Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bring On The Boiling Oil ...

Not the way I would personally have chosen to start a post, but there you go: have to take the brazen bull by the horns, grab the stinging nettle of opportunity, look on the bright side whilst going up pooh creek and any number of other befuddled metaphors, similes, and figures of speech.

So I rang our old friend Jacques this morning just to see how life was getting on up in St Jean de Maurienne, and he tactfully let me know that he's been diagnosed with bowel cancer of one form or another. No-one knows just what yet, or if they do they're not saying: upshot is that in ten days or so he meets with the surgeons and all, and they let him know whether it's worth opening him up again. (Really should have got a zipper put in when they extracted his prostate, I guess.)

I'm told that bowel cancer is highly survivable, although with a certain lack of dignity under some circumstances (I think I might actually prefer to be dead rather than wander about with a colostomy bag, but that's just me) so I'm hoping for the best: suppose that, like him, I'll just have to hurry up and wait.

Which doesn't make it any easier: over the years, as some of you know, Jacques has been a great friend and a surrogate father to us, and an uncle/grand-father to the kids. I was kind of hoping that he'd just go on forever. Not that I'm saying that he's actually going to stop doing so in the immediate future, just that Tim R. Mortiss is definitely conturbing me.

Anyway, I had to go up to Chambéry on Wednesday night to do a couple of days debuggering in Lyon, and the long-suffering Stacey kindly let me curl up at the foot of the sofa to sleep (there was even an old mat to sleep on - luxury!), so that was fine until Friday. There are some days you're really better off not getting out of bed. She was flying out to the States that day to spend a couple of weeks in California, so as I was going through to Lyon anyway offered to drop her off at the airport. Got through to Satolas no problems, dumped her off at the entrance to Terminal 2 and headed back to the autoroute to do the remaining 15 km or so ... which is where I ran into a traffic jam. It took me three hours to get to my destination, and the more mathematically-minded amongst you will have already worked out that this comes to about 5kph, which is not even a brisk trot for an arthritic Pekinese.

All this aggravation due to a lorry that had side-swiped a semi and then three other lorries driven by Poles high on speed piling into that little lot, which kind of blocked the road.

So instead of a whole day's productive work I managed about five hours (but either the problems were less recalcitrant that I'd guessed, or I'm that much more efficace than I thought, for it sufficed), and I guess you can imagine my delight when I came upon another accident on the drive back to Chambéry that evening. Still, that only tacked twenty minutes onto the trip time, nothing really.

Maybe it was because of all that, maybe from some other cause, but a fit of madness took me, also I was bereft of my senses, and for reasons still unclear to me downloaded the free update to Windows 8.1. I most emphatically did NOT install it, but when I woke up in the morning and went to check the progress of the 3.8Gb download found that it had not only finished, but had also decided to install itself. With no apparent option to cancel at any point, but maybe I slept through that.

So it trundles about its business and asks a few stupid questions and then apparently decides it needs to create a Microsoft account at, will not let me skip this step, insists on a strong password and, to add insult to injury, won't do it until I hook up the wired network, the Wifi apparently being insufficient. Oh well, another useless online account to which I shall soon forget the password ... it then cheerfully tells me it's finished - just as well as I have a train to catch - and returns me to my desktop. Down goes the lid, and I'm off.

Next thing, on the TGV from Lyon to Montpellier (more about that later), I decide to unship the PC, for diverse reasons, but mostly to vent my spleen. An error, because I'm sure that no-one else on the train really wanted to learn some of the words I used. I type in my password, which is refused: being stubborn, or stupid, or half-blind or all three I try again and again until I finally notice the text that pops up to tell me that the computer is off-line and would I please type in the last password used on it?

Which, it turns out, is not, as I thought (but what would I know?) good old ********, but the new strong password that I created for their goddamn crap online cloudy account. No doubt so that I can log on to their totally unwanted SkyDrive service, the offer of which I have already turned down. It is also at this point that I discover that for some reason the PC no longer boots up with NumLock on, and I then recall that there is no NumLock indicator to be seen. (There are four or five pinpoint blue LEDs along the front of the machine: I've never taken the trouble to find out what they're for but I can say unequivocally that none of them are for useful things such as Num or Caps lock status. One lights up when I turn the machine on, which is kind of pointless because the power button does the same. Go figure.)

