I have an Asus EEE PC which I modded to be steampunk. I wrote swathes of Glamour in Glass on it while riding the subway in NYC and a bunch of other shorts. These days, I don’t need the little thing and it is sadly neglected. It wants to be with a new writer who will give it the attention it deserves. Is that you?
Today around noon, we’re turning off the internet. Gasp. I know.
We have to return the box to the cable company and the only way to do that is either in person or by having a technician turn up and unplug it. I mean…really? There’s not a way to just mail it in? I guess I should be thankful that I have the option of dropping it off.
Anyway, the plan is to drop it off, pick up the truck and come home. We’ll finish packing the kitchen and the bathroom tonight and then on Thursday, well, Thursday we load the truck. By we, I mean Rob and me and a passel of friends. It’s supposed to be cool tomorrow.
Friday morning, we head out on our grand cross-country adventure. I’ll be tweeting and updating the blog from the road thanks to my handy phone.
But my big focus when I’m not driving is to finish the novel. I’m in good shape to have the first draft wrapped by the time we roll into Portland.
So, that’s what I’ll be doing this week. How about you?
Having clerks in electronic stores treat me like I don’t know what I’m talking about is particularly annoying after Wiscon. There are times when it’s amusing to go into a hardware store in a dress and ask for a replacement blade for my bandsaw while the clerk’s head spins with reevaluation. Today, I just needed a cord and was in a hurry.
I went in and the clerk asked me if I was looking for something in particular.
“Yes, thanks. I need a usb to mini-usb retractable cord. One of the little travel jobbies.”
He looked at me with a perfectly neutral expression, but said, “What are you using it for?”
Now, let’s be clear. That’s a good question when someone comes in and doesn’t know what they want. It’s also one I get from clerks who think I’ve asked for the wrong thing. I sighed and said, “It’s to connect my phone to my computer. I had one, it got a short. I need a new one.”
He now looked openly skeptical. “What kind of phone? Let me see it.”
“It’s a G1.” I refrained from rolling my eyes, because, you know, maybe he was covering for not knowing what a mini-usb plug looked like. By this point we’ve stopped in front of a display of cords so I pulled the phone out and flashed the port at him.
He fingered a retractable cord that was regular USB. “We don’t have that.”
Fortunately, right next to that is exactly what I wanted, so I picked one up. “Here. This is it.”
“No, ma’am. That’s the wrong size.”
I looked at the package again, just in case, and showed him the words “USB to mini-USB,” which is what I’d asked for.
He looked at it and then back at the wrong one. “Oh. I thought you wanted something else. This is the wrong size.”
Now see. I’m glad I didn’t hand him his head for assuming that a woman wouldn’t know what she’s asking. Clearly the problem was just that his primary qualification is that he’s not a zombie.
My new computer arrived yesterday. Well, technically it arrived on Monday, but I was out of town, so our UPS guy left it with our next door neighbor. I didn’t actually get to fondle the thing until noon yesterday.
As a reminder, I got the Lenovo X61 and so far it is everything I wanted. It’s got a very comfortable keyboard and is smaller than my Kowal Portable, but doesn’t feel smaller. The best part though is the tablet function. Oh. My. God. I may not be able to go back to a regular computer after this. It’s so easy to just grab something and move it on the desktop.
And then there’s the handwriting recognition feature. It is amazing. The interface is totally transparent and required no training. It can even read my cursive. I let my neighbor play with it while I was working on some prop things and he said that it felt almost like writing in a regular notebook.
I’m really impressed with it. I can’t wait until I get to try drawing on the thing.
Edited to add: I opted for none of these and went with the Lenovo x61 tablet that Joe Iriarte recommended. When I looked at it, I could trick it out to have everything I wanted plus it was 25% off an already existing sale price. It gave me enough room to also get a monitor and docking station for when I’m at home and need more screen real estate.
I know you must be getting tired of laptop posts, but bear with me just a little bit longer. At the moment, I am torn between these three machines and would love someone to help me sort it out.
Whatever I pick will be my primary computer. I’ll write on it, clearly, but also do graphic design and record audio fiction. My 5-year old Averatec works for these but is sluggish when designing large books.
