Sunday, May 31, 2009

I bought an HP 1030NR

Isn't it cute there under my desktop. I plodded through technical specs all over the place. Even tried to build my own on the Dell site and the HP site. By the time I added a few things, the $300 machine was costing $650. This particular model is not available on the HP website. All sources point to Best Buy or

But even after all my research, the best recommendation came from Cynthia Marie. She loves her Mini. My requirements are similar. I went for it. When I went to Best Buy yesterday, my mind wasn't completely made up, so I looked over the other Mini's on display. The ASUS and the Aspire were both stuck and not responding. The HP was running and zipping through the few internet sites I tried. The keyboard is bigger than the others on display. Keys are as big as a desktop keys. I bought it!

Best Buy was offering for an added $39.99, the same model "pre-setup" by the Geek Squad. I decided to do it myself, and it was easy. The hardest part was inserting the battery...I had it backwards...DOH! There is no excess software on the thing. I connected to my home network, let Microsoft do it's update thing, added McAfee Security (I had one remaining copy on my license for three), and Firefox (my favored browser). I folded laundry while various stuff was downloading.

I bought a sleeve for carrying. It will fit easily in my carry-on backpack for travel. And I got another jump-drive for moving files from my desktop.

One problem is the pointer device (mouse thingy). I have never been very good with pointer devices on laptops, from the eraser-head thing on IBM to various configurations of a track-pad. If I'm just doing straight text, I can function OK, but the Mini failed the Pet Society hurdle test. I couldn't click my Esmerelda when I needed to. I'll have to get an external mouse.

Does it pass the Pet Society requirement otherwise? I had to F-11 (I guess I need function keys after all) to get rid of the header stuff, and see my pet and her friends for the visits. I don't do much Pet Society on a real vacation anyway.

By the time we take our next big trip in November, I'll have it mastered. We will probably use the ship-board wi-fi hot spots on days at sea. The mini will decrease the time we have to struggle with those sticky keyboard on the ship's PC, and we can pre-type any long emails or blogs we want to post.

I'll even let Tinker use it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why I need a mini

1) It's in the genes! Gordons love gadgets. My brother George has one. Cynthia Marie has one. And I bet half of you reading this have one already. I'm late to the game.

2) Prices are really low! I've been doing my research only to find that the price doesn't mean a whole lot. The specifications are all over the map for that price. The hard drive might be anything from 150 gig to 8 gig. Eight gig? I carry 2 gig on my keychain! But I must remind myself that my very first PC had no hard-drive. The only application in those days was Lotus 1-2-3 run from an 8-inch floppy. And that PC cost as much as my new 1970 Subaru.

3) It would be easier to travel with a Mini. We have a notebook that we take with us sometimes. Mostly on roadtrips, and we took it on our big train trip. It's gotten to be too much of a hassle to get through airport security with the laptop since Tinker's hip replacement. He sets off the metal detector every time, and sometimes the security officer will help me with his stuff while they wand him down. Most of the time, though, I'm the one gathering up 2 pairs of shoes, two backpacks, coats, and the laptop too.

4) It would be cheaper than a monthly fees.

But to be honest, it's really only #1. It's the gadget thing. I don't know why I need one otherwise. I don't hang out at Starbucks, or any of the other internet hot-spots around town. I could use it for writing when I travel, but I usually carry a paper notebook for sudden bursts of inspiration. Paper is easier to deal with by the pool at Bellagio, or on the beach. But I'm going to get one, anyway.

Now I need to decide what I want the thing to do. Do I need a copy of Word? a CD drive? how many USB ports? Headphone jack? Speaker jack? Some have keyboards with no F-keys. Do I need F-keys? When was the last time I used Function keys? I'm not going to play games on the thing. (Except Pet Society, of course) How much RAM do I need for Pet Society?

OK, friends who have one already, what do you have, and what do you like about it?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcome to guest blogger and author, Stacey Cochran

Thanks so much, Sarah, for the opportunity to guest blog at your place. I’m currently in the midst of a 45-day blog tour to promote my new novel CLAWS. Amazon has paperback copies listed for 10.99 and an Amazon Kindle version for $1.59. I need reviews to help generate word-of-mouth and interest in the book and its subject matter.

