The Pride Before the Fall

Kage Baker was a menace to her own computer system.

I’ve recounted this many times, I know. Kage appreciated the heck out of her computer, but she just had no instinctive feelings for the use of the machine. Every time something changed – new OS, new game, expanding a file or adding a drive or (panic stations time!) getting a new computer … well, Kage came unstuck.

She kept careful instructions on how to do anything she might ordinarily need, and she followed those instructions faithfully. When any one of them was altered, it blew the entire system for her. A horrible cascade effect occurred: every L/R, U/D, Y/N decision escaped her and brought down all the vital associations she had attached to it. And as it turned out, Kage had associated things I had no idea could be attached to one another … sometimes literally. She had an inhumanly deft knack for inventing macro commands, whereby some combination of keystrokes undreamed-of even by the top level wonks at Microsoft was enabled.

Those were the occasions when she  erased entire documents, or converted the current font to Wingdings, or inserted large, empty, coloured boxes hither and yon in the text. Once, she called me over to ask that I please get rid of the underlining that was appearing under every other line in her document. She had no idea how it had gotten there, or how to get rid of it.

I’d usually ask her to go read or watch telly or play a game on the laptop, while I tried to undo whatever had happened. It was no use demonstrating it to poor Kage afterwards, either: the topic literally made her eyes unfocus and her head ache. She’d put her hands over her hears and sing “La,la,la!” when I tried to show her how drop-down menus worked. She took a solemn vow to never download anything unless I was right beside her.  Luckily, Kage was as suspicious of anything online telling her to do something as she was of people trying it; it was natural for her to remember to just refuse all cybernetic blandishments.

I had to remove Microsoft Word somewhere around version 6, I think, because Kage simply could not decipher the new format or tool bars. (I didn’t blame her – that version sucked.) Luckily, Open Office became available just as she lost all patience;  for the rest of her life, she used that, with great comfort and relief.

Windows 10 would have driven Kage to violence.

In particular, she’d have hated its insistence on downloading updates without permission. I rather hate it myself … no matter what I enable or deny, it keeps finding ways to download changes and then demand I install them. Furthermore, it won’t tell me what the hell they are – a problem, Dear Readers, with which I am certain you are all horribly familiar. It was bad enough with Windows 8, where you had to track down the definitions for the updates online: at least I could see what they were. Now … I could be downloading the operating system for the Circles of Hell, for all I know.

And do you know what happens, Dear Readers, if you just refuse to install them? After several tries and much pleading, Windows refuses to start up until you let it install the damned upgrades. Sometimes, just to be contrary, upgrading other, non-Microsoft programs gives Windows 10 dyslexia, or a lisp, or transient ischemic attacks … the last time I upgraded Adobe, the Start menu on Windows 10 refused to respond to mouse commands until I deleted the upgrade. Oh, and the bottom toolbar disappeared, too.

Anyway – while I normally know my way around my system pretty well, I am occasionally blindsided; even without Kage converting half a document into Cyrillic. I mean, it happens to all of us sooner or later. “User friendly” is a paradise aspired to, not a level you can expect to install on your daily desktop …

So. Last night, I deleted all my incoming emails.

Now, my incoming mail is separated into several categories as it arrives. And I tag it and sort it into several, other, permanent folders. And of course I trash some of it. Somehow, last night, I ordered all 1,200-odd pieces in my Inbox to be Archived at once – and they all vanished. They were scattered through more than a dozen different categories, and some of them weren’t labelled at all: Papa Legba only knows where those untagged babies went! I’m still digging for all the properly labelled ones.

Some of them went to the appropriate folders. Some didn’t. Some went to folders I had no idea existed until today. Some went places I can find, but I can’t tell why they went there; I’m anxiously examining them in detail to see what weird thing I used to label them in the first place. From a complacent, professional competency, I have been reduced to a gibbering pilgrim through the Dark Unknown Lands of my own hard drives.

There is one consolation, though. Somewhere, I just know, Kage is laughing her ass off.



About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to The Pride Before the Fall

  1. buggybite says:

    Oh, I feel your pain. It’s a bloody nightmare. I think the geeks who ‘develop’ computer systems and applications have totally lost the plot. They have become so far removed from actual users (you know, ordinary folk who actually WORK on computers and don’t just play with them) that they can’t even talk to us any more. They just want to sell us more stuff.

    I’m a Mac person, and always have been, but Apple long ago ditched their user-friendly interface (designed by Steve Wozniack, the true Apple genius in my opinion) and their excellent printed manuals/idiot guides, and now it’s a case of constantly making the jump to lightspeed in an old (2013 model) clunky freighter ship (with modifications) piloted by somebody (me) who just goes ‘what the hell, just click on it and see what happens.’

    And yes, buying a new computer is exciting for all the wrong reasons. Every time a ‘new’ operating system appears (which becomes a ‘must’ as all the peripherals and software associated with the older systems get withdrawn) I pull out more tufts of hair. I do get used to these changes, eventually, but they are never an ‘improvement.’ At least not for me. It feels like reinventing the wheel, every year or so. Relearning the same thing over and over again, just to keep up.

    I mean, how many ways can you improve bloody wordprocessing? Sooner or later, you’ll reach nirvana. I think we did that several years ago. Just stop changing it. Stop now.


    • Kate says:

      I’m not on either side – Mac or PC – absolutely. I’ve used and liked both, and not found that much difference. But Kage imprinted on a PC to start with, and there she stayed. Plus, the only one either of us really liked the look of was the iMac, with its translucent coloured plastic case … nt a bad machine, either. But the endless screwing of Wondows with the OS and the word processing programs is just intolerable. Mozilla and its ilk have save significant portions of my sanity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. mizkizzle says:

    Windows 10 is horrid. You can probably get those emails back somehow. Try an invocation to Papa Legba. Light a St. Peter candle , pour a glass of rum and put a good cigar next to it. Ask Papa Legba to open the gate and bring back the deleted emails. I hope it works.


    • Kate says:

      There’s a sigil for Papa Legba on the side of my monitor screen – Kage’s personal touch for an invocation of safety. And I am slowly recovering the emails. But what a classic clown car crash!


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