Categories
Technology

Happy Birthday Apple

I used to be a Mac-hater – honestly. I remember thinking of the Mac as a “toy” that couldn’t run most programs, nor would my files be compatible with it because it couldn’t run Windows 95, which was, to me, the pinnacle of all things computing at the time. Please understand, I was in my teens at time, and Apple was in its darkest hours. All Apple press was bad press. Yes, I was a teen in the 90s.

I remember seeing this poster my freshman year of college and thinking,”How lame. That has to be about the most hideous computer I’ve ever seen.”

Then I took a long hard look at my IBM Aptiva. It was no looker either. In fact, it took up a whole lot more desk space than that iMac would. Furthermore, I began using the Macs on campus more and more. I even found myself beginning to make excuses to use the lab PowerMac G3s (not the blue & whites) rather than my home machine. I began messing with the iMacs on display at CompUSA, and the pretty colors of the revised iMacs became all the more mesmerizing.

Finally, in 2000 I got my first Mac: a graphite iMac with a 400 MHz G3 processor. A G3 PowerBook soon followed and became home to all my college assignments. (In retrospect, I could have probably made due with only the PowerBook, but my limited computer knowledge of the time never suggested that a laptop could have replaced a desktop.)

Even after a couple months of experience on the machines, I have to admit I was not necessarily completely sold on being a repeat customer. Mac OS 9 was fun and all, but it didn’t give me anything Windows 9x really lacked – well, other than not being completely hideous, a problem that plagues Windows to this day. However, I became sold the minute I got my hands on the Public Beta of Mac OS X. My iMac would not transition until Jaguar, but my PowerBook has been an OS X machine from the moment the Public Beta hit my doorstep.

Since then, I have used every release of Mac OS X. I am an iLife and an iWork junkie, and I am currently the proud owner of A PowerMac G5 (1.8 GHz SP, 900 MHz FSB). Surprisingly enough, the G3 PowerBook I mention in recent posts is that same G3 from 6 years ago, and that 6-year-old iMac? It currently resides with my wife’s grandparents as their web browsing and email machine, and it probably still has some life left in it. The iMac is running OS X 10.3.9, and the PBG3 is running OS X 10.4.5. I wonder how many 6-year-old PCs are running XP SP2?

So will my next computer be a Mac? Do you really have to ask? My laptop is in bad need of replacement (as I’ve done everything in my power to run it onto the ground), and I’ve even resorted to packing my G5 up when giving important presentations. I just can’t seem to trust my old PBG3 to make through an intensive Keynote slideshow anymore – something about the app requiring a G4 processor. Needless to say, the new Core Duo MacBook Pro is looking very attractive indeed.

Apple is turning 30, and I’ve been a Mac user for one-fifth of that time. Here’s to many more years of insanely-great products that dare to think different.

Categories
Technology

Software Grand Prix On My G3

Okay, so here are the (slightly truncated) system requirements for Office 2004 and iLife ’06, respectively.

Office 2004

  • Processor: G3 (Mac OS X compatible) or higher
  • OS: Mac OS X 10.2.8+
  • Memory 256 MB

iLife ’06

  • Processor: 500MHz G4 or faster, G5, or Core processor
  • OS: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or 10.4.3+
  • Memory: 256 MB (512 MB recommended)
  • Video: 32 MB

So, my PowerBook has a 500 MHz G3 processor, Mac OS X 10.4.5, 512 MB RAM, and an 8 MB video card. For a recent slideshow I created to help my kids memorize words to their program songs, which application do you think ran more smoothly – PowerPoint 2004 (from Office 2004) or Keynote 3 (form iLife ’06)?

If you guessed PowerPoint, you are WRONG.

As long as I used simple transitions, such as appear or dissolve, Keynote transitioned between slides much more smoothly than PowerPoint. We’re talking multiple second delays in PowerPoint whenever I would tap the spacebar to change slides while Keynote was near instantaneous. (Again, I had to watch what I was doing.) Even when editing the slides, Keynote felt slightly snappier.

Look back at the system requirements now. My machine doesn’t even meet iLife’s base specifications while it exceeds Office’s! Try to figure that one out…

Categories
Autism

Weird Call

So I got this weird phone call a couple of night’s ago. I was cleaning at the time – more accurately, I was fixating on some unusual spots on our kitchen floor – so the call caught me off guard. Slightly shaken, I picked up the phone with the usual, “Hello?”

