The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Archive for July, 2008

Religious Rant of the Day 7/31/08

Rowan Williams, the great white hope of the Anglican Communion (meaning he’s the Archbishop of Canterbury), is, according to a BBC twitter, going to be heading a committee that will look at forbidding same-sex relationships, retroactively forbidding OUT gay bishops (the closeted ones can stay), and doing so in a “let’s-make-a-deal” way with the African bishops who have been holding the Anglican communion hostage to their conservatism and lack of education.

Why is it a third-world person can be priested with six weeks of bootcamp while first-world people have to get a friggin’ master’s degree? Just another reason I’m no longer an Anglican.

Read all about it here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7509125.stm

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Apple Goes Microsoft

I’m quite familiar with Microsoft’s rush-to-market philosophy. I had long suspected that they threw software, especially operating systems, at the public. After we plunked down the dollars, we got to do their beta testing on our nickel. After Windows XP brought down everything in the house, I vowed never to buy another Windows machine. When we were Peru a couple years ago, this was confirmed by a Microsoft engineer sitting across from me on the train to Machu Pichu.

I went back to the dark side and bought another Apple. My MacBook worked just fine. It came with whatever came before Leopard (Panther? Tiger? Pussycat? Some feline thing anyway.) But, I finally outgrew it. Or rather my business did. Besides, laptops are meant to roam free and mine did not like being stuck in a hole in my desk, running a large screen monitor (can you say presbyopia?) and a Microsoft keyboard/mouse setup. Have to admit, I don’t like Apple keyboards and mice.

Last week, after a scary moment when my laptop announced it would no longer charge, I took the plunge and bought another Mac. This time, a Mac mini because I didn’t need any peripherals. (BTW, my laptop problem was solved by a late night trip to Cold Stone. I don’t think Apple support will mention that, though),

So I hooked it up, got my laptop sharing files with it, went back to work. All was good. Except, did I mention I got a free iPod touch with it? Having ties to education gets you cool deals this time of year. Being an iPod junkie (teenager in a middle-aged body, need I say more) I hooked it up. Worked fine for a few days, then iTunes started crashing. Shortly thereafter, the Touch started freezing and showing the Apple screen, Apple’s equivalent of Microsoft’s blue-screen-of-death.

Then, to make matters worse, my WORK files disappeared. No problem. I’ve had good luck with Apple support up there in Seattle. But I got India. Now that’s a whole other story, my feelings about outsourcing and living wages for Americans, and all that. I won’t go there. Right now, anyway. So, I’m talking to India, to someone who keeps giving me the “please hold for two minutes while I check on something” routine which is a large East Indian word for “I have no idea what you are talking about. Let me call Seattle.” Her troubleshooting skills were next to nil and I know because I used to do troubleshooting. I gave her all the information she would have needed to solve the problem but SHE KNOWS NOTHING. But she does make a living wage by India standards although she is paid crap by our standards.

Eventually she makes me an appointment with the Genius Bar at a local mall. I say local only in the sense that it’s on the same side of the continent. We live in BFE. (If you have to ask, you don’t want to know.) The nearest mall is an hour away. Thank God/dess. That’s part of the reason we live in BFE, to get away from things like malls.

So I jump in the van, being the only freaking car available although I’m reasonably sure the Prius is parked at the carpool pickup site but that’s at ANOTHER mall that does not have an Apple store and is in the other direction. I waste most of velocaraptor driving to the mall, can’t find parking, and then have to walk about a mile to the store which is in the very bowels of Washington Square, my least favorite mall on earth and I hate ALL malls.

The Genius takes one look at my Mac mini and solves the problem immediately. So far so good. Then I drag out the iPod Touch. He takes one look at it and says, “Well, the software 2.0 is for the iPhone and this is an iTouch. It doesn’t really work well with the iTouch. But there will be a new release soon.”  So I start with the questions: Why did you release software for the iTouch that doesn’t work with the iTouch? Why, if I bought my iTouch last week, did I have to pay $10 for the software, which doesn’t work, and was released before I bought the iTouch? Why does iTunes keep crashing? Are you guys being taken over by Microsoft?

The guy gave me bogus answers along the lines of well, it would work if you had the new release (which I loaded on last night, BEFORE I went to Apple). And, well, let me make it work for you. He got it to work, it took an hour to restore and sync, and was frozen again by the time I left the store.

The only good news is that my work files are safe, and I’ll get the book done on schedule. However, I bought a new external hard drive to use with Apple’s Time Machine feature, and it is currently spending several hours backing up. Since I REALLY don’t want to mess with anything that might remotely lose those dang files (which hopefully are now on both computers AND the external drive AND iDisk (which is another whole story in the Apple Goes Microsoft saga), I am not going to play with those files until Time Machine finishes its job in, oh, about 3 more hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple products. For the most part, they are stable, they are stable, they are stable and they NEVER give you the blue-screen-of-death. But I think the whole iPhone thing has their greedy little fingers twitching and they rushed to market without making the software compatible with the iTouch (although their website says it is). In fact, the iTouch is supposed to be just the iPhone lite (as in no phone but everything else). (Don’t get me started on why they made an exclusive deal with the WORST cell phone company on earth. Wait, I take that back. Nextel/Sprint is worse.) I will not get an iPhone until T-mobile gets them.

Oh, and support? Worst dang online support ever. Apple doesn’t want to admit to REAL problems. So if you look up, oh say, “ipod touch freezes at apple screen” you get a bunch of crap about how to fix other problems but no mention that it EVER freezes at the apple screen. And just try to find how to reboot or restore your ipod. No documents come with them. In fact, no documents come with Apple products at all, and finding things in the help files is ridiculous. Thank God/dess for Google and all the Mac and iPod forums out there.

