Tech & The Web

A Very Brief Vacation

If you’ve been dropping by lately, you’ll have noted that I haven’t had a great deal to say lately. I apologize for this. I spent Labor Day weekend back home in South Carolina on a short visit with the family. There was a second reason for my quick visit, but I’ll get to that later.

My folks have an eMachines computer that they bought when an older computer they had died.

In the past, they would inherit my older Mac anytime I replaced it, much the way I inherited my first automobile when they replaced that. Unfortunately, the last Mac I had, one of the original iMacs that combined the monitor and computer in the same unit — a spectacularly bad idea — suffered a failure of the picture tube, which pretty much meant that the computer was dead. (And since the one I got didn’t have a video jack on the back that would allow a separate monitor to show what its built-in CRT couldn’t, it was even more dead.)

So the parents made the switch to PC, one they’ve not been particularly fond of, but one that they could afford a little easier. This particular computer has had several problems, including a motherboard that decided to self-destruct, a modem that failed, and a power supply that fried itself despite the fact that it was connected to a surge protector that never saw anything coming. I’m going to assume that they just got a lemon, because if all of eMachines units behaved this way, the company wouldn’t possibly be able to stay in business. It’s just a sad fact of computer life: lemons happen.

They’re on dial-up with AOL, and I’ve been threatening to buy them DSL. But watching this PC try to struggle through even the boot-up process itself makes me wonder if DSL might be too much for its little processors to handle. I’m now contemplating whether or not I can scrape together enough money for a slightly faster computer, maybe a Dell or HP, as a Christmas present. I’m also contemplating how angry my mom would get if I bought them a new computer, since they clearly don’t think there’s anything substantially wrong with their old one. (No, they’ve never surfed the web on my current computer, so they apparently don’t know how fast the internet could — and should — be in the 21st century.)

It was all I could do to get AOL to get me online to check my mail there. I use Mac’s Mail program to pull in my Gmail, so checking Gmail through the internet doesn’t work. I was able to publish incoming comments I’d received here and at the other blogs, but I didn’t want to push my luck by trying to do new posts.

But a lot happened while I was effectively “AFK,” as the young folk say. (“Away from the Keyboard” for the rest of us.)

First, the world was shocked by the news that Steve Irwin died. Okay, maybe everyone wasn’t shocked that he died…after all, anyone who makes his living chasing after crocodiles, snakes and other nasty beasties was undeniably a bad insurance risk. But to be killed by one of the most docile, graceful, mysteriously beautiful animals on the planet, a Stingray, seems beyond comprehension.

Then there was the annual Jerry Lewis telethon in which the aging comic raised a record $61 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. There are, as usual, the protests associated with the telethon. Some with neuro-muscular diseases resent being labelled “Jerry’s Kids” and some resent even more the fact that the telethon raises money by, they say, feeding off of people’s sympathy for patients rather than advocating equal rights and showing how handicapped people are just like everyone else.

Well, I would have to agree that raising awareness of equal rights for the handicapped is definitely a worthwhile goal: more awareness of equal rights for everyone should be something we all strive for. But I think it’s sad that people who might actually benefit from the research the MDA is funding is blasting a telethon just because it doesn’t present that side of the story. The telethon is supposed to raise money from people who don’t have neuro-muscular diseases. Of course it’s going to play, to some degree, on pity. Is that a bad thing? If it raises $61 million, plus the uncounted millions from corporate sponsors, and if that money is being used to find cures or treatments for these terrible illnesses — and some cures have been found — then I have a hard time arguing that the telethon should change its ways.

I do respect the notion that we shouldn’t pity those with disabilities. They, for the most part, do not want an ounce of pity from us: they want to be treated the way everyone else is. They should have the same advantages the non-handicapped have. They shouldn’t be discriminated against, and they shouldn’t be shoved to the side.

It seems to me that both sides of this coin raise excellent points and seem to want the same thing: a future in which such illnesses are no longer a roadblock for those who struggle with them. I just find it sad that two factions who have the same goal have to be at each other’s throats.

Then there was the much heralded debut of Katie Couric as anchor of the CBS Evening News. I didn’t see the actual show, but I did find clips from her first show on YouTube. Having Walter Cronkite voice the open to introduce her was, I must say, a nice touch. Katie has, in my opinion, appropriately toned down the “perkiness” that made people like her on Today, and certainly seems comfortable in her new digs. (And for what they’re paying her, why shouldn’t she!)

I’ve never been much of an ABC News fan. I always thought the late Peter Jennings was a fine anchor, but the habit formed by growing up in a town with a very poor ABC affiliate just never prompted me to go that route when it was news time. I like Bryan Williams and I liked Tom Brokaw. I thought Bob Schieffer was one of the most watchable, down-to-earth anchors I’d ever seen, and I’ll miss him. I tolerated Dan Rather: I respected his passion for news, but thought he was well over the top at times. But I liked CBS News’s team of correspondents, which is at least as important as the anchor who introduces their pieces.

Growing up, my parents mostly watched John Chancellor and David Brinkley or Walter Cronkite, so I have a long history with their two networks.

I think Katie will do a fine job at the desk. Do I suspect that she’ll topple Bryan in the ratings? I’m not holding my breath on that one.

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5 Comments

  1. I’ve never even heard of an eMachine. What the heck is that? Just an email machine? How wasteful.

    eMachines is a brand name for PCs, just like Dell or Hewlett-Packard.

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  2. Oh gee…I’ve never even heard of an eMachine. What the heck is that? Just an email machine? How wasteful.

    So sad and tragic about Steve Irwin. Who would’ve thought by a stingray?

    Could care less about Katie and her new reporting gig. I’m with you…Brian Williams & Tom Brokow.

    Thanks for the synposis!

    De 😉

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  3. Hi Patrick 🙂

    The only computers I have ever owned were eMachines. I have been quite ppleased with their performance over the years, sorry to hear about your parents experience with them. I can say that AOL was completely wonky last week, with pages refusing to load and you know about the browsing problems. Just a thought…have you run the defragmenter on your parents computer? When mine starts the slow down, that is what usually helps. Just a thought. 🙂

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  4. Hi Patrick,
    I can sympathize with you on the parents computer. My mom had an old computer of my nephews, and I tried to do what I could do to improve on it’s functionality, but it was just too far gone. This past Mother’s Day I surprised mom with a new HP and a modified road runner account with the local cable company. I promised her that I would only cover a year of the cost of the cable, and then made arrangements with the cable company to bill me, not her. It’s the least I can do for them. They are both in their 80’s, and although dad doesn’t use the computer himself, he enjoys what mom shows him and loves the email from family.
    Hoping you find enough pennies in your shoes to help them out.
    Blessings,
    Auntie Lyn

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  5. almost every blog I visit includes “I didn’t see Katie’s debut, but I watched the clips on YouTube”…I didn’t even watch the clips. But it leaves the question, did anybody out there actually watch Katie on the news? Inquiring minds want to know 🙂

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.