“Hi, David. It’s [some name I don’t remember]. Blah, blah, blah…”

“Um, I think you have a wrong number. I’m not David, and I don’t recognize your name.”

Now, at this point, I expected the usual apology for a wrong number, and I was getting ready to hear a hasty “good-bye.” Only, it didn’t happen. The lady kept talking. I don’t even know what she was saying – nor did I at the time – I was so knocked out of kilter by the fact that her voice was still going.

“Can I speak to your lovely wife?” My wrong-number-who-wouldn’t-shut-up asked.

“Wife? She’s out of town.” At this point I should mention that I have a high-functioning ASD and was having a hard time making heads or tails of the situation. I didn’t know why this person was still talking, clearly ignoring the fact tat I was not – nor am I now – David. I didn’t know if I had perhaps misheard her name. After all, I had been fixating just prior to the call, so my brain might not have caught up with the auditory information I was receiving. All I could do was answer her question.

Presently, the woman went on to explain that my (David’s?) wife had been invited to some party, and she had not RSVP’d. Things were still not adding up, so I ask for the woman’s name again. She tells me, and I answer, “I don’t know that name.” By now, frustration was beginning to creep into my voice.

“Okay, whatever,” my masked caller responded. “I’ll talk to you later.”

I hung up the phone, mildly confused, and wondering what the kitchen floor thought of the whole ordeal. I crouched back down with my Lysol and 409, getting back to my obsessive scrubbing when it suddenly dawned on me that the lady on the phone had thought I was lying to her. It made perfect sense – the way she kept going on after my first attempt to disengage, the “whatever” and the “I’ll talk to you later.” She must have thought I was just trying to avoid her! I couldn’t clean for the rest of the night … well, except for some dusting and vacuuming…

Now I’m sure there is some moral to this story, but I haven’t figured it out yet. It was so strange, though, that I had to tell someone about it!

Categories
Technology

Days of My Macs

On an initial side note, I was planning on sticking something like this on my site (being a good Mac citizen and all), but the great site MacInTouch has beaten me to the punch. MacInTouch is a great first resource if you are experiencing technical difficulties with your Mac.

Speaking of technical difficulties, you know that presentation coming up this Friday? Well, early on in development, I realized my G3 PowerBook was not up to the task of running a Keynote presentation and demoing the iLife software in a manner that looked anything less than excruciating. Enter Dad’s iBook – not an ideal machine for this job but better than the alternative.

The first order of business was putting in more RAM. It had 256MB, which, as any Mac OS X user will tell you, is less than you want to have. The first idea was to get another 256 MB module to bump up to 512 MB. The only problem was that no one around here seems to stock 256 MB RAM modules anymore, so we had to go with a 512 MB module, giving my father a grand total of 768 MB. Dandy.

With that out of the way, I was using his iBook at church to take notes when the screen began to freak out on me. Sometimes it would just die; other times, colored gibberish would streak around until it died. However, if we played around with the hinge, the picture might come back. Did I mention that this problem cropped up on Sunday – six days before the presentation?

Fast forward to Monday. It’s apparent that this is a serious problem, so my wonderful wife trucks the iBook over to our local Apple Store (who treated her like an idiot, but that is another post for another day). The iBook has to be sent away to be worked on and won’t be back for AT LEAST five days. Fortunately, my wife asked a question that would have never dawned on me: “Can we rent out a laptop?”

Thanks to her quick thinking, I have a G4 PowerBook to deliver the presentation with. Still, the Apple Store failed to throw in an ADC to VGA display adapter, but I fortunately have one because my G5 tower came with one. Let’s just pray nothing else goes wrong between now and Friday.

Saturday, I’ll write up a postmortem on how the presentation as a whole went.

Categories
Technology

Sans Brush

I just had to note that iPhoto has abandoned brushed metal. This is also true of iMovie and iDVD (which also got a spiffy new icon). Each of these applications has adopted the “Them With No Name” that iTunes introduced last fall, retaining the slightly darker appearance of brushed metal, but smoother and without those thick edges brushed apps (like the Finder) have.

I wonder if iCal, Finder, and the other remaining brushed metal applications will all adopt this look by the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Only time will tell.

Categories
Technology

Best. Macworld. Ever.

