Saturday, February 11, 2006

Drifting Shifts, Tussling Tools and Wrangling Words

I’ve let another full week go by without posting. Every day it gets harder to face. This time it’s because my writer's tools seemed to have declared war on me. I had a frustrating experience getting my post up last weekend. This was partly due to having gotten rusty at using the Blogger editor but mostly due to Blogger having some issues of their own. First, I did not get my post ready before I had to clear out of the living room at five Saturday morning. I had reached the editing stage but once it was edited in the word processor it still had to be transferred to the Blogger editor where it looses most of the formatting--italics, paragraph breaks, font style.

After sleeping about three hours Saturday morning I got back to work and when I was ready to transfer to the Blogger editor, I started preparing to return to the living room to go online. I was planning to leave the power cord behind because my husband and his parent’s dog, Sweetie, were out there and I didn’t want to have the cord strung across the main path through the room. To save battery power, I wanted to have AOL and an IE browser window open before I unplugged. In the latter, I also opened the nested favorite folders to the one containing the shortcut to the Blogger editor. It showed that page as available offline. It opened and all the bells and whistles worked! This gave me the bright idea of getting my essay transferred and re-edited before I moved to the living room. This took nearly another hour, as anyone who has dared to read the previous post will know it was rather long. :)


When it was ready I moved to the other room and hooked the phone line into my laptop. By sitting in my mother-in-law’s chair, I was next to the phone cord’s wall outlet so I didn’t have any cords strung across the floor. I had only an hour or so before my mother-in-law was due home. My plan was to quickly post and then get off line and return my laptop to the bedroom and then use to PC to go back online to follow up with a few promotional tasks--like surfing for credit and pinging my blog on Blog Explosion. But nothing went as planned.

As soon as I got online, I clicked the publish button. And the editor was replaced by a sign-in screen. I should have know that would happen and used another window to sign in before I clicked publish. Once signed in, the editor window returned but it was blank. If I could have seen the future, I would have just pasted the essay into it again and redid the formatting. Instead I clicked the back button to see if the publish-ready post would still be there. It was. So I clicked the publish button again. And this time it took. Only when I went to my blog to look at the result, I discovered two major problems. I had misspelled a word in the title and the timestamp was for January 18! Apparently the time it was coded with the last time I had attempted to prepare a post.

The Blogger editor used to have a form for entering the date and time yourself but recently that disappeared and the posts are given the timestamp of the moment you call up the editor. Which is very frustrating for someone who often spends hours preparing a post. Editing this post would have been very simple if the ability to manipulate the timestamp was still available. My only other option was to open a fresh editor window and paste the essay in, redo the formatting, republish and then remove the bad post. I worked quickly, expecting my mother-in-law’s return at any moment. It took me less than fifteen minutes to have the essay ready to post again. But when I clicked the publish button this time, I got back the message that I should attempt to publish again in ten minutes, that the draft had been saved and was safe, that my blog was still accessible to the public but that Blogger was currently doing maintenance.

I banged my head on the cushioned back of the chair. What else could go wrong! Well the answer to that came in ten minutes when I tried again only to get the same message. My battery power was under fifty percent now and my husband suggested I do as I had planned--take the laptop back to the room and plug it in and go back online with the PC where I could keep trying to republish. Which is what I did. Not long after I got back online, my mother-in-law got home. I asked if she needed the phone and she said no and she kindly allowed me to keep working for another ninety minutes or so. My eyes were burning with fatigue by then so I had to quit.

I did not get another chance to try until after ten that night. This time it published without a snag on the first try. As soon as I verified with my own eyes that it was there, I deleted the bad version. And then headed on over to Blog Explosion. I expected to surf for credits until I’d accumulated between ten and twenty and then move on to other things. It had been several days since I had caught up on my favorite blogs and my news and views resources. I had been surfing BE for less than ten minutes when the window froze. It turned out that several of the other IE windows I had open were also froze. And the windows of other applications tho not frozen were responding as slow as pitch oozing from the bark of a tree. My husband, who was playing games on the PC, suggested, with a bit of the ‘I told you so’ tone, that I needed to restart my computer. How long had it been? A week? He asked. I sheepishly replied that it had been at least two and probably a few days longer than that. He just shook his head. When will you learn? I have this aversion to closing the application windows on projects as I tend to get sidetracked and not go back to them. When I am working online I have a dozen or more windows open on my task bar. Half of them browser windows, a few word processor windows, a project manager, a game…

I disconnected and started closing the windows that would respond to prepare for the restart. My husband headed for bed. It was after 1am now. If I had known what was about to happen, I would have begged him to wait until the restart was done to be sure that all was as it should be. But I was confident that I could manage a restart. I have been doing them for nearly ten years now-- usually without incident. I expected things to pick up speed as each window closed but instead things got worse. The AOL window froze when I tried to close it and I had to use control/alternate/delete to call up the system task manager to try to close the applications from there. But even then, the windows refused to close. Then I discovered that I could not return to the desktop. Only the task manager was still responding. Except that it wasn’t able to actually end the tasks as requested. Then on the processes page of the task manager, I learned that 89-98 percent of the CPU was consumed by SYSTEM IDLE. I was tempted to try ending that task but I had never ended a task on the process page-only on the applications page. I was especially wary of ending a system related task. I couldn’t do it without consulting my husband that is for sure, and he was asleep. At this point, I knew exactly what I would have done with any desktop computer. I would have pulled the plug or cut the power on the power strip. But with the laptop, pulling the plug would just transfer me to battery. Was I supposed to wait two hours for the battery to die? For the first time I regretted that my power button only put my laptop into hibernation. What good would that do, if it would only wake up to the same state it was in now? Then I learned the computer wasn’t accepting input from the keyboard either--not even the power button.

