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In numerology, all words, names and numbers may be reduced to single digits which ...
But can you do it backwards?


Lightly, I touch a finger to the mole beneath her chin. "You have so many," I tell her, and she does; they are all over her neck, her arms, her legs, her back. "A spotted hyena, you."

Sitting very still beside me, she doesn't say anything. I take my hand off her neck.

"I'm going to count them, you know. All of them. Not now, another time. I'll need time-- and pens. I'll have to cross them out as I go, to make sure I don't tally the same one twice."

She frowns. "And then I'll be covered in ink."

"I have a book on numerology. For when we find out how many you've got. Then," I joke, "I'll know if you're my blessing or my curse."

"You're going to look it up?"

"Numbers are the Universal language offered by the deity to humans as confirmation of the truth," I quote.

She looks baffled and I laugh, looking away. "Forget it," I shrug. "I'm just jealous because I don't have any."

"Oh," she breathes, and we lapse into a long silence while I wonder whose name she's hiding in the spatters of her skin.

An update of sorts for the morbidly curious. The battle has been uphill, but I'm a fighter. I went to the eye doctor in the beginning of June to verify that there is nothing optical going on, she said that my prescription was actually a bit better from 2 years ago but that my optic nerves were inflamed (a sign of neurological issues). She wrote a report for me to take to my neurologist who I finally get to see on July 7 (believe it or not, that's actually *fast*? Typical wait time to see a neurologist is between a year and 18 months!).

June 19, Thursday night at 8 pm was my MRI. It went ok, no claustrophobia but I did feel a pulling/throbbing sensation especially around my ears. I felt like if I could just pull my earplugs out it would be okay. The tech said that sometimes happens to people, it wasn't something to get too upset about bla bla bla. I got to take a CD home, the human brain looks pretty weird and scary I have to tell you. I don't really know what I am looking at when I see it so I can't say for sure what is wrong in there. The CD is to take to my neurologist appointment.

The next night (Fri. June 20) I was back in the hospital again and I felt like my insides were literally on fire just beneath the skin, and my head was going to crack open. Ears stabbing. Could not get comfortable for anything, so I had my sister in law take me to ER and my mother in law watch the kids, as Shawn was out with his dad for a late father's day outing. We got there and I was triaged and would have been treated right away, except an MVC (multi vehicle collision) came in - three victims on stretchers, all unconscious, bleeding, heck I saw there was still glass in the one guy's arm. Drunk teenagers. So I was in for a long wait, which included watching a girl in a prom dress and no shoes come in and bitch to the nurses about how they don't make cocaine like they used to, and ecstasy was over rated, and bla bla bla. Basically had a nervous breakdown in emerg. You can imagine how quickly she got the red bracelet and was sent to the psych ward.

Dr. Mann saw me in her travels to and from patients, and while it probably isn't a good thing that I'm known on a first name basis, this time it sort of benefited me because she came right to me, asked what was wrong, apologised for the wait and said she'd get to me as soon as she could. She told me to tell the nurses if my condition worsened. Which of course it did, but by that point there were no nurses to be found. About an hour later she walked by saw me and disappeared. 30 seconds later a nurse is pulling me into a room and giving me a shot of Toradol in the hip. She asked me if Dr. Mann said I could come home after this I said I had not spoken to her and had no idea what was going on. The nurse checked and said no that Dr Mann saw I was in agony and wanted the nurse to give me something until she could see me.

She finally sees me around 4 in the morning (I got there at 11:30 for time reference) and of course very apologetic but I wasn't going to complain, of *course* accident victims come first, anyone with half a brain knows that. Anyway, she did more testing (touch my finger, touch your nose. Flip your hand this way and that. Walk a line. Do you feel this? Do you feel that?) and said "Listen, girl, I know you don't want to hear this but I think you need to seriously entertain the idea that you might haveMS. You show all the signs and there's definitely something neurological going on here." She did tell me to call the hospital that did my MRI and confirm that there was nothing urgent (ie tumor, blood clot) as my family doc is on holiday until next week. She gave me some pain killers & then something to help me sleep at night as I get no relief and night time is the worst.

So now I just play the wait game a little bit longer. If it really is MS, I'm ok with that - just tell me so we can sort it out and get me on some aggressive therapy to combat it. If it's something else, that's also fine, I just want some answers and help. I am going a bit stir crazy because I can't go anywhere without assistance, I can't drive because sometimes my feet don't work and sometimes my eyes don't work. I can't walk because again, sometimes my legs will give out or I won't be able to see. For lack of a better description, I sort of feel trapped in my own body.

Shawn has been really terrific through all of this, although you can tell it's bothering him as well, he tends to change the subject when people ask him about it. I try not to burden him with too much, but at the same time I also hate that I have to in the first place. I need an escort just to do groceries for crying out loud, and even then I have to take a long nap before, and then I pay for it afterward.