Well, perhaps that is an overstatement, but I can’t remember feeling so giddy during a SteveNote presentation since the PowerMac G5s were unveiled at WWDC 2003 (and I tend to get slightly giddy during any presentation given by Steve Jobs).

First, I like the iLife and iWork updates. Sure, there is still no dedicated spreadsheet application in iWork, but the additions to Pages and Keynote look great. As far as iLife goes, iPhoto has me the most interested, though the enhancements to the other apps – particularly iMovie and iDVD – will be welcome, especially since I haven’t updated iLife for two years now.

The new Intel iMac is cool. I like the current form factor, so retaining it wasn’t a bad thing. However, it would be nice if there was some way of distinguishing it from the PowerPC iMac other than the specs on the box. Regardless, it seems to be getting quite the performance boost for no more cost. No complaints from this gallery.

What really floored me was the new MacBook Pro. Alright, so no points for the name, but a hundred points for the computer itself. Don’t get me wrong, I fell in love with the PowerBook G4 long ago, but this thing just stole my geeky heart. 1.67 or 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 667 MHz frontside bus (as compared to 167 MHz on the G4), Mobility Radeon X 1600, optical audio, dual-layer DVD burning, built-in iSight, backlit keyboard – I could go on and on.

It’s everything the PowerBook was plus one important factor: Power.

Questionably, Apple has removed the FireWire 800 port, which strikes me as odd, and, according to this Infinite Loop post, battery life is somewhat disappointing. It is worth noting, though, that these machines do not ship until February, and progress could be made on the battery front between now and then.

Regardless of these apparent shortcomings, there is little to complain about here. This is one nice laptop, and it is easily the most competitive laptop Apple has released in a while. Sure, a Dell would be still cheaper, but it just wouldn’t be a Mac. Congratulations, Apple, the Intel transition is underway. Here’s to hoping the next several months go smoothly!

Categories
Technology

New Vista Thoughts

Screenshots of a new build of Windows Vista (formerly known as Windows Longhorn) appeared on Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows a few days ago. Being the desktop voyeur I am, I couldn’t help but pop over and ogle the screens for a while. For reference, here are links to his screenshots: Installation; Desktop, My Computer, and Network; Control Panel and Aero Glass Customization; and Applications.

Once I started to delve into the screenshots a couple of things struck me.

  • Translucency and text can work. If you look at the screens, you will notice that translucency is subdued behind areas that need text, like the Start Menu and location and search fields. In the case of window contents, translucency is completely eliminated, and that looks almost out of place in Vista. Translucent elements are prevalent in Vista, but they are implemented in a fairly nice manner.
  • What did they do to the Start Menu? The Start Menu has been receiving tweaks pretty much since its first appearance. Now they have removed “Start” from the icon that activates the window, and have made the icon into a sphere that awkwardly protrudes from the task bar. This protrusion carries over to the user icon atop the Star Menu (when active). The user icon proudly protrudes from the top of the menu like some royal crest. Let’s hope they kill this whole icon protrusion thing before people come to accept it.
  • Outlook Express has become Windows Mail. Alright, call this Apple copying if you must, but I feel the name change is logical and welcome. “Outlook Express” tells you nothing of the application’s function unless you use Outlook in your workplace. “Windows Mail” is a much more user-friendly name, and it’s nice to see this change.

Overall, Windows Vista seems to be coming along well. Installation is still an ugly process (visually), but I’m sure that will be cleaned up before the public release. After all, installation gives users the first impression of your system. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Microsoft’s default user interface for any of its versions of Windows. (I was a user back in the days of Windows 95 and Windows 98.) However, Vista seems to be gaining a nice sheen previously absent from Windows.

Unfortunately, my mind keeps going back to Whistler. This was a nice evolution of the Windows interface that eventually transformed into the eyesore that is Windows XP. (Oddly enough, both Mac and Windows themers have created themes based on this visual style that never made it into a publicly available version of Windows.) Hopefully, Microsoft will keep these nice touches that are present in current builds of Vista and refine them rather than pulling out something completely different at the last minute. Windows XP is not nice to look at. Vista is, and I hope it stays that way.

Categories
Technology

Thoughts On Tiger

I promised this post months ago, but I just haven’t had the time to hash it out. Now seems as good of a time as ever since at least one of my grad classes is mostly caught up for the moment! This is by no means a comprehensive review of Mac OS X 10.4, but I hope it provides a decent overview and a good perspective on one person’s experiences using this product.

