Tag Archives: technology

Pulling Up the Drawbridge

tired of your world?
try on another’s skin
read a book

I used to read all the time, but it’s an ability I’ve largely lost. I dip in and out of this book or that, and it can take me a long time to finish anything. Today, though, I found out that books still have their place in the world, even in mine.

I’m upset just now about a lot of different things, some of which won’t be resolved any time soon. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing, so curled up on the sofa and read.

I was previously dipping into this book for minutes at a time, worried I wouldn’t finish by its library due date, but today wrapped it round me like a blanket and read all afternoon and evening: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

It was brilliant and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. It upset me a lot. 😀

I know that doesn’t sound so good, but I don’t regret reading it. It gives me a different understanding of what it must be for people to go through memory loss.

The main character talks about being treated like she’s back in school… I could relate to that, as the same thought flashed through my head during a meeting with a nurse. Being talked to like I was six was a very big reason I rebelled and refused to have anything more to do with her proposed anxiety treatment.

Yet anxiety is a horrible thing… I wonder why it should hit me so hard that I needed to pull up the drawbridge and hide inside a novel. I don’t think anything will change me, and maybe it’s not out of the ordinary… we all get overwhelmed at times. I wonder what life would be like if no one ever felt fear?

Whatever… I was surprised how quickly I went from only being able to concentrate for a few minutes to spending hours reading. People talk about how the internet and ‘information overload’ has changed the way we read, think and engage. Perhaps, but I don’t believe it’s a permanent change. If for any reason you mentally disengage yourself from your internet habit, you can still take up a book as though nothing else exists.

Have now begun Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.

‘Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under the ground.’

See you when I get back. 🙂


Five Things I Learned

We’re into March already! Five things I learned this year so far:

(1) Treat your Mah Jong tiles with respect.

(2) Artists use battery-operated erasers.

(3) In Scotland you get a free bus pass if you’re severely or profoundly deaf. You still have to state your destination, which is not so hot if you have quiet or poor speech.

(4) There are no more photo booths in town. Even that technology seems to have ‘moved on’, at least locally. (Runs from various digital cameras pointed in her direction).

(5) It seems possible to replace just about any part of a blender — including the jug, supposing you broke it. Possibly depends on the model and the manufacturer, but always worth checking.

The Sky’s the Limit

Mum was tempted by an offer of four trial months of free Sky TV (after £75 initial set-up, delivery of Sky box and installation of mini-dish). So now we have a dish on our house too.

It’s been enjoyable so far, though it’s shocking how little is subtitled, including programmes which are subtitled sometimes, and other times not. They must do something about that, as it seems such a waste of energy and resources.

We have seen The Colour of Magic amongst other things, very good.

A few days after the Sky box was installed, we tried to watch a DVD. Nothing happened… I suspected the DVD was playing but not showing up on the TV screen. I crawled behind the TV and changed the Scart cables around – the Sky guy had placed them so that they both ran from the TV. I put the DVD player in the middle, taking both cables so that the TV had one and the Sky box had the other.

The DVD sprang to life on the TV screen (already part of the way through).

After watching the film, we tried to watch Sky again, and this time Sky wasn’t responding. Again I crawled behind the TV and switched the cables round to Plan C… this time I discovered that it mattered which Scart socket you used! I thought it didn’t matter, but it does. The Sky box has one socket for the TV and another for the video or DVD player, so this time I put the Sky box in the middle, with one cable running to the TV and the other to the DVD player. The sockets on the other units matter as well, but I swapped the Scarts round till I figured out which ones worked.

This time we could watch Sky, and we could also watch a DVD if we switched off the Sky box first. But the Sky picture was green!!

“You’ve lost all the red,” said Mum, accusingly. After a little head-scratching, I crawled behind the TV again and discovered that one of the Scart cables wasn’t as well pushed in as I thought; pushing it all the way in was all that was needed to restore ‘normal’ colour to the TV screen…

We now have a TV set-up we can continue to use.

The excitement wasn’t entirely over, as Mum got a letter saying they were going to start debiting her account at the end of the month… she phoned and said she’s barely even started the four-month trial period she was promised, and they said they accidentally sent out letters saying they would, but they weren’t going to, and Mum’s money is safe for now.

Funny how it’s never easy.

A View of the World

I set my Mac’s desktop picture to change every half hour at random. Life is exciting now – you never know what it’s going to be! I’ve had two violent purple ones already.

