Big Mac Attack

I was having a conversation today with my buddy Marc about the new laptop I’m getting, and I mentioned that I’ve always migrated my data from computer to computer before, but that leads to a build-up of old and unused applications, library data, and other stuff.  I decided that with this new laptop, I’m going to do a clean slate, and only install what I’m actually using.  All my old data from the previous system would be stored on a separate disk, just in case I need it.

During the conversation, it occurred to me that I wasn’t shore just how many Apple computers I’ve owned, so I decided to figure that out, in blog form.  What follows is a lengthy retelling of my personal computers over the years.   If this sort of stuff bores you, you should probably skip this post.

I purchased my first Apple computer in 2004.  Up until that time, I had been a Windows guy.

I am oversimplifying.   At first, I was a TRS-80 guy, then a TI-99/4a guy, then a Commodore 128 guy.  Next, I was an MS-DOS guy, then a Windows 3.1 guy.  From there, I used Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME (Millennium Edition), and Windows XP.

In September of 2003, my Windows XP installation crashed and burned.  It was bad.  I lost something like sixty gig of personal data.  This was my turning point.  I was fed up with Windows, and didn’t want to deal with it at home any more. I installed Red Hat Linux 9 on a new hard drive, and that became my desktop for a while. I kept using Windows at work, naturally, because that’s what Mr. Company dictated for our workstations.   I still have a screen capture from the time of the Great Crash.  It was a message on September 3rd of 2003, in which my former roommate John said, “iiiiit awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaits youuuuuuuuu…..” with a link to the Apple product page for the Powerbook.   I wasn’t ready, yet, but he was right-  it was waiting.

In early 2004, I bought my first ever Apple product- the third generation of iPod, the last one before the ClickWheel was adopted.  It was around this time that I realized that I needed to run iTunes, Dreamweaver, and some Adobe software, and I couldn’t get them to run properly on Linux.  I built a new tiny Windows box just to run those programs, and the Windows creep began.

The timing of these next bits are not absolutely certain- I know the sequence of events, but don’t have any record of exactly when things happened.  So I’m taking a few liberties and guessing at some of this timeline:

By late 2004, I was frustrated with having multiple PCs, and I bought my second Apple product, a 17 inch aluminum Powerbook G4.  I joked at the time that I bought this laptop computer as an accessory for my iPod, but it was actually a pretty true statement.  This was my first ever laptop computer.  It was gorgeous and I enjoyed it, but a 17 inch aluminum monster wasn’t really all that portable.  I was also frustrated-  the laptop was not as powerful as similarly priced desktop computers, and I felt like something was lacking.

Still, it was a good machine and transitioned my computing world into the Powerbook.  The Windows and Red Hat desktop computers went away, and I no longer had two monitors, two keyboards, two mice at my desk.  (Yes, yes, I know that a KVM switch could have solved that, but I liked to keep them separated.)

In 2005, the Mac Mini was announced.  I was still a little resistant to a laptop being my primary machine, so when they announced a tiny adorable computer the size of a stack of CD jewel-boxes, I was hooked and I grabbed one of those.  Away went the Powerbook.  I loved this machine- it was the least crashy computer I have ever used, before or since.  My only issue was that the hard drive was topped out at 80 Gig, and there was no upgrade possible other than external plug-in hard drives.  Also, I was using an older Apple external monitor and I was annoyed with how many cables I had allowed to gather.

Naturally, when Apple announced their new Intel iMacs in January of 2006, I was all kinds of excited.  It had a larger hard drive, a faster processor, and it was just pretty to look at.   On March 1st of 2006, I bought the 20 inch version of one of these chunky white beauties, and I was super excited to have everything back under one plug with my third Apple computer.

Ah, but the gadget lust is a cruel mistress, and when Apple introduced their new 13 inch jet black MacBook, I was enthralled.  That little black beauty became my secondary machine, but it was still too small in strength and hard drive space to be my everything-computer.  I still used a desktop for my main stuff.  By this point in time, the desktop was constantly on, and I left it running so that I could connect to it remotely from work.

The 20 inch iMac held me for three years, but in 2009 the design changed yet again, and the new aluminum body iMacs were just amazing.   In March of 2009, I bought a 24 inch iMac, with 4 gig of ram and a whopping 1 Terabyte hard drive.   Surely, this was the height of luxury!  I was sure I would stick with the iMac forever.  At work, I was connecting an ssh tunnel to my iMac so that I could listen to my music collection.  This was bliss.