CLAWS came out of my living in Arizona earlier this decade. For a time, I rented a small bungalow in the mountain town of Oracle up on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Oracle, Arizona is a sleepy little town of about 2,000 folks, perched some 4,500 feet above sea level. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Coolidge some 60 miles northward. To the west, Tucson’s northern edge sprawls through a valley (and along the mountain foothills) up toward Catalina. From Oracle, the ten-mile-wide swath of development looks like a kind of disease spreading northward over the land.

In the short time that I lived there, two new “master-planned” golf course communities (SaddleBrooke and “The Preserve”) went up in what was previously high-country desert wilderness, and homes quickly replaced the natural landscape.

Coincidentally a careless camper’s man-made wildfire burned nearly 250,000 acres in the Santa Catalinas in 2003, and the following year several Tucson elementary schools had to be closed periodically because of mountain lions stalking children.

Ordinarily, mountain lions tend to avoid humans, but the wildfire had destroyed most of the big cat’s natural habitat. This forced the cougar population into areas it might not have ventured otherwise and because housing developments were going up almost monthly in this wilderness area, the result was a tragedy waiting to happen.

Once I began doing research, I saw that the problem was more than a regional anomaly. California had seen an increase in cougar attacks on humans over the past decade, and the animals were being spotted in states like Arkansas, Michigan, Illinois, and North Carolina were authorities had thought they were extinct.

The issues of wildlife management, land conservation, and real estate development are inextricably intertwined, and the decisions legislators make affect human (and cougar) lives. It’s a contentious issue that generates heated debate.

That said, I saw it as a way to write a suspenseful, timely novel that made the land one of its central characters.

My hope is that folks will get this when they read it. My challenge was to write CLAWS in a way that didn’t sermonize the issue, nor treat it glibly. One of the more interesting comments from early readers was that in the novel you could argue who was responsible for the problem.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out CLAWS and write a review at or on your blog. The subject is too important to ignore, and I think healthy discussion can lead to decisions regarding the right course of action.

I appreciate your time and consideration, and I hope you’ll enjoy the novel. Thanks so much, Sarah and friends.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Mother's Day Gift

My sons came last Sunday and cooked dinner. Then we spent the rest of the day filming a video trailer for my book. Here is the finished product.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Loose Ends for Grey's fans

The season finale was last night. It was tearful for many, especially the shocker that John Doe was George O'Malley. We knew TR Knight was leaving the series, but we didn't expect it to be that way.

There weren't any real cliff-hangers, but there are some loose ends, and questions to keep us wondering about next season.

1. Who will be back next year? There are rumors that Patrick Dempsey is leaving the series.

2. Are Meredith and Derek married? They said some vows with post-it notes and shook hands. Was that it?

3. What about Izzie and Alex's baby? Remember she had her eggs harvested before she started the chemo-therapy, and Alex reluctantly "fertilized" them so they would keep better. Who's going to carry that baby? I won't even mention the online flak about a ghost-baby or tumor baby.

4. Will Dr. Bailey take the Pediatrics Fellowship, or stay on the surgery track since they got the new robot thing?

5. What about Yang and GI Joe? (I don't even know his name, but I heard him on a talk-show, sounding all Scottish)

6. I always figured they added Lexie (little Grey) so they would have a back-up Grey in case Ellen Pompeo decided to quit the series. After all you can't have a Grey's Anatomy without a Grey.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I ordered the Wind Song

Sometimes you learn things about your family long years after the events, and suddenly things start to make more sense. Not secrets, not major events, but little things that make some of the rest fall into place.

Last year I hijacked the notes my sister LaVerne had been writing for fifty years, published them on as "The Gordons of Tallahassee." LaVerne's story stopped in Charles Town, West Virginia just after my sister Toni was born, four years before I was born. I had to call on my brothers to complete the story to Petersburg where I was born.

One of the things they told me was after Toni was born, Mother tried to get a job teaching, but there were no jobs in Charles Town. When she learned of jobs in Washington, DC, she went there to work at the Navy Annex during the week, and came home to Charles Town on the weekends. I asked, who took care of Toni while Mother was gone. LaVerne had enrolled in St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, and there was no other woman in the house, just Daddy and my four brothers. George told me they took care of Toni.