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was released on April 29, 2005 to wide acclaim and wide criticism. As per Apple’s recent tradition, the product was $129 ($69 for educators). There was much ado over “200 New Features” from Apple’s PR, and there was general complaint and mockery regarding a $129 fee for a “point release” from the critical. The truth of Tiger is somewhere in the middle. You have to pick some pretty fine nits to find “200 New Features.” On the other hand, Mac OS 10.4 is more than a general “point release.”

An OS By Any Other Name

I’ve often said that Apple sells itself short in the nomenclature used for it’s “X” systems. To illustrate this, some history:

(At this point, some of my more tech-savy readers should skip ahead.) Mac OS X, pronounced “Mac Oh-Es Ten,” is not really the tenth version of the Macintosh Operating System. The original Mac OS died with the passing of Mac OS 9. The current system is based on UNIX, and it is a marriage, sometimes inelegant and sometimes uncomfortable, of the Classic Mac OS and another OS project that was called NeXTSTEP. As such, Mac OS X 10.1 was really version one of a new product. (No, I refuse to count Mac OS X 10.0 as anything else than an expensive beta.)

With each successive release, this product has matured considerably, so much so that screenshots of Mac OS X 10.1 look very foreign to someone used to working with Mac OS 10.4. In fact, these two systems look about as similar as Windows 98 and Windows XP. However, public perception can be that progress has been minimal because of how Apple has chosen to name their new operating system. It would be more accurate to view this product as Mac OS X Version 4 than as a simple point release.

Installation and First Impressions

My system disks were of Mac OS X 10.4.0, and installation was breezy. It took a little over 20 minutes to install on my G5, but it took quite a bit longer on my PowerBook G3. After rebooting, there was some performance lag as Spotlight indexed my hard drive, but that was quickly resolved. I quickly played with as many toys as I could including Automator, Dashboard, Spotlight, and the snazzy new screen-savers! Everything worked as expected.

My G5 seemed noticeably faster overall. I’m continually impressed how each Mac OS revision seems to make that machine snappier (even though it’s a 1.8 GHz SP, which is supposedly adversely affected by 10.4). Startup time is also speedier. On average, my G5 takes roughly 30 seconds to boot. Unfortunately, Mac OS 10.4 has had the opposite affect on my PowerBook G3, and the poor thing seems to struggle under this system’s weight. I guess I should have known I was in trouble when my old PowerBook was not on the initial list of supported hardware. (It appeared a few days later.)

What about stability? So far, there have been no kernal panics. Actually, I have been fortunate enough to never have had one of these, and I have been an OS X user since the Public Beta came out. My PowerBook began my OS X experience, and my old Graphite iMac DV joined the X era when Mac OS X 10.2 “Jaguar” came out. In addition to the lack of kernal panics on either my G5 or my PowerBook G3, I have experienced no system freezes, and the only application to “Unexpectedly Quit” has been Microsoft Word 2004 on my laptop. My desktop has had absolutely zero flakiness … outside of some that was my own doing.

My only real complaint is the fact that 10.4.1 and 10.4.2 (as well as some other miscellaneous updates) had already been released prior to my purchase of Tiger in late August, but the boxed version I got did not contain these updates, so both my desktop and my laptop had to download those updates after installation. I had kind of expected those updates to be “in the box” by then. For reference, 10.4.1 had been released May 16, and 10.4.2 had been released July 12. My purchase of Mac OS X 10.4 was on August 20.

New Features

Dashboard

Dashboard is the flashiest of the new features, and it is the feature that will probably remain most associated with Tiger. Dashboard is a compnant of Exposé, which was introduced by Apple in 10.3 “Panther.” Dashboard is a separate layer from the desktop that runs mini applications callsed “widgets.” These widgets are one-trick ponies that can do things like track shipments, monitor the weather, control iTunes, convert measurements, and act as a calendar. There are thousands of widgets freely available for download on the Internet, and there are a few more sophisticated ones that cost a few dollars. Fortunately, Apple has included an interface for installing and managing widgets as of the 10.4.2 update.

tiger-01

By in large, I find Dashboard pretty useful. I used to run Konfabulator strictly in Konsposé mode, so Dashboard offered little adjustment for me. The screenshot shows my most frequently used widgets, and they all do the job well. My only gripe is with the general lag of Dashboard when you open it the first time after login. Personally, I have to recommend a tiny app called Dashboard Starter if you think you’ll use Dashboard a lot. All it does is launch Dashboard on login, thereby making the widgets more responsive once you are ready to use them.

