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R.I.P.? The American Dream

Nearly 20 years ago, as I sat in a high school English class, the teacher told us all about the American Dream. And then she said there was one generation that wasn’t going to experience that dream, and she pointed at us.

As grim as things look right now, I can look around myself and see people proving Mrs. Susan Collins wrong, and that makes me happy.I guess she read somewhere that the U.S. economy had basically peaked. I vaguely remember reading something like that sometime in the late 1980s. It would have been just like my Dad to find an article like that in a magazine, rip it out, tell me to read it, and tell me not to let it happen to me.

The current prevailing theory is that as the rest of the world develops, our economy will grow as well because they’ll be better able to afford to buy our stuff. Hopefully by the time that happens, we’ll still know how to make something here.

The real threat to the American Dream right now is the sense of entitlement. When I look at the American Dream, I look at how my Dad lived when he was my age, and I have him beat hands-down. I have a house in the suburbs, and I own it outright. When Dad was 33, he lived in a slum. Well, not quite a slum. It was the former Toledo Motor Lodge, converted (badly) into apartments. The way Mom tells it, it was even worse than it sounds.

The problem is that we’ve been brainwashed not to compare our lives with where our parents were at our age. We’re supposed to have a better life than them right now. And if you’re under the age of 40 and your parents are white collar workers, that’s not a realistic expectation at all.

If my Dad were alive today, he would probably make 2-3 times what I make. Osteopathic radiologists with 30 years of experience make more money than systems administrators with 10 years of experience. What if I’d followed his footsteps and become an osteopathic radiologist like he was? He’d still make more than me, because radiologists with 30 years of experience make more money than radiologists with five years of experience. Who wouldn’t rather have the guy with 30 years’ experience reading their x-rays?

But that’s something my family has been dealing with for generations. Dr. Edward Andrew Farquhar started practicing medicine before the Civil War, and when you trace him to me, I’m one of only two generations who didn’t follow his footsteps. When it comes to the American Dream, it’s hard to compete with your father when your father was the town doctor. It isn’t all just handed to you.

But that’s a blessing in two regards. That means anyone who’s deserving of the title can be the next town doctor. That’s good for everyone, because unspeakable things happen when I have to look at something that’s bleeding a lot. If I were the town doctor, lots of people would probably bleed to death.

And any time someone says the American Dream is dead, I look at my neighborhood. It’s overrun with Bosnians. More than 50,000 Bosnian refugees ended up in St. Louis in the early 1990s.

I wish every city in the United States had 50,000 Bosnians move in, because they’re the best thing that’s happened to St. Louis in a very long time. They found jobs, worked hard, saved money, and bought run-down houses in declining neighborhoods. I can remember (barely) some of those neighborhoods, and they’re a better place now because of it. The neighborhoods not only look better now, but they’re safer.

Some of the children of those refugees are grown now, with jobs and families of their own, and increasingly they’re moving into the suburbs. In other cases, first-generation Bosnian immigrants are upgrading to houses in the suburbs.

It’s clear how they do it. Besides having a regular job, they always have something going on the side. Maybe more than one. They shop at thrift stores and garage sales, and they negotiate hard. They treat every dollar like it’s their last. And they’re always looking for an opportunity, or trying to make one.

They’ve tried to maintain their distinct culture, but what they may or may not realize is that they’re more American than their neighbors down the street who’ve been here for four generations.

I hope they’re still going at it when my son is old enough to pay attention. Because I intend take him out and find some Bosnians in action. And when I do, I’m going to point at them and tell my son to watch everything they do. Because for anyone who’s willing to do what the Bosnians do, the American Dream will always be alive.

Sorry I’ve been AWOL lately

The last few days I’ve been having a really hard time concentrating due to headaches and stuff like that. So although I’ve had time to sit down and write, I haven’t really been able to actually sit down and do it.

