Stress and the Single Scheezer

I have a minute tolerance for stress. Even the tiniest negative experience can render me dysfunctional for a period of time. Two very minor things happened today, and it wasn’t until they were resolved that I felt like myself again.

I see the doctor every three months. Today was my appointment. Since he comes to the office at 1 pm on Fridays, my appointment was for 1:30 pm. I ended up waiting until about 2 pm, but that wasn’t the problem. Some woman sat down not far from me and struck up a totally unwanted conversation. I don’t know why I felt an instant aversion to her, and even feel a bit guilty that I did, because she was in the office for her bipolar medication injection, which means that she is a fellow major mental patient and I should have been understanding and forbearing. But her chatter was incessant and unutterably banal, and that grated on me. Then she started asking me to give her cigarettes and money. Allegedly, she had no money for food. I gave her what I could spare, which with me is never much, especially at the start of my last week before check day. And then she asked me whether I wanted to go for a coffee after my appointment. I politely declined, so she began to have the identical same conversation with a blind lady sitting nearby. Around that time I was called into my appointment and blessedly free of the whole scene, but it stressed me out.

When I see my doctor, I get prescriptions for three months. I had been using a major chain pharmacy close to where I live, but the pharmacy staff had begun behaving in ways that made me suspicious and uncomfortable, so I had decided to change pharmacies once I got the new prescription. There happens to be a pharmacy in the same building as my doctor’s office, right across the hallway. After my appointment, I took my prescription there and was told it would take about fifteen minutes to fill. I decided to step outside for some air.

What do I find outside if not the same lady from the waiting room, acting like she’d never met me before and having the same conversation, again asking for cigarettes and money and a coffee date after I’d filled my prescription. I barely endured the experience before I dashed back into the pharmacy.

Then the pharmacist told me she hadn’t been able to fill my prescription in my absence because I had never been there before and she needed to see some ID in order to process the prescription. I gave her my Ontario Non-Driver ID, which is an official government card that serves the same identification purposes as a driver’s licence for people who don’t drive, and the pharmacist didn’t know what it was. I explained, so she asked for more ID, and then spent about 25 minutes typing everything into her computer. Now, I also get a drug card from Disabiity every month that allows me to get medication that is in the formulary at no expense to me. This pharmacist told me my card was being rejected by the system. In the end I had no choice but to take back my various ID cards, my drug card and my prescription and head home.

I spent the entire next two hours being a complete wreck. It’s a wonder I didn’t walk into an intersection on a red light. So I got into the apartment and lay down and closed my eyes and tried to stop being paranoid about Disability having pulled some crap that I’d have to straighten out. Eventually, I was able to find the meagre inner strength to go to a local pharmacy different from the one I’d used in the past.

It took literally about 10 minutes for the pharmacy staff at this new pharmacy to enter my information into their computer and dispense my medication and send me on my way. There were no problems whatsoever with my drug card being rejected. They even did something that my old local pharmacy always refused to do, which was to dispense and entire three months’ worth of medication. My old local pharmacy had told me that Disability refuses to pay for more than one month at a time, but the pharmacist at this new pharmacy says they do pay up to three months. So I stopped being paranoid about my benefits being screwed up by the comatose pencil-pushers who work in the Disability office and again felt totally fine.

Oh, and that lady? When I had left the other pharmacy totally beside myself with distress, I hadn’t noticed her outside the doors. I have no idea where she had gone, and I hope I never find out.


Before I Returned to Prison

I don’t know what time I got up this morning. That’s unusual, because I always happen to notice the clock display on the cable box that my brother forces me to keep in my room, but, today, I just happened not to see it.

 After going to the bathroom and cleaning up, I made my way out into the kitchen. The coffeemaker had just been turned on, but it’s even slower than the one we’d had before it had stopped working and my brother had bought a replacement. I knew I’d have to wait 15 minutes for the coffeemaker to keep making noises to itself while it finished brewing the pot. It’s a house rule imposed on me not to pour the first mug of coffee until an entire pot has finished brewing because my brother feels it “ruins the taste.” There are, in fact, times when I wait an hour and a half for coffee, because my father sometimes insists on making the coffee, and he still lollygags at everything he does like he’s getting paid by the hour the way he was from age 15 to age 65. He wasn’t a lazy worker, just ridiculously methodical. He’s also always had an unconscious sly streak, so that, if someone is waiting for him to finish doing something, he’ll unconsciously take an extra-long time about it for the unwitting purpose of aggravating them. He drove my late mother crazy a number of times that way, and it was the cause of a significant number of fights in which my mother wrongfully looked like the bad guy for raising a fuss because it wasn’t evident that my father had unconsciously, deliberately provoked her. But I’ve trained myself not to be affected by that and am just patient when my father drags things out. This morning, however, it was the coffeemaker itself dragging things out, and not much could be done about it.

