Archive for March, 2011

Migration — Falling Women

March 31, 2011

Monday, November 17, 2008
A thrilling weekend. On Saturday Larry and I took a bus trip with about 30 other people to Foxwoods Casino. We don’t normally gamble, and this was only my third trip to a casino in my life, not counting a convention I went to years ago in Atlantic City. But the trip was a fundraiser for a girls softball team that one of our friends coaches. We each received $10 off dinner and a chance to win a trip to the Caribbean. So we’re standing in line to get a “Dream Rewards” card we needed to enter the drawing. While we’re standing there an ambulance pulls up outside. The patient must have had an injured back or neck because they wheeled in a back board on the stretcher. Just as the EMT went by, two women lurched past us, the one behind grabbing for the one in front. The first woman staggered and collapsed a couple of feet from where Larry was standing. In the process, she knocked over a sign – fortunately didn’t land on it. He was the first one to get to her, ascertained that she’s breathing – in fact had already opened her eyes, though they weren’t too focused. She told the security guard, who was trying to recall the EMTs, that she’s seven and a half months pregnant, diabetic, and hadn’t eaten all day.

Once we knew that she had help, Larry and I got back in line, saying to each other – why in all that’s holy would she be at a casino at 5 in the afternoon if she was in that situation? She looked otherwise healthy and prosperous: nice clothes, good skin tone, good teeth, etc. So she wasn’t poverty stricken. Just completely lacking in common sense I guess.

The rest of the evening was blessedly uneventful, but we didn’t get home until 12:30 a.m. after hitting the ground running about 7 a.m. to finish laundry and housework because I knew I’d be …

Out on Sunday about noon to pick up my sister-in-law Deb. We headed to Hartford to answer phones for Connecticut Public Television. Since the state doesn’t have a major-league professional sports team, most folks substitute a passion for University of Connecticut sports, and the women’s basketball team ranks tops with us (not to mention tops with the sports editors around the nation right now!) CPTV broadcasts the games and does other good stuff, so we like to support the TV station, too.

We had a blast. First, I ran into my friend Tina Brown (not the dailybeast Tina but the Hartford Courant Tina A. Brown whose book terrific Crooked Road Straight is doing fabulously well.) It was great to reconnect in person. Before our fundraising effort started, they fed us a gourmet meal catered by Rizzuto’s – bread with rosemary olive oil, salad that included delicious baby yellow beets, penne with broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, asparagus and onion, and chicken piccata (I moused out the artichokes and some capers). The desserts were to die for – biscotti and macaroons and little star cookies and some other kind of cookies and some chocolate things that looked like little hats. I’d go back again just to get another meal like that.
The actual phone answering was more fun than work. Things started a bit slow, picked up a bit at half-time, and turned manic once the game was over. People waited to call because Georgia Tech was giving UConn a fit – hitting three-pointers left and right. We pulled it out 82-71, but it was close until well into the second half. Not a relaxing way to start the season.
At one point during a lull in the phone calls, I heard this thump-thump and looked up. A woman had fallen over backward off the wooden riser across the room from me. She managed to wedge herself between the back wall of the studio and the riser. People rushed to her aid, and she said she was OK but I’ll bet she’s sore today.
An exciting weekend that could have used a bit less trauma!

Trend Confusion

March 31, 2011

I thought I had seen the end of my dispute with Trend Micro. Based on the last email I received yesterday, I spent some time trying to locate “change subscription” information, which was not where it was supposed to be. After one erroneous maneuver, I found the right spot and followed the instructions. Another item checked off on the “to do” list, I thought.

But no, when I logged on today I received the following: “At your request a return has been initiated. Your request to return items will expire in 7 days. You must follow the instructions below before your request expires. We are unable to issue a refund before these instructions are followed.” I did as instructed and found a message saying that I had already complied with the request.

Then I received this from “Conrad” – whose name may actually be Conrad. “The amount will credit back in your account within 5-7 business days. Note: We would appreciate a response from you within 24 to 48 hours from the date you receive this email.” So I went into the system, only to be informed, again, that I had complied with the all the requirements.

