Friday, June 30, 2006

Bad Blogger, Great Pirate

Yes, I know, I've been a bad blogger - no posts in over a week and no comments on other people's blogs either. Bad blogger, bad bad.

Peter's in Iceland on a photography workshop, so you'd think I'd have loads of time to write and comment. But, as it turns out, not so much. This is because Peter left me a very kind parting gift - Sid Meier's Pirates! You can pronounce that however you want. Peter and I pronounce it Pie Rats (two distinct words) because of this cartoon.

You start the game as a young pirate, in charge of a single ship in the Caribbean of the 1600s. The game is extraordinarily open-ended. You can engage in sea battles, become a goods trader, have sword fights, woo governors'daughters, hunt for treasure, and search for long-lost relatives and secret Incan cities.

I played this for hours on end when it first came out and finally had to beg Peter to hide the disc from me. It's that addictive, for me at least. It didn't quite work the same magic on Peter. For me, it's like the comfort food of games - predictable, satisfying, and...well comforting.

Although you control where you go and which missions you undertake, the constituent parts of the game are fairly scripted and predictable. In sword fights in the back of the pub, you will always kick the baddie off the second story, do a fantastic leap down, and then the baddie's ultimate defeat comes from the barmaid smashing a bottle on his head. The repetition bored Peter but I find it comforting even though it does sometimes feel like I'm a rat pressing levers to get treats.

I was going to write more, but the High Seas are callling...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Not a Mensa Candidate, Part 2

In what I fear will become part of an ongoing series, I bring you the full and accurate report of another one of those "duh" moments in my life. Hey, I bet it will make you feel better about yourself and I am happy to provide such a public service at personal expense.

I had to run out to the chemist today to get plasters for my disfigured thumb. After a minor camogie incident about a month ago, my thumbnail is black, dead, and now only attached at one corner. It has to stay on though because the new nail isn't ready yet. One of the women at work told me that Boots has the best selection of plasters, so I ventured out to Baggot Street.

Now, I've been living here for over year. I can find my way around the places I need to go, but my mental map is still a bit blurry and incomplete. Plus, there's some places I only know how to walk to because that's all I ever do and the traffic patterns in town are a bit mad. (When I rented a car last year, I ended up circling Stephen's Green 3 times because I couldn't figure out how to escape it.) Even so, I am more than capable of finding Boots, especially since I've been there before.

For some reason, I didn't go the way I meant to go and I ended up on a street I'd never been on before, without a great idea of which way I was headed. I didn't panic though, I just kept walking and then when I came to the next street, I made a guess about where to go. I was right and I ended up on Baggot Street, about 2 minutes from where I wanted to be. I realised it was actually a short-cut as compared to my regular route and I congratulated myself on being so clever.

I made my purchases and then set out back for work. It was just coming up on 1.30 and I had a meeting at 2.00, so I figured it would take me about 10 minutes to walk back to work. I turned off Baggot Street and walked along, sure that this new short-cut would give me time to have a quick lunch before my meeting. I walked. And I walked. And I walked. And then I started to think that perhaps something was not quite right.

It's one of those judgement calls - fish or cut bait. Have I gone too far to turn back or should I cut my losses and get back to a road I know? I had an idea that I was going to end up in Donnybrook, which would be a short jaunt through Herbert Park back to work. So I decided to press on toward the light at the end of the tunnel (or, in this case, the traffic at the end of the T-junction).

Only, when I got to the T-junction, I wasn't quite in Donnybrook. I knew enough to know that I was a good bit north of Donnybrook. So, another judgement call - walk into Donnybrook and then through the park to work (a known-quantity), retrace my steps (a fairly-known quantity, at least when I got back to Baggot Street), or try to find a road that looked like it was going to go in the direction I wanted to go (a completely unknown quantity and a bit risky given that there are only about 3 perfectly straight roads in the whole city).

But what's life without a little risk? I took the next left I could find and at each subsequent intersection, took the path that would keep me as close as possible on my chosen course. I was afraid though - roads can angle without your ever knowing it. I am used to the nice parrallel grid of Chicago - a place where you could never really get lost and you didn't even really need to know street names as long as you had grid co-ordinates. In Dublin, without a map (mental or otherwise) and the full name of the street (Pearse Lane is different than Pearse Avenue which is different again from Pearse Terrace), you could quite easily end up hopelessly lost.

