The Fix: MacBook Pro Trackpad Scrolling Issue

If you’ve followed my last two posts, then you know my beloved MacBook Pro had to go in for repairs to the graphics card, which mean they replaced my logic board (for free). Everything seemed to go well, but when I got it back, I noticed the trackpad wouldn’t scroll. I could grab the scroll bar and scroll the old-fashioned way, but when I moved my finger across the trackpad, the window wouldn’t scroll. It didn’t matter what program I was in either.

Since he asked whether there were any issues, I checked in with Sean, the AppleCare technician who had been helping me set up the repair. I asked if there was a simple fix or if I should take it back in to be looked at. I was a little concerned that they might not have hooked everything up right, though that seemed unlikely. Instead, Sean asked if he could call me, and we went through several steps to rule out a hardware issue and try to find the problem. All my trackpad settings were good. We tried replacing the com.apple.systempreferences.plist file (hold down the Option key and select Library from the Go menu to get here—in Library, go to the Preferences folder). I had already removed the trackpad plist files in case they were corrupt. But none of this solved the problem, so we logged me into my admin user account and checked scrolling there. No problems, so that ruled out a hardware issue — something was messed up with my main user account, but we couldn’t find where it was.

I will say, that I was impressed that Apple would spend this much time working with me when the repair had been done by a local authorized service location. Unfortunately Sean admitted defeat, saying he needed to research it and would call me back the next afternoon when he was back at work.

Naturally, I didn’t want to wait that long, so I kept researching and looking into it. I knew the tech guy who replaced my logic board had zapped the NV-Ram on my MacBook when he was testing it, so I figured some setting got set back to default, but I couldn’t find it. I thought maybe a keyboard shortcut could toggle the setting, so I searched for that and found  a really great site by Dan Rodney that lists them all (or most). This jogged my memory that there are settings in the Accessibility control panel in addition to the ones in the Trackpad control panel or General control panel, where we had already looked. Lo and behold, there was the problem setting. Under “Mouse and Trackpad” there was a button for “Trackpad Options” where “Scrolling wasn’t selected. I clicked on that and the trackpad returned to normal!

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MacBook Video Card Repair Conclusion

In my last post, I wrote about how my 2011 MacBook Pro died, due to the common issue with the graphics card. I had been experiencing all the symptoms of weird lines (artifacts) across my screen, random restarts, and finally the inability to boot up the computer at all. That’s what led me to bite the bullet and call Apple, who authorized a local service place to replace my logic board for free.

The Repair

I will say, the whole process has been relatively smooth, and I’ve been impressed with Apple’s willingness to stand behind a 4-year-old computer (now). Exceed Technologies, where I took the MscBook was relatively knowledgable, and had done the repair before. I still knew more than they did about the issue, but they handle more than Macs, and they don’t need to know the cause to know how to replace a logic board, so why should they remember every detail of the issue the way I would. 

The repair was done fairly quickly. It took them a day to get to me (my only minor disappointment), a day to get the part,, and another day to do the repair and test it, do I could get it back the next day. I took it in on Thursday and got it back on Tuesday, so that was a bit faster than Apple’s estimated 5-7 days. And I didn’t have to drive two hours to take it in or wait for Apple to mail it back. For those of us living in the sticks, this is a great option!

Apple Support

Apple support during the whole process has also been fabulous, better than I would have imagined. Not only was I able to call and get this service authorized quickly, but the support tech, Sean (the supervisor of the woman I spoke with first), gave me his contact info and encouraged me to let him know if I decided to go to the Apple Store or have the repair done locally. So I emailed him to say I had gone to Exceed. He wrote back a couple of times to verify whether the repair had been initiated. I wrote when the repair had been completed, thanking him for his help, and he offered to help out more if a I had any related issues. As it turned out, I did, but that is for another post. Let’s just say for now that he was willing give a support call and even spend some time working on my computer to try to resolve an issue I was having with my trackpad after the repair.

The Aftermath

The repaired MacBook Pro appeared to be working well, when I got it back. The only issues I had other than the trackpad scrolling, were with passwords. I had asked the tech if I would need to authorize the computer on iTunes again, due to the new logic board, and he said I wouldn’t because he had put in my serial number when he set up the new logic board. That turned out to be true, but I did have to login with iCloud again to access my keychain, and before I realized this, Mail tried to connect to Google and didn’t have the password. I had to reset that, though once idealized the iCloud issue, my other mail accounts worked. I’ re had to login a few times to Google to get it all straightened out on all my devices. If I didn’t have so many email accounts, including two with Google, this would have been easier. And if I had taken the MacBook to an Apple Store, they probably would have helped me through that process (at least they did when I had an iPad replaced under warranty last year). But if Apple had mailed it back to me, I would have been in the same boat.

