Saturday, May 17, 2008

Losing my mind part II: Handheld in Limbo

After a miraculous recovery from a near drowning yesterday, my Palm Tungsten E2 had a serious relapse during the night. Its screen isn’t responding. I tap it but nothing happens. I can’t enter my password; the thing has locked me out.

A reset didn’t work. (You push a little pinhole button on the back with a paper clip point.)

A HARD reset didn’t work. (You hold down the “on/off” button on the top while pushing the little button on the back and watching the screen in front for signs of life. (Houdini might have been challenged by a hard reset. I know why they call it “hard.”)

By the way, in my interlude of ecstasy yesterday, when the Palm came back to life (after a dousing in the cat’s water dish), you may recall that I managed to back up its data onto my computer. The back up was fortuitous because today’s hard reset wiped out my entire memory.

Correction, the PDA’s memory. My memory, lest I forget, is different — but not by much.

So now what?

I say the Palm is "in limbo" because its screen still glows with its “Palm Powered” display. A thin, horizontal line blinks across the top of the screen. It must be telling me something. It is insistent. The E2 won’t turn off, yet it has literally "flat-lined." It just sits there glowing (glowering?), blinking and draining its battery.

Have you ever glowered, blinked and drained YOUR battery?

I have.

It happens when I've worked six hours straight on an article, haven't "saved," and the computer crashes.

Anyway, the E2's constant blinking is a little like Poe’s Tell-tale Heart. Eventually I may have to drive a stake through its motherboard.

The sheer madness of it all drove me to Amazon to explore ordering a replacement E2. The customer comments about Palm Tungsten E2s are wildly diverse. They range from “brilliant” to "crazy-making junk.”

I can relate. Before the Palm took the plunge into the cat's water dish, we had a few “issues,” as my sister would say. She has a lot of “issues,” but then she raises horses, pigs, cats, dogs and is married to a corporate attorney. A menagerie of issues.

In my previous experience with Palms, neither “brilliant” nor “crazy-making junk” applied. The truth was somewhere in the expanse between, depending on the latest foible. No need to list them here. Let's just say that long ago I learned all about hard and soft resets.

On Amazon, the E2 was discounted to $186.99, from $199, and the shipping was free.

It was still a little hard to justify until I thought of it as ordering a new lobe for my brain.

For brain surgery, $186.99 is cheap at the price.

The lobe is being shipped as I write.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Losing my mind . . . and getting it back

I lost part of my mind this morning for about three hours.

It began when I leaned over to replenish the cat’s kibble bowl.

My Palm Pilot, tucked in my breast pocket, did a half-gainer into the water dish. Fortunately the cat’s dish was only one-third full so my Palm and I didn’t have a full immersion situation. Probably three seconds elapsed between the time the thing hit the water and I snatched it out.

I dried it off and tested it. Everything seemed fine. Password worked, the calendar date came up. I still had my “memory.”

But about 15 minutes later I tried to retrieve the name of a contact and the date showed up as January 1, 2005. I tried a “soft” reset and got an ominously blank and lifeless screen.

The thing was dead.

My God, I gasped, I just lost more than three years of memory, to say nothing of a fair portion of the future.

Patience, I consoled myself, this will work out. These things are built to sustain all kinds of disasters.

I once put my cell phone through three cycles in the washing machine. Sure, the little phone coughed and sputtered a bit and took its own sweet time to dry out, but ultimately its happy little ring tone came back.

All was well. I was in touch with the world again and vice versa.

Nevertheless, the Palm wasn’t cooperating. I tapped it against my real palm, the way smokers tamp new packs of cigarettes. I was trying to jar the water out of the Palm’s orifices. A few droplets appeared in my hand. Why hadn’t I done this before, right after the plunge? For a quarter of an hour, water had been wicking up into the PDA’s electronic innards, flooding nano-circuits, corroding sensitive neurons, destroying synapses and causing all kinds of techno-havoc.

Patience, I reminded myself. Give it time to dry out. I had to drive to Beaverton so I set the Palm lovingly and carefully on the passenger’s seat. As I drove I tried to reconstruct my schedule for the next three weeks. I drew a blank and nearly ran a light.

Caution, I thought. Calm down.

When was the last time I had backed the thing up?

A couple of weeks? What had I entered into the Palm since then? Hmmm. Too much to remember, but a couple of things came back to me — vaguely. Didn’t I have a meeting next Tuesday? And another Wednesday?

