Bits and Pieces

Well, let’s see. I’m going to make this post one about odds and ends, so where to start?

Let’s begin with my keyboard. Back in February of 2009, we had one hell of an ice storm here in Northwest Arkansas. Trees and limbs fell all over the place under the weight of thick ice. I don’t remember, now, just how thick it got, though I know it set records. Part of me wants to say it was an inch thick, but I’m not sure. Anyway, I was using an old Dell I’d been using since 2003. It had a 30gb hard drive, a 1.8 GHz processor (if I remember right), something like 512mb of RAM, and a nice, old-style 19” monitor that weighed about as much as a Japanese car. Oh, and it ran Windows XP.

I was happy with it until I started college. Heck, the whole time I had it, there were 18gbs of free space. I don’t play games on PC much, and as long as I had my word processor program, I was cool. But I was shooting for an IT degree, and that meant installing programs like NetBeans (an IDE for writing Java programs) along with things like yEd Graph Editor for flow charts. Then there was Cygwin, a command prompt program for using UNIX, and the school sent me Microsoft Office 2007 Professional Plus so I could have Access for my database design classes, and Microsoft Project 2007 for my project management class. This is not some kind of paid advertisement for Microsoft (like they really need me for that, especially now that they bought Skype), but a hint at how space started disappearing all of a sudden.

I knew Windows 7 was coming out later that year, and my only true issue was memory space, so I decided to wait until the new OS was on the market before buying a new computer. Win 7 was getting excellent reviews, and I’d heard all kinds of horror stories about Vista, so why not just skip that OS? There wasn’t exactly an emergency here.

Then the ice storm hit.

Tree limbs weren’t the only thing that came down. Power lines by the mile hit the ground. That first day, our power surged. And, of course, it did it while I had my computer on. I was trying to get some college work done in case we lost power for a couple days (I had no idea how bad it would get), and I didn’t own a UPS at the time. The electricity surged a few times, then finally went out altogether—for eleven days. I had to call my school and explain the situation to them and still ended up so far behind I couldn’t get caught up and had to go through some hoops to get back after being expelled.

I went to Best Buy (yes, that is an ad for them. I’ve had good experiences with Best Buy) and bought a UPS while the power was down, then brought it home. We finally got electricity back on, and when I fired up the computer, nothing happened. I’m sure it was just the power supply, but I decided to go ahead and invest in a new computer.

Fast forward two years. I’ve got a nice Gateway. 500gb hard drive, 4gb RAM, 19” flat screen monitor that I can actually pick up without going to a chiropractor afterwards. It’s got a DVD drive, a quad-core processor, all in all, not a bad machine. I bought it with the idea that I’d be using it for another six years, like I did the Dell.

A week or so ago, I started having problems with my keyboard. The mouse worked fine, but I couldn’t get a thing out of the keyboard. I did a restart (the first thing you do when you have a problem in Windows, as most of you know), but it still didn’t work. I was trying to get into a maintenance program when the machine just locked up.

All right. Time for a hard shut-off. Not recommended with the new OS’s, but sometimes you gotta. Fired the computer back up and problem solved. Okay. Evidently it just wasn’t recognizing the keyboard port for some reason.

The weekend goes by and I get on the computer again. Even though I have a UPS now, because our rural power blinks off at least once a week, I don’t leave my machine on when I’m not using it. So I turn it on, and the keyboard doesn’t work. I go through several routines to try and get it working, but no joy. Finally, in despair, I take out an old keyboard that went to my first computer and hook it up. Works fine. I’m typing on it now. And liking it a lot.

See, the first computer I had was a hand-me-down that ran Windows (get ready for it) 3.1. Yep, that old. Not much GUI there, compared to the newer versions. And no Word at all. I had a program called Professional Write (I think) for my word processing. It was so high tech it included both 5 ½” and 3 ¼” floppy discs for installation. Hey, we’re talking cutting edge tech here, dude!

Anyway, for some reason I still don’t understand, I threw away the keyboard for my Dell. Shoulda kept it for a spare, but there you go. But when I went to get rid of some of my packrat clutter in my closet a few months ago, I found I still had that old computer. I got rid of it, too, but missed two things: the keyboard and some of those speakers that mount on the side of old-style monitors. I had them in my throwaway pile, too, but hadn’t gotten around to actually throwing them away.

Good thing. I’m using that keyboard now. And, for those of you who are too young to remember these things, look ’em up. It’s one of those old white IBM keyboards with raised keys, some of which are white, some of which are gray. It’s probably twice the size of my Gateway keyboard.

But I find I love the thing. My Gateway keyboard was slick, like a hybrid of a desktop and laptop keyboard and I never got really good with it. I learned to type back in the 80s on electric typewriters, so having raised keys makes it easier for me to type. I don’t make as many typos now, and I find myself hoping that this thing lasts a long time.

In other news, I find I’m expanding my story writing horizons some. See, I’ve always loved music, from the time I was a little kid listening to Johnny Cash and Flatt & Scruggs records up through the 80s when I turned into a metal head. Lately, I’ve gone back to my country roots because, as much as I love “Bohemian Rhapsody,” I’ve simply heard it too many times, along with several other songs. The radio stations around here apparently have about ten songs in their format and they play them to death. And you can forget about listening to that Lady Gaga, Britney Spears “Today’s Hit Music” stuff because it all sounds the same to me: a synthesized beat with vocals filtered through that on tune software everyone uses these days, telling me to get out on the dance floor. No thanks. I’m too old, fat and lazy for that crap. So I turned to country music.

And rediscovered that many country songs are stories. At first, this was just a way to enjoy the music, but then I realized there’s some potential there. What if I took some of these song stories and adapted them into shorts? I need some short stories to help build my portfolio. And once I’m established, they can be anthologized. So I’ve written two already, based on country songs, and I can see them going into a collection called Song of the South (after an old Tom T. Hall song, and I think Alabama did a cover of it), where the theme is songs that take place in the south and are based on country songs. Yes, I’ll have to get permission from the songwriters, I’m sure, but that’s okay. If they’ll get me notice, I’ll share royalties.

I guess, in a sense, you could say it plagiarism, but all I’m doing is taking the basic concept and putting in my own characters and situations. One of them even let me explore my marijuana moonshiner family to a small extent, so it’ll be important to me in future novels. Especially if I get around to doing the Rural Empires concept with my cousin.

Well, my bits and pieces went on longer than I intended. All the blog-writing gurus say you should limit your posts to two or three hundred words, but they’re basing that on posting daily. I can’t do that right now, so I give you a week’s worth in one post. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, I’ll close off now. Hope you found it at least mildly entertaining.

Later,

Gil

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