Sunday, April 30, 2017

Remember Me?

Tomorrow morning I have an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar. I will arrive at 10:15 and will pack food, water, and stuff to read since I plan to stay until closing if that's what it takes to get my laptop back to normal. All week I've been dealing with two Apple Support Specialists in Sacramento — I have team now, and this is quite rare! — but we still don't know what's wrong, just that many things are wrong. My photos are still corrupted and everything is as slow as molasses. I may need a new battery, too.

I installed some diagnostic software the other day and then spent four hours (until 2 am) trying and failing to upload it to Apple. I was finally able to do it after six more attempts the next day. I can't wait to hear what the engineers have to say.  I probably won't know in time for my appointment tomorrow because I couldn't get it to them soon enough but, boy, did I try.

I look forward to not writing about my problems and showing you some of the many photos I've been taking lately. It's Spring, like it or not, and there are flowers and sunsets to be admired, and so on.

All of the cats are extremely well, I'm happy to report. Possum occasionally pays attention to me these days, and I am properly grateful.

In addition to being nearly finished with The Age of Innocence, I am both pleased and chagrined to report that it is finally January in Old New Yorker Land. I'm making progress because I decided not to read anything that's Trump-related. I already get plenty up-to-date news from the New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and Rachel Maddow.

Although I can't show you new photos, I have archives of old blog photos sitting around gathering virtual dust. So I unearthed a photo from a favorite post from April 2014, of Toffee reading Indiana Authors and their Books (don't ask) by osmosis, demonstrating how cats learn.




Monday, April 24, 2017

And Still Nothing

Still no progress on restoring my photos on this laptop. While the Apple Support Specialist tries different things, each of which takes several days and makes the laptop too slow to be useful, I resort to using my phone for reading news, web surfing, email, and everything else I do.

I miss posting here but even writing this is an annoyingly slow operation.

Aside from this, things around La Casa de Sabine are fine, or as well as they can be — given who is in "charge." We've taken to watching nightly television news for the first time since 9/11. We tune into Rachel Maddow with curiosity and wonder, like it's a soap opera.

The cats are flourishing and enjoying the kraft paper and boxes from a recent Amazon delivery of litter. Harris slept between our heads last night. When he decides to be snuggly, no one is snugglier. He puts his head on my shoulder. It's hard to stay asleep in the presence of so much feline gloriousness, not to mention his nursing on our ears.

To pass the time, I'm rereading The Age of Innocence, one of my favorite books, again. I've done this every few years since my 20s, and it amuses me to discover how my impressions have changed since I first devoured it. Newland Archer has been steadily losing his stature as a noble and tragic hero over the years. I still think he's tragic, of course, but he seems more and more like a fool. He's far too traditional and limited in his thinking, too "New York" after all, to have had a happy life with his Countess. Still, he deserved someone far more companionable than May. A bolder, more honorable and creative man would have found a way out of his engagement that left his and May's reputations intact. As for May, she was no fool at all, yet he never bothered to find that out about her.

Possum is also rereading the book but he's less interested as he feels the descriptions of food and art and inadequate, and there are very few descriptions of birds or wildlife in the country scenes.

That's all I'll say. Please go read some LITERATURE until I can post more drivel here. Thank you for your patience.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Update

I'm still waiting to hear if Apple has been able to find thousands of photos that are missing from my iCloud account. I was supposed to hear on Wednesday; maybe today will be the day. In the meantime, I'm taking photos on my phone but iCloud is turned off, so they aren't transferring to my laptop.

In the meantime, I could be droning on here without any photos, but what fun would that be for anyone? But it could come to that, so be warned.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Eggs


I hope you had a happy Easter. We celebrated with my husband's Armenian family, and they traditionally play a game where each person chooses an Easter egg — as a weapon. They take turns trying to crack the ends of each other's eggs while everyone watches and comments. When two eggs make contact, one will crack the other. If your egg cracks, you reverse it, which gives you another chance to crack someone's egg. People with two cracked ends are eliminated, and the game keeps going until only one egg remains intact; its owner wins the game. And then everyone realizes it's time to go home.

So my husband and I dyed a dozen eggs on Saturday, knowing they were sacrificial victims. That was a bit difficult for me, because I put some effort into creating pretty eggs. And I've been known to keep the prettiest of my eggs in my fridge until Christmas or beyond. But currently our little fridge is so stuffed with food that even fitting a tiny bowl of eggs in there would be a problem, so I was prepared to let them all go.

