hobby in Florida? We were assured by a native that collecting parrots was not a status symbol in Orlando. These “aviaries” were actually pool covers. Why on earth would anyone need these massive covers? BUGS. Yes, the plague of Florida is bugs. Just as I suspected/remembered. Apparently, mosquitoes, biting flies, and “love bugs” are the scourge of Orlando. So, why does anyone want to live there? You’d think extreme heat, ridiculous humidity, the constant threat of hurricanes would be enough to deter the most determined snow/cold despiser. But, it’s not. They’re even willing to put up with the curse of bugs. Whatever. They can have Florida, a visit and seeing the sandpipers was enough for me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Poached Eggs

Okay, so here’s a vacation update. Friday evening I was out working in the yard, and Cal said, “Is everything packed?” I pull another weed that had the audacity to grow in MY yard and said, “Yep. Everything’s locked and loaded.” Cal’s face took on the pondering look, a combination of a faraway gaze and a rubbing of the chin. “Why don’t we just leave now? We’ll get there by 1:30am.” I bagged my weeds. “Sounds good. Let’s do it.” So we filled the van, brought our pets to their temporary homes, packed the kids in, and left. Little did I know that this was going to be an amazingly providential decision.

About two hours from Orlando, the van seemed to get amazingly cold. I was driving at the time, and I kept switching from the heater to the air conditioner. You would think that I would realize something was up. But I didn’t. When Cal took over the driving, he cranked the air conditioner. I shivered. But I didn’t say anything because I know he drives better at night when the van’s cool.

It wasn’t until I climbed into bed at 2:30am that it occurred to me that my eyes were hot. Eyes are part of my internal thermometer system. Low fevers achieve the status of unimportant—they can be ignored and worked through, i.e. we-laugh-at-sickness stage. Then, comes the 100 to 101. While this frequently can be worked through, it occasionally forces me to lie down on the couch. But this is the ideal stage of sickness because I can actually read through this kind of illness. This is fun sick, although I have to make up for it later with tons of housework. But, still if you have to be sick this is the way to do it.

The next stage of sickness involves hot eyes. This stage has a fever that ranges from 101 to 103. The problem with an illness of this range is that the eyes begin to feel like poached eggs. (For those of you who are ignorant of poached eggs, which would include my children, poached eggs are a pre-progeny food delicacy associated with Eggs Benedict, and it involves bringing water to a gentle boil, cracking the egg and carefully placing it into the water so that the yolk stays whole and the egg is cooked.) But back to being sick. At this stage of illness, it’s too hard to read because the eyes feel like they are being boiled.

Of course, the nastiest stage is from 103 on up. Not long after Cal and I got married, he went to work and I stayed home because I was sick. When he got home, he said, “How are you feeling?” I said, “Not good. My fever’s 105.5” His eyebrows drew together, his nose wrinkled, and his lips pinched. It would not be an understatement to say that his face took on the look usually reserved for someone trying to pass off heresy as orthodox theology. He picked me up, held me under a cold shower, muttered what sounded close to imprecations upon my lack of health sense, and then drove me to the hospital. (And Cal wonders why Luke can have an ulcer for months without complaining—it’s my fault. I take full responsibility.) At this stage of illness, my eyes pour fluids. Cal is sure it must be cerebrospinal fluid—in his mind nothing except leaking brain fluid explains why I’d be so calm about the whole thing.

But thankfully, my sickness didn’t reached the poached-eggs-boiled-dry stage. Just the poached stage. Apparently, I contracted the 72 hour Florida Upper Respiratory ‘Flu. Now that the 72 hours are over, I’m feeling much better and very, very thankful that we drove on Friday just as I was getting sick. (Yeah, I know it can’t be the Florida Flu if I contracted it on the way down—but since I got it on Florida soil…) I can’t imagine a nine hours car drive with poached egg eyes. My eyes are now happy, hen eggs in their chilled shells. Good health is a tremendous blessing!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Maybe I Don't Want A Castle

On Saturday, we’re leaving for vacation in Orlando. That means that in the near future (tonight) I have to begin packing. Since the kids are 18, nearly 17, 14, and 12, you’d think I’d be set. I pack my stuff and they pack theirs. The problem is we’ve done that before. Some people end up with no pajamas or no socks or no underwear—this is bad. So, they make piles, and I inspect and approve.

