Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Software Renewal: A play in one act

Welcome to Adequate Piece Theater's presentation of "Software Renewal: A play in one act".  Tonight's presentation is brought to you by Houraway.  Houraway: When you don't want to lose an hour of your life you didn't know you would spend on a seemingly simple task.

Tonight's play features a small cast of characters whose rapidly falling careers will be little noted and oft-forgotten.  We have a protagonist...we'll call her..."Me."  The antagonist here is played by several characters, most notably "Renewal Specialist."  Please enjoy tonight's offering of "Software Renewal."

(Electronically-produced, low-budget brass fanfare)

[Stage direction: Protagonist "Me" is seen walking into a store with bright neon signs flashing statements like, "YOU ARE NO LONGER PROTECTED IF WEB BROWSING WITHOUT OUR PRODUCT," and "DOWNLOADS IN ONE MINUTE OR LESS." She is carrying a laptop and looks harried.]
Renewal Specialist: Hello!  How are you today?  What can we do for you?
Me: Hi.  I'd like to -
Second Renewal Specialist: Excuse me - are you protected?  You don't look -
Renewal Specialist: Excuse ME!  I was talking to this nice customer.  Could you please let me -
Second Specialist: But I just wondered
Me: HEY!  PLEASE!  I'd just like to renew my internet security software.
Stunned silence as Specialists stare at each other
Renewal Specialist: Uh...oh!  Sorry!  You said you want to renew your security software?  Wonderful!  Well, you've come to the right place.  First of all, though - do you give us permission to renew your software and make any needed modifications to your computer?
Me: Yes, of course, as long as it's not excessive.
Renewal Specialist, laughing: Excessive?  Of course not!  We will only modify what is absolutely necessary.

[Stage direction: Second Specialist goes in back.  Renewal Specialist takes laptop from Me, boots it up, and begins checking for old software.]

Renewal Specialist: Let's see here...oh, hey!  You have our old software.  Oh know this is out of date, right?  You are no longer protected.
Me [blinking in surprise]:  Uh, yeah...that's why I came in.  You sent me a coupon and a reminder, and now I'm here.
Renewal Specialist: Great.  OK.  Before we begin, which option would you like?  Option 1: We protect everything, back up your data, nuke any and all viruses within a 50 yard perimeter of your computer, and hide inappropriate web-browsing history from your boss for $$$.  Option 2: We protect your internet browsing when convenient, update virus definitions, and actually clean the virus off your computer after warning you and waiting for you to click buttons for $$.  Option 3: We update your virus definitions with six month old definitions, tell you there is a virus and you'll need to get it fixed, and offer an electronic selection of prayer cards for $.
Me: Prayer cards?  Oh...well, I'll take the option 2 for $$, but I have a coupon which brings it down to $.
Renewal Specialist: You have a coupon?  Umm...[Looks unhappy] Are you sure it's one of ours?  We don't usually offer coupons unless it's to returning customers.
Me [frowning and obviously concerned]: I thought we just covered that...I AM a returning customer.
Renewal Specialist: You are?  Oh, let me check.  [taps computer a few times]  Oh, hey!  You are a returning customer!  I'll bet we've got a coupon for you.
[Me sighs, waiting impatiently as Renewal Specialist searches around for coupon.  Me edges coupon closer to Specialist.]
Renewal Specialist: Here it is!  [Triumphantly holds up Me's coupon].  I knew we had one!  OK, so that will be $.  Although, if you renew for TWO years, it will only cost you half price for the second year.
Me [pausing to consider]: Yeah...OK, that sounds good!
Renewal Specialist: Oh, I'm sorry.  With the coupon you can only have one year.  OK!  That's great, let's get started.
Me [looking confused]: But I...
Renewal Specialist: You DO want me to get started, right?
Me: Uhhh...yes, please...

[Stage direction: Renewal Specialist begins process of updating with lots of mouse clicks, button pressing, followed by long pauses.  After almost two minute, Renewal Specialist turns to Me.]

Renewal Specialist: Do you give me permission to get started?
Me [Startled]: What?  Yes, of course.  Please begin -
[Suddenly the door bursts open with a crash, causing both Renewal Specialist and Me to jump.  An Employee from a Rival Product (EFARP) comes rushing in]
EFARP: WAIT!!  YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!  Ask me what it is and I'll tell you!!
Me [shaken and confused]: Wha?  Huh?  What are you talking about
EFARP [looking smug]: You don't have security software.  Do you plan on renewing it?  Because, if not, what I have is free, although it's notoriously unreliable, but you can't beat free!
Me: Well, um, thanks, that's nice, but I'd like to renew with the software I already have.
EFARP [looking surprised]: Really?  That's your choice...Oh, OK.  But if you change your mind I'm over here...

[Stage direction: Renewal Specialist looks at Me.  Me shrugs.  Renewal Specialist returns to process of clicking and pressing, then pauses.]

Renewal Specialist: You are sure you give me permission?
Me [Growing agitated]: YES!!  Would you PLEASE get started?
Renewal Specialist: Of course.  There's no need to get worked up.  Just standard stuff, you know.  OK, now I need to go to the back to get some things, and I'll be right back.
Me: OK, I'll wait.
Renewal Specialist: I'll be back in a jiffy!  You'll never know I'm gone.

[Stage Direction: Renewal Specialist goes through a door, leaving Me standing at the counter.  Canned electronic music plays in background.  Silence ensues, and the audience sees Me looking at her watch, starting to grow frustrated.  Suddenly the door opens, and Renewal Specialist comes back through, carrying a cup of coffee with glasses on his head.]

Renewal Specialist: Now where did I put my glasses...[Catches sight of Me and stops short.]  Oh!  Oh shoot!  I was in the middle of...Oh!  I'll be right back.
[Renewal Specialist sets down coffee, rushes through door, then rushes back to grab coffee, muttering things like, "I forgot what I was doing!  Shoot!"  Then rushes back out of door.  Returns a moment later, sets down coffee, then runs back through door, returning with handful of papers and disks].
Renewal Specialist: Ok, where was I...oh, that's right.  I need permission to -
Renewal Specialist, [with mild reproof]: OK, ok, just checking.  Let's see.  Um...OK, since this is a renewal, all I need to do is uninstall the old program, install the new one, and you'll be good to go!
Me: How long is this going to take?
Renewal Specialist [chuckling]: Well, aren't we in a hurry?  Fortunately for you, we specialize in speed!  We'll be done in a flash.
Me [huffing with annoyance]: Good!  This is getting old.  I'd appreciate some speed!
Renewal Specialist: No problem.  I'll just click this here...and type that...insert disk...Perfect!  OK!  We'll see you tomorrow!
Me [nonplussed]: Excuse me?  Tomorrow? you want me to bring the laptop back so you can check to make sure it all downloaded correctly?
Renewal Specialist [Laughing loudly]: Bring it back to check...HAHA!  No, no, we're closing!  We'll see you tomorrow when we reopen and you can have the laptop back then.  We should be done by then.
Me: WHAT?!?!

[Stage Direction: Security Guard comes from off-stage, stage left, and escorts a confused and angry Me off the stage.  The stage grows dark.  After a moment, the lights return.  We see Me stalking up to the door of the store, furious.  Renewal Specialist is web-surfing on laptop and playing game.  Renewal Specialist does not notice Me until she rings the bell.]

Renewal Specialist: What?  Oh!  Hey there!  Have you played this game, Annoyed Avian Struggle?  It's great.  See, these winged creatures are annoyed -
Me: They aren't the only ones!  Where's my laptop?
Renewal Specialist: And their porcine adversaries are - what?  Oh, laptop...right.  It's right here.  It just needs to finish loading, and then you are all set to take it.
Me: You said it would be done by the time you reopen!  Come on!!  Let's finish this already!!  Your sign says your downloads take less than a minute.
Renewal Specialist [With exaggerated patience]: Well, that's true, but it doesn't mean that ALL parts of it take less than a minute.  Just the end parts after the downloading...and there you go!  All set!

[Stage direction: Laptop beeps, and box pops up on screen.]

Me [Reading screen]: "Program is requesting permission to modify certain processes.  Do you want to give this program permission to access these processes?"  YES!  PLEASE!  YES!  FINISH THIS AND LET ME GO HOME!!!
Renewal Specialist [Alarm showing on face]:'s your laptop.  You just go on home and have a good day, now.  [under breath]  We always get the weirdos...

[Stage Direction: Me closes laptop, grabs it, and storms out of store.  She opens the door to find two more customers standing there.  Looking at Me in surprise and a bit of alarm, they take exaggerated steps back and allow Me to pass.  Fade to dark.]

March with us! March of Dimes

Every year, thousands of babies are born premature.  Some kids, like mine, come out raring to go!  Others spend time in the NICU.  Thanks to the March of Dimes, all babies have a much better fighting chance at life, no matter when they come!  And even if they don't make it, their parents at least have a chance to say goodbye.  Even if your baby wasn't in the NICU, just knowing the research and doctors funded by March of Dimes were standing by takes a little stress out of birthing.

I'm asking you to donate to the March of Dimes walk being hosted in Roswell, GA on April 27, 2013.  Whether you have $1 or $100, anything you give is helpful and wanted!  Please click the link below to help us out!  I'm participating with team Multiple Mayhem through my club, the North Fulton Mothers of Multiples.  March of Dimes has a special place in many of our hearts.  Multiples have a much greater chance at surviving birth thanks to this group!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Attack of the Hot Air Balloons!

It was a year ago this month, on a beautiful weekend like this, that my girls and I were having dinner on our back porch.  Daddy was on his annual pilgrimage to Bristol, TN, a land where children learn such songs as "The Wheels on the Nascar can't make right turns" or "Heads, I got slammed into the shoulder..."  The girls and I were on our own!  We had big plans alright!  Pizza on the newly-cleaned back porch, special dessert (yum - microwave brownies!), and an episode or two of VeggieTales!