Fast forward to the middle of 2011-  I had sold my condo, and I was staying in my brother’s house while I figured out my next moves.  My three years in Germany was on the horizon for me, but I didn’t know it yet.  What I did know was that I simply didn’t have enough space in my brother’s spare bedroom for a 24 inch iMac, so I made the switch back to a laptop late that summer.

It was August of 2011, six years ago, that I purchased a 15 inch MacBook Pro with 8 gigs of ram and a 750 GB hard drive.  I named it Yori.

I missed having an always-on machine that I could shell into, but I got over it pretty quickly.  For the first time ever, a laptop computer was my primary machine.  It was my only machine.  I moved everything onto that one laptop, and used it with delight.  The technology had finally reached the point I wanted, where a laptop computer didn’t seem under-powered or slow compared to desktop alternatives.

When the move to Germany came up, I was doubly glad that I had a laptop.  I lived in a hotel for the first three weeks, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to schlep a 24 inch iMac to Germany and set it up in a hotel.

During my time in Germany, I purchased a new Mac Mini, but this one was set up to be my entertainment center.   It was connected to my television, and I used it for video and music only.  I sold it to a friend before I left Germany in 2014.

The laptop I’m using now was purchased on November 12, 2013.   I grabbed this during one of my visits back to the US from Germany, because the MacBooks had gone to solid state drives, and everything was So! Fast! that I couldn’t resist.  This laptop has 16 GB of RAM and a 1 Terabyte SSD.  This machine carried me through the rest of my time in Germany.  It traveled the world with me, and it’s actually still a pretty great laptop.

Apple did it again, though, and they updated their laptop to be thinner, faster, and 87% more nifty.   I have decided after months of deliberation to pick up a new MacBook Pro in the new “Space Grey” color with a newfangled Touch Bar.

For those of you keeping count, this new laptop will be my ninth Apple computer in the last thirteen years.  That doesn’t include a multitude of iPods, iPads, and iPhones.  It also doesn’t include my Airport routers and Time Capsule, or the various Apple mice or keyboards I’ve owned.  It didn’t seem like that many to me until I wrote it all down here.

So… does anyone want to buy a late 2013 model MacBook Pro?

What’s your computer preference?  Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, or something else?

Love is love is love is love.

Since the last time I posted on the blog, I moved from South Florida up to Orlando.  I meant to do a whole post about the transition up here, but this is not that post.

This post is about the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.  It happened one year ago today, June 12, 2016, and 49 people lost their lives, not counting the shooter.  Another 58 were injured during the shooting.   I didn’t live in Orlando at the time, but this city has always had a special place in my heart.

There have been vigils and remembrance events all over Orlando for the last few days, but today was the biggest set of events.   Amelie and I were out running errands in the afternoon, and our route took us directly past Pulse during their afternoon ceremony.  The traffic was our first clue that something was going on, followed immediately by the presence of a fleet of news vans.

There have been people standing in front of Pulse every time we’ve driven past-  the entire site is a memorial now, with a constant flow of mourners and people leaving things behind like flowers or a small token of their memory.  Today it was jammed, of course.

Later in the day, the crowds started to gather for the big Orlando United event at Lake Eola.  I didn’t realize it until this afternoon, but the city shut down many of the streets around the Lake for the event.   A little past 4:30 in the afternoon, this is what the traffic pattern looked like downtown:

On top of that, there was rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Once most of the rain leveled off, I grabbed my old MIX 105.1 umbrella and walked over to the Orlando Public Library to catch the last few minutes of Drag Queen Storytime.  My timing was off; this picture was just a few moments after a spectacularly photogenic twirl by our storyteller.

After Drag Queen Storyteller wrapped up, I walked the remaining block or so to Lake Eola, and wandered around the event.   This mural by Yuriy Karabash and Michael Pilato was put up earlier today- I’m not sure where the mural will ultimately reside after today.

People continued to gather for the Orlando United event- it was supposed to start at 7pm, but weather delayed it somewhat.  Still, more and more people arrived. I’m somewhere in the upper left part of this photo from the Orlando Sentinel, wearing a bright red shirt:

You can see the top of the bandshell in this next photo-  that’s as close as I was really able to get to the bandshell.  It was broadcast throughout the park over speakers all the way around the Lake, though, and Disney had put up a pair of large overflow screens so that people could watch from the larger part of Lake Eola Park on the Eastern bank.