I don’t know how long it took me to conceive of the idea of pulling the battery. But I wasn’t sure where it was or how to remove it. My brother had inserted it the night I bought the computer. He was walking me thru the steps of unpacking it and getting it operational. But just as he started to take the battery out of its plastic wrap, I was called from the room for something and by the time I got back he had installed it. He showed me what he had done. I am pretty sure he actually removed it and reinserted it so I could see how. But anyone who was following my story last September knows that on that night, I had been without sleep for three days, had spent six hours on the bus that morning, another six computer shopping with my brother that afternoon, had participated in the bedside baptism of my Dad, and had a one-on-one encounter with my Dad which left me unsure that he knew it was me. So maybe it is understandable that I no longer had a clear memory of how to remove the battery. I could have gone to our room and retrieved the literature that came with the laptop but that would have entailed turning on the light and making a racket. I wanted to see if I could figure it out first. I closed the lid to the laptop and pulled the power cord out of its back so I could handle the machine like a closed book, inspecting every inch of each side and the bottom. It didn’t take me long to figure out where the battery had to be as I knew with certainty which gizmos occupied the other locations. It took me a bit longer to figure out how to remove it. The latch was in the middle of the bottom panel and I needed to be pulling on the edge of the battery as I released it. Ten minutes later I was back on my desktop and all was well. But it was closing in on 4am and I was exhausted. I headed to bed.

I fully intended to prepare a new post by Sunday night, but there was no way I could concentrate with my husband, a rabid Seahawks fan, watching the Super Bowl all afternoon and evening, starting with the pre-game yakity-yak and on thru the post game yakity-yak. I don’t mind the games. I hate the commentators chatter. It is 90% baloney. I found it easier to sleep thru it than to either read or write. I was awake for the second half and attempting to read while keeping half an eye on the game. I was anticipating the episode of Grey’s Anatomy due to follow the post-game and it started about seven-thirty. By the time it was over, I knew that hopes for another post that night were dying. My sleep that day having been so compromised, I was left with a greed for it. Nor could I infuse myself with caffeine again to keep me going as I was committed to sitting with my husband’s grandma the next morning from eight until early afternoon. I could not risk being drowsy while on watch with her. She had recently had another fall and needed to be helped quite a bit getting in and out of chairs and escorted about the house.

By the time I got online Monday night, I had been awake since four that morning but I had started pumping the caffeine in after dinner and was prepared to work for several hours. But Blogger was not prepared for me. The site was completely down. Not only could I not access the sign-in page, I could not open Blogger’s homepage nor my blog nor any of my favorite blogs that happened to be hosted by Blogger. I moved on to other internet activities. I kept checking back with Blogger but it continued to be no go all night. Meanwhile I was reminded of one of the drawbacks of the graveyard shift in winter. As the temp outside dropped to thirty the temp inside dropped to fifty and I had to put up the hood of my fleece jacket and wrap a fleece blanket around my legs. But there was nothing I could do about my fingers or my nose which got so cold they ached. My fingers stiffened and began to fumble the keys. My mother-in-law has given me permission to keep the heat at sixty when I am working at night but knowing that the cost of the gas heat has gone up by over a third this winter, I just can’t justify heating the whole un-weatherized mobile home just for me. That was one of the factors making it hard to work nights this winter and I had forgotten about it while analyzing the situation in the previous post. And it would have fit right in with the theme of that post as it is where the economics of time management meets home economics and the economy at large. An example of the impact of the rising gas prices on the working habits of a writer--a minor inconvenience as compared to some but with a major impact on my life.

Tuesday I did not post because I spent the day and night reading books and watching DVDs that had to go back before the library opened on Wednesday. I seemed to be coming down with a cold. And on Wednesday afternoon, with the light from a window in my eyes, I mistook the left arm of the office chair in the living room for the right arm and, thinking that I was sitting between the arms, I sat down beside the chair instead, hitting the floor hard, jarring both arms, a hip and my lower back. My wrists took the brunt of it and were not in any shape for sustained typing for several days.

Now I’ve again spent the entire night on one potential post. It’s nearly time for me to move back to my room. I just discovered this post is even longer than last week’s post. So long that I’m embarrassed to post it. I do go on and on. And it is going to be a bear to edit. I’m tempted right now to let it lie--to just forget it exists--as I’ve done with several since last fall but that is exactly how the unintended hiatus in January began. When I disrespect my work by letting it lie in the dark, deeming it unfit for any but my own eyes, the flow of words tends to dry up on me. I will try to edit it down but it takes twice as long to make a long story short as it does to just tell it and I can’t afford to spend more than another hour or so on this--let alone another eight. My plan at this moment is to go work on the editing in my room until I hear my mother-in-law leave for work--which should be about six--and then come back in here to go online. My niece will be sleeping on the couch tonight so my next chance to post this will be Sunday night and I already have it reserved for writing reviews for books that have to be back at the library before it opens on Monday.

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