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To some dee-luxe bloggin’ on my web-sah-ite!

This blog has been moved to my website, which is still a work in progress so please keep the snide comments to a minimum. I will no longer be updating this WordPress blog. All previous blog posts will still be available here as well as at the new site.

And if anyone wants to offer some much needed help on the new site, please email me at info@tswelti.com. Thanks for reading!

Adventures in Geekdom

So, I’ve always been sort of a geek, if being a book nerd and liking computers makes me a geek. But I recently took my geekdom to new heights.

I decided a few weeks ago that my 4 1/2-year-old laptop needed a tune-up. I bought my Macbook Pro in the summer of ’06. It was serving me well until it fell off a six foot high shelf in the summer of ’08. I could easily see that the fall had cracked the screen, but without a screen to see what happened when I turned the computer on, I had no idea what was going on inside. It turned out I had a bad hard drive and super drive. I only had enough cash to repair the hard drive and screen, so I left the super drive in it’s inoperable state. I figured that when the time came I would just swap out the super drive myself. It couldn’t be that hard.

Well, once I got my laptop back from the repair shop and paid my $670 repair bill, I looked up the cost of a super drive and found some instructions for replacing the drive. Though the guy in the video made it look so simple, I was still hesitant to open up my expensive laptop and tinker around with my clumsy fingers. I was certain I would shock the motherboard and render it useless. So I put it off for two years.

When I decided to tune up my computer last month, the first thing I wanted to tackle was the super drive. I also needed to swap out the hard drive. The hard drive that the repair shop put in two years ago was only 160 gb. With all my photos, music, videos, and my Windows virtual machine, this was completely inadequate. I ordered a 750 gb hard drive and a new super drive.

I installed my new hard drive and booted from my old hard drive, which was connected via firewire. I then cloned the old drive to the new one and that was done. I swapped out the old super drive in minutes. It was surprisingly as easy as the video showed. I was so proud of myself. Then, I thought to myself, “Hey! I should upgrade my operating system.”

So I ordered Snow Leopard and installed it a couple of days ago. Snow Leopard got rid of a bunch of useless drivers that were cluttering up my hard drive. Unfortunately, it also got rid of the print driver that I was using for my HP printer. So I go online to download the driver and find out that the old driver no longer works on Snow Leopard. I quickly find my only option to get my printer working is a Linux work around. WTF? I’ve never done anything like that before.

But, what the heck, I’ve gone this far in my “tune-up” process. I might as well go all the way. So I take a deep breath and open the terminal. I type in all sorts of commands, as per the instructions, unplug and plug in my printer, and it works.

So I guess the point of this blog post, besides boring you to death, is to show that all that newfangled computer mumbo jumbo is not as difficult as some make it out to be. I just ordered a new hard drive as a surprise Christmas gift for my sister and brother-in-law, and I will install it for them. If you have computer problems (hardware or software), Google is your friend. Don’t be afraid to put your geek skills to the test.

You know that feeling you get when you read the final words of the last line in a really good novel or when the credits start rolling at the end of an awesome movie?

There are many ways to describe that feeling. Sometimes you don’t want the story to end, you yearn to stay in this fictional world for just a little longer. Sometimes you don’t really want to stay in this world, sometimes you’re just left with the sense that you will be forever changed by what you have just read or seen. Sometimes it’s something else you can’t really put into words, you just know that you loved it.

Well, for me there is a definitive word to describe this feeling: haunted.

When I come to the end of a story and I feel totally enamored with either the story, characters, or setting, or all three, it is most often because the story has left me feeling haunted. There are exactly three things that leave me feeling haunted: a mystery, an idea, or an emotion.

The Mystery

When a story ends leaving some piece of information withheld, some mystery unexplained, I am more likely to feel affected (or haunted) by the story. One of my favorite movies is Waking the Dead, an independent film starring Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly. SPOILER ALERT: When the credits roll, the viewer is left wondering whether or not Jennifer Connelly’s character is alive or dead. Most of the movie is spent watching Billy Crudup’s character, Fielding, suffer with this mystery. When the movie ends without a definitive answer to this question, it leaves the viewer feeling almost as haunted as Fielding.

The Idea

Sometimes a story sparks an idea in your mind that you can’t seem to forget for days, weeks, or years. One of my favorite books is Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. I first read this book when I was sixteen years old and incredibly impressionable. When I came to the end of the book I found myself haunted by a simple but absurd idea: anything is possible. It may sound corny or naïve, after all people aren’t telekinetic and it’s physically impossible to swim in a field of grass… or is it? This book taught me to open my mind to the possibilities of the universe. The idea it planted in my mind was life changing.

The Emotion

When a story leaves you extremely sad or uplifted, you are usually reluctant to close the book. People want to experience deep emotions. It’s why we seek love with such vigor. It’s why we continue to visit those family members we know we should avoid. Sometimes, even feeling sadness or anger is better than feeling nothing at all. I recently read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and cried for almost an hour as I read the final chapters and epilogue. Even though the ending left me feeling incredibly sad, I have repeatedly recommended this book. This story will stay with me for years to come because I had such an intense emotional reaction to it.

