I think good novelists have the ability to make interesting observations about the little details of life. You know, stuff like, “As she sipped her tea the light reflected through the glass vase made the flower stalks look like submerged trees and she wondered what it would like to walk underwater through a drowned forest.” That sort of pretentious stuff. I’m going to write the Great American Novel and make buckets of money and then make even more money when it’s optioned for a movie that I will have to consult on and be flown to exotic locations and hob knob with the stars that play my characters. Or not.
I helped my Dad get set up with a new computer the other day. Well actually it’s a “Chromebook.” His old desktop PC died and when we evaluated what he wanted to be able to do with a new computer we realized that all he needed was a way to send a few emails and surf the web. So a Chromebook made sense for him. I knew it couldn’t be any worse than his old computer that was Windows based. The Windows operating system is the worst person-made creation in the history of humanity and most of the people I know who use it still don’t have a clue how to do stuff. The Apple operating system that was introduced with the Macintosh in 1984 has always been light years ahead of Windows, but someone gave my Dad a Windows machine and he’s been computer impaired ever since.
A Chromebook is basically just an internet machine. It opens into the Chrome browser from Google on the web, and that’s all it does. It has no hard drive, no real operating system, no software loaded on a desktop. You have to do everything on the web. It has USB ports to back stuff up but the idea is you just use the internet for everything and save your stuff on the web. For many people this is all they need and since it was only $300, it’s kind of a cool concept.
The challenge with the Chromebook is that you must have wireless internet. Dad, of course, didn’t have wireless set up in his apartment so I dropped in with a wireless router to see if I could get it working. When he purchased the Chromebook we brought it back to our place for a few days so that Michelle could play with it and get acquainted with it since she would be taking on the main ‘tech support’ role. I’m in the garden full time this time of year. I have set up a number of wireless routers but the last one was years ago and of course I couldn’t remember what was required. When I got it out of the box it turned out that it came with one of those really small CDs that my laptop wouldn’t accept. So I was faced with the challenge of setting up a router that will connect to the DSL internet modem and to my laptop, but with no Install disc.
So I called Robert, the world’s greatest tech support person at Altair Electronics in Kingston. I had purchased the router from them and he was able to walk me through the installation. We somehow were able to get my computer onto the internet via the modem and use some backdoor install to recognize the router, blah blah blah… it’s all a daze right now and frankly I’m just not sure I could do it again tomorrow. Technology can be terrifying some days.
Once I got the router installed and got the Chromebook working I went on to my next task, the real task of the day, which was to set up Apple TV. Dad has wanted Netflix for a while so we decided the $100 Apple TV box was the way to go. Again it needs a wireless router so this was all part of the deal. Michelle and I had been using Netflix by just hooking Michelle’s laptop into our TV but we couldn’t use the speakers in the TV so had to use external ones and it was a huge hassle. Apple TV does it all automatically linking into the internet through your wireless router and basically turning your television into a Smart TV. And we noticed it was faster and the resolution was much better.
So I got the Apple TV hooked up at Dad’s apartment and he seemed pretty pleased. There have been some hiccups in the time since he got hooked up but that is to be expected. He is 80 so I give him lots of credit for wanting to use the internet at all. Unfortunately there were some glitches from his internet provider that caused some frustrations with his system, especially with Netflix. The problems were intermittent and hard to troubleshoot. But they seem to have been cleared up and he seems happy with the service now.
As I was leaving his apartment that day, I cleaned out his Blue Box of old newspapers to read, and then he handed me some cookies wrapped in a paper towel. This was my “interesting observation for a novel” moment. It was such an “un-Dad” sort of thing to do. My mom’s been dead for more than a decade now but this is something I would have expected from her. I also had an aunt who would give us stuff on our way out the door after our visit. Things like old ham sandwiches or stale donuts. One time she gave our daughters a plastic candy cane that was half-filled with Smarties. When we took a closer look we realized that the Smarties were all faded like they’d been left in the sun since last Christmas, or the year before.
But a cookie from my Dad was an odd, charming sort of thing. Real men don’t give other real men cookies, right? They give them silver dollars, or sports tickets, or $20 bills, or six packs of beer, or shotgun shells. Cookies? Really? I work for cookies now?
It turned out that the cookies were quite good. I presume Dad had bought one of those big plastic tubs of oatmeal raisin cookies that could feed a family of 7 and he lives alone, so this was a great way to share them before they went stale. And I’m down with that. They were actually really good cookies and they were all that I had for lunch that day as I drove home.
Cookies from my Dad for setting up his wireless router and Chromebook and Apple TV. Life just gets stranger and more surprising the older I get.