2/4/06: Yum alas argh

Word count: 3881 | Since last entry: 502

Not much writing in the last three days, and here’s why.

Thursday night we attended a charity event, called Cooking for Kids, in which we were treated to an exceptional French meal along with a lecture and demonstration by the chef, Lisa Schroeder of Mother’s (one of Portland’s finest restaurants). Key insights included that when preparing meat for sauteeing one should season the meat, then flour it (rather than mixing the seasonings into the flour) and that you should use a smoking-hot pan to sear and quickly cook it. Browning onions and other ingredients for French onion soup should also be done at a high temperature, but watched carefully for a long time to achieve a deep dark brown without going all the way to black. And a homemade chocolate sauce can be fixed surprisingly quickly, resulting in amazing flavor. The dinner was also accompanied by several wines, with lecture on the wines by a local winemaker, but this was lost on me.

Friday I learned that my uncle Ben, who lives near Sacramento, had passed on. He was in his eighties and had been seriously ill for only a few weeks, but his health had been declining for some time and he decided not to prolong his life any more. My father (Ben’s younger brother) and all Ben’s children and grandchildren had visited with him in his last few weeks. He’ll be missed. The funeral will be a small family affair and I decided not to attend, but there will be a celebration of Ben’s life later this year and I hope to be able to make that.

Most of today was spent in Tech Support Hell, trying to get the newly-reconfigured music server to connect to my network. After fighting repeated system hangs caused by the no-name wireless networking card (which I now suspect may have been the cause of the server’s hard disk becoming corrupt), I went out and bought a new card from a reputable vendor. Which repeatedly hung on install, and once installed would not reliably connect to either the local network or the LAN even though it had excellent signal strength. Unfortunately, the card’s tech support (in Bangalore, from the sound of the tech’s voice) said the problem was with my wireless router, and the router’s tech support (also in Bangalore) blamed the card.

Much worse, though, the router’s tech tried to convince me that if I just turned off my firewall and MAC authentication my problem would be solved. Yeah, right. I’m seeing anything from 20% to 100% packet loss on a ping, meaning that some packets are getting through, and it’s my firewall that’s to blame? I did turn off the Windows XP firewall, which didn’t help as I knew it wouldn’t, and the tech insisted I must have another firewall installed… even though I just reformatted the hard disk and installed all software from scratch in the last two days, and even though the behavior I observed (some, but not all, packets getting through) could not be explained by a misconfigured firewall. The proposed solution would not only not have fixed my problem, it would have left my network completely open. I was most intensely annoyed when I hung up.

I’m pretty sure that the problem is, indeed, in the router. The card vendor’s web site indicates that this problem can be addressed by lowering the router’s RTS threshold, which fits the symptoms, but my router doesn’t provide any way to change this setting. Unfortunately, my router is also my DSL modem and is the only one my DSL provider supports. I could try turning off the router’s wireless features and instead getting a separate wireless access point that will work with the wireless card, but I’m inclined to try yet another wireless card first, in hopes it will be compatible with the existing router.

This shouldn’t be so hard.

Apart from that, I went square dancing (for the first time in months!), had a nice dinner at Buster’s BBQ with some of the guys from the dance, and wrote about 100 words per night. I’ve finally moved past the initial scene that was causing me so much trouble (very hard to get all the information in without feeling infodumpy, especially given that none of the other characters want my first-person viewpoint character to find out what’s really going on) but I haven’t yet gotten past what I drafted in the initial burst, before I realized I had no idea where the story was going. I hope to pass that point tomorrow… unless I spend tomorrow talking to Bangalore again.

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