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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apple Computer Geniuses to the Rescue

Personal Weather Report - Calming trend with relief from former high pressure.

Writing Activity - Other than emails, nothing at all.

Five days have passed since my trusty Apple® put on a spectacular light show, resulting in one third of the screen hiding beneath ever-changing bands of color and leaving me hungering to know what's wrong with my computer. Following numerous calls to Apple to clear up a registration snafu, the apparent result of another customer's typo causing a different person to be listed as owner of the iMac with my serial number, I received the go-ahead to take my sidekick to the Apple store yesterday.

After driving one hour into the heart of Sacramento from my home in the Sierra Foothills, I took the first parking spot I found, grasped my computer firmly and headed for the Apple Store. Not venturing to the big city on my own very often, I didn't realize how far away I'd parked. Many heads turned as I lugged my computer across the food court, through Macy's and up the escalator to the second floor. By the time I saw the familiar Apple logo on the front of the store, my arms ached.

A nice salesclerk in a turquoise tee relieved me of my burden as soon as I entered and directed me to a gal clad in bright orange, the "Concierge." She checked me in, told me there would be a wait as they were a bit behind schedule and assured me that, yes, my name was on the list of those who'd made an online appointment, mine being at 12:20 p.m.

For over an hour I stood in front of the Genius Bar™ watching my name creep from number five to number one on the large overhead screens, thoughts of a late lunch flitting through my mind. As I waited, I made a quick perusal of the new products. Thankfully I'd used my hubby's laptop the day before and realized I'm not a fan, or I might have been tempted by the sleek Mac Book Air. I did waylay one of the many busy clerks and purchased an external hard drive, one more precaution to prevent potential data loss.

My sale complete, I did what any writer would do. I watched people. Clerks scurried to assist one customer after another, sales of iPod-related products being brisk. Children as young as two sat on bean bag style balls playing computer games on screens the size of soccer fields. And those clad in black behind the Genius Bar worked minor miracles, many resolving problems faster than I can scarf down a Taco Bell burrito.

A realization struck me as I stood in a store surrounded by Apple products and filled with eager customers. I'd entered a safe zone. Not one person in that crowded shop questioned my loyalty to my Apple computer. No. They shared it.

As the noon hour came and went, my hunger pangs grew. But no way would I risk leaving the shop and missing my turn. When my name finally appeared at the top of the list, I rejoiced. After an hour and a half, I got to talk with a wizard, as I refer to those bright individuals who understand the inner workings of mind-boggling machines that can store more data than I'll produce in a lifetime.

The "Genius" who assisted me assured me that despite all the hassles I had proving ownership of my machine and its extended warranty over the phone, he would take care of me. The fact that I had the original receipt, my copy of the protection plan agreement and the actual computer convinced him I'm the rightful owner.

When the technician plugged in my computer, I held my breath until my iMac came on with the wacky third of the screen visible just as I'd said it would be. Visions of my computer proving me wrong and starting up without a glitch vanished as I released an audible whoosh of air. His eyebrows rose as a vertical band of black an inch wide separated the working portion of the screen from a damaged four inch section on which the image repeated itself.

An I-told-you-so grin spread across my face as the right hand side of the screen proceeded to dance, erupting into a light blue pattern with horizontal lines, one I hadn't seen before. Two other Geniuses' eyebrows rose as they witnessed the spectacle. After a whispered exchange with another technician, mine told me my screen didn't need replacing. Most likely the trouble is with the logic board. Sounds serious to me, but he didn't seem concerned, so I gulped inaudibly. With his flying fingers a blur over the keyboard of his laptop, the young man typed voluminous notes as I watched and wondered.

Half an hour after my summons to the Genius Bar, the technician looked up from his computer and nodded. Unsure what his gesture signified, I asked if he was going to ship my computer somewhere to be fixed. No, he told me. The work would take place in the back room. I smiled and asked, "So, there are more of you wizards working back there?" The young man servicing an iBook next to us smiled at that. I'd read the front of his black tee earlier. "Not all heroes wear capes." So true. A sense of relief washed over me as I headed out to finally get some lunch.

And now I wait as my computer works its way to the front of the queue, a process that may take a week. My daughter offered to share her older model iMac. I appreciate her generosity, but oh, how I miss my computer with my bookmarks, address book and latest version of programs. Going from warp nine to warp five is tough, but I'm grateful I have a machine to use until the Apple Geniuses come to my rescue.

Have you dealt with a computer crisis? If so, how did you cope? What lessons did you learn from the experience?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One Bad Apple . . .

Personal Weather Report - Extreme Turbulence. Thunderstorms Threatening.

Writing Activity - Judging Contest Entries and Preparing Blog Guest Interviews.

My Apple® is behaving badly, and I'm bummed to the core.