I expected to have to reset a few settings and passwords and such after a major repair. In fact since I wasn’t able to secure my computer before I took it in, since I couldn’t even start it anymore, I probably need to reset most of my sensitive passwords, anyway. I basically trust the technicians at Exceed, but I don’t know them personally, and you never know. And it’s good to change passwords now and then , so this will be a good incentive to do that again.

So the only real issue that I faced after the repair was  the fact that my trackpad wouldn’t scroll. That’s what I mentioned to Sean, asking if there was a simple fix or if I should take it back in to be looked at, and that’s what led to a service call and an eventual solution. But more on that in my next post, since it is arguably a different issue that resulted from the repair or the crash. But other people with the issue might get it another way. So I want to go into it in more detail separately.

MacBook Pro Video Repair

Maybe you’ve heard of this story: 2011 MacBook Pros with bad graphics cards that get weird lines on the screen, restart randomly, and then die. I had read about it, fortunately, and I knew it was starting to happen to mine, but yesterday it suddenly went from bad to worse. If you’ve read the stories, then you know how mad some people have been, but you may not have heard that Apple finally did the right thing and extended warranty service for this issue. I had read that, so I was glad to call Apple and arrange for a repair.

First, I spoke with someone who could only offer limited help. She said I needed to take it to an Apple Store to have it checked out. When I explained that the nearest store is two hours away in another state, she eventually put me through to her supervisor who could authorize more options. He not only offered to let me mail in my laptop, but also offered to let me have it repaired locally at an authorized service location. I called them, and opted for that, once I learned that they had done this before and would be replacing the logic board.

Here are a couple of things I learned in the process. I couldn’t start up at all, so I couldn’t do a backup. Starting in Safe mode didn’t work (press the Shift key at startup) and neither did starting in Recovery mode (command R at startup). What did work was starting in single user line mode (command S) at startup. I was able to run a file system check (fsck -f), but that didn’t help. But it did suggest there was hope, even though letting the computer sit all night didn’t magically fix it. So I started in Target mode (press T at startup) and connected to another computer with a FireWire cable to rescue the files that were after my most recent backup. This was successful, but nothing would get it to boot up. Thanks to Zach Clawson for some of these suggestions,

I’ve generally been pleased with the support I’ve received from Apple about this. Both service people were helpful and understanding, and the supervisor who took the case over has been quick to respond when I told him I had taken it to the local service place. We’ll see how it all turns out. 

Of course, I also know that if this had happened a few months ago, my experience could have been very different. So I’m very glad my little MacBook held out until the repair extension went into effect. Now I just hope the repair shop does a good job and it comes back better than ever.

‘Political’ Theater Anyone?

Yesterday’s news in our local paper about the jobless rate (unemployed and those not seeking employment) being 34% in our county and 44% in a neighboring county, combined with the same report’s statistics on high school dropout rates, has me thinking about ways writers and artists can contribute to a solution. I’m thinking about this in part because of the Low-Res Creative Writing MFA program I’ve been starting. It seems like any new program like this ought to have community involvement, whether that is locally or whether it is where our students actually live. I’m also always thinking about how our program will ad to the economy — what kinds of jobs our students will have and how they will benefit (practically) from their education.

Another recent news report was about for profit universities who will now be held accountable based on their graduates’ employment. While I’m glad our program won’t have to prove we led to higher employment rates or higher incomes of our graduates (not everyone studies creative writing to make more money), this report underscored the belief I have that create writing programs need to pay more attention to the practical realities of their students. We can’t just think about art for art’s sake, and we do need to consider the professionalization of our students as a positive thing.

What does all that have to do with political theater? Reading the newspaper article about jobless rates and dropout rates made me think about writers like Federico Garcia Lorca who was involved with proletarian theater in Spain. It also reminded me of the Reilly Theatre, whose play “Spill” documents the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Louisiana. Community theater is possible, and it can be political, though in my title I put that word in scare quotes because it doesn’t have to take a political side or advance any group’s political agenda. Theater that addresses relevant community issues and gives voice to those who may not have a voice without it is political.