I’m going to see the doctor on Monday. I’m really hoping that my osteopath will act like an osteopath and do OMT on my neck this time, rather than giving me more harsh drugs.

How to heal

I had a conversation with a friend over the last couple of days. I won’t go into specifics to protect the people involved, but this friend is in the unfortunate situation of being surrounded by people with problems.
One of those people called on Tuesday night. It was a two-hour conversation. I asked how it went. Short version: The caller received a long list of things to do that will help solve the problem. But my friend wasn’t optimistic and fully expects to hear back from this person again in a couple of weeks, miserable as ever, and having not done a single thing on the list.

Someone else in this person’s life is facing a horrible disease. This disease wasn’t my dad’s area of specialty, but it was an area of interest for him. He wrote about a form of the disease in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in 1979. I wished aloud that Dad was still alive so I could get his opinion on what this person needs.

Then I realized it doesn’t take Dad’s Bachelor’s degrees in physics, chemistry and biology and his Doctorate of Osteopathy and his 23 years of practicing medicine to understand what this second person needs. I don’t know much about this second person’s needs, but I saw a common thread between the first and the second.

Neither of them want help enough.

I’ve been there. I battled depression from the ages of about 14 to 21. I wasn’t willing to do anything about it until spring of 1995. I was used to it and I’d always managed to live with it. Part of me believed I thrived off it. My favorite writers were always depressed, so to me, being pessimistic and gloomy all the time was an asset. And I still believe to this day that some of the best stuff I ever wrote was written during a mood swing. I knew–or at least suspected–that I had a problem, but I wanted that problem.

Then one day, that problem became too much to bear. I woke up one morning and realized I couldn’t live like that anymore.

I relapsed a couple of years later. You see, I hadn’t wanted the depression to go away. I just wanted a milder form of it. Or I wanted to be able to invite it back over for a visit, because it was my crutch. I was fortunate. When it came back, it came back harder. It crushed me under its weight. I couldn’t get to work on time anymore, and when I did get there, I was unproductive. Most of the people I worked with couldn’t stand to be around me. My friends from that time period felt sorry for me, but I only have one friend left from those days. Some of those friendships would have gone away anyway, but I think part of it was just that it was too much work to be my friend right about then.

I knew life couldn’t go on that way. And in both cases, getting help was a lot of work. I came away from my therapy sessions with more homework than I got from some of my college-level classes. And the work was harder than a lot of my 300-level Journalism classes.

When you’re lurking in the Valley of the Shadow of whatever, and it took a culmination of events that took place over a lifetime to get you there, you can’t expect a two-hour phone conversation to change it. And you can’t expect it to go away on its own.

But I wanted to beat it badly enough. I was willing to do my homework. I wanted it gone, at any cost. If that meant I’d never write again, so be it. Better to be unpublished and happy than published and miserable. And–this will come as a shock to some, and as an “oh, duh!” to others–once I was rid of my problem, I found I didn’t need it. I went on to publish a book that went so far as to be Amazon.com’s #1 seller in Canada for a couple of weeks–and the concept was something I thought of after therapy, so it’s not like I developed it in depression and saved it up for afterward–and then I published a handful of magazine articles across the Atlantic.

So take it from me. You can turn around, even when you think you have everything to lose by facing your problem and getting it fixed.

So how do you pray for someone who doesn’t want help?

I think it helps to remember that there is one prayer that God will always answer yes to, no matter who prays it, no matter when they pray it, and no matter how they pray it. When someone says get lost, God complies immediately. And when our lives without Him become so miserable that we can’t take it anymore and we want Him back, He’ll come back even more quickly than He left, if that’s possible. But I think those are the only two prayers that are guaranteed to be answered with a yes.

When a person doesn’t want help from you or me or their doctor or their therapist, they don’t want help from God either. And it’s not really in God’s character to butt in uninvited and give unwanted help to somebody. It seems like sometimes He intervenes anyway, but I have to wonder if it isn’t because His back was against the wall and He had to do it for somebody else’s sake. (This is just me talking; don’t get any ideas about me being a prophet or anything.)

