Category Archives: computer

Sneaky Snapshot

So handsome!

So handsome!

What I love about this photo of C.J.:

First, my beloved baby boy with his gorgeous green-gray eyes.

Second, Skype, which allows me to see my beloved baby boy while he’s in college at Sam Houston State.

Third, the ability to surreptitiously snap a screenshot on my iMac after that beloved baby boy kept ruining my attempts to take a decent photo with my iPhone.

It’s love times three!

Lazy Boys

Jake is in the dining room watching a Jimmy Fallon video.

Jake in the dining room; note his brother on the right side of the MBP screen.

We don’t have a huge house. It’s about 2,500 square feet, a nice-sized (for us) one-story.

But, apparently, it’s much too big for my sons. Last Sunday when I was sitting in the family room near my baby boy, I could hear him talking to someone on his MacBook Air.

“Who are you Skyping?”

He laughed. He was actually Skyping his brother, who was in the dining room! We do tend to text each other in the house, but Skyping? How lazy can you get!

Side-by-side Skyping is noisy!

Side-by-side Skyping is noisy!

The answer? Even lazier! Soon my older son walked into the family room toting his MacBook Pro and sat on the couch next to his little bro. Where they continued to Skype one another.


Then and Now

Looks like he’s happy to be home and back in his spot.

Looks like he’s happy to be home and back in his spot.

Now that my older son has returned from UTSA for his winter break (he drove home last Friday), our family is complete once again. My heart is full to the brim.

One of the first things that Jake does after he walks through the front door is set up his 2010 MacBook Pro in his spot at the far end of the dining room table. That’s been his computing comfort place since he first got his laptop after he graduated from high school three and a half years ago.

Looking at the above photo, I figured that I would check my archives to see how Jake looked with his MBP during his first collegiate winter break in 2010.

More of a baby face at the end of 2010

More of a baby face at the end of 2010

And here he is! What stands out most to me?

First, he’s staring down at the screen. He didn’t like having his photo snapped back then. Now he almost always looks at me and smiles. Love seeing those beautiful blue eyes!

Second, his face has changed so much! From the mere stubble of 2010 to the cute never-quite-filled-in beard, his features are more angular and adult. He’s definitely grown up.

Third, ironically, he’s wearing the exact same shirt in both photos! Yes, it does look faded now, but my Linkin Park fan continues to show his loyalty. As well as his penchant to wear the same t-shirts over and over and over again. How very male of him!

It makes me wonder what the photo of my sweet boy will be like next December. This is his final winter break, continuing his streak of “lasts” this senior year. Hopefully, Jake will be settled in an apartment (perhaps with his BFF, my “third son,” Chase) where he’ll have a new special computing spot.

One thing’s probably certain: I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still wearing that Linkin Park shirt then!

Three Little Words About Apple’s iPad

I think I'm in love!

When Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple, unveiled a new product—the iPad—last week, three little words ran through my mind over and over and over: I want this!

I immediately e-mailed my little brother, the big-shot Chicago lawyer, to see what he thought about it. He pretty much used those same three little words. We both love electronic gadgets, and we both adore Apple products. We can’t wait to own the iPad!

Impossibly slim!

Impossibly slim!

I’ve been using a Mac since 1985 (yep, almost since its inception), and I’ve loved every Apple product I’ve owned. Right now we have five Mac computers (two iMacs, a MacBook, a G5, and a PowerBook), as well as several iPods (including two iPod Touches) and my iPhone. Another iProduct sounds great!

I’ve read a lot about the iPad, which won’t be in our hands until at least late March (for the wifi version). And I’ve been very amused that people are so sure about what it will and won’t be able to do without even seeing it up close and personal.

Here’s my take on it: I think the iPad will be a revolutionary device. The iPod, iPhone, and Mac were evolutionary—they took established devices (the mp3 player, smart phone, and personal computer) in a different, more user-friendly, cool lifestyle-oriented direction.

Spock calls the iPad logical!

But there’s nothing like the iPad right now. Someone wrote that it was a grown-up iPod. It’s positioned between an iPod and a netbook. It’s an eBook reader on steroids: I think it’ll be a great entertainment and web device. The Mister will love it for watching YouTube videos. The #2 son will want it for surfing the web and checking his Facebook page and his PDGA (Professional Disc Golfers of America) rating. #1 will use it to read eBooks, browse the Internet (he’s a Wiki fanatic), and watch his YouTube videos, all while listening to its iPod.