So a community-based theater that explored the issues of dropouts and low employment rates could be a good idea for a program like ours. It could take people’s stories and put them on stage (or on the street if it’s street theater). It could get community members involved in the production and even the writing of a play or theater event. It might encourage some in the community to go back to school or to find a job, and it might expose the real problems these people face to a wider audience who may not see the issue in all its complexity. I don’t know all the complex facets of this problem, but a community theater project could explore them and help communicate them.

And a community theater that was actively involved in fighting the epidemic of high school dropouts or the challenges of a high jobless rate would probably be eligible for grant money. Artists don’t have to be starving and they don’t have to be completely altruistic in order to make a difference. MFA graduates should be creative and they should find creative ways to make a living, while also making a difference. Community service and self-interest don’t have to be at odds in other words, and any program that’s worth it’s salt ought to have a community service component. Theater is only one avenue that we might explore — literacy training, a poetry project, or an oral history project all might be equally effective. What we do will depend on the interests of our students and on what works with the community.

A Philosophy of Bread

I have baked bread every week for nearly 30 years. About the only times when I haven’t baked my weekly loaves of bread are when I have been on vacation or living in a country with great bakeries and no ovens in their rental apartments (I’m looking at you, Belgium!), so making bread has become part of the rhythm of my life. If you’ve read my other food posts, then you won’t be surprised that I don’t use a recipe. All you need to bake bread are yeast, water, flour, and a little oil and salt. If you know how much water to start with, you’ll always have about the right amount of bread. You can even do without the yeast, which I’ve tried now and then with a sourdough. Or you can get fancy, adding ingredients like milk or eggs.

The first method I used to bake bread was taught to me by my Danish friend, George, who had researched it and found what he thought of as the best. It involved making up the sponge and the dough late at night, and baking the bread in the morning. That was a great method that I used for many years. My thoughts on bread were also influenced by Ed Brown’s Tassajara Bread Book, where I learned a few of the other recipes I’ve tried, including a way to make your own sourdough starter.

Eventually, as I grew older and started a family, I changed my method. The overnight one involved getting up early in the morning an hour before you wanted to bake it in order to punch down the bread and let it start rising again. We decided fresh bread for breakfast wasn’t essential, but more uninterrupted sleep was, so I developed a method to make bread in the morning and have it ready for Sunday lunch. It takes about 4-5 hours from the time  you add yeast to the water to the time it comes out of the oven.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that bread is very flexible and very forgiving. Though I follow the same method every week, it rarely comes out identical. A lot depends on the kinds of flour you use, though I keep that fairly consistent. Sometimes I’ll ad buckwheat or rye, and we like to include some oatmeal when we have it on hand. Otherwise, I usually use about half white and half whole wheat. How the bread rises depends on the environment and how attentive I’m being. In the winter, I might warm the oven before putting in the dough. See my post on Twice Baked Bread for a time when this went really wrong, but the bread still survived! I’ve had plenty of mishaps and baked a few barely edible bricks, but by and large, the bread turns out wonderful every week, especially when it’s fresh from the oven.

What this has taught me in terms of a philosophy is to be flexible myself. Though I aim for perfection, I try not to define it too much in advance, and I try to be open to valuable surprises. If things don’t go the way I expect them to, I try to roll with the punches and find a new way. So if I’m baking bread and I’ve forgotten to punch it down when I should, I either extend the time I need before the bread comes out of the oven, or I skip the second rise and put it into loaves right away. Generally, that works relatively well, given that I often leave it in the sponge stage long enough to develop some really good gluten (no I haven’t jumped on the anti-gluten bandwagon—I’ve never had a problem with it, at least not with homemade bread). Other times, if I’m in a bit of a hurry, I might skip the sponge stage and make sure i give it two really good rises before making it into loaves. It might take a little longer rising in the loaf pans if I do.

I like the rhythm of making bread, mixing it up, kneading the dough, watching it rise, nursing it along or letting it do its own thing as needed or as my schedule will allow. And of course, I love the taste of fresh bread!  I rarely buy bread in the store and am disappointed when I do. I don’t mind bread-machine bread, but making it on my own is easy and such a part of normal life by now, that I hardly see the point in a machine. I could use our KitchenAid to do the mixing and initial needing, but so far I prefer to do it by hand. It’s what keeps you grounded to the food you eat, and that is what can turn any kind of cooking into a philosophy best written in the daily or weekly habits and the food you make.

