hobo grifter – in which I fail at problem solving and computer fixes itself

I went to New York City for a long weekend. I was working there on Monday giving a few talks and I figured I’d show up early and see some people. This was fun, and a good idea, though it meant that when I finally showed up in Roslyn the night before a long day of work, I still had a few finishing touches to do on my talk. It all went fine, despite my night-before concerns which are becoming sort of formulaic [I worry it will go badly, I will get no sleep, I will somehow embarrass myself or oversleep, or both!]. You can see notes and slides here. It’s a 100% new talk [not a single recycled image except the moss theme] which I am proud of.

Monday night I hung out with friends for dinner and then got up early on Tuesday [not my choice, that’s when the building renovations start, eight on the dot] and walked from the East Village to Grand Central station complete with backpack. Along the way I stopped at a chi-chi coffee place that I liked and managed to be so concerned that the gal next to me would knock over my coffee that I knocked it over myself. Mostly on to myself. A little on to my laptop. Now people who know me know that I “rock” a Macbook Air [thanks MetaFilter] so it’s a sort of spendy item. I swear as soon as the coffee hit my trackpad, the gal next to me grabbed her phone and twittered it.

I basically drink my coffee without sugar just in case of this sort of eventuality so I mopped it up and was pleased to see that everything still worked. Except the trackpad button. Now the new Macs don’t even have this button but I’m sort of fond of mine. In fact I even turned off tap-to-click some time ago. This meant that with my mouse button busted, I basically was immediately transported into no-mouse land with a five-hour bus ride approaching and only one book to read. In short, I was doomed. All I needed to do was borrow someone’s mouse for thirty seconds and I could click the checkbox and I’d be fine! So began my saga.

Here are places not to get a mouse in Manhattan: Staples [$29], cell phone gear shop [$20 but they’d sell it to me for $15], Rite Aid [they said they sold them but could never show me where they were]. Other places to not get a mouse: NYPL [SIBL and the downtown branch – nothing in lost and found and no one was going to lend me a damned thing], Grand Central Lost and Found [if the guy could have detached his own mouse he would have let me use it but it was locked down under the desk] Kinkos [same]. No one brings mice with them when they travel anymore. No one on the bus that I asked had a mouse to borrow.

I was resigned to my fate [and called my sister to have her Google this problem “how do I turn on tap to click when I can’t click” and the answer was a resounding “you’re screwed!”] when my mouse functionality came back a little bit. Enough to click the box once, not enough to use. I had to put my laptop to sleep and wake it up with the mouse positioned over the check box and click and hope. It finally worked. I learned to use most of the laptop’s keyboard navigation features and hack Google searching to just type words in the URL box and hope I’d get lucky with whatever page it sent me to. I never was able to click a link, I suspect the button was stuck ON for the majority of this trip. I spent a lot of time on chat bemoaning my lack of mouse button and asking for tips from other people who mostly couldn’t believe you could laptop sans mouse.

Now that I’m home, the laptop has mostly fixed itself. I’m trying to figure out what other way I could have possibly solved this problem short of calling friends who worked in midtown and saying “Hey can I borrow your mouse?” I sure did enable tap to click though.

number of ways technology has enhanced my life. also: my new car

new (to me) car

Here is a story about ways technology has enhanced my life.

I got a car. Here is a photo of it. (1) For some reason I like having two cars. Part of this may be that I like having a back-up car. Part of it may be that it costs almost nothing to insure a second car in Vermont. Part of it is that I’ve wanted a wagon for quite some time and the opportunity presented itself. So, this is my new (to me) car. It needs a name.

The way I got it wasn’t really your typical deal. In fact, it’s a neat story. My pal Erica just left her librarian gig at Cornell to start a nifty new job in San Francisco at Second Life. (2) She was selling her car on Facebook. (3) You might know Erica because her blog and my blog are the first and second blogs that show up on Google when you search for “librarian” (4) Yeah, that’s us. I saw the photo and said “oh hey that’s the car I need.” My car is totally fine, but ever since a scary run-in with a guardrail last winter, I’ve been thinking I might want something a bit more AWD-ish. Plus, I’ve wanted a wagon or at least something I could, in a pinch, sleep in. I haven’t slept in a car in a few years now, but I like having the option.

Since these cars are basically Vermont’s State Automobile they’re tough to get good deals on. And I don’t really enjoy driving all over the place looking at cars from Craigslist (5). So, Erica’s seemed decent and when I said the price was maybe a little high for me, she made it not a little high and I emailed (6) and said said “I’ll take it”. I sent her a check through my online bank. (7) It was forwarded to her in CA. She mailed me the title and the bill of sale. I called my insurance company. They emailed me proof of insurance. (8) I got a ride from my very good friend Forrest out to Ithaca (thanks Forrest! I met him on MetaFilter (9)) where we found the car in the Ornothithology lab parking lot with a note to me and the keys under the mat. Erica said “It’s the one with the flying spaghetti monster (10) on the back, to distinguish it from the 45 other green subaru legacies in the parking lot.”

We drove back in tandem keeping a sharp eye out for danger. The trip would have been shorter but Forrest heard on the radio (11) that there was a huge wreck on 87 North and we took a detour through Saratoga Springs to avoid it. I got home and made a few moves in an online Scrabble game (12) to chill out, answered some personal and work email, (13, 14) prepared a book to put in the mail for paperbackswap.com (15) and went right to bed.