Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Is Late Because . . .

I'm a day late posting my weekly blog--the reason being that my wife and I were driving our son back to college in New York after his spring break.

But I want to throw another reason out there, not because it prevented my blogging, but because it's never happened to me before. I was stuck on an elevator.

It happened while Wendy and I were staying at a Comfort Inn in Berlin, Ohio, where we stopped to do some shopping in Amish country before our last leg home. We got in their elevator and, after being joined by a couple other pleasant older ladies, we hit the button for the first floor. The elevator moved, dinged, stopped, and that was it.

After a few seconds it was obvious the door wasn't going to open on its own. "Push some buttons," Wendy advised the woman standing next to the elevator controls. She hit other floors, door open, door closed. Nothing. Fortunately, this was only a three-story hotel (which begs the question, why didn't we simply take the stairs, but the stairs were inconveniently located at the far end of the building).

The woman manning our elevator controls mentioned that this had happened to her and her friend on a previous trip, but in that incident they were stuck on an upper floor with nearly 20 other people. "But there were a few doctors in the elevator and they took charge right away," she added.

I pondered that for a moment, wondering what the doctors did. Did one of them face the door, yell "Clear!", then slam his doubled-up fist on the elevator door? Did they try to diagnose the problem themselves using deductive reasoning?

What I wanted to do is ask the ladies if they'd seen last year's theatrical release "Devil", a movie about a group of passengers trapped on an elevator who discover that the devil is among them. Since we were staying in a religious enclave where it's common to find prayers on restaurant menus and prayer revivals playing on television in the hotel public area, I thought my fellow passengers might see the irony in our situation. Then again I thought they may not. So I kept quiet.

More elevator buttons were pushed and eventually we called the front desk. They said they would get back to us. Meanwhile, Wendy tried to muscle the elevator door open by shoving it with her open hands. No luck there.

While we were waiting, we traded some personal information. I learned that our elevator companions were from Memphis and northern Mississippi and were on their way to Cleveland after attending some cultural event--can't remember what--in Cincinatti, Ohio. Their previous experience on a faulty elevator lasted 20 minutes and they had to climb out on a stepladder as they were stuck between floors.

Our experience paled in comparison. Our door opened after only five minutes or so, and we were on the ground floor. But it did make my wife and I a bit more reluctant to take that elevator again. But we did. "I hope this elevator doesn't act up again today," I said the next time we rode.

Hmmmmm, wonder what would happened if I said that as I entered an uncomfortably crowded elevator in some high-rise hotel in the future. Maybe it would make that elevator suddenly much less crowded. Guess I'll keep that in mind just in case.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Rituals

We officially marked the beginning of spring this week, ironic here in Michigan since we're under a winter weather advisory tonight. Areas to the north may receive several inches of snow. Locally, we may get freezing rain and ice but then again we may not the TV weatherman predicted in typical ambiguous weather forecasting fashion.

On Sunday, we journeyed up to Bay City for the St. Patrick's Day parade. It marked my grandson Grant's first trip to see my hometown. Here's Grant with one of his second cousins, both decked out appropriately in their Irish duds.

My nephew throws a big party for his friends, many of whom are fans of Michigan State University, and the party usually gives them a chance to cheer on the MSU Spartans' if their basketball team is still in the NCAA tournament. Not this year. The Spartans were one and done, losing in the first round. But we got to watch instead my U of M Wolverines play in the second round, against Duke. Go blue! Alas, they lost a close one.

I'm in my nephew's NCAA bracket challenge pool along with 14 others who paid $10 each, winner take all. I picked Ohio State to win it all. Figure that's a win-win situation for me. If the OSU Buckeyes lose, I'll be happy since I don't really care for Michigan's arch-nemesis. If Ohio State wins it all I'll be really upset, but if it puts me on top I'll take the prize money as consolation.

So far, my predictions have me in about the middle of the pack. Go U Conn! I need them in my final four.

Another spring ritual involves my giving up something for Lent, long a tradition of my Catholic upbringing. This year I put Lay's Potato Chips on that list. My wife Wendy thought it more appropriate that I include all potato chips but I didn't think that necessary. Lay's are far and away are my favorite.

So . . . last week Wendy and I tried out a new sandwich shop. We both ordered turkey reubens to go. The sandwiches were prepared out of sight, put into a couple plain brown paper bags, we paid for them, and we left.

