Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Town Monday: Summer Weather

As a Midwest Town and Michigan town, the weather around Livingston County spans a pretty good spectrum. Usually, it stays pretty mild. Being surrounded by a few large lakes helps take the edge of the weather.

So, for a "typical" summer day like today, it's about 73 degrees--which is right within the range of my optimum operating temperature. My AC doesn't even kick on in weather like this. I'd open the window if my paper-covered office didn't flutter about.

We occasionally get temperatures shooting into the 90s and sometimes 100s. Being out here where it's still more green than blacktop, it's always a bit cooler in Livingston County than it is in places like Flint, Ann Arbor, or Detroit.

Currently, we've got some sort of hot and cold air collision happening just West of Michigan that's made for some interesting rain and thunderstorms lately.

I stole this picture off the local paper's website because I didn't happen to have my camera when this happened last summer. I'm sure folks have all seen pictures of busted fast food signs-- I know I have. But every other time I saw them, they were from news footage of Kansas or Florida or something. Not in MY town.

No idea what exactly happen to the sign, but a nasty thunderstorm went through the town earlier that morning, making quite a mess of the area. There's still a few broken signs and other debris. Power was out in the center of town all day-- I was working my retail job and it was quite surreal because we were running on generator. But I was working in receiving unloading trucks, and we had all our lights, power and were otherwise running as normal in our corner of the store. Then I'd turn to go down the hall and it'd be pitch black. Or I'd go to the sales floor where only one out of every tenth light was on. Surreal is the best word for it.
The broken Wendy's sign has been removed, leaving the empty frame. And beneath it, they've got a sign that says "Ouch. Yes, we're still open." I laughed. Even if I am mad that they now only offer fried chicken on their salads instead of the grilled chicken.

Quite a few thunderstorms have rumbled their way through the county lately. Including one that was heading northeast and passed right between Brighton and Howell as Hubby and I drove home the other day. As we're heading down the road, it started raining, then raining HARD, then hailing. Then, we go around a corner and it stops raining. Then, not even an 1/8 of a mile further, we round another corner and it's raining again.

And today. As I was busy at work on the NEW old computer that replaces my old computer (which was suffering dreadfully from narcolepsy) I heard it raining. But, no, because I could see the sunlight glinting off my pretty computer monitor. Though, it sure did sound like it was raining. So I took a peak.
You can see the sun, and the wet ground. It was very much raining. And the sun was shining just a bright as can be.
Of course, I was standing outside with my camera hunting for rainbows. Almost makes me wish Hubby hadn't lost the umbrella by leaving it under a desk at college one day. Except I would never purchase an umbrella.
But once I went back inside as the rain picked up, the rainbow came out. I peeked out the window just to see and there it was in all it's prismatic glory. So I grabbed the camera, ran downstairs, opened the door, turning the camera on as I went. I aimed at the sky, but the rainbow had already faded.
It really is there. Very faint.
I've grown to enjoy summer thunderstorms. I'll admit that I used to be a big scaredy cat when thunderstroms rolled in. But as I've been living much closer to town than I did growing up, I've taken comfort in the proximity of tornado sirens. They tell me when to panic.
So, I finally understand my family's fascination with standing with noses pressed to the window to watch sideways rain and green skies and trees whipping all over the place. In my current residence, I don't even have to worry about the trees. (Scroll back up to the second picture and see just how big the trees are around here. Yeah... I think even the birds scoff at these trees.)
This is summer weather in it's finest in Livingston County. Warm days, a few thunderstorms and rain showers to keep things cool, low humidity, and not much on the itinerary. It all looks great from inside. Where I've happily got most everything back on my computer-- especially my customized version of Word 2003. Yep. All is good.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Windows Timeline

Windows 7 is heading into production, likely to be launched early next year.