That created for me a new image of my family. I know it is common in large families for the older ones to take care of the younger ones, as surrogate parents. I had never pictured it that way when I came along. By the time I was a toddler, my brothers were in high school and college, and it was only Toni and me at home with Daddy during the day while Mother worked. We lived next door to the Episcopal Church where Daddy was rector.

Mother started her battle with cancer when I was eight years old, in an era when children weren't told very much about grown folks' issues. Through my years of puberty while Mother was dying, I thought I was raising myself. I remember Mother's insistence that we never settle for second-class even in the Jim-Crow south. We walked rather than ride in the back of the bus; held our thirst until we got home rather than drink from the "For Colored" water fountain. But the personal side of my mother is missing from my memory. I depend on family saga, in which Mother becomes larger than life. I remember her softness, but I can't hear her voice. My brother Michael says I sound like her, sing like her. Sometimes if I get deep within myself I can hear her say, "Poll tax." She made a do-it-yourself record of her speech about the Poll Tax one summer when she studied in New York. We played it after she died in 1958. The pre-vinyl breakable record didn't survive all the moves in the last 50 years.

Michael remembered this week that Mother wore Prince Matchabelli as her signature scent. I know how smells can evoke all kinds of memories, so I ordered a bottle on the internet. Somewhere in the back of my fading memory, she's still there, waiting to tell me something.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Review from "My White Guy"

By David Roth

I lived an apparently sheltered life. A child of the 50’s and 60’s (I was born on New Year’s Day 1953) I had my coming of age times in the free-love, flower power, sex-drugs-rock and roll mythos of an nirvana that existed only in the Age of Aquarius that found fertile ground in the LSD driven imaginations of the times. From afar, and the emphasis is on afar, I lived through the days – and murders - of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and Malcolm X. was glued to the TV when man first set foot on the moon, and the Nation wondered Who Shot J.R.

And yet, I was profoundly naïve.

Continues here

Friday, May 1, 2009

Check Engine Light

I had my first Check Engine Light experience today. This is my 10th car in 38 years, and even that 1966 Mustang that cut off in the intersection never gave me the experience of the Check Engine Light.

But I am a faithful listener of Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers on Car Talk every weekend on NPR. I have been thoroughly schooled so that I know to go directly to my dealer when I see that light.

Well, it was 1:30 on a Friday afternoon, the day before I planned to drive 600 miles to see the grands. If I hadn't gone out to the ATM, and gas station, would that light have waited until I got down the road at 6AM on Saturday?...horrors!

The rain started just as I was pulling away from the ATM, and it came hard and blustery, like the bottom had fallen out. I turned the corner through a new puddle, a real splasher, when the light came on. The message on the dash read "Replace Gas Cap."

I continued to the gas station, and found that the gas cap was indeed loose, inside the little door. I have to confess that I intentionally left it loose because the last few times I got gas, I had to ask someone to help me get the thing off. I had thought about going to the dealer about it then, but it seemed too wimpy not to wait until my next regular service. So I pumped my gas and screwed that cap on. Back in the car, the light came back on.

So on I went to the dealer...the Cadillac dealer. I started thinking about the fact that I had ignored all those letters telling me that my warranty was about to expire. And I started thinking about the GM bankruptcy, and wondering if my dealer was still there. They are. It's good to have someone who knows you on a Friday afternoon. I told my regular guy that I planned to drive to Atlanta in the morning. So he put me in the line for diagnostics. Meanwhile I had pulled the owner's manual out. This is what it said:

If the Light is on Steady

You may be able to correct the emission system malfunction by considering the following:

Did you recently put fuel in your vehicle?

If so, reinstall the fuel cap, making sure to fully install the cap. Blah blah blah. A loose or missing fuel cap will allow fuel to evaporate into the atmosphere. A few driving trips with the cap properly installed should turn the light off.

Did you just drive through a deep puddle of water?

If so, your electrical system may be wet. The condition will usually be corrected when the electrical system dries out. A few driving trips should turn the light off.

Well, they ran the diagnostics, and got error code P0455 - Faulty Gas Cap. They gave me a new cap, no charge.

Lesson for Sarah: Next time RTFM...Read the F#-ing Manual.
I could have saved myself the 2 hour wait.

But I'm also wondering why...if the car knew what was going on in the first place, why didn't it shut off that light after I screwed the cap on tight?