HP Pavillion tx2500z series
Attractive because of the touch screen and handwriting recognition. Would need to add a standalone screen probably.
Sometimes, a girl needs a break from things she has to do and takes it by doing something she wants to do, which uses exactly the same skill sets as the things she’s taking a break from. For instance, I’ve been doing a lot of book binding and work with marbled papers for the show Prisoner of the Crown.
As noted elsewhere, I have a weakness for paper and it wasn’t really possible for me to handle all of these papers without coveting. Especially since I had them scanned and was printing them onto giant sticker sheets for work anyway.
Giant sticker sheets… hm. And I’ve just gotten this new $10 folding keyboard.
So, while I was waiting for something else to dry, I made this.
From the outside it doesn’t look that much different from a makeup case or small book. In fact, I thought about putting lettering on it, but decided I liked the cleanness of the lines.
Well, that and everything on this moves as it opens.
The keys are a slightly modified version of the Kowal Portable keyboard. I used a different paper for the interior. I thought about doing brass cogs instead, but decided that I liked the idea of playing with book motifs instead, so went with a contrasting endpaper. I may swap this endpaper out though for something more interesting.
At the moment the infrared wand is painted bronze, though I might change it to a red gloss, like a silk ribbon bookmark. Alas, there’s not enough space for another layer of thickness in here, so it can’t be actual silk.
That’s also why the space bar is not wood. I cut the pieces but even paper thin wood was too thick for this to handle.
Because the keyboard has much snugger margins for fit the whole thing is done with laser printed regular sticker paper (instead of the schtickers I used on the Kowal Portable) and coated with ModgePodge. Yep. This is a decoupage keyboard.
It’s a little stiff, opening it, but I think that’ll loosen up.
And this is what people sitting across from me will see.
I wonder how long it will take before I feel compelled to bronze my Palm Pilot?
I’d talked about needing to simplify my life. The biggest optional time sink for me is the internet. There are a lot of things that I legitimately need to do online, so banning it doesn’t make sense. I’ve decided to try a very simple rule set.
1. I’m allowed one hour of internet time per day.
2. If I want more I have to “buy” it by doing an equal amount of time writing or editing first.
3. Time researching a story, if not knowing will stop me from writing, counts as neutral.
How’s it working? I finished a story today, which has been on my plate for the last month. I’ve got a story that I needed to revise open right now. I’ve already hit the sites that I normally read and still have twenty-five minutes of time allowed online. I’ll bank it rather than just aimlessly surfing.
The computer is up and running and I got two of the projects turned in. The other two are in process and ought to be finished in a relatively timely fashion.
Meanwhile, I’m itching to write something new. It took me a surprising amount of time to realize that the urge didn’t generate from anything more than the fact that I’ve gotten enough sleep for an entire week. I’d forgotten what it felt like to be rested. It’s fascinating and I highly recommend it.
Rob always gets on my case if I forget to unplug the gluegun when I’m finished with it. My defense has been that the state of “finished” fluctuates. I mean, finished for the moment versus finished for the day. It takes the gun awhile to heat up, so I don’t like to unplug it when I’m only finished for the moment. That seems reasonable, right? Even if I’m leaving the room to go, say, make bread or something. I’m coming back and then I’ll have to wait ten minutes while the gun heats.
Last night I unplugged it, because I was finished for the day, and this morning worked on my computer while I was waiting for it to heat up. I heard a sudden pop. And then a hissing crackle. On my workbench, smoke poured out of the gluegun.
I unplugged it.
In the eighteen years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen a gluegun do anything like this. Still, all I can think about is: What would have happened if I hadn’t been in the room?
I went to pick up my dry cleaning. As I was standing there, a butterfly flew in and landed on my computer bag. It sat there, fanning its wings as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I froze, afraid to scare it.
“Look!” I caught the drycleaning lady’s eye. “A butterfly. On my bag”
She looked at me like I was daft, but leaned over the counter. Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a silent oh. She crept around the counter, beckoning to one of the other workers. We all stood there, staring at the butterfly–which looks just brown in the photo, but had brilliant orange spots whenever it opened its wings–as if we were watching a miracle. Which, I guess, when you come down to it, we were.
The drycleaning lady said, “I can’t remember when I saw a butterfly last. It’s been years. Years.”
