Monday, October 30, 2006

Carving our favorites

The boys designed and carved their own Jack-O-Lanterns this week in anticipation of tomorrow's festivities.
Miriam had lots of homework to do, and so didn't participate; but she found pleasure later on in her own sort of carving.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Autumn Leaves

In honor of the colorful season we missed while in California for two years...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just in time for Halloween: a Ghost in the Machine

I haven't been blogging much lately for a number of reasons, chief among them the sorry state of my computer, to which the picture below testifies.

All that silly Halloween stuff that is supposed to be scary at this time of year -- skeletons and vampires and boogie-men -- they have nothing in the fright department over the dreaded blue screen of death. Fortunately, I keep my data thoroughly backed up. My mama didn't raise no dummy.

If you’re a techie, you’ll note that the above blue screen indicates both an IRQL and an NDIS error. That should be easy to fix – just identify and uninstall the offending driver. Ha.

I repeat: HA.

If only it were that simple. It’s been a week now working on this sisyphusian task and I've seen just about every blue screen message there is. I’m on a first-name basis with everyone in the Dell office in the Philippines (who all seem to have oddly American names like Bob and Ann and Sue. Go figure). I’ve replaced the hard drive and the motherboard. Replaced the memory twice. I’ve reinstalled the system software from scratch three times.

But like some bizarro-world phoenix, this machine dies again and again and again. It’s an undead zombie computer, an inferni doing the bidding of some malevolent power. I can’t kill it, and I can’t revive it either. Its soul is trapped in between the tangible world of the machine and that great electronic ether where all good computers go.

So yesterday I realized that I had to stop the madness. I had to let my little Inspiron go. I politely but insistently told the good folk at Dell that I was done doing free work for their tech department, and that they needed to honor their contract and just send me a new machine. Either that, I told them, or they could send the tech person of their choice to my house to try to figure out the problem -- they'd pay his hourly rate, and I'd supply him with all the Red Bull and Cheetos he wanted.

They opted for the new machine.

It should arrive in two weeks -- at exactly the time when ghosts of all sorts are looking for new haunting grounds. On Halloween.

Go towards the light, little Dell, go towards the light!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ron Goes Archetypal

"Normal people could not kill Humbaba. That's why this is a task for heroes like us. The people will revere us for doing this deed. " -- the Epic of Gilgamesh
Whenever Ron completes a long, difficult, intellectual task--such as, for example, finishing his last course paper--some weird power comes over him. His eyes turn fiery and he gets the urge to ... cut down trees.

Bizarre? No, he's just getting in touch with his inner Gilgamesh. Fortunately, his wife understands him because she has read the story of Gilgamesh and his hairy friend (or second self, depending on how you read these sorts of things) Enkidu. In one of the main episodes in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the two friends tromp off into the forest to conquer Humbaba, a sort of scary nature demon dude.

"Enkidu finds his voice, 'Finish him, Gilgamesh. Do it quickly, before the Gods consult each other. Remember, how the people will honor us. They will forever remember us as the slayers of Humbaba and the emancipators of the Evergreen Forest.'"

After a dramatic battle, full of snarky dialogue between Humbaba and his two challengers, the friends finish off Humbaba and cut down the Cedar of the Forest. Out of this they make something civilized: a big door. So I guess Gilgamesh and Enkidu are the first strip-mall developers of the ancient Near East.

So when Ron gets this urge to conquer Humbaba, I just let him go with my blessing. Surely, the neighbors will honor us and remember him as the emancipator of the Rienstra's overgrown backyard.

After conquering Humbaba and cutting down the Cedar of Mulford, my modern-day Gilgamesh had fun with the neighbor's chipper, creating bushels of mulch. He piled it all behind the garage in and around our composter. Now if you were a small rodent, you would take one look at this and say to your mate....

"Baby, we are movin' on up! Look! A five-star, high-rise rodent Marriott. Woot!"

(Of course, they don't know the ancient myth of the backyard neighbor cats of doom. Their loss.)