When I arrived at my destination, Sunset High School, I sat in the parking lot and tested again. This time the screen started flickering and the little hand-held chirped repeatedly. Screens of dates fluttered by. Were they being purged in retribution?

The thing was clearly pissed, but at least it was showing signs of life. Spunk.

I remember when my mother had a massive stroke and her doctor called to say that I should fly to her bedside immediately if I wanted to see her before she died. I remember how after three or four days of her being in a coma, she finally squeezed my hand in response my gentle questioning and fervent prayers.


I was looking for a sign like that from the Palm. The chirping and flickering provided hope. At least the thing hadn’t died on me. My mother lived another six years, weakened and forgetful, but we shared more than a few laughs and hugs in that time.

Today was hot here in Portland so I decided to leave the Palm, shiny side up, on the dashboard/drying rack.

I’d desiccate the baby.

I was scheduled to give a two-hour guest lecture inside the school. The Palm would have to bask, heal, dry out and forgive.

I managed to put its demise out of my mind as I introduced a comparative religion class to the whys and wherefores of Quakers. I didn’t tell the students that I’d left part of my mind in the parking lot.

I shared the virtues of Quaker simplicity, community, peace, integrity and equality and told them about worshiping in silence and consensus decision making. One student asked about sin; another asked about abortion. No one asked about my baking moribund memory out on the dashboard.

Back in the parking lot, settling behind the wheel, I took a deep breath and reached for the warm Palm on the dash.

The screen lit up.


It still came up January 2005, but it at least it didn’t go blank when I prodded its function keys.

Grudgingly, it allowed me to change the date to the present. Instead of going blank, it flashed, chimed and offered up today’s schedule of events.

At the top of the list was the Sunset High School talk.

The Palm was back! All was forgiven.

In a celebratory burst of technological reconciliation, we checked Sunset High off the “to do” list.

Now my mind is whole — or at least restored to its original condition, such as it was.

And yes, I’ve backed up the memory.

Have you?

Do it before you feed the cat.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Barbur litter returns a week after clean-up

Since last Saturday, when we picked up litter along Barbur Boulevard, I’ve been enjoying our handiwork driving home from downtown. Barbur has looked like a parkway.

Until this evening.

A big bag of overflowing trash is dumped alongside the road. Someone else had thrown out a hamburger wrapper. A cardboard box was another 50 feet up the shoulder.

Less than a week after our SOLV clean-up, the litter is back with a vengeance.

Oh, and then there’s the corporate litter of the illegal 1-800-GOT-JUNK signs in the right of way. I’ve removed six of these miniature billboards in the last few days.

I know, I know, Saturday night I wrote a consoling thought in this blog about the malaise of trash along our boulevards. “Joy is whatever is in the present moment minus our opinions about it.”

I’m having a problem expunging my opinions about the new litter and the slobs responsible for it.

Tonight, driving home, I found no joy.

Oh, and I will call the local 1-800-GOT-JUNK franchisee, Tom Maryschak (believe me, he knows me), to tell him that his signs are still not appreciated and that I got HIS junk. Six signs now reside in my garage. Since the backs are blank, they come in handy for garage sale signs and peace placards or to cover work surfaces. I once made a bird feeder out of one.

Someone should write a book titled: “101 things to do with 1-800-GOT-JUNK signs.”

Any ideas?

Actually, I do feel an odd twinge of promise, if not joy, when I see 1-800-GOT-JUNK signs. I always pull over and yank them out. I know that, with a little imagination, they can be put to good use.

As long as Tom plants them along the roadside, I’ll happily and productively harvest them.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Three from "The Essence of Tao," compiled by Maggie Pinkney.
The Five Mile Press

The world is won by those who let go!

Lao Tzu

The things that are really for thee,
Gravitate to thee.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, Is always beyond our grasp, But which, if you sit down quietly, May alight upon you.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How I voted

How I voted

“How I voted” should answer two questions.

The most common one is: for whom did I vote? I’ll get to that later.

The less recognized but equally important is: How did I go about deciding?

The answer to that is too complex to explore in depth, but it did not involve close readings the scattered quail bones and toad entrails. In a couple of cases I did give these methods passing thought.

(I’m a registered Democrat, so with the partisan races, I can’t help you Republicans. I’m not sure anyone can — at least not this year.)

