Thursday, April 24, 2008


I have been avoiding blogging this week in part because I'm doing a lot of blog-like writing for paying clients. Which is very exciting because that's the sector of my business I want most to develop. Yahoo! Whoopee!

But I'm also avoiding blogging on this personal blog because I just can't stand to admit that I have yet another cold-type thing that starts as a sore throat and then is characterized by an annoying little cough that gets worse as the day goes on. There's no fever, and very little congestion. And Zorg observes that it doesn't even seem to be contagious.

Deciding that perhaps I erred with the first two bouts of this in March by trying to ignore them, I gave this third one my full attention. I spent one entire afternoon in bed. I have been taking Zicam (some kind of homeopathic cold remedy) every six hours, eating raw garlic every six hours, and taking half a hydrocodone or something similar every six hours. The hydrocodone is the only thing that suppresses the cough, and I'm pretty much immune to any drowsiness from it.

I have drunk gallons of chicken soup and tea. Zorg has fetched me hot and sour soup and dumplings with incendiary ginger-garlic sauce from Fu Man Dumpling (this is now his favorite food, as well as mine). I have done slow yoga.

I am slowly getting better, coughing less, and fully expect to be able to do a bit of dancing at the World Rhythm Festival this weekend. But I am really fed up with this bug. Yes, I know it's nothing in comparison with real health problems I've had in the past or with some of the serious injuries friends of mine are currently dealing with, but...three rounds of this in two months? What is it?

(For the record: Yes, I had my tonsils out. When I was 29. Ouch.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

50% discount on Take Control ebooks

To celebrate the 18th anniversary of their TidBITS electronic newsletter, the folks over at Take Control are offering a 50% discount on all their ebooks through April 29. The half-off sale includes their newest and most recently updated titles:

• Joe Kissell's "Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac"
• Steve Sande's "Take Control of iWeb: iLife '08 Edition"
• Ted Landau's "Take Control of Your iPhone"
• Brian Tanaka's "Take Control of Permissions in Leopard"
• Joe Kissell's "Take Control of Easy Backups in Leopard"
• Matt Neuburg's "Take Control of Customizing Leopard"
• "Macworld Mac OS X Hints Superguide, Leopard Edition"
• "Macworld Total Leopard Superguide"

You'll also find ebooks on wireless Internet security, switching from PC to Mac, and getting the most out of your iPod. (There are even ebooks on booking a cheap plane ticket and planning and cooking Thanksgiving dinner.)

• Take Control of Upgrading to Leopard
• Take Control of Users & Accounts in Leopard
• Take Control of Sharing Files in Leopard
• Take Control of Fonts in Leopard
• Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac
• Take Control of Mac OS X Backups
• Take Control: The Mac OS X Lexicon
• Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac
• Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac
• Macworld Mac Basics Superguide
• Take Control of Buying a Mac
• Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac
• Take Control of Switching to the Mac
• iPhoto 08: Visual QuickStart Guide
• Take Control of Apple Mail in Tiger
• Take Control of Spam with Apple Mail
• Take Control of .Mac
• Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Extreme Network
• Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security
• Take Control of Your iPod: Beyond the Music
• Take Control of Digital TV
• Take Control of Booking a Cheap Airline Ticket
• Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My interesting friends

All I'm doing these days is working and bitching about the cold rainy weather, so let's take a look at what the more interesting friends of the Mysterious Traveler are up to:

The Samurai Radiologist at Not Totally Rad went for a two hour tour of DC on a Segway, figuring he'd either get a great story or some interesting injuries. Find out which.

Over at Daily, Doug Plummer is taking gorgeous lush photos of tulips.

Geoff Duncan of Percolating is following Doug's lead in going for the lush flower shots while emulating Samurai's pursuit of danger. Here's how.

Over at (My New) Life Out Here, Rae is following my advice on men but apparently doesn't share my taste in literature.

At Cornichon, Ron expands on the New York Times' story about food and politics.

Whew! Guys, you are making me look boring!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Books, books, books

Another action-packed day:

  • Wrangle with mom by phone (multiple calls)
  • Follow up on contacts from last night's SEO seminar
  • Attempt to write press release for client
  • Several loads of laundry
  • Turn off TimeMachine to restore normal computer speed
  • Order new cat tags for Smokey
  • Zorg home early; errands with him in town
  • Cook macaroni and cheese using authentic 1960's recipe
  • Seattle Friends of the Library book sale at Magnuson Park with book collector friend
  • Feed cats for friends who are on vacation

The book sale was a trip; it's going on all weekend, and well worth visiting. Paperbacks, many of them brand new, unread donations, are 50 cents each. Trade paperbacks and many excellent hardbacks are just $1. There is also a Better Books section and a Rare Book section, both with extremely reasonable prices.

