Category Archives: Tech

Mostly Apple products

Firefighter Mom

Our “new” router modem

I’ll admit that with my stay-at-home-mom ADD, I don’t get a lot of things done during the day. Oh, I might unload the dishwasher, get through a load of laundry, write my blog post, and Photoshop some photos. That’s a pretty productive day for me.

But lately I’ve had a lot more on my plate, which always seems to happen near the end of the school year. Specifically, my #1 son has a senior legacy project for English IV that’s due Tuesday. It’s a series of essays and photos put into a scrapbook that’s supposed to be a reflection on his high school years. Definitely a worthwhile assignment except that most boys don’t like to write about their feelings, and they really don’t want to decorate a scrapbook.

As my friend Audrey Facebooked, the physics projects were for the boys, the senior legacy for the girls.

While #1 has been writing his 12 essays (he only has one left), I’ve been in charge of finding photos. Most are on my external hard drives. I was going to hit this hard when I got home from grocery shopping Monday afternoon . . . until I walked in the front door.

The old router and modem vs. the newer model

“Mom, I reset the internet, and there are no lights showing on the bottom box,” were the words that greeted me from my #1 son.

That “bottom box” is the router. I checked it out, and it looked like it had met its electronic maker. No internet. Total bummer!

Fortunately, I had an ace up my sleeve: A “new” Windstream (our DSL) 2Wire router-modem. I put “new” in quote marks, because we’ve had it for, oh, almost two years. Still in the box. Untouched by my fingers. Why? Windstream had sent it to me to replace our separate modem and router, but because our internet connection was working well, I didn’t want to upset the apple cart. So I never set it up.

But now was the time to find it and see if it worked. Which meant this was a fire to be put out. Just like the blaze I extinguished Sunday when I was working on our taxes (we had filed an extension). The Mister, who was at a disc golf tournament with our #2 son, called to say I needed to gather a bunch of financial paperwork to help with a banking issue and meet our friends to hand it over. That took priority over the taxes, so those still are waiting to be done.

Good to go!

Now I had the internet fire to battle. The 2Wire was easy to connect, but an omission in the instructions caused me to call Windstream for help. After an hour or so, we were back up and running. And I like how we only have one piece of equipment to deal with now.

Of course, by this time, the #2 son was strolling through the door, and I left my office to chat with him about his day, homework, and snacks. The rest of the day really is a blur.

Another fire flared last night when my buddy Scott, who is putting together our high school band’s brochure for their final concert, called to see if I would whip up an ad for myself in, oh, an hour or so. You can’t tell from looking at my house, but when it comes to my creative projects, I’m a meticulous, picky (read “sloooow”) worker. Can you whip a mule? Of course, I still was working on the #1 son’s photos (so many to look through!), but I put the brakes on and finished an ad in record time (for me).

This mom firefighting isn’t new, by the way. It seems like at least once a week the extinguisher emerges from my mom arsenal. Needs must be met asap: Poster board, colored pencils, tracing paper, three eggs (this was for #1’s physics project), a book for English. I’ve learned to keep a ready supply of the basics (especially poster board!). It’s when the big bonfires blaze that I really fall behind . . . like with the financial paperwork, router, and ad.

But the clock is ticking on #1’s senior legacy project. Looks like I’d better don that flame-retardant clothing for the weekend!

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Never-Ending Illness and Text Disabled

Mind if I join you?

Mind if I join you?

Once again, I’m looking out for your best interests! Instead of continuing to merely milk my never-ending lung infection by using my Sick Day sign, I have a new photo that neatly fits in my It Doesn’t Take Much to Amuse Me category. I snapped it yesterday with my iPhone at our local Half-Price Books store. I think “Old & Interesting” is a good description of me! Can I wedge in there between a couple of books?

Blackberry Curve

Blackberry Curve

See this smartphone? It’s the Blackberry Curve, the same phone I urged the Mister to buy.

Sidebar: Because the Mister’s cellphone plan at work is Sprint, he couldn’t get an iPhone. And, really, is the man cool enough to own the same smartphone as me? Think about it.

