As you deduced from my last column, I am a world-class procrastinator. Thus, you can understand my having put off buying a new computer for eight years (which is about 110 in tech years).
Besides my fervent wish to avoid a trip to Best Buy, a store that always makes me feel stupid and massively behind the technology curve, some other factors were at work. For one thing, I have more of my dad in me than I usually care to admit. Like him, I hate to throw things away, especially things that cost a lot of money in the first place. And I’m big on do-it-yourself fixes.
Also, when it comes to aging of any kind, I’m a serious fan of denial. I just didn’t see the problem.
For years, my computer was a stalwart friend. As with anything or anyone we see every day, its deterioration was slow and incremental and easy to dismiss.
Like wrinkles and grey hairs, the first problem to show up was minor: the frequently used letters wore off the keyboard. In order not to write complete gibberish, I need to know where I am putting my fingers, so I took out my trusty label maker and created new IDs for the keys, an easy fix.
The next to go was the fan. It groaned and complained even more than I do when my trainer proposes I perform burpees. Like him, I ignored the whining and told the machine to just get on with it.
It did for a while, but the fan problems caused a larger issue: chronic overheating. Which led to abrupt shutdowns, usually in the middle of an unsaved document.
Naturally, like any rational person (who was raised by my dad), I sought a clever and inexpensive solution that did not involve buying a reliable new machine.
I removed the cover from the spot on the base that was heating up, to give it more air. That slowed the frequency of the crashes, though using the computer for more than two hours at a time remained problematic.
I concluded that my faithful friend needed to cool off even more. Browsing at Home Goods, I found the solution, a plastic platform with twin fans in it that was specifically designed to sit under a laptop to keep it from burning your lap. Problem solved.
Sure, the fans added another layer of irritating sound, but it was no harder to ignore than the constant futile whirring of the computer’s own broken fan.
With that clever and inexpensive fix (dad would have been so proud), all was OK for about a year.
Until the wireless printer began refusing to acknowledge the computer’s commands. The only way to print was to physically carry the laptop to the printer and hook it up with a cable. Fortunately, I don’t need to print that often.
However, it revealed another issue. The battery was shot. When I unplugged the computer to move it to the printer, it would only hold its charge for five minutes before the system blanked out.
Tethered to its plug, my laptop was now officially a desktop, but it was hanging in there.
Then a couple months ago, the base fans stopped working and the overheating/shutdown problem returned in full force. I couldn’t find a replacement base, so I came up with yet another clever solution. I propped the computer up on an icepack. I could imagine dad nodding in approval.
That put the keyboard on an angle and a bit too high for comfortable typing, but I took frequent breaks, mostly because the sudden shutdowns continued. I figured they were a good reminder to get up and stretch.
I noticed, however, that my stretch breaks were stretching out. With each crash, the system took longer to reboot.
By last week, it was taking half an hour to wake up each time. And when the system was running, software programs began freezing and sending me error messages.
After a crash that caused me to lose two hours of painstaking editing, it was finally too much, even for me. I took a good look at the battered old dear, propped up on a melting icepack and struggling to survive on life support, and realized that it was cruel to prolong its suffering (and mine).
I pulled the plug and went to Best Buy.
OMG, I can’t believe I waited this long. My new computer is amazing. It boots up in seconds, races to respond to my every command, holds a charge, keeps its cool, is practically silent and forged an immediate bond with the printer.
It runs like a dream. But just in case it has other ideas, I’m putting it on warning.
Sorry, dad, but I’m abandoning your teachings. I have a new zero tolerance policy.
The minute this one starts to act up, I’m replacing it.
Flat Iron Steak
I’ve been so busy playing with my new computer and moving all my old files (a process made more difficult by the frequent time-outs called by my cranky old machine), that I haven’t had much time to cook this week.
Fortunately, this recipe from my friend Julie is simplicity itself. It’s a standby (and a standout) in her Cooking with Julie cooking classes, and should be in your repertoire too. Now that the summer grilling season has arrived, it will be my go-to dinner for company.
The secret in the marinade is the fish sauce (also known as nam pla) in place of salt. It adds an extra dose of umami that takes the flavor to another level.
1 flat iron steak, about 1-1/2 pounds
4 or 5 large garlic cloves, sliced paper thin
1 tablespoon dried herbs de Provence or other herb mixture
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon fish sauce
Mix together the oil, garlic, herbs and fish sauce. Rub the mixture all over the meat, then place it in a bowl or plastic bag to marinate for 1-1/2 hours in the refrigerator (or overnight).
Heat a grill to very hot (“sear” on my gas grill), while bringing the meat to room temperature.
Season the meat with fresh-ground pepper, then grill, turning it after 3-4 minutes, until cooked to your taste (I prefer it rare), probably about 6-8 minutes total, depending on how thick it is.
Let rest a few minutes, then slice the meat about 1/4-inch thick on the diagonal and against the grain. Serve immediately.