chatting with Adobe

In the middle of my last push to  finish my PhD coursework, this charming inanity today from the fine people at Adobe. The chat speaks for itself – published here in its entirety:


info: One moment please while we route your chat to a representative.

info: Thank you for contacting Adobe Sales. My name is Sandra. How may I help you today?

Sandra: Hi, may I have your first name please?

you: Hi. I’m a graduate student and I want to buy adobe acrobat for students so I can highlight and mark up pdfs

Sandra: let me help you with the information.

Sandra: let me help you with the information.

Sandra: I will be happy to help you the right option that’s going to suits your need best.

Sandra: We do have several options for you.

Sandra: Let me ask you a few questions first to make sure we get you the best value for your purchase.

Sandra: Could you please tell me how you want to use the software on your project?

you: I’d like to be able to highlight text so I can refer to it quickly – I download a lot of pdf files. Also, I want to be able to search a pdf by word or phrase

Sandra: Alright, along with that do you also want to edit images, create graphics, print designs?

you: I don’t need any graphics applications

Sandra: That’s okay.

Sandra: Let me explain your option.

you: It would be good if I could easily convert a word file with comments into a pdf format too

Sandra: I do have an amazing option for you.

Sandra: We have Creative Cloud that includes Acrobat XI Pro by which you can create pdf, convert pdf to excel, combine pdf, edit pdf, comment into pdf.

Sandra: Creative Cloud is the most complete creative environment ever.

you: Is there something simpler and cheaper?

Sandra: This is cost efficient only.

you: There isn’t anything cheaper? I don’t need graphics, as I said. I really just want to be able to highlight a pdf and search it – those are the most important functions I want

Sandra: That’s okay.

you: I don’t know what you are suggesting other than the cloud option – is there nothing else?

Sandra: The  apps don’t run from the cloud–they’re downloaded and installed on your computer just like always.

you: Like I said – looking for a cheaper option. Are you saying that creative cloud student and teacher is the only one, or is it the only one you can tell me about?

Sandra: You can also get Acrobat XI Pro  education version.

Sandra: It will cost you $119

you: That sounds great. Because 240 US a year is pretty steep – I saw an adobe product through the australian site that was $89 and wondered if that might work for me? If not, then the $119 version sounds like a plan

Sandra: Well You can  get Creative Cloud at just $199

Sandra: It will not cost you $240

you: I’m going by what I see on the site now – it looks like that $119 is per month? That’s not an option then. And it says creative cloud is 19.99 US a month – so that’s how I got $240. No?

Sandra: $119 is a one time purchase.

you: oh good – there’s a typo on the website

Sandra: You can pay upfront  Creative Cloud for 12 month and it will cost you $199

Sandra: If you purchase the software you need to pay for the upgrade every time when the new version is released.

you: I’ll go with acrobat pro for 119 – thanks for your help.

Sandra: The amazing feature of Creative Cloud is you need not pay for any future upgrade since the latest version will be automatically updated

you: so it’s a one time purchase too?

Sandra: If you purchase Acrobat you need to pay for the upgrade every time when the new version is released.

Sandra: The amazing feature of Creative Cloud is you need not pay for any future upgrade since the latest version will be automatically updated

Sandra: Creative Cloud will cost you $199/annual.

you: And the other one would be 119 a year?

Sandra: $119 is a one time purchase.

you: So the upgrades are cheaper that than the full original purchase price? One more question – I assume I can use it on my iMac as well as an iPad without paying twice?

Sandra: Upgrades cost $199

Sandra: ‘There is no education price on upgrade so it cost more.

Sandra: With Creative Cloud the requirement of upgrading every year to the next version is not needed, every time there is an upgrade or an update for our software it will be instantly available for you to install it free of charge.

you: Now I’m confused – so I buy pro for 119 dollars for a year, then an upgrade comes out next year, and I pay another 199 to renew, then keep paying 199 everytime there’s an upgrade?

Sandra: That’s right.

Sandra: However with Creative Cloud upgrades and update will be free.

you: That’s crazy. And really confusing. So basically, the cheapest option is cloud for 199 a year

Sandra: That’s exactly right.

you: Okay. So, if I get acrobat pro – will it continue to work if I don’t opt for an upgrade?

Sandra: Well, it will not.

you: I have a friend who has pro version 10 from about 2 years ago – it was a one time purchase and she paid a few hundred dollars for it and still gets patches for updates and she doesn’t pay for those

you: I’m not clear on your last answer – it will work? Or it won’t work well?

Sandra: Well, the trend is changed and  Going forward customers using Adobe products have to upgrade every year, this will soon become mandatory. This runs up to the same price as to the Cloud membership. Its the smartest decision to invest in Creative Cloud in the longer run.

you: But will pro continue to work if I buy it today and try to use it on April 14 of next year – or will it not let me access it anymore

Sandra: In that case  it will work until the next  version comes out.

you: And,if I buy cloud, am I locked in at 199 for upgrades a year or can adobe increase the charge for updates?