I decided on several races based on my experience with the candidates and on discussions with respected and knowledgeable friends. For two Portland City Council races, I went on line and watched the Willamette Week interviews. Seeing how the candidates respond to questions can be as important as simply listening.

This year I lean to candidates who have “fire in their bellies.” Four of my choices hinged on that fire-in-the-belly factor. Below on my choices, I’ll put asterisks next to their names.

I’m leaning away from candidates who seem to have emerged from the party machinery or the bowels of government. Example: David “melting t-shirt earmarks” Wu. After five terms in office, he doesn’t seem to have made a ripple in Congress. I’m voting for his relatively unknown opponent Will Hobbs, who, amazingly, has been endorsed by both The Oregonian and Willamette Week.

So here are my votes:

President: Barack Obama (My view of Hillary hasn’t changed since I wrote about about her candidacy more than a year ago HERE.)

U.S. Senator: Steve Novick*

Member of Congress, 1st District: Will Hobbs

Secretary of State: Vicki Walker*

Attorney General: John Kroger*

County Commissioner: Deborah Kafoury

Portland Mayor: Sam Adams

City Commission, Position 1: Charles Lewis*

City Commissioner, Position 2: Nick Fish

City Commissioner, Position 4: Randy Leonard

Metro Commissioner, 6th District: Robert Liberty

Ballot measures 51, 52 and 53: yes, yes and yes.

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Coin of a Republican Realm

In case you haven't seen this, here it is.

Change we can live without.

Thanks for sharing, Arnie.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Obama polls strongly against "McClone" in Oregon

An addendum to yesterday's post. Take a look at this Rasmussen poll. Obama is moving away from "McClone" in Oregon.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate race, Jeff Merkley is trying to use another Rasmussen poll to prove that he, not primary opponent Steve Novick, has the best chance of unseating Gordon Smith. The argument becomes less compelling as you read into the poll.

An then there's the John Frohnmayer "spoiler" potential that isn't even part of the Senate race poll. Frohnmayer, running as an independent, could split Oregon's sizable, and crucial, liberal vote.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Is Obama lying about the Northwest?

The New York Times is reporting that Oregon will be a “battleground state” in the expected presidential match-up this fall between John McClone (that’s not a typo) and Barack Obama.

First of all, forget the “battleground” hype. The battlegrounds of importance in this election are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here at home, we desperately need to lower the political/journalistic rhetoric about the campaign.

What we have is an election, not a war.

Let’s presume that “battleground” means that both sides believe they have a chance of winning in 14 up-for-grabs states.

If this state is a toss-up, then somebody is blowing smoke. Oregon is big-time Blue. You can take it to the bank. A slam-dunk. Put it in the freezer. Like a rock for the Ds.

Got that? (It’s proof are plenty of non-war metaphors available)

The only way Oregon is going for McClone is if Obama chooses Jeremiah Wright as his running mate — or Hillary Clinton.

Geez, if the campaign strategists can have this one so wrong, what about all those other “battleground” states? Do they think the voters have been sleeping through the Bush years?

Maybe the Obama people just don’t want us to get all cocky here in the upper left-hand corner. Amazingly, the campaigns also include Washington on the “battleground” list.

What kind of rubes do they take us to be?

Come to think of it, if the Obama folks are so out of touch with us, maybe McClone and the Bushites behind him have a chance here after all. Why else would they think they had a chance?

How’s this for a headline and lead?

McCain claims Obama is lying
about Pacific Northwest
being a toss-up

John McCain told a Portland audience today that Northwesterners are being duped by an Obama campaign that purports McCain has a change of winning in the region.

“I’m here to give you some straight talk," McCain told a unenthusiastic crowd of five in Pioneer Courthouse Square. "My opponent is lying to you, and we know you are still going to vote for him! We don’t have a prayer here.”

The speech was seen as a new tactic in the beleaguered Republican's presidential campaign. McCain campaign aides said the strategy is to bolster McCain’s underdog status and to win the sympathy vote.

An Obama spokesman responded that the Illinois senator really does believe that the two states are up for grabs. “There are a lot of really stupid people here who cling to the Bush recession, the war and $4/gallon gas prices. Don’t ask us why, but that’s what the polls show. It could be mindless nostalgia, a batch of bad IPA, tainted salmon or Hanford radiation seeping into the groundwater."

"Whatever. . . ,” he added.

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