Monday, December 27, 2010

An Albemarle Snowfall

The term "snowed in," after having been used so lightly by us for untold years in Washington, D.C., has demonstrated its literal meaning now that we've experienced a major snowstorm here in the so-called sunny south.  Coastal North Carolina received 6.5" of wondrous white in the previous 48 hours, and it wasn't ready for it.

Today was the day to get moving after too many days of that good thing we all dream of:  a fire, good food and drink, and a favorite entertainment, be it a beloved movie on TV or a favorite singer coming through the speakers.  The path between the fireplace and the refrigerator becomes ever deeper as the weight of the snacks consumed is transferred from the fridge to our bodies.   Clothing other than the snuggly, loungey things we've been wearing to complete that homey picture seems foreign.  The sun, dazzling against the uninterrupted blanket of white, beckons us back to life.

The first thing I did was to take a broom and knock the heavy snow off the young pines in the yard, hoping to help them stand upright once again.  Steve replenished all the bird seed, three feeders depleted in a day by our usual chickadee and woodpecker visitors plus an entire flock of red-wing black birds that have just discovered the free feast.  (One or two of these beauties are welcome, but this many will scare everybody else away, so we hope this is temporary, a result of the weather.)  Then we went for a walk on our street. 

Our constitutional completed, we decided to load up the SUV with our ever-accumulating trash--our normal output plus the extra Christmas boxes and paper--and take it to the dump.  The two-mile trip there on Deep Creek Road was the first hint that we are in a place that officially Is Not Accustomed To This Weather.  Deep Creek Road, the only way out of here, has not seen even the glimmer of a plow.  (With all the farmers and their manly toys around here, you'd think otherwise, but maybe a plow is not a plow is not a plow.)  We got out to New Hope Road, an even more vital artery, carrying the entire population of Durant's Neck out to US 17, and saw that it, too, was innocent of a plow blade.  Ditto Woodville Road, which takes that same population north to Elizabeth City.  And the dump was closed.

So here we are, socked back inside.  The car is still full of trash.  Tomorrow we have to take a 60-mile drive to Ahoskie so Steve can visit his pain specialist, all on heavily traveled but "back" roads, State-maintained, not part of the US Highway or Interstate system.  That should be interesting.  And we're looking forward to visitors from DC for the New Years celebration.  They're arriving Thursday and some shopping in Elizabeth City needs to be done.  This is the last day of indolence, voluntary or enforced.  Tomorrow real life resumes, ready or not, slippery roads, closed dump and all.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reluctant techie

I know I've been away much longer than I'd led either you or myself to expect I'd be, but I do have a string of good excuses.  Between enjoying the company of and cooking for visitors over a long and wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and just performing the everyday functions that keep this Ship of State afloat, I've been deep in modern technology.  You might even say deeply mired in modern technology.

The first thing that happened was completely unexpected:  I got a Kindle for my birthday.  I had been agnostic on this particular subject and hadn't planned on doing anything to jump off the fence.  I have taken to some of the new media storage opportunities absolutely like a duck to water with no second thoughts:  I was tired of the clutter created by hundreds of CD jewel boxes (not to mention nearly that many vinyl LPs) and had no qualms about digitizing all of them, storing them on my Ipod, and in one way or another divesting myself of the originals.  (Yes, LP jackets were works of art and iconic of certain times of my life.  But the memories sustain me and there is still, protein deposits willing, more storage space in my brain than in this house.)  I am also a huge fan of Google's Picasa and other digital photo storage sites.  I take more photos now than I ever did before, simply because I know I can "develop" them myself electronically, edit and enhance the ones I decide to keep, and print only the ones I choose to.  I will never get rid of the old paper photo albums I have, but I have indeed digitized most of the photos in them.

The last bit of "old" storage I had to deal with was books.  And somehow they were different.

While I am not one to re-read many books, and I never underline passages or make margin notes in any book I read, I like some of them enough to keep for no other reason than to have them around.  They're pretty, they're architecturally friendly to a house's interiors--somehow they just "fit," in ways that plastic CD containers and LPs lined up in rows did not.  I was getting worried about the ever-accumulating pile of books we created as we finished reading them, but was content with giving them away.  And then came the Kindle.

This little gadget is a true Siren.  It works via a wireless computer connection--I merely need to be sitting near my computer to purchase a "book" (I make no claim that it is the real thing) from the Amazon website (for prices much, much lower than the hard-bound versions).  It appears on my Kindle in a matter of seconds and then is simply there, available for me to take it up when the time comes.  I can store hundreds of these "books" on it, or, if I decide they are taking up too much space, I can simply delete them, knowing they are stored permanently in my account at Amazon for retrieval at any time.  And the Kindle even has an embossed leather cover that feels like an actual book.  In short, I became a convert in a matter of minutes--Steve pushed me off the fence with this unexpected gift and I'll be purchasing e-versions of books from now on when I can.  (Some titles have not yet been digitized and I will happily buy them in the traditional form.)  We won't get rid of the real books we already have and love.  But we will be adding to that collection at a much slower pace now.  To my more orthodox book loving friends: my apologies.   To me, the word is the word is the word, regardless of the format.  When the typewriter came into being there were purists who bemoaned the demise of ink and paper.  Modern convenience trumps the old ways, and "tradition" becomes precious, antique.  And it appears I'm OK with that.

That doesn't mean, however, that these new media storage methods don't come with their own special headaches.  Somehow during the Thanksgiving weekend I found the time to travel to  the Apple Store in Norfolk and replace my aging Ipod classic with a new one--still a classic, but with double the storage space.  I had thought that the Apple people would have some way of simply transferring the content of my old Ipod to the new one there at the store, as happens when you by a new computer.  But they didn't.  You have to populate the new Ipod yourself.

In theory, that's not a difficult task.  You simply dock your new Ipod, open the I-tunes app, and let the downloading begin.  But I don't keep my music in the I-tunes app.  I have way too many tracks to store on my hard drive--there would be no room for anything else if all my songs were stored there.  Whenever I get new music, I load it into I-tunes so that it will be in the library and, most importantly, so the Ipod can retrieve it and store it.  After that, I transfer the new MP3 files to an external drive and delete them from my hard drive. 

So putting all my songs on the new Ipod has meant putting the music back on the Itunes app--back on my hard drive--so the Ipod can read it from the app.  The storage problem was immediate--my computer got not even halfway through retrieving the external files before it told me it had to stop for lack of space.  And then there's the Ipod itself--for some reason it doesn't sync properly.  If I load ten new tracks, it may pick up only five of them.  As a result, my Ipod is full of incomplete files, and the only way to fill in the gaps is to find the original album folders on the external drive, compare them with what made it to the Ipod, download the individual missing files, and then re-sync the Ipod, folder by folder.  It is an unbelievably pains-taking and time-consuming process--the worst kind of nerdy detail work that only a retiree with time on his hands would ever put up with.  Return the faulty, poorly-syncing Ipod? What? And go through all this again?  I'm too far down this road to turn back, I'm afraid.  I've been at this project for about a week.  I'm up to Eva Cassidy. (Artists are listed alphabetically by first name.  Yes, I'm only on "E."  I just finished 300+ Edith Piaf files.  That was special.)

So that's my life at the moment.  I'm up to my eyeballs in MP3s.  If you've read this entire mind-numbing account, congratulations--you're as crazy as I am.  Now I'll wade back in.