Plus, I was working against the clock. So I picked up my pace and continued my adventure through the leafy Embassy belt of Ballsbridge. You have to admit, as places to get lost, Ballsbridge is a pretty good one. I chose wisely or perhaps luck was with me because I ended up getting back to exactly where I needed to be, a full 5 minutes before my meeting started.

I know exactly where I went wrong on my walk back - I turned right off of Baggot Street way too soon. But I hadn't been paying attention really, either when I was walking to Boots or when I was leaving. But hey, I now know where the Egyptian and the Turkish embassies are, so it's not like the experience was a total waste of time. I bet I might even be able to give directions.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Random Things I Can't Resist

I know, I already posted once today. But I've found myself collecting the best random stuff tonight. I know if I don't write about it now, it will be lost forever. So, in no particular order, random things I can't resist:

  • The Swearing Lady over at The Arse End of Ireland routinely cracks me up, but today's rant is, without a doubt, one of the best rants I've read in ages. I have never even heard this song and I am already itching to hate it.

  • It would be hard to single out a favourite line from the aforementioned rant, but I'd say these two are strong contenders:
    "She couldn't be more annoying if she had Cecilia Ahern growing out of her arse."
    "I wish I was a punk rocker so I could punch her in the face and call it revolution."

  • Doing a little bit more reading about Hudson v. Michigan (because, you know, my blood pressure is too low and I don't care for salt), I found a fantastic comment on Washington Monthly's Political Animal:
    Knock knock
    "Who's..." *crash*
    "It's the ghost of the Motherfucking Fourth Amendment. That's who."

  • My trip reports on Travel with Grandma, what with their accounts of nudity and drug usage, are attracting some very interesting traffic. According to my StatCounter, the following searches have lured the unsuspecting to my trip reports:

      order white widow
      amsterdam trip report high grey mist white widow
      in the swimming pool naked
      hostel hunchback butcher

  • In contrast, one of the most commonly searched for phrase that brings people to this blog is Gabriele Andersen-Scheiss

  • The Ongoing Sad Saga of My Doomed Little Laptop

    As you might guess from the title, it's not going well at the Sick Laptop Hospital in Romeoville, Illinois. It's been a week and I have had no correspondence, of either the phone or email variety, that has originated from them. I've been ringing them to find out what's going on, which already makes me a less-than-happy-camper.

    I've determined that there are two types of people who answer the phone at Sharp - those who are very good at their jobs and enjoy helping people and those who feel that they are trapped in the seventh circle of hell. Now, I feel bad for that latter group. Certainly, I've had jobs where I felt exactly that way. When you start to feel that way, you need to Get Out Now.

    On Monday, I spoke to Marvin (all names in this story are changed just because I can) who was perhaps having a bad case of the Mondays. I don't think he was in seventh-circle-of-hell territory, but I do think he might have had a hangover or girlfriend troubles or something. Marvin was polite but very slow and didn't seem to know how to access the requisite information. When he asked me "Have you received an estimate? No work can start until you accept the charges." I said, "Oh, no, there will be no charges. I have a 3-year extended warranty."

    Marvin and I were on the phone for about 20 minutes, during which time he was finally able to ascertain that yes, I had a 3-year extended warranty so the charges were waived. He told me that he was sure work would begin soon on the unit and that he would send an email to ensure that the process was moving right along.

    On Wednesday, I called and spoke to Karl. Now Karl, he was fantastic. In fact, he was perhaps a little too solicitous and cheerful. Karl may have drunk the Kool-aid but he was polite, informative, proactive, and helpful.

    Me: Karl, what is wrong with my laptop?

    Karl: I'm pulling up this information now. You know, it's really unusual for an MM-20 to have trouble.

    Me: Are you trying to be funny?

    Karl: No, I'm serious. I've been working here for 5 years and I've only seen maybe 4 MM-20s come back for repair.

    Me: If that's the case, my laptop would have been half of your cases. The exact same thing happened last year.

    Karl: That's very unusual and I certainly am sorry to hear that. MM-20s have a very good reliablity rating, you've just had a run of bad luck.....So, I can see here that the motherboard is broken and needs to be replaced.

    Me: Great. When will that happen?

    Karl: The part is on order.

    Ed. note: See, this is why being nice to customers pays off. Had Karl not been nice, I may have just lost it with this "part is on order" bullshit.

    Me: Right, so. Funny thing - that's what I was told last time and it seemed to me like the part was always going to be on order. No one could tell me when this mystery part would arrive.

    Karl: Well, it's on order - not back-order. That's probably a good thing.

