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I don’t like to spend money. I don’t even like to spend money when I know I should, such as paying someone to do home repairs, instead of paying the recovery and restoration people later. I’m well aware that you’re sometimes money ahead to pay for something now, rather than pay more later -- I just don’t like it.

Guess I wouldn’t survive long in Congress with that kind of attitude, would I?

Still, I don’t skimp on Christmas, because it’s fun to give loved ones neat stuff. The official term is “tis better to give than to receive”, which works well for gifts if not for organ donations. My finances can be sparse, but I usually manage to find, among other things, a family Christmas present – something everyone in the house can enjoy, like a DVD player, or a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Now, the company I work for gives longevity pay, which employees earn on their anniversary date. This is a great thing from a standpoint of both retaining experienced employees, and giving them a bit of a reward for just plain surviving. My anniversary date is December 13; usually I get the check just after Christmas, too late to spread holiday cheer but in time to cover heat and electric bills.

I like Christmas lights – I even like my inflatable Santa (Did anybody notice the ax I stuck in the ground at his feet this year?) But between the extra lights and the whole not freezing to death thing, January bills can be pretty high. February’s even worse, because by early January I get tired of trying to save money and at some point run sobbing to the thermostat and crank the temperature back up to where I want it. This is how I spend my longevity pay.

But this year the stars aligned just so, and the check arrived before Christmas. You know what I was thinking. I know you know. You know I knew I’d suffer later, when the gas company started sending me extra mail with big red letters on it. But I couldn’t help myself.

It was at this point that I started rationalizing. We’re an online family. My youngest and I – and sometimes my oldest, too – fight over the only computer in the house that’s capable of going online. We all do research, have internet friends, zap e-mails back and forth, and look up the meanings of words as if we didn’t have a dozen dictionaries in the house. That one computer was once a laptop, but due to a broken hinge must remain connected to a BHM (Big Honkin’ Monitor) and so has become a very expensive desktop model.
It’s five years old, which in my old-fashioned Hoosier mind is nowhere near the limits of its useful life. But it’s a computer, and in computer years it’s a model that has to be fed hay and have its stall mucked. But that’s not all: As a writer, I can deduct a computer from my income tax, for a certain number of years. My old Mac has outlived that usable life, too.

So a new computer could make us portable again, cut down on wrestling for the office chair, and save me a mint on taxes. Can I rationalize, or what?

I got a great buy on it, yet it still cost me half my longevity check. I figure I’ll be okay during January, but by February having a computer with its own battery might make it the only working electronic item in the house. At least, until the battery goes dead. (On the brighter side, those things also generate heat.)
I’m still a little stunned by the improvements in computers over the years. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but stay with me while I let the geeks among you know how good (or not) our new laptop is:

The new computer is an evil Bill Gates Windows machine (so Jillian can use certain Windows-only learning software and, lets face it, SIMS 2). It’s the first new non-Mac I’ve ever allowed in my home, and it makes me feel a little dirty. However, Macs are more expensive and I’m on a budget, so maybe an iBook for my next purchase – in another five years.

Now, computer hard drives are measured in gigabytes, which are, of course, a zillion bytes. This laptop is the smallest we could find brand new, and is 80 gigs; my old laptop, which was built for someone who doesn’t like well rounded numbers, is 44 gigs. My original computer, a Model T desktop that was bought less than fifteen years ago, was so small it couldn’t be measured in gigabytes: It was half a gig.

RAM is neither a rugged truck nor an animal, but a type of memory that your computer needs to do its job – my first computer had 96 megs of memory – that’s two hundred million thousand bytes, or something. The box on the new computer advertised it as having 515 megs of memory, but on checking the system after firing it up, I discovered it actually has twice that. This is me, not complaining.

This laptop – a portable computer, mind you – has a 15 inch screen. I was in my late twenties before I had a television with a screen that big.

It also has a DVD drive, which means you can watch – or record – movies right on the thing. It’s official: We can live in our car.

You know what it couldn’t do? Word processing. Yeah. I couldn’t write my column on it, until I got extra world processing software. Right out of the box you can actually make a movie on this computer: You can download the video, edit it, do a music score, dub in sound effects, then plug it into a projector and show the movie right on it, but you couldn’t type.

That’s extra.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 27th, 2006 09:59 am (UTC)
The Jack Daniels was a last minute addition to give that paragraph a bit more of a kick. And hey, if anything can give a kick, it's Jack!

Our Christmas went well, once it all fell together; the falling part was a panicked mess, though.
Dec. 27th, 2006 08:58 am (UTC)
The new toy looks very snazzy (MUCH better than a Mac! lol), and your daughter seems rather happy with it! (you REALLY need a cordless mouse!)

I'm sure you could type in wordpad if you so wanted... but who would want to!? If you don't yet have a wordprocessing program you can download one off the net that is similar to Word, only free. I personally prefer Word... but a lot of people like Open Office http://www.openoffice.org/

Have fun, and you know that as you are now a two computer family we expect to hear from you a lot more! *evil grin*
Dec. 27th, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
*Nothing* is better than a Mac. Going from the Mac Os to Windows is like giving up chocolate cake in favor of salted grass. Sadly, the prices reflect that. :-(

I much prefer Appleworks to Word, but as you might imagine, Appleworks isn't available on a Windows machine. Anyway, by the time I had the column typed (on -- ahem -- my work computer) I already had Word loaded on the new computer ... I have my sources. *evil laugh*
Dec. 27th, 2006 11:39 am (UTC)
LOL wordprocessing always seems to be extra when it comes to computers. Mine was much the same way, I was not impressed.
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:01 am (UTC)
It wasn't really hard at all to set up word processing on it ... but it made a great ending for the column. :-)
Dec. 27th, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)
New toy!!!! Woooot!! Very very nice... *drools* I love technology...