My desktop picture folder was tidied up and includes a large selection of old desktops from both Mac and PC, along with a few I made or downloaded from the web. My favourites are the dinosaurs from ITV’s Prehistoric Park. There’s one with a prehistoric croc eyeing a young dinosaur coming down to drink, and I pointed at the croc and said “you’re in MY world, croc, and in MY world you don’t get the dinosaur.”

I’m afraid my world isn’t a very nice one for crocs.

As for the PC’s old desktop pictures, the Mac has been trying them on and laughing wildly. “Look at these old bloomers!” It better watch out, as the PC has stormed off in a huff once already. Well, the Mac probably wouldn’t admit it in a million years, but it rather likes the PC’s old iceberg picture. It promptly chose that one when I said it could pick whatever it liked.

In fact, I’m now feeling guilty for all the years I’ve forced both computers to stick with whichever desktop I told them to use – they must have got very bored.

Anthropomorphism isn’t daft – it’s a curse. You spend so much time feeling sorry for every dead leaf and speck of dust that it’s just horrible. When I was six or seven, I was watching something on TV in which they were testing the wing or tail of a plane. It fell apart and I started weeping. My grandmother asked, “what’s wrong?” and I said I really had no idea. The piece of metal fell apart and it just made me sad. She laughed, and said “they were only testing it.” I’m not sure it made much difference. The world oozes tragedy from every pore.

So-Called Progress

It’s not a coincidence that Mum ordered a printer so soon after I bought mine. She was going to buy more ink for her old one, and I told her the breakdown of my old printer was a blessing in disguise.

On-line reviews showed that people who were dissatisfied with their printers weren’t even waiting for them to kick the bucket. They checked out the competition and made the switch. It saved time, money and energy in the end. Makes me think of the old adage that we should not throw good money after bad, which is what you are doing if you hate your printer but continue to buy expensive inks for it. Your continued patience probably encourages the manufacturer to assume that the model is a winner.

It took the breakdown of my printer (and subsequent reading of reviews) to challenge my old-fashioned mindset. When I buy something, I expect it to last for years. To me, a printer is no more disposable than the oven. I would want to be relying on it for as long as possible. Anything else seems a sad waste – till one day you wake up and realize the real waste lies in:

  1. the ink (due to a bad ink-changing system)
  2. the paper (when the printer makes a mess)
  3. your time and patience (when a simple printout becomes a battle of wits and takes all day)
  4. your money

I don’t believe all printers are as bad as that, but I used to – it was all I knew.

There was one other printer I was completely happy with, and was sad to lose when I upgraded my computer. It was the Apple Stylewriter. That never gave me a day’s trouble. It stood upright and claimed very little room, but its reliability was the real plus. I would rather have a huge and reliable printer than a neat and cantankerous one – a simple one that works rather than a complicated one with lots of flashing lights and doodads that keeps me guessing.

I once believed in progress – imagine that! I genuinely believed that updated products were better. I was horrified to find myself buying some real lemons all of a sudden. The items I found reliable and cheap to run fell by the wayside and weren’t available any more. I’ve had particularly bad experiences with fax machines.

I didn’t mean this to turn into a diatribe on so-called technological progress (which feels much more like provide-the-manufacturers-with-undeserved-largesse)… I only looked in to apologize for my recent silence.

Jolly Update

Jolly the Trolley is still going strong. The other day Mum gave me a lift, and she took Jolly out to the car while I locked my door. I hurried out, flung open the passenger door, and found Jolly sitting in my seat, firmly strapped in.

Well, if he can remember to buckle up, so can everybody else.

Wrestling with the Printer

Thursday 28th September

It was nearly 5 and I was starting to give up on my new printer – then the courier came. He strode purposefully past my window with a large dark green box in his arms. Not wanting to keep him waiting, nor yet seem too eager, and not wishing to rush outside with open arms just in case he strode up a neighbour’s path instead, I jumped up and galloped out into the hall. There I stopped, and tiptoed a little nearer to the door, grimacing when a panel in the floor clunked noisily. I ran my fingers through my hair, straightened my shirt, and waited.

The bell rang, filled with slight reproach, as though to say, “I hoped you would be waiting right here.” Like something let off the leash, I scurried to the door and yanked it open.

