Monday, September 21, 2009

birthdays and silver linings

On Wednesday my computer started making horrible grinding noises. On Thursday, the city, doing work up the street, abruptly cut our power (and phone). I was at my desk. My monitor blew.

All day Friday, Kelley and I shared one monitor, like the Graeae of Greek legend. But the grinding got worse. I turned my computer off.

I spent a screenless weekend. I don't think I've spent so long unconnected from teh intarwebs while at home since, hmmn, well, since I first got email in 1992/3.

Parts of it were terrible and frustrating. It was like being without electricity. You know how that goes: Oh, I can't work, so I'll just make a cup of tea. Oh, no electric kettle. Oh, well, never mind, I'll read. Oh, no light. Well, huh, okay, I'll just float in the bath for a couple of hours and think. Oh, no electricity to circulate and pump the hot water...

I started to go crazy. I wanted to work on Hild. I couldn't. I thought, well, okay, I'll catch up with email. Oh. Then, okay, tuh, I'll finally figure out how to import my domain email into Gmail. Oh. Etc. My frustration--and heart rate, and blood pressure, cortisol levels--started to rise. I literally shook with it. I wanted to work.

Then Kelley, bless her name forever, bullied me into putting on my shoes and coming to the park. I pootled along the creek, breathed the scent of wet dirt (autumn is coming people, it's coming), listened to the leaves shivering in the light breeze (drier than they were; autumn is coming), then went up to the bluff and watched gulls hanging over the water. We sat there for about an hour. I heard half a dozen languages--Chinese, Spanish, Russian, some other Slavic language, some other Asian language, Arabic--and myriad accents. (One young woman, Japanese I think, had doused herself in so much perfume I staggered with nausea when I walked by. We had to leave.)

I went home and put Carmina Burana* on the house system and turned it up until the house trembled. I sang along: sometimes with the chorus, sometimes the soloist, sometimes the horn, sometimes the timpanist, sometimes (my favourite this session) the flute. And then I did it all again. It was fabulous. Don't worry, Kelley was tucked up in her office protected by noise-cancelling headphones. But the neighbours might have suffered just a little. Eh, they're tough--they have children--and it's not something we do very often.

And then I read. I started with Dan Brown's Lost Symbol--which threatened to re-raise my blood pressure so I abandoned it. Then a snippet of Marguerite Yourcenar (but, nope, wasn't in the mood), then, O frabjous day, I found a free ebook of Harry Harrison's Deathworld. Awesome! Bloody ridiculous--a bit like a Star Trek episode, with a planetary culture neatly divided in two--but just the ticket: violence! trickery! alien life forms! And, hey, then Kelley baked muffins. (I think they were to share with the poor benighted neighbours but, oh well, I ate them.) Nothing like vast quantities of carbs to soothe the savage beast. Then we watched Speed on cable. It ended up being a pretty good day.

Today, I have a new power supply, oh so quiet, and a new monitor, twice as big as my old one. Seriously, it is huge. (Turns out that up-coming birthdays are very damn useful things. Thanks Sharon. Thanks Art.) I'd been getting by on a tiny (15"? something like that), very old (first generation, I think) flat screen with low refresh rate and crap resolution. This HD thing is nearly as big as our TV. (Well, okay, no, it's not. It's 23". Our TV is 32". But still.) And everything is so sharp. Even spam looking interesting.

To cap it all, today is Kelley's birthday, which means tonight there will be much celebration and food and wine.

It seems there is life beyond the screen. But also that a huge screen makes life just that bit shinier...

* We have a couple of different performances, but I like the Andre Previn interpretation. He encourages the singers to give it all, at a couple of points pouring so much heart and sheer volume into the effort that their voices are no longer quite true. Yet they're so very human. I love it.
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