Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Evening with Chris Bohjalian

Thursday night I got to go hear one of my favorite authors speak! :-) The event was held at the Jewish Community Center in Annandale.  Chris’s latest book is about the Holocaust and all of his tour stops on the current tour are Jewish centers.  He is not Jewish, and the book isn’t exactly a Jewish book per se, but it does bring to the forefront the horrible things that happened in Germany during that time. 

I knew where the Jewish Community Center was, they erect a large Menorah every year during Chanukah and I’d driven past many times, but I’d never been there.  I had no idea what parking would be like or how many people to expect, I figured it would be really crowded since he seems to be a very well known author. 

I arrived about an hour before he was scheduled to speak.    I was surprised to find that there were not throngs of people there.  It seemed like a normal week day evening at the community center. There was plenty of parking and it appeared that  most people were there to work out (they have a gym and a pool). I was worried that I’d gotten the night wrong or something. 

Turns out they were having a Jewish Book Festival.  In the lobby there was a book sale and there had been events every night that week.  Chris Bohjailan was the only author I’d ever heard of.  I browsed the book sale but didn’t see any other books that jumped out at me as must reads. 

I’d wandered the lobby for about 10 mins looking at the books and looking for an indication of where the author event was to be held.  There were no signs of where to go, so I asked at the front desk and was directed to the “Adult Lounge” – hmmm…didn’t sound like a very big room, was this going to be a small gathering? 

The room was a small meeting room and they had 4 rows of about 8 chairs each set up.  It didn’t appear that they were expecting a crowd.  There was one chair that had a jacket on it, but the rest were empty.  I picked a chair near the front and started to get really excited about having a more intimate conversation with the author!

Soon the lady who owned the jacket came in and for about 20 mins we were the only 2 in the room.  We had a nice time chatting – turns out she’s a published author, has written a book of poems about women in the Bible.  Then a few others straggled in.  We were all chatting about Chris’s books and which ones we’d read, which ones we liked, what we thought of Skeletons at the Feast, etc.  I didn’t know anyone’s name, but it was like we were all friends!  I might have been the only non-Jew in the room, it seemed that everyone else knew each other, but it didn’t matter.

Promptly at 7:30 Chris was introduced and he started off sharing with us the story of how he spent two weeks on tour wearing another man’s underwear because the hotel laundry lost his!  It was quite a tale and he had us all laughing!  He then moved into a more serious discussion of the events that lead up to his writing Skeletons at the Feast and the holocaust.  

When I read Skeletons I wasn’t sure about it.  I mostly didn’t like how at the beginning the main characters seemed oblivious to Hitler’s horrors and were even supporters of him.  The book was set in Prussia on the Eastern front of the war right at the end when the Russian attacked and tells the tale of the Prussian refugees as they fled to safety.  After hearing Chris tell about the process he went through to write it and hear his deep love of the book come through in his talk I have a much deeper appreciation of the book. 

After the talk they had book sales and signing.  I took my already signed copy of  Water Witches up to the table, because it was such a small group and I was sitting in the front I was 2nd in line!  When it was my turn I told him I had a funny story for him and proceeded to tell him the whole story.  I’m not sure he thought it was funny, he did ask where I’d purchased the book, I wondered if maybe book stores aren’t supposed to sell books already autographed.   He suggested that he’d personalize it for the library and at the time I told him no, it was my book so he personalized it to me.  Afterward I thought, “Duh!!!!  The library doesn’t have a copy of this book, if you’d let him sign it to the library you could have donated it after you’d read it”  I’m sure that’s what he’d meant.  What a great guy – you’d think he’d want everyone to buy his book so he can get the royalties!  Oh well, there might be a reason the library doesn’t have a copy of it!

