Configure Windows laptop without making a Live account

I was setting up a new laptop, and it was a Windows system laptop. I guess that means the Microsoft spy tentacles are already buried all over the place.

But then the Microsoft spy tentacles wanted to ensnare themselves even further — way more than I wanted. Have you ever tried to configure a brand-new Windows laptop, just to reach the point where it demands that you sign into Microsoft Live during the set up? I guess some people like Microsoft Live, because it’s supposed to give you a way to back-up your files on your computer onto the Microsoft “cloud”, and … I’m not sure what else it does. Microsoft makes it sound like you will absolutely die if you don’t sign up for it. But I think it’s really just their way to get their tentacles around all your private information.

Any case, the last time I configured a brand-new laptop, a few years ago, I was presented with the option to create a Microsoft Live account … but it was just an option. So I skipped it.

But this time around, there was no option to skip, which made me really mad. They have no right to force you to create a Microsoft Live account just because you’re using the Windows system. What should have been an easy set-up job turned into a circus. I had to get out an older device and start googling how to get around the Microsoft Live set-up. No one on google had any good suggestions, except to create the account, and then go through complicated steps to cancel it.

But then one website suggested, just turn your Internet off. If there’s no Internet, then the Microsoft Live set-up can’t proceed — you can’t get the outerworldly spy tentacles slurping from your private affairs. I liked that. If I had known, I would have not connected to the Internet when I’d been prompted by the set-up. But now it was too late, I was already connected and just like there was no option to skip the Microsoft Live account creation, there was no option to un-connect from the Internet.

I ended up walking like a quarter of a mile, carrying the laptop, away down the road from where I was, just so I could escape the pull of the wireless Internet. Mind you, normally, all I have to do is take one step into the yard and the Internet throws a fit: sorry, you’re outside the bounds of the wifi perimeter, no more Internet for you! But this time, I walked out the front steps … still connected. I walked out into the yard … still connected. I walked to the yard in the back, still connected. I walked to the furthest corner out front, still connected. All of a sudden, when the Microsoft Live account set-up was at stake, the Internet refused, simply refused, to disconnect. I had to walk all the way down the road and cross a bridge before the Internet gave up. Finally out of the Internet range, I was able to proceed with the set-up all the way, and I got out of creating a Microsoft Live account.

Before doing all this, though, I did something that I was a little scared of doing; I pressed down on the laptop power button to force the laptop to shut down. I was scared of doing that right in the middle of set-up; what if forcing the laptop off during such a fragile time of birth would cause irreparable harm? But nothing untoward happened. And I could see no other solution — I was stuck at the page demanding that I sign up with Microsoft Live. There was no option to go back, there was no option to skip. After about 20 minutes of hemming and hawing, during which all the excitement over the new toy vanished, I finally forced the laptop to close. When I opened it back up, I was back at the start of the configuration process, and I was able to complete it safely (while hiked out over the bridge out of Internet range).

So I did all that, and configured the laptop without signing into MS Live. But then came a new problem! It seems like there is a new rule that if you have Microsoft Office on your device (so MS Word, Excel, etc), you can no longer use it if you do not create that dreaded MS Live account! Can this really be true? Everything seemed to indicate that this was the case, so while I had bought a license for MS Office, I returned it without opening it, and the laptop remains MS Live-free. I’ve been able to get away with it because I have access to other computers with MS Office already installed. But can it really be that the new conditions for using Microsoft Word and Excel is that you must create a Live account?

I’ve been testing out the open-source software, OpenOffice, in the meantime. The Excel version kept crashing. I don’t like it too much. I thought about Google docs and Google spreadsheets, but they steal your information, too, and you have to have Internet to access your files. WordPad, which just automatically comes on Windows computers, is a nice alternative if you are just making notes for yourself, and not really doing anything super formal. But I don’t have a long-term solution so far.