So, just for giggles, let's take a stroll down Windows' Memory Lane:
  1. Windows 3.1 is the first Windows Operating System (Versions 1 and 2 never made it to produciton.) Date 1993. Windows 3.5 was released in 1994
  2. Windows 95 updated 3.1 and attempted to add "Plug and Play" features, which in theory allowed hardware and software to be added and removed easily. This feature earned itself the nickname "Shrug and Pray."
  3. Windows 98 was not really an improvement on Win95. It is widely recognized as being buggy and unreliable.
  4. Windows ME was a partial upgrade from Windows 98. ME stands for Millenium Edition. This is pretty much the Edsel of Microsoft. It was realeased in 1999.
  5. Windows 2000 followed. Windows2000 intended to combine the relative ease of use of Windows 95-98 with the security of the business operating system Windows NT. Plug and Play mostly worked by this point.
  6. Windows XP improved upon what was started with Windows 2000. There was increased security, working "Plug and Play" and stability. (I admit that I love my WinXP.) This OS was released with a Professional version and a cheaper Home Version. Why, I may never know.
  7. Windows Vista was plagued from release date with compatibility issues and security problems-- particularly with the security being too tight. As in the OS was trying to protect users from themselves, and perhaps did so too well. Updates have largely removed most of these issues and created a rather stable operating system, however, rumors have damaged Vista. Not to mention the plethora of OS choices.
  8. Windows 7 is the next release. If you count, Windows 7 is not the seventh version of Windows. I'm not sure what the 7 is for.
What would you call Windows 7 instead? What would make it stand out?

(Source: Wiki Timeline of OS)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The Part I Just Couldn't Handle

My couch... blocking the shortest path from kitchen to upstairs.
More unacceptable than the deluge from the leaking roof that caused the couch migration.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Printing Unprintable Pages

So you read a neat article or story some where and want to print it off to share with others or save or something. But when you go to print, the text doesn't show up on the page or hangs off funny or some other weird thing that prevents you from having a print off.

Well, I don't like being thwarted by a mindless collection of sand and metal. Computer... there are ways of making you print!

Method 1:
Copy and Paste
Nearly every program has the commands Copy and Paste. One method to access them is to select the text and press Ctrl-C (Ctrl plus the C keys). So to copy text from a page that doesn't print, select the text with your mouse as you would highlight text in any other document, then hit Ctrl-C. Then, open up MSWord and press Ctrl-V. Ctrl-V is the paste code.

Okay, what? C is for copy, but V is for paste! Actually, it's not random. X is cut, C is copy and V is paste. The three keys are in a row on the keyboard. And Z, if you recall, is Undo.

Now that you've copied the text and pasted it into MSWord, you can fiddle with formatting and print it. I suggest making sure you have the source in case you ever want to go back to the original document.

Method 2:
Screen shots
Some pages don't allow copying from the browser. They're trying to control access to their page. Fair enough, as sometimes people will lift content and pass it off as their own. But say you need to print a page because your Luddite of a boss doesn't visit the link you sent him. A screen shot will capture what you see on your screen.

Navigate to the page you want to capture. Then press the Print Screen button. You won't see anything happen, but buried deep in the wires and capacitors fo your computer, the machine has taken a picture of the screen at that exact moment you pressed the Print Screen button.

Now, open MSWord or Paint. Either progam will work. Pain will save it as apicture and Word will save it as a document. It depends on how you want the picture. Then, his Ctrl-V to paste the screen shot into the open program. This is how I get all those handy screen shots of my comptuer to show you how things are done. It's also a way to preserve things that can't be printed, such as locked webpages or the Internet History files.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Town Monday: Vocabularly Lesson

Livingston County is part of Michigan. Around here, we call this:

In Michigan, we also have Faygo. It's a Michigan product. And one of Faygo's products is Red Pop.
Because this is Michigan and we call it Pop.

We're also likely to pick up our Pop at a Party Store. Apparently, people in other non-mitten shaped states would go to a Party Store to pick up paper plates, hats, balloons and streamers. Our party stores mainly sell Liquor. And overpriced Pop.

You can return your empty Pop (but not Soda) bottles, along with your empty beer cans at the Party Store to get your deposit back. Carbonated drinks have a 10 cent deposit in Michigan. You pay the extra 10 cents on carbonated drinks, but you get the money back when you return them. Unfortunately this does not apply to water or juice, even if it comes in the SAME bottle as, say, your Pepsi. I hope legislation will change this, but, well, probably not since they are legislators. The idea behind the deposit was to keep litter down and help recycle. 10 cents is enough to get most people to return their bottles.

