Monday, July 9, 2012


Do you know what it's like to lose an old friend? Are you afraid you'll never see them again? I've worked with you for almost 30 years and now you are gone. I guess I'll have to find some sort of replacement, but it won't be easy. They don't make things like you anymore. What will I do?

Such a tale of remorse, I'm sad to say. I didn't give up hope easily. I recounted every step of every day since I last saw you. I searched all the likely and unlikely places. I remembered taking you out of my trunk to make room to load something in. I distinctly recall saying to myself 'this isn't a good idea.' I'd better put you back in immediately. I swore I did just that. Where could you be?

I thought for hours trying to extract some clues from my brain. I had some great ideas. None of them bore fruit. So, I waited and waited, like everyone else who has been in this situation, and said 'Oh, it will turn up.'

The next day I grew solemn. I began to resign myself and give up hope. Never would I see you again. All the places we had been, through decades of jobs and strange situations, all over the country and all over the world. The pieces were assembled, found and adopted in the strangest of ways. I even found one piece dropped in the middle of a road one day. 'Easy come, easy go' was my rationale. Parting would not be so easy!

Some stories about your history will never be known. Brand new, you were first owned by a young man of Cypriot descent named Setrak Kendir. He preceded me the year before I started a new job in 1985. His name remains as a reminder on your cover. Nearly 30 years later, I can only wonder where he may be, but his signature lives on in perpetuity.

Days passed and I came to a realization. I just couldn't work without my old friend. I needed a 'Plan B.' If I ordered every last missing part, it would take weeks to get delivery. Some things were so old they were beyond exact duplication.

I delved into my basement and I was amazed how much I could amass. I couldn't believe how much I did find. I even found a pouch quite similar but, of course, not quite as good. This collection sufficed for a couple of days. I still wasn't ready to let go. No, not yet.

The loss of my old pals only made me appreciate just how familiar they had become. With my backups, I could still achieve almost everything, but it just wasn't the same. I missed the perfect feel in my hands, the colors of the collection and how everything combined to make a team. Never more?

Maybe I could plea for help. Signs were posted in all the possible places of departure: LOST. Would someone please have pity upon me and return my loss as fast as can be? I need them to do my work. There were no replies, only silence. The sadness was joined by frustration and even a little anger. 'How could I have lost something so essential to my existence?' I just hate losing things, especially ones I regularly use and need.

Another morning arrived with more gifts of recollection. My big blue carry-all bag still felt unusually heavy. I took a moment, just before work and looked once again to see what was inside.

Angels must have heard my pleas. Tucked invisibly behind a fold of my bag, it magically appeared! All I could say, over and over again was 'Wow!' As my Mother used to say 'If it had been a bear, it would have bit ya!' Reunited, I gained a new light to my step. How did I overlook something so obvious? Was my mind so careless? Am I getting that forgetful and old? Was I blind from emotion and loss? It didn't matter. There they were. My tools once again would be in my hand ready to do work in old familiar ways. Oh, happy day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Knowing What I Know Now

Shawn Colvin’s new memoir reads more like the transcript of an extended radio interview than a legitimate book. It is a casual collection of every on-the-road war story Shawn can remember and then some. Reading this quickie chronicle will reveal all sorts of nuggets relating to her vast catalog of songs and how they all came to be. For devotees of Ms. Colvin, (count me in,) you’ll enjoy this fascinating stuff.

The book’s unifying thread, of course, is Shawn’s spider-web of a life. It’s been a rocky road, indeed. You’ll hear all about her many lovers, her encounters with nearly everyone she ever admired and her challenges being a mother. At times you may be turning your head away slightly as the detail becomes thick and murky.

On several occasions, I found myself thinking ‘too much information!’ Comments regarding her oral gratification of her husband and how her daughter discovered her private parts were a little out of the scope of what I would expect. Like a bad lounge comic, I thought Shawn was reaching towards the outrageous just to make the book more credible, commercial or maybe just to keep our attention. It wasn’t necessary. There are much better details to ponder and digest here.

One part of her life story was quizzically missing. I always thought that Shawn had a very strong friendship with Mary Chapin Carpenter. Back in the 1990s, the two of them seemed inseparable like close sisters. Nearly nothing was mentioned here about Chapin. The only inclusion was a small picture of the two of them in the back of the book. Is this omission the one part of Shawn’s life she doesn’t want to talk about?

‘Diamond in the Rough’ is not a polished work of a great writer. It is a stream of consciousness journal of a very, very talented songstress.  I saw Shawn Colvin a couple of weeks ago at a beautiful venue in Connecticut. Performing is what she was meant to do and what she does best. Her shows are just as fresh and spell-bounding as she was when I first discovered her at the old Bottom Line back in 1988. If you love her work, you should read this book. If you want true insight into the soul of a struggling singer-songwriter, read this book. Shawn has simply handed us her life seen through her own eyes. It’s all right there. Accept the gift!    

Bring A Mallet

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that it can be done! The Western Digital My Book Live can work with a Mac computer. If you try really, really hard and show the determination of an Iditarod husky dog, you can reach this place in Nirvana. I have seen it! I have been there! Honestly, it can be done!

Please don’t let me lead you astray. This goal is not easy to attain. You have a lot to learn. First, master the meaning of the little LED built into the front panel. Idle drives are blue. Yellow means its loading or waking up. Actually working? It glows green. Flashing green? Oh, boy! It’s really working and working hard.

I’ll save you some time. Many, many, many reboots will be needed for the drive to even appear as a wireless asset. Your Airport will be waiting a long time for a landing if you don’t. You might want to use a utility program to see when the drive finally starts breathing. This will prompt you when you have a fighting chance to begin.

Use the enclosed support file CD only to initially reach the unit. Load the very latest software immediately. Oh, but here’s a catch: The only way to do this with grace and style is to use a Windows computer to do it. Macs running OS 10.6.x just won’t easily go there. Go ahead. Cheat. Use a Windows PC!

After you reach the drive, look for the feature that allows you to revert to factory defaults. Use it! This is especially true if you have received a replacement drive as a warranty swap. My first My Book Live died after about four month’s use. The new drive I received came completely loaded with a full 3 terabytes of data. I had to wipe it clean before I could even start. The WD technical support representative I worked with on-line was named 'Mallet.' I know there was a hidden meaning here.

When you attempt your first Time Machine backup, turn off all settings on your Mac that might put the computer into sleep mode when idle. The initial backup will take a very, very long time. I have three Mac users in my house. I averaged about 18 hours per initial backup! After that, the system only backs up new information, so its activity is gleefully shorter.  

The My Book Live is a nifty device on paper. Combine an unimaginable amount of storage with a Wi-Fi interface, and you can enjoy a very useful backup solution available, anywhere in your home or office at a moment’s notice, without having to plug it in or boot it up. It waits for your use. What a wonderful thing! 

What it doesn’t do is stay on-line. Without the latest software, it will not respond resulting in on-screen messages that the drive is unavailable or has an OS incompatibility. Past that point, I tried several times for a full initial backup. Hours of painstaking drive activity later, the Mac or drive might unexplainably halt ruining your day. It’s so frustrating! Another hint: Always log-in as 'Guest.' The name and password you established will never work. Mallet told me so.

Find your way through all these steps and idiosyncrasies and you may have a plan. I have been there twice. After the system begins to work, it really is a useful device. Unfortunately, most mortal humans won’t invest the time to find out. It is a shame that a clever product like the My Book Live doesn’t include support software for easy set-up and operation. Western Digital is so close but yet so far away.