a non-political rant

I had planned to shoot my mouth off tonight about obstructionist legislators, prevaricating PACs establishing the Tea Party Express purely to profit their PR firms, and even about how Organizing For America is a grassroots way to combat the effects of the Astroturf groups and try to stanch the inevitable hemorrhaging of Democratic Congressional, Senate and gubernatorial seats this November. I was also going to comment on the calm, articulate, passionate and sensible speech by DNC Chmn. Tim Kaine I attended tonight and contrast it to the bizarro parallel universe that his home state Virginia (or at least its new executive branch) seems to have become overnight. (My sister in Arlington brought me down to earth by reminding me I voted for Blago.....twice).  I was going to comment on how CA seems hell-bent on digging itself into further fiscal ruin with a proposition to require a 2/3 plebiscite before gov't units can run electric utilities (a la Seattle City Light, which when I lived there was dirt cheap compared to private utilities) so that instead private utility companies can continue to rob them blind; and how it all started to go blooey when Proposition 13 (which declared taxes the moral equivalent of leprosy) was passed and enacted and how politics by plebiscite always results in amateurs messing up their government much worse than the professional politicians ever did.

Well, whaddaya know--I just got in a political rant anyway. Now for the promised non-political (but equally furious) one.

I am convinced that electrical and electronic devices (nationwide) have decided to go on strike against us, their humans.  I have no idea what they're demanding--more competent and careful users? Cheaper power? Better quality batteries (put down those 48-packs of Kirkland AAs and back slowly away toward the Duracell Ultras...)?  Compulsory surge protectors for all? Who the heck knows?

But friends, mark my words--they've begun to revolt. We've had the cable guys out three times (after having had appointments blown off), contacted TiVo countless times, and the channel guide still doesn't come up (so Gordy has to sneak upstairs and commandeer my satellite DVR).  You see, the new TiVos don't work with DirecTV, DirecTV doesn't work in storms, antennae don't work in high winds (and this is Chicago).  And this house has two men addicted to sports and the necessity of being able to program Slovenian women's curling at 4 am, and two similarly addicted to The Tudors and other stuff we can get only on satellite.

Yeah, if we watch that much TV, we have too much time on our hands. But wait--there's more. First, I boot up my 2-yr-old MacBook (still under warranty) and find two vertical green lines on the screen that never were there before; it works but I'd like to wipe the hard drive for use as a recording machine, yet every time I erase files MobileMe helpfully re-syncs them. (I'm using the MacBookPro we bought last year for both Bob & me to use, but he is still afraid of Macs).  At the same time, the brand-new second-generation MacBook I bought Gordy two months ago suddenly developed a weird sort of "num lock" that will not allow letter input except from an external keyboard.  We went into System Preferences and to every forum we could find, and could do nothing but appropriate an unused USB keyboard. So it was off to the Apple Store.  Lo and behold, the Genius Bar's verdict was the same:"we have no idea what the heck's going wrong but your machine looks like it's been dropped and your son's has this little brown spot which means he must have spilled coffee" (though said spot's inches from any aperture or crevice) and "That's abuse, not ordinary wear and tear." So we're out not just the cost of Apple Care but would have to face a $700 screen replacement for me and $800 keyboard & circuitry replacement for Gordy.  I sighed, bought him a wireless keyboard & mouse that'll fit into his backpack, and an LCD monitor to hook up to my old MacBook (which I finally learned how, after an hour chatting with someone in Bangalore, to turn off MobileMe sync on just that machine).

Ah, but wait. There's more. You will remember that three years ago, after Bob couldn't find exit signs off the Tollway for Oakbrook and gave up and drove home (skipping a killer free steak dinner), I bought him a GPS unit. I programmed it and set up the live traffic subscription, and offered to hook it up to his car. He kept demurring. (Turns out a cataract was what kept him from finding the road signs). Now, he has decided he wants to use the GPS. But he lost all the adaptors and mounts and traffic-receiver power cable.  All I could do was jury-rig a USB/mini-USB cable, register it and update all the maps (despite it being a now-discontinued model), and charge it up. It'll navigate only on battery power--plug it into a power source and all it'll do is recharge. So it was off to the Best Buy. (Beginning to sense a pattern here)?  Go to the GPS dept. and find a whole host of accessories....none of which will fit the old-style shorter data port and flip-up antenna.  I try eBay and Amazon and find only used and suspiciously off-brand stuff.  So.......sigh......hadda buy a new (albeit cheaper than the ersatz accessories) GPS with the bells and whistles. And three guesses who has to set it up and install it? (Doctors don't do anything more technological than press a remote control button once they go off-duty).

Then Gordy announced, "Ma, I need a new phone." Not so awful--the thing's way past contract and the new ones he could get are smarter and many are free. But what happened? Um, it fell in his Dr. Pepper. (Don't ask--beats falling in puddles, toilets, or being fallen upon, all fates that have befallen the phones of the men in my home). So I ask him if he wants a Pre, Pixi, Blackberry, or Android phone. "Nope, Ma, you know I can't have good things." (My heart broke upon hearing that). So we made an appointment to go get one of the few "stupid phones" still on the market; but by morning it had dried and was working fine again. (And he can text faster and more grammatically on a phone keypad than I can on a QWERTY keyboard).  Of course, the MacBook's keyboard hasn't taken its cue from that banged-up, abused, three-year-old Samsung "dumb phone."

Then I tried to organize my Facebook friends by location and category so that I don't invite club owners in Scotland to a house concert in Wisconsin.  But Facebook keeps choking on that and either tells me I "have no lists" or mysteriously denies me access to my friends list but lets me into my Wall and Profile.  I want to link my friends page to Twitter, but somehow only my fan pages are eligible. Hmmm......2200 friends vs. 260 fans vs. 20 Twitter followers...something needs to be done. Only Twitter won't recognize my login info to put the widget on my friend page.....but it will when I tweet.

But it's not just this house. My singing partner Steve's car CD player suddenly rejects discs that play fine on mine or on our computers. My assistant Carrie's home computer died and her DSL was slower than a Chicago road crew on coffee break. So her sole means of digital communication is her BlackBerry.  My coffee-roasting buddy Brett in Iowa had his $1000 espresso machine's solid brass boiler crack on him. Half the tablet PC's Bob and his colleagues were issued to comply with new electronic recordkeeping rules either are touch-insensitive or are Dragon-Unnaturally-Speaking (or maybe they understand only input in "Dragon" rather than English, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish or Lithuanian). Friends are reporting leaky roofs, rotting pipes, sputtering amps, you name it.

Now, to be fair, some of my best friends are IT professionals. (Betcha thought I was gonna say "machines." I have a much healthier social life than that).   Is there something you guys know that we mortals don't? And does anyone know who the Electrical Devices' Union's shop stewards are so I can negotiate. (My buddies in Local 1000 and 10-208 of the AFM know how much I abhor being "management"). 

Or do these devices feel that Congress has neglected them in favor of human constituents?

Anyway, it's past three a.m., I have a full day and you honestly don't want me setting up ANYTHING electronic right around now.

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