30 October 2010

The Bitter End -- And The Ramifications Thereof

Part Three of a three-part series.

23 August 2010. 11.45 PM (or something to that effect).
I pulled my chair up to the computer, woke it up, and plugged in the flash drive containing my nearly complete novel.
I am practically giddy. I have already passed the 45 000 word mark, that being the goal for the 28th day. If my pacing keeps up I will easily finish by the 25th. My previous record is 29 days.
I am so excited I can hardly sit still.
I navigate to the folder containing my precious novel, double-click the file, and wait for Microcrap Word to spring to life.
After several (uncharacteristic) minutes of waiting, a dialog box appears, saying that Word is updating. This puzzles me, as this computer hasn't been on anything resembling an Internet connection for nearly a month. Where is it getting this 'update' from?
I hit 'Cancel,' assuming that will circumvent the 'updating' process and start Word so I can work on my novel.
'The updating process has failed.' Hmm, I wonder why...
I click 'Close' -- the only button available -- and wait for Word to open.
It doesn't.
So I go to the Start menu and attempt to open Word from there.
The dialog box reappears, and again I hit 'Cancel' and give it a few minutes to open Word.
You know what happens next -- absolutely nothing.
However, the computer is evidently doing some strenuous task -- I can hear the hard drive churning and gurgling, but the only program currently running is iTunes. It is by now at least 12 AM.
Once again I attempt to open Word. This time when the dialog appears I leave it and allow it to do its 'updating.'
After nearly fifteen minutes the progress bar disappears and another dialog box takes its place.
'The updating process has failed.'
I wait for Word to open, but it does not.
Rather disappointed, I abandon the novel for the present and open Notepad -- my writing warm-up tool of choice.
It takes a full five minutes for the most streamlined program on the computer -- perhaps in existence -- to load. This brings me to a conclusion.
This is ridiculous.
And that means a reboot is almost certainly in order.
I close Notepad (a process which takes another two minutes) and iTunes (three minutes). Then I select 'Restart' and sit back.
Because I have the attention span of a goldfish, I pick up a piece of paper or something (I don't even remember what) and read it while I wait for the computer to finish the reboot.
After a while I realise that it appears to be taking a rather long time for the blue login screen to appear. I look up.
The monitor is displaying an odd screen of text that I've never seen before. However, I don't get to read any of it before it disappears and the POST takes its place.
The POST text finishes and the Windows XP splash screen comes up for an instant before the screen goes black and white text appears.
My heart sinks before I even begin to read.
'We apologise for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully.'
It goes on to give a thoroughly uninformative 'possible explanation' for said failure and then lists several options -- start Windows normally, in Safe Mode, in Safe Mode with command prompt, Safe Mode with networking, and Last Known Good Configuration. A countdown clock is at the bottom of the screen -- 'Windows will start in 20 seconds.'
Odd. However, my previous computer would frequently go into a similar sort of boot loop, often fixed by a simple tug of the power cord for a minute or so. So I unplug the computer, wait thirty seconds or so, and plug it back in.
The POST runs, then the error screen appears again.
At this point I begin to panic.
I select Last Known Good Configuration. The Windows splash screen appears for a split second before reverting again to the POST, which then gives way to the error message.
This time I select Safe Mode. Same result.
I yank the flash drive out of the USB port, hoping it hasn't somehow been reformatted, unplug the computer again, and sit back. Tears pool in my eyes.
Then, after a few seconds, I reach into my book bag.
Lila, my faithful little Neo 2, had at that point been with me for a year and a half, the equivalent of one and a half novels, one script, and copious amounts of plot hashing and note taking. Never once has she failed me, even with the amount of salt water that's dripped into her keyboard.
I pull her out of the book bag and hug her.
It's just her and me now. Us against the world of Windows.

