Sunday, 25 August 2013

Computers and jaguars

The little Acer Extensa 4630Z that I am typing this on is starting to fail, after more than 4 years of faithful service, many hours a day. It got serviced once, when the cursor froze and stayed frozen. It has done the same thing again and more frequently, but a restart gets things moving again. However, it has now stopped acknowledging its USB ports. That's it, time for a replacement. NOW. 

OMG! The choices! The dilemmas! Back in 2009 it was easy: get the cheapest and be done. Right now I still have a bit of money in the bank, so if I really want to I could get a higher end model. 
I love computers, even though my own use of them is quite basic. Email, social media, the odd youtube, blog, organize photos, listen to podcasts. 

No designing, no office work, no gaming, no downloading movies, rarely downloading music. The Extensa has been perfectly adequate.  

I am considering a $369 machine that has twice the RAM and hard drive of my present one, which I got for $450 in 2009. The price of bread keeps going up, but the circus is getting cheaper. Why not just get it? It is all I need.

It just occurs to me: I love computers the way some people love cars. A Honda civic may get them through life just fine, that doesn't stop them from drooling over a Jaguar.
I drool over my son's Macbook Air. I go "aaaww..." at the sight of tiny netbooks. 

Is that enough reason to splurge on an ultra book, instead of a regular laptop? I'll get back to researching and agonizing.
A day later. Thinking out loud here. This is for personal use, boring, don't bother reading. 

I am nowhere near a final choice, but I decided on a medium splurge. This is something I use daily, especially in the cool seasons. If an extra $300/400 makes me smile every time I pick it up over the next 3 or 4 years, that's a lot of pleasure for $ 2 a week. We are not talking top of the line, just middle instead of lowest.

I am getting a lot of help from this buyer guide. 

When reading reviews, know what is important to you.

I type with 4 fingers, so who cares if the reviewer gets 52 words per minute instead of 63? However, the quality of the touch pad is super important. I don't do mice. Some Asus machines were nixed because that was their weak spot. I might get a touch screen or not, though the thought of swiping a vertical surface does not appeal. But with Windows 8 becoming the new normal  the quality of the touch pad becomes even more vital. 

Display: I waste enough time on the net without gaming, regular is good enough. There are no roommates on the couch wanting to share, so viewing angles also don't matter.

Weight: The laptop will be exactly that. It will be moved from room to room, but will not be carried in a backpack to office or campus. The Extensa has a 14 inch screen. I really like that size, though I am not wedded to it.

Battery life: since we stay at home anyway, it doesn't matter much. This faithful beastie has no battery life at all. 

Design. While colour will certainly not be the defining factor I love Gerda's remark below about the car that was the wrong colour.  Brushed aluminum makes me smile.

Optical drives are getting hard to find. We have pictures on CD/DVD that never got uploaded to the net yet. 
On the other hand, I can use the old machine to do that.

I can't believe how much time I have wasted on the search for the perfect compromise. Apart from cooking a good lunch, being an ear for a friend on the phone and vacuuming the living room this is all I have done all day. Time to end the agony.

I ended up ordering a silver 14 inch touch screen HP sleekbook for $599.

P.S. This whole episode has been a perfect illustration of the Paradox of Choice. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

July, where did you go? Emerging from life in the construction zone.

I have not blogged lately, or visited friends' blogs. life has been too chaotic. Things are settling down now, and I even found the camera. 
Apart from it being garden and visitor season, we are just emerging from life in a construction zone. 
Home on our ten acres of paradise is a mobile home AKA trailer, built AD 1976, bought by us in excellent shape in 1987. It is 14 foot wide and has an equally wide addition consisting of a  third bedroom and a covered deck. I like the lay-out, with a bright living room at one end and bedrooms and bathroom to the other side of the kitchen.  Some trailers have the living room in the middle, where it becomes more like a corridor than a room. I hate those. 

The dwelling is entirely sufficient for our needs and I quite like it. There are reasons we ended up in it instead of in the owner-built log home, but never mind those now. I have to guard against what we might call Leda's Egg Syndrome*, wanting to fill in too much back story.

Any building needs maintenance, including old trailers. The key to make trailers last in snow country is a sound free-standing roof over the whole thing. We finally got one of those in 2008. Much trouble and expense could have been saved by doing it twenty years sooner.

