spa at home

3 06 2010

Last time I was at Best Buy I was avoiding the salespeople who wander the floor (as usual) and I found myself in a back corner where the computer speaker sets were.  I had been looking for a new set since my Logitech ones bit the dust and the Sony set I bought to replace them sucks balls.

I found something that quickly has become my favorite possession – the Bose Companion 2 speakers.  It has no external subwoofer (which I love) and they sound AMAZING.  I have thoroughly enjoyed them.

Last week I got a “Relaxation Music Collection.”  I really needed some white noise.  Our walls are thin, the house is small, my kids are big and they’re all loud.  Anyway, it’s different types of music based on your mood set to nature sounds.  I really like the summer creek one* because it’s mostly birds chirping and makes the doves think they’ve got an audience.  They’re so cute!

Today has been A Rough Day.  I woke up about 3 this morning hurting so badly I couldn’t lay down, then Shaun discovered the cars had been broken into.  The kids were BAD all day, my heating blanket died, and the pain would not stop no matter what meds I took.  (Later the doctor did get me a muscle relaxer so I’m waiting on that to kick in.)

After lunch, I put the kids down for nap.  I kicked all the animals out of my bed and I cranked up my summer creek MP3.  I turned off all the lights and closed the curtains and crawled in between the sheets.  Then I pretended I was at Chateau Elan in one of the facial rooms waiting on my treatment.

Can you believe I slept for 30 minutes?  It was so nice.  So, so nice.

Then I woke up to a kid banging on my door.  They had to go to the bathroom.  The bathroom they walked past to get to my room.

But I slept for 30 minutes in my little home spa!  Score!

*It’s also great because it makes my bladder work.  Peeing without pain is so satisfying!  Pro tip: drink lots of water, listen to creek noises.

Best Buy guy

19 01 2010

I probably need to just start a series on idiocy.

My last few posts have been about people assuming other people are idiots for various reasons and I totally forgot to blog about the guy that started my whole rant & rave episode.

I hate going to Best Buy.  There’s a problem with that though – they have good shit for good prices and sometimes you need good shit without waiting for New Egg to ship it to you.  I hate GOING to Best Buy.  Let me say that again.

There are plenty of reasons to hate going there, including:

1. It’s always too hot in there due to them running 500 TVs at once.

2.  You have to walk through aisles of movies, video games, and CDs to get to the computer stuff.

3.  The young, male “support staff” need some more fucking training.

They think that because they play Halo and once helped their mama hook up her cable modem that they are THE SHIT and the electronics world should BOW DOWN.  The only place worse for a female to go is Radio Shack.

The reasons to go to Best Buy include:

1.  Good shit

2.  Good prices

3.  You get your good shit right away

I always, always, ALWAYS do my shopping online before I go to the store to minimize the “have you ever seen a falcon punch in real life?” effect that the store has on me.

Now I am unmistakeably female.  I has boobies and a cute haircut and big blue eyes and teeny, tiny little hands and feet.  I am well aware that I’m a girl.

Having a vagina has absolutely nothing to do with my knowledge of computers or electronic related thingamabobs.

Right?  OK, let’s go to Best Buy.

I walk back to the computer section needing a hard drive. There is a young man, probably early 20s back there helping customers who need to know things like “do I have to subscribe to the internet?”

BBG: Hi, can I help you find something?  (He takes in the fact that I am unmistakeably female and cute at that.)

Me:  I’m just looking for the hard drive section.

BBG:  Let me show you where they are.  What kind of computer do you have? (I can’t tell if he means laptop or desktop or if he’s looking for a brand name.  I figure he means desktop or laptop because that’s the major distinction if you aren’t looking for an external drive.)

Me:  It’s a desktop. I need an internal drive.  I assume they’re on the same aisle as the external drives, right?

BBG:  What kind of computer is it though?

Me:  A custom built gamer.

BBG:  ….  but who made it?  You know like Dell or Gateway or…

Me:  My dad and I did.  It’s about 6 years old but the ASUS motherboard was top of the line when we built it.  I just need two 500G hard drives because I’m converting it into a server for my home network.  Both will run as slaves to the current drive, so I only need the drives themselves.

