HP printer megrims

My old, beloved HP printer from 2003 having coughed its last on Saturday and no online help leading to a repair, I went to Office Depot to see about a replacement. I wanted no bells and whistles and especially no 7-pack ink cartridges which the new models require. If I wanted to scan or copy, occurrences that fall to me about once a year, I would go to the photo shop.

Wayne, the nice tech salesman, took me through the steps of the HP ENVY 4502 all-in-one wireless number. The scan/copy/photo features were unavoidable, but! it needed only a black and a color ink cartridge.

I spent all of yesterday installing without success, went to an online chat who helped set it up, but only in USB. I didn’t want to know any more than that. I wasn’t going to use the unit in another room; it was going to stay side-by-side with my iMac as the old one did, and I thought I was off to the races.

But the damn paper jammed and there was no way I could see to extract it. The spaghetti tongs from the kitchen couldn’t begin to reach the edge of the jammed paper. The back could not be opened. I called HP support. The lady who purported to help me talked and talked and talked, repeating everything I said and getting it wrong. So I took my ENVY 4502 back to Office Depot where I located Wayne, who found something wasn’t aligned right inside, duly aligned it and presto, printed a page.

My trust in ENVY had gone, though, and I had brought my old printer along to take to a repair shop. Wayne got me a list of suitable repair shops, found the address on his GPS, and pointed me in a northerly direction.

The shop was more like a warehouse, stacked to the ceiling with printers of all vintages to the ceiling. The man played around with the printer, changed ink cartridges in case those were the problem, and finally told me to leave it for him to tinker some more.

That’s where matters stand. As for ENVY, I gingerly went to print something, and it did, without a whimper. But we’ll see tomorrow and tomorrow….


The Rio de Janeiro thing

The San Francisco Chronicle reported a few days ago that in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, the Lagoa Rodrigo Freitas, a man-made lake, was experiencing a horrendous fish die-off. Raw sewage and an overabundance of trash were blamed for this, but as far as Renato and I knew, the die-off occurred every year when we lived in a house across from the lake decades ago. Lack of oxygen was faulted, but whatever the cause, the overwhelming stink haunted our days and nights until the pitiful belly-up victims were hauled away. We remembered that view fondly.

All the residents along Avenida Epitacio Pessoa considered the annual olfactory punishment a reasonable tradeoff for the view of Corcovado, the Christ on a Cross on its mountaintop beyond the lake, the walking paths around the lake, and the vicinity of Ipanema Beach a few blocks behind us.

But the famed beach of Copacabana is now in crisis with the same fish die-off and tons of sludge and sewage, as well as all the waterfronts up to Guanabara Bay on the city’s opposite side. Anyone who dares to dip a toe there is courting serious disease. The Olympic regatta is being planned in those waters in 2016. How are they going to manage that?

Into the woods…

…in Brazil, that is.

We lived in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, the preference of most foreigners, but of course Americans always got it in the neck. The locals dubbed it, sarcastically, the American Slum. Wealthy enclave or not, there were these nightly offerings known as despachos on street corners.

The bowl of ground manioc with a piece of blue cloth on top together with an opened bottle of Coca Cola was a petition to Yemanjå, the Virgin Mary. Manioc paired with a piece of chicken and a bottle of beer was meant for Oxalå, or Jesus. With a bottle of cachaça, it was a call to Exü, the devil.

But street corners were not ideal for their purpose. When Renato and I went for a walk in the woods out of town we encountered despachos under trees by a creek. The trees bore colored strips of cloth. The confluence of tree, running water, and tree was best, we were told.

All of it set my imagination on fire. When we came back to live in California, I set to researching for a book, and Renato on his trips back to Brazil bought me reference works in Portuguese on various sects of magic so that The Snake Woman of Ipanema would be utterly authentic.

Each night all over Brazil thousands of spirit rituals — terreiros — burn to spirit deities. The Quimbanda sect is the scariest, and of course I had to include that in Snake Woman.

Old China time

A neighbor — a very fine artist — invited me along with two Chinese ladies to lunch. One was a 26-year-old Phd candidate at UCBerkeley, the other an older lady who is an architect and who has lived in the United States since 1980. And she was from Shanghai, my hometown.

We started off in high interest on all sides and it seemed we had so much to talk about. The architect, a widow, lived alone but led a lively life in a dance club, where she had met my artist neighbor. Her son lived part of the year in Shanghai where he ran a business. The young lady expected to return to China next month — in Fukien province. Which brought out from me a desire to tell her how I felt about the horrific consumerism in China by billionaires in wildlife ivory and rhino horns.

She did not know about these depredations as I sought to inform her of what was happening. Obviously, she had no influence in that realm of wealth but I hoped she would bring back an awareness to her countrymen.

We talked of many other things; they laughed when I admitted that most of the Shanghai dialect I could remember was swear words. I told them how I used to quarrel with the rickshaw puller and tell him things whose meaning I didn’t understand. It was customary to get pretty hot when bargaining over the fare.

To the Phd student returning to China, I gave a copy of The Year of the Rat, my historical novel covering 1948-1949, the years just before and after the communist takeover and subsequent dealings with the populace. Does she know that 20 million Chinese, many for perceived sins against the regime, were executed? That “capitalists” as defined by the communist manifesto, leaped off tall buildings by the hundreds rather than be imprisoned and tortured? (Rich irony considering that Chinese billionaires are now rampant in their “communist” economy); that schoolchildren were told to turn in their parents if they heard them speak against the regime?

If she didn’t know these things then, she does now, unless she considers me biased. And what do I hope to achieve with the narrative of facts? Very little. What difference would it make to her way of life? Her life will be unchanged as she proceeds to implement her advanced degree in economics in her career.

Love motels

Actually, I didn’t know what subject title to select for this theme: Cultures or Romance or Marketing. I read a story in the paper the other day about short-term rentals in Rio de Janeiro for, um, couples to couple, and was reminded of an episode in Rio of an evening.

The Little Theatre was having a party on the rooftop of a building overlooking the beach, and we were all enjoying Chopp beer with our potluck dinner. The day’s heat had cooled to a salubrious temperature and there was a happy feeling of completion. I had produced “Table Manners” by Alan Ayckbourn to a full house of the city’s English-speaking expatriates, and we had the next season ahead to plan for.

Then Margrit, our PR person, suddenly fainted, and no one knew what to do. One didn’t call 911 in Brazil, and all we knew to do was feel for her neck pulse and listen to her heartbeat. She was breathing and seemed quite stable, according to our unschooled opinion, so several of the men picked her up and carried her down to a room in the building. The property owner had rented us the rooftop for our party.

The room was startling. Mirrors lined the ceiling and the foot of the room. The bedcover was scarlet satin. But we settled Margrit in the bed and covered her in the scarlet spread. One of us volunteered to stay with her when she woke up, foreseeing her bewilderment on finding herself in that room.

When I think back to that episode I marvel at our insouciance. What if Margrit had had a serious attack of some kind? What if she was in serious danger of dying? We must have quaffed too much Chopp for we took her faint in pretty good cheer.

In any case, Margrit woke up, looked at her surroundings, and burst out laughing!