And that, dear reader, is why I have no money for writing music this November. MacBooks don't come cheap, and due to my utter lack of a computer that will at least start up, I need one as soon as possible. I was saving for one before, but not with the ruthless intensity that is now required.
I only hope that my lack of decent music and the inability to write during my best hours won't put me in a madhouse next month...

28 October 2010


Part Two of a three part series.

For the remainder of July (for it was July by the time I set the computer up), I added programs and photos with rather reckless abandon, and spent nearly every waking moment either working on my Spider Solitaire winning streak (it ended at 19 games, if I recall correctly), customising preferences, or writing.
Two rather good short stories were born out of this writing, as was the nebulous of a poem of sorts.
In late July, I got an iPod touch (an early birthday gift). After it was purchased, I read the packaging and found that as far as Windows XP goes, it was only compatible with Service Pack 3 or higher.
The computer I had been planning to use it with (the only computer in the house that had both iTunes and a working USB port) had SP2.
For a split second I was horrified... my (very generous) grandmother and I had just spent a collective total of nearly three hundred dollars on this and I couldn't even use it?
Then my mind flashed back to the System Properties dialog box on my new computer. If my memory was accurate, it might just have said 'Service Pack 3.' However, I wasn't sure.
So when I got home, I rushed to the computer and called up The Official Windows Box Of Nerd Stats.
Sure enough, it read 'Windows XP Home Service Pack 3.'
I was elated. All I needed to do was install iTunes, add my music, and hook up the iPod.
Six hours later I had finally installed iTunes and added (I hoped) every song I could think of that I might possibly wish to listen to (it would have taken far longer if I hadn't had a partial backup of the other computer's music files). Exhausted but excited, I plugged in the iPod. And got an error message from iTunes.
It needed to connect to the Internet in order for me to register the iPod and thus, sync it.
Due to lack of finances (or more accurately, laziness preventing us from researching the actual cost), there is no networking in the house. If you want to get onto the Internet, you have to get onto the one computer that's connected to it.
The SP2 computer.
Upon researching the potential pitfalls involved in upgrading that computer to SP3 I (wisely, as I would realise later) dropped the notion. However, it looked as if I would never get to use the iPod for anything more than note-taking.
That night, however, an idea came to me and the next morning I put it in action.
It took me a good half hour to rewire the Internet connection, moving it temporarily from the 'primary' computer to mine. With my computer on the Internet, I registered the iPod, bought a few songs, and synced it before moving the Internet connection back to its designated place.
I had been quite grateful for the computer before, and this only heightened my thankfulness. Without it, my iPod would have been the next thing to useless.
Then dawned 1 August (actually, it didn't even have a chance to dawn; I opened Word and started writing as soon as the clock read 12.00 AM), and I started my novel -- the one about the murder.
I quickly discovered that I do my best writing between the hours of 11.30 PM and 4.00 AM (something I'd suspected, but hadn't yet confirmed).
So, every night, as the rest of the family was falling asleep, I woke up the computer, plugged in my trusty flash drive, and wrote until I could no longer see the monitor for the black spots before my eyes.
The story took shape at a blinding pace, and the computer was quite patient about the whole thing.
For twenty-three days (rather, nights) we worked together, racking up over 45,000 words out of the goal of 50,000.
And then in the proverbial home stretch it choked.

27 October 2010

The Beginning -- Acquiring 'The Computer'

Part One of a three-part series.

