Thursday, February 11, 2016


When I worked for IBM, they gave me a Lenovo laptop.  My impression was that it was a tough, solid piece of hardware.  I liked it, to the point where, having need of a new home laptop, years later, I bought one.  This was after IBM no longer made them, having sold the brand to a Chinese company.  This laptop still had the cute little almost-useless track-pointer set down between the G, H, and B keys; still had the bold THINKPAD logo.  I liked it.

This may be news, but laptops tend to get moved around.  And since they don't come with handles, they tend to get grabbed by the edge. 

It turns out that there is a microswitch inside the Thinkpad -- specifically, the Yoga 14 Thinkpad -- along the front edge, that is intended to warn the PC if it is under abnornal stress - the kind that can cause a head crash on the drive.  If the microswitch gets depressed, it will immediately cut power to the spinning hard drive, protecting it.  As a side note, it shuts down the PC, too.

My Thinkpad creaks and flexes.  And every so often, I squeeze it at just the right spot....

Friday, February 05, 2016


The other day, my daughter informed me that she was doing some serious budgeting for her upcoming trip to Florida (Disney cruise), and the long and short of it was that she needed funds.  She said I don't want to sound like the classic kid who says Oh, I'll just ask my parents for the money.  I assured her that she was not, and that I thought she had a good grasp of financial essentials.

As if to nail that one down, she called today and said Hey, I got this call, they said it was someone's fraud analysis department, and they wanted to know about this charge on your credit card for a hotel in Florida?  Well, as it happens, she does have access to my card, but she had not ordered anything -- so I called the credit card people and said hey, this isn''t valid, we object....and while I was talking, I noticed another charge on the card, for food from Jimmy Johns! So we objected to that, too.  I made sure to tell my daughter that she'd done exactly the right thing in her reaction to that call.

Odd, though.  I have one of the new credit cards -- the ones with a chip, but without a PIN?  Who would have guessed that the lack of a PIN might mean that someone could still hijack the card?  Clearly, not the people who issued my card!

(Though I do wonder -- how do you keep a card secure if its being used online? )


I'm in the last stages of restoring my PC after it died (specifically, went into a 'reboot loop'.  I am sure that Microsoft does some amazing things, making them look easy, but 'system restores' don't appear to be in that category.)  I do regular backups, and yet I still find that there were things I did not have -- for example, a current set of email addresses for my friends.  Not to mention, emails I sent, emails I saved.  Totally gone.

Software guys like to stash stuff in obscure places.  Their favorite is the APPDATA folder (which is, by the way, a hidden system folder; you have to say SHOW before you can see it and its contents), but there are others.  The data file for a database I use to keep track of stray info (Personal Knowbase; its really quite good) likes to put its file in one place but then stick a 'fake' file somewhere else, so that when you go to copy it -- there's nothing there!  And Calendarscope, my PC calender (also highly recommended); you can tell it to back up routinely, and it will - at the end of the day. But suppose you make a change at 2PM and you crash at 3PM - is that change saved anywhere?  Don't be silly.

Argh.  I would ask that software designers include backup and restore functions (other than the simple ones that many do have), but that'd get into the well, where shall we hide it, what shall we call it, hmm, do we really want to users to be able to get to it discussion.

And don't get me started on Window's 10s System File function, which LOOKS awesome and WORKS .... almost not at all. 

So, for anyone who is interested, here is my current list of backup actions I have to take routinely.  You will notice that some are incomplete -- I know I have to do them; I just don't.  At least, I am not sure.  Its all confusing, and thinking about it hurts my head.

Any software with a key goes into KNOWBASE/Software Licence Keys
Any friends email address goes into OUR EXCEL FILES / ADDRDB spreadsheet
Firefox bookmarks go into BILLS FILES/FIREFOX BOOKMARKS
BILLS FILES gets copied as part of overall data grab 
Thunderbird emails, folders, email addresses, profiles, message classification  rules go to ??????????

