Archive for June, 2012

Livin’ it Up when I’m Goin’ Down: a Dream Ride on the Wonkavator

“If you had to be trapped in an elevator with anyone, living or dead, real or fictional, who would that person be, and why?”
For the past several semesters, I’ve begun every class I taught with this ice-breaker question. I do this for two reasons. Reason #1: the elevator has to be, without a doubt, the single most socially awkward small space in existence. In the same way that we feel socially obligated to wish people a “good morning” regardless of whether or not the morning is, in fact, “good,” we also feel that the rules of social etiquette require that we converse with our elevator companions, even if said elevator companion looks like the Craigslist killer and desperately needs a lesson in the proper application of soap and water.

On the way to teach my first class of the semester several years ago, I found myself—guess where?—in an elevator, panicking over the last-minute realization that I had no ice-breaker activity. Thus was inspired the above question, which has yielded responses from students ranging from their favorite celebrities or sports players to Luke Skywalker, because, according to the student in question, “He could just use the force to get us out.”

Reason #2 speaks to my twisted sense of logic; in a flash of alleged brilliance, I thought that being entertained by others’ fantasies about how they would spend their time trapped in an elevator might aid me in overcoming my own fear of being trapped in one. Over the years, I have been the victim of a recurring nightmare involving some elevator-entrapment scenario: I’m trapped in an elevator alone; I’m trapped in an elevator with a friend; I’m trapped in an elevator with Kevin Spacy in his role as the serial killer in “Seven”. Most frequent, however, is the scenario in which I’m trapped in an elevator that floats in midair and turns cartwheels—a kind of Wonkavator on crack…or an example of what would happen to the Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios if left to its own devices.

After the most recent occurrence of the dream several weeks ago, I decided to conduct some extensive research on the subject. Approximately fifteen minutes spent on Google revealed the following from Suite101.com (and note, the falling and sideways-moving elevator scenarios are the closest to my recurring wacky Wonkavator nightmare): “Falling elevators might represent feelings of helplessness or inadequacy. If you dream that you are in a falling elevator, you could be dealing with something in your personal life that you feel is getting out of control…The good news is that if the falling elevator does represent something you’re losing control of, admitting it to yourself is the first step in the right direction.” Well, thank you, Suite101, for confirming that my life is out-of-control, because my high blood pressure and the empty vodka bottles are obviously an insufficient indicator.

On the subject of the sideways-moving elevator, Suite101 has the following nugget of wisdom: “This motion is neither forward nor backward; therefore, you are not moving anywhere.” Again, apparently the empty vodka bottles are an insufficient indicator of the lack of any positive forward movement in my life, so my subconscious feels the need to send me nightly bulletins. ON the upside (pun entirely intended), “one theory about lateral movement is that any movement at all is good movement; therefore if you are moving sideways on an elevator, you are making some kind of progress.”
Well, that’s comforting. I’ll be sure to pull this pearl of positivity out of my pocket the next time I find myself eating nutella out of the jar and channeling the energy of every available brain cell into conjuring Mark Darcy from the realm of fiction to appear sitting comfortably beside me on my sofa while I watch “Bridget Jones’ Diary”.

Challenge: to the first person who can correctly identify the song lyrics from which I’ve taken part of the title of this post, I will blog about any topic of your choosing. (No Googling, because that would be cheating, and we all know that cheating is an offense punishable by a term of imprisonment that involves watching the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice” until you beg for mercy. You’ve been warned. And if you’re wondering how I intend to monitor your honesty, well…that’s my secret. Let’s just use the Honor System, and bear in mind that god is Watching…when he isn’t too busy inventing new ways to confuse Harold Camping).

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There Seems to be No Sign of Inteligent Life Anywhere: on Mozilla and Morons

Do you remember the scene from Disney’s “Toy Story” in which Buzz, after an assessment of the environment in which he has apparently landed (AKA Andy’s room), concludes, “There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere.”?
This about sums up my reaction to a recent attempt to troubleshoot a technical problem I was having with my web browser.

Several months ago, I encountered a problem with Firefox in which my menu and tool bars mysteriously decided to disappear. Needless to say, I was not amused, and the situation was compounded by the fact that, being unable to see the screen, I couldn’t determine what specifically had changed, because I was certain that I hadn’t, at least intentionally, altered any settings. (Every now and then, being blind has its drawbacks, but you just gotta keep livin’, as they say).

It transpired that somehow, my screen had been minimized, and my screen reader (the text-to-speech software that enables me to use the computer) will only function properly if Firefox is operating in full-screen mode. A friend provided me with the correct key command (which was F-11, because you were dying to know) for restoring the screen to normal, and my internet-browsing returned to its regularly-scheduled smoothness.

This time, not surprisingly given my slow but relentless march toward aging, the problem arose when I couldn’t remember the ridiculously simple, one-keystroke command that my dog could probably have performed with his dewclaw. No amount of searching (aka approximately fifteen minutes spent on Google followed by another 20 executing random key combinations to no avail), so I tossed my problem into the black hole of tech troubles that is Twitter. After only a few minutes, someone affiliated with Mozilla responded and attempted (operative word) to troubleshoot the issue.

I subsequently walked away with two life-altering lessons with which I will now edify you, dear readers, because unsolicited advice is part of the package you get for subscribing to my blog.
1: a communication platform that limits you to 140 characters per message does not lend itself well to online troubleshooting. Well, duh, you say. *that’s* your advice? Well, I did say it was free of charge, and you get what you pay for.
2: Every time I think the universe has hit its stupid quota, I am proven wrong, and yes, I count myself among the allotted number of idiots given leave to wander the planet unsupervised. But I am a child of Einstein compared with the single-celled organism I was unfortunate enough to encounter. After specifically explaining my problem and emphasizing that I was a visually-impaired screen-reader user, the individual on the other end of cyberspace, apparently at the end of his rope, sent me the following tweet: “Do you want your screen to look like this?” the tweet was accompanied by…wait for it… a screenshot. OK, Einstein. Let me explain this to you slowly, in monosyllabic words. I…am…blind. I…can’t…see…that. Comprende?

I did eventually resolve the issue, sans stupid techie, but I don’t remember precisely how I managed it, because that was the point in the story where my brain exploded.

To borrow a phrase from Bill Engvall, here’s your sign.

Question: Have you ever had a ridiculously trivial tech troubleshooting problem?

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