So, of course, he bought the Curve. I wanted him to be able to check his e-mail away from his office and, most important, to be able to text. To say the man is text-disabled is like calling Yao Ming tall. He visibly starts sweating and quaking as he eyes the phone’s keys, reluctant to even start typing. He even has others text for him, especially the #2 son. So I figured the Curve’s keyboard would be easier for him than that of his old flip phone.

Yeah, right. Why didn’t I just ask the man to learn Italian in a week? That might be easier for him!

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Mister and the #2 son are in Kansas City, Missouri, for the Disc Golf World Championships.

Sidebar: After two rounds, #2 is tied for tenth out of 25 players in the age 16 and under division.

The Mister was supposed to let me know how #2 was doing during both rounds yesterday. I know that there’s not supposed to be a lot of noise on the course while play is going on. Disc golfers can be like regular ball golfers in being sensitive to cell phones ringing when they’re about to putt. But how noisy is it to text if your phone is on vibrate? Or even if it isn’t?

Do you want to know how many times the Mister texted me during 36 holes of disc golf, knowing I was anxiously awaiting any morsel of news? Any crumb of information?

Do you really have to ask? A big, fat zero.

Yeah, we had a little talk about that last night over the phone. I told him at the very least all he has to do is type “b” for birdie, “p” for par, and “bo” for bogey. How hard is that for someone who has fingers and/or thumbs that work? He agreed to do that.

And you know what? He just texted me and used more than one letter! He even typed several words at once!!

Sigh! I’m so proud of him.

Firefighting at Home

 

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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

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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.

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#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!).

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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!

Middle-School Potty Time

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I’m blogging today from an unfamiliar post . . . sitting on a hard-backed chair with a clear view of the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms at #2 son’s middle school with no wifi signal. Today starts the infamous TAKS testing time in Texas for students in grades 3-11 (grade 12 for those who didn’t pass as juniors). Kids have to pass in certain grades to move on to the next grade; #2 has to pass all four of his TAKS tests this spring—reading (today), math, science, and social studies—to graduate. #1 also has to pass all the grade 11 TAKS tests (called Exit tests) in order to graduate in 2010. (Cue the weeping!)

Most parents, students, teachers, and administrators hate the TAKS. It puts pressure on all of them, and at times it forces teachers to teach to the test instead of for knowledge and advancement. There’s been talk about eliminating the TAKS, but right now all it is is talk.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the TAKS. It stressed out both sons in elementary school, making #2 actually cry in third grade when he was afraid he was going to fail. I don’t see why the education Powers That Be can’t just use the standardized Iowa tests that everyone has taken practically since schooling first began and the district assessment curriculum exams to judge whether or not our kids are learning what they need to know. But last I looked, no one was asking my opinion.

Meanwhile, I’m at my potty post this morning, making sure that no more than one child enters the bathroom at a time. I’m all alone here at the end of the eighth-grade wing; usually there are two of us patrolling, but we only got the word yesterday that we were needed today. Looks like a lot of parents already had made plans or listening to kids go to the bathroom didn’t float their boat.

Random observation

These eighth-graders use the hand dryer A LOT! They can be in the bathroom for several minutes drying their hands. Think they’re stalling?

 

"TBBT"

“Big Bang” a big bust

As regular readers know, we love CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” However, last night’s show clearly pushed the limits of the 7 p.m. bogus “family hour,” almost making us turn it off. It used to be that there was a clear demarcation in TV shows’ content: Before 9 p.m., pretty much G- and PG-rated; after 9 p.m., just about anything goes. But now shows that are on early are crossing that G/PG line with regularity (we had to turn off “How I Met Your Mother,” which was on after “TBBT”; #2 son had warned us that the show would get too racy for us).

We hope that the producers and writers of “TBBT” will consider its 7 p.m. audience and not be so visual and verbal with its sexual references. Otherwise, it’s time to move the show to 9 p.m.

TMT PSE

pseTime to turn off the caps lock! After a somewhat sloppy search during which I envisioned the upraised eyebrows and disapproving look of my neighbor JJ, the organizational wiz, I failed to find that pesky Photoshop Elements install disc. I’m going to give it the good, old Ten-Minute Task try today and then consider my options:

• Go back in time with Time Machine on the boys’ iMac and figure out how to restore PSE (probably not as easy as it might sound).

• Figure it’s time to upgrade from 3.0 and just buy the newest Mac version.