While the eggs were cooking on the stove, I settled into an armchair to investigate our newly purchased Paas dyeing kit. Paas kits were hard to find this year because CVS and Walgreen's stopped carrying them, and even the Star Market only had one kit left, weeks ago, and it was the ordinary kind with no special decorating materials. We finally drove to a party store, which also had slim pickings. But there was one kit left to make "Golden Eggs," which included a packet of shimmery gold paint, somy tiny sponges, and a little plastic tray to hold the paint and a few drying eggs.

I quickly discovered that our kit was a few years old, well past its prime. Two of the five dye tablets had crumbled to dust, which poured through the cracks in the brittle cellophane packet that held them. Particles wound up on me, the armchair, and then the kitchen, where I fled to clean it off. But any touch of moisture produced brilliant dye . . . so I had color all over my hands and many parts of the kitchen. We vacuumed the armchair and cleaned up the kitchen as much as we could while the eggs cooked.

Dyeing was messy and fun as usual. We used food coloring along with the surviving tablets, and the eggs came out looking fine, if a little boring. So I opened the tube of golden glaze, hoping it still worked. It did, sort of — but as I was painting an egg it got slippery, and I accidentally knocked over the painting tray, cracking two more eggs and spilling the slimy gold glaze all over our counter. But we kept at it and I only broke one more egg before I gave up and left the others plain. Here are the results:


The egg game participants who chose gold-glazed eggs admired them at first but quickly began complaining that the color was coming off all over their hands. I had no sympathy since they were wrecking my lovely eggs and also because I had just eaten such a quantity of Armenian food, coffee cake, fruit salad, and a bagel (we have a Jewish contingent as well), that I was borderline comatose. That gold glaze is slimy, but it washes off quickly, and a slippery, sticky egg makes the game more challenging.

I took these photos of the eggs yesterday morning, to memorialize them.

Harris knew better than to touch any of the eggs this year. Last year, he kept trying to fish them out of the bowl so he could roll them onto the floor. This year he just posed attractively. Harris is smart.


SaveSave

Saturday, April 15, 2017

In the Public Garden

Back Bay is all spiffed up so it looks good on TV during the Marathon. The streets have been cleaned, spring bulbs are blooming in gardens, urns, and windowboxes, and the swan boats are back in the Public Garden, floating on what was only a pond-sized mud hole last week.

I went by and took the usual, boring shot:


After all, it's always nice to see them in April after months of looking at the mud hole. 

Then I walked toward Charles Street and ran into Jesus. I knew Him right away because of the crown of thorns, the shepherd's crook . . .


And the rollerblades: 


We were happy to see each other. It had been a while (since high school, to be honest), and we hadn't been keeping in touch. 

This was on Thursday, so I reminded Him that He had a dinner date and an appointment at the Garden of Gethsemane later. So He was in the wrong garden. (I always try to help visitors find their way around my city.)


He skated a tight, graceful circle around me as we talked, and confessed that He had no idea where He was supposed to be going next. "I should read the Bible. I actually don't know a thing," He said, looking deeply into my eyes in that Jesus way of His.

I said it made no difference, really, because the story turns out okay for Him in the end.

On Berkeley Street

I spotted these hydrangeas in a pair urns flanking a door on Berkeley Street, and the colors couldn't have been better:



But as I walked around the corner to Beacon Street, I was surprised to find this guy in the garden instead of the Easter Bunny:


Friday, April 14, 2017

Update

Just checking in . . . I miss you all!

I've made a few more new Apple Support Specialist pals around the country — including J (a patient, old-school Southern gentleman), D (Genius Bar, entertained us with spectacular mime and hip-hop moves during the long wait times of our 2 1/2–hour session), and S (Sacramento by way of New Jersey, rescued newborn kittens last year who didn't make it, so I'm hoping to talk him into adopting).

But my photos still aren't fixed and my laptop is still slow and cantankerous. My case has been "escalated" to an Apple Engineer, who will try to repair my iCloud account. This will take several business days. I don't know how it will happen, but I imagine that the engineer's first step will be to go up in a plane and look for my account, and then try to find my 9,000 missing photos, which are probably floating around loose up there, and persuade them to go back where they belong.

In the meantime, I'm supposed to keep my paws off the Photos app. But I will post some unedited recent photos tomorrow.

