Friday, October 19, 2012

Hey, Even *I* Can do THAT!

This week I think I have a little rant to go on. First, though, I have to tell you about what spawned the rant.

So here’s the story:

I’m a writer. I write. I know this is no surprise to you since you are, right now, reading something I wrote. Right?

I also write on a computer, a laptop to be precise. I know you know about computers too, at least dealing with them, since the writing you are now reading is part of my blog and can be found only online, thus necessitating the use of a computer. Unless you have a friend who’s printed out a hard copy of my blog for you to read, and though I’d be flattered at someone going to all that trouble to get hold of some of my work, I really can’t see it. So I’m assuming you are familiar with computers and their sometimes hinky ways and problems.

Are we all on familiar ground here? Good.

So there I was, typing along. Well, typing along as well as I do, me being one of the world’s worst typists and all. Awkward that, being a writer who can’t type who still works on a computer, but that’s another story. I was there, banging along at my not-exactly-breakneck pace, when click, the computer turned off.
Not shut down, like when the battery runs down and you get the little warning that “You have 60 seconds to save all material before shut-down. Any unsaved material may be lost.” I mean turned off, like when you pull the battery from your cell phone, or unplug a lamp. It went from on and working perfectly to off and doing nothing at all in the blink of an eye, no shutting down of windows, no saving material, no warning whatsoever.

I was, I think, understandably upset. What it had looked like was that I had done a hard reboot; you know, held down the power button until it cut all power to the machine, bypassing the usual shutdown procedures. You usually do this if your computer has frozen, or is stuck in some sort of loop, and you need to reset the system because it won’t shut down. I hadn’t touched the button though, I had been happily typing away, as I said. It couldn’t have been the battery running down, since the thing was actually plugged in at the time.

Need I say I was confused? Probably not, but I’ll say it anyway.

I was confused.

I tried to power the thing back up, but it refused to turn on. I tried a few times. I scratched my head. I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in and bang it started right up at the touch of a button. The screen came up letting me know Windows had not shut down properly (like I didn’t know that) and asking me if I wanted to start up normally. I did so.

I’ll say it again. I was confused.

It came back on and I checked everything out. Everything I could think to check looked normal, all systems go, everything working. I re-opened my work and found most of it still there (Scrivener can be set to auto-save at intervals. I have mine set to 20 seconds). I shrugged and got back to work. After a while I’d nearly forgotten about the odd shut-down…

…until it happened again.

This time I was, once again hard at work on something and I didn’t have a lot of time. I was working as fast as I could, really banging away at these keys since it seems I make up for not really being able to type by hitting the keys extra hard, especially when I’m in a hurry. I really whale on the larger keys like ENTER and TAB, since I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to hit those on the first try. So if someone were listening, they’d have heard:
“Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-BANG! Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-BANG! Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-click—”
“What? Wait… no… no… NO!

Need I say great and violent swearing did ensue? Probably not, but…

Great and violent swearing did ensue. Quite loudly.

Now, this type of thing started happening more and more often over the next two to three weeks, making it hard to concentrate on writing. I was never sure if I’d finish the sentence I was on much less the actual project I was in. It was a little stressful as I had already fallen pretty far behind in everything I was trying to get done. Sometimes it would shut down as soon as I touched the machine, sometimes it would wait, lurking, I swear sometimes it was watching me, until I got eyeball-deep into something and then, with no warning of any kind, -click.

So I took it to the shop. The guy there said it sounded like a heat issue, that my fans might be gummed up or something and the motherboard was shutting itself down in self-defense rather than become damaged by the heat build-up. That made sense to me, except… well, except that sometimes it would run for hours and be fine, but sometimes it would die right after start-up, before if had time to build any real heat. But whatever, he was the professional not me. I left it in his capable hands and came back in a few hours to pick it up.

When I picked it up it was all fresh and clean, like it was right out of the box. He said he’d cleaned some of the gunk out of the fans and done a little virus killing, but he hadn’t been able to make it fail. Without seeing it fail he wasn’t sure if he had actually fixed the problem, whatever it was, but he hoped that cleaning the fans would do it. He charged me $90 and sent me on my way. Okay…

So after that the laptop was fine, worked great, let me do all kinds of work on it. Everything was peachy-keen.

…until two mornings later, when I got up at 5am to do some writing, sat down at the keyboard, and -click.

Great and violent swearing did ensue. Quietly this time — it was only 5:15 in the morning, and people were sleeping.

I started it back up again. While it was booting, I sat there and stared at it, thinking. I had just started working on it, so there was no way it could be a heat thing. It was acting like the power had been pulled or interrupted somehow… could it be something as simple as a loose wire, or bad connection? Hmm…

I looked at the machine, specifically at the power button on the machine. I reached out a finger and aimed for the spot just next to the button. I avoided touching the button itself, though to do a hard restart you actually have to press and hold that button for three seconds. All I was going to do was tap the housing next to the button…

Tap. -Click.