“You are…?” he glanced at my face and saw from my look of happy expectancy that I was. The box was placed in the porch and he stepped forward to hand me a little machine for signing a digital squiggle.
“Ooch!” he said suddenly, dabbing at his face and plucking something away.
“Oh” – I said, apologetically. “It’s the cobweb.” I had seen a small brown spider spinning its home across the entrance a few days ago but had done nothing about it. I hoped the spider was alright.

I signed my squiggle and thanked him, and off he went. As he passed the porch, he looked back and gave me a wide grin. I smiled, but wondered if he was laughing at there being a cobweb across the entrance to my lair.

I dragged the box into the house. It was unexpectedly heavy. My old printer was as light as a bubble. I tore off the dark green bag and there was a very strong cardboard box inside, with pictures all over it.

My Canon printer.

Humming happily, I opened up the box, pulled out some ink cartridges, a print head in a bag, some leaflets, a CD, a CD-Rom tray, a mains cable, and a packet of postcard-sized photo paper. I placed them all on the desk to one side, and one of the ink cartridges promptly fell on the floor.
“Rats,” I said, “bet the instruction manual says ‘do not drop the ink cartridges.'”

Somehow I wrestled the printer out of the box and got it up on the desk between the two computers. The sloth and I sat and looked at it. It wasn’t just heavy, it was huge. Big and heavy, to me, means strong and solid, demanding respect. My last printer felt like a child’s toy, and skidded across the desk if nudged.

“Um,” said the sloth, “I think you’ve put it the wrong way round.”
“What?” I stared hard at the printer. “Oh. I think you’re right. Well, while we’re looking at its rear end, we might as well check where all the sockets are.”
We had a close look.
“Yes, the main cable goes in… there. And… er… that’s for the USB cable.”
I was using my old printer’s USB lead and was relieved when it fitted exactly. It was already attached to the iMac as I hadn’t disconnected it after the demise of the original printer. Turned the printer round and plugged it in without turning it on at the mains. Grabbed the Quick Start Guide and began reading eagerly.

It said the computer must NOT be on.
Ulp. I hastily powered it down and turned it off at the mains, then resumed reading.
It said I shouldn’t drop the ink cartridges, and should store them out of the reach of small children. “Ha!” I thought. “I don’t have any small children! I’m alright there – smuggity smug.”
Something moved next to my chair. Sharky was peering up at me with his sharp oriental face, preparing to leap onto my knee.
“No! Gerrout of here! These are tricky operations!”
Sharky thought I couldn’t possibly mean it, and gathered his haunches under him, preparing to spring. I half-stood, and he took the hint and left the room, his tail twitching with annoyance.

Somehow I got the print head installed, after slight confusion about what and where the print head was. After multiple repeated exhortations from the manual not to touch electrical contacts or anything inside the printer, my hands were shaking. Trying not to touch anything at all, I placed the first ink cartridge in its slot. It scraped slightly and I paused, feeling as though I was trying to disarm an explosive device. I seized the cartridge again and began to click it into place.
“Me eat naow!” cried a voice behind me, very loudly, and I jumped out of my skin. The red lamp in the printer flickered on.
“Fusspot, please! I’m busy!”
The Siamese cat turned and walked away, grumbling to himself.

I was only setting up the printer for 40 minutes or so but it felt like an eternity. I was convinced every move I made would damage the printer or one of its bits. When I finally put the paper in and printed my first page, it was much crisper than a similar printout by my old printer, and I was delighted.

What a palaver setting it up – but I love it.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments for this entry when it was on Blogigo:

1. Pacian wrote at Sep 30, 2006 at 21:59:
I’m going to attempt some html…

Sharky thought I couldn’t possibly mean it, and gathered his haunches under him, preparing to spring.

I know a cat just like that. Even if you shoo him away, he comes back a few seconds later. Once he’s got it into his mind to jump onto something he’s normally allowed to, he absolutely *has* to do it, even if he jumps back down a few seconds later.

2. Pacian wrote at Sep 30, 2006 at 22:01:
Failure! My beloved phasis tags, unrecognised!

3. Diddums wrote at Oct 1, 2006 at 14:32:
Bad luck about the failed tags!

Cats seem to think ‘no’ will turn into ‘yes’ two minutes later and that we can have no good reason for stopping them from sitting where they like. Maybe it’s partly our fault for saying ‘no’ and then feeling twinges of guilt at their woebegone faces and scooping them up for a big hug. And maybe that was their aim all along…

Smitten by a Printer

I was kept up all night by Microsoft Word. Even when you think you understand it and can find your way around it, doing things other people don’t even know Word can do, it still has the ability to baffle. I looked up a few ‘Word help’ sites on-line, but they don’t say very much, are too basic, and are chirpy and cheerful at a time when I’m keen to wring someone’s neck.