I suppose it started back in early June. My neighbour/friend was getting rid of her old computer because she was upgrading and asked if I wanted it. My primary computer at the time had a 20 GB hard drive, 256 MB RAM and a processor whose speed was measured in MHz, not GHz. Oh, and a nasty habit of restarting itself every time I tried to plug in my USB thumb drive.
Needless to say, another computer was quite an attractive offer, even if it was used. I reasoned that anything had to be better than the beast I was currently fighting with and a hundred dollars was a reasonable price to pay for something that should last until I could acquire a MacBook.
Alas, I underestimated the wrath of circuitry that has been forced to run Windows.
I bought the computer and toted it home. For several weeks the poor thing languished in a corner of my bedroom because its new owner was too lazy to set it up (that and there was no room on my desk for it).
Finally, though, I cleared off the desk, rearranged a few things, and set the thing up.
I was amazed when I started it up and looked at the System Properties.
It boasted nearly twice the RAM, three times the hard drive space, and a far more sophisticated processor. Not top-of-the-line, but certainly better than anything I'd previously owned. Further poking around showed that this was a well-maintained computer. The previous owner had obviously taken very good care of it and as far as I could tell it was almost like new.
Naturally, I was overjoyed and within a few days I was doing all my writing on that computer. This was for three reasons: one, it was far faster than either of the other computers in the house; two, since it was my computer, I could stay up writing on it as late as I wanted; and three, it read my flash drive without argument.
Over the next week or so, I developed only two complaints about it -- one of the USB ports was dead and it had an older version of Microsoft Word, meaning I couldn't read or edit some of my documents. (However, since I work primarily in Notepad, that wasn't all that much of an issue.) I kept my old computer only for my iTunes library and Microsoft Word 2007.
Ah yes, it was glorious. At last I had a computer that didn't look as if it would explode any day now. With my plans to write a novel in August, I couldn't have asked for more.

26 October 2010

From One Novel To Another... Tracing The Path Of A Crisis

NaNoWriMo starts in six days and in the wake of planning for it I am facing a very disturbing reality.
I have no writing music.
All right, I'll admit that's a bit of an exaggeration.
What I really mean, I suppose, is 'I have no new writing music.'
This is not a trifling matter. Speaking as one of those who needs music and oxygen to survive -- in that order -- this could potentially ruin the novel before it's even started. Nothing mangles a writer's output like hearing the same pop-fluff song for the three hundredth time in two days because everything else has also been listened to already.
This situation could be so easily rectified if it wasn't for one thing... nearly every cent I earn is currently going into an envelope, not to be touched until the desired amount is inside it. And unfortunately for me, that envelope is not marked with the words 'Music Fund.'
For that, I blame THE COMPUTER. (*dun dun dunnnn!*)

To be continued...

23 October 2010

A Rant

If there's anything I absolutely can't stand, it's this: some acquaintance of yours (not a best friend or anything) posts a status update on Facebook. It's witty, it made you laugh, and what's more, you have the perfect comment for it. So instead of simply 'liking' the status, you comment on it, certain that they'll get a laugh out of it, if nothing else.
Five minutes later, you happen to glance at your home page again and find that your carefully crafted comment was deleted.
It wasn't offensive, it wasn't inappropriate, it wasn't insulting to anyone in any fathomable way.
So why did it get deleted? Is it merely this friend's 'polite' way of dismissing you without actually removing you from their friend list? Are they trying to eradicate you from their life without having to tell you to your face that they hate you? Is this bloke such a control freak that if your comment isn't exactly the one that he was expecting when he posted that status, he deletes it so as not to 'muss up' his page?
Perhaps I appear to be overreacting too soon and I suppose you, dear reader, are perfectly justified in thinking that. To that I say this: one incident, even two or three, is forgivable; even more so if an explanation for it is provided.
Having every. Single. Comment that you ever post on anything of this friend's deleted, however, is not. Especially if you only comment on something he posts once every three months or so. (Deleting obvious stalker comments is a completely different discussion.)
If they didn't want to be your friend, why did they accept the stupid friend request? Obviously they have some kind of major problem with you, why didn't they just click 'Ignore' and spare you (not to mention themselves) this kind of aggravation?
And if you happen to be one of these selective-reality-obsessed chronic comment deleters, this is all I have to say to you:
If you don't want people to comment on it, don't even post it on Facebook in the first place.

21 October 2010

Indecisiveness... Ended?