    Me: Last time, the part was on order. It was August - the last time they'd had a shipment of parts of May and they had no date for the shipment of new parts.

    Karl: That's terrible. I will package up your old records with these new records and will send out a reminder email, put in a note that you need your hard drive returned in the repaired unit, and will sacrifice a goat to the computer gods.

    Ed. note: I'm kidding about the goat.

    On Thursday, I rang again amd (what are the chances) I got Marvin again. He was in much better form but was still not up to Karl-level. Marvin was able to tell me that yep, the part was on order. I told him my tale of woe and could I please talk to one of the guys at the Sick Laptop Hospital in Romeoville, Illinois because I did not want to go through another round of the never-ending "The Part Is On Order" game.

    Marvin gave it his best shot but Laptop Repair Manager (hereafter LRM) was a long phone call. So Marvin gave me what basically amounts to gold - the direct line of LRM. Unfortunately, it's the same LRM as I dealt with last year.

    This LRM, he's not only in the seventh-circle of hell, the devil is apparently right there, covering him with honey and fire ants while he tries to work. That's the only reason I can think of that would explain why LRM was a miserable, difficult bastard the last time I had to deal with him.

    I didn't bother to leave a message because I know from experience that LRM will not call me back. I rang again today instead and got the man himself.

    Me: Marvin in tech support gave me your number and said I should talk to you to find out the status of my laptop repair.

    Him: Yeah?

    Me: Do you want my case number?

    Him: You're the MM-20, right?

    Me: Yes.

    Long pause during which I wait for him to give me the status of my laptop repair.

    Him: So what do you want then?

    Me: I want to know the status of my laptop repair.

    Him: The motherboard is broken. We're waiting on a part.

    Me: I see. So when are you going to have the part?

    Him: I don't know.

    Me: Why not?

    Ed. note: Sounds familiar, right? All together now..

    Him: It has to be made in Japan.

    Me (thinking that made in Japan sounds like it will take even longer than the unscheduled mystery shipment): I see. So it could be weeks or months, right?

    Him: Yes.

    Me: That is not acceptable.

    Him: I can't do anything about that. We have no replacement units available. We might get some in next week and if one of those is an MM-20, then we'll give it to you.

    Me: So, the motherboard, are you going to know when that might be available?

    Him: Yeah, Tuesday.

    Me: Alright then, thank you for your time.

    This is so not good. I laptop-less now since Peter is in Dingle and he took his Mac laptop to offload photographs. On the 26th of this month, Peter is going to Iceland on a photography expedition for 10 days. And he's taking the Mac with him. Even if the laptop was replaced or repaired on Tuesday or Wednesday, I am still looking at a week at least for the laptop to travel from Illinois to Ohio, get repackaged by my parents and travel from Ohio to Dublin. And that's assuming that customs doesn't get all evil about trying to charge me duty on something that's already mine.

    I am left to drag my sorry ass up into the attic to use the clunky desktop (which Peter is going to have to replace soon because it keeps mysteriously rebooting) so I can taunt myself by reading articles like this and spec out machines like this. I want a hot spare - now - but that car is going to need service soon. Being a grown-up really sucks.

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    News Like This Makes Me Glad We Left When We Did

    When we made our decision to move back to Ireland, our deciding factors were all of the personal nature: family, friends, a certain aspect of quality of life. As desperate as I felt in November of 2004 after the Presidential Election, our move was not a political one. Even so, there was a sense that America was changing - a chill wind was in the air. Our leaving had the fringe benefit of getting away from constant news coverage of the bumbling Dubya and his one-man crusade to ruin the country of my birth.

    Today, the newly stacked Supreme Court ruled that it's permissable for police with a search warrant to enter a private residence without knocking. Forget about being secure in your house. As long as the police have the requisite warrant, they can forgo a basic practice of courtesy and respect for your property and privacy.

    In the case, Hudson v. Michigan, the police executed a warrant by announcing themselves, then entering the premises 3 to 5 seconds later. This was in violation of the customary "knock and announce" rule, which required police to knock, announce their intentions, and then wait 20 to 30 seconds before busting in. (Unless, of course, they found themselves in extenuating circumstances.) In the majority opinion, Justice Scalia wrote:

    "What the knock-and-announce rule has never one's interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant. Since the interests that were violated in this case have nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable."

