Old Moon

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't Change Your Server!

Can you believe 7 days, average 6 hours per day, to establish correct settings on Outlook Express? We've just survived (barely) this ordeal. I understand very little about the mathematics involved with figuring out the possible number of combinations when dealing with 5 pages that have from 4 to 8 possible choices on each one. I do know it's a lot. It took 7 technicians (in India and the Philippines) to set up our computers.

Okay, so who needs 4 computers? But that's not the point. We have 2 desktops and 2 laptops, one of the latter equipped with Vista. How many more possibilities are now added to settings?

It took 4 days (3-hour sessions twice a day on average) to set up the first desktop. By the time it worked, I was feeling pretty cocky, so I decided all I had to do was to duplicate the settings with a different e-mail address for the second one. Wrong.

Another day to get the second desktop going. Finally--good.

I moved on to my laptop, thinking I'd just duplicate the settings. Wrong again. Another half day. Well, now I'm really getting the hang of this. It should make setting up the second laptop with Vista less of a problem.

Definitely wrong again! 2 full days to discover that a virus protection had to be completely un-installed (not merely disabled) before that mail program would work. After my husband re-installed his protection, we heaved an exhausted sigh, and I returned to my desktop. It had been the first one set up and running.

You guessed it. Seven days into the exercise, and that computer would no longer work.

By this time I've become an expert at changing settings. This upsets the technicians on the phone because now I can make the changes faster than they can tell me what to do. Not to worry. I wouldn't bother the poor girls any more. By now I can do everything except set up and run in Safe Mode to make basic changes to the whole system (I do leave that to the experts). I spend another 2 hours changing Outlook Express settings, and at last -- the promised land of e-mail is mine again!

Now to claim the incentive monetary rewards promised in the promotion that started all this. You'll see more here if they don't come through. Believe me, the time spent doing this was worth a lot more than $225!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I yield to no one in my distrust of most "media," and my tendency not to read what passes for news. However, I've just read a brief article by Lee Iacocca on Leadership in a recent AARP bulletin. I'm aware that one must read their material mindful of the filter of their agenda.

However this essay calls for voters to wake up to the reality that whoever ends up in the White House will need the best advisers and assistance he can muster. If they aren't in the day-to-day operations of the government, the proverbial ship of state is surely destined to sink, along with all of us.

His call is for Politics to behave not as usual, but as makes the only good sense: it should be mandatory for candidates to reveal choices for cabinet and others BEFORE the election, so that we can see who will have the best team (I'm including all parties who may be on a ballot).

Hear, hear!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Judging a book by its cover

Don't judge a book by its cover. Why ever not? Most of the time in these days of eye-catching jackets instead of handsome, dignified tooled leather, it's all you have to judge by. Our nearest Barnes and Noble is full of browsers, but every time we go in, I have to wonder whether any of them have to work for a living or take care of their houses and yards. It takes time even just to read the jacket blurbs, and when you have, it's not easy to decide how honest they are. I don't know how often you've been fooled, but I've become suspicious even though it's about the only option a potential buyer has. Of course if you've read more than a single review, you're way ahead of the game.

Publishers and their publicity departments know this for sure. The trouble is, there's another aphorism, "One man's meat...etc." I really would welcome some feedback on this. Here at top right is a cover for the same book pictured below right. It's out of print, and I had to figure out a new cover for its reissue by another small, independent press, etc. Which of the two--top or bottom--would be more likely to make you want to read what's behind the cover?You won't hurt my feelings. Both were my choice. Since one didn't sell many books, I hoped for better from the other. And yes, I have a preference.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Best Part of Writing

I've come to the conclusion that something I remember reading long ago is absolutely right: that to write is one of the best ways to discover what you think. My recent excursion into the world inhabited by columnists and professional essayists has thus far been a double learning experience that has me practically jumping out of my skin with excitement, even glee.

After embarking on the unknown waters of a subject I think I have either some knowledge or an opinion of, I often suddenly realize neither is what I thought when I started to tap the keyboard. Like any other college graduate, or even a lucky high school graduate, I was taught to develop a premise and outline the argument, and arrive at a conclusion. You couldn't take an essay exam without that. Now I've found out how much more revealing (and how much more fun!) it is to begin and let the devil take the hindmost, as my father used to say.

Which reminds me of another gem dropped into one of my lectures in college, to the effect that the really important stuff isn't in the instructor's notes, but in what the lecturer called the obiter dicta. Yes, I know, practically nobody is taught Latin any more, so I'll translate: it's in the parenthetical comments, the throwaway lines that an attentive student picks up. It's those that will matter ten or fifty years later. They're like the discoveries I've been making as I try putting down some point I think I want to present, only to discover either that it's turned into a different point altogether, or that it has a whole dimension that hadn't entered my head until I found the words in front of me on the screen! It's the remarks that aren't in the script and find their way out that say much more than I realized I had in mind. Serendipity for sure.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reading for pleasure

Whatever happened to "reading for pleasure?" I've just made my way through the Pulitzer Prize winner by Junot Diaz. This isn't the place for a review, though if you want to read one you'll find it soon on Senior Women Web. It's unbelievably grim in spite of the large doses of humor, but it's such black humor! The literary journals seem to be specializing in fiction that is harrowing or horrifying or both.

I remember reading great stories in numerous long-gone slick magazines. They weren't funny--at least most weren't, but they were both serious and entertaining. They often had upbeat endings. Maybe I'm losing my courage and my stomach (the proverbial one, I mean), but I don't want to find the grittiest reality and the worst socio-economic tragedies in every magazine and half the books I pick up in the hopes of a good read. I'm tired of words unprintable except in the most literary or avant guard publications; I'm sick of shock and awe on every page; horror isn't any fun for me and I can't comprehend why it is for practically all the rest of the world under the age of 50! Thank goodness for the wonderful writers of good mysteries!

Please, just tell me a good story?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

If only...

As too many fiction writers know, one of the most frustrating exercises is the search for an agent and/or publisher. Among the occasional rejection notes (in place of the non-response or printed forms), I've received two that said the reader didn't warm to my protagonist. There are two arguments in my favor: first, the whole point of the story is supposed to be how that character changes; second, I deliberately try not to set up my central characters as unflawed, but I attempt to show them as real people.

At last I've read a reviewer's comment that seems to grasp what's needed in a critic, whether one commenting after the book is published or someone who will decide whether it's worthy of publication. Geoffrey Wolff, who is a long-time professional reviewer, is quoted in The NY Times Book Review. He says he regrets that too few fiction writers are willing to write reviews. "A novelist knows how difficult it is to write even a flawed novel, whatever an unflawed novel may be." Some flaws, it seems to me, are evidence of that sought-after characteristic we were taught in school to call "verisimilitude." I consider that a requisite for a novelist. (Apologies to genre writers with other objectives in mind.)

I guess I'd add that it's too bad more agents and editors aren't endowed with the same knowledge, and thus might have the patience to read more than the customary first 50 pages.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth

Do you call it Independence Day or The Fourth of July? Whichever it is, do you use the term because that’s what you’ve heard from the first time you knew which day it is? Or do you choose the name to use based on its significance?
Does the date so vital to Americans and historians make you think first of Old Glory and fireworks and picnics and family reunions? March music and honor guards? Perhaps it resonates with Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day (once known as Armistice Day). Do you hear a distant echo of the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence? Any or all of the above?
Whatever your instant response to a date that’s always capitalized, there isn’t one of us who can be without an emotional reaction to this special holiday. Let go, and give it the thoughts it deserves.