I bought lots of foreign mystery and some science fiction collections, along with a few novelty items and a collectible, signed James Blaylock novel.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Detour for sushi

The schedule for today was long, varied, and busy:
  • Do yoga at home
  • Make a business call on behalf of my mom
  • Finish an article and email it to client
  • Pack car with clothes for evening activities
  • Belltown to conduct an interview for an article
  • Back to Ballard for massage treatment for my hip
  • Over to West Seattle for a search engine optimization seminar
  • Over to Lake City for contra dancing
Unfortunately, a derailment took place at 8:30 p.m. when the seminar in West Seattle (a very good one) ended and I realized I needed to eat. One of the other seminar attendees was a well-known Seattle food blogger.

"Ever been to Mashiko?" I asked him.

"No," he said. "Let's go!"

On my previous visit to Mashiko, I'd simply eaten what the sushi chef recommended. We did this again, and were not disappointed. One dish, with cucumbers, mint leaf, and tiny fillets of fish with bright silver skin, was particularly exciting. And I had a little bit of the cedar-aged saki. Another amazing meal.

If my friend ends up writing a review of the dishes, I'll post a link here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A sloppy blog post

I've been writing short pieces for clients like crazy, but somehow writing tight professional pieces doesn't mix with personal blogging. And maybe I've been using all my snarky throwaway lines on Twitter, which I really love. You'll find me there as "mystrev" (short for "mystery reviewer").

The garden is off to a slow start this year. It's been in the 40s most days, with sun mixed with drizzle, which isn't exactly ideal for what I needed most to do: organize the equipment and supplies in the garden shed. Today I finally got out there and did a quick clean up, grabbing a lot of mis-filed stuff, putting it out in the yard, cleaning the shed, and then putting only half of the junk back in (and in an organized fashion). The rest of the stuff will be going into a yard sale (my neighbor is having one soon).

Anyone need plants? I have many pots -- large, medium, and small - - filled with Wargrave's Pink hardy geranium plants that I plan to give away or put in the yard sale. Wargrave's Pink grow into big mounds; you cut them down and they grow right back. These are the hardiest of hardies.

I also have available some cedar planters and other pots filled with misc. greenery and some red tulips. And, of course, there are some pots of Spiny Bear's Breech available. Bear's Breech grows into a big plant that's too much for my small borders (but which keeps coming back every year).

If you'd like any of these, let me know before they get yard-saled.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Don't call me, call Orchard Remote

[Ed. note: A slightly more formal version of this has been posted on one of my other blogs.]

So, you're on the phone with tech support (finally!) and the support person is asking you questions.

Sometimes they're downright insulting. (They want to know if your computer is turned on when you've already figured out the problem is a packet-switching error at your ISP's server.)

Other times they're using terminology you aren't familiar with. (Tech support: "OK, open Terminal and SSH into the...." You: "I beg your pardon?")

Oh, wouldn't it be heavenly if the tech support person at the other end of the line could see that problem you're glaring at on your screen? And even more amazing if you could turn over control of the machine to him/her and just sit back and watch while they diagnosed and fixed it?

Well, you can.

"He's was right there on my computer and could literally move the cursor!" is the way Kim Bamberg describes it.

Kim is not hallucinating. A busy Seattle wedding planner, she signed up for a new tech support service called Orchard Remote. Created by Jeff Hopkins, a former Apple Store "genius," Orchard Remote provides, yes, remote Mac tech support via the internet, logging into and literally taking control of a client's ailing computer while the client watches. Usually the Orchard Remote tech support person talks with the client by telephone or VOIP while the repairs are underway onscreen.

Remote support makes perfect sense for Jon Troxel, who runs a nautical charts company on a remote island in Puget Sound. He's nowhere near an Apple store. But instead of trying to describe his computer problems to phone-based tech support, Jon uses Orchard Remote to deal with everything from his website to his printers. Stuck while trying to modify a PDF, he logged into the Orchard Remote website and filled out a request for help. "Within minutes Jeff was on the phone and showing me how to make an adjustments in Preferences," Jon said.

Orchard Remote is in Seattle, but can serve clients just about anywhere—as long as they are connected to the internet. They access client machines using a Virtual Network Computing (VNC) software similar to that in Apple's iChat application; it works on Macs running the most recent versions of Mac OS X (Leopard or Tiger).

"As long as you can get to our website, you can give us remote control of your machine," Jeff said. He works with clients who use cable or DSL, but even has one customer on dial-up.

Service is available seven days a week, 12 hours a day. (Or more. I was amused to note that every time I emailed Jeff with a question for this article, he shot back a reply in just a few minutes.)

What problems bring people to Orchard Remote? Not surprisingly, many of the same ones that have friends who use Macs phoning me at odd hours! (You know who you are.) Glitches with email and calendars are right at the top of the list. But Jeff is game to assist with things as exotic as performance issues in Adobe Lightroom.

