Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fires in California

This moment, as I sit at my desk facing the window, a canopy of redwoods lining the fence, blue sky peeks through the tall branches. This morning, the sun came up brighter than I have seen in days. In fact, today is the first day smoke and haze have not permeated the air, polluting, causing burning eyes, headaches and breathing difficulties. Like many others, I have been taking my exercise to the gym instead of outside.

The fires have been in areas other than Santa Rosa, all the way from Humboldt County (my old stomping grounds) down to Big Sur, and many places in between. In fact, other than two house fires started by electrical mishaps, Sonoma County has been very lucky. All we have gotten is the smoke, but it has been everywhere for days. In places where fires run rampant, wildlife has either died or been displaced, and many people have lost their homes. All from the natural phenomenon of lightning striking like an angry match.

I have only been in one fire, when I was five. We lived in a mobile home in a small town in the hills. I think it was California, or maybe it was Oregon. I don’t recall. My dad was a logger, my mother stayed at home. Sometimes she would put us down for a nap and go outside and split wood for my dad.

One particular day, she was outside working. She had told us to stay down for our nap. I was cold and asked my brother, who was six, to keep me warm. At some point, we found some matches and built a fire, just a small one in the closet to keep us warm until mother came back into the house. Within moments, that little fire took on a life of its own and raged out of control. The last thing I remember is my mother, five feet two and one hundred ten pounds, running out of the house with each of us under an arm.

I remember the terror I felt from the heat, the fear on my mother’s face as she rescued us from the preying arms of the flames, the anger in my father’s voice as he scolded us for playing with matches. However, I didn’t remember the incident until I was an adolescent, and then it came back full-force in flashbacks explaining why I hated fire, even that small flame when my parents struck a match to light their cigarettes.

In present times, I feel for those who have either had to evacuate or have lost their homes, including wildlife. Fire started by a natural phenomenon affords a lot less guilt than one started by matches. However, the emotions are the same- loss, anger, grief and the actions of picking up pieces and starting over. I remember when my parents had to pick up those pieces.

Each day, I say my prayers for those directly affected by the fires and for the fire fighters who have been working for almost two weeks to bring the flames under control. Other than prayer, and the angels who help out in numerous ways, all California needs is a good strong dose of rain.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Windows Vista

This week, my Compaq Presario R3000 with Windows XP literally died. The power source inside of the computer shorted out and the computer would not start at all. It would have cost me more to fix it than to buy a new computer. Over the last year, I have had numerous problems with my computer- what appeared to be the backlight going out, which somehow “fixed” itself, problems starting up and crashing in the middle of work, and then the latest fiasco with the power source. My guess is that all those prior problems had to do with my system shorting out. However, despite the problems, I used my computer every single day for my writing and internet activity. It really was a great computer.

During my computer experience, I learned that there are still good people out there who are not after a buck. The technician at Mawson Computer Center did not charge me for the labor he had put into repairing the power jack ($270), but charged me a $69 diagnostic fee and told me to go buy myself a new computer. If I were to have the power source replaced, it would cost me well over $1,000 with part and labor. Without being asked to do so, and without charging extra, he also saved all of my “stuff” onto disc. I am really grateful. Here is a blurb on their excellent service record: http://www.diamondcertified.com/sonomamawsoncomputercenter.html

Now, this brings me to the real meat of this entry, which is a subject that makes many computer users out there pretty sore- Vista. Yes, my new Compaq Presario F700 came equipped with Windows Vista. I could have had XP installed for one low price of $59.99, but I wanted to try out Vista first before making that decision.

Let me tell you…..

I am glad that I did not install XP. I like Vista a lot. I have found it to be user friendly, fast and it looks great. Yes, it does look different and is probably a near-clone of the Mac operating system. However, it does things a lot easier and differently than Windows XP. For example:

1. When I hooked my DSL modem up to the internet, no action was necessary on my part other then plugging the correct cable into the correct port- Vista did the rest (whatever the rest was). XP required that I go through a few steps.

2. I installed my HP printer with no problems and no software- just plugged the printer cord into the computer and Vista did the rest. XP required that I used the software, which was cumbersome and too overloaded for my taste.

3. I removed the trial version of Word 2007 from my new computer because I didn’t like how difficult to navigate it was, didn’t want to purchase it, and love Word 2003. Since I already had my Word 2003 software, I tried to install it despite warnings from others that it might not work. Well, it installed just fine and is now in full working order.

For someone like me, who uses the computer for creative writing and simple things, Vista Home Edition is perfect. I don’t do gaming, but I do love to browse the internet to the writer's digest forums (link in sidebar on the right), research, listen to music, view videos and review blogs, and I spend a lot of time writing. Speaking of writing, it is time to get back to my editing chapter 8 of my novel, which now lives on my new Compaq.

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...