Archive for ‘Technical Technicalities’

July 4, 2016

Change of Address

by Janie Jones

Well, blogosphere. Here it is.

As my loyal blog friends know, the free blog site hosted by WordPress.com has just changed too much.  And, as I’ve been threatening to do, I moved.

*Queue melodramatic soundtrack*

It has been a time of great trial and tribulation.  First I sought a different free blog site provider.  And I absolutely love using blog.com, when it works. I especially love the look I can get with the customization tools. Unfortunately, I just have too many problems with my visitors not being able to access this site.

So, I have made the difficult decision to move, again. If you have been trying to follow me at my blog.com site or hoping I’d re-appear here, please look for me at my new blog home. Just think of it as Janie 3.0.

http://janiejonesgreatwhitenorth.net/

I will continue to monitor this site for a little while in case visitors have trouble accessing me at my new digs.  Please let me know if you can’t find me, either by commenting here or by email at janiejones.greatwhitenorth@gmail.com.

Thanks for all the years of support and friendship!

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November 21, 2015

I hate forms. Especially those that give the wrong information. Seriously.

by Janie Jones

I have spent a vast number of hours lately chasing down members of the Janie Jones, Graduate School or Bust, Fan Club.  This highly stressful begging for letters of recommendation so that Grad School will deem me worthy of another 4-6 years of torture culminating in the honorable degree of PhD, yielded as many as eight people willing to perform this august task.

I figured once I had eight confirmed yes-es, I didn’t have to approach the remaining 3 or 4 people on my list of potential fan club members.  I felt quite satisfied that I would be well represented.  I collected their permission to submit their contact info.  I collated all their contact information.  I prepared instructions for them on how to access the online submission site.  I sent them the downloadable pdf file for their convenience.  I sent the troubleshooting list in the event that technology was not on our side.  I prepared a brief statement of my intent for them so they would know what I was planning to do my graduate studies on/about.

And then I accessed my online application account and started inputting all the relevant info so my fans could comply with my request.  Lo and behold.  Even though the graduate school application directions say that three recommendations are required, it specifically says there is no maximum.  So imagine my surprise when upon merrily clicking to add my fifth fan club member, the system would not allow any additional people to be added. WTF?

The recommendation provider queue was apparently full.  Why would the instructions tell people there is no maximum when there is clearly an upload limit???  Had I known I’d only be allowed four fans in my club, I’d have planned that quite differently, as, it just so happens, the four fans who I hadn’t added first are people who I have actually done research work with at Stickittoyou U or hold massive sway on campus.  Dr. Smythe in the Lyme lab.  The Dr who is head of the seed lab where I work.  My prof who I was an undergraduate TA for last year in the cell biology lab.  And, my prof this year in the genetics lab who is the assistant director of the graduate study program.  MY BEST, MOST TOTALLY RELEVANT PEEPS CANNOT BE ADDED because I apparently only get four even though the directions say there is no maximum!!!

Hysteria ensues.

*@&!  #^%$

The remainder of this post is edited for foul language to the point there’s no point in going further.

 

November 2, 2015

Well, now that was $5 bucks that didn’t go to waste…

by Janie Jones

Well folks, it’s the end of an era.

One of my two vintage alarm clocks went dead.  I don’t know what happened to mine personally (it might be buried in the spud’s room at the farm) but I inherited a similar one from my ex.  Mine was purchased somewhere circa 1980s and had a small faux walnut case with red digital numbers, and I suspect the ex’s was of a similar vintage.

I remember when my mother bought it for me.  It was the year my parents bought their first house.  I was almost done with seventh grade, so I’d have been 13 I think.  I was kinda disappointed because I wanted one like my grandparents had.  You boomers remember these?

vintage alarm clock

I was fascinated by how the numbers would flip.  I also wanted a radio alarm instead of that hideous beep the cheap alarms made.

I cannot tell you how I hated that beep.  I developed an honest to Pete anxiety trigger to it.  It got so bad that if I’d hear that alarm sound anywhere at any time my heart would race and I’d start to panic.  So when DVD players became affordable, many years later, I bought a new alarm clock with a CD player that I could set to wake up to a certain CD.  Oh, that was like waking up to a whole new world.