While I was standing there I told him about how I’d read Before You Know Kindness and how it wasn’t my favorite and he said “it wasn’t my favorite either.”  :-)  Then I told him how right after I read it, I’d read Idyll Banter which is his compilation of newspaper columns, and it was obvious to me that he’d written many of those columns while he was writing Before You Know Kindness and hearing the back story, and the pieces of his real life that were embedded in the story helped me appreciate the story more he smiled and told me I was a very astute reader! :-) 

I told him how much I enjoyed meeting him and my time with him was done!   It was really neat to be in such a small group setting where I could really get to know the man behind the books!  He’s such a talented author, both of fiction and non-fiction! I can’t wait to read more of his blog (also on Goodreads) and his novels!

iTunes SUCCESS!!!

I have gotten around around the authorization issue!!!!! 

My wonderful computer geek uncle suggested that possibly the issue was with meta-tags that had been assigned by iTunes.  I know a tiny bit about about meta-tags from our digital frame experience last Christmas, basically that meta-tag is a four letter word!  If the meta-tags aren’t what you want them to be you will not be successful, and good luck trying to change them! He had suggested looking in properties to figure out how the songs were labeled in iTunes. 

In that process I noticed that the songs I had uploaded from CD had totally different properties than the songs I’d purchased from iTunes.

I realized then that if I went into my desktop computer (where the songs work) and burned the troublesome songs to a CD (like I’d put in an old fashioned CD player) then I could upload them back to my iTunes on the laptop and they’d have a whole new set of meta-tags and hopefully would work!

Ding! Ding! Ding!  We have a winner.  :-)

The only catch (of course there’s a catch, who said this process was going to get easier?) is that iTunes does not recgonize the song titles on the CD so when it uploads them it uploads them as “track 1, track 2, track 3” etc…  So once I get the CD uploaded I have to go in and manually change the title and add the artist to get the song to go where it needs to in my library.   Tedious, but easy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 2nd truck

When I was 12 my family and I moved from North Tarrytown, NY to Cincinnati, OH.  We had been told that all of our stuff would fit on one truck.  However, when the movers loaded the truck there was too much stuff and they needed an extra truck.  This extra truck was not a “inter-state” truck and the stuff that was loaded on it was taken to a warehouse until a truck with space on it came to Cincinnati.  

In the intervening weeks my parents and I spent a lot of time worrying about “the other truck” and frustration ensued. There was yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth with the moving company.  There was a lot of lost sleep.  The contents of “the other truck” suddenly became very valuable.  Everything that we couldn’t find must have been on “the other truck”. 

Then “the other truck” arrived.  It was filled with junk.  The only thing of any value on the truck was our brand new microwave, something which could have been easily re-purchased.   Some of the things that arrived on “the other truck” are still sitting in my parents garage, untouched for more than 20 years.  Yet, those useless items caused so much stress.

It’s exactly like my iTunes drama this week. 

Sunday when I started organizing my iTunes I discovered that a number of my songs wouldn’t play.  There was something broken.  I attempted to fix it and I couldn’t.  I became obsessed with fixing it.  I lost sleep 3 nights in a row trying to figure out the problem.  Last night I spent my whole evening on the phone and got nowhere. 

Last night the Apple Customer Service manager had done all he could and he promised to look into things this morning and asked me to email him when I got home, so I did.  We talked, and tried the exact same things we did yesterday,and guess what?  It didn’t work.  He said that the only option was to go to iTunes support, which was only available via email or chat, if it was chat time.  I’d have to type everything into an email and wait for an answer.  

Before I did that I  decided to go through my iTunes library and see exactly how many songs we are talking about here.  I had it estimated at a couple hundred.  I checked most songs, I’d just listened to every single song on Sun/Mon so I pretty much remembered the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. 

I have 70 songs that won’t play.  70.  Less than 100.  Some of the songs are Christmas songs that I’m pretty sure my dad has on CD, which means I can get them for free when I go to Williamsburg.  There are others that I don’t even listen to anymore and don’t really feel the need to own.  That leaves about 40 songs that I still want. 

For $50.00 I can fix the whole problem.  Getting a good night’s sleep and not staying up late trying to solve unsolvable problems is worth a lot more than $50.00 to me!

Also, all the songs currently work on my desktop.  If I put them in my iPod and only synch my iPod with my desktop I can listen to them. 