Growing up in Michigan, it's not at all uncommon to go hunting for bottles tossed out car windows. It was a few bucks to spend on candy.
Or Better Made Potato Chips.

Another Michigan brand.

Like Vernors. Another kind of Pop. Apparently some folks never drank Vernors. Makes your nose feel all fizzy. I mistook a cup of beer for Vernors when I was young... that was very disappointing.

Around here, you'll find quite a few folks who head "Up North" for vacation, usually to hunt. They may or may not make it across the Mackinac (that's pronounced Mack-i-naw, of course) Bridge to the UP (or Upper Pennisula.)

Or they might travel to the "Big Lake." Yeah, in a state surrounded by Big Huge Lakes, everyone who goes to one of the Great Lakes really does just call it the Big Lake. My family usually went to Lake Huron-- that was our "The Big Lake." And we always brought pop for the trip.

I know the obvious Michigan words, but some of them surprise me. Apparently the rest of you don't say "Doorwall" for a sliding glass door.

We say 'kitty korner' rather than caddy corner. We usually say freeway or expressway (or eway) but not highway. And apparently the rest of you thaw or de-ice while we dethaw.

Around here, you might cry alligator tears if you're losing bad at Euchre while outside there's a toad drownder going on.

Or at least in some regions we do.

But we still drink pop. The only soda we have is baking soda.

Because this is Michigan.

And if any of you guys (not youse guys) know any other words that are uniquely Michigan, please, let me know! As a life long Michigander (do NOT say Michiganian!) I would love to hear what we say that you don't!

reposted with permission.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Office 2007 and beyond

I hear a lot of complaints about Office 2007. The main root to all the complaints is "DON'T CHANGE IT!" Other complaints are "It's too different" and "They moved everything" and "I can't find it!"

With all those big buttons and labels and you can't find what you're looking for? If you say so... I found it easier to find things than previous versions of Office, actually.

On an unrelated note, I bought a new house this winter. It took me MONTHS to get used to the new locations for the silverware and the fact that I have stairs and other such things. I had to figure out where to put my furniture that worked, since the layout was very different from the old place. There are somethings that bother me because they aren't how they used to be. And there are somethings that I would like to change because they just don't work. Maybe it is related... Buying a new home is an awful lot like a major face-lift for software.

Perhaps the difference between buying a house and buying new software is choice, as people often don't choose (or they choose to be unaware of the differences in) the new software. Many people I know who upgraded bought new software rather than using their old discs and installing the old, familiar software on their computers. Interesting... when I got a new desktop, the first thing I did was put my old programs back on it. This also saved money on buying programs, since I didn't need new versions. But I'm cheap that way.

I encourage people who HATE Office 2007 to give it a chance. All your buttons are there. In fact, they're even easier to find than before because they're not hidden away. There's also a lot more toys and features in the new versions of office. You've just bought a new house... take a little time to explore it-- with an open mind.

And remember, argue for your limitations and they will be yours... if you insist that you can't use Office 2007, that's it too hard and too diferent, then, you will be right. You won't learn it. Now, I'm going back to messig with the picture tools. Just don't tell the boss that it took four hours for that brochure because I was playing...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Upgrade

Old and Busted...

New Hotness!


Next up... the 9 year old cell phone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


These days, just about every program has an Undo Command. This is the helpfulest of all computer commands, by far.

In Microsoft Office 2003 (and earlier) Undo is under the Edit Menu. Right above the Redo Button.

It's also the backwards-looping arrow on the toolbar. If you keep hitting Undo, the computer will continue to undo each successive thing.

In Microsoft Office 2007, the Undo command is on the Home Ribbon. Still works the same way.

But, did you know that Windows Explorer (you may know it as My Computer or the My Documents Folder) ALSO has an Undo command! Yep. For WindowsXP and previous versions, if you go to the Edit menu at the top of the window, you will see and Undo command. It will refer to the last thing you did.

For my screenshot, my computer shows that "Undo Delete" is my option. It will put the last file I deleted back where it came from. You can also Undo a Move (so if you're not sure where you actually moved a file to, Undo it and it'll pop back to where it came from.)