Under our attention, the butterfly preened and showed us teasing glimpses of its orange spots. Finally, since it didn’t seem to have any intention of leaving, I picked up my cleaning and left. The butterfly rode out on my bag. Not until I reached our corner did it fly away.
Whew. Already I feel better. I just dropped my computer off with Karl Swan, who not only promised to have it back to me within 48 hours, but also pulled some files off for me right then. Though I’d done a backup on the 27th, I’d also done a significant amount of work between then and when the computer imploded on the 29th.
So, I now have the current draft of my novel, current drafts of the two short stories I had been working on, and the logo design that had just been approved when things went pfffht. Everything else, I have on the backup.
We decided to go with a system wipe and restore. He made me feel like I was not an idiot, which was nice. When I get my computer back, it will be clean and with my documents already loaded on. So, I will not have to continue going crazy trying to fix it.
I’ve got my computer back. No, it’s not fixed. However, after a generous session of batting eyelashes I managed to convince them to let me bring it home overnight without losing my place in line. This is apparently totally against their rules.
I know this because when I called in, I was told that it wasn’t an option–this was a different person, who seemed to know how to use a telephone. I explained that I was on my way to pick it up even though it wasn’t ready because I needed it. When I got there, asked why I couldn’t take it home overnight? The twelve-year old on duty explained that they’d tried it and it hadn’t worked in the past. I batted my eyelashes and he changed his mind.
I have to drop it off there shortly after they open, but that gives me enough time to complete a job and turn it in on time. I don’t need it again until Tuesday, so hopefully they will actually get to the repair by then.
Am I offbase in being annoyed about this? When I dropped my computer off, the guy at the desk said it would be ready in a week. That was eight days ago, so I thought I could reasonably expect it to be finished today. I called to see when I could pick it up.
1) “Um… I’m having trouble finding it, can I call you back?”
I was silent for a moment and he said, “Don’t be scared when we say things like that. It usually means that it’s on a technician’s desk. I just need to spot it.”
Sure. That’s fine.
2) He calls back. “It should be ready later this week. We’re short-staffed because one of our technicians went on vacation to Spain.”
I said, “So when will it be ready? I was told that it would be five days when I called in and a week when I dropped it off.”
“I don’t know. I mean, if you could see what it’s like here. We’re really short-staffed.” He sounded nervous, like he was a geek totally out of his element. Which was probably true. “We’ve only got two techs on the floor. A third one comes in at three. Your computer is about ten down in the queue.”
“That’s good to know, but what does that mean in terms of when it will be ready?”
“I don’t know.” It sounds like he’s having to grip the phone harder to keep it from sliding out of his sweating palms. “I’m not a technician; I build systems.”
“Well, what I’m trying to decide is if I should come down and pull it out of the queue.”
“I wouldn’t recommend that. There’s no guarantee that you could find someone who would have it done faster than four days and then it would just be back at the end of our queue.”
“Four days?” I stuggled not to shout at him. “Look. This wasn’t an urgent repair, but it was my only window of time to have it done. This is my primary computer. I have a gig coming in on Thursday; I need it back.”
“If you could see what it was like at our end, you would understand why it’s not ready. One of our techs is in Spain and we’ve been working our regular hours.”
The effort to not shout became harder; I’ve run shops before. “I have been on your end. A vacation to Spain doesn’t spontaneously arise; that should have been part of the planning with your scheduling. I was told a week. I’m annoyed because I was given inaccurate information.”
“He was already in Spain when your computer came.”
I didn’t respond to that, because clearly, that did not improve his case at all. “I need the computer back by Thursday. So I’ll call at five o’clock on Wednesday to see if it is ready and if it isn’t then I’ll just come pick it up.”
“Oh that should be plenty of time. I know it’ll be ready in a couple of days.”
“Wednesday is tomorrow.”
“Today is Tuesday.”
“Oh. Man. Well, I’ll tell them you need it back. But we’re really backed up right now.”
At this point, I was finished with the conversation because I wasn’t going to get anything useful out of the boy. “Thank you for your time. I’ll check in tomorrow.”
So, my mental note from this is that computer geeks have no sense of time at all. I’m sure this will come in handy on a story sometime.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]