Orlando should be perfect. Too early for nasty heat, low 80s is just fine. Too early for bugs. I was in Florida a couple of times when I was a young teen and the one thing I remember was the bugs—winged, flying, biting vermin-ish insects.

Florida sounded lovely until I heard about The Castle. There’s a famous writer (NYT bestselling writer—Ally Carter) who’s going on vacation at the same time we are. Except she’s going to a castle. She and her writing friends are renting a castle. In Ireland. I want to go to a castle too. Granted I am very thankful for my husband and four children and would never change places with her (she’s single). Though I do occasionally covet her bestseller author status—the closest I get to that is my faithful blog readers (thank you). But I think I could do the castle thing too.

Ally’s been blogging about buying for her trip—“Ooo these socks would be so great for the castle.” I’ve been thinking, “Ooo, how much underwear does each family member need, and do I need to buy more.” Ally says, “We have to make cupcakes in the castle.” Hold the boat! Why would anyone want to bake cupcakes in a castle? I’d be buying chocolate and saying, “Oh, this Lindt extra dark chocolate with pear and almonds will taste so good in front of a roaring hearth fire in the castle! And I need that Lindt E.D. intense orange as well for sustenance when I don’t want to get out of the feather bed in the morning.”

I do think there could be one caveat to the whole Irish castle thing. There’s a possibility that is especially frightening to me. What if, being this is Ireland and all, I caught the James Joyce progressive incoherency disorder?! Not many people know of the disease. It’s a particularly virulent virus named after the writer who first contracted the disease. It leaves the infected writer unable to write antecedents for pronouns (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). As the disease develops, it leaves the writer unable to craft a story that makes any sense at all. If you don't believe me, pick up The Dubliners.

Currently, there’s no immunization for the virus. Maybe I don’t want to vacation in a castle. Orlando sounds really good—as long as there aren’t any bugs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Killer Salsa

I love Mexican food. Not Taco Bell. Not the frozen taquitos that you can buy in bulk at Sam’s Club. Not the lard-infused, deep-fried (not that I have anything against greasy food necessarily) Mexi-slop that you get at some dives that masquerade as real Mexican restaurants. But the honest to goodness, fresh, texture-taste layered food that I adore.

When we lived in San Diego, you could get the most delectable swordfish tacos—the fish was firm yet tender with a hint of charcoal and lime. (Okay, I’ve mentioned it before so I'll move on.) But here in Chattanooga, we struggled to get good Mexican food. Until we found a place near the mall called El Meson. Mall-area restaurants tend to suck. But we tried it anyway. They made their own tortillas, always a good sign. The food wasn’t bad, but it was Southern-American Mexican food, i.e. mildly spicy enchiladas, tacos, and burritos. Boring. We noticed a lot of Hispanic people in the restaurant, but they all ate in a different section. Cal said, “I bet they have a different menu.”

The next time we went, Cal met the manager. He and Cal lived up near the same place in California. Then, we got a Hispanic waitress who didn’t speak much English. And I asked her, “What do you recommend?” She asked, "You like spicy?" I said, “Of course, we’re from San Diego area—we’ve spent time in Tijuana.” She pointed to Jalisco Shrimp Enchiladas. I ordered it. (Cal ordered something else.) I took one bite (imagine the flavor of luscious shrimp, jalapeƱos, and fresh veggies—wrapped in a warm tortilla and covered with melted cheese and what I think was a tomatillo sauce) and knew I’d found real Mexican food. I gave Cal a bite. Euphoria. His fork hovered over my food.
Me: “No way.” I pulled my plate out of reach. “Eat your own dinner.”
Cal: “But you always get the good food when we go out for dinner.”
Me: “Yeah, because I always ask the waitress what she likes.”
Cal: “You can have a bite of mine.
Me: “I don’t want yours.”
Cal: “Yeah. It’s not as good as yours.”
Me: “Duh... How about if I give you my leftovers?”
Cal: “Okay.”