I enjoy the challenge of reducing a wild, fighting document to something pliant and beautiful, but when I think of all the time and sleep I’ve lost, and the frantic rush just before a printing deadline when everybody’s waiting for me to come up with the goods, and Word isn’t letting me do something that should never have been a problem in the first place… that makes me quite angry.

My printer broke down in the middle of it all. No, actually, I was glad. I’m usually upset when things of mine break (I don’t know when I last broke a mug) but I didn’t like this printer. Even as I turned away from its rapidly cooling corpse and my forehead met the desk with a thump, I thought to myself “I can buy a new printer now. And it won’t be the same make!”

I lifted my forehead off the desk and pointed my mouse in the direction of Amazon.

Not just because I’m a shopaholic who was fed to the back teeth with her old printer anyway, but because I felt bad about it and wanted to leave that moment behind. Move on, move on, move on. Get from a bad place to a good one. Despair begone and hope enter in. I didn’t want to fork out for a new printer, which was partly why I was upset, but let’s just get one and get it over with.

In fact there’s such a bewildering choice out there it took me two nights. I talked to everyone and read all the reviews and shopped around from site to site. I stared at pictures and thought about what I needed. I narrowed my shortlist to two printers – one laser and one inkjet – and they were so much the opposite of each other in their pros and cons that I couldn’t decide! I slept on it, hoping for a definite decision during the night, but in the morning was still irresolute. So I bought the one I wanted instead of the one I thought I should probably get. I bought the Canon inkjet.

Those two nights – it was a good thing I held back, as the price came down while I was staring at it. The other printer held its price steady.

I’m looking forward to it so much that just now I went back to Amazon and pulled down its picture just so I could stare lovingly at it. I showed it to Sharky, who was sitting on my knee. “Look – there’s our new printer.” He looked at it for a few minutes while I clicked back and forth between views, but he didn’t seem very impressed. I downloaded one of the photos so I could admire it when I leave the site. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before, not for a printer. Not for anything other than a kitten or a teddy bear.

Maybe I just needed something to smile over and look forward to. I’m not down in the dumps; just tired. It’s one of those times when things are breaking down all around you – the PC’s hard drive packed up recently, taking a handful of pretty graphics with it, and I’m still waiting for a replacement. I didn’t particularly miss the PC, sitting blank and empty beside me, but today it hit me that I miss Paintshop Pro.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments for this entry when it was on Blogigo:

1. drifting wrote at Sep 27, 2006 at 09:05:
Word drives me nuts sometimes. Microsoft applications are not particularly ‘user-friendly’. I get so sick of the auto-formatting that Word insists on doing when it thinks it knows what I want. Excel’s help is not very helpful. Access is a nightmare. I need a new harddrive but just can’t afford it at the moment with the car bill coming up….
It is nice to get that document obedient, though. Just takes a lot of frustration!

2. drifting wrote at Sep 27, 2006 at 09:07:
Btw, I have to say I thought your title meant you’d meant a human printer… hehehe! It’s probably just as well to fall in love with an inanimate object – less hassle!

3. Diddums wrote at Sep 27, 2006 at 20:07:
That would be a match made in heaven, wouldn’t it – an editor and a printer! Even better if it was a writer and a printer.

What I find with Word help is it tells you stuff you know already – the troubleshooting information is thin on the ground. It seems to assume you won’t or can’t get into trouble. Or maybe they don’t want to have a huge troubleshooting section in case people think it reflects on the product! It doesn’t really, especially if it tells you what was going wrong in the first place. Then you would go “ah – silly me,” and fix it. I wish…

Pointing Back Down the Trail

Mood: Cooler, under a Great Grey Cloud
Listening to: Some breathy noise (?)

This is a wee bit of a rant, but it’s been building up for a long while.

Luck at last! I obtained a second hand iMac G4 with System X. It was a big leap forward from my old Mac. It looks better, holds more, takes up less room, runs more quietly… and I can finally use the Firefox and Safari browsers.

