Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another Week Without My Laptop

My laptop acquired a virus from somewhere. Mr. Lucky tried to remove it without success, and suggested that it might have been (though he also acknowledged it might not have been) prevented had I installed Windows updates.

Every night when I shut the computer down, Windows has updates to install. He said those were different updates, and pointed out a little yellow shield in the lower right corner of the screen. Whenever it shows up, I’m supposed to click on it to install updates. But I hadn’t been doing that, because whenever I shut the computer down each night—

“That doesn’t matter,” he said for tenth time. I still needed to click on that yellow badge.

So the laptop spent nearly a week in the shop being nuked by geeks geekier than my husband. I had no Internet. No contact with the outside world. I tried watching the news channels on TV, but it’s hard to just sit there and try to absorb all that stuff. I can do an hour of the evening news and that’s it. I don’t watch a lot of TV, anyway—it stays off during the day, as I would rather listen to music.

We eventually got the laptop back, but it was still glitchy, so Mr. Lucky decided to install a new hard drive. Last time he did that on a computer of which I was a frequent user (before Baby Bear was born), I lost all the Word documents of all the books I’d written prior to that time, and to this day I only have hard copies of them.

This time, I had everything backed up on the flash drive. Even True Pretenses is still on there.

He spent a whole day working on my computer, even though he had a cold and hadn’t been sleeping well, and I’m now back in business. I felt guilty about the expense, but then I feel guilty about any expense, while he keeps telling me not to worry about it.

I told him he’s a prince, and that I would put in a good word for him. I might even bake him a cake, which must be done this weekend anyway, because one of my other princes, our firstborn Crown Prince, has a birthday on Sunday.

I nearly lost my mind not having a computer for a whole week. No, I take that back—I did lose my mind.

I actually did some housework for a change.

Friday, September 17, 2010

See Baby Bear. See Baby Bear Run. Then See Karen Turn Into a Basket Case.

As our family unit trooped out the front door the other day, Baby Bear did something he hasn’t done in a very long time: He took off running.

Usually he goes straight to the car—actually, for reasons known only to him, he always goes around the back of the car to the other side—and then he gets in the back seat. But on this day, as he walked behind the car, something caught his attention, and he suddenly broke into a run down the street.

Mr. Lucky had just gone back into the house because he forgot something—he always forgets something, either his keys, or his wallet, or his cell phone, or his pants—occasionally the first three items will be in the pockets of the pants, but it’s never the pair he’s wearing. Sometimes I think he forgets his brain, which I suspect he keeps in a jar when not in use, but then he can’t find the jar. Since he even gets lost in the house while looking for stuff, I knew it was up to me to chase down the boy.

Our not-so-baby-anymore Bear is thirteen years old, and seventy-five inches tall. I’m—well, I’m a lot older than thirteen, and seventy-one inches tall. He was wearing athletic shoes. I was wearing sandals. Advantage: Bear.

I yelled his name as he ran down the street in a straight line. He has no sense of danger, and I feared he wouldn’t dodge out of the way of any oncoming vehicle. He thinks it’s fun to crash into me, so why not a Mack truck?

Indeed, there was a truck parked on the street, engine roaring, door wide open. It was a large truck, belonging to a lawn maintenance company that was fertilizing someone’s lawn. This meant loud machinery, hazardous chemicals, big hoses snaking everywhere, and people wielding tools that could easily double as weapons. Baby Bear was dashing headlong into a danger zone.

He rushed straight to the open door of the truck. Oh no, I thought, not again. He’s done this before—he sees a strange vehicle with a wide open door, he dives right in, and refuses to budge until we can get a hostage negotiator with a megaphone to promise him donuts, if only he’ll stop reprogramming the radio stations and redirecting the air vents, and come out.

There was no way I could catch up to him before he reached the truck and leaped into it. I only had to get him out of there before he put it into drive and took it for a joyride, careening down the street, knocking down garbage cans and mailboxes, and dragging behind him whoever was on the other end of the hose attached to that tank in the back end of the truck.