Saturday in spite of my not having had any sleep the night before, we held a glow in the dark bowling party for my son Kevin. He turns 8 on July 21, but because most of his friends go on vacation around them, he never gets a party. This year we promised him he would, so we did it a month early. He only had a few friends come but he was so happy. I was in agony but it was worth it. Celeste got to have one of her friends come as well so that she wasn't too bored by the situation, so everyone in general was happy. I ended up going to bed that night around 7 pm and did not wake up until 1 pm Sunday afternoon. My children were happy, so I was happy, but boy did I pay for it. This is something that is becoming commonplace in my life, sad to say.

This past Thursday afternoon, I went to the clinic to have my left leg double-checked. The attending Doctor taking over for my family doc asked a bunch of questions and then checked over some files, asked me if I'd been in the woods our outside much recently, and then ordered some blood testing (he wants to test me for Lyme Disease, which I find HILARIOUS) and an x-ray of my back (he isn't convinced that I don't have some post-lumbar puncture issues, ie infection or whatever). Told me to double up my meds if I was in pain and sent me home. My daughter went to my mom's house, and my son went to my mother-in-law's. Shawn was at work of course.

An hour later I get a call from my son, crying like you wouldn't believe and All I heard was "(mumble) died!" and at first it sounded like "Daddy" and my heart skipped 2 beats. I asked him to repeat himself and he said "Abby died. Please come mommy I want to go home". It turns out my mother-in-law's girl chihuahua got loose from her leash in the backyard and went running after a jogger, was hit by a car. They were inside when this happened but a neighbor saw and came to get her. So my mother in law was hysterical and my son was pretty upset - nobody wants to see a dead anything, much less a family pet.

So I limped over, got my son, limped back home. He cuddled up with me for most of the night, he was terribly upset and when I called my daughter at my mom's house she was quite upset herself. The kids understand what death means but it doesn't make it any easier when it happens. I held my son in my arms and did my best to soothe him and ignore the pain I was in, because I pushed myself too hard, but my boy needed me and nothing else mattered at that point in time. My daughter opted to stay with my mom, and that was fine. They cremated the dog yesterday. My daughter insisted on seeing her first, to "say goodbye". That was incredibly difficult but my girl is pretty strong, and has a touch of dark in her; it will not affect her near so great as my son, who thinks only on sunshine and happy things.

There is so much more to talk about but my fingers are numb again, and I need to rest my eyes.

UBUNTU, SLED, OR VISTA?

I’ve been looking for a new computer for a while now, comparison shopping and reading up while I save up the money, and have come to a point where I could really use some advice. I know this isn’t the sort of thing E2 is best at, but we are a community, the only community I’m really a contributing member of, and I know there is a pretty solid base of geeks in a multitude of flavors haunting the site, so I hope that by posting this here I might get some input. I’ll probably cross post to a couple of laptop sites and Linux forums as well.

The situation is this: I want a laptop, and I want to spend between $700-900 on it. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but it must be solid. Its primary use will be writing, and it is critical that I get a good, solid, responsive keyboard that will not break, stick or fail in any other way. Secondary uses will be the usual Web stuff, organizing family photos, running a smallish customer database for my wife, and occasional gaming, but not the latest FPSes, mostly strategy stuff. If it can play Civ4 and/or GalCiv 2, I’ll be ecstatic. I’m not big on watching movies on my computer, and I’m not terribly worried about connectivity. I want the thing to be portable, but the full-size keyboard is crucial and occasional movie-watching and gaming will happen, so I’m thinking a 14" screen is perfect for me. 14" is more expensive than 15", unfortunately, but mobility is valuable to me.

In short, I need a workhorse with some spirit, not a Kentucky Derbycontestant. Now, when I think of workhorse laptops I think of Thinkpads. I’ve always wanted one, and the more research I do the more I hear that Thinkpads are THE horses to beat. The problem is, Thinkpads are not budget laptops. The most Thinkpad I can afford is an R61 with a few upgrades, which don’t include a lot of bells and whistles like recordable DVD, hi-res monitor and cutting-edge connectivity options.

For the same money, I can get a Dell Inspiron 1420 with several nice upgrades. Now, an Inspiron is not a Thinkpad. The legendary build quality of the Thinkpad just isn’t there. But from what I hear, the 1420 is a pretty solid computer that works well for most people, the keyboard is pretty good, and all those bells and whistles are suddenly affordable. At this point, I’m still leaning towards the R61, but the Dell is still a contender.

But there’s still one more element to factor in: I hear that Vista sucks.

I’ve never been a Microsoft fan. I don’t like the way they do business, I don’t like how everything they do is always mediocre at best, and I don’t like how they constantly push more and more stupid, unnecessary features that treat the user like a retarded child and waste system resources. I’m not a zealot about it, but I don’t like Microsoft, and from what I’m reading now it seems that Vista is seriously bloated. When I hear that my computer should have *at least* 2GB of RAM to do anything productive with Vista, it’s a big turnoff, and I’m wondering if there isn’t another answer.

Enter Linux.