Once the event started, I could hear what was going on, but I couldn’t see it- until someone near me mentioned that some of the local news media were streaming it live, and everyone has a cell phone…  I caught the video of a drum and bagpipe corps, and some other musical acts.

During the show, I walked around the lake so that I could get out of the thicker part of the crowd for a bit, and I was treated to some pretty spectacular views from the Northern side of the lake. The band-shell was dressed properly for the occasion…

Lake Eola’s iconic fountain was also beautifully lit in rainbow colors for the occasion.

It’s difficult to express exactly how something like this makes me feel-  I don’t know anyone who was directly affected by the Pulse shooting, but I have such strong ties to Orlando through friends and friends of friends that I see the ripples outward.

It hits especially hard because it could easily have been someone close to me.  When I was twenty-five, I lived in Orlando.  I was attending UCF for my degree, but in my down time, I went dancing.  Some weeks, I would be out five nights out of seven-  Two of those nights were Club Zen, Wednesdays were at the Embassy Music Hall, one night was at Barbarella or at Cairo, an Egyptian-themed club a few blocks over, or the Blue Room.

Most of those clubs are gone now, but this was my circle.  Except for a few cherished friends from the university, my entire social scene was based around where we could find good music.    If I had lived in Orlando one year ago today, it’s possible I would have been out, dancing.

I’m happy to see that one year later, Orlando is still strong, still loving, and still dancing.

That time my car got stolen.

I was telling Amelie recently about the time my car got stolen.

In the summer of 1998, I had been at UCF for about six months, and I was still driving a fairly new 1997 Honda Civic.  The ’97 Civic was my first new car ever.  All my previous cars were used, but I needed something super reliable to go to college because there was going to be a fair amount of driving back and forth from Orlando to South Florida.  (Kind of like now, actually.)

Not actually my car, but it basically looked like this.

The ’97 Civic hatchback was a deep metallic purple color, dubbed “Dark Amethyst Pearl” by Honda.  I was driving down to South Florida to attend the wedding of some friends.   A friend who was catching a ride with me back to South Florida had just returned my spare keys to me, for reasons I no longer recall.  Because we were driving back I tossed them in the glove compartment and forgot about them.

When we got back to South Florida, I dropped off my passenger and parked at my mother’s house in Boynton Beach.  I grabbed most of my stuff out of the car, but left a small bag containing a cigarette case full of clove cigarettes, some clothing including my 1994 Nine Inch Nails long-sleeved concert t-shirt (the one with “All the piggies all lined up” written down the sleeve.)  Also left in the hatch of the car was a bottle of mixed alcohol, called Mage’s Fire, which was supposed to be a wedding gift for my friends.

A quick word about Mage’s Fire-  it’s a mix drink that I learned about during my extremely-brief interaction with the Society For Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-enactment group.  Mage’s Fire is 25% vodka, 25% blue curacao, and 50% DeKuyper’s “Hot Damn” cinnamon schnapps.  Mage’s Fire is best aged at least six months because it blends together a bit more over time and becomes smoother.  It is sometimes referred to as the mouthwash of the gods.  People have a very polarized reaction to Mage’s Fire-  they either love it or hate it. I can’t stand the stuff, but I liked to mix it up and share it with people who enjoyed it.  But I digress.

I woke up the next day, to find that my car was not where I had left it.  This is a very disorienting thing, because normally cars don’t go wandering on their own after you park them.  I realized with a quiet dread that this was the one and only time I had ever left the car parked with keys inside.  I called the police, filed a report, and wondered what to do next.

After a little while, the police called-  my car had been found abandoned in a field, with the sprinklers on around it.  The people who stole it just took it for a joyride, and then left it there with the doors wide open.    I had to go to an impound lot and pay a fee to get back my car, which I felt was a huge injustice for someone who was the victim of a crime.

The aftermath was kind of anti-climactic.    There was dark greasy powder all over the center console and on the seats that I was never able to fully clean off.  The Mage’s Fire and smokes and good t-shirts were stolen from the back.  In their place, the joyriders had left a shiny silver club shirt and a dirty pair of overalls.  It seemed for all the world like my car had taken place in a hillbilly raver exchange program.  I wondered if they were thankful for the fancy moonshine and tobacco they found in the hatch. I also wonder if they would have stopped at petty theft if they hadn’t found keys in the glove compartment to start the engine. Damn it.

As I write this, nearly twenty-one years later, I honestly don’t remember whether or not they stole the stereo from the car.  Memory is a strange thing.