I think I might possibly, maybe, potentially, perhaps have decided on which story I'm writing for NaNoWriMo in November. And it's only the 21st!
It's a fantasy story -- sort of a 'Lord of the Rings' setting.
It starts in modern time, however, and as a result of the tried-and-true stumble through a hidden portal, the heroes (Patrick and Melissa, next-door neighbours) end up in a fantasy world.
They learn that Rebecca, Patrick's late sister, was practically a national icon there -- rather a Queen Elizabeth I. According to the people, she saved them from their enemies several years before, and in gratitude for her service, they gave her the key to the healing spring (yet to be officially named) and told her to hide it where their enemies would never find it.
When they discover that Rebecca was Patrick's sister, they beg him to bring her over because there is now a devastating plague (my characters do seem to run into those, don't they?) that is threatening to wipe them out and they need her to access the healing spring for them. Upon being told that Rebecca is dead, they name Patrick Rebecca's successor and send him and Melissa off on a quest to either find where Rebecca hid the key or find (and enter) the healing spring itself. Naturally this isn't easy, and they run into several pitfalls and must jump through several hoops along the way...

18 October 2010

My Top Ten Writing Songs (18 October 2010 Edition)

With NaNoWriMo fast approaching, I thought I might list some of my favourite songs to write to (when I'm not dancing to them). Naturally it varies according to the genre of the story and the particular scene I'm working on (not to mention my mood), but these are a few standbys... (in no rigid order)

10. 'This Time' -- David Meece

9. 'Alive' -- Hawk Nelson

8. 'How To Save A Life' -- The Fray

7. 'Existence' -- Kevin Max

6. 'My Last Amen' -- downhere

5. 'While You Were Sleeping' -- Casting Crowns

4. 'Sara' -- Jacob Moon

3. 'Breath Of Heaven (Mary's Song)' -- Amy Grant

2. 'The Promise' -- Michael Card

1. 'Stay Strong' -- Newsboys

Truthfully, this could be the Top 704 Writing Songs, but for simplicity's sake I limited it to ten and picked a few largely at random (coincidentally, 704 is the number of songs currently in my iTunes library). (Don't laugh, that's all I can afford at this point. If money was no object it would almost certainly be over 1 000.)

14 October 2010

Doing choreography ...or trying to.

So in order to see if I really want to pursue this dance idea that I have, I'm going to try my hand at choreographing dances to a few of my favourite songs.
The thing is, there's next to nothing out there in the form of choreography resources. Writing the choreography on paper, that is (actually dancing it and figuring it out that way is no problem). I've searched the library, I've tried several differently worded Google searches, and nothing comes to light. I know at least one form of choreography notation exists, but I've no idea where one could learn it. So I'm writing it in a rather cryptic format that even I struggle to understand when I review it two days later.
There has to be a better way to do this.

09 October 2010

The Dreams of Childhood

I haven't updated this in longer than I thought. Terribly sorry.
Anyway, the novel I was writing did get finished in a month (by some miracle... all I will say is thank goodness I had the novel backed up to a USB drive). 51,200-some words by 31 August. That makes me the author of four novels, with another one planned for November (not entirely decided on which plot though).
My interests are being pulled elsewhere, however. Writing is still my primary escape, but dancing is a definite contender as of late.
I've been dancing for years (nearly ten years of ballet under my proverbial belt), and it's always been something I've really enjoyed, but now I'm giving serious consideration to making it my career... somehow.
The problem is, I doubt very much I'm at a level to perform with an official dance company, and even if I was at a professional level, there aren't really any opportunities around here to do that.
So I've got a different idea, however, it's far out there. I'll likely spend the next year working out the kinks in the idea itself before even attempting to move past that. I'm almost afraid to, though, because this, indirectly, has been my dream since the age of seven. If it doesn't work, a lifetime of anticipation will be shattered.
Is it better to make an attempt at seeing one's childhood dream realised or is it better to leave the notion untouched, to not find out it isn't possible and thus keep the dream alive in one's mind?