Rant off.

Things you should know…..About Islam

Not that I’m an expert but my current research is on Islam. Why? Because I’m writing another book, why not? So, for this book, I need to know all I can about Western Monotheism. Being an idiot savant in Judeo-Christian tradition, I’m all too aware of my weaknesses in Islam.

First: If you want to read a fabulous book set in Islamic Pakistan, read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It is one of the (so-far) two books on my books-everyone-should-read-to- be-a-compassionate-and-informed-human-being list.

Now some facts:

Islam means submission to God. Basically this is the same message given by Moses and Jesus. I dated a Muslim years ago and was told that God sent Moses and folks didn’t listen. Then God sent Jesus and not only did people not listen, they put him on a pedestal and worshipped him. I have opinions about this but that’s for later. Finally, God sent Muhammed and said get it right this time.

Islam is not about terrorism or jihad. Nor does jihad mean what you think it does. Assuming you are not my Muslim friend Mike. He DOES know what jihad really means. Yes, a real live Caucasian American Muslim convert. I even eat with him! Live with it. Chances are Islam is growing faster in your neighborhood than your religion is. It’s one of the fastest growing religions in America and with good cause. It’s a good religion.

Madras means school. Unfortunately, while we’ve been bombing the hell out of innocent people, folks like the Taliban are building madrassas to indoctrinate kids into a perverted version of Islam. Think of school run by the likes of Jerry Falwell, or Rush Limbaugh, or George W. Bush. A TRUE madras is a place where everyone is taught all the best that there is to know…sort of like a good university except it takes little kids too. Madras is not a bad thing anymore than PS 12 is a bad thing. But extremist madrassas are very bad things just like Christian extremist schools. Oh yeah, the Qur’an REQUIRES the education of girls.

Allah means God. So does Dieu (that’s French, the only foreign language I’m actually conversant in). Guess what Christians and Jews in Arabic-speaking countries call God. Allah. Same God.

Like women in Judaism before Jesus and Paul, women in pre-Islamic centuries were devalued and mistreated. Jesus, Paul (yeah, I know, another subject some other time), and Muhammed all taught equality for women. If you don’t believe me, do your homework in Scripture and history. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be in the status quo don’t give up easily. So, a perversion of Islam has been perpetuated and AMERICANS, being basically illiterate and lazy, believe whatever Fox News tells us to believe.

Read the Qur’an. Now, it’s not the easiest reading, but it is amazing. (And you can download it free for your iPhone or iPod Touch).

I will be posting other facts about Islam as I go along, and will recommend some books for you to check out. Check your prejudices at the door, please, and open those minds.

BTW, the book is a mystery and that’s all I’m going to say. Well, it has lesbians in it, too. If you want an advance read, you have to be in my writer’s group. Not even the Adored Jenny gets to read it until it’s done.

Why I Don't Like Dogs….But Love Aliens

Dogs sniff my crotch. They jump on me. They slobber, drool, have horrible breath, and otherwise annoy me.

Enter the alien lifeforms. In this case, one Gwyneth, a half-Springer Spaniel, half-Jack Russell. (How ironic is it that my last name, during my married-to-a-guy years, was Russell?) The Beloved Jenny was itching for a pooch. She actually started itching years ago but our lives were just too complicated. Then we moved to the country, the Divine Miss M graduated, and Jenny started to drool. For a dog. She spent hours on Craigslist, rescue sites, breed sites, humane society sites. She sent me dozens of links everyday (doesn’t she actually have to work at that DHS mothership?) and basically convinced me a dog would be a good thing.

Friday, she dragged me to two different Humane Societies. Possible because Portland is just a bridge away from Vancouver, WA. And there she was: Henna. Yep, Jenny, on the perennial Welsh kick, changed the poor thing’s name. Which I can never remember so I call her Puppers or Gimpers. I can get away with it because I’m disabled too. Of course a brain injury and a torn ACL are probably not really in the same class but, hey, I can limp if I think about it.

Yep, we adopted a disabled dog and will spend roughly $3000 to have her leg fixed. Why? Well, she fell in love with me and anything that does that has to be a) alien and b) worth bringing home to spend the night. That’s how I got Jenny after all…..

Sophie, the evil cat, is not impressed. But Puppers is so laid back she just sniffs the cat and walks away. Sophie hides, just to elicit sympathy from Jenny, because she knows damn well the dog is not going to do anything to her. Of course, Sophie still hates me. What else is new?

So I now am loved by a dog. I find myself talking baby dog talk although this dog is five years old. I go for walks. I have yet to clean up poop but, hey, we live in the country. Out here we call it compost. I throw things which she won’t chase. I make a stab at things like “sit”, “stay”, “down”, all of which I am very good at but the dog is more interested in the treats in my pocket. So, I still don’t like dogs. But I’m starting to love this one.

We have met the aliens and they are us. Apologies to Pogo.

A year ago this was bare ground and the neighbors wanted to keep it that way. A creek runs through it, taking a full one-third of the property during the summer and making the place a bog during the winter.

This year, it sports a jaunty cinnamon-red house, a delightful dog, and an unhappy, unfriendly, and basically annoying cat. And one huge sand-filter septic system.

They tried to stop us. They did. With pitchforks and torches, the neighbors approached, determined to drive the aliens away. They fenced the property so we couldn’t get on it. They went to hamlet-council meetings. But Clackamas County approved and approved and approved so here we are, on Beaver Creek. Some would say in Beaver Creek, and possibly, come winter, we might be.  But I went to the planning office twice, and our contractor went once, and we are not even in the five hundred year flood plain.  Only because the road, on the other side of the creek, is lower than we are. I’m not complaining.

Photos to follow.

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