    Scalia's logic is that if the cops had followed the rule, they still would have found the gun and drugs. Just because the cops didn't completely follow the "knock and announce" rule, the defendant shouldn't be entitled to a get-out-of-jail-free card.

    I have so many problems with this decision, I don't even know how to organise them. Let's start with the obvious. Conservatives like Scalia are far too willing to read the Second Amendment literally but then cut corners and erode liberties on freedoms enumerated in the First and Fourth Amendments. (Although, I guess if the government can burst into your house whenever a judge says "okay by me," then maybe guns are necessary for protection.)

    I'm not a historian or a consitutional scholar, but I do know a little bit about the Constitution. The Founding Fathers had a healthy dose of skepticism about goverment and an abiding distrust of monarchs who exercised their power unilaterally and without safeguards. The Consitution, with its three branches of government and checks and balances, is an elegant and amazing document. The Bill of Rights takes the Constitution that one step further in the protection of the citizenry.

    The Founding Fathers believed in the concept of negative rights. The rights enumerated are protection from the government. They're "freedoms from" more than they are "freedoms to." Seems to me like any reading of the Fourth Amendment has to say that it's completely unreasonable to permit the police to burst into your home without announcing themselves.

    Now, I know there's someone out there saying "What about the warrant?" What about the warrant? What do the police really need to get a warrant? A judge that's willing to sign on. Oh, sure, they need some grounds but they don't have to actually prove anything.

    The government and its various agents, like the police, have the upper hand in every situation. That's good - it keeps us from sliding into chaos and anarchy. But governments in and of themselves are not inherently good. They must abide by certain procedures and safeguards to ensure that citizens are protected.

    Every time one of these basic protections is removed, the government becomes a bit more powerful. And with power comes the potential for abuse and corruption. You don't have to be a whacko conspiracy theorist or a suspense novelist to imagine a scenario in which allowing the police to enter a house unannounced would be a Bad Thing.

    I also have a huge problem with Scalia's logic that the police would have found the items anyway, so they guy was guilty so we can't let this guy off on a technicality. Guess what? Technicalities might be the only thing that one day, protect you from getting railroaded by the judicial system. The thing about Constitutional law is that not every defendant is Rosa Parks or the kids in Brown vs. The Board of Education. Some of them are absolute scumbags.

    But the whole thing about America is "Justice For All." It's not "Justice if You Are of the Right Socio-Economic Class." It's not "Justice if You Are Innocent." It's not "Justice if You Are White." We don't have two separate sets of laws - one for the innocent and one for the guilty. Everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, in a court of law, with due process.

    This might seem like a little thing, but it's not. It's a symptom of larger problems in America.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    I'm Sure There's a Life Lesson in Here Somewhere

    Whenever I get a chance, I head over to a nearby park to practice my camogie skills. It's a good-sized park, with 2 GAA pitches and ample space around them. The boy teams from my club use the park for their practices and matches, although they often use only one goal post or only part of a pitch. I'm able to peacefully co-exist with them without any difficulties. The dog walkers are okay too, except when someone comes through with an off-leash, ankle-biting, ball-stealing little terrier. But even that is manageable.

    Sometimes Peter comes with me, but I also enjoy going by myself. Just a girl, a hurl, an I-Pod shuffle, a couple of sliotars, and a goal post. I'm a long distance runner at heart, so I don't mind practising in isolation. I told Peter once that I have the discipline of an adult but the enthusiasm of a child. I make up drills for myself. I practice hand-passing, left-handed shots, ground hurling, and (of course) putting it over the bar.

    Last week, I made an extra effort to practice because we had an open cup semi-final match this past Tuesday. I found that I did best when no one was around. When it was just me, I was relaxed and loose, which greatly increased the chances of my sliotar flying gracefully over the bar. But when a dog-walker or a fellow lone practicer showed up, I would choke. Definitely a bad case of performance anxiety. I'd become greatly self-conscious and whiff easy shots in the worst possible way. In an effort to not look like a fool, I was looking like a fool.

    I recognised the pattern and realised that in matches, I was adding unnecessary stress. Having a couple of women with sticks running at you is difficult enough without a freak-out complicating things. I realised I was going to have to relax in the matches and just worry about completing each little part of playing (lift the sliotar, strike it, follow through, figure out where to go next) instead of just thinking "Oh geez, I hope I don't screw up."