BBG:  (stares at me like I have suddenly burst into show tunes while simultaneously showing porno mags to random strangers.  The military calls this the “shock and awe effect”)  … so you know what kind of drive you need?

Me:  Yes.  I need to know where they are.  Like what aisle.

BBG:  Are you sure?  There are complicated differences.

Me:  Yes, I’m sure.  I think that other customer needs some help.

At this point, I realize that I have forgotten if I need IDE or SATA and that totally makes me a dumb fuck.  He wouldn’t have known either, but still, it really pissed me off.

Turned out, I left without buying jack shit.  I used the money I would have spent there to buy liquor to bribe my dad with.  Later that night I showed up with the machine, my stack of software, and some liquor and we drank and built a machine.  (Let me tell you – finding drivers for a 6 year old ASUS board is hard as fuck.)  I managed to acquire the two 320G hard drives that I had sold him a little while back so now it’s got 960G of space instead of the intended 1TB of storage like I’d intended.

I’m pretty sure I’ve got 40G worth of flash sticks around here anyways, so it all worked out.  And really, how much storage does a girl really need?

pressing all the buttons at once never works

17 12 2009

Have you ever said that to someone?

You know what I mean – you’re watching someone get frustrated with a computer and they slam their hand down on the keyboard or randomly start pressing keys.  You know they aren’t going to magically make it better and THEY know they aren’t going to somehow fix things, but dammit, they’re putting the smack-down on it anyways.

If anything, it’s going to make the computer problem worse and it’s going to make things harder and now there’s a bruised hand in the deal.

People are much the same way as computers.  They have buttons.  When pressed correctly, functions that are useful but may take a bit of processing to run but the outcome is favorable.  Certain buttons cause a self-check.   Some let you look closer at the files and drivers, and some show you programming that’s running in the background.

Profound, isn’t it?

It’s also very true that if you push a person’s buttons all at once (or overplay your hand, if you like poker terminology) then not only are you going to end up with the same ole malfunction, but you’re going to have a bruised hand… and if you hit it too hard, it’s not going to work anymore.

I have a few buttons.  Quite a few.  I don’t react well to having someone slam my buttons because they’re frustrated.  For example…

1.  Call me a drug addict

This one will create instant and intense feedback.  You can accuse me of damn near anything and I’ll laugh it off.  Truth is, I’ve never done an illegal drug in my life and neither has Shaun.  Ever.  I don’t mix meds, I don’t get high, and I absolutely don’t put anything in my body that will endanger the people around me.

Now, I don’t care if you smoke dope or do whatever.  I’m not pushing my beliefs on anyone.  However, I do have children who were exposed to meth production and I’ve counseled many teens with drug problems.  I’ve seen some really shitty stuff while growing up.  One of my friends who lived near me had a step-dad who smoked and grew a lot of dope.  One day she comes home from school to find the front of his face blown off – I heard the scream from my house.  He was still alive, even after wedging a deer rifle up under his chin. I don’t feel too sorry for him – I feel really bad for HER.

This is not to say if you say “bitch, you must be high” in jest that I’m going to knock you down.  I won’t.  However, if you honestly accuse me of doing drugs, I will have some feedback for you.

2.  Tell me I make things up or that it’s all in my head

I can tell the difference between fiction and reality.  Promise.

I once had an entire set of people believing I was a boy, even though I had my gender in my profile and photos of myself online.  I can tell stories but they’re mostly see-through and hardly ever serious.

In my other life (my not a fiction author persona) I’m a good analyst and give you the data without any massaging or glossing.  Do you need a graph?  OK.  A diagram?  Got it.  Those facts aren’t changing just because they’re prettier.

And you better believe that if I’m paying YOU anything, I’m not telling you a lie.  It just makes the job harder and makes it take longer.  When I’M the client, I’m not looking for attention, for money, for fodder for my comedy act, or for whatever deal that we have to last any longer than it absolutely has to.  I want it fixed, I want it over.  I come prepared and I expect service and quality.

3.  Assume that I’m an idiot and/or assume I assume you’re an idiot

Most of the terribly smart people I know could pass as hare-brained, stupid-ass derelicts.  They do this on purpose so people won’t fuck with them like “quick, what’s 182 x 397?”  Bitch, I don’t know.  Go the fuck away – I’m trying to drink this latte and pretend I’m not trying to figure it out in my head.