• Install my copy of Photoshop CS3; not a great option, though, because it’s not as easy to use. #1 son is whining that he wants PSE, not CS3.

After 10 minutes today, I should have my answer!

“Lost” in Applecare

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The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham

john-lockeOMG! Another enjoyable, question-riddled episode with a few answers thrown in for good measure. As we watched, I jotted down notes on my MacBook. Here are some thoughts:

• It was no big surprise that John Locke was alive back on the island due to the previews from last week. It was kind of cool the way he “unveiled” himself, though.

charles_widmore• Great exchange between Charles Widmore and Locke:

Widmore: When you last saw me [in a flashback on the island], I was 17 years old. How long has it been since I last saw you?

Locke: Four days.

250px-ben_linus2The key question of the season: Who is good or bad? Charles Widmore? Ben Linus? The #1 son thinks they’re both bad, that they’re like Russia and Germany during World War II (guess what he’s studying in U.S. History right now). “Which one are you going to side with?” he asks. “It should be Russia.”

Okay, son, but then who is Russia, Widmore or Linus?

• Widmore says he was the leader on the island before Ben tricked him into leaving. Christian Shephard made it seem like Ben tricked Locke into believing that Ben had to be the one to turn the wheel to move the island.

• A good line by the #1 son after Widmore says to Locke, “Godspeed.” #1 son asked, “How fast does God speed?”

matthew_abbadon• Oh, oh . . . it’s Matthew Abaddon, that creepy orderly who told Locke to go on the walkabout in Australia. He tells Locke that his job is to help people get where they need to go. He works for Widmore. He tells Locke, “Your path leads back to the island.” Duh!

walt• Hey, it’s Walt! When I saw the name Malcolm David Kelley in the opening credits, I knew he’d be in the episode. He’s gotten so big and looks so much older. I’m glad Locke decided not to try to persuade him to go back to the island. I guess Walt never will know what happened to his dad, Michael. Tangent: Harold Perrineau, who played Michael, is part of the cast of the new ABC show “The Unusuals.” He sure was unusual on “Lost!”

• After Locke’s chat with Walt, Ben pops up looking so totally creepy! Just out shopping for souvenirs to bring home to the Others, Mr. Linus?

• Helen Norwood is dead . . . how sad for John, who seems to have really loved her.

• Ugh, what an ugly, shocking death for Abaddon.

bearded-jack-shephard• What’s “Lost” without a car crash? Gosh, who would expect Jack to be Locke’s doctor?!? Jack has that crazy beard; obviously it’s when Jack was sinking into his pill-riddled depression. Why isn’t Jack shocked to see John?

A line from the Mister about Jack, as he rages against Locke in the hospital: “Not a good bedside manner.”

• There’s a knock on the door as poor John is about to hang himself. Was his thought, “Room service now?!?” Nope, it’s just Ben.

• Ben admits that he killed Abaddon. Widmore said that Ben is bad. Ben does seem to be bad.

• Ben says, “John, you have no idea how important you are.” Will we ever find out Locke’s importance?

• Did Ben lie about Jack booking a flight to Sydney?? John sure is a weeper; he should be on “The Biggest Loser!” Ben finds out Jin is alive from John. 

The #1 son says, “Ben is secretly caring. Or is he?” Sounds so Miles!

hawking• Check out Ben’s facial reaction when John says “Eloise Hawking.” He just snaps! OMG—Ben is strangling poor John! OMG! Was Ben being mean, like with Martin Keamy, or was it because he knows Locke has to be dead in a casket to help duplicate the original events of Oceanic 815 on the Ajira Airways plane?

• Great shadow effect of Locke hanging. And Ben gets Jin’s wedding ring to cap it off.

• Ben CANNOT be a good guy! Ben: “I’ll miss you, John. I really will.” There’s just not a Hallmark card made for this situation!

• John is walking fine when he’s back on the island with no sign of his compound fracture. Is it the island’s healing powers again?

• Ilana and Caesar are the new characters; what will be their importance? 

• Lapidus, the pilot, and a woman took one of the boats on the island. Which woman, Sun or the flight attendant? If Sun disappeared during the flash on the plane, it probably was the flight attendant. Who is she?

• So the plane did land on the island. It looks like it’s intact.