So how do you effectively pray for someone in that situation?

I think it’s pretty simple. They have to want help. They have to want it enough to be willing to change. I knew I was on the right track when I wanted my depression gone so badly that I didn’t care if I ever wrote effectively again. I was willing to pay any price to beat my problem, including giving up the most important part of my identity.

You can’t truly be helped until your problem is so big and so crushing that you’re willing to do absolutely anything to get rid of it. My friend Mark once said that nobody knows that they have the will to survive until they really need it. I’d rather say nobody knows that they have the will to survive until they really want and need it. Mark would probably agree. He didn’t say it in so many words, but I got the distinct impression that he didn’t really want the will to survive until he had to pick out his own coffin. The problem wasn’t real to him until then. But something about picking out a coffin did it for him. But once the problem became real and he wanted to beat it, he did. “There’s no way… I was going to let them put me in that box,” he told me. And even though it was more than 10 years after the fact, he still had the determination of a marathon runner in his eyes when he talked about it.

So when a person doesn’t want help, I think it’s premature to pray for healing. Pray for the problem to become real to the person who has it. Pray for the problem to become crushing if necessary. Pray for something to happen that will make the person want help. At any price. It hurts to pray like that for someone you love. Even when you know God loves that person more than you do.

I know, as Christians we’re supposed to pray for miracles. But you know what? I’ve spent a lot of time around apathetic people. I think being cured of apathy is a bigger miracle than being cured of almost any disease. Praying that way still leaves plenty of room for God to work, which opens the door to lots of other nice possibilities, like praying with that person be so much better than merely praying for that person. And of course, that’s the perfect time to pray for that second miracle.


Yes, I’m still alive and so is my server. Unfortunately (note to self: cue up “I Hate My Frickin’ ISP” by Todd Rundgren in the background) Southwestern Bell seems intent on proving my theory that their technicians’ favorite thing to do when bored is to run around unplugging stuff to see what happens.
What usually ends up happening is my Speedstream DSL modem gets hopelessly confused and I fall off the ‘Net. Although this weekend the problem wasn’t that my modem couldn’t connect, it’s that I couldn’t authenticate. Hello? How could I have changed my password? I was offline!

Now, maybe my Speedstream is a piece of junk. Maybe Southwestern Bell is a piece of junk. Were I in the habit of looking around in toilets, I’m pretty sure I could find a better modem and ISP. Unfortunately, I signed a one-year contract. It expires in October. I look forward to telling them to find another sucker.

Meanwhile, yes, I’ve been on a bit of an unannounced sabbatical. What happened? Well, an editor on a power trip over at Wikipedia turned me off to all writing for a time (Zoe, if you’re reading this, just because you don’t know how to write or research doesn’t mean you need to take it out on the world, OK?) and then I found myself swimming in a video editing project that made me believe anew in curses, because I don’t think I’ve seen so many things go wrong since a weekend about four years ago when Steve DeLassus and I tried to install about 4 different flavors of Linux on his 486SX/20 and turn it into a router. When I finally put that project to rest, my leisure activities tended to drift towards anything that didn’t involve a computer.

So I’ve been tired and just haven’t had the energy or will to write much or deal with questions. It happens sometimes.

I guess the Wikipedia snipe deserves a little clarification. I love the project idea. I love writing history. Unfortunately, the project is tainted by several editors who delete anything they don’t like, often without much reason. An article I contributed to about osteopathy garnered a comment from an overzealous editor saying the article raised more questions than it answered and if those weren’t answered he was going to delete it. Well, duh! A lot of things raise questions. If osteopathy didn’t raise any questions, then allopathy (the medical techniques practiced by your friendly neighborhood M.D.) wouldn’t exist. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and if you don’t understand that you really have no business associating with anything with the letters “pedia” in its name.