This just means that I assume every random idiot I meet may just be the second coming of Albert Einstein.  That dude looked a little crazy, too.  If you’re an average, all-American stereotypical person, then good for you.  I’m going to assume you do a good job at your chosen profession because you CHOOSE to.  Doing a good job has not much to do with your IQ.  It has a lot to do with your attitude and your dedication.

In return, I like for people to assume that I’m good at what I do and that I’m not an idiot (even if they can’t tell by looking.)  I believe that I can know a little something about someone else’s profession and still not show disrespect to their skill or judgment.  It’s like I can tell when the wheel on my car is a little wobbly and I can tell you “it seems like a problem with the front driver-side wheel.”

That doesn’t mean I’m saying “I know everything about front driver-side wheel problems and I think you should take a look at the bearings, because this doesn’t sound like a brake problem.”  It also doesn’t mean that I expect you to just take my word for it and just disassemble it without driving it first.  I’m not saying “I just need a grunt to do the dirty work.”  I’m giving you my experience that I think is relevant, now it’s your turn to ask questions to discover information that you KNOW is relevant.

It furthermore doesn’t mean that because my profession line of your profile says “web related stuff” that I went to some Chevy-hater website and learned all I could about common fuck-ups.  I didn’t just look this up on the internet – if I did research its so I can get a feel for what information to present to you from MY experience in a less than idiotic manner.

Why?  Because I heard my dad say all the time I was growing up “and then she said it sounds like GRRRrrrrrRrrrSCRREEEEEAAAACH and then it felt like when the carnival ride is about to time out – you know how it gets real slow and exaggerated before it stops… then later it turned out she had a windshield wiper that didn’t work and a blown taillight.”  I don’t want to be dinner-time conversation and I don’t need everyone in the general area to look at me like I’ve grown a green spike out of my ass.

4.  Tell me that my facial expression is somehow disrespectful

Ok, you self-absorbed little shit, who are you to think my face has anything to do with YOU?  Most of the time this happens, I’ve got a migraine and I’m making the “do you smell that?  I think one of our kids just shat themselves” face.  I don’t know it because my face feels like it’s full of sand and I’m attempting to be part of normal society.

I’m not wrinkling my nose up because you walked by and I hate people who <insert characteristic you’re overly sensitive about.>  I don’t think you smell funny or that you have on stupid looking clothes or that you should rub some conditioner on your kids’ head.  Actually, I would probably think those things if I had it in me to NOTICE you. If you were walking by and you happened to be 700 lbs in hot pink spandex, I may notice you out of the group of people in the area.  I absolutely did not notice your ass who was 15 feet away from the 700 lb hot pink person but in the general line of site.  I don’t care if you were dressed in head to toe Coach patterned anything and had bright yellow cabbage patch hair done up in pig-tails – I swear I didn’t see you.

When in pain, here’s the way things are noticed:

1.  Anything in the epicenter of the pain.  If I have pain in between my shoulders, I’m not wearing a bra because it would damn near kill me.

2.  Anything that aggravates the pain.  If I have a migraine and you walk by smelling like you just bathed in a vat of peach candle scent, then I will notice you and I will vacate the area and leave you to clean up the vomit.

3.  Anything that is shoved into my face so that I’ll notice it.  That’s because people who know me know that when I get the “do you smell that?” face on know that they need to dress up in bright orange and do the chicken dance to get me to pay attention to them.

… and they have to be yelling “CYNDI, did you see that cabbage-patch headed bitch back there?”  Um, no, I didn’t.  What?  You want to take Alyssa to Babyland?  Ok.  Sounds good.  “No, I don’t mean I want to drive to Clermont – I mean did you see that girl with the yellow pig-tails?”  No… what?  Someone did that?

So, for your holiday season, just remember to be nice to your keyboard.  It doesn’t need your frustrated ass banging on it like cops on a screen door.


17 07 2009


A picture of my workbench right now.

I’ve been playing with some vintage jewelry lately.  The picture doesn’t do any of it justice but I haven’t been able to put it away even though I got bored with it.