Hope the accessories don't cost too much!

And then there’s me. What won’t I be able to do on my iPad? I love my iPhone, but it’s hard to write much text on, and the screen is usually too small for my 56-year-old eyes. The iPad will be the perfect size for reading blogs, articles, and books; watching videos; writing e-mails; boring everyone with my photos; travel; and maybe even e-penning the next great American novel.

It will be the handiest of devices. And I want it in my hands as soon as possible!

I’ll still use my iMac, especially for Photoshopping, and MacBook. But I’ll really enjoy having the ultimate mobile multimedia device ready to use in my house and when I’m out and about.

The iPad haters talk about what the iPad isn’t, as if any electronic gadget can be all things to all potential users. But I love the haters—it means that they won’t be standing in line with us, waiting to get their grubby hands on our iPads!

Speaking my language!

Guess who signed up to be notified!

Arrrrrr! Fun With Facebook

Arrrrrr! It's Facebook in Pirate English!

Thanks to my high school friend, Sue, I’ve really been enjoying Facebook lately. She passed along the information that if you go to the bottom left side of your Facebook page, you can change the language it’s viewed in. There are lots of choices! There’s even upside-down English (very odd!).

Sue’s sage advice? Opt for experiencing Facebook in pirate English. Great call! Immediately after you click on that choice, you’re transformed into a world that might cause Johnny Depp to be “People” magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. Suddenly your Facebook page is so funny that you can’t wait to read it.

As you can see from the top screen grab, almost everything is translated into pirate-eze. “Live Feed” becomes “Cap’ns Log”; “View News Feed” now is “spy common talk.” That “What’s on your mind?” that encourages you to shout news to the Facebook world first before you tell your closest neighbors? It’s become “What be troublin’ ye?” A very-fitting sentiment for me today.

Pirating your vital statistics and recent activities. Me, saucy?!?

I especially chuckle at how when you friend someone, that you “now be matey’s.” The time that a comment was posted? “’Bout 3 turns o’ yer hourglass ago” or “3 shots o’ rum ago.” If you want to comment, you “weigh in.” To show that you like what’s on the original poster’s mind is “Arrr, This be pleasin’ to me eye.” Videos are called “bewitched portraits” (sounds almost Harry Potterish). You might be notified that a friend “flapped gums ’bout your recent tales.” Love that “flappin’ gums” line!

Even the notifications you get from Facebook via e-mail are in pirate. E-mails, which say that “mutterin’s were made at yer wall post” are sent from “Ye Olde Facebook Master Crew.”

The bottom of a pirate Facebook page

I must admit that sometimes I have to revert to good, old American English to figure out the pirate translations. But most of the time? I just wish I be wearin’ an eyepatch while at me iMac. Arrrr!!

More Bytes

Time for more computer hardware

The other day when my “third son” Chase and my #1 son were uploading video to the boys’ iMac, I heard one of them say, “Oh, oh!”

Hmmm . . . did some liquid get spilled on the keyboard? Did a video clip accidentally get deleted? Did one of them remember they still had homework to do?

No, it was a storage problem. As in, “Oh, oh . . . we only have 196 megabytes left on the internal hard drive.”

Say what?!? How could that be? The iMac came with a fairly big hard drive of 300 gigabytes. I’ve only used about 60 gigs of my internal hard drive, but that’s because I store all my photos on external drives. Nothing can fill up a hard drive quite like photos from a digital SLR camera. Well, except for one thing—video. Video clips and movies consume lots and lots of gigs.

Chase videos an outdoor scene.

Chase and the #1 son produce a video at least once a month. They have their own production company, and they make videos that they upload to YouTube and for #1’s broadcast journalism class to be used on the announcements. They’re sometimes crudely crafted, often woefully lit, but usually very entertaining.

Erika is illuminated in the camcorder's LCD.

The video that the guys were making last week featured an unusual occurrence: There was a female in it. Yes, we actually had a teenaged girl in our house! Of course, I made sure to document the momentous occasion. It might not happen again for quite awhile.

Erika acts while #1 videos.

That “lucky” gal was Erika, who is in #1’s broadcast journalism class. She’s also a good sport who didn’t mind playing a witch in the video.

The #1 son—videographer, writer, director, and actor

All that footage that Chase and #1 recorded had to go somewhere. But only part of it could be uploaded to the iMac’s hard drive, because there wasn’t enough room.