 I weighed myself and was 185.4 lbs. My weight has been up and down over the course of my existence. It reached its peak in the spring of 1986, when I was 230 lbs. Over that summer, my mother assisted me in getting my weight down, so that, when I returned to Ottawa for college in September, I bottomed out at 158 lbs. Then I got in the habit of devouring multiple pizzas for dinner and went back up to about 200. I was between 190 and 205 for most of the time since then, but my mother died in November 2011, and by December 2012 I was back down to 170. Then I went back up to about 200, and since then have managed to get myself down to 185. The doctor says he wants me at 160, so that is my goal weight, but it’s a goal I don’t pursue with too much enthusiasm, as I know that the powers that be would thwart any goal I did actively pursue, simply because they are spitefully perverse toward me.

 Then there was what I call a Question Period moment. It’s named after a silly charade that occurs in the House of Commons for the benefit of the TV news cameras, when the elected politicians (who are, by training, lawyers) make silly, pretentious, and false speeches for the sake of putting on a performance. My Question Period moments occur when the powers that be are clearly falsifying the appearance of what happens in this household for the sake of deceiving other people about those things. My father materialized behind me and asked whether I had “nicely washed my face” after getting up. I told him to stop parenting me. He replied meekly that he had addressed me in a nice way. I pointed out that I am nearly 50 years old. He buried his face in his hands and went away for a bit, then came back and repeated to me that he had spoken to me nicely. I told him that it was inappropriate for him to keep parenting me. So he went away again, crestfallen, clearly obsessed with the fact that I had supposedly been rude to him after he had been polite to me, because he hadn’t heard a word I’d said. No doubt the powers that be want to make that look like elder abuse. I content myself with the fact that, even if they fool everyone else on earth, they cannot fool ME, because I’ll always know the truth, and it will have to be enough for me to know the truth even if no one else does.

 So the coffee was finally ready, and I decided to stay away from my prison of a desk for a while, and just sat on the edge of my bed with the coffee on the radiator beside it, gazing out the window at nothing in particular. Eventually, however, I had to return to the prison cell that is this desk and this computer, and decided to tell you a bit about my adventures before I returned to prison.

A Clash of Cultures

I spent the first ten years of my life in Serbia and the next 39 in Canada, but am completely Canadian WASP in my outlook, thought processes and behavior. My brother was born in Canada and has always been a Canadian resident and citizen, but is highly Serbian. My father, of course, came here when he was In his early 30s, having spent his whole previous life in Serbia, so he’s more Serbian than Karageorge. That leads to certain conflicts simply based on culture. Here’s the transcript of a brief conversation we had this morning:

BROTHER: Khel, would you mind translating something I’m saying to Dad, because he seems to have trouble understanding me.

ME: Sure, go ahead.

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): I don’t want to drag Khel into my problems.

BROTHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, sounding enervated): Okay, Khel, never mind. Forget I said anything. [exit brother]

ME: Dad, are you prepared to tell me anything about what’s going on?

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): No!

ME: Well, there is something I need to ask you. I have a doctor’s appointment a week from now, and you always drive me there, so will you be in a position to do so this time?

FATHER (sounding outraged): Have I ever not driven you there??????

ME (trying to remember): Well, there was one occasion when I wanted to take public transit, but all the other times you have. But I notice you’re having problems and was just asking about this time.

FATHER (laughing): One time out of how many time I’ve driven you, so you remember that!!!!!!!

ME; Would it be possible for you to give me a simple yes or no about this one specific time next week?

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): Yes and no.

