Sunday, November 29, 2009

Where would YOU look for a letter opener?


I got the handy dandy letter opener you see above from one of the conferences I attended a long time ago.  It's been a good little opener for many years.  A few months ago, it disappeared on us.  We searched and searched, but could not find our bill-opening gizmo no matter where we looked. 

Fast forward to Sunday night.  Shan asked me to help print out an oversized mailing label.  That went without a hitch because the labels we have that are 4x6 are inkjet-only.  So, into the Lexmark it went, and after a trial (and error) run, I inserted a new label with the correct orientation and *poof* we were good to go!

She then asked if I would print out a regular label with a return address on it.  No problem, right? I inserted the laser labels into our HP 1012, set up a standard 8169 Avery label and prepared to print.  Since that requires the paper to go into the manual feeder, I loaded the label, pressed the green "GO" button and watched the paper go into the printer.  There was a very distinct "CLUNK" as something inside the laser printer gave way.  When the label came out (yes, it did come out), it was way off center vertically.  I copied the text to a new position and printed a new label.  Or tried to print a new label.  The printer would not take the manual feed!  What the heck?

Oh, you know where I am going with this, but come along for the ride anyway, would you?

I printed the label through the "regular" paper tray and it worked fine.  Once I was done with the task at hand, it was time to start troubleshooting.  I removed the paper tray and looked inside the printer from the front.  I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.  I moved some things around, and tried to print again.  No luck.  It still wouldn't take the manual feed.  I pulled the printer out from its little cubby hole on the desk and opened it up.  Everything looked good.  I reached in, removed the toner cartridge, and there it was - our little letter opener.  I stuck my fingers in to get it, but it was wedged in there pretty well.  I tried to use a pen to dislodge it, but that was only making things worse, and I knew that if I kept going on this route, I'd be buying a new laser printer.  No thanks.  That is *not* on my Christmas list this year!

I got two butter knives from the kitchen.  Oh, I know what you're thinking.  Yes, I turned off AND unplugged the printer before using my makeshift tweezer-tongs anywhere near the electronic device! 

Now, it is usually about here that I talk about how easy it was to remove the object from the place it wasn't supposed to be in the first place.  Yeah, not so much this time.  I struggled to get the opener into a position that would let me extract it from the printer.  In case you weren't aware, there is not a lot of room inside one of these desktop laser printers, and what room there is does not accomodate foreign objects without a fight.  It also does not release said object without one either.  After a bit of experimentation, I decided that I could push down on the manual feed tray, forcing the opener to pop out of it's place, then pull the opener through the same tray opening I was pushing down on. 

I was half right.  The opener did pop out of its place.  But, instead of falling into place, it wedged itself into a weird angular position that I then had to fight to get it out of.  But, I did manage to eventually free the thing from that position and then slide it out of the manual feed opening. 

You may remember not long ago, I posted about geting baseball card plactics sleeves stuck in and melted onto the innards of the printer.... You may also recall my advice to keep ALL objects AWAY from your printer's openings...  We see how well (and how long) I listen to my own advice.

By the way, the printer still works just fine - manual feed and all.  It has nothing to do with me.  That is all about the Lord above smacking me in the head and giving me a bit of that "life experience" I seem to be lacking (since I seem to get so much of it).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I won!! Wahoo!!

Well, it was a long, hard month of writing, but I broke through the 50,000 word barrier this morning to win the 2009 NaNoWriMo banner!  Even better than that, though, I pushed my novel from a short story into the book I've been wanting to write for some time.

Actually, it turned out to be a completely different story than I thought it was going to be.  I have a lot of clean-up to do with it as well, but I am not feeling any pressure for that.  I would like to get it edited and assembled to publish it before next year's NaNoWriMo, though.

I can already tell that it will take a lot more discipline to finish next year.  I started this year's with a story I had begun many years ago while working on my Bachelor's degree.  It took more shape during my Masters, but was still never breaking out into a full-fledged novel.  It took an article in a writing magazine for me to find the NaNoWriMo program and finally get my butt in gear to move it along.

The story follows one kid and his friends as they share fun, laughter, fear and adventure growing up in Western Pennsylvania.  The setting is based on where I lived as a kid, and the characters are composites of many people I've known over my lifetime.  While some of the trouble they find came based on my own childhood adventures, the novel is fictional.  I dare say, it would also make a fun movie.  Who knows, right?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eight Days a Week...

Eight Days.  That's how long it's been since I lasted posted an update.  Yeah, I know I explained what's been going on, but still, I know some folks check back here to see if I've done anything, and I need to let you in on things!

First of all, I'm up to just over 35,000 words out of the 50,000 required to "finish" the NaNoWriMo contest.  I anticipate hitting the 50-grand mark by the end of Monday.  I would have Sunday, but I have to work on Saturday, so that shoots that in the foot, or the butt, or where ever you'd prefer to shoot.