Techno mom to the rescue! I drove to Fry’s Electronics the other day to score a big external hard drive for the boys’ iMac (they also have an external for Time Machine backups, of course). Fry’s has a great selection and good prices. I opted for a two-terabyte Western Digital MyBook Studio. I bought the Mac version, because it offers a firewire option, which is a faster transfer method than USB. That comes in handy when you’re uploading lots of gigs of data.

The My Book Studio

Two terabytes! That’s 2,000 gigabytes. It’s a monster of a hard drive! And all for $259 (including tax). Amazing!

The My Book Studio and the old CMS hard drive

See that big hard drive on the right? That was my first external hard drive that I used with my old Apple MacPlus, which had no internal hard drive; I think I bought it in 1986. It held 20 megabytes of storage. No, that’s not a typo . . . it was megabytes. My Nikon D700 produces a 20-meg file at its highest quality (raw). So that CMS drive holds only one photo!

Now here’s the kicker: The cost of that 20-meg external hard drive? A whopping $600! But back in the day, 20 megs held a ton of data, and it was a loyal servant for many years. Slow but loyal.

So now the boys have plenty of storage for their videos. Hope that’s the end of me hearing those worrisome “oh, oh’s!” At least for awhile.

No Sick Days for Moms


My swinging #1 son

All of you moms out there understand this one, basic truth of our lives: Moms can’t be sick. Sure, we can try to rest while the kids are in school, but once they come home, they need us. They might not like us all the time, sad to say, but they do need us a lot of the time.

Especially when we’d rather be flat on our backs watching Oprah or any other mindless TV show.


The #2 son ponders . . . but what?

I’m fortunate that my two sons at ages 17 and 14 are fairly self-sufficient when it comes to eating. The older one doesn’t mind driving himself and his brother to McDonald’s or Subway, if necessary.

So where do they especially need me? The computer.

Yesterday I was down for the count with some kind of stomach distress that started the night before. I could barely sit up for a minute at a time. So, naturally, both boys had papers for me to print out. Our standard operating procedure is for them to type everything on their iMac and then e-mail it to my iMac to be printed out. I had to institute this process, because of the #1 son’s tendencies to, shall we say, go off the deep end at times on papers and write inappropriately for high school.

This time #1 was having trouble with hanging indents in Word and trying to fit a set of song lyrics on one piece of paper using a typesize that was readable. It took me about an hour to do what I normally would’ve breezed through in a matter of minutes. I just couldn’t sit up long enough to finish the tasks quickly.

Meanwhile, the #2 son was doing research on Missouri for World Geography. I was able to instruct him on how to e-mail me the website he wanted printed out (so much easier if it’s a link; on a Mac you use command-shift-i to do that) from the couch. Fortunately, by about 11 p.m. I was feeling well enough to sit at the computer for longer periods of time, sweating a puddle of what I guess was the fever I had. That meant I could look through my 65 e-mails and easily satisfy the #2 son’s tech needs once again.

Glad to say I’m feeling much better today and will be ready to meet my sons’ needs when they walk through the door after school. But I sure wouldn’t mind if they’re not too demanding!

Firefighting at Home



One of the many reasons why I fall so far behind in the clutter war is that I find myself constantly putting out fires on the homefront. Too often my perfectly crafted decluttering schedule gets annihilated by last-minute got-to-get-’er-dones by the boys.

Here’s an example: The other day the #1 son asked me to print out a 10-page paper he had written for U.S. History. He typed it in Microsoft Word 2004, e-mailed it to me, I proofed it and fixed his typos in Word 2008, and tried to print it. When I looked at the preview, the pages were blank. I tested it with another Word document that I knew I was able to print with the older version, and, still, nada. Hmmmm . . . what to do.

Because #1 son had to have the paper the next day, I opened it in TextEdit, which comes with every Mac, fixed the breaks that differed from Word, and printed it out. The next day I made it my goal to figure out why Word wouldn’t print. I have Microsoft Office 2008 on my MacBook, so I checked to see if a document would print from it. It could. I knew the problem wasn’t with the printers hooked to my iMac, because the document would print blank from both of them, not just one of them. I tried to print a document in Excel, and that worked, so I figured it was just a Word problem.

I checked Mactopia, Microsoft’s Office for Mac website but didn’t see anyone else with the same problem nor did I read any solutions. Looked like I was on my own, unless I wanted to call for support. Microsoft allows two phone calls before it starts to charge $49 plus tax; I’d rather save my free calls just in case of a dire emergency.