ME: Okay, I’m really sorry, but I’m not able to endure your style of communication. It just bothers me. So how about I just take public transit? [walks away while father is ranting in response]

He later came to me and apologized and said he’d been preoccupied. I apologized too for the bad timing of what I’d asked him, but added that I’d just been trying to be considerate in case he was unable to do the usual. So it works out that we’ll just decide the transportation arrangements on the day of, because it won’t be too much hassle for me to just jump on the subway on short notice. But there was still unnecessary drama that I didn’t need, and my view is that, beyond just picking a bad time to ask a simple, polite question, I did nothing to cause the drama. You be the judge.

A Stranger in Burlington

Burlington GO station is a disaster area. It’s under construction, so half an acre of structures and lands directly outside the train tracks is fenced off and full of rubble. Entering and leaving the track platforms involves hiking long distances down the tracks to one of five different exits, none of which connect to each other in any way. One exit even leads to a construction fence with no way to go any farther. The other four exits lead in four different compass directions to parking lots and woody wilderness. There is no sign of civilization anywhere nearby.

When my GO Bus arrived at the station, I had gone one and three-quarter hours without water, and badly needed some. Luckily, there was still a good half-hour to go before I’d be due to board the train, so I went into the station in search of water. I canvassed the entire huge place without finding so much as a drop of water. All I found was one lonely vending machine that was supposed to dispense bottles of soda, but took my money and did not dispense anything. By that time I was starting to get pain in my throat and esophagus from thirst. I had no choice but to leave the station and go out into the street in search of water.

I chose the exit that led to Fairview Street…eventually. First, I had to spend more than ten minutes crossing a huge parking lot that accommodated more than 10,000 vehicles. These vehicles belonged to commuters who drove at home in Burlington but took the GO Train to downtown Toronto for work. I heard the train pull into the station behind me and pull back out again while I was still crossing the parking lot. Eventually, I made it out onto Fairview.

I didn’t know anything about Burlington, so I randomly chose to turn left and walk on Fairview in that direction. It was at least the same way my train was headed. Burlington is hostile to people who walk. The blocks are four football fields long, the sidewalks randomly disappear on one side of the street or the other, and the odysseic street crossings require you to lean on a walk-permission button for ten minutes before the don’t-walk signal turns off, and then it takes you more than a full minute just barely to get across the street before the light changes. I walked fruitlessly for more than half an hour and was developing a thirst-cough by the time I found a Wendy’s where I could gulp down some cola. That gave me an appetite, so I then got a burger and fries and another drink.

While eating, I asked myself whether I wanted to go back to the desolate Burlington GO Station to wait for the next train. They are once an hour, so I’d very likely just miss it and have to spend a full hour sitting around in that disaster zone. I’d also be walking in the opposite direction to the one in which I wanted to travel. So I decided instead to continue the opposite way toward Appleby GO. It would be a longer walk, but at least I’d be headed in the right direction and might not be forced to die of thirst.

Along the way I saw bus stop signs, but someone standing at a stop told me that the next bus was in forty-five minutes and would arrive at Appleby around the same time as I got there on foot. I weighed the option of standing there passively near the doors of a huge shoe factory, but decided to keep walking instead.

I began to overheat, as I had dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and the temperature was hitting 85 Fahrenheit. In my little Roots bag I had a souvenir T-shirt and shorts I could put on instead if I had some place to do so. I managed to find a Mr. Sub outlet where I tried to buy a coffee so I could use their washroom to change, but their cofee machine had been broken for more than a week. Instead I bought a bottle of water, changed in the washroom, and continued on.

I reached Appleby Line close to two and a half hours after I had last been at Burlington GO. A lady on a laptop in Starbucks told me exactly where it was, so I got on the train, and the rest of the trip was completely uneventful. So here I am.

A Musical Interlude

As the end of another fruitful writing day approaches, it’s time for me to climb off my theoretical high horse for a moment and make a slice-of-life post, so here goes.

Just as much as some people are packrats, I’m a purger. Every couple of years, I go on a purging binge and sell, donate or throw out old possessions. Most often these are things I haven’t thought about in years, despite some of them having been on my bookshelf in plain sight for all that time, or clothes that have hung in my closet, unworn, since I last needed them for the office in 2006. It feels good to get rid of past clutter, and it has sometimes made me feel like I’m starting fresh when I’ve been desperate to have that feeling for the sake of keeping my sanity.