Risotto with Baked Golden Beets

I figured it’s time to get back to posting about food now and then. This weekend at our farmer’s market, I was able to pick up a few golden beets, and made a delicious risotto (if I may say so). I won’t go into the Risotto part of the recipe other than to say I didn’t do anything special, just cooked the arborio rice with sautéed onion and vegetable broth until it was done.

For the risotto part, I chopped up the beet tops and some mushrooms, then sautéed them in olive oil until the mushrooms were browned and the beet tops just lightly wilted. I added a bit to tomato sauce to the risotto right before adding the sautéed greens, and mixed it all together with a liberal amount of Parmesan or Romano cheese.

What really made the meal good, though were the baked beets. It took about as long to bake them at 400 as it took to make the risotto. I quartered them, added olive oil and cut up part of rutabaga that I had left in the fridge, then mixed with the oil and a bit of salt until they were coated, and baked until they were tender. The juices of both root vegetables were trapped inside by the baked-on olive oils. Both the beets and the rutabaga were sweet, and more flavorful than if I made them on the stove. The combination with the risotto was excellent. The golden beets had a wonderful color — this would probably work with red beets, too, but the beet flavor might be stronger. So if you’re looking for something new to try with beets or a new ingredient to have with risotto, give this a try.

Grad Student Admissions!

This week, now that final exams are over and end-of-year meetings have been held, I’ve been able to turn my attention back to admitting students to our Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing. I’ve actually admitted one student, and I have two more forms ready to turn in today. There are several other applications that are nearly complete, waiting only on one or two pieces of information before I can finish the process. I knew it would probably be complicated, but never really guessed just how convoluted that could get. The sheer number of details that have to be tracked down can be a little overwhelming. Not that I’m complaining! But I want to explain that it takes more than reviewing the documents and making a decision.

Several of our students have come in with multiple transcripts from their undergraduate careers. That’s fine, but it means tracking them all down on their end (sometimes students forget about those first two classes taken at community college, for instance), and  on my end it means making sure they’ve all come in, since they come from different sources and get sent to different offices on campus. Most come either to me or to our graduate studies office, but some end up in undergraduate admissions and some seem to disappear into the ether, but I’ve managed to locate most of the ones I should have by now. One young woman had briefly gone to school that is no longer in business, so I had to help her figure out how to order her transcript, which she was able to do by contacting Mississippi’s Institutes of Higher Learning office.

Immunization forms and letters of recommendation are two other fun pieces of the puzzle, both in terms of tracking them down and in terms of reading and evaluating the letters of recommendation. Each application has a rubric, which needs to be updated for each new piece of information. Fortunately, I created the rubric, so it at least makes sense and measures things we actually care about in admitting students to the program. There are several criteria for the writing sample and letter of intent that I’ve already filled out before I invite an application, and then there are criteria to rate the transcript and letters of recommendation. The weighting, of course, is heaviest on the writing sample, and I have left room for comments, where I can remind myself of what I was thinking or add any notes about the student’s file for future reference.

Since I’ve been doing most of this while also giving final exams, calculating final grades, and tying up all the loose ends of a semester, while also trying to get a head start on next semester and communicating with the visiting writers who will be part of our faculty in the fall, I have to reinvent the wheel every time I come back to a person’s file. Fortunately, this week, I’ve been able to put forth a more concentrated effort and make better notes about what I’m still missing, so that when I return to those files, I won’t have to start over from scratch.

All of this makes me very relieved that next week we begin our planning for an automated admissions system. I’m sure that we’ll still have to assist some people with things like tracking down their transcripts or other details, but keeping up with what is here and what is still missing will be easier both for me and for the student.

But mostly, it is very exciting and gratifying that the program we’ve worked so hard to put into place is finally coming to fruition. The prospective students who have applies are for the most part a very impressive group. I’ve had to turn down a couple — or encourage them to wait and give them advice on how they can develop as a writer before they are ready to take this step on their career paths — but by and large I’ve been at the wealth of talent that is out there in our state and the surrounding region. We will have an exciting and dynamic group of students in our inaugural class, students who could vie for a place in any program in the country. There is room for a few more good applicants, but we already have enough of a critical mass to get this program off the ground in style.

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