The next email read: “You have received this system-generated email because the recent service request you had with us has been closed. It was closed because we have either received confirmation from you or we have not received a reply from you within 5 days after our last correspondence.” It went on to ask for feedback. I’m sending them links to these entries.

But wait, there’s more! The next started: You’re No Longer Protected! in 18-point bold blue Verdana type. The email went on to say that my subscription had been canceled and ended “renew now” in slightly smaller letters. I understand now how all those other folks got ripped off.

The next  email did confirm that I had jumped through all the hoops correctly. Finis. (I hope.)

Migration — More ’Coincidences’

March 30, 2011

Friday, November 14, 2008
The Universe threw two more of those “coincidences” at me – one yesterday and one today. I have been intending to reread Maya Angelou’s poetic and gruesome memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in preparation for a seminar I’m leading next year at Grambling State University. Last night after dinner I pulled the book off the shelf and glanced at the chapter I wanted to highlight. Set it with the rest of the materials I’ll be reading. A few minutes later I picked up last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. (On schedule as the next issue hasn’t appeared yet. Not as caught up with the Magazine as I’m still reading the one from October 19.) Read enough of a review of Loot to decide that I’ll probably wait for the paperback edition. Also decided that Tony Hillerman treated the subject in a much more interesting fashion. (See ” ‘Sinister Pig’ on Metro North“). Turned the page and gaped at the headline “The Caged Bird Speaks,” a review of Alex and Me, Irene M. Pepperberg’s account of her 30 years with Alex, the African gray parrot who not only learned to speak but also came to understand concepts and to spell.
Just as I was about to post this entry, I turned on the radio, and the Universe sent a joke of a quiz show that had to do with whaling. It seemed the host had taken the questions about Melville’s sources for Moby-Dick directly from two books that I had just finished. (The answers were the killing of a white sperm whale named Mocha Dick and the sinking of the ship Essex by a sperm whale.)
Wondering why the Universe is sending this stuff. Watching and listening for more …

Down the Rabbit Hole With Trend Micro

March 30, 2011

I should have listened to the computer guy who came to rid the machine of its virus last year. (“A Choice of English.” But I couldn’t find the program he mentioned as I misunderstood what he said. Anyway I renewed Trend Micro, which he said was eating up way too much bandwidth and had obviously flunked virus prevention.

All was fine until this latest virus attack, now fully recovered. Then I discovered that Trend Micro had launched its own attack. Among other exciting weekend adventures, we met with our tax guy. The experience was not as painful as expected so I started working on my accounts for the beginning of this year, logging in expenses. About half way in, I noticed Trend Micro charges on two separate credit card bills. Tried calling, but of course one cannot actually talk to a human being, so I decided to chat. “Conrad” came on the line with promptitude. (It’s not a word but it should be.) Conrad’s initial message indicated that I was only “charge” once. I said, no, twice and that was “charged” with a “d.”

CONRAD: It only appears that there is only one transaction happened on our end, if in the billing statement you saw two charges this might be a “Pre-authorization hold”. [At this point I decided to ignore grammar, spelling, syntax, etc. unless the message was totally incomprehensible.] A pre-authorization is a temporary hold to verify that funds are available when you place an order. It happens when we use our card to a merchant to check if our card can still cover the amount of transaction. Pre-authorizations are typically removed from your card transaction history when the full charge processes and funds are withdrawn. However, in some cases, this process can take up to 2 business days. Rest assured, you will only be charged once for your purchase of the subscription. Please note that card transaction history may display both the pre-authorization and the completed payment as full charges for up to 5 to 7 business days from the date of purchase. If you need assistance removing a pre-authorization from your debit card transaction history, please contact your bank or financial institution.

At this point I realized that the script writer wrote like English was a second, or maybe third, language. I explained to “Conrad” that Trend had received two payments in January from two different credit cards and gave him the dates. There was no indication on either bill that “pre-authorization” was involved. He asked if he could put me on hold. I said yes, wondering if I could ask him where I could find the hold button my computer. I was on hold long enough to read and delete 10 emails, including a couple of newsletters.