I can’t describe the relief, as the old system was crumbling about my ears. When you’re on System 9, you can’t visit all the sites because of the unsupported browsers, and the ones you can visit load slowly and look terrible. You keep coming across people saying if you want to view their site properly you should switch to Firefox, Opera or Safari. Some say it more pleasantly than others – I don’t mind if it’s said kindly, but it makes my hair stand on end when someone says this in a waspish tone to the world at large. Perhaps they don’t realize you can only use Firefox, Opera and Safari if you have System X, and you can really only have System X if your computer is up to it – and not everybody can afford to upgrade.

Surfing around on my creaky old browsers in search of a compatible solution, I found some even worse attitudes – those who claimed (in accents of withering scorn) that anyone still using System 9 on the Mac should have their heads examined.

Well, I’ll try and be patient – perhaps they were only 13 and thought they knew everything.

If you’re still using System 9 on a slow old Mac that crashes when you have more than three windows open, takes ages to download a simple news page, has a really serious blackout when it tries to load a Sky ad, and there’s no chance of getting System X any time soon… well, iCab could be the way forward.

I had an iCab beta browser and it was very neat, very quick to download, installed beautifully, showed some sites correctly when I.E.5 didn’t, and visited those sites (may they crash and burn) which, if you tried to visit them with I.E.5, simply fobbed you off with a notice along the lines: “your browser is too old to handle our wonderful, sophisticated site. Go away and bother somebody else, you lowly earthworm.”

A friend from a computing lab tells me he refuses to visit sites like that on principle. Quite right too. But if you still need to visit such a site and I.E.5 doesn’t get you there, iCab might.

The main problem with my iCab beta browser (the version I had) was a JavaScript issue… probably something I could have fixed if I’d looked into it. Every so often it would freeze, and then deliver the following error message: ‘JavaScript execution is too slow or the script is stuck in an endless loop. Would you like to run the script another 15 seconds or would you like to abort this script or all scripts of the document?’

Needless to say I always opted for ‘abort’ – which usually meant bloggers in Blogger didn’t get my comments unless I went back to I.E.5 to deliver them. Well, as I said, maybe there was a way around that problem I didn’t find.

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer for the Mac has been withdrawn – there will be no further development and it’s no longer available for download. A potted history of this browser is in Wikipedia.

My sister didn’t seem to mind – she waved her fingers happily at the screen. “Bye bye!” she cried, beaming. I was just thinking I should check new websites in I.E., but I can’t… hmm. I shouldn’t get rid of my old Mac just yet, perhaps, as I still have I.E.5 on it. Maybe one day they’ll put it in the museum.

It’s fantastic not to have these problems any more, and to be able to see people’s sites the way they want me to see them. Yet I haven’t forgotten that, not so long ago, I was straggling behind – and it wasn’t out of sloth, cantankerousness or any other undesirable personal trait…

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was hosted on Blogigo:

mistwarrier wrote at Jul 29, 2006 at 09:12:
fantastic about the new computer and am so happy for you

Pacian wrote at Jul 30, 2006 at 17:08:
Ooh, yes. You’ve touched on a pet peeve of mine here – computer snobs. It never seems to occur to them that people might not be able to *afford* an upgrade, or that they might want to spend their money on something other than computers.

Diddums wrote at Jul 30, 2006 at 20:08:
Sometimes I wonder if they know where to get things cheap, and assume it’s the same for everybody.

Escape from One Brave New World to Another

Escapism, for me, is reading books. A good book makes everything whole again. I find fantasy is the most evocative genre, the one that takes me furthest away from the things I hope to escape. Good triumphs, magic exists and loose ends are rare. People enjoy their work, value their way of life and possess depth of character, understanding, and a low tolerance of injustice.

I miss the characters and their worlds when the last pages have been reached. I feel as though they still exist somewhere out there, and it won’t matter what happens to me here because I’ll always be able to go home to them. Maybe I will stay for a while in Bag End with the Bagginses and Gandalf, or with Badger, Mole or Ratty in their comfortable burrows. I won’t go anywhere near Toad – he makes me tired. I would rather hobnob with the weasels, especially those friendly with Badger. I could go wombling on Wimbledon Common with Tomsk and Wellington, looking in particular for sweetie papers to wallpaper their home. Better still, I could hibernate for the winter in Moominvalley – I always fancied the idea of a nourishing bowl of pine needles just before curling up to dream away the ice and the snow.