The same applies to music. Back when vinyl and cassettes were the only ways to buy music, I had both. I gave my vinyl away in 1993 and got rid of the last of my cassettes when I got my first CD player (which I could afford to buy back then thanks to working). But on several occasions I have also sold my entire CD collection to someone who answered a classified ad saying they’d buy them. The last time I did that was about four years ago. I thought I’d never be able to buy a CD again, but, luckily, there is a used CD store not far from here where the kind of music I like to listen to costs about $5 to $7 per CD. I’ve gradually managed to build up a new collection of about a dozen CDs, some of it the rock I grew up with and some of it stuff I started favoring about two years ago, which is light jazz.

Since I don’t have music playing equipment other than my computer, and I don’t want to wear out my computer’s optical drive by playing CDs on it, I use a Linux program called Audacity to rip CDs to .flac files. I use the highest quality settings and the files tend to be quite large, but they sound good. I don’t rip an entire CD, just the cuts from it that I’m sure I’ll want to listen to frequently. So I ended up with a selection of 49 .flac files that I used to play on shuffle using either Banshee in Linux or Foobar in Windows.

Last year, I discovered LastFM, which back then had its own musical database and a downloadable music player that drew on the database in order to play randomly selected tunes based on a keyword, the way more familiar services such as Pandora do (although Pandora is not available here in Canada thanks to cultural protectionism). In the US, LastFM is free of charge, but in Canada you get a small number of free songs and then have to pay $2.99 a month for unlimited listening. I’ve paid that happily for a period of time, missing the three bucks a bit but getting great benefit from hearing new songs I would never have known to seek out.

Recently, LastFM dropped its own music database and began relying on a YouTube video feed using a new web-based player that’s still in beta. Its random selection isn’t as good as the old database selection used to be, but it’s still good enough. I enjoy occasionally stumbling into an unexpected gem that I enjoy listening to but was completely unaware of.

And there is a way to buy those songs affordably, even for me! The new LastFM web player has a dropdown menu of online music stores. The one I chose is 7digital. Now, 7digital has kind of a crappy selection of only recently-released and timeless music, so that I am sometimes unable to find what I’m looking for. I have yet to find them selling the cuts I want by the superlative Rocco Ventrella, the most underrated musician in all of jazz. Also, 7digital seems actively to avoid offering customer service aside from a dismissive, almost rude FAQ that essentially tells you that, if you don’t like how they do things, you can go somewhere else. But the cuts that they do have available generally cost only 99 cents in .mp3 format. My bank was kind enough to issue me a prepaid credit card that works just fine for such purchases. Since I started buying cuts on 7digital, I’ve bought 19 of them costing me a total of about $20. I keep them in my music folder and just play them in sequential order when I feel like listening to music.

I’ve already told you that I reinstall my operating system frequently, and for that reason I keep data backed up on a flash drive. But somehow disaster struck, and I managed to erase all of the music my flash drive contained. I was able to redownload my previous 7digital purchases, because they offer redownload indefinitely, but, in order to get the .flacs, I’d have to rip the CDs all over again, and that’s a time-consuming process I can’t be arsed to go through right now. Audacity is intended for audiophiles, so it’s highly manual, and it takes a world of mouseclicks to rip even one song from a CD. I’ll get around to that at some point. In the meantime, my music consists of my 19 purchased .mp3s and whatever comes up on the LastFM beta player.

I can hear the young people among you laughing and asking why I don’t just go to Piratebay to get my music for free. Simple: I am a creative person, and I’d feel terrible if someone ripped off my work, and don’t want the musicians who sweated blood over those recordings to feel just as ripped off because of me. I don’t care if you steal music, but don’t expect me to do it. I just refuse.

I’ve put a moratorium on buying more .mp3s off 7digital until I can save up a few more bucks, which should occur around the middle of September. Then I’ll likely buy a cut once in a while, if I like it enough and think I’d enjoy playing it often enough.

So that’s the story of my listenership. What’s the story of YOUR relationship with music? Don’t be afraid to talk about playing instruments and/or singing as well as listening.

Confessions of a Doormat

The following is an account of simple domestic events. Draw your own conclusions from what it says.