Working along with one or two others, we were able to answer enough questions to save that article. But I was mad. The osteopathy article had minor problems and was on the chopping block, yet the article on Joseph Smith was so biased and incomplete as to be unusable, but was being ignored?

At one point I got into the habit of checking the historical events of the given day and looking for holes in the linked articles. It was fun, I learned a lot, and I think some articles improved for the better. I fondly recall writing about Joseph Pulitzer (as in the Pulitzer Prize). He’s a very misunderstood figure in history. On one hand, he was one of the biggest innovators in journalism, ever. On the other hand, he and William Randolph Hearst pretty much created the Spanish-American War just to sell newspapers, which is despicable. (Hearst falls a bit lower on the slimeball scale though; at least Pulitzer didn’t ever openly advocate the assassination of a president.) I came out of that endeavor with more respect for Pulitzer than I’d had before though.

But one day I found a photograph of Booker T. Washington at the Library of Congress and uploaded it. It got deleted when I neglected to answer a query as to its copyright status after 24 hours. Was the picture copyrighted? Very highly unlikely. Washington died at the turn of the 20th century and any published work prior to 1922 is now in the public domain. The Library of Congress isn’t willing to guarantee that particular picture is in the public domain, but they provide a huge, archival-quality TIFF for download, suitable for commercial printing use. So they must be pretty certain. You think the Library of Congress wants DMCA-related legal problems? William Jefferson Clinton may be above the law, but the Library of Congress isn’t.

Yet it turned into a controversy. A huge controversy. That particular editor wasn’t interested in improving the quality of Wikipedia; she was on an ego trip. Somehow she got gratification from teaching me and the person who re-uploaded my image (and then replaced it with another one) a lesson.

Meanwhile, an unattributed image of Britney Spears remains.

Of course there’s another lesson to be learned: When you’re trying to be an open-content encyclopedia, you need to attract people. You attract people by having lots of articles. The more articles you have, the more people read you, and the more people you have reading you, the more readers you’ll be able to convert into contributors. The Wikipedia would be a much better place with that editor writing articles and not harassing people who are also doing their best to make it a better place.

I do expect to return someday, but when I do, I’ll be writing the biographies of people like Calvin Schiraldi. Few people besides Red Sox fans care about Calvin Schiraldi, but that’s the point. I’ll get left alone if I linger in the obscure and I don’t upload images. I’m less valuable there, but we’ve already seen what happens when I think about value.

But in the shorter term, I need to find a paying gig. I’ve got a couple of leads on that. I can really use the money, but besides that, it’ll be nice to do some writing for magazines again. For me, writing stopped being about money at about age 19.

What’s your favorite cold remedy?

I’m sick. It kind of snuck up on me. Yesterday I was tired all day and it just got worse. By about 6 I had a full-bore sore throat and I felt ready for bed.
And it all went downhill from there. My girlfriend came over around 8, after her workday ended, and by then I was two tons of fun. Not that I was a jerk, or whiney, or anything. That was the problem: I wasn’t saying anything.

I guess it’s good that it hit on a weekend, since the first day or two is usually the worst. I can’t really afford to miss much work, so I’m going to hit this thing hard.

Zinc lozenges. As soon as I can drag my sorry butt down to the store I’m going to get a couple of packages of these. Nobody knows why they work. I discovered them in college. They work.

Orange juice. My freezer is full of it right now. By the end of the week it won’t be. Vitamin C is your friend.

Raw garlic. Steve DeLassus taught me about this one. Take a clove, cut it up into pill-size pieces, then swallow them like pills. Take with milk to cut down on the aftertaste, or eat a piece of bread afterward.

Chicken soup and anything else steamy. A classmate of my dad’s told me why this works. (It’s a shame it’s next to impossible to find an osteopath in St. Louis.) Our bodies make us miserable because they feel dried out. The body absorbs steam readily, cutting down on its perceived need to handle the problem via other methods. So there really is something to the old adage about chicken soup. Besides the psychological effects.