The kids had this really annoying toy that someone gave them for Christmas last year that was totally out of their age range.  It was part of a board game and the electronic part beeped for 60 seconds then the timer went off and it went into hyper-beep.

Now, on my workbench are the LCD circuitry and the speaker.  They’re much more useful now that they’ve been removed!  I need a medium sized circuit board, so I may have to euthanize another one of the annoying toys…

Let’s see, from left to right, I have a swallow brooch, a rope chain necklace, a brass scarf holder, a fake gold and fake diamond bracelet, and a very 80’s costume jewelry set.  Below that is a partially dissected costume necklace.

Looks like fun!

Love Poetry to Excel

13 07 2009

I’m building an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my lace inventory and love poetry dedicated to the program has been popping up in my head.  It goes like this:

Oh, Excel

How your name astounds me

To be based on excellence

Even though you’re a fucking bitch

If you were more user friendly

You would make good money as a whore

Um, that didn’t work so well, did it?

It’s always like this when I first start a spreadsheet.  It goes from “I hate your guts” in the beginning.  Then, when you’re in the middle of it actually being usable, you think “this is pretty cool.”  Afterwards, when you use it to analyze stuff and make graphs, you think “fucker, why won’t you work the same way two times in a row?!”

I better go ahead and build in the data validation coding so I don’t screw something up during the entry part so that the analytics part will work later on.  Fun, fun.  I used to do this for money… now I do it for free.  Damn.  Hopefully my lace will be easy to find when I need it.

Etsy, social networking, and lost dictionaries

9 07 2009

I’ve been slowly getting things up on Etsy.  I want everything to be perfect.  That means taking pictures, cropping, editing, and all the while writing down ideas that come from the air whenever something creative is going on.

If you want to see the etsy page with just two items listed, it’s here:  Ballew Family Artisans

I have tissue packs that say “Do not open unless for tears of joy” that need to be photographed and put up next.  Then I have some vintage toys and jewelry…  you know how it goes.

I’m also getting antsy now that the summer break is half over.  Soon, the kids will be back in school and me and E-man will have the day to ourselves while I’m not driving the taxi.  LJ and A won’t be going to the same school, so it will be quite the taxicab.

I’ve been a SAHM for over a year now and it’s freaky.  It’s good, it’s just abnormal.  I’ve never been without a job for so long.  Like a job where I got to get in the car and go somewhere else for several hours at a time.  It’s nice because I can do things around here the way I like them, but when it comes down to it, I’m not good at the home-ec stuff.  If I can’t program it or hack it, then I’m not good at it.  I can’t garden worth a shit.  I can’t sew or knit or any of that.  I’m a halfway decent cook but I really dislike cooking.  I’m decent at cross-stitch but that’s only because you can count it out a like little pre-computer ASCII art project.

And now we’re back to the idea of work.  I need SOMETHING to keep me from going brain-dead and I also don’t want industry to run off without me while I’m playing at home-ec.  Really, I just want the kids to have a mom at home when they are.  They may not want to be close to me all day, but they like the freedom of playing in their rooms or reading or beating the new DS game.  I like it too – I always learned more when I had time just to screw around.

So I joined Etsy and I signed up on LinkedIn.  I already have a Facebook page and a Myspace page I never, ever log in to.  LinkedIn is a strange site.  It’s not built… to be user friendly.  It’s like a technology test to see if you’re astute enough to actually use it because none of the buttons are in places you’d think to put them and all the links are vague.  Plus, they want you to pay to see other people’s profiles.  Um, no.  I’ll put it up there so I have a consistent web presence, but I’m not going to pay to see other people’s consistent web presence.

Seriously – Google me.  There are two Cynthia Dollins in the entire US of A.  I’m the one that DIDN’T write the book on academics and I’ve never been a professor of anything.  I’m the one that wrote the professional learning techniques article and the one that wrote the spiritual oneness article that shows up on all the pagan webpages.  (Which I think is very odd and very cool at the same time.)

Social networks make you define yourself in new and masochistic ways.  What is my specialty?  Um.  Being a geek.  You can’t get up on the web and claim to be a hacker because people think that’s illegal.  They’re thinking that you bust internet security.  No, crackers break security.  Hackers build shit from shit that used to do different shit.  Also, saying anything about hacking or modding anything brings tons of little punk ass teenagers who want to talk about your notoriety or what programming languages you use.


