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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, September 13, 2007

a busy break

I'm back.

Getting new computers proved to be a bit chaotic. The local store, Lynx IT, where I bought the machines (one new desktop, built onsite by the guys; one used Dell desktop for Kimmie's sewing-room; and--a splurge--one "reconditioned" Hewlett-Packard laptop, my first portable computer, and not yet out of its box) tends to have surges of customers that divert their attention. In the midst of all that I walked away with less than my full purchase on Monday--and also brought home my old PC instead of the "new" used one, which looks very similar!

Plugging in the cables that form a rat's nest under my table, I discovered that I could not get online. Was it the used router my dad gave me? The unfamiliar operating system (Windows XP Home)? The extra cables? After half an hour on the phone with John at Shaw, my ISP, he concluded it must be the modem. Yesterday in the hot morning sun I made trips to Lynx IT and Shaw to swap and acquire the right gear and spent the rest of the day trying to make it work.

I was worried about the new cable modem, since John had discovered that the cable signal here is weak, and the new-model modem won't function with a weak signal. If it didn't work, then it would mean a service call from a Shaw technician, which might take a week to happen. But when I got it all plugged in, it worked excellently--and is working still. (The router works great--thanks Dad.)

One nice thing about buying from Lynx IT is that they configured the PCs for me and transferred data from my old box into the new one. They struggled with this awhile on Tuesday, having trouble shifting my masses of e-mails in Mozilla Thunderbird, the e-mail client I use. While I waited I zipped to the bookstore to buy a copy of Microsoft Windows XP, Inside Out, a massive (and expensive) text, but apparently thorough, and aimed at experienced computer-users. Following my customary practice, which is to learn everything from the ground up, I've started reading it systematically here beside the computer.

I've set up Kimmie's computer--it looks very smart (I gave her the new flatscreen monitor; I'll continue to use my massive but perfectly functional 19-inch CRT) on the new white Mikael computer table we got from Ikea on Monday (only $59)--but am having trouble getting her online. And, as I say, the new laptop still rests in its box.

What hit home over the two days I was offline was how much my life has become centered around the computer, particularly around being online. Without the Web or e-mail I felt cut off; I felt my solitude. Much of my day is built around computer activities.

The new computer is much perkier, much quicker; I notice a big improvement in performance. So mission accomplished as far as that goes. As for the rest of it, getting a household network set up, integrating a high-end laptop into my lifestyle--time will tell.

Even though I've been so busy, dashing around, feeling a certain edge of stress, I have also felt delinquent in having set aside my writing. This blog-post is my reentry into my proper function.

I want to believe I have time to do everything I want to in life, but it's not something I can take for granted. People die, often unexpectedly and early. I'm haunted by a phrase I read in the short story "The Wall" by Jean-Paul Sartre when I was 18. The narrator had been captured by enemies (I think in the Spanish Civil War) and was to be shot at dawn. He realized that he and his comrades, all suddenly on the brink of death, had been "writing checks against eternity".

Ultimately there is only one asset: time. We're all born with a stock of it, but we can't be sure how much. We know only that it's finite, and continuously being spent.

Time to pick up my burden again and keep lugging it.

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