the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Annoyances In A Writer's Life

I'm still thinking about "time and attention", which is an important concept to get right. It would seem so simple. Just focus your attention, and spend your time, on those things that are most important. First, of course, you have to decide what is most important. That isn't very difficult for most of us, until you start to realise all the dimensions "important" takes on.

None of us wants to waste time being sick, but it is one of those things that are hard to avoid. That's just a little annoyance, but then there are the big issues. I want to be writing. Instead, I'm trying to keep my computer cooled down while I figure out what's wrong. Since I can't afford a new one right now, it becomes most important to keep the stupid thing from melting down so I can keep on writing.

It is running sluggishly, thanks to some bottleneck of processes at the CPU, and all these racing cycles have it on the verge of overheating any time I try to do much with it. Okay, I know enough about computers to solve this - or at least I thought I did. I cleaned out most of the apps that start up with Windows. I pruned my fonts folder to the lowest level it has ever reached on this machine (which ran fine with more fonts installed for a couple of years). Nothing.

I set up resource meters to see what was gobbling up all my resources. Nothing unusual there, no reason for the trouble. I'm pretty careful, but I downloaded a few more powerful malware scanners, which is where I really got stuck. There seems to be something quietly sitting in the background meddling with every process. Before you helpfully point out in the comments that this must be the malware I was looking for, my research has uncovered the thrilling fact that security software acts in many of the same ways as malware. It hides itself, refuses to identify itself, and makes itself abominably difficult to get rid of.

My particular "infection" is so murky, I have not yet been able to figure out whether it is true malware, or the security software I paid cold hard cash for. Thanks, guys! Either you failed to protect me, or your product is as bad as malware on my system. Either way, I wasted all that cash, and I'm wasting a dreadful amount of time I could be spending writing. I have to work out a plan to uninstall my security software: anti-virus, firewall, and malware detector, and make sure it's gone.

I also have to find alternates so my computer isn't left unprotected. Some of what I have now is freeware, and I'm hoping all of what I put in its place will be free. The best tools I have, the ones I've already been able to verify aren't causing me any trouble at all, are all freeware. Then I have to take the time to back up everything crucial, in case of real trouble, remove the old junk, and install the new stuff so I can see what happens. If that doesn't fix the problem, I'll have to seek out the malware some jerk put on my computer.

What really annoys me is the fact this is too important to ignore, yet it means I'm going to lose a whole lot of writing time. Life is short! Time not spent writing is wasted! (Well, mostly.) When I'm done all that, I need to work out the best (that is, the one that is most helpful without requiring a huge investment of time) method for keeping my attention focused where it ought to be, rather than allowing myself to be distracted by every tantalising article in the tech press.

Avoiding distractions is hard when you're a writer. After all, many ideas come from hunting down this or that intriguing lead. So any promising headline might be a great new idea just waiting to burst onto the stage of my consciousness. Then, of course, saving and managing all those great new resources I find takes up time of its own, but how can I use them if I can't find them again? So time and attention are important resources, but allocating them well is not as easy as it sounds.

After reading an article over at The Technium about preserving information in a digital age, I have some thoughts I hope to expand on here. Preserving information is, or ought to be, an issue of great concern to every writer. The thought of losing any of my manuscripts to any of a thousand possible mishaps fills me with dread. Add to that my background as a former genealogist and my interest in emergency preparedness, and the subject is just too interesting to resist.

Tonight, though, since my theme is annoyances, I'm going to end with something that has been bothering me ever since the election. I'm not very political - my opinion is that either party is just the flip side of the other one. They are both part of "the way things work", and since I believe that needs a real overhaul (my only surprise in this whole economic mess has been how long it took to fall apart), I don't think either choice matters that much.

Oh, it matters a great deal to the specific special interests that stand to gain or lose, but to the average person, life is much the same. So I wasn't convinced the election of either candidate spelled out either our doom or our salvation. Barack Obama isn't a bad man, but I couldn't justify spending my own time and attention (big grin) on whether he or John McCain won.

What I can't ignore is the outpouring of hatred since Barack Obama did win. Instead of accepting their loss and getting over it, this time many of those who opposed him seem determined to keep their fight going. I'm referring to the racial incidents since the election, and especially to the news that there have been significantly more threats against Barack Obama's life than against any other President-elect.

Now, if you oppose the policies he intends to follow, and can make a rational statement of your opposition on those grounds, I may be bored, but I'll at least contend you have a right to your opinions. Even that, of course, is no justification for threatening someone's life. But in this case, it seems the problem is simply the colour of his skin.

Haven't we grown up a bit more than that? Aren't we smarter than that? Some of us are, and I'd hoped most of us were, but it appears that isn't the case. There seem to be people out there who want to kill a man for no better reason than the fact his skin is darker than theirs. Anyone who even has a stray thought along those lines ought to be ashamed of themselves. I know I'm ashamed of my fellow humans.

Even considering killing anyone for any reason is a pretty drastic thing to do. Doing so for no better reason than their outward appearance would be pathetic if it weren't so frightening that so many people seem inclined to do so. So I sit here, sick at heart, horrified at what could happen if just one idiot gets lucky. I'd like to think, if you're reading my blog, that you share my feelings. If so, I hope you'll say a prayer for Barack Obama and for his family, that they will all stay safe and unharmed. And once he is inaugurated, I hope you'll support President Obama. He's going to be facing enough difficulties without that kind of hatred to deal with. No matter which side you're on when it comes to his policies, he doesn't deserve that.

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Blogger J.C. Montgomery said...

I agree that keeping a true focus, in writing, in life, in politics...all of it is difficult sometimes. Well said WA.

Also, don't forget that their are other things that can cause your heat issue, such as an accumulation of internal dust and dirt. Be sure to crack that case and clean inside. Of course if you have a laptop, this is not feasible. However you can get a little lap thing with fans built in to help keep unit cooler.

If you do have a regular PC, check out the fan and make sure it is appropriate for what you're running. In fact, someone I know has two fans in their case. Not sure how they hooked that up, but they do, and it helps.

I hope whatever the case may be it holds out long enough to help you keep writing. nollyre

December 17, 2008 11:23 PM  
Blogger The Wandering Author said...

J. C., thanks. Yes, I have considered cat hair might be an issue ;-) and I do need to check the fans. At the moment, I have a 'helper' fan wedged in by the vents. Not elegant, but it keeps the temperature at a safe level until I crack the case. (I confess to putting that off, since I have too many "assistants". Who would just love to fix my Internets. :-D )

The real question is what keeps tying up my CPU, without registering on normal system monitors. My best guess so far is - the security software. It is a sad day when you pay for something that behaves just like the junk you're paying to protect yourself from.

December 17, 2008 11:49 PM  
Blogger Bhaswati said...

Sad to hear about your computer woes, WA. I know how terribly annoying those can be! Hope things are working better for you now.

As for the race issue, it beats me the amount of segregation people's minds still hold. I don't know how this even happens, but the fact that it does is more worrisome than it's sad.

December 18, 2008 3:39 AM  

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