    So I arrived at the open-cup match ready to practice what I preach, only to find out I wasn't starting. Yes, I was disappointed but also a tiny bit relieved. I'd get to watch the match for awhile, pick up some pointers, and get myself ready to play. It was a brutal match - several of our players got hurt - and although we made a better effort in the second half, we still ended up losing by a lot (like by at least 2 goals and 2 or 3 points). Unfortunately, I didn't get to put my new focusing philosophy into effect as I wasn't subbed in at all.

    I'm disappointed, but not bitter. Seriously, when it comes to camogie, I am an irony-free zone. I love the sport and I recognise that my skills need a lot of work. Attitude can get you pretty far, but you need to have the skills to back it up. I'm much improved, but I have a long way to go.

    That said, I am a competitive person and I want to start. And if not start, I at least want to be one of the first forward subs. All day at work today, I thought about getting out to the field to practice. I was really looking forward to it. Nothing like having something to prove to provide some motivation.

    The day dragged and I had a few things to do before I could get out of the house this evening. But finally, I was at the pitch. I started practising jab-lifts and hand-passes, moving the sliotar up the field until I was in goal range and then taking a shot. I realised pretty quickly that I had a cramp in my left calf, but I kept hoping it would work itself out. I didn't run all-out, but I still kept practising. (Yes, I can be a bit of a stubborn idiot that way but it felt more like a nuisance than anything.)

    My relax philosophy was foremost in my mind and it seemed to be working. I even put a left-handed shot over the bar (and I wasn't trying). A good 80% of my hand-passes were solid and I was starting to feel pretty good about things.

    Then a group of young fellas crested the hill and settled down within 20 feet of my goal post. At first, I thought they'd come to play soccer since they had a ball with them and what looked like a carrying case of water bottles. I thought it was odd that they were all in different coloured tracksuits. Then I realised that it was just the nightly drinking party that converges on the park in the summer. I resent this usage of the park because the kids leave their trash everywhere and burn bonfires.

    I don't like packs of teenagers, especially packs of teenage boys who look like they'd be more at home drinking down the back of the bus. I didn't feel threatened exactly, since there was a match going on at the upper pitch and a practice going on at the other goalpost of my pitch. Plus, you know, I was armed with a weapon. But I did feel very uncomfortable and every fibre of my being screamed that I should just go home.

    But I didn't. I put a sliotar over the bar, which had enough oomph on it to make it into the undergrowth that's about 20 feet behind the goal. For about 5 minutes, I looked like a right eejit poking around looking for my sliotar and was about to give up when I found another sliotar. (I already had one, so it's not like losing it would have forced me to go home. I just hate to lose one.) The lads, meanwhile, were settling into the grass and popping open beers.

    I put one sliotar over the bar and flubbed the other shot. A few more iterations of this and I knew that I was going to have to confront the elephant in the room. I walked over to the boys and asked them if I was keeping them from playing soccer. They said I wasn't and I said, "fair enough" and went back to my practicing.

    For about twenty minutes, I got to practice both my camogie skills and my new relax philosophy in front of some of Dublin's finest al fresco drinkers. It was fine for the first bit, since it was just the lads, but then a couple of girls showed up. You know how these things go, girls mean you have to impress and how better to impress than to taunt someone who's trying to do something that requires hand-eye co-ordination.

    When I felt like I'd made my point to myself and my calf was at the point that I couldn't really ignore it, I changed back into my shoes and then went home. It felt like a tiny moral victory.

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    Amsterdam Trip Report Now Available

    Yes, it's not just a vicious rumor - the report of our five lovely days in Amsterdam is now available at Travels with Grandma. The usual disclaimers apply - it is long and you might want to print it. (If you do, I recommend opening each day and printing those pages. Otherwise, you will print the every entry on the first page of the blog and that will waste a lot of paper.)

    A word of warning, I'm going to rate this entry PG-13 (and John Kelleher would definitely give it a 12A) for mild peril and soft drug use. Hey, it's Amsterdam. What did you expect? :)


    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    No, I Did Not Get Lost in Amsterdam

    It's just that a confluence of circumstances has conspired against me to keep me from blogging. First, there was that general post-trip malaise and don't-wanna-go-to-school blues that always descends after a prolonged absence from work, especially when said absence was spent in an interesting city.

    Then, the weather here went from Dublin to San Diego quick enough to give you whiplash. We left on a rainy, miserable day and came back to glorious blue skies, warm temperatures, and fantastic long hours of daylight. It's enough to make a grown girl weep. The cynic in me was sure that since Thursday and Friday before the bank holiday weekend were gorgeous, the Weather Gods were playing a nasty trick and were going to pour rain on us all weekend. But no - the weekend was an amazing, sunny, lazy, actual summer weekend.