Hot tea can benefit you as well. Something about tea soothes a sore throat. But caffeine’s bad when you’re trying to rest, so stick to decaf tea.

Rest. I slept 10 hours. I’m going to take another nap here in a bit.

Vitamins, minerals and herbals. Zinc. (The lozenges don’t go through your whole system, so zinc lozenges and zinc tablets aren’t redundant.) Vitamin C. Echinacea. Antioxidants like Vitamin E and Beta Carotene. It’s all about strengthening the immune system and building resistance.

Gargling salt water. My girlfriend mentioned this one. I think my dad used to have me to this, way back when. The body absorbs water that’s slightly saline a lot better than it absorbs plain old tap water. That’s why you use saline solution on contact lenses rather than pure water.

I’ve gargled four times this morning. It seems to be starting to help.

So… Those are my tricks. What works for you?

I’m in debt

It’s official. I’m a debtholder.
And a homeowner.

And after the brouhaha around my downpayment, I understand why my mom’s whole side of the family hates banks. It’s my money! Not yours! Gimme!

So here’s what I learned:

1. Banks don’t talk to each other. That’s fraternizing with the enemy.

2. In this age of computer automation, it can–and will–still take days for a check to clear. Give your brain-dead financial institution a week to sort it out. Don’t count on them getting into the 20th century before your closing date. (Yes, I am aware that it’s now the 21st century.)

3. Try to keep your money in the same institution as your family members, just in case they need to quickly loan you what you put in limbo by writing a check (ha ha!). You know that computer system it refuses to use to quickly transfer money to and from other banks? It will use it to at least check account balances and verify that the money you say is there really is there.

4. Keep as little of your money as possible in banks. My stockbroker/money manager/whatever-you-want-to-call-him gets money to me faster than my banks do. And he beats the tar out of the interest rates a bank pays.

5. You say it’s your money? Possession’s 9/10 of the law, pal.

But anyway, that’s over. I signed my name a few dozen times and around 8 pm I got a key. I drove over. I had a few things with me.

My mom wanted to know what the first thing I’d bring in was. Well, I figure you’ve got two hands. So, since I’m the greatest writer who ever lived, I brought a bronzed copy of my book, Optimizing Windows, and the Nov. 1991 issue of Compute, which contained the first published article I got paid for.

Actually, several of my friends are under orders to shoot to kill if I ever do anything like that. And, for the record, the greatest writer who ever lived was F. Scott Fitzgerald.

So what’d I really bring in?

In one hand I brought in a pewter cross I received on March 18, 1999, the day my membership became official at my current church. (But its main significance is it’s the only wall-hanging cross I have.) I hung it above the fireplace. In the other hand, I brought a framed copy of my dad’s senior picture. I set that on the mantle.

Then I brought in some old stuff. I brought in the sign that hung outside my grandfather’s office (“Dr. Ralph C. Farquhar Jr., Osteopath”), and I brought in a box. The contents of the box:

An apothecary that had belonged to my grandfather
A medical instrument that had belonged to my grandfather (whatever that thing’s called that he uses to look in your ears)
My great-grandfather’s microscope
Dad’s camera (a Minolta) and a couple of Kodak lenses
Dad’s wallet
A can of Farquhar’s Texas-Style BBQ Seasoning

I arranged those on the mantle as well. They look good there.

Unfortunately, since my dad was a radiologist, it’s hard to find anything that symbolizes what he did for a living. But soon I’ll be getting the OMT table that had belonged to Dr. Ralph and then to my dad. OMT is an osteopathic practice similar to what chiropractors do. Dad used to give OMT treatments to his friends after work in our basement. So the OMT table is going in the basement. Then, this house will be home.