• A great line by Locke when he sees the injured Ben in the makeshift emergency room on the island.

Caesar: “Do you know him?”

Locke: “Yes, he’s the man who killed me.” Chilling!

A great episode to analyze! Can’t wait until the next one!!

Applecare adventures

sevenLooks like we’re done with Applecare. The good news is that we know why GarageBand ’09 won’t play the GB ’08 songs; the bad news is that it can’t be fixed.

An Applecare genius named “Seven” (yep, his real name, and he’s too old for his parents to have been influenced by the 1996 “Seinfeld” episode) went the extra mile trying to help us for about an hour. He concluded that there are certain loops used in earlier GB versions that can’t be accessed by ’09. He suggested we open the songs in ’08 and lock the tracks; then they’ll play in ’09 (but can’t be modified).

At least that was one mystery able to be solved. If it had been on “Lost,” I might not have gotten the answer until sometime next season!

Get ’er dones

Besides finally finishing up my scout Photoshop work, tonight is the middle school’s first track meet. #2 son will be triple jumping and running the 100 and 200 meters, which means we’ll have to stay for almost the entire meet (field events are early, the 200 is the last individual event before the relays). I’ll be taking photos until it gets too dark. I’ll tote my Nikon D300 along with my Nikon 70-200mm, 85mm, and 50mm lenses and my Nikon 1.4x teleconverter. It’ll be great to shoot outside once again!

Tasty Tuesday’s Aftermath

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Wowzer! I’m thrilled to report that the chicken baked using the Dijon honey mustard Flavor Magic Portion Control Sheets was a huge hit with the boys! They said it was the best chicken I had ever made (and, believe it or not, they sometimes actually like the chicken I’ve cooked for them). The entire process was easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy. Here’s how it worked:

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First, you cut the chicken to size (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, because I’m lazy, of course), dampen it, and lay it on one of the sheets (above left). Then you put plastic wrap over it and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook for about 30 minutes. Then be prepared to bask in the praise and glory of your ever-indebted family who have crowned you the Cooking Queen . . . as if!

I especially liked that there was almost no mess with the sheets, so cleanup was a snap. I’ll keep using the Dijon honey mustard sheets, as well as the Rivieria tomato and basil sheets, with chicken, pork, and fish. I might even try the Rivieria sheet with tofu, since it’s vegan!

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Speaking of vegan

Double-wowzer! While the boys were scarfing down their chicken, I was enjoying my red pepper and spinach hashed browns. They were really good! The recipe was a natural for my limited cooking abilities: It didn’t have a lot of ingredients (red pepper, onion, garlic, potatoes, and spinach), it didn’t take long to prepare and cook, and it wasn’t too messy. I definitely would make it again.

5259-me-goggles1The only problem with the recipe was chopping the onions. I try to chop as fast as I can, but I can’t stand how much the little buggers sting my eyes. If I had only checked out the National Onion Association‘s website! Guess I should’ve figured that the little buggers would have their own site. The NOA recommends chilling the onion before cutting and trimming off the root end last for reducing the tears. Me? I reasoned if the irritant can’t get into my eyes, it wouldn’t affect me. So I grabbed some handy swim goggles . . . and it worked! And it made the #1 son laugh! I did learn that it’s pretty hard to take a quick photo of yourself, so this was the best I could do.

Tonight’s TV watch

bob-harperIt’s an embarrassment of riches on the tube tonight! There’s the second half of “The Biggest Loser” along with “American Idol” and “Lost.”  Whew!

Speaking of “TBL,” there was sooo much crying, especially by my third husband, trainer Bob, on last night’s show. You would’ve thought Bob’s former trainees were moving to Siberia! Man up, Bob!

Get ’er dones

I’ll be spending more time on the phone talking to Applecare. Yesterday they advised uninstalling and reinstalling iLife ’09 to try to solve the GarageBand ’09 problem of not opening GB ’08 songs, but that didn’t work. I remain suspicious of the install disc.

Of course, it’s Kitchen Wednesday, so I’ll at least open mail and shred. There’s always so much more to do with so little energy in the afternoon.

Finally, there will be dinner and TV. How did John Locke die? I think we finally get that question answered on “Lost.” One answer down, 533 more to go!