Techno Fun, Again

When I walked into my office this morning, something was chirping. Sounded just like a cricket, but it was in fact the dying protest of the Uninterruptible Power Supply tied to my computer. The big black brick hadn’t actually worked in some time, but at least it had been quiet. No more. Turning the UPS off stopped the chirping, but of course it also shut down the computer. Having proved that, I prepared to crawl under the desk and do something about it.

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Aha, I will use the flashlight function on my wonderful all-purpose smart phone that I hardly ever use for actual phone calls. That’s when I discovered I had left my phone on the kitchen counter, thirty miles away. So I found a real flashlight, crawled under the desk, and fumbled among the cords (hey, when did I unplug the monitor?) until I had the UPS disconnected and the computer running. (The UPS weighs approximately a ton, by the way.)

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That’s about when I discovered that the third ceiling fixture in my long narrow office was flickering madly. The middle one, a fan that hasn’t been turned on since I started work there in 2003, lost its light function some weeks ago. Fortunately the light above my desk still works. For how long is anyone’s guess.

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It hasn’t just been at work, either. A couple of weeks ago my dryer stopped cold (well, no, actually, it was quite hot, and smelled like burning lint, and I’m probably lucky it didn’t catch fire) in the middle of a load. I bought it from Montgomery Ward (defunct since 2001) sometime in the early 1990s, so I really can’t complain about its life span. I bought the matching washer at the same time; it still works but I’m pretty sure its days are numbered. So I strung a makeshift clothesline on my back porch (where even tee shirts take two days to dry in the coastal Texas humidity) and did some research.

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My new washer and dryer will arrive on Friday. The same size as my old machines, with much bigger drums and no agitator in the washer. I have no idea how to run them. There are no knobs or dials on either one, just a few dozen mysterious little touch pad things. I hope they come with good instruction books. I don’t think a “quick start guide” is going to do the trick. But by the weekend I’ll have plenty of laundry to experiment with.

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Yesterday I got a letter from Comcast telling me that they’re going to upgrade my cable boxes at no charge! Well, except that I have to figure out how to go on line, or through the TV, or by telephone (no, not that, anything but trying to find a human to talk to at Comcast) to arrange the exchange, or unspecified dire things will happen to my TV channels. Of course I’ll lose everything I’ve recorded on the DVR, so I’d better plow through that before the deadline sometime in October. Given the failure rate of my cable boxes over the years, some of them failing to ever work at all, it may be worth it to pay for a service call. Last time I did it myself it took me two hours to get the color right on the DVR. No, it did not hook up exactly like the old one. Let the technician figure it out.

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And as for my forgotten phone—for many years I carried a simple Tracfone with me, because I drive a lot. Only once, about a year ago, did I need it for a road emergency, and trying to phone AAA on that little phone, at twilight, was what convinced me to buy a smart phone. There must be an app for this. Indeed there is, although I hope I never have to use it. (Fortunately the car started after a few minutes.)

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So I was much relieved to arrive safely at home this evening. As with umbrellas and windshield wipers, one really misses a cell phone when it isn’t there. After only a few months with my smart phone, I feel surprisingly disconnected without it, even when I don’t need it. Tomorrow I won’t leave home without it.

A Few Days in the 20th Century

As I write this on Tuesday morning, I am beginning my sixth day with no Internet access on my home computer. Last Thursday morning some Verizon technician accidentally pulled the plug on my line, possibly in connection with a minor change in my account bundle. I have no idea if it’s just me or a mass outage—I can’t go on line to ask around—but this is not what I call acceptable customer service.

The story keeps changing. On Thursday night it was an upgrade, and everything would be fine on Friday. When it wasn’t, another long call generated a service ticket and the information that it was a physically mismatched line. Verizon was committed to having it fixed by 5 pm on Sunday.

That came and went. Monday morning I was promised service in two or three hours. It was a network problem, and they were working on it. That didn’t happen, so Monday afternoon I called again. By this time, the Verizon voice mail tree put me through to a human immediately. After forty-five minutes, mostly on hold, I was told it would be twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

I’m far angrier at Verizon than I am at the lack of Internet. Even if it is a widespread outage (which none of their heavily-accented call center people will admit to), this is a ridiculously long time to wait for repairs.

It has given me some interesting insights on my Internet usage. I work at the Scorekeeper on Tuesday through Thursday, so when I get to the office this morning, I’ll be able to catch up on my email, most of which will consist of various Yahoo loops, ads from Amazon and BookBub, and possibly a few business emails from clients, which I would not have addressed until today anyway. I’ll pop into Facebook long enough to tell friends why I’ve missed their birthdays and book launches this weekend. I spend way too much time down that rabbit hole anyway.

