Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pet Peeves

Is there anything more frustrating than to be working merrily away online with multiple windows open on the task bar (AOL with multiple emails to and from plus a browser window or three, 5 plus IE browser windows including blogger create post and blogs and articles I'm intending to link to, several Word documents for reference or cut and paste procedures, two or three MS Works Project files for keeping even more documents lined up for the next intended task or unexpected need, the My Computer window for quick browsing for even more documents, a WYSIWYG with multiple files open and that all important game usually in progress left at the ready for the next five or ten minute breather) when all of the sudden there pops up a dialog box informing you that Automatic Updates has just completed new updates and must restart the computer to activate them. You are given two choices: Restart Now or Restart Later. If you don't choose one, the five-minute countdown progresses and the restart will commence regardless of your preference. Hecate help you if you happened to have stepped away from the computer just before that dang dialog box appears. But your only other option--Restart Later--is little better as this only gives you a five minute breather before the dang box pops back up with its infernal choices which are really no choice at all. You either use that five minutes to save work and close all those windows and prepare for the restart or you use them to continue doing what you were doing and hope you aren't doing anything that takes your attention away from the center of the screen when the box pops up again. I tend to continue doing what I was doing, trying to finish each task represented by each open window, knowing my predilection for distractibility--that when I don't finish a task embarked upon while my fickle attention is focused on it, I may never finish it at all.

So there I am busily working at a number of intricately inter-related tasks with an attention span that is fragile at best and some autocratic computer program decides that its needs take precedence. It makes me feel as though I am still in grade school where the teacher directs you every hour to clear your desk of whatever project or subject and pull out the materials for the next one. I always hated that. This is even worse as it is faceless and implacable--there is no person to appeal to and no appeals process. When did it become OK for computer programmers to create applications that treat their users as grade-school children or worse, like imbeciles who can't be expected to follow a simple instruction--say "We suggest you restart your computer at your earliest convenience."

My agitation about this is partly--and not an insignificant part--related to my need for control and my current circumstances that so circumscribe my control over things most adults are expected to have control over. This leaves me sensitive to any sense of being infantilized. And this definitely qualifies as that. But it is also about the need to make every second I have access to this computer count--and count many-fold. With dozens of projects in various stages of completion, many related to one or more of my three web sites (see sidebar: Joy Renee on the Web), some related to editing I am doing for someone else, and lets not forget emails to read and write--with all of that and more and only 6-8 hours of access to the computer each night, I can't afford to have any of that time commandeered.

My time on the computer has been constrained even more by new circumstances in the past two months. I don't remember if I've ever mentioned in a post here that I was anticipating the coming of spring and the opening of the dirt-track racing season in April, because I could count on twelve extra hours on the computer every Saturday and an occasional Friday or Monday. I stay home alone by choice as there is nothing about the races that appeal to me and much that triggers my anxieties--noise, crowds, heat, dust. My visual impairment makes it impossible for me to follow the action and my hearing impairment makes it impossible for me to follow my husband's attempts to explain what I just missed. I went one time so that I would be able to visualize the track, the cars, the pit, the concession stands, the announcer's booth, the stands etc. while listening to the family discussing the events or my husband's enthusiastic play by play delivery after arriving home near midnight. For the last three seasons I made good use of these days to get my chores done--laundry and cleaning our room--and to work and play on the computer. I would often be on the computer from three Saturday afternoon all the way until eight o'clock the next morning because everybody slept in. Of course, between three and nine, I was intermittently interrupted by chores. And I would have to come off line between ten and midnight just in case there was a need to contact me. There never was but...

Anyway. The point of all this is that I had been anticipating and counting on these race days all winter since it would have been the first race season since I had put up my web sites last November. Then the entire month of April and half of May, the races were preempted by weather. And just when the weather got its seasonal act together something else came up that had to take precedence over my time on the computer and even my chores. When it became obvious that my husband's elderly paternal grandmother--she turned 91 last week--could no longer be left alone for fear she would fall or forget she had turned on the stove, I offered to sit with her whenever no one else could. My husband's sister lives with her and does the cleaning and cooking but she also has a job--and a social life. My husband's father would cover for her, sitting with his mother for hours every day. But his daughter's work schedule was all over the clock and the late nights were stressful for someone used to early to bed and early to rise--especially for a senior citizen with health issues of his own. So I had been offering for weeks to fill in but it wasn't until Ed's sister's schedule changed to make her unavailable on Saturday afternoon and evening that my offer was accepted.

But not just Saturday. As it developed, I began to take on the evenings 7-11:30+ on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday as well. Thus on four out of seven evenings I get a one to two hour later start on my computer sessions. I am happy to do it. I am even grateful for the opportunity to contribute. But this makes my time on the computer even more valuable than before. I was compensating by giving up some, even most, of my game playing. And by stretching my time past six on towards and often past nine in the morning. I would have to come off line by seven to make the phone available but there was still plenty to do. Plus the early morning after everyone was up was the best opportunity for me to get laundry done. I can only get one and at most two loads done before it is necessary to go to bed if I want to have a session the following evening. Which means I need to do that two or three times a week.

But messing with my sleep schedule is never the wisest thing for someone who has intractable insomnia--difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep and getting back to sleep. I was becoming seriously sleep deprived and last week it caught up with me. I started falling asleep in front of the computer, losing twenty minutes here, forty there and then last Saturday grogginess forced me to give up at four, losing a potential four more hours and Sunday night, two involuntary two hour naps stole most of that session away. Monday was a special race day so I had to be awake three hours sooner than usual and lost another hour to the sandman on Monday night's session. I finally gave in to the inevitable and went to bed at four Tuesday morning and slept until three.

So I was finally well rested and anticipating a very productive catch-up session Tuesday night. Had just gotten into the rhythm of it about ninety minutes after logging on line when the dang #$%^&$# dialog box popped up. This was even more demoralizing because I had thought the problem had been fixed by my husband several weeks ago after the Restart Imperative had stolen two sessions in a row from me. It was bad enough sharing the CPU time with the darn update protocol but having the Restart threat foisted every five minutes by the nagging program was just too much. And two nights in a row???!! I was nearly apoplectic. So my husband who is our in-house techie, whose responsibility is to manage just such tasks as updates and their implementation, went into the applications to reset preferences. He thought he'd got them all but apparently not. He says tho that he has gotten all of those which reside on the computer. Which leaves only one possible culprit. Dare I speak the name? No telling when one can get in trouble for criticizing mega companies these days. Suffice it to say their name is mentioned in another, safer context early in this post.

Now that I've let this pet peeve steal yet another session away from me, having spent at least four hours composing and editing this post, I better get this posted while I still have time to get one or two other things done.

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