CONRAD: It seems that your product has been renew twice. Did you manually renew your Trend Micro Software?

Two problems: 1) This guy has a problem with the past tense. 2) I “ha” no idea what he was talking about. I asked what he meant and once we got that straightened out, he returned to the issue at hand.

CONRAD: What I can do is make a refund request to our online reseller. And I will also cancel the auto-renewal of your product so you will not be billed anymore. The amount will be credit back to your account within 5 to 7. You will also receive a confirmation email of the refund request.

I asked if he meant days, and he said yes.

It’s obvious that I am not alone but I’m not sure if the problem is Order Find or Trend Micro.

After I wrote the above, the following popped up in my email inbox: “As promise, I’ve already request a refund to our online reseller.” Along with a new billing company, Trend Micro needs to teach basic grammar or at least have someone rewrite the scripts. I’d volunteer but I’d be too tense to change tenses. Even scarier: Microsoft’s spel czech wants to change the first “renew” to “renewing” and missed the rest of the flubs.

Migration — Learning Excel

March 29, 2011

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thought it would be Hell.
It’s not.

My Second Kindle Purchase

March 29, 2011

After purchasing Fractured Anecdotes, and laughing my way through it, I promised myself I’d catch up on various dead trees and ink books lying around the house before otherwise launching into Kindle. I’ve now reduced the pile to eight, or ten, or twelve. But I decided that there was something I needed to have on board. Something that I will read now and probably return to later, which is pretty much my standard for buying. Anything else I can get from the Russell Library or from one of Wesleyan’s several venues.

So over the weekend I downloaded (is that the right word when it takes maybe a second or two — should it be I kindled?)  Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, who goes in search of the black capital of the USA. She looks far and wide – and also near and dear. The first review I read mentioned the “Messenger,” who marks up the sidewalks with chalk. Here was Cesar the Writing Man from Ann Petry’s The Narrows come to life in twenty-first century Harlem. He had moved from a small Connecticut port town. And when a voice behind her asked her if she planned to go home, I thought about the Super from The Street. Harlem Is Nowhere is obviously neither of those works of fiction, but I’m sure other parallels will surface.

I find reading the Kindle at night after staring at a computer screen all day a bit difficult so it may take some time to finish. Stay tuned …

Migration — New Experience

March 26, 2011

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A frustrating morning reading microfilm borrowed from the Family History Library. The microfilm reader/printer was almost as old as the records I was looking at – dating back to the 18th century. First the thing didn’t want to thread properly. Then as I was in the middle of reading a page, the screen light went out. The volunteer shut the machine off and turned it back on. The light came back on but went off again a few minutes later. The woman sitting at the next machine said the solution was to brighten or darken the bulb only. I had seen the button, but since it was part of the print menu, I assumed it related to the printer function.

Got started again and found a few records, though I’m suspicious that some of the information may be filed under elusive spellings.

Moved on to the second reel and discovered it was black background with white type. Almost impossible to read and dreadful for my poor eyes. The type was so faint I couldn’t make out even the names in capital letters at the tops of the pages. The volunteer turned out the overhead lights in the room, and I moved the images as far to the left of the screen as possible. Still no good. The most tech savvy employee in the place, who was trying to get rid of an error message on the other machine, suggested I try printing. The pages came out blank or so faint they were illegible. When we switched from negative to positive mode, the pages came out black. She wasted about six sheets of paper and then gave up.

I was finally able to make out the information by brightening the image and then enlarging it – but not too far because then it became too fuzzy. Fives began looking like sixes or eights, etc. I resigned myself to copying the information I needed by hand and then the volunteer announced, “Well, I’ll be leaving at noon – we all need a lunch break.” I had just barely started and wanted to leave the reel on the machine so I could return at one o’clock, but it turns out that the woman who scheduled me neglected to say that my reservation was only good for the morning. One person had signed up for both machines at 1 p.m. Plus the other machine wasn’t working at all when I left. Can’t go back until next Wednesday.