"Even if it's software I don't use, I know how to research it," he said.

Orchard Remote clients run the gamut from Mac-savvy business owners who don't have time to deal with technical glitches to non-technical types who get queasy at the mere sound of words like "reboot" "system preferences" and "software upgrade."

Orchard Remote currently offers unlimited support for six months for $99. The fee covers one household computer or one user with multiple computers. (Full disclosure: I have an account with Orchard Remote, and Jeff is also a client for my writing services.)

I asked Jeff if he has any advice for clients, thinking he might recommend a particular Mac book, or suggest that we get in the habit of using our applications' Help files (ahem). But his suggestion was far more basic and practical:

"Get as much RAM in your computer as you can afford," he said. "It makes your computer so much more responsive across the board."

So, guys, I'll still do triage on the occasional cry for help about lost email or sluggish internet connections. But don't be surprised if all I can do is stabilize your ailing machine and refer you to the specialists at Orchard Remote.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Yabba dabba...

I finally made it to Bedrock, the glass recycling shop just off Elliott under the Magnolia Bridge. Great garden decor, plus the raw materials and plenty of inspiration for DIY projects. And a nice snowshoe cat.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What kind of friend are you?

OK, that's a trick question.

I wanted to get your attention to find out if you're a Friend of Folklife. If you've let your Friend of Folklife membership lapse, or you enjoy the festival every year but have never cozied up to it much past stuffing a $10 bill in the donation box, now's the time.

"Now," as in "by April 30."

This "free" festival has a serious budget of about $2 million collars (with costs going up), and relies primarily on individual donations to make the four-day festival happen. (Has anyone seen any big arts grants recently? Didn't think so.)

Unfortunately, Folklife doesn't fit the usual profile of an arts organization or a human services organization or an educational or research non-profit—even though it works in all those areas. And though Folklife does a lot to benefit many of the regional ethnic and folk arts communities, most supporters of those groups tend to fund their own, smaller, projects before thinking of Folklife.

During the month of April, Folklife is doing a special "new friends" campaign to broaden its membership base. Over the years, Folklife has turned again and again to the same core of supporters. The new executive director of Folklife, Rob Townsend, is now challenging the board and longtime Folklife supporters (like me and Zorg) to help him grow that base.

So, I'm inviting you to join Folklife at the $50 level. The Friends of Folklife donation is tax-deductible, so it's a better deal than making $10 daily donations to the cash boxes on the festival grounds.

And, as a Friend of Folklife, when you come to the festival this year, you'll get a special button that will let you into the Folklife Hospitality suite, a large area with free refreshments where the performers hang out and jam. It's nice to be able to wander in there and get a free Coke or cup of tea without having to stand in a long line at one of the food booths; if it's raining, Hospitality is a wonderful sheltered place to come and hear some of the hottest music on the festival grounds.

I suspect that, if you're reading this blog, you already know what Folklife is all about. But, if not, I want to be sure you know that it's not the hippy-dippy fiddle fest that the local news media show 5-second clips of on the nightly news. Folklife's ethnomusicology staff spend years laying the groundwork with ethnic communities in the Pacific Northwest that enable the Festival to bring some fascinating folkways—music, dance, art, and rituals—to the greater community. In many cases, Folklife's interest has helped a community preserve a tradition that had been dying out, passing that heritage on to another generation. This is delicate work that Folklife undertakes; there are internal divisions in some communities and in others there are notions about performance that are very different from the mainstream (for instance, in some cultures, the idea of an artist performing for free, as the vast majority of Folklife performers do, is very odd).

Another unusual aspect of Folklife is that many of the people you see running stages, doing communications, greeting, staffing hospitality, and making the four-day festival run are volunteers. (Even the new executive director was taken aback to discover how much of the work done by hired staff at other festivals is handled smoothly by Folklife's enormous volunteer network.) Without that immense system of volunteers, Folklife could never remain a free festival. It would have gates, security police, ticket takers, and long lines.

As a writer, I don't use the word "unique" lightly. But I have no trouble applying it to Folklife. It's unique: the largest free folk music festival in North American, and easily the most magical.

So, if you've been enjoying Folklife all these years, and want to make sure it continues, now's the time to join me and other Friends in enjoying your very own annual membership and your very own role making sure Folklife continues. Please click here.

Split personality

I start off every morning full of energy, spend the the day writing and talking with people on the phone, and by 7 p.m. feel like a zombie. Obviously I am not quite over the last of the two colds.

Sunday I did yoga and last night I went to belly dance class, which was early enough that I didn't run out of energy—until I got home. The exercise makes me feel quite a bit better, at least for a short while after I do it.

There's a great caller at the Thursday night Lake City contra dance, so I'm hoping I'll be back up to speed by then and able to go dancing. I am counting on full recovery by Saturday; 31 days of being sick (even slightly) is about my limit!