I also got a NEW CAR!

Yeah, it's a 2009 Dodge Charger SXT.  It is one butt-kickin buddy!  I hated getting rid of my truck.  I have never enjoyed a vehicle as much as I enjoyed the truck.  I loved driving it, playing in it, putting goofy decals on it.  But, I am a "sporty" car kinda guy at heart, and this was much more in my price range.  I have been having a blast tooling around in it, too.

On Tuesday night, I drove four hours to Ft. Smith to stay overnight in a hotel for a training on Wednesday.  On the way up, I drove the Interstates because it was already dark by the time I left the house.  On the way back Wednesday, though, I decided to take Hwy-71 to Hwy-270 to Hwy-7 then grabbed I-30 home.  Basically, I went for a joy ride through the Ouachita hills and mountains.  I have one thing to say about it:  HOLY COW!  The pit of my stomach tried to turn over a couple of times because I am so used to driving the truck.  The truck could not take the turns in the manner that the Charger cut through them like soft butter.  Hugging curves, running on the straight lines, enjoying the ride... 

I was in Ft. Smith on Wednesday because Apple came in to tell us about integrating Macs with Netware and to talk to us about imaging the Macs.  Basically, you set one Mac up the way you want all the others to look, then save an image of that machine.  After that, you push out the image to the other computers so they all have the same stuff, set up the same way.  Very handy!

Today (Friday), I hosted a "Mac Party" day at work.  We had about 15 people come and learn how to use their Macs plus get a look at LOTS of software apps to run on their Macs (some useful, some just for fun).  I think everyone walked away learning SOMETHING new!

Tomorrow (Saturday), I am leading a group of teachers in a technology session.  I will be quickly covering PowerPoint and helping them work on their group projects.  They will create content with links, Arkansas Standards and Frameworks, the PowerPoint, and possibly videos/images.  It should be lots of fun!  I am going to share many of the resources that I've been exposed to for the last few weeks and months.  Very cool stuff indeed!

Things should return to "normal" for me after the Thanksgiving break.  Thanks for checking in on me!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do you hear the crickets chirping?

Can you see the cobwebs hanging from the corners of my blog?  Yeah, I thought so.

So, what the heck have I been doing for the last week or so?  Mainly concentrating on getting to my 50,000-word goal for the www.nanowrimo.org contest.  That is to say, I have been working on my novel.  That is not all, of course. 

I have also been running all over southwest arkansas trying to help schools with their technology problems. Oh, I know, that has nothing to do with taking some time out to jot down a few words here. 

I have a confession.  I've been Plurking.  What is "plurking?"  It is a very cool social network tool like twitter or FaceBook.  I'm not sure how other folks are using it, but I have connected with a lot of education-related folks who enjoy incorporating technology into the curriculum.  I have also connected with folks that seem to talk about anything.

What I like about Plurk is that the conversations appear in a time line and that people can respond to the posts.  There seems to be a camaraderie on Plurk that is different than connecting with old friends (a la FaceBook).  The ability for response and to scroll back through posts easily makes it more relevant than Twitter. 

I also like that the posts and comments are limited to 140 characters like Twitter.  This forces the author to either limit their thoughts or to created inventive posts spanning several responses to their own posts.  It is a strange thing to see play out.

Then, there is karma.  You post, you respond, you boost your karma.  At certain levels, you get to 'unlock' smileys depending on your karma score.  The real fun comes in when you put yourself up against fellow "plurkers" in a contest for who has the higher karma and who can maintain their level.  A bit childish? Sure. A lot fun? You bet!

Really, though, if I expect folks to stop by here and see what's popping in my head, I need to keep on posting.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The memory-lane side of reconnecting on FaceBook

I recently reconnected with a childhood friend, Kim Smith, on FaceBook.  It thought it was pretty cool to get back in touch with someone I hadn't seen in who knows how long.  What I didn't know is that she seems to have a never-ending collection of photos that were taken at various times during our lives.  For example, I am the skinny kid on the left in the photo below:



If memory serves, that picture was taken between her grandparents' house and my grandparents' house.  You may be able to see the date: July 1979.  I was ten.  We played nearly every summer together whenever her folks would come over and my parents would take us to grandma and grandpas, which was pretty often.  There are two memories that really stand out about us being kids and hanging out together back then.

The first is when we lived in my grandparents' basement.  They had converted the basement into an apartment - living room, dining area, two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom.  Brian (on the right above) and I shared one room as our bedroom.  I remember listening to the "Grease" album with Kim in our room.  It was a lot of fun, and was one of those things that always stuck with me.