I stuck my big toe into the Linux pool a few years ago, but I couldn’t find a few things that I would have needed to make my laptop work properly, and it wasn’t worth it for me at the time to keep playing with it. Now, however, I hear it’s a whole new ball game. I keep seeing the words “Linux ready for the desktop”. Unfortunately, I see “Linux almost ready for the desktop” almost as frequently. So I’m a little apprehensive. I’m decent with computers, but I’m not an IT guy. I don’t program. I’ve made a couple of Websites that worked (back when you could just use HTML to make a website), I’ve put in graphics cards and memory on my own machines, and I’m generally the guy that my friends and coworkers come to when they can’t get their machines to work. I don’t always have a solution for them, but I usually have some idea what the problem is - and, most importantly, I am able and willing to RTFM, which I find solves problems in every aspect of life.

With all that said, I’m not really sure about jumping into the deep end by buying a Linux machine. But I’d like to. For all kinds of reasons, some of which are undoubtedly silly, I want to. I want to:

  • Run a lean, stable OS that isn’t targeted by every virus and Trojan in the world, doesn’t BSOD on a whim, doesn’t suck up system resources like Hummers suck gas, and won’t have to be replaced next year with a veryslightlylesscrappy substitute.
  • Control what updates on my computer, when and if I want it to update.
  • Save a few bucks on the OS, and a lot of bucks on security and productivity software.
  • Support the open-source community.
  • Send Microsoft and the OEMs a message that people will seek out practical alternatives to crappy products as long as there are any.
  • Further my knowledge of computers.
  • FIGHT THE MAN!! Yeah, just because I’m grown up doesn’t mean I can’t still believe in thwarting rapacious monopolies, standing up for freedom of choice and listening to RATM. Except I was never a RATM fan. Oh, bother....

As it happens, both the Thinkpad and the Dell are available in Linux versions. Linux tailored for the system, made to work out of the box. No screwing around with partitions, hoping there’s a driver available for your modem, just turn on the laptop and go through your basic installation procedure - in theory, at least. And both of the Linux distros are supposedly good, user-friendly ones. Thinkpad comes with SLED 10. The Inspiron ships with Ubuntu 7.10. I hear good things about both of them, but more about Ubuntu - especially since SLED is really made for a corporate environment and has fewer of the “fun and games” stuff.

So now my choices are:

  1. Buy the rock-solid laptop that has been used on space shuttles and the ISS, with SLED and not very many bells and whistles.
  2. Buy the not so legendary but reportedly decent laptop with what is supposed to be the friendliest, best-supported, Linux flavor and a few more unnecessary but nice features.
  3. Forget about theniche OS that all the fanboy geeks talk about and stick with the one I KNOW I can work with and play any game on the market with, without resorting to dodgy emulation programs. Possibly get Linux on the thing later on, but without any support from the OEM, without the Linux that is customized to suit that machine, and only after paying Microsoft for Vista.
  4. Buy a Mac? (Not really an option, they’re just slightly too expensive and definitely don’t seem as solid as the Thinkpad.)

So I’m asking for opinions from people who know their SLED from their SLES, those who have played with every Ubuntu animal from Hairy Hedgehog to Mischievous Manticore, and especially those who know both distros - and anyone who has personal experience with Dell laptops (I’ve already heard from the Thinkpad kids, and they generally tell me “don’t buy ANYTHING else.” Lenovo either makes seriously awesome laptops, or some excellent Kool-Aid.) Are either of the Linux versions really ready for “intermediate” end users who have no Linux experience? Is either one of them much friendlier than the other? It seems like more people prefer Ubuntu and say it’s friendlier to beginners - do those advantages outweigh the quality of the Thinkpad? Should I just suck it up and buy Vista?

I’d be grateful if anyone could give me some input - in messages, in daylogs, or even in full-fledged writeups. Seems to me there’s a place on Everything for writeups about specific computers and operating systems that go beyond what Wikipedia tells me.


Responses thus far:

  • Two people recommended Macs. One of these had this to say: "We've dabbled with Ubuntu, but while they may call it easy, eventually I gave up trying to get it to work and reinstalled Windows on the poor laptop I chose to inflict Ubuntu on." The other Mac fan also suggested that "if you are completely sold on a PC, you should add the Dell Vostro line of laptops to your choices. They're Dell's business line of laptops, so they're supposed to be more Thinkpad-like. I've heard good things about the older ones, especially as far as getting as much bang for your buck goes." (I've heard this as well, but Dell don't yet sell a Vostro with Linux on it, so I'd still have to buy a Vista machine.)
  • Four noders recommended Ubuntu wholeheartedly, despite the fact that every one of them cited minor problems that they had to work out to achieve perfect running condition. Mostly it seems that the difficulties you're most likely to encounter with Ubuntu are in the installation and compatability with certain hardware, problems that should be minimized when buying an Ubuntu out-of-the-box computer. One Ubuntu fan also said that SLED should be just as easy. Peaceable chaps, these Linux people!
  • One of the Ubuntu guys actually wrote about his experience with the Dell Ubuntu Laptop, the same one i'm considering except with a lot more tailfins and super turbo. Four months later, he says Iris is holding up well.
  • Two correspondents are staunch Thinkpad supporters, complete with war stories.
  • More to come?

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