Something new in the Blender tutorials

It’s rare enough to find a Blender tutorial made by a woman.¬† I won’t complain too much, because essentially all the men making tutorials are sharing their knowledge for free — aside from some ads — but when there’s no women making tutorials, it gives you a sense that you don’t really own the field all that much. I think before yesterday, I had only seen one tutorial by a woman — and I don’t remember it at all — I just have a feeling that there was such a one — and aside from this mythical one, I believe all the hundreds (or thousands?) of tutorials I’ve used were produced by white men.

But yesterday, I came across a tutorial that I’m pretty sure was made by a Black woman. This is her YouTube site, VScorpianC. She has tutorials on Blender, and all sorts of other cool, free, artistic programs. The tutorial I watched was on the grease pencil. She went at a very slow pace (for me), but it’s probably just right for many others, and I got the information that I was looking for.

Are you low-class for electioneering?

When I was little, I didn’t want to belong to any political party, because it seemed like politics was a power-hungry world and I didn’t want the rot rubbing off on my purity and high-mindedness.

Also, you know, I didn’t think that people are actually evil. I thought if someone was evil, I could talk to them and show them a new way and we’d all hold hands and be friends at the end.

Now that I know better, I have no choice but to be more political. It’s not a matter of politics anymore, anyways. It’s actually more like battling fascists, Nazis, and evil, so things have changed. I wrote about my best tips of local campaigning here. I’ll probably stay pretty active here on out.

But, there’s still a side of me that questions the effectiveness of political campaigning. At best, you might get someone who wasn’t planning to vote to show up in the poll line. Or get someone else who was planning to vote, but hadn’t really thought about when, to really commit.

Compare that to the downsides. There is something noisy and intrusive about cold-calling people, passing out fliers, and knocking on doors. It’s not very effective at creating a conversation. If people stop to talk to you, mostly it’s because they don’t want to be rude, and since you’ve just met them, they’re not as likely to really open up.

If you, therefore, really, really, really don’t want to mire yourself in the messy and pedestrian and low-class occupation of electoral campaigning, then I think you have an out. Rather than engage in direct politics, just spend large chunks of time reaching out to people in whatever way possible to create good citizens in a very deep and lasting way. Do this at all times, not just during election season.

I once lived across from two little kids and their grandmother. Why did they live with their grandmother? I don’t know, I never bothered to ask. I talked to those kids only on the day I was moving away. I wish now I had gone over, introduced myself to the grandmother, and helped the kids with their homework if they ever needed it.

That was when I was a master’s student. And then it happened again when I was a PhD student. I lived across from a family of refugees – I think maybe from Myanmar. It never clicked in my mind that I should knock on the door, introduce myself, get to know the kids, and see if I could help out or hang out with them. In fact, I didn’t even realize that they were refugees until someone pointed it out, after about two years of being neighbors. If I had bothered to think about it, I could probably have figured this out much earlier.

Combined, the family from my Master’s and the family from my PhD adds up to quite a handful of kids who I could have taken to the UNC science expo, say, or to the string quartet concerts in Hill Hall, or I could have taken them to the computer labs and shown them how to use mapping software. Sharing my interests with the environment with them could have been really impactful, both in how they live their lives and how they later vote.

So if you really feel like electioneering is too slimy a business for you, then just be active in other ways that are deeper, sweeter, and less forced.

And as you build those deeper and sweeter relationships, you might even decide that the depth and sweetness of them will protect you from moral peril if you should one day also venture in the more direct and blustering world of direct political engagement!


Lessons from the election

This was the first election where I knocked on people’s doors, called people, wrote postcards to people, and stood outside the polls handing out sample ballots. I also made campaign videos specific to North Carolina. So my top take-aways (for helping out with¬†local races) are:

1. Human contact trumps social media. At least, I think. Everyone wants to make a viral video that millions of people watch. But I’m probably not going to do that. My videos were watched by a couple of thousand, at most. And, most likely, those few thousands already agreed with the video. Did those videos help tip any of them into making sure they make it to the polls? I have no idea. Whereas when you go canvassing, you talk to individual people and you can see them nod their head, or you can have a conversation, or you can respond in a way that’s adapted to what issues they’re bringing. You’ll reach less people at a blow, but that face-to-face contact is probably a richer haul than most of what is flung out on the ethernet.