A few evenings ago, my 74-year-old father came to me asking about private clinics. This is in Ontario, Canada, where health care is usually paid for by the government, but there are clinics that permit you to pay more out of pocket. I told him the little a guy on my sub-poverty-line income knows about private clinics: that the care you receive at them is often better than it is at public ones, but they tend to maximize diagnostic tests and treatment in order to make the most money. My father wanted to know whether the doctors at private clinics are “connected” to the doctors at public ones (as it is his view that “doctors are all connected” and you can’t say anything to one without all of the others finding out about it, which he says has led to bad experiences). I told him that I didn’t know anything about that.

Then he got to the real point. He’s been having knee pain, and wants to have it checked out, but the care from his regular doctors has been unsatisfactory. The mention of knee pain immediately made me take notice. Eleven years ago, my former coworker’s husband went to his doctor complaining of knee pain. The doctor told him it was arthritis. A year later, it turned out to have been lymphatic cancer, which by then was out of control. He died within months. I was concerned about something similar happening to my father, so I advised him to go see some doctor somewhere right away and make sure his knee pain is nothing serious. He said okay and went away.

Some time later the same evening, he came back to me, looking subdued, and asked me whether I thought he should go see a doctor. I had already given him my opinion, but one of my father’s dynamics is to ignore the answers I give and keep asking me the same question until he gets the answer he really wants. This is especially prominent at dinnertime, when he will ask me whether I want a particular kind of food, such as mashed potatoes or pickles, and I’ll say no, so he’ll ask me again whether I want it, and I’ll say no again, so he’ll ask me yet again whether I want it, and I’ll finally say yes just for the conversation to be over; except then he’ll ask me whether I’m sure I really want it, and I’ll have to lie and say yes one more time. It’s something that could be connected with my father’s culture of birth, which I disowned and walked away from a long time ago because of him and my brother (who was born in Canada but is very much his father’s son). In this specific case, I had already told him I thought he should see a doctor right away, but it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear, so he was going to keep asking the question until I told him what he did want to hear. But there is a difference between food choices and potentially fatal illness, so I saw no choice but to keep telling him to go see a doctor, no matter how much it prolonged the conversation. He must have sensed that, because then he asked me if “all three of us should talk about it together,” which is his and my brother’s euphemism for them consulting each other while I’m not even in the room. I told him yes, and he seemed satisfied with that, because he didn’t mention the matter for a couple of days.

Last night I heard my brother veritably shrieking in the living room and went to see what was going on. They were discussing the knee pain issue, but were having a language barrier. My brother, who has far more mental pathologies than me except they’re not the kind you can diagnose, has a mental block on speaking my father’s language of birth, and my father’s English is terrible. My brother was expressing frustration that he couldn’t make himself understood. I offered to help because I speak both languages fluently, and both of them accepted that (even though it’s a hard and fast rule in this household that I am to be treated as entirely useless and incapable of doing anything). Judging by my brother’s long-winded speeches, which I was supposed to remember and translate, the problem wasn’t really a language barrier. It was my brother’s fear that our father was having a serious health problem, which led my brother to bury his head in the sand and become emotional. He kept carrying on about exercise-related injuries until I was bewildered by the wealth of verbiage he was throwing at me. In the end, just to avoid having my brother intimidate me with his size (since he is much bigger than me), I helped them agree that our father would take a break from their morning power-walks for about a week and see whether the knee pain resolves, and then re-evaluate. I got out of there and went to bed.

A few minutes ago, I went to the kitchen for a coffee and passed them at the apartment door, getting ready to go out for their usual morning power-walk. I said nothing, because my input was not wanted, as it never is. Now, I sit here thinking about standing at my father’s graveside during the burial, my psychotic brother standing beside me, grief-stricken. And then I imagine myself walking away after the burial, just walking into the unknown with whatever little cash I have in my pocket, finally free.

Reinstallio and the OS Parade

I am a serial reinstaller. That’s a perfectly lawful version of a serial killer where the only thing you kill is your hard drive. It involves reinstalling operating systems over and over again, often in a rotation of different ones. On various computers since 1991 (yes, I am that old), I’ve run various versions of DOS, Windows 3.1, Win 98, Win XP, Win 7, Win 8.1, the old Caldera Linux, the old free-of-charge Red Hat, Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Slackware, Mint, and others I can no longer remember. And it has felt like I’ve tried out all of those operating systems mostly for the experience of the reinstall and seeing a shiny new desktop (or, in the case of DOS and Slackware, command prompt) on my display.