I think you know where this is going.

As we were driving off, Wendy opened one of the bags and gasped.

"You'll never believe what's in here?" she said.

I think you know what it was. Somebody obviously was testing me. And . . . I must confess, I failed. Twice, since Wendy didn't want her bag. I figure since I hadn't ordered them myself and had no knowledge they were included with the sandwich, it was okay.

But I do feel guilty now. I guess I should make amends. Maybe from now till Easter, I'll include all potato chips. Yes. And since it's here in black and white, you know it's a promise I'll keep. Too many spies willing to add a comment here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Virus Ate My Blog

This is going to be quick as my computer was attacked by some kind of virus or worm or something while I was composing my weekly blog last night. I'm still not too sure I'm out of the woods yet.

You see, Big Dave, aka el cheapo Dave, never invested in an anti-spyware program for his home computer. And to date, I've been lucky. Since I bought my Lenovo laptop almost three years ago, I've not encountered anything suspicious.

Until last night.

I was doing on-line research at various blog-sites when all of a sudden my computer started downloading something and I began getting strange messages. A variety of very insistent announcements under an Anti-Spyware icon let me know in no uncertain terms that my computer was infected by some malware and my personal information was leaking across the internet.

This Anti-spyware program kicked into high gear, scanning my computer and finding 70 infected files with awful sounding names that included "child pornography" and "trojan virus". In order to clean my hard drive I had to hit a button to continue. I did and eventually was offered a $50 program to disinfect my computer. "Proceed to checkout," it advised.

I didn't. Instead I tried to activate my Windows Vista Defender firewall which I thought was supposed to protect me. Everytime I tried to activate Defender, it activated for a brief second then disappeared.

Though my computer had slowed to a crawl, I managed to go to Yahoo to find out what had happened (the Anti-spyware program claimed that my Google toolbar had been infected too, so I didn't Google). I figured out that this was some kind of "blaster" worm program that claims it's an anti-spyware program--it really isn't--and there was a fix available.

So I spent the rest of the night downloading, uploading, cleaning, etc. Eventually, I did activate my Windows Defender firewall and it found and, hopefully, destroyed that virus, or worm, or whatever it was. But I'm still a little worried since I still see that Anti-spyware icon when I hit the "all programs" button on my start menu.

Anyway, that's where I'm at @#$#@$ right ######## ^^^^^

anti-blog malware program detected>..................................................

To activate blog scan and clean, please order our Windows cleaning blog tips tool.

Proceed to checkout

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

High Tech Pain In The Neck

I'm not a gadget guy. Don't know what an "app" is and don't care. No smart phone, no I-pod--or is it I-Pad?--and I pay my bills the old-fashioned way, by snail mail.

But sooner or later, you've got to face high tech gadgets. Or at least become familiar with them. Wendy and I found that out when we were babysitting our new grandson this past weekend.

We thought we would put Grant in his swing a while. So grandma strapped him in and turned the timer to get it started.

"How long will it go for?" I asked.

Wendy said she wasn't sure. The dial wasn't too clear on that. We didn't find out till later that the dial we thought was a timer was actually a speed control. I guess you can somehow program the swing to rock lazily like a porch swing on a hot summer day, or more quickly like some dizzying amusement park ride.

Poor Grant.

I got an e-mail from my dad the other day. He sometimes has issues with our high tech world as well. After he got a new digital camera for his birthday, it took him a bit to figure out how to get his photos uploaded to his Facebook account. I think he's got it pretty well figured out now.

Anyway, in this e-mail he described how he and my mother heard a loud noise in the house:

"We had no idea what it was--it was very loud. I thought it was coming from outside. Your mother said no, it's coming from inside the house, it's coming from the basement. We came down here to see what it was, and it was coming from my computer."

Turns out that my brother-in-law had installed a Skype program that allows users to communicate to eachother via their computers, kinda like Jane Jetson did with her friends in the old cartoon series. My father had signed off his computer but had not logged off Skype. One of his grandsons was trying to contact him.

"I thought if I got off line, Skype would close, but I guess it doesn't," dad wrote. "Now I pull the plug on Skype when I shut down."

I don't have Skype myself. Once I figure out the high tech gadgetry for infants, like Grant's swing, then I'll move on to the next level.