2. But make material for social media anyways. So that the Ethernet is not just drowning in the lies of the other side. But as to what extent you should make video ads that give positive information about your own party, versus creating negative ads about the competition, and whether those negative ads should be about tangible things like school-cuts or more intangible but bedrock things like not cheating and lying: I think I’ll write another post about that.

3. Canvass with a friend, and to friends. There was a very nice lady in my county who was going out knocking on doors, so I just joined her. And our lists of houses to visit were mostly people, based on their voter registrations, who were going to be friendly to us, not run us off. We didn’t want to debate anyone. We just wanted to encourage people who think like us, but who don’t always vote, not to sit this election out.

4. Do most of the work ahead of time. Because the last weekend, I was just frozen, hopeless, and scared, and couldn’t do much of anything.

5. Take note of things you don’t like in your own party. I thought there were definitely things happening that were racist. I am going to try to bring this to the attention to some of the higher-ups. It’s definitely not just the other party being racist.

6. Manipulation of the early vote polling lines. One of the candidates was outside the Board of Elections, apparently every day of early voting, passing out a half-sheet flier promoting herself. This was for a school-board position. That means there’s no “Democrat” or “Republican” or other distinction by the name on the ballot. You could go to the polls intending to vote a straight ticket, and then just have no idea who belongs to what party when you get to the school board section. If someone was standing by the election line telling you how great they are just before you head in to vote, that could very well be convincing.

7. Give recognition where due. Especially the people who volunteered like crazy and kind of ran the show for no money while getting yelled at by the county leader. Maybe flowers, lunch, a card, a movie, or all of it, would be nice.

8. Be a little evil. I was at a polling station distributing information – a polling station in the heart of Racism, USA, to be specific. The wife of one of the opposing candidates running for judge was also there, stumping for her darling husband. That was all fine and good and she seemed nice enough, but then an old man came by in a ‘Make America Hate Again’ hat, and he decide to plop his fine self just in front of where all us poll workers were stationed – about 6 Republicans and 2 Democrats – and start spewing a bunch of hate. It flashed in my mind that this man would have been attending the Hitler rallies with fervor had he lived 80 years ago in Germany. Then Mrs. Doting Wife of the Judge walks up to him and passes out her fliers and helps him figure out where he needs to go, as if he’s just a kind old man and not a monster that wouldn’t mind plucking me up and throwing me into a fire. After that, every time the Doting Wife of the Judge wandered in front of me, I started airily conjuring up any and all sordid stories of passionate affairs I could think of, starting with that weird one of the lady who killed her husband’s lover in Delaware, and ending with a confident statement that any woman who has worked in order to put her husband through law school will likely one day learn her husband is a cheater. And then I couldn’t think of more stories, so I searched on my phone, and struck gold with ‘Anna Karenina’, but before I could get to that, Mrs. Doting Wife departed. Was that evil of me? But I don’t actually care.

Oh, and her husband lost to a Black woman.

Triumphant grin

9. John Knox is trying to save the republic. Who is John Knox, you ask? I didn’t know either till one day I was at an early voting polling site, and an old gentleman strolled up and took his place with his fliers next to me. He was a Republican, but I decided he must actually be nice after an old lady exited the polling station in her wheelchair. It had just started to rain and she had no umbrella. Me and all the rest of the poll workers just kind of stared vacantly at her, but Knox suddenly left the line with his giant umbrella and walked the lady to her car under its shelter. So I concluded that he is not evil, and later on, I realized something. Knox was running for a judgeship. He was running as a Republican, but he was not the Republican the county had endorsed. They’d backed another guy. And there was a third candidate, the Democrat. Now the thing is, in our county, the Republican almost always wins. But because there were two Republicans running for this single seat, about half the Republicans voted for Knox and half voted for the endorsed guy (actually, Knox got more votes than the endorsed guy.) And the Democrat therefore, although she got less votes than the two of them combined, got more votes than either one of them individually. So she won, and she is the first Black woman to hold this judgeship. And given my observations that John Knox is not evil, maybe he joined the race on purpose to make sure the Republicans split the vote and the Democrat wins.