But.  There’s always a but isn’t there?  I actually grew to like the red number readout.  Over the intervening years no matter how many different alarm clocks I’ve been through, I always kept my first alarm clock with the red numbers just as a clock.  When I moved to my tiny room in the Big City, I went back to using the red number alarm clock I inherited from the ex as a clock by my bed (but now I use my cell phone with a pleasant, cheerful chime with bird chirping in the background to wake me) because it shed less harsh ambient light but was easy to see without glasses or contacts.

Finally, after some 30-35 years of service, however, it ceased to keep time.  It has no moving parts, and runs on electricity, so I ‘m not sure what wore out.  Maybe some circuit finally degraded.  It had been not very accurate for a week or so, slowly losing time so I had to re-set it frequently.  Then, the time discrepancy got greater and greater until finally, when I came home from the farm it was so far off the time it was useless.  I had to unplug it and throw it away.

Oddly, I feel sort of lost now.  No red numbers to warn me of the time through out the night when up for trips to the bathroom, no numbers to comfort me with the knowledge that I have two more hours before wake up.  No more of old reliable who I once hated then came to prefer.

*Sigh*  Life is strange.

But, I see I could get a replacement with one of those retro flip number alarm clocks that always fascinated me…

September 28, 2015

A first

by Janie Jones

For the first time in my college career I made a decision to simply not do an assignment.

It required me to download software to my ancient computer and then after that I had to download a file from a huge scientific database.  The file came as a WinZip file.  I don’t have WinZip software so I can’t open the file unless I want to buy said software.  Well, I don’t want to spend money I don’t have to spare on a software that I will use once for an assignment worth a whole whopping two points.

So I didn’t do it.

Now I just hope the professor doesn’t assign any future homework that requires me to use this stuff.

Well, off to class with me and my non assignment turning in self.

September 4, 2015

The gamble

by Janie Jones

The house that I am renting a room in in Big City sits in a very non-homogenized neighborhood. It has a lot of wooded lots, no sidewalks and a lot of non-uniformity between it’s level of posh-ness.  Some people have shacks with little more than gravel drives while others have huge privately wooded lots and fancy houses and paved driveways.  It is definitely an area which used to be rural and grew up very eclectically, probably over a very long time, on a long street that connects two major thoroughfares.

Despite being a rather busy street, or perhaps because if it, it has very few other “connections” to the rest of the roads in town.  Normally to get to school I just turn left out of the driveway and zip down the street and make three turns and in less than 10 minutes I’m at one of the Stickittoyou U parking lots.  If I want to shop or visit friends I just turn right from the driveway and in 10 minutes or less I’m most of the other places I want to be, so the location is pretty convenient.  I also like it a lot because , even though it is smack dab in the middle of everywhere I want to be, it doesn’t feel downtown city like; there are no bus lines and no businesses anywhere near my place, so there is a much lower number of random people wandering about that don’t belong.

As I believe it is an old neighborhood which used to be unincorporated, the road itself is not in super great condition and, following the major flood from a few years ago, many of the drainage culverts and sewer pipes apparently needed fixing as well as the road itself.  So, starting early in August, Big City began road work on my street.

At first they placed big blinking “road closed to thru traffic” signs and some barricades on both major ends of the street as well as at the few connecting side streets but only totally blocked of the “right” end of the street by taking a huge hole of pavement out.  But that wasn’t so bad because there were a few side streets you could turn off on before the big hole in the road and detour around it.  However, yesterday they tore a big hole in the “left” end.  That’s the end I need to go down to get to school.

Now, it happens that there is only one other way to get out ‘to the left’ from my place to Stickittoyou U and it takes you through a very convoluted series of residential streets and adds, I kid you not, about 10 minutes to my drive depending on whether you make a couple of lights.  You can access this other route from three side streets off my own street, some are a little less twisty than others, but all of them must be turned on fairly well in advance of where I need to make my first turn off my own street.  Or I can go the other long way and go ‘to the right’ which also adds about 10 minutes to my drive.

Are you still with me?

So I tell you all these things so you will appreciate this.

I came home mid afternoon on Wednesday and turned onto my street from ‘the left,’ weaving around the “road closed to thru traffic” sign and barricades as usual.  But then, yesterday, at 6:45am I left for school.  It was very, very foggy and hard to see far in the dim morning light, especially the grey road, other cars, and street signs.  I get almost to my turn and see the traffic light is green through the fog, but I also see other lights on construction trucks.  I am trying to figure out what is going on in the fog, and preparing to weave around the blockades to make my turn when, HOLY CRAP!  THERE IS NOW A HUGE HOLE IN THE STREET!

