Reflections of a ModemJunkie

November, 1997

Thanksgiving Thoughts

by Leonard Grossman

Last month in this place you saw a rant about the crush of noise on the internet and elsewhere. I even wrote a supplemental rant about the replacement of my old desk with "system" furniture. As a r eward for putting up with that, at the end of this column you will find a mini-review of a great lite software find (a spell checker for edit boxes). But this is November and Thanksgiving is approaching. So permit me a little introspection before I get back on topic.

I am not ungrateful. Indeed, my cup runneth over. I do give thanks for a wonderful wife, who knows where I am at all hours of the night. And for a truly beautiful and sensitive daughter, studying in a far off land. And for an 85 year young mother who has more energy than I do. And . . .and and for a good job in which I am on the side of truth and justice more than 95% of the time - even if I grouse from time to time.

And more to the point of this article, even if not as significant in the scheme of things, in spite of my complaints of overload I do give thanks for this amazing world of cyberspace. I do give thanks for the interconnectedness, the resources, the sharing, the feedback, the hours of pleasure that I receive sitting here in front of the screen. I hope that my pages bring pleasure or are useful to some small segment of this great online community.

There have been times of stress, when I have come up here into my study and found friends, or comfort or the information I need. Or solace. And this place has given me a platform. too. Something I have always needed - A place to sound off, to share, even to pontificate.

Indeed, as overwhelmed as I was last month, just putting those words in type (in electrons?, on magnetic media, in cyberspace) and seeing them there seemed to calm me - to ease the burden. To put down the load. And I am not alone in this.

Last week my daughter called me in tears from overseas. Something had triggered strong feelings and memories. We talked and shared as only can be done in voice communication. But then I suggested she put her feelings and thoughts on paper. Less than half an hour later I received a beautiful essay- a truly magnificent piece she had composed on line for hard copy publication elsewhere. Later she reported relief as well. This magnificent medium had enabled her to take raw emotion and convert it and share it with others, almost instantly.

So, yes, it can be too much at times. But I am grateful for all this and more.

Some weeks have gone by since I the upsetting events I wrote about last month. I am surviving the supposedly ergonomic system furniture, although my degenerative disk is acting up (the one in my neck - -not in my computer). But oddly, I adapted to the new furniture more quickly than some of those who thought I was being silly by objecting to it, for I had had a "system" arrangement for 15 years. For some of the others, they are truly in a changed environment.

And I have another Thanksgiving story to tell. Before the change, I had on my wall over a book case a TV artist's sketch of the opening argument of a case I tried many years ago. I decided to move it to replace the old bulletin board they ordered me to remove, but long ago the glass had cracked. Before moving it to its place of greater prominence I thought I should get it fixed. And the mat was a bit drab. I thought it should have a new under-mat in red to brighten it up.

The glass and reframing cost over $30. It would have been another $40 for the new mats. And I had already brought in a couple of other frames to fix. So after discussing it with the woman in the store, I had just the glass fixed.

To make a longer story somewhat shorter, I had noticed that the woman seemed somewhat distressed. It may have been my imagination even though I had already thought I had noticed something when I came in the first time.

"Are you O.K.?" I asked.

"Yes," She replied. But she wasn't convincing. "The frames will be ready Monday."

But on Monday, there was a message on my voice mail. She couldn't come in that day and the big frame had fallen apart when she worked on it. The frames weren't ready. I checked with her on Tuesday. They still weren't ready. She was apologetic but I told her not to worry. It was just that I was trying to get comfortable in my changed office.

Thursday morning she called. "They are ready," she said. "But if I am not there don't say anything about the mat!" I was puzzled.

I went at lunch to pick them up. And she proudly showed me the TV artist's sketch. It was brightened up with a brand new mat. A much better choice than I would have made.

"You were so considerate," she said. " I decided to replace the mat on my own." She didn't charge me for the extra work and didn't want me to show my surprise in front of the boss, if he took care of me.

Somehow, this episode restored a little of my faith in human beings. It really felt good. The newly matted work hangs in the center of my wall. It covers most of the coffee stains and pinholes. And I have to confess that after 15 years the place did need a little sprucing up. Don't tell my boss. I do have lots to be grateful for.


Quinion's Spell Checker for Edit Boxes

Michael Quinion's Spell Checker for Edit Boxes isn't new but it is extremely useful for those of us who write online. I have used it in Eudora Lite, NewsXpress, DiDa, and the PFE editor. People used to make fun of my typos. Now they will have to look a lot closer to find them.

The spell checker itself is only 136 K to download. Dictionaries range from around 300 K to over 700 K depending on the language. They include British English, US English, French, French-Canadian, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Norwegian. There is also a developer's kit available.

This application is very versatile although it does take some getting used to. It seems to perform differently in different environments. Sometimes a context field pops up, sometimes not, sometimes I can follow the position of he checker by observing highlighted areas in the original text, sometimes not. And it seems to have entered some unwanted characters in this page when I tried it with Did, my HTML editor. But, still, it found some outrageous errors which had been here for a long time, and the KGV validator found the odd entries. Try it. Grab a copy at Quinion's website.

Copyright 1997 Leonard Grossman

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