That was all supposed to change this past March or April, when I decided to sacrifice my meagre savings to a brand new computer from Future Shop. And I already knew I wanted a tower (what people today call a desktop, even though it’s really a tower). That decision earned me widespread contempt. The only people who still buy tower computers are avid gamers, and they build their own, because they consider prebuilt towers to be crap. But the only game I was playing was World of Warcraft, so I didn’t need some kind of overclocked beast, just hardware that ran well and wasn’t seven years old.

So into the local Future Shop I went, and it took me some searching to find the small tower computer section, dwarfed by the gigantic tablet and laptop section. What immediately caught my eye was a mini-tower about one foot tall and 18 inches long, weighing what appeared to be less than 10 pounds. I don’t have a lot of desk space, and don’t like keeping my hardware on the floor, so that was a definite selling point. The computer was an Acer AXC-605. Opinion is sharply divided on Acers, because half the people say they’re excellent and the other half insist they’re crap. I thought the price was right at just under $400 in Canadian bucks, so I grabbed it. I noted from the packaging that it came with a lawfully registrable version of Windows 8.1, so I thought my odyssey through various operating systems was over.

Then the sales clerk got to work on me. He obviously thought I was mentally challenged, probably because most computer people think buying a prebuilt tower _is_ mentally challenged. His sales talk made it obvious that he considered me incapable of feeding myself with a spoon and changing my own diaper. Then he finally got to the point: I was supposed to buy an aftermarket service warranty package from the store that would have cost $200, or half again the price of the computer itself. I politely declined. So then he tried to scare me by telling me that the Acer AXC-605 needs repairs an average of every six months, and each service call costs an average of $200 alone. That almost stopped me from buying the computer, but I decided there was no way he could be telling the truth. If computer hardware broke down and required replacement every six months, even idiots would completely stop buying computers and start using an abacus. So I bought the computer, sans warranty, and walked out.

Later, I had a chance to think about what he had said. I’ve heard stories about repair service offered at places such as Future Shop and Best Buy. It’s intended for people who have trouble finding the power switch–and, from the way that sales clerk at Future Shop talked to me, he was assuming that I didn’t know how to plug the power cord into the wall outlet. But I had previously taken a computer apart physically and reassembled it, and reinstalled and configured and maintained various operating systems. Back in the days of the Commodore 64, I had even written a baseball game called Cowhide, which had been from the pitcher’s perspective, so I knew the basic principles of programming as well, even if I didn’t really know any programming or script languages. So I figured that the people who haul their Acers in to Future Shop for “repairs” every six months are just having software or operating system issues and don’t know how to do a few basic things that can keep a system running smoothly. One of them is reinstalling the operating system from scratch once in a while.

It turned out that you can’t reinstall the version of Win 8.1 that comes with my computer, but you can use a 16-gig flash drive to create a factory reset disk, which can be asked to wipe the hard drive and completely replace the operating system with a brand new version exactly like the one you got when you first bought the computer. In order to use that flash drive, you have to boot off it, and that’s a bit tricky to arrange. I’m not going to tell you how because I don’t want lawyers from large companies threatening to amputate my financial penis, which they make a habit of doing to anyone who inconveniences them. Suffice to say that I did create the factory reset flash drive and make sure I could boot off it. But I’d also had experience with previous versions of Windows that reinstalling the operating system over top of an existing operating system of the same version can sometimes reuse data already present on the hard drive and lead to the dreaded blue screens of death, so, before using the factory reset disk, I arranged to get the installer for Linux Mint onto another flash drive, so that I could install it first in order to overwrite the data on the hard drive. For general information, Mint takes about four and a half minutes to install on my Acer, compared to about 30 minutes for a factory reset of Win 8, and, with Mint, there is much less post-install configuration to get the system just the way I like it. The problem is that several bits of commercial software simply will not run in Linux at all, and I wanted to keep using them.

Long story short, I am still a serial reinstaller. Every 10 days or so, I back up my data, overwrite my hard drive with Mint 17, then do a factory reset of Win 8.1. Getting everything done takes a grand total of about an hour and a half. It’s time well spent to avoid having to drag my computer to the repair shop a mere six months after I bought it. And sometimes it’s even fun to take a break from Windows and just run Mint 17 for a couple of days, as I’m doing right now.