Thankfully, I had slowed way down to turn, so I was able to stop before being close enough for the hole to eat my car, with me in it.  But then I sat there a few moments stunned, as a herd of construction trucks moved around me, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do.  I could possibly turn around, but now there were trucks and workers all over behind me.  Where had they come from?

Then as I was fixing to back up, a guy came over and moved some equipment so I could get on the shoulder between the curb and a big pile of the material they pulled out of the big freaking hole and he waved me through to make my turn.

I tell you I felt kinda stupid, but those crews, man, they move freaky fast.  Kudos to you for efficiency.  Dudes.  You are amazing.  I definitely applaud your speed and skill at moving massive amounts of earth and rebuilding in a matter of a few hours.  But.  It is a pickle for me, and all the other people living on the street and having to use it every day, never knowing what the situation will be.  What route should I use today?  Will I be able to get through?  Things change quickly from day to day even from one hour to the next.  It often happens I leave and they are tearing up a hole, but a few hours later it’s filled in and that section of road is drive-able again.  Which is what happened with the big freaking hole that almost ate me in the fog yesterday.  When I drove home expecting to have to take the long convoluted detour from ‘the left’ end the hole was already filled in.  Scary, amazing, wonderful and frustrating.

It kinda blows me away that the city and construction company aren’t in better communication with the residents on the street.  I mean, not knowing where a new hole in the road is going to pop up could be dangerous.  Especially on a low visibility day.  And you would think they wouldn’t want you in their way either.  Is it that expensive/time consuming/or otherwise difficult to put up one of those big signs that blinks messages and say :

Attention local traffic: new work ahead, no outlet to Main Street today, detour around.

Is it too hard to change the signs as work progress advances?

So now I am wondering, what will I encounter.  Will I be able to go the normal route this morning?  Should I chance it?  Or should I double my commute time and go an alternate route?

It’s a gamble.

May 1, 2015

It might finally be time…

by Janie Jones

Many long years ago back in the last months of 2010, when I first started this education thing, I needed a “good” computer.  I was newly laid off from work and worried about stretching my tiny little bit of reserves for as long as possible.  I discovered I could get extra financial aid money to help me buy a new laptop.  Still, no sense in borrowing a ton of money, so I got a lower, mid-priced laptop.

I was never particularly happy with it as a laptop.  I considered it to be big, and bulky.  But it did pretty much everything I needed it to do.  Over the years I’ve toyed with the idea of replacing it with something sleeker, lighter, faster, but I always came back to the whole, this one is technically fine.  Last fall though I did buy a glorified tablet/netbook that was smaller and lighter for carrying to class.  And I don’t for a second regret that purchase, however, it’s Windows 8, which I don’t like as well as XP or Windows 7.  Also there’s the tiny little screen which isn’t optimal for some homework projects, and it has no CD drive and excessively limited storage capacity.  It’s main attractions were it was dirt cheap, it was fast on the internet and it was small and light.

With my new little netbook, I’ve become comfortable with the laptop being the main, stay-at-home, homework computer, and just using the netbook for carrying to school.   The system has been working pretty smoothly, and the urge to replace the big daddy computer have vanished.  Which you know means that a twist of fate will now intervene.

The last few weeks/months I’ve started having some issues with my big dinosaur laptop.  It locks up, it is even slower than usual, it looses the wi-fi connection.  Now this morning, the screen won’t illuminate to full power.  I fear the end is finally nigh.  Whether I want to replace it now or not, I believe it’s days are numbered.

computer problems

Interestingly, I feel a bit bummed.  Not just about the possibility of having to shell out precious and scarce cash for a replacement, but because this monster has seen me through almost 5 years of college.  It might not have ever been a dream computer, but it did the job, and I know it’s keyboard and it’s quirks like the back of my hand.  Replacing it now would also mean having to fully embrace the world of Windows 8, which I’m not sure I’m ready for.

*sigh*

I guess we’ll see what happens upon reboot.

'Did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in?'

April 19, 2015

Sometimes its the little things that get you

by Janie Jones

Little things irritate the piss out of me sometimes.

However, little things can thrill me too.