Do I prefer the sleepy stories to the adventures? It’s possible. Maybe I like the contrast; the sense of giving respite to characters who have been out in the cold for weeks on end. Or maybe it’s something deeper.

I’ve always been a sleepy kind of person, and have never been able to understand where people get the energy to do the things that they do. Where did Napoleon get his energy, for instance – or Alexander the Great? Too often I’ve lain in bed in the morning (instead of beginning the day’s chores) wondering about such people. Is there something wrong with me that I have never desired to leap up at cock’s crow to add to my little empire? Why do I never feel the impulse to go travelling, exploring, or to conquer Mount Everest? Why would I rather read about volcanoes than stare down into their smoking craters? Why are my favourite passages about people having rabbit stew for supper before turning in for a nice long snooze?

I’m sure there are various reasons. For instance, I sometimes wonder how The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy classics would have turned out if Frodo (or other fantasy figures) had been deaf? How about Gollum? “Sssorry, master, you’ll have to repeat that as poor old Smeagol don’t hear so good these daysss, gollum.” The thought of all the communication difficulties with innkeepers, magicians, trolls and the like, met while hiking along the road to defeat evil, makes me want to curl up in a ball and close my eyes.

Even more depressingly, I still wonder if Mum is right when she suggests I have an underactive thyroid. Maybe that’s always been part of the problem. That’s also why I don’t entirely believe in the concept of laziness – if you dig deep down, deeper than you expect, you may well find all kinds of unavoidable reasons why someone drags along and refuses to get involved with whatever’s going on.

Or perhaps my sleepiness kicks in because ‘modern civilization’ is so intensely regimented and boring that all the fun has gone out of it. Strange things happen but they make me more tired rather than less – people are criticized if they so much as put the words “Oh, shut up!” into the mouth of an Angry Beaver. It doesn’t matter what you do in this climate – either it’s something you’ve been kindly allowed to do (repeatedly) for limited amounts of money or it’s something someone somewhere will hate and despise you for, such as wearing white ankle socks or keeping cats.

There are so many parts of the world (even locally) that we never get to see in our lifetimes because they are the grounds of some reclusive ogre in his castle. Every so often they throw everything together into museums, trusts, collections, gardens or national parks and let everyone in (for a fee) to sigh ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’. They tell us with satisfaction it all belongs to us now and we can come and stare at trees, canyons, animals, old ships, musty houses or junk in glass cases for as long as we like, just so long as we get out before closing time, and provided we don’t get too close, feed the exhibits or touch things with our grubby fingers.

Doesn’t that seem a mite sanitized? You can’t say “hey, I visited the Grand Canyon” or “we went on safari and bothered a group of elephants” or “I found a marvellous whale skeleton that’s bigger than my house”… everybody else has visited/done/seen everything too, and will just look at you as though you’ve presented them with a hot and sticky bunch of daisies.

I don’t even like ‘discovering’ a wonderful blog post only to find the writer has already drawn an admiring crowd of other readers. They got there before me – how dare they! And if I can’t run shouting to everybody “look what I found”, then what’s the use? I can discard that unworthy feeling after a while, but it still leaps on me unawares every so often.

Have you ever noticed that the world has shrunk, and nothing and nobody is beyond your reach? We can dredge the Titanic off the sea bed without killing ourselves in the attempt, and nobody falls off the edge of the world any more. It used to be that you would send someone a carefully worded letter and if you haven’t heard from them after a couple of years, you start to wonder if maybe they died and nobody told you. Now, if you dash off an impulsive email and the recipient has not responded in the next five minutes, you get very angry and think “what did I do to offend the old blackguard? I sent a friendly ‘howdy doody’ across hundreds of miles of land and sea and this is all the thanks I get!” It doesn’t do much to lower your blood pressure.

Finally you discover that everything you do, whether it’s leaving your TV on standby, allowing your tap to drip, or cooking Scottish cod on your gas hob, is a threat to the entire planet. It gets so that they ask you to vote for a cast iron cooking pot on the grounds that it marked the start of the Industrial Revolution, which is a good thing, isn’t it? But then you think “that’s when people lost their jobs and their skills, and that’s also when we began to destroy the world”… and that squat black cauldron suddenly becomes the linchpin of evil. Not so suddenly, perhaps – there could be an underlying psychological reason why it was associated with witches and black magic.