    The final circumstance is the most dire and upsetting (for me, at least). My laptop died - again. I didn't blog about this last year, but in August, my laptop sputtered, flashed and then the screen went black. I had to fight my way through the phone tech support system at Sharp Electronics (Them: "Are you sure the contrast on the screen is set properly?" Me: "You don't understand. The screen is dead. Black. No light whatsoever." Them: "Try pressing the reset button.: Me: "Aaaaarghhh!")

    Since I bought the laptop in the States, it had to go to the sick laptop hospital in Romeoville, Illinois. (Which is about 5 miles away from where we used to live.) I had to spend 100 euro to ship the laptop there, where it languished in the workshop for an entire week. Each time I called for an update, I was told they were waiting on a part. Finally, I got wise and asked when they would have the part. (I don't remember the name of the part - my understanding is it was a small bit that went on the main board and it wasn't something obvious like the video card.) The conversation went something like this:

    Me: OK, so when will you have the part?

    Them: We don't know.

    Me: You don't know.

    Them: No, that's what I said. We don't know.

    Me: How can you not know?

    Them: The part comes from Japan.

    Me: OK. This is 2005 - not 1805. You have computer inventory, tracking numbers, bar codes. You must be able to find out when the part is arriving, if you've ordered it.

    Them: We ordered it alright. It comes on a boat.

    Me: So, what, it's going to be 6 weeks? 8 weeks?

    Them: We don't know.

    Me: When did it leave Japan?

    Them: It hasn't.

    Me: So then when is the boat, carrying this essential part, scheduled to leave Japan?

    Them: We don't know.

    Me: When did you last get a shipment of these parts?

    Them: I think it was in May.

    Me: The entire laptop weighs 2 pounds. Surely this part weighs about as much as a quarter. Could you not have a guy in Japan put the part in one of those nifty FedEx or DHL envelopes and have it next-day delivered to you?

    Them: No. We don't do that. We can't do that.

    Me: So I'm supposed to just wait until this mystery part arrives on a boat that hasn't left Japan yet and you have no idea when it's going to leave, let alone when it's going to arrive in the States?

    Them: Yes. Pretty much.

    Me: When exactly were you going to tell me this?

    Them: We told you we were waiting on a part.

    Me: But you never told me how long it was going to take until I finally asked. Now, when someone says we're waiting on a part, you figure that the part will arrive in a reasonable amount of time. A part on some nonexistent mystery ship in Japan that has no set date to leave port doesn't qualify as a part that's going to arrive in a reasonable amount of time now does it?

    Them: I don't know. You know now.

    Me: OK - fine. I use that machine for my work. Waiting months is not an options. What can you do?

    Them: We can send you a reconditioned laptop.

    Me: I need my hard drive.

    Them: We might be able to put it in the refurbished machine. But we might not. We won't know until we start working on it.

    Me: It is absolutely vital that I get that hard drive back.

    Them: You should have gotten all your data off the computer before you sent it to us.

    Me: I couldn't. The screen was absolutely inoperable. The proprietory monitor cable you gave me is in storage, as is the brain-dead docking station software that's required to hook the laptop up to a desktop. How, exactly, could I get the data off the hard drive?

    Them: Oh. I don't know. We'll try to give you your hard drive back but I can't make any promises.

    I went a couple of rounds with this guy, with his supervisor, and finally with Sharp's ombudsman. I did get a promise that my new laptop would contain my old hard drive. They couldn't ship the laptop out of the country though, so it had to take a detour to my parents' house. Then it was another $100 to ship it to me, where Customs and Excise promptly seized it and demanded an unreasonable ransom. I had to dig out my original receipt, my original warranty, and my shipping bill and fax that to them before I could get my laptop sprung.

    I was without the laptop for two and a half weeks. Now, not even a year later, it looks like the same thing is after happening. Laptop #2 is scheduled to arrive at the sick laptop hospital on Friday. You can be sure that I will be calling as soon as I get home from work on Monday to find out what the status is and I am not going to be fooled by any "waiting for a part" nonesense.

    In the meantime, Peter has generously lent me his Powerbook. (It's big and clunky and not nearly as cute and comfy as my little lappy.) I'm furiously working on the Amsterdam trip report and hope to have it done by this weekend. So, I have returned, sadly minus a laptop but in otherwise good shape.