Word of caution though. There does become a point when changes are permanent (unless you have Uber Computer Geek skills, like hacking and behind-the-scenes skills. Those are beyond MY capability!) So, do be careful with what you are doing. Undo is like a pair of Water Wings. Useful, but there are limitations.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Town Monday: Field Trip! Sleeping Bear Dunes

Field Trip! These summer months are great for seeing the sites around Michigan. So today's field trip is to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore is located up here... the fingertips of Michigan. Right about here.

Or for those of you not used to using your hand as a map, here.

The Dunes are ever changing because of the wind that comes of Lake Michigan. Then, as plants take root, they hold the sand down, for a while, evolving into a different type of landscape. If sand buries the plants, it may become sand dune again, rather than supporting growth.

Here's a web album from my trip with Hubby (June 2006, our five year anniversary.)

If you don't like tear-jerker stories, then you totally don't want to know the story of why it's called Sleeping Bear Dunes. I'm no softy, but this story traumatized me... It's the italicized part, for easy skipping.

The Legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes:
A long time a go, there was a fire in Wisconsin. A mama bear and her two cubs were forced from the forest. They got to the edge of Lake Michigan. They would have to swim. Mama and the cubs began swimming. It was a long swim. They swam for hours and hours.

Finally, Mama Bear reached the shore of Michigan. She looked back into the water and she couldn't see her cubs. She lay down on the shores of the lake and watched. But the baby bears never came. They had gotten too tired and drowned.

But the Mama bear kept waiting. She was certain her babies would come. Eventually, she fell asleep. Sand swept over Mama Bear, burying her on the shore where she waits to this day. The Great Spirit was impressed with the Mama Bears determination and faith. The Great Spirit raised two island, North and South Manitou Islands, to commemorate the cubs.

Here's a nice Aeriel shot of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore and North and South Manitou Islands.

You can take a ferry to the islands. And Empire Michigan, the town nestled along the National Lake Shore, is only a short distance from Traverse City. Well, "short" in "upper Michigan" vernacular, which is a little bit longer than "short" in busy places. It's worse in the U.P., where us foreigners read a sign that says "Museum Just Ahead" and not realize it's "just" ten miles. I was ready to admit I'd missed the turn...

Visit the new My Town Monday site for links to other posters.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Make Your Own South Park Characters

Over at South Park Studios, you can create little people that look like the characters on South Park. Neat little people with all sorts of clothes and stuff. It's like paper dolls on the computer. Or just plain fun.

I made these when I should have been working:

Note: Because many games are made with Flash, some blocking programs will block South Park Studios because it, too, is a Flash program. So you may not be able to goof off at work like I can. =)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Your Computer's Make and Model

I get requests to trouble-shoot MSWord from time to time. I'm always happy to help, but first we have to be on the same page. Preferably the same page in the same book...

So I ask what version of MSWord you are running. With the release of Word2007, it is imperative to know the version. Commands and instructions that are good for Word2007 are meaningless for Word2003, as well as other issues. No big deal-- I have both versions. I just need to know whether to give instruction set A or instruction set B.

You answer: "Vista."

Vista is a version of Windows.

Windows Vista runs your computer. Microsoft Word is what you type your document into. One's a plant and one's an animal. You wouldn't ride a tulip into town any more than you'd type a document with just Windows.

Your operating system maybe Windows. It will usualy say which version it is while booting, but you can also go to My Computer, right click and select Properties from the Menu. Hey, looky there, it tells you what version operating system you are running. And other neat details.

Okay, so, we still need to figure out what version of Word you have.
Method #1, find the Icon. Whatever you double-click to open the program. Does it say... Microsoft Word 2003?

Method #2: Open Word. Go to Help... About Microsoft Word. The top line will tell you what version you are running. My desktop has Word 2003.

So... what version of Word are you running? What operating system do you have? If you're going to get the right help, you need to ask for the right information. Luckily, the computer knows what it's using, and is happy to tell you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Someone Turned Gravity Up

From Bo Fexler, PI

From Bo Fexler, PI

That explains why it's hard to get out of bed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Google It

Everyone Googles. But not everyone Googles well. It's kind of like dancing. Some people shouldn't dance in public, but we all groove from time to time. I have my own special "clean space" dance, reserved for those infrequent times when clutter accepts its eviction notice.