~Mail follows today’s post~

Darkening the site for World AIDS Day? This site’s always pretty dark. OK, my excuse: I didn’t know. I’m a bit out of touch. My apologies. So I’ll comply with the alternative suggestion: I’ll tell a story.

I’ve never been close to anyone living with AIDS. But I know someone who has. I’ll tell his story because his story is one of the greatest stories of hope I know.

I moved to a small town in 1983. We weren’t particularly close to either set of next-door neighbors, but we were very close to the family across the street. They co-owned one of the most popular restaurants in town, and had three kids fairly close to my and my sister’s ages. Di became very close with their daughter; I was very close to their two sons.

The kids had an uncle named Mark. Mark was, as I recall, about 22 at the time. He’d gone off to seminary but decided to come back, worked as an assistant manager at the restaurant (owned by his brother and brother-in-law), and dabbled in plants and antiques. There are a very few truly, truly nice people in this world, and Mark was one of them. At the time, Mark was probably the nicest guy I’d ever met. Seventeen years later, I still have to rank him somewhere in the top five.

He was also one of the least fortunate. That summer, his pickup was stolen and never recovered. There was a fire at the carriage house he was living in. Then, the unthinkable happened. As the saying goes, the good die young.

Mark was having problems with headaches. Finally, he went to see a doctor about it. The doctor came back with the worst possible news. Mark, you’re terminal. You have cancer. There’s very little we can do. You have about six months to live.

Mark, being the class act that he was, didn’t tell his family right away. He didn’t want to distress them. He did tell his girlfriend. She left him. Mark never blamed her; she just couldn’t handle watching him die and he totally understood. Sensing that the end was near, Mark made his own funeral arrangements. He paid for everything, picked out everything, including his own coffin, and had everything taken care of. He planned to tell his family, then hand them an envelope and say, “Everything’s taken care of. All that’s left to do is wait.”

But something happened when he picked out that coffin. Something arose inside him. A voice said, “There is no way in hell they’re going to put me in that box.”

Mark determined to spend the rest of his life fighting with every ounce of his considerable resources. Fight he did. He underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. One of the best-known cancer treatment centers in the world was in St. Louis, about an hour away, so he took advantage of it. His hair started falling out, so he shaved his head. In this conservative small town, his shaven head brought him considerable ridicule. And in this place, which was still small enough that everybody knew of everybody (it wasn’t quite small enough to know everybody personally), whenever he ventured out of his house, he got weird looks, like he was a ghost. Aren’t you dead yet?, he imagined them saying.

It became too much for Mark to bear, and things were getting worse, so he moved to St. Louis to be closer to his doctors and to lose himself in a crowd. His six months was up, and he was still alive.

At some point, Mark met an American Indian who was also dying of cancer. A very old and wise man, he took Mark under his wing. “I’m very old and I’ve lived a full life,” he told him. “I’ve outlived my family. I have no one left. But you… You’re too young for this. These beads have been in my family for generations. There’s no one for me to give them to. Take them. And live.”

Mark dismissed the beads as superstition, but didn’t underestimate the power of the mind. He took the beads and wore them. They reminded him that he was fighting the battle of his life.

In 1986, Mark went into remission. He credited his outstanding medical treatment, his determination to live, and his faith in God with saving his life. Grateful to his doctors, his hospital, and God that he’d lived far longer than he was supposed to, he wanted to give something back. He wanted to help others who were dying, to give them hope. There weren’t many terminal cancer patients his age. But there were a number of people his age who were dying of a frightening, still little-known disease known as AIDS.

Mark wasn’t afraid of AIDS or of the AIDS patients. He was patient with them, but firm. Giving up gets you nowhere. That was Mark’s message.

Mark’s volunteer work continued for a number of years. When I last saw him and spoke with him in 1994, he had stopped, but he knew he would go back. “I just need to spend some time in the land of the living,” he told me. “I’ll know when it’s time to go back.” Mark told me he would never live to be an old man–his body was that of a man nearly twice his age and he looked older than his 33 years–but he was still grateful. He and his doctors had traded life expectancy for ten years (at the time) he wasn’t supposed to have.

