“There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
After weeks on the road, averaging more than four hundred miles a day, it was a relief to pull in my folks’ driveway in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a record-breaking 4-day stay. The highlight of all this (and indeed the excuse for the whole trip) was being able to spend Neil’s birthday with his grandparents.
For the past four days, my Mom and Dad have showed us a grand time in Gettysburg: amazing battlefield tours, gorgeous Pennsylvania scenery, and enough fabulous, home-cooked meals to leave us all several pounds heavier as we prepare to hit the road.
But all of this hospitality came with a price—one familiar to anyone who’s the geekiest member of their family. Suddenly, I was Pete the Tech Guy, troubleshooter of everything from wonky printers to the labrynthine connections of their living room entertainment system.
And, as it turned out, I had become a serial killer, preying on my parents’ old computers.
My first victim was an old eMachines tower which had once been “The New Computer” back when my folks first moved to Las Vegas the better part of decade ago. Now, it was hopelessly glitchy and outdated, wheezing when asked to do even basic email and web browsing. For the past year or so, it had been gathering dust in my parents’ study next to the computer which had replaced it, but with nobody daring to send it on to the great beyond, for fear that perhaps some crucial file had not been copied from its ancient hard drive. Having had some recent experience in dispatching machines that had fallen on hard times, I gutted the old beast, stripped its hard drive for safety’s sake, then dragged the rest of My Computer to the Trash—the real trash—and emptied it.
Victim #2 was an old PowerBook 140: a computer that had been cool during the first Bush administration. Now it was cooling its heels in the back of my Mom’s closet. The 16 MHz processor emitted an unearthly scream when we attempted to boot it up, but Its black and white screen never showed us that famous smiling Mac startup icon. After a few more bizarre electronic shrieks, it joined the eMachine in the garbage bin.
By now, I’d managed to kill fully half the computers in my parent’s home, but my worst was yet to come. At last night’s dinner, my Dad has been desirous of a newer machine to replace the old Compaq laptop I’d loaned him as a replacement to his now-dead eMachine. Without even USB 2.0 support, the Compaq was decidedly long in the tooth, but my frugal father had decided to wait a while longer before replacing it. The wait ended just a few hours later when, after attaching a portable drive to it in an attempt to get it backed up—the machine stalled out during startup and wouldn’t allow for even a forced power shutdown. I eventually had to turn the machine on its side, press in a hidden reset button, then restart it. it came up again, but failed on the next reboot when the backup drive was attached. Another press of the reset button followed… and then it refused to do anything except blink for a moment when the power came on, then immediately shut off again. And nothing would set it to right. Ever.
A rattling sound from within the long-suffering laptop told the tale: the laptop literally had a screw loose — one which shifted from its previous, innocuous location to a new one which direct shorted out part of the motherboard when I had turned the machine over to press the reset button. Yes, I’d actually managed to kill a machine simply by flipping it over.
Three computers down; only my Mom’s “cheese grater” G5 PowerMac remains. And my Mom had been complaining that that one was getting a bit old…
…perhaps it’s best that we’re moving on tomorrow…
I’m writing this from the departure lounge of British Airways in Frankfurt International. Like Heathrow’s infamous Terminal 5, there seems to have been a bit of…err… remodelling going on in this lounge. This caused the trip to the gate to involve a long and circuitous set of detours which led up and down multiple staircases, past janitor’s closets, through construction zones, and not a few empty corridors the sort which one envisions oneself being mugged in. Nevertheless, I made it, got our trade show display checked in (it’s going through Terminal 5, so I don’t need to see it for a couple of months), and am currently wondering whether to go for the “Coffee and water or softdrink.. only €4.70!” ($8). I think not.
Unfortunately, this little outpost of the airport doesn’t seem to have a newsstand, so my plan of blowing all my remaining Euros on German kids comics won’t be happening this trip. I may still luck out at Heathrow, however, and at least pick up a ton of Postman Pat and Fireman Sam comics. Or at least a bottle of water for less than $4.00…I hope.
That’s the boarding call… I’m off!
At 12:20 in the morning, having indicated to British Airways baggage handling that, “Why yes, getting our trade show display in time for the trade show was… important”. A tired-looking delivery guy in a Deutsche Post van (!) showed up outside my hotel with the missing trade show display. The show would indeed go on.
Rudi Brandl, a customer of ours, had agreed to help us out at the show, and as the one really good German-speaker (he’s German, after all!), he was a lifesaver. Thanks *very* much for all your help!
When he’s not being Shanghaied into comic software-selling duties, Rudi runs a sign shop, and had actually made up a sign for us to post at our booth. In German, it said, “Our German is catastrophic. Our English is not so good. We speak pretty good American. But our software is terrific.” It was a very cool sign, and it got more than a few laughs (and knowing looks). Murphy’s law being fully in effect, My colleague Joe and I would inevitably wind up in long, stumbling discussions with folks at the show who spoke only German; as soon as we’d tag off booth duties with Rudi, he’d get corralled into a discussion with folks who spoke only English. It was a struggle at times, but we somehow muddled through. For what it’s worth, my German on the last day of the convention was considerably improved from the first day.
I hope to post pictures from the show later when I return (I didn’t bring a USB cable or card reader for my camera, unfortunately). In the meantime, I’m now typing this from a hotel room in Frankfurt. Joe went home today, but I’ve got a couple of days before my flight home. I’m hoping to see the city a little, visit a few comic stores, and maybe even take in a play while I’m here.
In about nine hours, I’ll be sitting in an airport getting ready to head out to Erlangen, Germany for the International Comic Salon. Even now, the whole thing is pretty surreal to me–with the move, Atlas, and everything else going on, I’ve really not had time to do more than try to make sure we had all the right power cords packed and that our bags came in under the maximum shipping weight.
I’ve never attempted to do a trade show in a foreign language (unless you count British English). I have no idea how the show’s going to go, but I do know that it’s bound to be interesting. Also, being Germany–one of the big “good food” countries of the world, I won’t lack for great eats. I just hope everything (including me) gets to the show in one piece, that things more or less function.
…and Away We Go!
I want one.
…actually I want a whole bunch of them. For the office
Just amazing stuff:
(and apparently available as a screen saver too!)
Old Time Radio Fun, an online purveyor of public domain old radio shows, is letting visitors have free access to a bunch of old Christmas episodes from shows ranging from Jack Benny to Dragnet(!) to George Burns and Gracie Allen. It’s a real blast from the past, and a lot for fun for the holiday season.