The best tip I have for Google, is to type in exactly what you are looking for.

For example, looking for that song you heard on the supermarket radio? (Earworms, all of them...)
But you only remember a single line?

Try thi: type in that one line, plus the word lyrics.
For example: how to save a life lyrics

Once you have the lyrics, you can get the song title. So, in my example, "How to Save a Life" happens to be not just the words in the refrain, but the title of the song. With that, I also know that the group that sings the song is The Fray.

And with that, just to confirm , I can Google "How to Save a Life" The Fray and get the YouTube videos. After listening to the YouTube Video, I can confirm that it is the song, and perhaps go buy it from iTunes.

This also works with movie quotes, lines from a poem, and other things. Type in the line you remember. If perchance you remember incorrectly or misheard something (also called an eggcorn) try taking out the parts you're not sure of. See what happens.

Similarly, if you're looking for how to reattach the zipper that lovely, wonderful husband pulled off, I might search for "Repair Zipper How-to" or "How to replace zipper." (No quotes.) For some strange reason I do, um, Google as Yoda talks.

When you Google, ask yourself what is it, exactly, you are trying to find. Only if that fails, then get a bigger net and try broader terms. Just know that for certain types of people, Google can be addictive. It's like a freaking drug, man. My next cell phone will have internet just so I can Google things when away from my computer. Need my fix, man. Need my Google.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Town Monday: Cross Roads

Livingston County is along three major crossroads in Southeast Lower Michigan. (For those not acquainted with the Mitten-shaped state, we here do tend to use 'lower' Michigan to differentiate from the Upper Peninsula.)

Don't mind my map. I "borrowed" it from the Livingston County webpage and made some alterations and labels and stuff.
I-96 runs from diagonal across the county. To the west it heads to state capital, Lansing. To the east, it goes to Detroit. Mostly, I-96 is three lanes. I don't like when my travels along I-96 take me beyond M-59 or US-23. Between those points, 96 is a pretty decent drive. You won't usually get run off the road or find your little car ready to be mounted by some massive and over-eager vehicle coming up from behind.

I-96 has several distinctions. It is the only two digit InTRAstate interstate. It only exists in Michigan. I-96 from Brighton to Farmington was part of the first "freewayization" and was built in 1957. This stretch was one of the first limited access freeways in the area, when such things were new and fangled. (source: )

(Picture: I-96 opens in 1962. Photo "borrowed" from Howell Bicentennial while it was checked out of the library. Hey, I'm totally not old enough to have been there!)

Before I-96, Grand River was the major East-West route between Lansing and Detroit. Once the limited access highways went in, Grand River became just the major local road. It runs through the centers of Brighton, Howell, and Fowlerville. Grand River has it's own neat history, but that's for another post.

US-23 runs North-South through the east side of the county. This major thoroughfare is a mere two lanes. To the south, it goes to Ann Arbor. Last I heard, US-23 south between Brighton and Ann Arbor was "at capacity" during rush hour. Which apparently means traffic slows to a twenty mile per hour crawl... on the good days. To the north, US-23 eventually goes to Flint. 23 North is a better drive, I think because it's a longer drive to get anywhere so folks just settle in for the trip.

Running parallel to US-23 is "Old 23". Occasionally, there are signs marking this as "Whitmore Lake Road", but it's really just Old 23. This was pretty much the route of US-23 before US-23 was shifted and turned into a limited access freeway. The surface road remains (mostly) and is called "Old 23." I think the signs actually say "Old US-23."

Next is M-59. Through most of the county M-59 is a 2 to 5 lane road. As it leaves Livingston County, it becomes a divided highway. Somewhere later, it becomes an expressway (or limited access highway). And I think it ultimately leads to Detroit. I swear, all E/W expressways in this part of the state lead to Detroit. I think it has something to do with the Metro Detroit area having a huge portion of the population or some such silly reason... ;-) M-59 is also labeled as Highland Road. Which, gets confusing, especially at certain intersections, like the one at M-59/ Highland Road and Michigan Ave by Howell. As far as I can tell, at M-59, Michigan Ave changes names to become Oak Grove Road. So the road sign at the corner has four road names for two roads!