Oh, and my Network Attached Storage device?  The My Cloud?  Its really quite nice, but every so often....Windows says NAS?  What NAS? NETWORK PATH NOT FOUND.  A few minutes later oh, there it is!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

This is why French flummoxes me

This is a headline from the French version of Slate:

La démocratie américaine a encore beaucoup à nous apprendre

Translated directly, it is
The democracy american has still a lot to us to teach.

Or as we would say
American democracy still has a lot to teach us.

Took me five minutes to translate that one bitty sentence.....

And so....

Hillary will say I won.  And she did.

Bernie will say Close enough! And it was.  But not a win.

Cruz will say See, they all love me.  But they don't.  Yet.

And Trump will say It doesn't matter, I'm going on.  And he will.  And on, and on.

Ain't politics fun?

Monday, February 01, 2016


I usually don't mind Windows 10.  But when I say yeah, do a system restore back to before your last critical update,  and Windows replies Oh yeah?  Well eat this -- REBOOT LOOP ERROR, so that I have to completely reinstall Windows (easy to do, since the PC has a Recovery Partition, though why it felt it necessary to throw away parts or all of several applications, I have no idea) -- well, then, I'm not too fond of it.  Good thing I am retired, with lots of spare time.

As it turns out, having to reinstall windows is a (relatively) painless way of updating the applications that you use... and trashing the ones you don't. Still would not recommend it as a fun time activity, though.

And for those people who say that you don't really need a CD copy of the software, because hey, you can just download it, right?  -- just about everything went right back in *except* the one that was acquired via streaming download. I'll probably end up buying it again. (It's Quicken, whose idea of customer service leaves a lot to be desired.) So, yeah. You need the CD.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Do you vote for the candidate whom you honestly like the best and think would be the best for the country, or for the candidate whom you honestly think has the best chance of winning in the general election?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Late Night

Lying in bed with the headsets on, listening again to the brief news article in French that's this week's homework.  Thinking There's no insanity in my family, I've got it all...

Pity That It's Only Digital

Speaking, Sure. Understanding? Ummm.....

For the last two weeks, I've been working with a French teacher to improve my ability to understand spoken French, particularly rapidly spoken French.  I can understand, if the other person speaks at a moderate pace, but if they speed up, or use vocabulary with which I'm unfamiliar, my comprehension goes way down.

Several people have told me that they learned to speak English simply by listening to English-language songs, repetitively.  I've found that hard to believe, and impossible to replicate.  I think that they probably do learn the rhythm of their new language,  and possibly some words,  but they don't know what they're saying.

KIRK: Spock, could the humpback's answer to this call be simulated?
SPOCK: The sounds, but not the language. We would be responding in gibberish.

- Star Trek IV

For example, a friend, in an email, used the phrase notre quatre, and though I knew those words ('our four'), it was only because I'd heard a similar phrase on a CD, played while a French friend was with me,  that I learned that notre quatre is a way of referring to all of the people in the speaker's family - in this case, four. Or, if you happen to listen to a song that's in French, and hear the word trois,  you'd reasonably assume that it is spelled as twah, or perhaps trwah, but you wouldn't have a clue that it means three.  You have no reference!

As part of this language work, I've been listening to very short -- perhaps forty seconds to a minute -- Youtube news articles, selected by my instructor, who listens to them and writes a very detailed script of what's been said.  For example, if the speaker hesitates while saying We need to address this problem, saying in fact We need, uh, to speak ab -- to address this problem, that's what my instructor writes.  As a result, I have a fighting shot of understanding when a given sound is just a hesitation or mispronunciation, and when it's actually part of a word. 

(Which reminds me of the joke about the actress who was going to try out for a role on Broadway where she'd be required to speak with a Swedish accent.  Not being happy with her ability to emulate that accent, she hit upon the idea of routinely going to a local cafe where the cook was Swedish.  She'd linger over coffee, just listening to him speak. When the time came for the audition, she performed flawlessly.  At the end, the director said That was really great, you really nailed that accent.  But, tell me -- why'd you do it with a lisp?)

Sometimes my ability to understand French is like that. I kind of get it -- and then I don't.

But I'm working on it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cooking Follies

As a rule of thumb, having your mixer's rubber gasket fall into the chopped chocolate and get blended in is a somewhat discouraging event.