Spotlight

Spotlight is the integrated system search feature of Mac OS 10.4. You can envoke Spotlight by clicking on a magnifying glass icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen or by using the keyboard command Command-Space. Spotlight searches while you type, which is fine on fast systems, but I wish there was the option for it to wait for you to hit Return on my slower G3 system. Most of the time, if I lose something, Spotlight can find it for me. However, on my PowerBook G3, I’ve noticed that about half of my documents never get searched, and I’m not sure how to correct that situation. I’m a pretty organized person and seldom lose track of where I have information stowed, but Spotlight has come in handy during those times I have lost track of stuff.

Here’s what a Spotlight window looks like if you ask it to show you all results from the Spotlight menu. Could this be the future of the Finder?

tiger-02

Automator

Automator may be one of the cooler new features that few will discover and even fewer may use. I can’t comment too much about Automator because I’m still learning about it. Basically, Automator is designed to bring one-step goodness to repetitive tasks. For example, you could apply a sepia tone filter to multiple photographs at once. You may want to assign Spotlight Keywords to multiple items, or you could name several files sequentially (August 01.pdf, August 02.pdf, etc.). There is a learning curve involved, but Automator is a nice example of how Apple sometimes succeeds in thinking outside the box. I think I’m going to really like Automator once I get used to it.

Here’s a screen capture of one of Automator’s sample workflows. You can add and rearrange steps using simple drag-and-drop.

tiger-03

Other New Features

QuickTime is now at verison 7 and supports a new high-definition codec. Unfortuantely, QuickTime 7 does not seem to be as responsive as QuickTime 6 was when viewing .mpg videos in a browser window (Safari or Firefox). Some new Finder features include Burnable Folders and Smart Folders. Both are quite useful, especially the Burn Folders, which allow you to set up a burn session without a CD or DVD actually being inserted in the drive. FIanlly, the built in RSS support in Safari is cool, but if you are used to a dedicated RSS aggregator (like NetNewsWire), Safari probably won’t offer enough features to make you switch.

There are plenty more little touches that separate Mac OS X 10.4 from previous releases, but this gives an overview of some of the most obvious enhancements.

Under the Hood

More important than the superficial enhancements are the “under the hood” improvements to Mac OS X 10.4. These are the changes that most will never see or know about but that affect how the system and applications work.  Apple refers to these as “key technologies,” and they include such elements as H.264 support, Core Image, Core Data, and Core Audio. Core Audio was introduced in either Jaguar or Panther, and it created a robust set of integrated audio functionality right into the operating system that any application can potentially have access to. Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro is a good example of an application that takes advantage of Core Audio.

New to the Core Foundation Technologies are Core Image and Core Data. Core Data is over my head, but it meant to improve the data-model framework used by applications. Core Data is important to Spotlight’s functionality, and it uses database concepts to organize and manage data from any application built to utilize it. This, like other Core Foundation Technologies, is aimed squarely at developers and making Mac OS X as attractive of a development platform as possible. Furthermore, Core Image, like Core Audio, provides developers with a respectable palette of image tools that can be seamlessly integrated into their application. Image Tricks by BeLight Software is a nice utility that is built entirely around the Core Image filters.

What does this mean to the end user? It means future Mac OS X applications can take advantage of all sorts of great technologies that would formerly have had to be integrated manually. Imagine a presentation application that could apply audio effects to sounds and music in the presentation, that could manipulate images right in the application by applying Gaussian blur and sepia tone filters without having to rely on a separate image editor, all while indexing every bit of content in your presentation for easy searching later. An application like this would be very possible utilizing Apple’s Core Foundation Technologies (which makes me wonder what new features we’ll see in Keynote 3). I don’t understand half of the technical documentation regarding Core Foundation, but I do know that I’ve been impressed more than once by applications that make good use of these technologies.

Dashboard and Safari RSS are nifty and fun. Core Foundation Technologies are the stepping stones that will build the future of the Macintosh platform.