What was a big deal problem yesterday, is suddenly not a big deal problem tonight, I just needed to get all the facts about exactly what the problem was! 

Just like the 2nd truck – because it was the part that wasn’t working it became the object of the utmost importance, but in reality it wasn’t worth all the worrying we did over it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

iTunes Issues

I’m putting this out there because many of my readers are computer people and might have an idea to solve this problem. 

I installed iTunes on my new computer and used an external hard drive to move all my music from my desktop computer to the new computer (as opposed to ferrying it over on CD ROMS which is the only way to back up in iTunes)

A bunch (probably a hundred or so, I haven’t counted) of my songs won’t play on the new computer because “the computer is not authorized to play them”

The computer is in fact authorized and other iTunes store purchases play just fine.

When the “authorize” window pops up it has my AOL screen name in the window and is prompting me to sign in with my AOL account.

Back when I started using iTunes I used my AOL screen name/password, but have since switched to an apple id.

It is ONLY the songs that I purchased with my AOL screen name/password that have issues.  The ones purchased with an apple id are fine.

The interesting thing is that these songs were moved via CD ROM from my desktop to a laptop and back to the desktop, and they play perfectly, haven’t had any issue on those computers or my iPod or my iPhone. 

I am running Windows 7 on the new computer (songs don’t work)

I was running Windows XP on the other computers that they did work on. 

I tried to upload the songs from the back up cds I made 2 years ago, they still won’t play.

I found an article dated in July 2009 regarding iTunes no longer accepting AOL screen names, I posted a comment there about my current difficulties, we’ll see what they say.

I also double checked the songs on the desktop (kinda hoping they wouldn’t play b/c it would support my theory that apple changed something and that’s the problem), and they play just fine there.

I have tried creating a new apple id from the AOL screen name – didn’t work.  Not surprising since that’s what my current apple id is – a “spawn” of the AOL account.

I spent 2.5 hours on the phone with apple support this evening.  I spoke to 3 people – moving higher and higher up the food chain, and they spoke with iTunes billing several times, but no one there has any idea what the issue is. 


I’m convinced that it’s something with AOL, possibly related to whatever change took place in July, and possibly related to Windows 7.  

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ironic, don’t ya think?

This Thursday one of my newest favorite authors, Chris Bohjalian, is coming to Fairfax to talk about his newest book, Skeletons at the Feast.  Some of you might recognize the name Chris Bohjalian, he wrote Midwives,  which was an Oprah Book Club book back when the Oprah Book Club had first gotten started.  I’d enjoyed that book and even enjoyed the “made for TV” movie on Lifetime (I know shocking…I enjoyed a Lifetime Movie!).  Last January I saw Skeletons at the Feast on the new books shelf at the library so picked it up, it was pretty good so I decided to check out the other books that Mr. Bohjalian had written.  

I have enjoyed most of his books, including his book of selected newspaper columns (perfect for reading on my kindle app at stoplights!), so when I heard he was coming to the area to do a book talk and possibly a signing I cleared my schedule and am planning to go, even though it’s a school night!

It occurred to me that he might be doing a book signing, while I have read almost of all his books, I don’t own a single one (other than the one in my kindle app, but I don’t want him signing my iPhone). I buy a lot of children’s books so I try to get most my “adult” reading material from the library.  Also, after the National Book Festival I’m realizing that what I’m most interested in is hearing the authors speak, standing in a long line just for a signature isn’t as appealing to me.  My plan is to listen to him speak and then leave, but I wanted to have something for him to sign “just in case”. 

I considered bumming one of his books from Susan, but then I discovered that the library didn’t own a single copy of his novel “Water Witches”.  Perfect!  I’d buy a copy of Water Witches and take it with me just in case. 

I went over to Barnes and Noble’s website and was able to reserve a copy of Water Witches to be picked up at their Springfield store. 

After school yesterday I went by to get it.  When the cashier handed it to me it had a large sticker on the front that said:  “Signed by the Author”

Ironic huh?