I use the Internet for lots of silly things every day. Checking the TV schedule (what’s on? have I seen that episode? where have I seen that actor?), reading comics on the Houston Chronicle web site, playing games.

But not everything is frivolous. This morning I can’t check the traffic before I set off on my thirty-mile commute. This weekend I hit a wall on a freelance project because I can’t access on-line references. I haven’t been able to order prescription refills or check my banking or credit activities. I’d like to review a couple of books I’ve finished reading. I won’t be able to post this until my Internet comes back. I trot over to the computer to look something up more often than I realized. It’s almost like reaching for the light switch when the power is off, an ingrained habit.

I did get a good bit of freelance work done on Friday, until I needed to get on line with it. I did my weekend shopping. I mowed the lawn and weeded and did the laundry. I read a lot. I watched TV. I did not fade away from lack of the Internet. But I was conscious of every ad, every news story, every newspaper article that ended with some variant of “visit us on our web site.”

I miss my morning ritual of email, blog, comics, and Facebook, although apparently I could have slept another hour instead. Yesterday morning I made an early call to Verizon, but I’m not going to bother this morning. I won’t be here most of the day anyway. But if it’s still down tonight, they’ll hear from me again, squeaky wheel and all that.

And then I’ll give the billing department a ring.

Postscript: 215 emails waiting this morning, which I picked my way through in the course of the day. I managed to vent a bit on the Verizon Facebook page, too. When I got home this evening, all the lights on my modem were green and my email popped right up. My voice mail isn’t working, as I discovered this morning, but that shouldn’t be too hard to fix. Not tonight, though. I’m happy to be connected to the cyber world again, but maybe I’ll remember a few time management lessons learned while I wasn’t.

Writer Wednesday: Three Searches

Our Writer Wednesday assignment this month is “Show us your last three searches.” I’m afraid if I WW Augusttook that literally, you’d be reading about searches for TV show cast lists (What is that actor’s name? Where have I seen her before?) or lactose intolerance in cats. After finishing the first draft of my latest work-in-progress, I took a little break, so I haven’t been researching for a writing project, either, or searching for anything that might draw the attention of law enforcement. (If Facebook knows I’ve been shopping on line for a new bedspread, heaven only knows what the government knows about me.)

The little “Get Windows 10” icon continues to hover on my computer, and recently the HP help system chimed in, offering to help me install the new operating system. So I’ve searched various aspects of Windows 10. Results: I haven’t made the jump yet. My computer is about five and a half years old, probably strong enough to handle the new system, but I’m happy enough with Windows 7 for now. There was a time when I jumped on new releases the moment they were available, but these days I’m on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” team.

Yesterday my dentist, who has known me for more than thirty years, asked me to recommend authors a fan of Christine Feehan might like. No, he’s not a fan of dark paranormal romance himself, but his wife, whose health problems keep her at home, is, and being as good a husband as he is a dentist, he shops for her. Dr. B. was installing a new crown in my mouth at the time, so I was neither quick thinking nor articulate. But when I got home I searched “if you like Christine Feehan, you might like . . .” Results: a list of eight or ten names I sent to his Facebook page.

I’ve been doing some proofreading lately, combing through the files of some twenty-five year old Regency romances which have been scanned in preparation for a digital rebirth. I’m good with spelling and punctuation, not so much with Regency slang. Fortunately I have copies of the original books, tiny of print and a bit yellowed, to check against. I’ve found a few typos the original proofreader missed, so when I hit the word nuncheon and found it in the paperback as well, I thought I might have found another. But, hey, those Regency folks spoke their own language, so I searched. Results: yes, my dears, nuncheon is a word, meaning (according to Meriam Webster on line) “a light midmorning or midafternoon snack consisting typically of bread, cheese, and beer.” I have a feeling the characters in the story were not guzzling beer, but they were definitely enjoying their nuncheon.

For more stories of Internet searches, visit the other Writer Wednesday bloggers: Historical romance writers –    Wendy LaCapra  |  Sweet and Inspirational writers –    Kristen Ethridge  |  Novels with Romantic Elements –  Jean Willett  –  Natalie Meg Evans  |  Romantic Suspense –  Carol Post  –  Sharon Wray  |  Paranormal writers  –  Pamela Kopfler  |  Contemporary romance writers –    Kat Cantrell   –  Priscilla Kissinger 

And don’t miss this month’s new release from Kristin Ethridge: The Doctor’s Unexpected Family.

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