Oh - and wireless mouses? Not worth it - much easier with wired mousey. Wireless need a little thingy sticking out the side of the computer and they can get broken.. (too technical for ya? LOL!) Unless you invest in hugely expensive bluetooth mousey.... and who needs a mouse with blue teeth?
Dec. 27th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC)
It didn't immediately occur to me, when i got this laptop, that all the USB ports are on the right side of the computer, so with a corded mouse I have the cord dragging across the keyboard, as I use my mini-mouse on the front of the laptop itself, rather than on the nearest other objects, usually the settee or the cat. (My daughter's system when using my laptop, of running the mouse across her tummy with her shirt rolled up, is unusual, and not my way!) But I am currently using a mini mouse from Tesco - which has a system where the bit to plug into the USB port fits into a docking slot in the end of the mouse, switching the mouse off, so I always remember to unplug the 'bit' whenever I stop using the computer. So far it has lasted about a month - far outlasting other cordless mice I have known.

My husband reckons I get through more mice than a farm cat!
Dec. 27th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
Ah yes - it is difficult when that happens! I have many many USB ports on my laptop - at the back and the left and right hand sides (goodness knows what for! LOL!), so I find a corded mouse is much easier and less likely to be forgotten and broken by me! *g*
Dec. 27th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
Actually I forgot to add why the right hand side is so bad for me - I'm left handed!
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:18 am (UTC)
Ah -- one of the honored chosen! :-)
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:16 am (UTC)
My Mac PowerBook has only two USB ports, but before its hinge broke I always kept it completely portable -- I never plugged in speakers, mice or anything else, except a printer on occasion. I do have a portable floppy disk drive that I use sometimes -- sort of like carrying a hand crank around in a brand new car.

Since Jillian likes to use the mouse, it might become a factor on the new laptop -- but USB ports aren't terribly expensive.
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:11 am (UTC)
Jillyh2009 and I both like to have the mouse in the traditional position just beside the keyboard, which is fine -- if you have something there to lay the mouse on! The other problem is that the minimouse that comes with the computer works great, but plugs into a USB port, just as the enclosed speakers and printer/copier/fax do -- and there are only two USB ports on the computer. Sure, I can spend 25 bucks for a hub, but at some point didn't some designer say, "Um, fellas --?"
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:03 am (UTC)
The laptop we use for training at the fire station has a wireless mouse; it works fairly well for zapping through slides on a PowerPoint program while staying on the move, but in all other ways I much prefer my mouse with a tail. :-)
Dec. 27th, 2006 04:45 pm (UTC)
ohh new computer! Shiny!

The fact that Office doesn't come as standard is an annoyance to me!
Dec. 27th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
It's a huge problem for my students who find that if they have Works at home the formatting of all their assignments change when they use Word at College. We're recommending Open Office as the free alternative that will save in a zillion different formats and solves the problems.
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:22 am (UTC)
formatting changes
I run into that problem a lot, since I love Appleworks. When I send out my stories to be beta'd or my columns to the newspaper and my mailing list, I always attach them in three formats: Appleworks, Word, and RTF. So far everyone's been able to open at least one of them! (The newspaper uses mostly Macs.)

I'll be stuck with Windows in the new computer, of course, and to me Word (like Windows) is *way* too complicated and unwieldy. But of course people who try out a Mac for the first time often say the same thing.
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:05 am (UTC)
Luckily, I have computer nerd friends in low places! They couldn't do much to help me with my Mac, but when it comes to Windows they were all over it.
Dec. 27th, 2006 06:04 pm (UTC)
Nice shiny present. I rather like PCs - I don't really get on with Macs, on the odd occasions that I have tried them, or looked at them when buying new 'puters. I'm sure you will adapt in time.....
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:24 am (UTC)
shiny is good!
It's not a huge problem for me, because all the computers in dispatch at work, and at the fire station, are Windows. Having had a lot of experience with both systems, I'll take Apple, any day of the week. Still, with most people it's not so much which system is better as it is which system they learned first, and got used to.
Dec. 27th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
Don't you just get amazed at the cost of computers these days? I bought my first one at the end of 1995 on sale (at L.S. Ayres!) and still had to finance it - it was $1200.00! I could buy a laptop now with more memory, more bells and whistles, for half that.

Have fun with your new toy! *g*
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:27 am (UTC)
I'm having fun already!
Yes, this laptop cost less than half what my first one did. Granted that the first one was a mac, which tends to be more expensive, and also came with all the bells and whistles. But still, the new computer has twice the hard drive and three times the memory -- and a bigger screen!
Dec. 28th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
I'm guessing there's some cosmic balance thing happening here. You're getting your first PC, I'm about to get my first Mac.

And what's the first piece of software going on it? Parallels. So I can run Windows (stop screaming, I'm a geek, I need it as a testing environment) programmes natively in OSX and I can get Ubuntu installed on something and really play with it. Yay!
Dec. 28th, 2006 07:38 am (UTC)
I'm not screaming. Okay, a little ...
It says something about the Apple operating system that Mac lovers put the Windows system on so they can run Windows when they have to, but Microsoft goes out of its way to make sure Mac's OS won't run on their system. For all his domination of the market, Bill Gates still worries about little Apple Computers ...

Now that Mac has the Intel chip, I'll put Windows on my next Mac, too. Let's face it, for some jobs it's a necessity. I used to have Virtual PC on my computer, although I used it so seldom that I ended up uninstalling it when my hard drive began filling up. But regardless of how many times I'm forced to crawl into the gutter of Windows, I'll always go back to Apple in the end.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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