We had a few half-baked repairs to shore up the place in the past, but we knew there were serious problems. We crossed our fingers hoping for the best. Trailers are not built to last centuries, but neither are we.
To make a long story short, thanks to the legacy of my dear frugal sister we finally had a thorough job done by professionals who specialize in restoring old trailers. It took a large chunk of the windfall, but we now have a structurally sound dwelling, supposedly good  for another twenty years. Which is most likely longer than we are good for. This new ceiling will not come crashing down around our ears.
The whole process, including inevitable delays and complications, took a full month. During that time the deck was full of tools and supplies. Even when the crew was away it did not feel inviting. So much for my summer living room.
The yard was littered with piles of refuse and building materials, and our stuff was piled in the reflexology room while the bedrooms got done. The crew was a great combination of youth and experience, and respectful of working around our living space.
The pile above was on the side. The stuff on the lawn prevented a badly needed mow to add to the general sense of grubbiness.
Most of that time our cat went in hiding during the day. During a rare visit she fell in love with a micro fiber dish cloth. She treated it like catnip. Go figure.
For good measure the grandson is here half the week for the summer, and would you believe this was the time my dear friend Linda could finally visit for a week? She has had a standing invitation since February. 
Linda is the only person I could imagine hosting in those conditions. "I'll just fold myself into a corner" said she, as she came bearing gifts of cake and a giant lasagna.
Linda's daughter Chandra took this picture of us on the way back from an impromptu visit to the old house that Linda and her first partner John built back in the seventies.  This is the house featured in this memory  of the old off-grid times.
The present inhabitant was kind enough to let us in and show us around. The place has been lovingly restored and even improved upon. The old core is rock solid and still there. As Linda remarked: "I carried every one of those logs!" It was a bittersweet moment. Sad that she lost it, but pleased to know that the house she built is still there and is loved. To us, it will always be John and Linda's house, haunted by good memories of neighbourhood parties lit by oil lamps, with our slumbering toddlers tucked away in corners while the adults hung out.

Neighbour/Friend Beverley, who was our rock last summer, gave a party at her house on July 21, the day I turned 70. It was wonderful, and what a contrast with last year! In 2012 this was the first day post-colon surgery. 

The next evening a new friend organized a full moon paddle on the lake in a borrowed canoe that was pure magic.
The summer is flying by too fast. The weather was glorious all month, with 2 good rains in between endless sunshine. I got all dressed in red and white for Canada Day. Somehow I felt slimmer and prettier than this picture shows.
In a way I feel as if that wonderful sunny July was wasted. There were no days when we had neither builders nor grandson. In the past the kid and I would go to the beach, but a self-conscious teen has other desires. While I can relate, I missed my beach time and my pleasant yard. Not complaining, just stating. The construction work benefited from the good weather, and I certainly got more summer joy than the average cubicle dweller or than my house-bound friend Rosie. The overall feeling has been gratitude, but still.

The builders left for the last time Friday August 2, just in time for the planned visit from our nephew and family from Alberta the next day. I love those people. We so enjoy having family in the country apart from the ones I gave birth to! Linda's lasagna in the freezer came in handy to feed the crowd. The girls are now 9 and 10 and had a great time torturing their 15-year old second cousin. Tim took this picture of our Catan game on the last morning. Keevan even got up for it, at the for him ungodly hour of 9 AM.
 Things quieted down after that. The weather has changed from clear dry heat to muggy, with a constant threat/promise of thunder showers. We had one much-needed rain but need more. I am still reorganizing all the displaced stuff. The kids are coming over for a few days at the end of this week. I am looking forward to the visit, and to devoting undivided energy to the gardens afterwards. We have garlic. Life is good.

*Homer was praised for not starting the Iliad with the egg from which Helen of Troy had emerged. In case you're wondering, the egg resulted from the rape of Leda by Zeus in the guise of a swan. See what I mean?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A lovely Saturday, and a question: conscientious or crazy?

It has been ages, I know. Life has been hectic here. I am working on a longer update but meanwhile, just this snippet.

I come home from a leisurely Saturday morning in the village. This was the big book and bake sale at the library. I dropped off some Focaccia loaves as my contribution and was supposed to help out at the bake table. Since the other lady was quite able to run the place solo, I loaded up on a huge box of delicious books for a ridiculously low price. Now we have to find room for them. What is the book equivalent of 'your eyes are bigger than your stomach'?
Then I checked out the adjoining rummage sale at the museum, which shares a historic building with the library, and lucked upon two items. A brand-new toaster oven, and a super nifty spice rack with 20 jars. After that I made my belated way to the market to hang out with friends over coffee, and checked out the Thrift store, just in case. Scored  another perfectly good pair of petite pants.
All this while basking in the summer warmth. Not too hot, not too cold, just right and I am loving every blessed minute I am out in it.

So now we get home. And I decide to organize the spices right away. By this time I am hungry, have butter fingers and end up spilling a few tablespoons of peppercorns on the counter, which is already littered with other spilled aromatic substances. I grab  dust pan and a cloth. And the peppercorns talked to me. "Do you realize how precious we used to be? Don't you remember that Columbus was  searching for a better route to the Spice Islands? Do the words doldrums and scurvy no longer mean anything to you?" And I ended up picking most of the peppercorns up Juan Valdez style, one by one.

So I ask you: was this conscientious, or just crazy?