I thought it would be best to just start from scratch, so I uninstalled Office and then reinstalled it. The #1 son had chemistry notes he needed printed, so I opened them in Word, went to print preview, and held my breath. Whew! They appeared!! Printed them out with no problem. I’m not sure what caused the Word glitch on the initial install, but I’m glad it’s fixed. However, the decluttering time that I had previously scheduled was taken up by putting out the Word fire. This always seems to happen with the boys’ projects,  as in, “Mom, I need poster board for tomorrow,” “Mom, please put more staples in the stapler,” and, the ever-favorite, “Mom, I need 30 plastic bowls for chemistry,” which I actually had!

Today’s fire: Troubleshoot the #1 son’s alarm clock, which hasn’t worked right since the time change. Maybe I can multitask and declutter one or two things in his room while I’m at it!

Minor get ’er done

puddingYesterday when I was pulling various snacks for the boys’ lunches from the kitchen cabinet dedicated just to them, I decided to finally take care of something that has been bugging me for months: Pudding disposal. The #2 son used to be a snack pudding fanatic. He loved pudding! He ate four cups of it for breakfast every morning for a couple years. He would switch from two chocolate and two vanilla cups to four chocolate cups, but he never varied from his breakfast choice. Sometimes he’d even eat it for an after-school snack. I tried making the pudding from scratch (I know, hard to believe), but he didn’t like it as well.

There are two basic rules of thumb when it comes to your kids’ eating jags. First, they will come to an end at some point. It may take months, it may take years, but they will end. Second, when they do end, you will be stuck with food that no one else will eat. And it probably will be a lot of food, because you’ve stocked up. The Hunt’s Snack Pack chocolate pudding that #2 liked wasn’t always available, so I often would buy extra when I saw it, especially when it was on sale. No pudding would equal no breakfast would equal one grumpy child.

Of course, I was just setting myself up for a fall. Suddenly and without warning, #2 stopped eating pudding cold turkey. He hasn’t eaten so much as a bite of pudding for a couple years now. And, of course, I had a shelf in the snack cabinet brimming with Snack Packs that I couldn’t bear to part with. At first I tried to fool myself into thinking that the no-pudding phase would end as quickly as it began, and I wanted to have stock on hand.

Yesterday I looked at the pudding cups mocking me and decided to just put an end to the misery. First I checked the expiration date on them . . . 2007 stared back at me. Even if #2 suddenly got that pudding fever again, he couldn’t even eat them. I trashed them and didn’t look back.

Wonder when I’m going to get rid of the several boxes of old Pop-Tarts, which replaced those pudding breakfasts for a year or so, that are still in the snack cabinet? Maybe I’ll get ’er done today!

TV watch

george-clooneyI’ve maybe seen one or two episodes of “ER,” none in years, but I plan to watch it tonight. Why? I’ve read that my second husband, George Clooney, will make a guest appearance! It won’t matter if I have absolutely, positively no clue what’s going on . . . all I want to do is stare at George and listen to him talk.

College Musings



My older son touches a rope sculpture on the UT campus.

In a mere 17 months or so, my #1 son will start his college career. That’s a very sobering statement for me. After all, I’m the kind of mom who used to watch him from across the street when he was on the preschool playground at age three. I was worried that he would be standing all alone, not interacting with anyone. As it turned out, he would play with one or two of the other kids, and my uncertainties were for naught.

But that was then. This is now. My worries about his future and how he will handle being away from home at college have increased 14-fold. My anxiety has nothing to do with his intellect; I feel certain he can handle college courses. On the other hand, #1 doesn’t deal well with change, bottles up his feelings, and is not socially adept. He doesn’t really care whether or not he attends college—he has his heart set on being a songwriter and record producer and owning his own recording studio. Good thing only about a million other kids have that same set of goals!

Once I told #1 that he would get a new MacBook for college, he really perked up about going. Now the Mister and I are trying to guide him in his choice of schools and majors. He doesn’t really want to be a music major (all require auditioning and performing; he barely can play the guitar, and I don’t think that excellent iPod listening will cut it), so what will help him possibly achieve his goals?

I’ve honed in on communications. I earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois (Oskee wow wow!); #1 seems to have inherited my writing ability. But while my focus of studies was print media, #1’s will be electronic media. We also will look for electronic music courses to help with his music-writing talents.