Sandra: The pricing will definitely not change for the current subscribed year. Looking at the market strategies there might be a change in price later though. We don’t have that information at the moment.

Sandra: Are we connected?

Sandra: I’m sorry, we have not heard from you. We’re happy to help. However, if you do not respond soon, this chat session gets terminated automatically.

you: Thanks – never mind

Piled High and Deep

So, it seems I’m a glutton for punishment. I’ve been accepted into the PhD program in History at York University. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I’ve known for a while now. The news came the day we picked up our new kittens from a shelter on Feb.19.

Winston and Clementine - day one

Winston and Clementine were just under eight weeks old then. (Can you tell I got to name them?) Now they are rambunctious four-month old terrors and I’m still grappling with one last essay for my Masters course work while fretting over meeting with my Masters thesis advisor on Monday. So, I decided to blog instead of working on any of these things. I’m letting myself slip. I’ve earned it. My time management skills have been stellar all year long. By time management, I mean that I spent every waking minute working. Pretty much, that’s how I did it. That, and I have an awesome wife. Oh yeah — and I write fast. I may read at the leaden pace of a dyslexic Grade 4 student, but I’m speedy at the keyboard.That rather helps — being a writer and all. So, if nothing else I will breathe life back into this blog over the coming months as I enter a time-honoured tradition of gradual students everywhere — thesis avoidance. Speaking of which, here’s another nauseatingly cute picture of my kittens.

hanging out

In case you thought I’d died…

From the second foor of Vari Hall, outside the History Department at York (that my classrooms were so swanky!)

Okay, I’m a crappy blogger. Or, put another way, perhaps I’m not such a crappy grad student. I’ve been too busy to keep this up. But I may, in this moment, be having a psychotic break. That I am choosing to finally post an update on my back-to-school blog right when everything in my tiny ivory tower is either coming due or crumbling down, indicates one of two possibilities. I am either uber organized and, unfazed, am sailing serenely through it all, or I’m experiencing a profound just-fuckit moment. Let’s go with the later, because if you apply the principle of Occam’s Razor, it certainly fits.

This is pretty much what I look like all the time now. Badly dressed, confused, out of focus and constantly reading. Also, I need a haircut.

But in an odd way, I’m having fun. I’ve met some fabulous people. My friend Dave is amazing. I’ll tell you more about Dave in another post. And Karen Dancy, in the Grad History office is a total life-saver. She’s helped me out tremendously. I call her the hub. Here she is.

Karen a.k.a the Hub




Over-stretching my brain is not unlike training my plus-sized body to do ridiculous feats, like hobble down a trail for 25 km with a cold, or swim for four hours straight.  And once again, I’ve discovered that being as stubborn as a pit bull with a bone isn’t necessarily a negative quality. I’ve also discovered that being an old scholar is not unlike being a fat athlete. In both cases, people just don’t see you coming.

I’ve had this experience several times as I huff along a trail. “Good for you!” This, always from the conspicuously thin in their colour-coordinated lycra. They say this to me as though they were speaking to a child who has achieved the miracle of a finger painting,  or a creaky old dog that manages still to beg on command. I hold my tongue. I even smile. I should tell them to go to hell, but I’m not that brave. I think it makes them feel simultaneously superior and magnanimous. They get to puff up their scrawny little chests like stringy roosters and encourage me, or, more accurately, encourage the person they think I am; a fatty who finally got off the couch. They would never guess that I’m a bonafide trail runner, and wouldn’t believe I can swim 10 km. I don’t let them bother me. I tell myself that they are dicks, even if I am jealous of their outfits (no one makes flashy women’s running clothes for anyone thicker than a stick).

I’ve encountered a similar dickishness in my latent academic pursuits. “You’re a student?” is guffawed, usually with no attempt to cover their obvious shock that such an old git could be hitting the books. The person continues to stare at me like I’ve sprouted Vulcan ears. (A geeky aside: If I have to bear being looked at like I’m wearing a homemade Star Trek outfit, I’d prefer to be seen as Bajoran. I always thought Ro Laren was hot.) I tried not to let these comments bother me either. But I confess, at first, they did. I wondered if I was really capable, if, perhaps, I was too old, and that maybe, I just wasn’t up to the job.

I was wrong. It’s tough, but I’m actually doing really well. I’m even considering applying next month to do my PhD. So I don’t let the funny looks bother me anymore. I just smile, think ‘dick,’ and pick up another book. Now, if I could only find the time to get back in the pool or hit a trail.


Bunny in the headlights

Jen, David and their 'congrats on being in grad school' gift

There’s a reason it’s taken me more than two weeks to write a single word about being a gradual student. I think a friend and colleague said it best in a recent email. “I found that grad school sometimes made me wonder how I had got out of high school.” And this from someone whom I classify as scary smart.