The Interface

tiger-04

Aqua has evolved greatly since the days of Mac OS X 10.0. It is much more subdued than it used to be, and pinstripes are pretty much gone. However, it seems that Apple has been improving the interface in bits and pieces. Now, there are as many as four different widow appearances and a plethora of controls to choose from. Unfortunately for users, this results in a very inconsistent visual experience. On the other hand, this may be intentional. Software developers seem to be moving to having different applications having distinct looks and feels (Windows Media Player and Office 12 anyone?). It’s just not my cup of tea. Fortunately, applications like Unsanity’s ShapeShifter make modifying the systems appearance fairly painless.

The Kitchen Sink & Conclusion

I know there are many aspects of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger I have failed to overview in detail. For example, I haven’t talked much about H.264, nor have I said anything about the new metadata features that have worked their way into Tiger. iChat AV has gone untouched on my computer, so there was no use in even mentioning it, and accessibility features as well as the new parental controls are absent from this overview. 10.4 is a huge system filled with features, and there is no way I’m going to be able to cover all of them.

Tiger is another step toward making Mac OS X a more robust and feature-rich environment to work in. Some features like Dashboard are very visible while others, like Automator, may seem more daunting to the average user. Some features have been left strangely hidden, like the Finder’s Slideshow functionality, while many of the other enhancements are at the system level, invisible to most people. Overall, I’m glad we bought Tiger, and I’m really looking forward to the enhancements and changes that will be brought by Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard in late 2006!

Categories
Technology

Another Week, Another Event

The first order of business is to wish my wonderful wife a very happy birthday!!!

I know I’m a bit late posting about the latest Apple media event. There’s really not much to say. I can’t comment on Aperture because that application is way out of my league. However, I do think it’s interesting that Apple is trying to distance it from Photoshop as much as possible. As far as I can tell, the two applications have little in common. I imagine many people who invest a great deal of time in one will also find the other valuable. If you are curious for more info on Aperture, visit Apple’s product page.

PowerMacs

My 1.8 GHz PowerMac G5 looks positively anemic next to these beasts. Like the iMac, we have moved to DDR2 SDRAM, though the PowerMacs remained at the same 533 MHz memory the iMac has instead of being bumped to 667 MHz. Sometimes I think Apple is going all conservative on me. In addition to the new memory, the PowerMac has adopted PCI-Express as well as some serious graphics cards, including (finally) a professional level card with the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500. The dual ethernet ports are also worthy of note for anyone wishing to turn a PowerMac into a server.

The big news, of course, is dual-core. Some early reports are indicating that the dual-core 2.3 GHz model is slightly faster than the previous generation dual processor 2.5 GHz machine. (The previous machine had two single-core processors in it.) I’m sure the many variables listed above were also contributors to this performance gain, but it is promising. I was perplexed when I saw the “new” machines were running at a slower clock-speed than the previous generation, but it seems the machines still have quite a boost in performance. (Incidentally, this is not the first time a “MHz regression” has occurred. According to MacTracker, the final G3 PowerBooks were running at 500 MHz, but the first G4 PowerBooks came out at 400 MHz.)

In all, the new PowerMacs are a very strong lineup. If Apple’s claims are true about performance gains, then Macintosh-based professionals may want to snatch one of these up before “the Switch” if their current machine is growing long-in-the-tooth.

PowerBooks

Um, were these updated? Seriously, I like the new screen resolutions. Hopefully, the future onset of resolution independent user interfaces will allow them to pack the pixels even denser in the future. The product line has also been simplified. All PowerBooks have DVD-burners, but only the two larger models get dual-layer burning. Both larger models have 128 MB dedicated graphics memory, backlit keyboard, and optical audio. Truthfully, the 15-inch model seems to offer the best value, especially at my educator discount.

Are these updates exciting? No. Did I expect more? A little bit. Regardless, my PowerBook G3 has seen better days, so I might be trying to justify getting the 15-inch model. We’ll see… I feel myself being swayed by Apple’s beautiful product pictures…

Categories
Personal Notes

A Death In the Family

From the Obituary:

Herbert Leo, Sr., age 94 of Elizabethtown, Kentucky and formerly of Searcy, died Thursday in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He was a native of Manson, Arkansas and was a member of the College View Church of Christ in Elizabethtown. He retired from General Motors in Willow Run, Michigan. He is survived by three sons, Burris Dale of Bowie ,Maryland, Herbert Leo, Jr. of Indianapolis, Indiana, James Marion of Elizabethtown, Kentucky; two brothers, Marionof Westland, Michigan, Lehman of Jonesboro, Arkansas, two sisters, Evelyn of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, Frances of Wayne, Michigan; 10 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren; and 3 great-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ethel Jane; and his parents, Jasper Marion and Pearl Novella.