Those are the three things that make a story memorable to me. Those are the three things that leave me feeling haunted. When a book or movie contains all three of these characteristics, I’m sold. What do you feel makes a story “un-put-down-able”?

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while. Pixar inspired me to post it.

I find it odd that so many adults have a severe disdain for teenagers. Yes, teenagers are often annoying, but we cannot pretend that adolescence is not a difficult period in one’s life.

“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won’t do that.” – Walt Disney

I remember when I was a teenager, I grew up in a neighborhood besieged by violence, sexual predators, gangs, drugs, and petty crime—and our city was on the border of middle-class suburbia. It was difficult to resist cutting class when every single one of my friends was cutting class. It was difficult to see the point in getting good grades when my family was falling apart at the seams. And, when nothing in my life was going right, it was difficult to see the point in facing another day.

Teenagers are experiencing one of the most dangerous, vulnerable periods of their lives, and the best most adults can say to them is, “Oh, get over it! It’s not that bad. When I was your age”… “You’re young. You don’t know what real suffering is. When I was your age”… “You think you know everything, but you have no idea. When I was your age”….

Eh…. I hate to break it to you, Grandpa, but things are different than they were when you were a teenager. Today’s teenagers have a completely different set of problems. Minimizing someone else’s problems doesn’t make those problems go away, it only distances you in their mind. You are no longer someone that person can come to with their “petty” problems.

Next time you come across a moody adolescent, try to remember what it was like to be that age. Try to remember what it was like when you first realized that every mistake you made could affect your future, but at the same time nothing you did mattered. Try to remember what it was like when you were called a loser, ugly, fag, fat-ass, psycho, or dweeb on a daily basis.

Try to remember that kids are cruel, but you don’t have to be. And, if you’re a teenager, try to remember that it gets better.

Shooting the Messenger

The attacks on Wikileaks’ website and Julian Assange are another case of attacking the messenger without regard for the message.

Where are the attacks on The Guardian, Der Speigel, Le Monde, El Pais, and the New York Times websites? The NY Times wasn’t shut down for publishing the Pentagon Papers in 1971; and those documents were classified “Top Secret”.

The attacks on Wikileaks’ website over the past few days only succeed in unifying their supporters. Whether or not you agree with Wikileaks’ actions, the concept of a free press must be protected at all costs. It’s heartening to see that Switzerland respects this concept.

Snarky comment designed to trick you into believing you’re about to read an interesting blog post.

Introductory sentence stating the reason the author chose this topic for this post. Sentence supporting this reasoning and possibly providing exemplary evidence for why this topic should be discussed. Closing sentence, hopefully containing a joke about how this topic relates to the author.

Paragraph describing a personal experience either related to the joke in the last paragraph or the topic at large. This paragraph will usually include some dialogue so that those with the attention span of a squirrel with ADHD will still be enthralled.

Filler paragraph. This paragraph was constructed for the sole purpose of making sure the author cannot be accused of being a lazy blogger. A gratuitous joke or cynical comment can be thrown in for the sake of the audience.

[Place medium-sized image of adorable kitten here.]

Closing paragraph will reiterate why this topic is so important that it warrants four paragraphs written by a complete nobody. Hug, hug, kiss, kiss, little hug, big kiss.

God is crying

Okay, I have to admit that even though I’m an atheist, I always kind of liked the visual image of god crying when it rains. But I think it has more to do with the fact that I love the rain.

One thing about me that many people don’t understand is that I live in Southern California and I love the rain. Not only this, but I actually moved out of Oregon partially because it rained too much, but I still maintain that I love the rain. Yes, Oregon, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.

I happened to live in Oregon during the rainy season (November through April). It rained every day except for the one week that it snowed and the one day in April that the sun decided to stop partying down under and finally pay us a visit.

That much rain is too much for me. But I would be very happy living somewhere where it rained anywhere from 40-70% of the time. I know 70% sounds like a lot, but to me it sounds perfect. I think I love the rain so much because it reminds me of being a child and being forced to stay inside where I could write, draw, and watch movies for hours.

I remember a time when I was nine years old and it had been raining for days. My sisters were fed up with it. They wanted to go outside and play.

“So, go outside and play then,” I said to them.

“Oh, yeah right, and get our clothes all wet,” my older sister replied.

“Then don’t go outside in your clothes,” I said.

“You can’t go outside naked,” my little sister said with a giggle. “Everyone will see your cuckoo.”

“I’ll go outside in my bikini right now,” I replied.

“No, you won’t,” my older sister said in her best “I double-dare you” voice.

I slapped on my black and white striped bikini, ran outside,  and began doing cartwheels in the pouring rain while my sisters laughed at me from the doorway.

To this day, I get giddy when it rains. I love to curl up with a book or pen and paper and visit far off places where anything is possible. So for me, whenever it rains, it doesn’t feel sad like god is crying. To me it feels more like a rich uncle just showed up at my door and handed me a stack of cash and the keys to his Infinite Probability Drive.