Good night!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Patriot on Pinckney Street


This bust of Paul Revere (his name is on the base) has been looking out of this window of an old wooden house on Pinckney Street for as long as I've been living in Boston — and that's more than 35 years. I remember admiring him shortly after I moved here and began exploring the nearby historic neighborhoods. If you dare to peek further into the window, you'll see a room nicely furnished in antiques that match his era, so he's right at home. 

Those ruffled curtains haven't changed, either. They are a quintessential Old New England item that that's been out-of-fashion for years, replaced first by polyester sheers and then by everything from floor-length drapes to wooden blinds and shutters. But the old cotton curtains still look charming and appropriate in our old houses, and plenty of Old New Englanders swear by them — just not that many in Beacon Hill anymore. Beacon Hill is a popular place for young families now, and their taste runs to modern and trendy. But you can still get curtains like these from Country Curtains, in white or natural, in pure cotton or a blend, with or without ruffles. Long may they wave in the multi-paned windows of our historic houses. 

Paul Revere hasn't changed a bit over the decades that he's been watching over Pinckney Street, while I have definitely gone downhill and become an antique myself. I realize this was inevitable, just as I know that Paul's time in that window continues to decrease, so that every time I see him feels like a little victory over time. Whoever keeps him in there will eventually move on, one way or another. And then Paul will disappear, the house will change hands, and the new owner will likely gut it to the studs. 

Then, one day, I'll pass that window and find — who knows? but I can guess — millennial-pink drapes in the replacement windows, and a trendy breed of lapdog looking out from Paul's old spot. Behind him, in the newly "opened" kitchen-living-dining room, there will be a vast Viking stove, a stone-topped island with bar stools, and a big TV screen over the fireplace. A young family will be sitting there, eating takeout from Anna's Taqueria or The Upper Crust.

How I hope it won't happen soon.

Growly Time

Harris wants to show off again with his fox-fur Growly, now battered and partially digested. We even broke the pole in half the other day but it's still useable.

He looks vicious as he growls away with that soggy mess in his mouth. I like to pick him up and carry him over to my husband so he can share in Harris's scary growliness. I have to pry his jaws apart to rescue the toy, risking my fingers. I can't believe how strong he is. He claws at my hands but his claws are trimmed and smooth. And I can tell he doesn't feel good about possibly hurting me, so I win that battle.






I think his goal is to get the entire thing into his mouth and he is getting better at it. As a result, our playtime gets shorter since I have to keep pulling it back out. We could use a bigger, tougher growly, but it needs to be real fur to entice Harris. We have the fake-fur version of this thing that is going strong after many years.


More of Same

For the past few days, my laptop has been very, very slow, making me remember what computers were like in the '90s. It's even brought back buried memories of my days using early word-processors, like Wangs and Laniers, the first high-tech office machines of the early '80s. They had little green or brown screens, and our lives revolved around floppy disks of various sizes. If you didn't remember to insert a floppy disk into your Lanier at the end of a day, everything you'd typed was erased when you turned off the machine. We were always in such a hurry to get out of that office at 5 pm that this sort of thing happened with surprising frequency. But since our bosses didn't understand a thing about our computers, the consequences were minor since they'd accept all sorts of creative explanations.

I've been spending time on the phone with Apple Support Specialists. The last one, who spent more than two hours with me, lives on a horse farm three hours north of Chicago. She confessed that she has never been to an Apple Store and has no desire to visit one, although she's heard they are cool, because cities give her the creeps and she is a "country girl." She told me they have 42 horses, which is more than they'd like since the horse market dried up some years ago. She also has two kids, numerous barn cats, four dogs, two donkeys, and four indoor cats, all of whom were found as kittens near death on the property. We had time for her to tell me all of their stories, and many more. I know that a bale of hay in Illinois can cost $5, but the same bale will cost $20 in Arizona. I also know that her little girl had managed to save $400 by the time she was five, which allowed her to buy her own horse, a miniature one, at auction. Her mother just had to supply another $10 for the winning bid. (Chores pay well for preschoolers on horse farms; I only had a piggybank with coins when I was five, but it seems kid wages have gone up a lot in subsequent decades.)

I think it's great that Apple trains and employs people remotely all over the continent — I've worked with people everywhere from Nova Scotia to Florida. Also New Hampshire. While they are all easy to work with, well-informed, and helpful, they haven't solved the many problems afflicting my machine, and they have caused a few more. For a while the other night, my computer was so slow to start up that, for about 20 minutes, it appeared to have become nothing more than a digital picture frame for my background photo of Harris.