Several months ago, my beloved iMac® developed a minor problem. A bright yellow vertical line appeared about one inch from the right edge of the screen. My hubby, who is more technically savvy than I, said the line was about a pixel wide and suggested I take my computer into the shop right away to have the tech reps check out the problem.

Did I heed his advice? Um, no. I mean, the line was no big deal. It wasn't as though it was in the way, since that's the portion of my desktop where I store the icons for my hard drive and most active folders.

A couple of months went by, and the little yellow line was no longer lonely. A pretty lavender line the same size as the first appeared about two inches from it. Summer was fast approaching, and my hubby, who is a teacher and is off during June and July, tactfully suggested that might be a good time to have my machine serviced, even offering to help with the process.

Do you think I listened? Nope. I needed my machine, you see. The Romance Writers of America® national conference was coming up, and I was hard at work revising the manuscript I was going to pitch to an agent and editor. Not only that, but I'd just launched my first website and two blogs and had much to do to get them running smoothly. I couldn't possibly part with my computer at such a time.

Toward the middle of the summer a faint white vertical band three inches wide showed up on the left side of my screen. The desktop showed through it just fine, and opened documents covered it up, so I was still good to go. Plus, the band mysteriously disappeared not long after I returned from the conference.

So, did I head to the Apple store's Genius counter? No. If a large white band had come and gone, I convinced myself the two little lines would fade away of their own accord.

Did they? Oh, no! As of yesterday, they have many friends.

I was working away on a guest blogger's interview when my daughter, who was watching over my shoulder at that moment, witnessed my horror as the right one third of my screen began flashing in cool psychedelic patterns. When the light show was over, the right one third of my screen was covered by two wide bands, one an inch wide stripe of black and the other four inches of white.

I freaked! My baby was dying, I was sure of it. I could no longer see anything beneath the bands. In desperation I went on a click and drag frenzy as I sought to find each of the nine icons now buried beneath the blocked screen. I may crumble in the face of disaster, but I am tenacious. I fished for those icons until every one of them rested safely on the left side of the screen. Not trusting even that, I filed them in a folder on the hard drive in case more of my screen disappeared from view.

Thankfully my iMac decided to misbehave on a Saturday when my hubby was home. He is my rock, whereas I'm slippery sand. He returned home from a walk and came to my rescue. As tears of frustration filled my eyes, he pointed out that things could be much worse. I could have lost my data. Thankfully, it appears everything is intact. He put in a call to Apple, and the weekend duty tech set everything up so I can call Monday morning and make an appointment with the Apple store in Sacramento. The rep also said my extended warranty should cover everything.

What now? I watch in fascination as my screen displays various patterns each time I wake it from its sleep. The size and colors of the bands are changing faster than prices at the gas pump.














The most interesting to me is the mirror image band that appears from time to time. A portion of the main screen repeats itself on the damaged section.



If this weren't the computer I rely upon each day, I might enjoy watching the varying patterns and see the beauty in them. But that is not the case.

Instead of admiring my Apple's art displays, I'm busy copying files to my web email account, making backups and figuring out how to deal with my iMac being in the shop for several days.

I don't have to tell you it's not a good time for me to be without my computer, do I? I have contest entries to judge, a guest on my blog tomorrow and interviews to prepare for future guests.

I'm doing my best to learn from this experience. No matter how much I want to believe that my trusty Apple will never give me a moment's trouble, it is, as my rational hubby has reminded me several times over the past twenty-four hours, just a machine. "It's not a matter of if a computer will crash," he says, "it's a matter of when."

So, I'm exploring off-site storage options. Infrequent saves to thumb drives is not enough to satisfy me after this scare. And I've learned that I need to listen to my hubby's sound advice.

Losing the right side of my screen really took a byte out of my day, but I trust the doctors at Apple to work their hardware wizardry and to put a new face on my iMac and a smile on mine.

How often do you backup your files? Do you use an off-site service? If so, which one? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Priceless Smile

Personal Weather Report - Sunny after two days of intermittent showers.

Writing Activity - Read in my genre for fun and research. Prepped for a blog guest's interview.

"Smile!"

My daughter's heard me say that countless times as I trained my camera on her, ready to capture every aspect of her childhood for posterity. She learned to strike a pose at an early age, but the smile didn't always come as easily.

Was she camera shy? No. Since she's been the subject of my photos for seventeen years, she's used to her scrapbooking mom snapping seemingly endless shots. Her hesitation stemmed from the fact that her smile wasn't pretty like the other kids.

Now, how can a proud mom say such a thing? Because it's true. When my daughter was five, like many children that age, she lost her first teeth, creating a cute little gap on the bottom. I awaited the eruption of her first permanent teeth, eager to see those ruffly ridges I find so adorable.

But they weren't there!

Her first two teeth appeared looking like yellowish pieces of chalk. A quick trip to the dentist and then the pediatric specialist revealed the cause. She has a condition called enamel hypopleasia, meaning there is little to no enamel on her permanent teeth. The dentist said it's like a house being built but not painted, thus rendering it susceptible to damage, or in her case, decay.