The only thing they don’t have is killer salsa. They served two kinds, which were okay—once again Southern-American inspired stuff. Although I did spy a leaf of cilantro, but alas it was the only one. I have a peculiar palate for salsa. It’s got to be fresh with herbs, spices, and freshly chopped cilantro and diced onions. And it’s got to have jalapenos. It should leave a nice sizzle on your tongue. I make homemade salsa every Saturday for taco night at our house. And I make it for College Mafia Night (aka Prayer and Fellowship Time). Once I tried to make something else—there was much groaning and gnashing of teeth among the college students, especially those hailing from California. Never again have I forgotten the Killer Salsa—otherwise I’m sure I’ll be the first one killed off in Mafia. “Mrs. Keller was killed during the night by irate college students who didn’t get their salsa fix!”

Monday, March 2, 2009

She was right!

Today, Ariel threw open the front door, glided into the living room and announced, “I was right!” Cal, Matt, Jacob, and I looked up from our lunch of leftover spaghetti and murmured, “Great…” Ariel flounced into her seat and proceeded to give us all the grim details of her “rightness.”

Now, before I translate, I should inform you that before I became a homeschooling mom I worked at a huge publishing company as a technical writer. A science technical writer. Ponder that for a moment—my degree is in English literature. Anyway, I wrote summaries of the articles for the reference materials of published research journals. Among the journals I wrote for: Journal of Solid State Chemistry, Icarus (an astrophysics journal, at least that’s what I thought it was), Genomics, Virology, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, and the Journal of Computational Mathematics. Thus, despite my aversion to mathematics, I should be competent to explain this to you. (I was also assigned to summarize all the articles that came in that were written in languages no one else could read, including Japanese and some language that used the Cyrillic alphabet. They told me it was because I was so good at explaining things I didn’t understand. Sure. Personally, I think it was because I complained the least.)

Sorry for the digression. Back to Ariel’s “rightness.” Apparently, she found a shortcut to calculating area between curved surfaces based on the y-axis. Ariel pointed it out last Friday to her professor. Her professor told her that while it would seem to be accurate and does occasionally work (other students had mentioned it in the past), it couldn’t work all the time. Ariel explained, “But it must—you just do a transformational rotation of 90 degrees, redefine all the variables, run the calculations, and then re-redefine all the variables back to their original definitions.” I guess the professor spent the weekend verifying Ariel’s theory—what a waste of a dreary, wet, miserable weekend! At any rate, the professor announced that the transformational-redefining-thingy did indeed work and that Ariel (and her friend) could use it on the exams, but only if they included a note explaining what they were doing so the professor would be able to follow their calculations. But, she went on to say, that she would NOT be using it in class because she didn’t want to confuse anyone.

Personally, I’m not sure why this is even exciting. I mean, I understand that it’s very cool to “be right.” But it seems to me that with all this rotation, transformation, and redefinition, it’s probably faster to do it the “hard” way. But that’s just me.

Guest Blog

A writing friend of mine, Adele Annesi, invited me to guest blog at her blog. So, I've included the publicity notice, which has site links, in case you'd like to read the posts.

Here it is:

I'm pleased to announce guest blogger for March, writer and essayist Connie Keller on the subject of "Take Down Your Scaffolding, Reveal Your Art" for my writing and editing blog, "Word for Words" http://wordforwords.blogspot.com.

Connie won the Tassy Walden New Voices in Children's Literature “Honorable Mention Award” for young adult fiction, and founded the Wellspring Writers Workshop. She hails from the University of California , and was a writer at Harcourt. She’s currently editing her historical fiction novel Dark Mercy, and her YA novel Screwing Up Time. Her humorous and serious essays have been published in various journals, and she writes the popular YA and adult blog "A Merry Heart," http://connies-pen.blogspot.com.

To see Connie's piece entitled, "Take Down Your Scaffolding, Reveal Your Art," visit "Word for Words" http://wordforwords.blogspot.com.