The other one is of us hanging out with her sister in her grandparents' basement listening to, don't shoot me (though I expect some laughter) "The Village People."  I think we even had roller skates on, skating around their basement to the music.

Of course, she doesn't have just one picture from our younger days...

This one is from my older teen-aged days.  This would be around 1986 or so, during my "messy hair" days.  Others prefer to call it my "mullet" days.  I don't even think I knew that word back then.  I liked to wear my hair short in the front with a lot of gel to make it messy.  The long hair was being grown out to eventually have a 'tail' made out of it.  I had also planned to have the longest earring I could find.  I am thankful THAT never materialized.  
Some people have bashed FaceBook for being some kind of place that only desperate "would-have/should-have" dreamers and wishful thinkers hang out.  I even know of one tech that blocks FaceBook at school based on the sole reason that his/her teachers don't need to be trying to rekindle old flames on school time.  I agree with the last part, but FaceBook (or any truly 'social' network) is much, much more than that.  For me, the images you see above are just two of the million reasons why I think the ideas behind sites like FaceBook make them incredible tools in today's world.
If you have pictures from your childhood and you've reconnected with folks on social networks, post the picture(s) out there and tag the folks.  Trust me, they'll laugh, cry, and most importantly THANK YOU for doing it.  But, mostly, they'll laugh at themselves.  And, that is a wonderful gift.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Right place, right time


I drove down to Fouke, AR, to work along side fellow techs in helping to set up a new Mac XServe server.  While we were there, the National Guard had the Dale Jr NASCAR vehicle there.  Naturally, we took a break from working on computers to have pictures made by the servicemen there.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Life after Michael and novel writing

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, "It ain't easy being Michael."

Today was the first day back to work after "David Being Michael" came about.  In the aftermath, I left many "fans" sorely disappointed.  It turns out that many folks at the Elementary School had anticipated "Michael's" arrival.  I had not known this, so when Emily's classroom party was over, we went home.  MANY people told Shan and emailed/ texted/ facebooked/ etc their disappointment that I did not visit each of the grades at the school.

Another set of "fans," those with whom I work either directly or indirectly, missed seeing me dressed up and thus were not happy that I did not come visit.  I actually had a school visit scheduled for Friday, but other things work-related came up and I could not get there.  I have since been told to re-dress as Michael and come to the school this week.  As tempting as that is, I cannot bring myself to dress as the King of Pop at a school without a true, semi-valid reason.  Perhaps next year's getup will warrant such demand and admiration - or humiliation - whichever.

So, today, I heard MANY shouts of "Hey, There's Michael!" and "Hey, Where's Michael?"  It was flattering and strange all at the same time.  I never understood the "problems" of celebrity, and for a few days, I have had a chance to experience it.  It's great and scary all in one.  The scary part is the folks running up to you.  I'm talking grown adults running up shouting, "I need a picture! Can I have a picture with you?"

In a way, I suppose, it was a chance for some folks to connect with someone that many of us grew up knowing, admiring, scratching our heads over.  Would I do anything differently?  Actually, yeah, I would.  I would visit each of the grades at the Elementary building.  I would have also at least tried to get back a few of the "Michael Moves" just to give folks something to see.  Oh, I did a little side-stepping and moonwalking, but I used to have many of his moves down pretty well (or at least *I* thought so).  I suppose what I am trying to say is that I would have "showed out" a bit more, much like the King of Pop would have done himself.

As weird as it sounds, I did not dress like Michael to make fun of him. Not in the least.  Well, okay, maybe a little.  I mean, it *IS* Michael, after all.  But, aside from his wackiness, he was one of the greatest entertainers of all time. This was my little way of making him, "A Part of Me."



I am working on my novel, and am on day two of the National Novel Writing Month contest.  I have 8010 words written out of 50000 so far.  I am not sure if my program and their program counts words the same way, so I am hoping to have at least 51000 or so by the time it is said and done.

The "secret," so I have read, is that you can't go back and edit anything. You basically start writing and let the muses sing.  Edit later.  Make inline notes if you have to, but keep writing.  It's harder than it sounds.  In some places, the story takes a weird tangent or you see where a paragraph would work if it were in a different place, but you keep pushing through it.  In just two days, I have asked myself things like, "Am I being too wordy here? Am I not giving enough detail there?"  I have decided that I am going to go way overboard with details.  The story will have more information and description than anyone in their right mind would want to endure.  This serves two purposes: 1) It gives me a better chance of hitting the goal by being so wordy, and 2) You can always cut things out of a story but trying to add stuff in afterward is tough.

I'll keep you posted on and off about my progress, but you can always click the "NaNoWriMo" icon over there on the right side at the top of this blog if curiosity gets the best of you. :-)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I know it has been a long time since I've posted anything, but the week has been filled with getting ready for Halloween and other all-important such stuff. My offering to you is below: