Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not quite the Four Seasons hotel

I in Santa Rosa for a quick vaccination and because of my bus schedule, I have stay the night. I had thought that for a one night trip, I might be able to go without my duffel bag and might squeeze one change of clothes into my L.L. Bean school-sized backpack. (If I were going to buy supplies/pack for Peace Corps again, I would bring a decently large backpack that would hold 3-5 days' worth of clothes.)

Anyway, I get a text from Cathie that says that some people might get together and play soccer tonight (we're not, as it happens) and then I realize that while it is 55 degrees Fahrenheit in San Manuel, it could be closer to 80 in Santa Rosa, and who knows what in Gracias. So I bring a big sweatshirt and all that, and then other clothes in case I get nasty and sweaty playing soccer or jogging or whatever we have.

So even if I did think I was absolutely crazy in packing a knit wool sweater back in June 2006, I have used it, and it's necessary in the dangerously quixotic weather of the mountains of western Honduras. Any time you go anywhere, I feel like I need to pack for all four seasons, or at least three and a half (crazy though the meteorological phenomena here, snow and ice are truly rare). And that makes packing light kind of tricky/impossible.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Computer crisis over, resume normal activities

So I took my computer to the IBM office here in Tegucigalpa and they told me that
  1. I had simply replaced my memory chips slightly off-center, so that was the cause of that problem, and
  2. that the thing that controls my USB functionality is totally burnt out and it would cost $600 to replace. Having priced new laptops yesterday and finding eminently suitable alternatives from Lenovo at $670, it was an easy decision to decline that option.
  3. They also wanted to replace my battery for only $260. That was another easy decision to decline.

I was kind of prepared to go into a song and dance about how they should not charge me some huge diagnostic fee (a smaller one would suffice) but then they said it was on the house, so that was awesome. I bought a PCMCIA USB adapter for Lps 595 and we're back in business. So hurrah!


Meta post

I'll try to have more substantive posts soon, rather than melodramatic narrations of computer problems which, while seemingly important to me, matter likely not to you and will not be of too much consequence to me in a year, much less five. (My usual standard about whether to get really bent out of shape about something is "Will I still care about this in five years?) Expect that material within the next month.

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Monday, October 22, 2007


My roommate emeritus Jeremy tells me that he has found a checking account with Capital One that pays 5% interest, as opposed to the 0.75% he was getting with Chase. He related to me the conversation he had with somebody at Chase, based presumably on the relative stability of Chase versus Capital One:

the guy at chase was like, "if you trust them" and I was, "I trust them the same reason I trust you, four letters, FDIC"

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If this is a test, I will pass, but it may be a low pass

So I'm in my house on Saturday night listening to music on my computer's iTunes when, bam, the sound stops. It's not a power outage, so I go and see what's what. After trying 3 or 4 different devices in the ports, it seems that my ThinkPad's USB ports (both of them) are out of commission. Everything else seems to work, so I don't get too worked up about it.

I had to come to Tegucigalpa (whence I write) for a meeting, so last night in my hotel I get out my Swiss Army knife's screwdriver and take different user-servicable parts apart in the interest of perhaps finding an easily-solved issue and rectifying it myself. I don't find any such option, so I stick the hard disk back in and reattach the keyboard, etc. Then I plug it in and press power and... nothing. The basic power light comes on but not the "CPU active" light or anything else. No spash screen. No error beeps.

I don't think my hard drive is broken and I have a backup as of Thursday night, so not all is lost. But this is frustrating, especially given IBM ThinkPads' alleged reputation as being "solidly built, dependable and innovative" and my similar computer drama of last year.

Watch this space.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Power struggles

Yesterday I went to the bank to do some transactions including paying my power bill, which you pay at a bank in Honduras, presumably because the mail system isn't reliable enough to send checks.

Anyway, I made the mistake of going to the branch in my local provincial capital, Gracias, which is notoriously incompetent. My site buddy Jack says they have been needlessly difficult with him and the last time I went there to update my savings account booklet, they printed the stuff all over the wrong place on the booklet.

So I go in to pay my power bill, which I haven't dealt with since February. Then, I told them to put Lps 1,000 on my house's account, and then when I got each monthly bill (usually between Lps 75 and 125) it would just deduct the requisite amount, leaving me with a diminished balance. This previous month, I used Lps 128 worth of power and my prepaid balance was Lps 75, and the receipt I got said I needed to pay Lps 53. Easy peasy, right?

Well, wrong. I went to the bank and told the guy I wanted to apply Lps 400 to my account, leaving me with a balance of Lps 347 or so (I'm omitting all the centavos here). Wrong. What he does is charges me Lps 400 from my account, applies 75 to my power bill and then gives me 325 in cash. I say, no, I want the 325 applied to my account, and then he says I now owe Lps 150, because somehow the system got screwed up and the amount that I had prepaid had been magically doubled and transformed into the amount I owe, even after having made the payment! This is unbelievable!

Then Jack, my gringo site buddy in San Manuel, calls and tells me that a big pylon had fallen over so we were going to be without power for who knows how long. I was sad/freaking out until he called back a few hours later to say that we had power, ta-da, so that was a true Ordinary Time Miracle.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Old school

After spending almost half an hour going through my email to mark all my Rice listserv emails as "read" even when I haven't read them, it occurs to me that perhaps, a year and a half after graduation, it is about time to get off of some, if not all, of them.

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I need to get out more

I stay in site for two and a half weeks and they go and give Al Gore the Nobel Peace Prize? (Fun fact: as I was typing that, my muscle memory kicked in and I was going to type "Peace Corps.") The House doesn't override the veto on the children's health insurance thing? Please, people, the next time something like this happens, at least send me a text message.

It's been an up and down couple of weeks. Something happens and I feel great and then something else happens and wipes out the good feeling.

In other news, I was going to get the bus today but I just couldn't countenance getting up at 5:15 a.m., so I hit the snooze and got up at the much more sane hour of 7:30. I had to wait for about an hour to get a ride, but it was definitely worth it. And what was I going to do in Gracias all that time, anyway?

Tomorrow I get my refrigerator, which will be good even if I have to pay up to Lps 500 (~$24) for gas. I'm going to Tegucigalpa for a meeting next Monday so I'll be on the road Sunday and perhaps most of next week.

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