#1 son is a high school junior, which means it’s time for college visits. We took the first one Saturday and attended the University of Texas’ Explore UT Day, which gave us admission information and more. UT’s Austin campus is about three hours from home, and we drove there with my good friend, Deanna, and her junior son. Even though both boys have known each other for years, no words were exchanged until we got out of the car at home. Awkward! But very typical for #1.

As #1 and I walked around the large campus and attended a couple seminars, one thing was painfully obvious: Even though UT is a great school, it won’t be a great school for #1. It’s much too big and not nurturing enough. #1 wore a glazed-over look within an hour. I know he’s bound to mature before he leaves the nest, but he’s not going to change his basic personality. Smaller would be better for him.

My next-door neighbor JJ, the organizational wiz and wise mom of one college student so far, made a good point: Part of the college decision-making process is ruling out schools where your child doesn’t feel comfortable. I hadn’t thought about it in that way, but, like usual, she’s absolutely right. And now UT has been crossed off our short list (short . . . because it is!).


There only are two schools right now on our short list: the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. UTSA has about 28,000 students, good degree possibilities, and seems more nurturing. SFA is even smaller. We plan to visit UTSA next Monday (the start of spring break) and SFA at its Saturday Showcase March 28. #1 son automatically qualifies for admittance at both schools based on his SAT score and class rank, and neither school requires an essay for automatic admits. That makes life easier!

Now I know the Aggies reading this will start lobbying for Texas A&M (as my good pal Kim already has). Once again, A&M is too big for the #1 son, plus it doesn’t strike me as being as good a liberal arts school as it is for engineering, math, and science. That’s why A&M didn’t make the short list. Another great school that won’t be great for my son.

If we just lived in Illinois, the decision would be soooo easy: Fighting Illini all the way!

Get ’er dones

Just a couple things on the list: I need to call our insurance agent to ask about roof damage (we have some shingles missing thanks to Hurricane Ike), and I need to put Photoshop Elements 6.0 on the boys’ iMac and my MacBook. Worrying about making the right college choice is NOT on the list!

It’s a Sign



I made someone very sad awhile back . . . and I didn’t even know him.

I had gotten out of my car and was about to mosey on over to Chipotle, the greatest place on earth to eat, when I noticed that a crew was putting the finishing touches on an awning over Jimmy John’s sandwich shop next door. What I saw written on the awning stopped me in my tracks: “Gourmet Sanwiches.”

Suppressing a chuckle, I walked over to the guy supervising the two awning installers and said, “Did you misspell it on purpose?”

“What?” he asked.

“The word ‘sanwiches,'” I replied. “It should have a ‘d’ in it.”

You should have seen the look on his face. Titanic sadness visibly washed over him.

I continued on to Chipotle. After I finished eating the most-delicious food on earth (a veggie bowl of rice, black beans, peppers and onions, pico de gallo, corn relish, guacamole [the best part!], and lettuce), I walked to my car, got in, and stared through the raindrops at Jimmy John’s. This was what I saw:



Yep, the awning was gone, and the installers were packing up to leave. I don’t think I made their day at all!

A few days later, all was right with Jimmy John’s and the awning:

cpd-final-jj-signAt least it’s finally correct. Unlike this sign at our local Nestle’s Toll House Café:

web-sandwitchSigh! Guess I need to stop in and make someone else’s day.

Ten-Minute Task

box_pse6_150x150It’s day 3 in the Search for the Photoshop Elements 3.0 Install Disc saga. I worked hard for 10 minutes during my TMT yesterday to no avail. Apparently, that disc grew legs and walked away from the clutter like so many other things have done over the years. So I explored my options and decided the best course of action was to order PSE 6 from It should arrive tomorrow, and then the #1 son and I will have to figure it out; I know there are a lot of changes from version 3.0. There are manuals for $30 (yep, even on!) available, but I plan to check out Half-Price Books and see what they have. I don’t want to spend almost half the price of the software for a manual. Fortunately, there’s always lots of good information and tutorials online.

Get ’er dones

Today is that every-other-week very-important Kitchen Wednesday . . . the cleaning crew comes tomorrow, so I want to do as much in the kitchen as possible in terms of going through the mail and papers and shredding. Tonight is another track meet for the #2 son, who again will be running the 100 and 200 meters as well as triple jumping. Hopefully, he’ll be able to triple jump earlier, enabling me to get better photos. There won’t be a fence around the field event area, so I’m looking forward to roaming with my camera!