Mark and I lost contact soon after that. But I’ll never forget his message. I’m sure that’s true of many (and there are many) of the people Mark touched.

Mark didn’t overcome AIDS. And while there’s still no cure, Mark’s attitude will go a long way towards helping those who are living with AIDS to gain years that they, too, weren’t supposed to have.

Thanks to a glitch Wednesday, I was in the Top 100 at editthispage.com. Top 100 sites generally have at least 25,000 hits to their name; this one has about 10,000 so it’s not quite halfway there. I find when I concentrate too much on stats I concentrate not enough on content and everything goes downhill, but 10,000 hits in 6 weeks is pretty good. Thanks to all of you who read regularly. I really do appreciate it.

For those who aren’t Mac people… Let’s revisit yesterday for a minute. Yes, a 45-second boot time on a Mac is very good. Anything under a minute and a half is considered good. For comparison, I took the fastest Mac I have available that’s capable of booting from a RAM disk (G3s and newer cannot), installed a lean, mean OS to it, defragged it and ran DiskWarrior (defragging doesn’t make the ramdisk physically any faster but it helps the filesystem work more efficiently) and rebooted a few times. I timed it at 30 seconds.

That’s a 133 MHz machine with EDO RAM, but that makes me think that you’ll never get a G4 to boot in less than 30 seconds, even with a high-end SCSI card and a 15K RPM hard drive. Slow RAM is still several orders of magnitude faster than any hard disk; that 30 second boot time must be due to the limitations of HFS (Hierarchial File System).

And Di’s two cents. Hey, she’s my sister, and she helps out with the site, so when she wants to say something, she gets to say it. In yesterday’s post, I lamented about focusing on what works right, not what’s wrong. Her comment:

[That’s] the whole basis for occupational therapy, osteopathy, and psychology. It’s all related to the holistic approach.

Hmm. My dad was an osteopath (an osteopath is a medical doctor, but with a slightly different underlying philosophy, but a D.O. can do everything an M.D. does) as were both of his parents. I was never close to his parents so I can’t speak for them, but Dad lived and breathed osteopathy. And my sister has a psychology degree and is working on an OT degree. So no wonder I agreed with him!

I’ve got more, but I’m out of time. I’ll be back tomorrow with more–I’ve been writing long this week anyway.


From: Ab
Subject: That virtual memory thingy.

Hi Dave
I’ve just read your article in Computer Shopper and came a bit unstuck when I got to specifying my own virtual memory settings.  I’ve got 64Mb ram, so, as you suggested I want to give myself a 64Mb swapfile.  I’m just wondering how exactly you enter this in the Min and Max boxes, as I’m fairly new to all this setting changing business.  I tried entering it as just ’64’ in both boxes, but this appears to be wrong, ‘cos  my games starting complaining that my swap file was too small, so I thought I might as well try emailing you to make sure I get it right.
I found the rest of the article to be really informative – keep up the good work.
I’d be really grateful if you’d mail me back about my problem.
Thanx alot

I’ve never seen a game complain that 64 megs of physical RAM plus 64 megs virtual isn’t enough, but hey, if it says it’s not enough, then it’s not enough. Sounds like you got it right, and for your combination of hardware and software, I’m wrong. My apologies on that.
Safe bet is to go 128 instead of 64–it’s overkill, but in Windows 95/98 and Windows Me little too much is better than not enough. If you’ve got really obnoxious games, it may take 192 to appease them, but if they’re really using that much virtual memory, my guess is they’re not running very well.
I’m glad you liked the rest of the article. There’ll be another in the Feburary issue, and another in March.
Let me know if anything else comes up. I post all the mail I get about my articles and book on my Web site so it can help other people if something I write confuses them–that’s inevitable in this business.