And they have the nerve to charge for this stuff?

What I’m Reading Now

March 26, 2011

This entry was supposed to go up on March 24, 2011. Viruses got in the way.

I sneaked Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris from the hospital reading collection thinking it would be good light reading. It is and it isn’t. The monologues included on This American Life are mostly wildly funny with small pinches of pathos. The full length versions of the essays? short stories? in the book encompass far more depth and breadth.  They are darker — we learn that Sedaris had a crack habit and failed miserably as a writing workshop instructor at an art school despite his expansive knowledge of daytime soap operas. And I actually cried over the death of Neil the cat until he described what he did with her ashes.

Still, there’s (oxymoron alert!) serious humor here.  His mother adores the vase that her younger son gives her and keeps wildflowers in the skull-shaped bong that his brother left on the coffee table in the living room. And I can hear D.S. singing old TV commercials in the voice of Billie Holiday.

Not great literature, but great fun to read.



Migration — What I’m Reading Now

March 26, 2011

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I still don’t know why I put Jessie L. Weston’s Ritual to Romance on my list of books to borrow from Wesleyan’s library. Must have read about it somewhere, but who knows where? The complete text is online, but I suspect I decided it would be better to have the dead trees and ink version in order to read in comfort.
Anyway, I’m about half way through and am finding tough going. Ms. Weston propounds the theory that the Holy Grail as presented in the Arthurian legend had its roots in ancient India and in the death-rebirth rituals of that pervade agricultural societies from Babylon to Greece.
The details of her argument would be much easier to understand if great chunks of the text weren’t in ancient German and French that looks like it was written around the time of Chaucer with estre for être, lor for leur and hom for homme. And those are the words I recognize! Since the book was published in 1920, Ms. Weston assumed that her readers would be literate in the ancient and modern versions of both languages. I was just grateful that she translated the “Lament for Tammuz” from the original  Babylonian and didn’t decide that her readers were literate in that as well.
One mystery at this point: Why does Ms. Weston omit, or at least postpone, references to the death and resurrection of Jesus as part of the continuum? She finds evidence of this ritual from ancient times up to the early twentieth century where it remained a practice among the Shilluk people of southern Sudan. They worship the king as the incarnation of the demigod who brings the rain. He holds power until he can no longer “satisfy the desires of his wives.” At that point he is put to death and thereafter worshiped as the demigod. With references to such rituals from every corner of the globe over several millennia, why ignore the largest death-and-resurrection cult of them all?
A related mystery is why Ms. Weston writes extensively about the role of water in the rituals but fails to mention its obvious symbolism. She reiterates the need for water to nourish the land, the animals, and the people, but she omits its other role representing spirituality. Purification of the spirit is achieved often through the application of water – Christianity’s baptism being the most obvious contemporary example. In many of the death and resurrection rituals she describes, the people consign the body of the dead king to the water.
She explains the history of the Tarot in developing her argument, even calling the suit of Cups “Grail” at one point. Most writers on the subject of the esoteric aspects of the deck agree that the suit of Cups is ruled by the element of water. The picture on the Ace of Cups in the Rider deck is a representation of the Grail itself. It shows a hand holding a chalice from which five streams of water flow into a pool. A dove appears to be dipping the host emblazoned with a Greek cross into the chalice. The drops of water around the chalice form Yods, divine points of energy according to Hebrew tradition, and representing spiritual knowledge in the esoteric tradition.
Maybe Ms. Weston will get to the water-chalice connection in the romance section of the book, though I peeked ahead and it doesn’t look as if she does. Despite these omissions, Ritual to Romance is fascinating.

Make-up Post

March 25, 2011

Posted nothing last night because the computer caught a virus, actually several. But Nerds to Go took care of the problems with dispatch and I was back up and running about 24 hours. Thanks for the suggestion, Harv! Will post a more substantive entry later.