Modes of Transportation

Due to my being far younger than my siblings and cousins (14 years younger than my youngest brother), I have fewer memories of my grandfather during his active years. He was already 69 years old when I was born, and in his mid-seventies by the time I can form coherent memories of him and grandma.

One memory I do have of grandpa before he entered assisted living: His license was revoked in Arkansas because of his eyesight. Now Grandpa carried the Family gene to its fullest extent, and the Family gene is a very stubborn, sometimes obstinate, gene. The Family gene does not take “no” for an answer. The Family gene says, “It’s my way or the highway.” How many members of my family does it take to change a light-bulb? Only one, but if two are in the room, it may never get done!

Well Grandpa was very independent along with being stubborn. The state told him he could no longer drive his car, but he wasn’t about to let anyone else do his Wal-Mart runs for him. Fortunately, Wal-Mart was quite close to his house. Wal-Mart was less than a mile away, quite literally across the street. (The fact that this street is a highway bears absolutely no bearing to this story … None at all.) This was not a distance Grandpa could have walked, but other solutions can be found for one possessing the Family gene.

He drove his riding mower.

Yes, you read that correctly. Grandpa drove his riding mower from his house on a road bearing his name (I am not making this up), across the highway, up the road about a quarter of a mile more, and into Wal-Mart’s parking lot, where I assumed he parked in his usual handicapped parking space. It was best to never ask him why he did this. It was also best never to suggest he not do this. One never questions the Family gene once it guides you in its path.

This went on fine for several months until one day his dog Tango was chasing him rather vigilantly. Now Tango always chased the riding mower, but this time, he seemed a little more distraught over something. Thinking little of it, Grandpa continued his holy pilgrimage to Wal-Mart aboard his trusty lawnmower, in his own world, being annoyed by the heat at the seat of his pants and the fact that the lawnmower was not driving as well as usual.

Yes, the lawnmower’s engine had caught on fire. Fortunately, Grandpa was not hurt. Of course, many members of the family used this event to illustrate just how unsafe it was to ride that lawnmower around and how he needed to allow others to assist him more.

Grandpa’s response to the whole sordid affair? “I thought Tango was barking louder than usual.”

The Indoor Bonfires

Speaking of fires, I think everyone in the family will always remember the fireplace in the house. It seemed like that fireplace was always roaring, no matter the temperature outside. “Ethel,” Grandpa would say, “it’s gettin’ kinda breezy. I think it’s time to throw some logs on the fire.” And so he would.

Mind you, “some” logs on the fire consisted of a pile that nearly filled the entire fireplace. From a child’s point of view, it sure looked cool to have those logs burning, flames going so high into the chimney, you couldn’t tell where they stopped. Man, was it hot though. I am a firm believer that Arkansas (despite weather reports to the contrary) never gets below 100º Fahrenheit during the summer, thereby singing my grandparents’ skin to the point that 85º felt positively nippy. Hence, the eternal flame within the living room.

One visit, we noticed the air was getting rather hazy while the indoor bonfire was raging. Dad convinced Grandpa, with no little arguing, to put the fire out; but the haze persisted. Once the fireplace had cooled below the boiling point for human flesh, Dad inspected the fireplace to find the shell had cracked – actually, it had melted entirely away in one spot. As a result, smoke was pouring through the ventilation system that was intended to only transport the heat from the fireplace.

Before he was placed in an assisted living center, I don’t know how many fireplace shells Grandpa would go through, but I do know this: The bonfires never stopped, nor did they shrink in size. It wasn’t Grandpa’s fault the fire was too hot. The fireplace shell manufacturers (bless their hearts) needed to make them there shells stronger!

Conclusion

You have been a powerful force in our family for many years, Grandpa. You will be missed, but I hope to see you one day in our eternal home. Hopefully, fireplaces are made out of stronger stuff there than they are here on Earth!