“Son of a…”

I brought it back to him that morning, just as he opened.

“You remember,” I said to him, “how you couldn’t make it fail? Well I can make it fail.”

“Okay,” he said. “Show me.”

So I did. He was amazed. He poked the spot, prodded it, and we found that when it was running on battery power he could turn the thing off and on without ever actually touching the button, and whenever he turned it off it was shutting down like a hard reboot.

“I think that I was effecting whatever’s wrong in there with my hard typing,” I told him. “I must have been hitting the TAB or something and jostled that spot over there, just like you’re doing now.”

He just kept poking the spot, turning the machine on and off.

“I’ve worked on thousands of laptops,” he said, voice filled with wonder, “and I’ve never seen anything like this before!” He said that quite a few times, actually.

It’s since been fixed, once I pointed out the ‘problem area’ to the expert, and I’m using it right now. This, though, leads to my rant.

So here it is:

I’ve been to ‘experts’ for all kinds of things. Computer guys, mechanics, even doctors of all kinds, and they’ve all had one thing in common.

Various mechanic, talking about (at all different times) an electrical issue with my jeep, a snapped ‘machine-hardened’ screw, and an odd thing my transmission was doing said “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Eleven (I think, I may have lost count) different doctors, nurses and medical techs when confronted by my recurring inability to perspire and their inability to make me perspire (please see my post titled “No Sweat, No Problem… Not Really!” or simply enter ‘Anhidrosis’ into the search field at the top of the page if you don’t know what I’m talking about here) told me “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Various computer techs, and now this guy: “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Okay… look. I know that all the mechanics I have ever been to know a lot more about cars and mechanics than me. A lot. I know they’ve gone through training, worked on cars for years, even have various certificates for certain specialty training. I know that nurses, doctors and all other medical personal have had extensive training and years of schooling before they are loosed upon the public, and that the least of them has probably forgotten more about medicine and the workings of the human body than I will know in my entire lifetime. I understand that computer technicians have mastered some very specialized knowledge in a field that is, for the most part, baffling to the regular guy on the street, and this man who was working on my computer even claimed to have worked on ‘thousands of laptops’ in his lifetime.

But here’s the thing:

Even with all your training and schooling and study, even with all the hours you’ve all put into perfecting your knowledge in whatever your chosen field happens to be, even with your certificates of achievement and recognition of your specializations, there is one place, and one place only, where I am a match for you in your field. More than a match, actually. One place where I can, and will, decimate you if you challenge me.

“I don’t know.”

Yup. If you’ve specialized in a field in any way, chances are that I have more ‘I don’t know’ than you. As a matter of fact, in areas like those I’ve mentioned, medicine, mechanics, computers, etc, where there are years of schooling involved, I can practically guarantee that I have tons more ‘I don’t know’ than you do! I have @#$%loads! If all I wanted to do was hear someone tell me “I don’t know” about something I’d have stayed home and stared at myself in the mirror while I trotted out a whole bunch of my own ‘I don’t know’ instead of trucking all the way across town to hear you trotting out some of yours! It would have been free, and I wouldn’t have needed to make an appointment!

A @%#ing appointment!

Seriously, if I’m going to make and then keep an appointment I think I at least deserve to hear something along the lines of ‘I’ve never seen this before, but here’s what we can try, I think it’ll work’, or ‘I don’t know what’s making that sound but let’s do a few tests and see if we can rule a few things out, you know, narrow it down’. Hell, I’d even be happy with ‘You know, I’ve never seen this before myself, but I think I know someone who may have dealt with this before. Hang on a sec while I give him a call…’

What I don’t want is for you to stand there and go all ‘New Millennium’ on me and show off your facility with ‘I don’t know’. I know this is the age of sensitivity and all, and I know we’re telling people, especially our children, that it’s okay to admit when you don’t know something. That’s fine. But for the love of God, when your job is to be a specialist in something, and someone is paying you for that specialized knowledge, then hiding behind the words ‘I don’t know’ as if they absolve you from any professional obligation puts a giant hair across my @$$.

Its okay not to know. It’s even okay to say you don’t know. But for crying out loud, please, please follow through with some ‘but I’ll try to find out’. My own personal stockpile of ‘I don’t know’ is huge. I don’t have any room for yours.

Okay… I think I just needed to get that off my chest. I believe this started out somewhat funny but I lost the humorous thread along the way. Sorry about that, but that’s what you get when you look into my head this often. Next week I’ll try for more laughs, I promise.

Note that I promised to try… :D

Thanks for listening.

Talk to you later!

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