I was able to wake up the laptop and write this today, though, which is an improvement, since even typing a short email is sometimes problematic. (I know a couple of little ways to try to "soothe" this laptop myself now.) I'm still missing 10,000 photos, and so on, despite the best efforts of a small national cadre of specialists, so I have an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar this afternoon. I will probably have to leave the laptop there for some time.

In the meantime, I'll try to post of cat photos, just to cheer myself up. I'll do that as soon as I'm done venting here. Fingers crossed.

My husband is convinced my laptop is on its last legs and wants me to get a new one. It's true that it is seven years old, so very close to the end of a normal lifespan if not beyond it. But I like it so much better than the new ones. Over the years, Apple has removed feature after feature from laptops in the name of making them cooler and sleeker — and more like an iPhone. For example, mine has a DVD player, and a pressure-sensitive magnetic "Mag"Safe" power plug, which has saved its life several times when one of us has gotten a leg caught on its power cord. The new laptops stay attached to their power cord and go flying when the cord gets yanked. They also have super-glossy screens, and glare is a big problem for me. My laptop also has useful ports, which I need to connect various back-up drives, since our wireless one, the Time Capsule, had a change of heart last month and reported that it doesn't like living in the past anymore. It said it wants to every single back-up — years of them — and start fresh. Just when I've lost 10,000 photos. I'm opposed to this.

I'm opposed to a lot of things these days.

I don't think there's much about the new laptops that make them superior to mine. They are faster, but our wifi is so troublesome that I doubt I'd notice. I know they have a touch-screen in place of a toolbar, but I don't care. I know there are other bells and whistles that I'll probably want to ignore or disable. I know the screen is supposed to be brilliant and sharp, but if it's always covered in fingerprints and cat noseprints plus GLARE, who cares?

My husband says I sound like a geezer, but I insist that I have a point. Apple laptops are getting more and more like our phones. It's great to give a phone more functionality, to make it more like a tiny laptop you can throw in your pocket. But I think it's wrong to make a laptop behave more like a tiny phone by removing drives, ports, and magnetic plugs, and by ignoring the advantages of a big screen and full keyboard, which make working on a laptop superior to working on a phone.

It's easy to move a shiny phone screen into shadow — often you just have to bend your head over it. It's hard to prevent glare when the laptop has to sit on your desk or lap. If I have to get a new laptop, I'll need to retro-fit it with an anti-glare screen, a DVD player, an after-market magnetic plug adapter, and a set of ridiculously expensive plastic adapters called "dongles" to serve the purposes of the ports that sit in a neat, unobtrusive row along the side of my laptop. This strikes me as stupid.

I know I have to move on, and adapt, but I resent the fact that Apple is increasingly dumbing-down its laptops and removing features that its customers like and rely upon. I recently had to update my operating system (which has caused most of the problems I have now.) So I had use a newer version of Photos, and I can't stand it. The previous version allowed me to see two rows of large thumbnails of photos in the same batch as whatever photo I was editing. When I take a lot of shots, say of Harris in a box, it's really helpful to see all those other photos as I'm choosing which ones to keep and edit. But that wonderful double row has been replaced with a bar of  tiny thumbnails across the bottom of the window. Now I have a choice of seeing my photos in two sizes:  about the size of my little fingernail, or the size of my index fingernail. (I have little hands.) Those views are useless. But that's how photo editing might work on a phone, which I can hold up to my nose to see. I can't do that with a laptop. So photo editing just became a pain. It's stupid to make a laptop act like a phone.

My husband tells me that my choices are to get a PC (horrors, we've been Apple customers from Day 1) or lower my expectations. I suppose I could experiment a little on his shiny new laptop and see how I like it. But it's in the shop. The spacebar doesn't work.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Alas

By Sunday, I'd thought that my laptop and phone were back to normal. But I was an April Fool.

About a quarter of my 40,000 photos are missing in iCloud, and the older photos I do have are misbehaving. Apple Support insisted that I upgrade my laptop to the newest operating system before they could help me solve the problem. So I did, reluctantly.

It was a big mistake.

More later. I'm trying to do a full back-up, save all the old back-ups (that want to erase themselves), find those missing photos, and figure out a better way to store them so that they never disappear on my again. (Ha.)  Then I plan to regress my laptop back to the older OS, which runs more smoothly on my 7-year-old machine. Even Apple thinks this is a good idea. (Ha.)

This is the photo that made me realize I was in trouble:


I took this in 2013, and it should be sharp at the usual size here. But something happened to the large, original file. This is as big as it gets. At least it still exists.