So what do I do?  Um… I solve problems.  Don’t ask me how because I don’t know yet.  First you have to have a problem.  Then I need the context around your problem and access to your system.  Then I need some coffee and some chocolate and some alone time.  I’ll let you know if I need something else.

Really, that’s all I do.  I make people’s lives easier.  That’s a good one, but again, hard to define.

Let’s see.  I have to be more skilled than that.  Oh, I know:  I’m great at pissing off developers.  I’m not a code monkey – I don’t care if it’s beautiful and poetic behind the user-interface.  I want it to actually fucking work.

If I click this, it’s supposed to do that.  If it does that by doing this other thing, turning that date code to zero, and fucks up all my reports, you are going to have a problem. When it comes to software engineering – you should always expect one fix to cause at least seven other problems.  The artistry comes in making the fix not trigger those other grenades.  It’s possible, it just may not be pretty.

I don’t want to form a meeting of all the beta testers and their supervisors and the developers and their supervisors so I can tell you your link is screwed.  I want your little pale ass to come over to my computer station (or link up with me on a web conference) and see what happens when you click the link.  This way, I can with my finger point at the computer screen and go THAT ONE. This is so that you, as a developer, don’t go and break a link that worked just fine because the naming convention was off.

Um, I also translate geek to human and then from human to sales.  That’s talent, right there!  You could not count the number of times I’ve been pulled into offices to translate.  Developers, project managers, BIS, analysts, middle management, service personnel, sales personnel, and upper management all have different languages.  They’re all talking about the same thing but with the lingo, they don’t know it and suddenly there’s a huge fight and everyone is mad and doubts the other folk’s intellect, and managers are being called and it’s a big cluster fuck.  This is where I come in.  You tell me what you want.  Now you, and then you.

Here’s a way you can all understand it and who is doing what.  *everyone nods*  Here’s what’s going to happen in two weeks.  Here’s what’s going to happen in the mean time.  Here’s who does NOT need to be involved.  Once everyone is happy and shaking hands, my work is done.

How do you define that?

I think in another year, I’ll be ready to head back into the fray.  Right now, I’m still a little too hot about it.  I only got mild heartburn while recalling the events above.  I feel things a little too strongly and my main value is in diffusing high stress situations but adrenaline can only take you so far.  If you keep going after burn-out, alcohol, drugs, and other misguided decisions lay on the other end of the spectrum. You don’t believe me?  Ask people who look 10 or 15 years older than me how old they are.  What?  Only 5 years?  Yeah, buddy.  Hard living shows on your body.

Everyone knows how to define a burn-out.

And no one is going to admit to it on social networking sites.

And the literary field puts me back in perspective

1 07 2009

I was so excited I finally got Richard North Patterson‘s* The Race in paperback the other day.  So. Excited.

I started and finished it today in the bathtub, thinking “what a damn good book.  How does Mr. North Patterson always tend to be so oddly prophetic and honest with his novels?”  I thanked God again for the blessing of finally finding the book and being able to read it as I tied on my robe and left the bathroom.

I dried my hair, pet Spooks, and turned around to face a brand new hardback version of The Race neatly shelved on the bottom row of bookshelves.

There are too many self-flagellating analogies right now for me to even think about including:

  • I have so much wealth in just literature that I can misplace an entire novel for a long enough period to get excited about it again the next time it’s published.
  • I should really stop expecting the next best and re-examine the contents of my bookshelves (and household) and find new ways to love them all over again.
  • I better not invite anyone involved with the local fire code over any time soon because the next additions to my collection are going to force triple-shelving situations.**

*Dear Mr. North Patterson, if you or anyone affiliated with you were to read this humble entry, please take this one statement to heart:  Please get a real website. Someone as prolific as you should have enough clout to get have a site that is not built on your publisher’s template and hosted on their server.  If you need two or three candidates who are professional advertising web designers who recently got laid off and have time to give you some energy, just send me an email.  I can also recommend a good hosting client.

** I have a surreal love for words that end in -ion today.  I guess they just feel nice rolling around in my brain although it does bring to mind this rather unfortunate incident of internet culture.