Have you ever had a car stolen?


There’s a bird that chirps all night long here, in varying tones like one of those car alarms from the 1990s. It’s infuriating and I hear it every night, whenever I try to sleep.  I hear it less in the daytime, so I’m assuming it’s a night bird.

I was so frustrated just now that I was moved to poetry.  Ahem:

My sleep is interrupted
by a songbird every night,
my sleep is interrupted,
by a songbird in street light,
my sleep is interrupted,
as he sings away the night,
my sleep is interrupted,
and I wish I had a good bow and arrow to shut that fucker up.

Thank you, and good night.

Star Wars Celebration Orlando

This past weekend, Amelie and I went to Orlando for Star Wars Celebration 2017.  Long-time readers of this blog will remember that back in the summer of 2013, I managed to attend Star Wars Celebration Europe, because it was in Germany and I was already there.  That was a fantastic convention, and much fun was had by me.

This time around, not so much.

Let’s start with opening the first full day of the convention, Thursday morning.   Amelie and I walked to the convention center a short while before the doors were supposed to open, and about an hour and a quarter before the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars Panel, which we were both very excited about.

When we got into line, it seemed to go almost the entire length of the front of the building.

Then we reached the corner, and it continued around the entire side of the building.  Then we reached the next corner, and it went the entire length of the *backside* of the building.   And then it looped back in the other direction.

The line for Celebration was literally one and a half times the circumference of the Orange County Convention Center.  Grand Admiral Thrawn was not amused.

11am came and went.  We were able to watch a few minutes of the panel on our phones because it was streamed, but it was hard to see in the glaring sun and when I tuned in, it was- yuck – Hayden Christensen.

Onward we schlepped.

After two and a half hours in the first line, we finally got indoors, where we were treated to yet another line.  The far end of this hall includes the nine metal detectors that were being used for everyone coming to the OCCC.

Reedpop, the showrunners for this convention, forgot to count their ticket sales.

Or the person responsible for logistics in their organization is just some sort of shrubbery with googly eyes glued on the front.

Somewhere around 12:30 in the afternoon, someone in charge realized that the people at the end of the line would not make it into the show floor before it closed that day, so they just started to let every one in all at once, security be damned.  The metal detectors were screaming like the proverbial lambs.

Then we got into- you guessed it-  ANOTHER FRELLING LINE to pick up our badges for the rest of the convention.

By 1:30 in the afternoon, after four hours in various lines, we were finally on the show floor.

Some of the neatest stuff we saw on this trip was in the first section on the first day… there was a custom BB-8 car…

…and a Mandalorian Veloster.

There were lots of great costumes, including this magnificent Luke-a-like.

Partway across the floor was a big droid racing set-up, including this maze for Spheero BB-8s.

As with the other Celebration, there were giant models of things from the movies in various places.

One of the highlights of the day was Amelie getting hugged by (a) Chewie.

I call this photo “Han shot first.”

There were big presences by Disney, Hasbro, Funko, and, of course, Lego.

The new properties were represented by the Droid Builders, too… someone made a Chopper from Rebels!

There were quite a few BB-8s rolling around, too.  It’s kind of amazing how far the technology has come.  This little guy was rolling around, being chased by kids the entire time.

Ultimately, almost everything on my camera is from that first day.  The second day, we weren’t able to get wristbands for the Last Jedi panel because people camped out the night before and, you guessed it, the lines weren’t managed very well.

This was the worst convention I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been to a lot of conventions.  We didn’t manage to make it to a single high profile panel, because their bizarre wristbanding method means you have to be on hand at 6am (or earlier) or you get nothing.  Other conventions I’ve attended allow you to simply line up a few hours early, or to pay a little extra for high demand shows.  If you miss the line, you miss the panel.  That would have been preferable to this nonsense though-  at least we would have had a chance to see things.

I appreciate that Disney didn’t want to charge people more for the high profile panels than their original (very expensive) show tickets, but this was just shenanigans all around.    At the Celebration in Europe in 2013, there were loads of panels that were interesting to me.  At this Celebration, at the height of Star Wars being super energized again, there were only a handful of panels that were even marginally interesting, and we couldn’t get anywhere near the really important ones.

At the end of Star Wars Celebration, all we left with was our con crud. (I’ll take “Sinus infections and Antibiotics” for a thousand, Alex.)

At least this guy had his Dianoga.

What’s the worst convention you’ve ever attended?  Or the best?