Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In a Whirlwind

We just spent a week in Ohio in such a flurry of activity that we felt like we'd been put into the midst of a whirlwind. So much for "vacation time" amounting to a vacation! We did have an enjoyable, if exhausting, time, though.

The reason for the visit was my grandmother's 95th birthday. Thrilled to no end that her four kids and most of her grandkids were in town, she basked in the glow of the limelight and, while she cringed every time someone mentioned the word "ninety-five", she clearly had a great time. She had recently attended a school reunion where she was the oldest graduate and received much fussing-over, and which garnered her a mention in the local newspaper.

On the other side of the family, my cousins, who I've not seen in years, happened to be in town at the same time, and this thrilled my soon-to-be 93-year old grandpa to no end. All six of his grandkids in town at the same time. We were able to reconnect and meet spouses and kids and catch up a bit. Grandpa sat beaming, taking it all in and just enjoying our presence.

It was gratifying to us that our mere presence could bring such joy to two people who are so important in our lives.

But the whirlwind didn't end there. We drove to Cleveland to spend a day with Bryan's brother and his family, a great time that started with lunch, and went on through dinner. (It's always "all about the food"!). Met up with my dearest high school friend. Took Grandpa to lunch. Visited Grams a couple more times. Made a quick run to Kelley's Island, placed in Lake Erie, which Bryan had never visited despite growing up in northern Ohio. Ate fresh lake perch. Got my Cameo pizza fix. Ate fresh Ohio sweet corn (rapturous!). And took my parents to a special restaurant in Cleveland's Little Italy section to tell them of our plans for an impending move to Italy.

My suitcase is more like a grocery bag these days. (Did I mention that it's "all about the food"?) I brought home bags of pasta, 2 pounds of cheeses, a bottle of Vin Santo, and Italian espresso, not to mention a dozen ears of sweet corn, all tucked not-so-neatly into my luggage. I was, thus, not surprised when I discovered a TSA inspection slip in my suitcase. Luckily, none of my goodies had been obsconded.

We returned home Friday night, and I had a Monday deadline on an article. Talk about a frantic weekend!

And we returned home tired. And a few pounds heavier.

In Cleveland's Murray Hill (Little Italy) with sister-in-law Brenda and niece, Leann.

Bryan's brother Wayne is visible in shadow taking the photo!

copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Computer Shopping

For those of you following the trials and trevails of my recent computer intoxication, you should know that this past week my poor, drunken machine went berserk on me and then went kaput. I'm sure there are technological terms for its demise, but I don't speak the lingo, as I've been well-reminded during my recent computer shopping forays.

Armed with ads and my geek-girl sister in tow, I trekked around town in search of an adequate new PC that wouldn't break the bank. It was bad enough that I had driven my perfectly good, functioning machine to an alcoholic demise; I didn't want to spend a fortune replacing the thing.

We were approached by slouchy salesman who appeared to be about twelve years old, all mumbling in low tones and speaking a lanugage I could not understand (even if I could hear the words above the mumbling, which I couldn't). Geek sister understood perfectly and nodded, replied in like terms, and then would look at me for confirmation or response. I stared, confusion evident on my face, and muttered that "I, uh, just need a functioning, basic computer". They exchanged mirthful eye glances at my obvious stupidity, but plodded onward in their recommendations and tech-speak about which machine would be great. They all looked pretty much the same to me, so how was I supposed to choose? I did see a nice little lightweight laptop number I immediately took a shine to, but when I saw the $2000 sticker, I reeled backward and felt a bit light-headed.

My dear husband and I discussed our needs and wants, and quickly came to the conclusion that we just needed a basic computer. I use it for writing and email and internet, mostly. Luddites we may be, but I do need a PC to keep me productive, one with typical functionality. I communicated this to the salesman who gave me a blank stare. He blinked. "Uhhh, yeah. So, like, you don't want the MotherHonker deluxe screen, which is, y'know, good for gaming?" No. "Righty. But you'll need to upgrade to SuperPro version 87, which is the better operating system." If it's better, why doesn't the computer manufacturer preload it on the stupid thing to begin with? Blank stare. "Well, this one has 859,535 gazillion megabytes." Huh? An obvious language barrier, which made me wish I was back in my advanced Italian class where I could comprehend more than this.

Many of these new computers come with high definition gigundo-sized screens, apparently for video game players. Yeah, I need me one of those. I haven't played video games since the Atari days, and felt like it was a waste of precious time even then. It's nice to know that so many of our citizens have nothing more productive to do with their time than spend hours in mind-numbing play. Have they heard of books?

I may be a techno-idiot but being made to feel like an idiot by a twelve year old who looks upon me as a decrepid, even somewhat senile, old woman at the ripe age of 38, well, that's just humiliating. I think I'm going to have to turn to online shopping to avoid this unpleasant experience, but that is, of course, more difficult when my computer is kaput. I have geek sister researching systems for me. Wish me luck. I need to find something before it becomes completely obsolete. Or I do.

copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

Saturday, August 06, 2005

You saw it here first!

I appreciate that so many people have found my blog and return regularly to read it. And since you're here and (hopefully) enjoy reading my musings and writings, then you may be interested in reading a few other articles penned by yours truly.

Firstly, be sure to rush out soon to obtain your copy of the September issue of Budget Travel magazine which contains my article Confessions of a Travel Agent (page 50). I received an advance copy from my editor (how cool does that sound?), so it should be on newstands soon.

Secondly, I recently, finally, finished writing a trip report about our visit to the two hilltowns in remote Italy where my great-grandparents were from. You can read all about it at the Slow Travel website.

Enjoy! And thanks for stopping by.

copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Computer Intoxication

I've been incommunicado for the past several days and it is unsettling. I dislike being without email and my glimpses at the Sorrento Webcam. What am I to do with myself when I can't type out my next great article idea, or, heaven forbid, not read my favorite message board?

The current state of computer inaccessibility is due to the fact that my laptop was drinking and driving. While enroute to a friend's house for a blogette pow-wow, laptop on the seat next to me, I was also transporting for said friend a bottle of Limoncello. The bottle somehow became uncorked and the computer imbibed deeply of the bottle's contents. Unaccustomed to such boozy benders, it became greatly and quickly intoxicated and, like a common drunk, staggered and sputtered and then crashed to the depths of inebriation.

I began to feel something close to panic because my usual (free) source of tech support, my sister, is, quite inconveniently, on vacation in Montreal. We quickly sought computer advice from my friend's accommodating, if extremely weary, son in Australia. He cursed to the effect that this was a bad thing (probably also cursing because of the time difference and she likely woke him out of a deep sleep), told us to let the computer dry out and remove the battery. Oh, and don't try to start it while it's still wet. Oops, already did that.

At home, the bibber was opened up and allowed to sleep off the soaking. But, alas, the sticky nature of Limoncello ensured a good sugary coating and the computer still has lasting effects from its tipple.

Clearly, it was time for intervention. We consulted several professionals, none of whom wanted to take on the detox procedure because the computer is a Dell. We've called Dell, but they are unsure of what to do and told us to take the little lush to "any local repair shop". A catch-22. Obviously, it needs to be admitted to rehab. We continue the process of trying to find a willing and suitable inpatient treatment facility.

We don't know if there will be long-term consequences. The brain damage may be too extensive. Clearly, it doesn't compute to drink and c-drive.

copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

Postscript: The kindly guys at Adobe Computer Repair took on the detox project and got the baby cleaned up. They said there was some damage to the components, but it was working for the moment. At least it buys me some time to copy out my files and shop for a new computer.