Type in my new password, which I can see - for reasons that will become obvious later in the song - that I shall have to learn, to be greeted by a new Welcome screen: for reasons best known to the fairies of Redmond the old wallpapers have disappeared, leaving me with a choice between tasteless and gross. I mean, I actually rather liked the nautilus cross-section I'd selected before. That's why I picked it, you see. Anyway, first thing to do is to clean up some of the crap that I'd got rid of before but has apparently been reinstalled, so it's off to that hateful home page with it's goddamned-to-hell "Live Tiles" (™, probably) to remove things.

Where, as Windows insists on showing me all its new tricks - which it does in a very subtle manner, by plonking up a huge smarmy self-congratulatory notice (did they learn nothing from that stupid paper-clip debâcle?) which you can't get rid of without doing what it says, which is shift the cursor there and then click on it, in the bottom-left, top-left, and top-right corners of the screen - I get sufficiently infuriated to right-click on the Desktop tile (the only one that's any bloody use) and then press Enter, which is not a good idea because it seems that doing so deletes it and so I am obliged to use shortcut keys to get back to there.

Whatever, when I get back in reach of a network I shall google how to put it back (for there is no contextual help that I can find anywhere on that screen: Microsoft apparently felt that while you need to be held by the hand and forced to learn the neat things you can do with the mouse, things like restoring or adding tiles is just so self-evident it would be pointless to explain) but right now I would like to change my password.

Stiff out of luck there too. I find the control panel, User Accounts, and click on "Change my password" - "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that. You don't seem to be online". You are trying to tell me that I can't change my fricking password if I'm not connected to thar intartoobz? What is the rationale for this? Which cretin came up with that particularly brilliant idea? And whose fscking machine is it, anyway? I am getting really, really pissed off at this idiocy.

My mood is not helped because I discovered all these things by giving up on that Samsung crapware that is the phone's memo pad to take notes when it started inserting words at apparently random places in my text, and deleting others that it perhaps felt to be superfluous. And I am doing this on a TGV which is not only packed with small children all being sent off to see their bewhiskered old grannies (for it is the first day of the Toussaint school holidays, and elderly ladies must be put to useful service) but also running 25 minutes late, which means that I am going to miss my correspondance at Montpellier and so shall have to take a later train to Narbonne.

On the bright side, the enforced wait did give me time to appreciate the friezes and embellishments on the façades of some of the nineteenth century buildings about the Montpellier Saint-Roch train station, like the marvelous one depicting a chubby half-naked lady with big boobs and (it must have been rather chilly) pointy nipples bottle-feeding a satyr. From a jug.

Later that night ... the Great Google is indeed your friend, and I have recovered my desktop access, set the damn thing up to boot straight onto the desktop, and reestablished my local account. Why does this have to be so bloody well-hidden? Never mind, it's done.

Finally, a word of warning. As I took Shaun for his big trot this morning I could not help but notice a small sign taped up in the window of the local doctor's rooms: "Pendant la période des vendanges, pas de consultations". If you know what's good for you, do not fall sick at this time of year, as the quack will be way too busy with his wine-making to pay any attention to your little problems.

I'm not that stupid. My password isn't really ********, it's actually *********. So good luck with that one.


  1. You are trying to tell me that I can't change my fricking password if I'm not connected to thar intartoobz?

    How else are Windows going to learn what it is?

  2. Sorry to hear about Jacques - must be a real worry for him, family, & friends. On the up-side - Jackie Sayers had the same dx, had the op, the bag, the 2nd op to remove the bag & join up the tubing, & continues to live life to the full. (She much preferred the minor indignities of the bag to dying. I think I would too.)

  3. And I should have said - give Jacques a big hug from me!