Fast forward twelve years. Once all of her permanent teeth had erupted, we embarked on the necessary solution to her problem. She has to have crowns on all of her teeth. Yup! Every one of the twenty-eight. (Her wisdom teeth were pulled a couple of years ago.)

First she endured two gum surgeries and a minor amount of orthodontia. With that behind us, it was time to begin work on the crowns. This past Wednesday she was in the prosthodontist's chair for six and a half hours straight getting temporary crowns on all of her upper teeth. Dr. Herlin K. Dyal and her assistants at the Prosthodontic Dental Group in Sacramento, California took wonderful care of my daughter, but the experience was traumatic and painful.

The results, though, are worth it. Not only will she have no further worry about her teeth eroding as they had been, but she's going to end up with Kate Hudson's smile. Dr. Dyal had my daughter choose, and a beautiful copy of Kate's is the goal. She'll get it, too, because Dr. Dyal does exceptional work.

We're still months and several appointments from done, but we can see results now. When our daughter gave us a weak smile after getting home Wednesday, my husband and I shook our heads in wonder, tears threatening to spill down both our faces. Her smile is beautiful. And this is with just the upper temporary crowns in place. We can only imagine how fantastic the final result will be.

We knew for twelve years we faced this mouth reconstruction, so we did our best to prepare, gathering information and saving money (the equivalent of two years at a state college). But even with our preparation, we didn't know how we'd been taken from agony to joy. It tears my husband and me up to watch what our daughter's going through, but all she has to do now is flash those new pearly whites at us, and we rejoice. She has a priceless smile.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Are You Being Followed?

Personal Weather Report - Calm.

Writing Activity - Prepped for two guests at Romance Writers on the Journey, my blog for others, like me, who are seeking publication of their romances.

Don't look now, but your Cyber buddies may be tracing your electronic footsteps. Scary? Maybe at first, but I'm actually inviting people into my world through two new tools.

The first is Twitter. What's that, you ask? At Twitter.com you will find this definition: "Twitter is a service for
friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: 'What are you doing?'" In 140 characters or less a user shares thoughts, observations and the happenings in his or her day.

OK, so why would anyone want to do this? My answer: it's fun. You see, I not only post brief messages about my activities, known as "tweets," but I can also read those of others I'm following. For example, I follow Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, one of the major Christian publishing houses. Another I follow is W. Terry Whalin, a high-powered literary agent and multi-published author. And there are some romance writers whose updates I monitor through Twitter.

Why do I want to know what others are up to? Because I learn a great deal. How often does an unpublished romance writer have daily access to the comings and goings of such powerful publishing pros as I do by following them on Twitter? Rarely. But Twitter affords me that opportunity.

And am I being followed? Yes. Currently two writer friends are keeping tabs on me via my tweets. And you can, too. I've added my Twitter Updates to this blog. Check it out in the sidebar.

Having this blog allows me to follow others as well in a different way. The provider of the service, Blogger, just added a new feature that enables me to show other bloggers I support them by listing me among their followers. The authors of those blogs I visit will know I'm one of their subscribers and regular readers.

In turn, anyone who wants to follow this blog may do so. There's a link in the sidebar where you can sign up. If you do, you'll receive a notification whenever I put up a new post. I know you await every word of wisdom written by yours truly with unrestrained eagerness, so what are you waiting for? Sign up today, and you can follow me. Trench coat, optional.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Coming to The End

Personal Weather Report - Unsettled.

Writing Activity - Still on hiatus. Am reading in my genre for fun and research.

I completed five manuscripts in a period of eighteen months, so I know about endings. They're bittersweet. On the one hand, finishing a story thrills me like little else. On the other, I go through withdrawal. Having spent weeks or months with my characters, I miss them.

I'm coming to the end of a major chapter in my life. My daughter and only child started her senior year of high school. I snapped a picture as she prepared to leave the house the first day of school, a tradition begun when she was in Kindergarten. I acted cheery, but inside wistfulness waged war with excitement.

Yesterday I attended my final Back-to-School night. My throat grew tight as I drove to the campus, realizing this was another in a year-long parade of lasts. I willed myself not to let threatening tears escape.

How am I going to handle this time of transition? Just as I immerse myself in a story when it's pouring forth, my goal is to
savor each event or activity. Instead of focusing on the future, I want to remain in the here and now.

Yes, my daughter's childhood will soon be over, but I could end up missing out on some serious fun if I give in to bouts of melancholy. I want to enjoy this special time in her life.

When The End comes and my husband and I leave our daughter at her college dorm next fall, I don't want to drive away filled with regrets. Bittersweet though the moment will be, I
want to look back on her senior year as having been one of the high points of our time together,

Have you raised a child/children? If so, how did you deal with the transition from childhood to young adulthood?