For the last year and a half or so, since the Jeep died, I’ve been driving a 4 door Buick Century.  It’s a 1999 and a hand-me-down vehicle.  But I have it on good authority that the previous owners took good care of it, and for a 16 year old car, it’s not in such bad shape, just things wear out on a 16 year old vehicle.

When Leif-Mom first gave it to Leif/me, it came with two vehicle remotes.  One sorta worked, sometimes, so we thought it needed a new battery.  A new battery was bought to no effect.  The second one never worked.  We checked into getting new ones at a the local Buick dealership and they wanted an obscene amount of money for a new remote, in excess of $200.  At the time I was still primarily driving the Jeep and generally the Buick was the “back-up” vehicle, so we didn’t see the need to worry about a new door remote.

Fast forward, Jeep dying, Leif getting a new truck and the Buick becoming my primary vehicle.  The key on the driver’s side door sometimes doesn’t work and the back seat doors don’t have locks.  The trunk doesn’t have a release button inside car, so you have to have the key to get in the trunk.  If you have the car running, you have to have the trunk key on a separate ring, or you have to turn off the car to get in the trunk.  Pain in the ass if you’re picking someone up in the winter who has bags.  It’s also a pain in the ass if you want to get in the back seat of the locked car.  You have to unlock the front, then use the unlock release button to open the back, then either leave the front door open or reopen it to re-lock the back seat doors.  As the key/lock is old and cranky, sometimes the driver’s side lock doesn’t want to unlock with the key, so you have to go around to the passenger-side front door, unlock it, then because the passenger side doesn’t unlock all the doors, you have to climb over the seat to unlock the driver’s-side.

Was that irritating to read?  I applaud you if you got through it all.  But if it was even mildly annoying to read, try dealing with this in the freezing cold, laden with book bags, and purse, and computer and lunch box, and big mittens, or sometimes shopping bags filled with groceries.

So somewhere along the way someone told me there’s a locksmith in Big City that fixes/sells/reprograms remotes.  I knew of the place and it’s not far from where I’m living.  About a week ago I was driving by and saw their sign saying “We program car-door remotes!”  So I pulled over and went in.  As it turns out they were able to tell me that my circuit board must be bad, and they didn’t have the proper replacement parts.  The guys were nice and suggested I try looking online because sometimes you could find a complete, brand new remote for around $25 bucks.  If I was able to get the one I needed they said I could bring it back and they’d program it for me for $40.

It was still rather a lot of money all told, but I was getting really fed up with the scenarios above.  So I did a little surfing, and as I have an Amazon Prime membership, I was able to find some remotes pretty cheap.  But when I went to find one for the car I have, I discovered that what was coming up didn’t match the model number of the remote I had.  The model remote I had wasn’t even for a Buick Century!  It was for a Chevy Tahoe.  Somewhere in all the chaos of moving the other remote got lost, but apparently I ended up with the remote that never worked, and now I know why.  Wrong car.

So, I followed online instructions to find out which remote model I needed for a 1999 Buick Century, and found one for $15, and I got free shipping.  It also said that the remote would come with directions for programming the new remote myself.  Well, thought I, these instructions probably won’t work with my car, but I can always go back to to the locksmith.

The new remote arrived on Friday.  I was on my way out to the farm, so it sat in the car all day yesterday.  This morning, back in town I saw the package and decided to give it a whirl.  The directions to program the remote directed me to go online to the company website and enter my car info.  Expecting a hassle that would end in frustration and a trip to the locksmith next week, I gave it a try anyway.  The result was a series of steps requiring me to put the car key in, take the car key out, put the car key in, and hold the button down (think the tune of the hokey pokey).  Then listen for three chimes and do it all again, and that’s how you set the remote!

Well, stars and stripes!  The remote hokey pokey actually worked.  Exactly as it said it would.  The first time.

I now have a functioning car door remote.

I did a little happy dance.  Oh yes.  I really did.

Amazing how exciting something so little can be.

Now I want to just walk back and forth to my car, locking and unlocking it remotely.  I need to go to someplace and buy a bunch of stuff to put in the trunk so I can open it with the new remote.

Yes.  I know.  I’m a dork.

But it worked.  And it only cost me $15.  Not $200.  Not even $40 to have the locksmith program it.  Cheap and effective.  How often does that happen!

If only you could see the dorky grin on my face right now.