Her email made me feel a lot better. I needed to feel better. If it wasn’t for my stellar cardio-vascular conditioning at the moment due to excessive swimming, I’d be in danger of keeling over from heart failure. I’m sure of it. I’ve been that tense.

Most of my stress boils down to simple math. The amount of reading expected is exponentially higher than the ability of any mortal to complete, understand, and discuss intelligently. Keep in mind that the mortal in question in now 45. While my work at Ryerson makes me more confident in an academic environment, it has still been 13 years since I was on the other side of the desk. This is going to take some getting used to. Throw into the mix a few complications, and you’ll see why I’ve been a bit of a wreck for the past few weeks.

My negative sense of direction is epic. I can’t read a map and am incapable of reversing written directions. I don’t know why. I just know that this spacial deficiency doesn’t get any better with age. I think it gets worse. I got lost at least four times in my first week—the first time in sheeting rain, trying to retrace my steps back to the car. I needed to find my car, because I was scheduled to teach my first class at Ryerson, and though I thought I had left in plenty of time, the misplacement of the car coupled with the fact that people forget how to drive in the rain, resulted in a Def-Con 4 level panic. I was rescued by a lovely young woman who pointed me in the right direction. I just made it to my Ryerson class on time, though I was a little damp. Since then, there have been several instances when I had to pull over, whip out the cell phone and ask Kim where in hell I was. Once, I turned left on Finch instead of right, finally realizing something was amiss when I passed Bathurst and still there was no sign of the ramp to the 400 south. Oops. Kim got me home via Yonge to the 404. But that shouldn’t happen any more. Like a horse, once I learn my way home, I can generally get there. I just need a few practice runs.

Did I say run? Walk more like. Better yet, crawl is a more apt descriptor of the 401 westbound from Toronto anytime, any day. Really. On day two, I left the house at 6:30 a.m. Plenty of time to get to the York pool by 7:30. Nope. That week I was reading about the theory of relativity in Stephen Kern’s The Culture of Time and Space. Great book. It made me think that the 401 westbound is in its own space-time continuum. You never appear to move, but eventually, you somehow get to where you are headed. In this case, it took more than an hour. I managed to get a few lengths in the pool, and wondered about a transportation Plan B. (No, not the TTC.) Years ago I realized that if I needed to get anywhere in Toronto by a specific time, I shouldn’t rely on the TTC. So I don’t. And since I can’t read on a bus, any time spent on the TTC is wasted. I’d rather waste it in my car with my own music, thanks. Plan B involved the 407. I now have a transponder to add to my parking at York costs. I opted for the cheapest parking, by the way. It’s a $10 lot hell and gone from my classes, but at least it’s not too far from the pool. I figure I can beat off sexual predators with my snow scraper. I’d rather pay the roughly $600 a year and freeze my ass in winter than shell out the $1,000-plus for the privilege of garage parking closer to class.

After the whirlwind of week one, Jen and David came over for dinner. Kelly, who so kindly put us up in Port Stanley this summer, was also here doing the Cabbagetown arts festival.

Dinner after week 1

Jen and David gave me a framed map of Canada in 1763 and 1783 that came from an old history text. I love it. It will hang in my office, where I can appreciate it while I’m banging out academic papers and hopefully not tearing out my own hair. So far, I’m up to date on my readings but have yet to begin my GA work, researching any papers or even thinking about my thesis. But hey, at least I’ve finally figured out how to get home from class.


Course selection time

It seems that I have until June 1 to sort myself out in this regard before the online bun-fight begins. Let’s hope all 30-plus of my fellow gradual students in history aren’t dead-set on taking the following courses:

Modern Cultural History — I have high hopes for this one. It seems like something that the inimitable Prof. Geoff Smith from Queen’s would love. (Geoff was kind enough to write me references for gradual school. Thanks Geoff. I still owe you that pint.) Here’s the course outline, if anyone is keen.

I need to take another year-long course, and was so hoping to dive into Modern European Cultural History: War & Peace in the 20th Century, but sadly, it isn’t offered next year. It would have been perfect background for my thesis (something to do with Canadian war correspondents). Oh well. I opted for this instead: Europe: 1815 – 1945. I’m glad I recently read Stephan Talty’s  The Illustrious Dead, a grim and fascinating take on what took down Napolean’s army on its ill-fated traipse through Russia. My favourite bit — a detail about how survivors stacked their comrades’ bodies like cordwood to stop the winter wind from blowing in.

Two half courses plus my thesis will fill out my course work. For something completely different, I’m going with Low Law and Petty Justice. I do hope to learn all about when the British obsession with property rights  began (death by hanging for theft of a loaf of bread and all that lovely stuff). That’s in the fall term. In winter, I thought I’d round out my Canadian content with State and Society in Canada: 1945 – present.

Now I just have to get the okay from the university, pay up, and register for the courses. Oh, and read. A lot. Right now I’m burning through The Damned by Nathan Greenfield, about the Canadians at the Battle of Hong Kong and as POWs. Chilling stuff.