Kage Baker had an adversarial relationship with the ON/OFF switch of her computer.
For one thing, she could rarely find it. Changing out CPU’s at intervals (which we did, of course), Kage would remember where the switch was located two or three machines back, rather than now. It always took her a few days to get the new arrangement straight in her mind – I think it was because she expected it to be instinctive, and so did not actually learn the new system. She just repeated the action over and over (usually under my incredulous direction) until unconscious muscle memory developed; that way, only her left arm had to worry about how the thing worked and she didn’t have to waste brain cells on it.
Turning programs off followed the same habit: for the first year or so, she had a tendency to just yank the floppies out of the drive without shutting down. It is a minor miracle Garden of Iden and Sky Coyote survived to publication – Kage pulled the floppy disks out so often without saving, I backed up the files every time she got up and went to the bathroom. (I couldn’t enable autosave – in those old days, it slowed the keyboard response time and drove Kage nuts.) I finally installed a safety on the EJECT DISK button – a neon green Sticky Note labelled STOP!!! It gave her enough time to think about the sequence and save her files. And finally, she got the pattern established in her memory (somewhere between the lyrics to The Cow Song and a recipe for egg gravy probably) and never did it again.
We spent a lot of time at Kinko’s first, though, saving huge chunks of her manuscripts. It left her with a permanent terror of power failures, too – so paranoid about a flicker or a high wind that she would usually have to shut down writing altogether. She couldn’t concentrate while wondering whether or not the electricity was going to fail. And in Pismo, which had above-ground lines, constant ocean winds, thousands of sea birds and occasional UFO flaps, the power went down all the time.
A heavy rain (hell, a heavy dew) could knock down a line. So could a car, a truck, a wind-born kayak … all of which happened at least once. One afternoon a pelican snagged the line that ran from the power pole to our cottage roof: when it snapped, the recoil brought the power pole down. It pulled down all the power poles behind it for two blocks, just like in a Warner Brothers cartoon, and when the dust settled – we had no power, a telephone pole blocking the road every 100 feet for a half mile, and a crispy pelican in the Mr. Lincoln rosebush.
Today, of course, I dwell in that modern megalopolis, Los Angeles. Of course, it’s also full of trees, birds, squirrels, helicopters, advertising planes … and we have a wind advisory right now, too, as a late Arctic storm bears down on us. Ravens are flying backwards past the window, to Harry’s amusement; squirrels keep getting blown out of the mulberry tree to bounce on the front porch and make the Corgi insane. And the lights are flickering …
I started this entry, Dear Readers, with no idea of how long it would last. I just thought, Well, I’ll maunder on a while and see how we do. And it’s been pretty cool, but now it’s getting serious. We’ve browned out twice – did you know, a dishwasher in a brown out slows down to a noise like a cow with a hernia? Amazing. Anyroad, I am signing off now while I still can.
That will probably ensure that the wind dies and the storm misses us. Careful precautions usually avert Fate. But you never know! I have faith in my technology, but Kage was never wrong when she decided to err on the side of caution. So I’m gonna check the candles and flashlights, find a nice manual book, and curl up with the parrot for a low-tech afternoon.
I’ve got a thermos already full of coffee. I’ll be fine.