As we're sitting outside, enjoying the evening breeze and dwindling sunlight, we hear a rushing sound.  Whoo-OOOSH!  Whoo-OOOSH!  It wasn't so much a loud sound as unknown.  The twins are momentarily paralyzed but then begin freaking out.  What strange creature could be coming our way?  Naturally it has only one thing on it's mind - twin-napping!  The girls start climbing my legs, overcome by the fear of meeting this unnatural apparition.  "Relax," I tell them, "It's just a balloon."  B'oon?  B'oon?  What b'oon makes THAT noise?  "I'll show you!"

A mile or so from our house there is a field by the Ingles where hot air balloons are launched.  Sure enough, we see one of these beasts floating up into the air, accompanied by the afore-mentioned terror-inspiring  sound of the hot air filling the brightly-colored silk of the balloon.  The twins are amazed!  But where is the string?  The girls start crying, thinking of the balloon sailing off into the great unknown, and no one there to rescue it.  With the help of big sister, I explain the concept of sailing balloons into the sky.  WOW! We return to dinner, mystery solved.

As we dine we continue to hear the rushing sound of the hot air.  "Mommy," says my eldest, "That sounds so close."  I agree.  We eat, when suddenly it dawns on me.  Whoo-OOOSH!  WHOO-OOOSH!  Hmm...that DOES sound close...I ask the girls to stay on the back porch and head out front.  Oh my...apparently it sounds close because the balloon is 20 - 30 feet off the ground, blundering it's way up our street.  Well, that's kind of cool...never seen it this close's lumbering bulk is slowly moving up our street...and then veering...STRAIGHT TOWARDS OUR HOUSE.  Of course this guy is going to turn, right?  I mean, seriously, it's not like he doesn't know there is a house there, right?  Uh...I mean, surely he sees my house...does he see my house?  Oh crap!  He can't miss it, can he?  It's the structure he's about to crash into.  He's now starting to drift up my incredibly short driveway, and I can hear frantic clicking noises.  It's surreal!  This balloon is drifting lower and lower...closer and closer...I mean, can you imagine trying to explain to YOUR insurance carrier that you have damage to your house because some guy hit it with a hot air balloon?!?  "That house came out of NOWHERE, Officer!"

"Hey!  What's going on?"  I yell,  "Are you going to go over my house?"  Do I get the girls out of the back porch.  Do I run for cover?  What the heck do I do?  Where is my husband?  House damage is definitely "man" territory.  My brain is transfixed by the slow-motion train wreck oozing towards me.  One of the people in the basket yells, "Do we jump out?  Why are we so close to that house?!?"  Oh...&#$%...that's not good.  The operator hollers back, "I'm going to try to fly over your house?"  What the?...Why not BETWEEN the houses?  Why not further up the street?  WHY MY ROOF?!?

Suddenly the burners kick in.  No more "whoosh."  Now it's the roar of a jet engine, and the balloon magically shoots into the air.  The operator shouts, "OH THANK GOD!"  You are telling ME?!?  My girls come screaming through the house like bansidhes, certain of imminent danger.  The balloon shoots up and over, barely clearing my roof.  If he was two feet to the left, I still would have lost my chimney.  I can see the people in the basket, relief written all over their faces.  My legs and brain unfreeze, and I shoo the girls back into the house.

It hits me that perhaps I should be documenting this electronically.  I run through the house, grabbing my phone as I go, and pop out of the back porch in time to see the balloon right over my backyard.  I didn't zoom or anything.  This is a picture of the balloon almost directly over my head.

Once again, the jet engines roar, and the menace shoots directly up into the air.  

The danger resolved, the balloon resumes it's peaceful journey into my neighbor's back yard.  "OK," the operator says, "Well, that was a little more eventful than normal..."  Ya think?

The wind continues to drift the roar of the balloon back to us.  We keep a wary eye on our foe, pizza in hand (what, like property damage is a reason to lose one's appetite?).  It bobs majestically out of sight.

As I took this picture it hit me that the balloon was now back over the why the close call over my roof I couldn't say.  For weeks the twins had nightmares of roaring, bulbous monsters attempting to eat them.

We went back inside to get dessert.  The front door was open, sunlight pouring through the glass door.  The twins cuddle on the couch, shaken.  C wanders the family room aimlessly.  Suddenly she streaks to the glass door and starts screaming, "IT'S GONNA CRASH!!!!"  I drop the brownie pan on my foot, batter everywhere, and promptly begin uttering a series of unmentionable obscenities.  Towel and phone in hand, I hop to the door to be greeted by this sight:

A different balloon was floating through the other neighborhood, WELL above the tree tops, although it was hard for C to know that, given our recent encounter.

The night ended with no dessert, a lesson in distance and perspective, the doors and windows TIGHTLY locked, a hysterical call to a howling Daddy (no, I didn't have enough time to change the locks before he came home, wisely bearing flowers), and all three girls super-glued to mommy on the couch attempting to watch VeggieTales...

About a week ago, we saw this in the field:

Gazing thoughtfully at the scene, my eldest muses, "Wouldn't it be cool if they flew over OUR house?  I bet, if we stood on the roof, we could almost touch them..."

You have no idea, kid...