Oh, yeah, almost forgot M-36. This little mostly 2-lane road meanders across the southern part of the county. It sees a fair amount of traffic since it's one the primary routes to take folks from Pinckney and Hamburg out to US-23, which they then take to 96, 94, or other routes to their work destinations.

A last route I'll mention is D-19. It's not on the map above, but if your drew a more-or-less straight line south from Howell to Pinckney, that would be D-19. It's another winding 2-lane road. In Pinckney, travelers can pick up Dexter-Pinckney Road and travel onwards to Ann Arbor, but since these are winding, two-lane roads, they are not the primary choices. Talk has been had over the years of making a major North-South thoroughfare through the western side of the county to help develop it. I think that part of the county is just fine the way it is.

Aside from these major roads, there are, of course, plenty of ways to get around. Many of the roadways in Livingston County are dirt... or, do to lack of proper maintenance in these, ah, lean times, some of the paved roads are reverting to dirt. It's like when you place SimCity, but don't fund the transportation department well enough, your roads disintegrate into rubble. Many times paving of dirt roads is voted down because the residents want to maintain a "country" feel. But they sure do want to get excited about the CVS going up on the corner next to the Walgreens in front of Wal-Mart and Meijer... as a lifetime local-yokel, I would rather drive ten minutes-- or even twenty minutes!-- to get to a grocery store or pharmacy than have even one one every damned corner.

But, I'm one of those strange creatures who lives and works in the same county. It's not a bad place to call home.

Shoot, I've even set my stories and novel in this part of the world. There's enough people here, and enough variation, that I could write pretty much whatever I want.

I'd invite you all, but the truth is, I think we got enough people around here. =)

Reposted with permission.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Windows Really Good Edition

New version of Windows? Nah. Just a good joke.

Now, I admit, my favorite jokes are the ones that go after the things I am most familiar with. And this one does a pretty good job poking fun at problems in Windows.

When you click the link here for Windows Really Good Edition, it'll take you to another site. NOTE: Once you launch the Flash video, it may be full screen. If it "takes over" but you can hit alt+F4 to end the video and get back to normal. Deep breath.

And if you play with this, really, you've got to explore all the nooks and crannies. Like opening "Word" and "Go Online." The error messages are amusing (and yes, it starts with a whole slew of them. ;-)

I like the option of selecting "Crash" from the Start Menu. Have fun. Have a little giggle. It's Friday!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mac or PC?

I always thought those Mac and PC commercials, with the middle-aged boring guy as the PC and the young hip guy as the Mac, were pretty cute. Somewhat skewed, but so are all commercials.

Personally, I think whether a person picks a Mac or PC is kind of like picking your type of undergarment. It doesn't matter to most anyone else, but you sure better be comfortable with the choice.

I'm a PC. (No, I'm not going to tell you my underwear choice!) My biggest factor is price, and PCs tend to meet that need far better than Macs. I don't need processor power for much more than handing a large (very large!) MSWord document or maybe streaming a video. My current desktop computer is the Holiday Inn Express of computers-- it's not fancy, but it does the job rather well.

I've used Macs. The skies didn't open up for me. (In fact, I got tend to get frustrated because all the commands I'm used to are missing or moved. That problem is compounded because when I'm on a Mac, it's usually to troubleshoot an ill-intentioned device.) But I have nothing against the little cuties. ;-)

Some users have less trouble on Macs-- particularly with viruses. Fair enough. But the only virus I've gotten in the last ten years was from my stupid pirate brothers downloading a game crack that was infect. That reminds me-- I still haven't thanked them for that... To me, all computers are comparable. It's the user that is the biggest equation. What do YOU want from your computer.

I have more time than money, so I'll buy the cheap machine (or cobble parts from friends and family to make a Frankenputer ). Then I'll use my time to learn how to make sure it obeys. The occasional sacrifice of a goat or small animal to the computer gods doesn't hurt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: I Got Away!

And I won't go back...