Gnat’s having a sleepover, which means a roving two-headed screechy-beast going upstairs and down. They come upstairs? I go down. They come down, I go up. I sync the work between the studio and the kitchen table. Close my door? Not an option. Nothing pierces thick wood like little-girl screams. They’d drown out an 80-boxcar train slamming on the brakes.

So. This will be short and stupid. The subject matter may be of limited interest, but I’ll try to give it a broader appeal.


In addition to the various noises around Jasperwood, there are the peculiar irritations of New Software – Photoshop Elements 4, in this case. It has some nice new features. The splash screen did away with that toothy woman, of whom I was certainly tired. But. In PE 3, you could rotate an image, click on the marquee or pointer tool, and you were free to continue your work. This does not work in 4. I rotated an item, and found myself unable to do anything – couldn’t close, save, deselect, nothing. System alert sound, system alert sound, over and over; might as well changed it to a donkey bray, it had become so maddeningly stubborn.

Longtime users are no doubt rolling their eyes, saying “double click inside the image, chubtard.” True. But I never had to do that before. The double-click option may have been added at some point; I was never aware of it, and all my habits had long since adapted. I rotated and switched tools without thinking. (Obvious, pretentious metaphor en route!) Your life is full of these automatic actions, and you don’t notice them until they don’t work; even then you persist. If Life had a system-alert sound? You’d still ignore it. If the keyboard gave me a mild electric shock, I’d still try to switch tools without double-clicking inside the image, because that’s what I do.

What’s more, you no longer notice the automatic actions you no longer perform; they’re lost for good, skills that pertained to a particular situation that no longer applies. If you put me back in the driver’s seat of my beloved old Eclipse I would have to take a few seconds to adjust; in the old days, I could start it up, back out, turn on the radio and fix the air without a second thought. The amount of rote processing that goes on beneath your immediate notice is really quite astonishing.

Anyway. Upon checking the help menu, I discovered the double-click solution. Fine; my fault. But: they had taken away the option to release a rotated image by selecting another tool. I can only imagine the conversation in the meeting room for Team Upgrade:

Let’s do away with that option.


It bugs me. It’s not elegant. They should double-click.

But the people who are used to doing the old way will be utterly confused. I mean, we’ve already rewritten the code so the text layers on imported PE 3.0 files are “locked,” even though they’re not, and we’ve done nothing about the inability to copy layers and drop them in other images, utterly confounding the entire metaphor, and for some reason the JPEG compression setting defaults to zero, instead of holding the last value you put in. Shouldn’t we toss them this little bone?


And so they didn’t.


As noted, I started watching the first season of “24.” (Firefly can wait.) I got the disks from Netflix and burned through them quickly – but Friday night I set myself up for the conclusion, and frankly it was with no great joy; the suspense had become unbearable, and my hatred of the villains was so intense I would not have been content unless I received a letter, by registered mail, assuring me that the actors who played them had been sealed in lead and dropped into a Great Lake. Any Lake. I’m not particular. One of the bad guys was an Asian fellow with long hair – I swear, he must have gotten Henchman of the Year award from some international consortium of criminal plots, because he’s in every show that requires a cast of scruffy dead-souled bad-asses. Never has a line more important than “hey! Over here!” Mostly he just looks mean. For all we know he’s a fine family man with two kids and three dogs, and has a nice line in the Mean Henchman business. I suppose I should imdb the guy, right? Don’t know his name. Sorry. Anyway, I got down to the last episode Friday night. Chewed through four, tapping my foot, drumming my fingers, all wound up. I marveled at the ability of the writers to attenuate the mystery to the very last minutes – how the heck are they going to wrap this up in the time allotted? It wasn’t until the show ended that I realized how fargin’ stupid I was:

Just because Netflix sends you three DVDs doesn’t mean that’s how many DVDs there are. The show’s called 24, not 12.

I was halfway through.

I nearly wept. No! For God’s sake, I can’t take anymore!

Saturday I went to Blockbuster for the fourth disk.


Reconnected the backyard lights. It’s truly spring. I even went to Home Depot for some new lights to replace the ones that no longer worked; naturally, I got the wrong volt size. I overloaded the transformer and blew the fuse. So it’s dark in the backyard. But hey: it was dark yesterday, too.

Went to the Mall for a haircut. Stopped off at the Apple Store; looked at the Macbook Pros. I hadn’t considered getting one; for mere writing and surfing (that word seems very old now, doesn’t it?) the old Powerbook does just fine. Then Apple announced Boot Camp, which allows for booting into Windows and playing games. That changed everything. Now I’m in the market.

Since the new machines have been dogged by rumors of loud whining sounds, I put my head down to the keyboard of three models and listened closely. Nothing.

“Listening for strange sounds?” said the clerk, who knew very well what I was doing. I nodded, put my hands under the laptop to check the heat.

It’s like buying a horse in the 19th century.

Then it was haircut time. The stylist had just finished with an adorable little toddler, and as I climbed into the chair I remarked how cute she was, how I remembered my own at that age, and how now we fought tangles and rat’s nests every day. The stylist had a young child as well, so we got to talking about kids. Hers was in day-care now. Her parents paid for it. She lived at home. The worst part of day-care had been the place that was right next to the high school, because she’d be trying to study geometry and she’d hear her baby cry down the hall.

Sigh. You know, in the three years of my high school – and it was a fairly large class for North Dakota – there was exactly one rumor of a pregnancy. High schoolers did not have babies. I think my generation was the trailing edge; we ate all the seed corn, as well as mixing all the metaphors. After us, the water broke; we inherited all these old and sturdy virtues, but didn’t believe in them. Didn’t do much to tear them down; didn’t do much to hold them up. Jell-O waiting for the firehose.

Yes, I am writing as poorly as I can! It’s late, and I want to watch 24. Oh,  I did more over the weekend; went for a car wash at the old Octopus – hasn’t been the Octopus for decades, but to me it’s still the same old place on University with the rotating fiberglas cephalopod, smiling over his slogan: Many Hands to Serve You! I discovered a rather abrupt subtraction from the urban landscape, which will pop up in next week’s movie. I went to the good liquor store and saw, to my regret, that the fellow who had been expertly demonstrating tequilas with knowledge and eloquence last week was pushing Pabst this week. The man knew his tequila. There’s not much you can say about Pabst.

Update! In “24” they called the guy Neill, which nailed down the identity of the Mean Guy. He’s Al Leong, aka Al Ka Bong – a rather Quickdraw-McGrawish touch. And as far as that stuff I wrote about him being a family man? I could be right.

New Matchbook and Quirk; see you tomorrow.






c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.