Oh yes, I had the whole ghastly picture in my head already--drawn, painted, signed, and framed, ready to hang on the wall and be admired and contemplated by wine-bibbing aficionados of art and connoisseurs of chaos. Why wait, when I can panic now?

I yelled his name again as he reached the open door and . . . He slammed it shut.

Then he did an about face and calmly walked toward me, oblivious to the workers and their noisy equipment. His own work was done.

The workers only smiled and waved at me, good sports all. Clearly they knew kids like mine.

Baby Bear went back to our car and got in, ready to go.

No hostage negotiations were necessary this time. But he still wanted his donuts.

He got them.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Does My Dog Hate Vivaldi?

Baby Bear has a Yamaha keyboard that plays a wide variety of popular melodies across the music spectrum, from children’s favorites to classical. He seems to have a decided preference for classical music, and has favorite pieces that he’ll make the keyboard repeat over and over until I’m hearing them even when the keyboard is off and he’s asleep. Once it was Beethoven’s Turkish March that was Flavor of the Week. The other day it was Antonio Vivaldi’s “La Primavera” from The Four Seasons suite.

That first allegro evokes images of dancing and skipping through fields of wildflowers, chasing butterflies and rejoicing in the return of spring. It’s bright and happy. Who could possibly object to this masterpiece of baroque?

Our chocolate beagle, Bart, that’s who. Each time Baby Bear activated that first allegro, Bart started whimpering, then baying and howling. This upset our Bear, who communicated his displeasure and desires in his own inimitable fashion by grabbing me, gesturing to the dog, and then gesturing to the door. Translated, “Mom, put that dog outside so I can enjoy Vivaldi in peace.”

Bart was only too happy to go outside. But this got me to thinking: Does he really hate that particular tune? Is there something in it he can hear that no human can, something annoying? Yet the other beagle, Jasper, didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

So after Baby Bear went to school, I thought I’d conduct an experiment. We have Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on CD, as played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with Seiji Ozawa as conductor and Joseph Silverstein on the violin. It was part of Mr. Lucky’s vast CD collection when we got married way back in 1987. According to the text in the CD insert, Vivaldi also wrote a series of sonnets describing in words what he thought or saw in composing this quartet of famous concertos.

The Spring sonnet includes a reference to a sleeping goatherd’s faithful dog at his side. The second movement of “La Primavera” has repeated notes from the viola that according to the composer, were supposed to represent a barking dog. (At least we’re assured that someone was keeping an eye on those goats.) But it wasn’t this second movement, called a Largo, that upset Bart. It was the first Allegro that disagreed with him.

I played the entire suite on the stereo three times in a row to see what happened with Bart.

First Play: Bart didn’t make a sound. He did, however, head for the back door and wag his tail. Jasper did likewise. Of course, he tends to look up to Bart, but will quickly disavow him and go into hiding anytime he suspects they’re both in trouble. I let them outside, and they came back in during the Autumn movement.

Second Play: Bart was lounging under the coffee table when the dreaded first movement of Spring kicked off. I got up from my chair. He also got up, and wanted to go back outside. He didn’t make a sound. Out he went, and again I let him back in around the autumnal equinox. Jasper slept through it.

Third Play: Upon the return of Spring, Bart was back under the coffee table. This time I remained seated and turned to look at him. He looked back at me. I got up. He didn’t move. Clearly he was bored with my silly experiment.

Could it be he simply found the keyboard rendition annoying? There was only one way to find out. I turned on Baby Bear’s keyboard, found “La Primavera”, and played it.

No reaction from Bart.

I even tried starting it over and over, letting it play for no more than a dozen notes or so each time, just like Bear does. Maybe that was what annoyed Bart. It certainly annoys me.

Still no reaction from Bart. In fact, he was practically snoring under the coffee table.

It’s quite possible he’s desensitized to it by now.

Otherwise, the results of my experiment: Inconclusive. But I did learn a few interesting things about Vivaldi and The Four Seasons that I hadn’t considered before.