Having embarked on all this industry and technology (how I love my emails and my blog) it becomes very difficult to quit without making enormous sacrifices, including (probably) our own lives. As slaves to the machines, computers and other systems that have been put in place for us and which only seem to fully benefit a select few, what is there to live for? Oh, right – books! Books that make everything fresh, whole, and exciting again. Especially books that allow you to put your head under the blanket and hide for a little while – not just from Sauron, the Weasels of the Wild Wood, the Groke’s frozen loneliness and the rising dark, but also from factories and other places of brain-deadening occupations, politicians, committees, intolerance, inequality, injustice – and pollution.

Where do people get the energy to maintain this way of life? I’m not just talking nuclear, solar or wind power here, I’m talking people power. I have always wondered.

Edit Feb 2008: Some comments I received to this post on Blogigo:

1. drifting wrote at May 18, 2006 at 10:38:
What a wonderful post. I love the way you wrote it coming around in a circle. I share your love of books as escapes from reality. I much prefer to live in the world of fantasy where there is justice and true love and honour, etc, etc. And you (or your mother) may be right about an underactive thyroid. I’ve never had the energy that everyone else seems to have – just watching them or thinking about what they do exhausts me. I did have an underactive thyroid (may still do) and with treatment it apparently ‘returned’ to normal levels but that was some time ago before I got fed up with doctors and checkups, and now continue my slow life. I believe in relaxation and activity in small doses.

2. Diddums wrote at May 18, 2006 at 20:52:

I don’t like the sound of checkups and pills forever more either. I can imagine myself making the same choice you did. I suppose I should go in for some tests, though, and see if the suspicion is correct… sigh.

3. Pacian wrote at May 18, 2006 at 22:28:
I can sympathise with preferring the nice scenes in a fantasy sanctuary to the brash adventuring, albeit perhaps for different reasons. It’s always scenes like that that make it feel real to me. If I was in some weird alternate world, I imagine I could take great pleasure in little things like having a home and a window to look out of.

I read something, on a blog not too long ago, that stuck with me. Someone wrote that when you find out more and more about people, you discover that everyone feels that they’re hanging on by their fingertips to a life that moves too fast and is too hard. All our media and stories tell us that happiness is doing loads of stuff and exerting yourself in certain ways, but I don’t actually think that this is true for everybody, or even most people.

4. Diddums wrote at May 19, 2006 at 00:53:
That’s a good point – they do add depth to the book; a little perspective and a chance to study the surroundings. People can sit around and talk to each other a bit more, too – and usually they meet somebody new, or hear something in the way of stray gossip…

I go off some characters if they turn out to be somebody really important – royal personage or such. They get trapped in their new roles and responsibilities at the end of the book, and that never feels quite right to me. Maybe it’s that lack of energy getting in the way again!

5. kateblogs wrote at May 20, 2006 at 16:03:
What a wonderful post, you sum up the modern world so well. There are a lot of great things about the 21st century, ease of communication for example. Oh, and of course electicity and medical treatment. However, sometimes I do envy people in the past. They did have new places to discover and explore, new theories to prove or disprove, and their lives don’t seem to have been as regimented as ours. Certainty is good, but I think we all need a little adventure too.

The Grump and the Gremlin

I’m more relaxed about Internet blips than I used to be. Previously, if I was trying to check email or surf only to be disconnected or cut off with a spate of error messages, I was enraged! My suspicion was always that there was a nasty gremlin saying “let’s disconnect that there Diddums, just for fun! Chortle.”

Right now I’ve been chased away with several unintelligible error messages and an unexpected disconnection. Instead of promptly dialling up again (cough) I deleted some of the old mail cluttering up my mailboxes then stared out at the rain. I could check again now, but rather than continue to wrestle with a system that might still be malfunctioning, I should take the chance to get a bite of lunch.

Maybe a soft white roll spread with Dairylea cheese? I could read my fantasy book – The Stone and the Flute by Hans Bemmann. There’s a man in it who can’t speak as others do, but he communicates using his flute. “Is your master dumb?” people keep asking, and his servant responds “yes – or at least, he can’t speak with words.”

After lunch and another chapter, I should walk Thundercloud, rain or not. In this weather I doubt if we’ll be meeting anybody hunting for Morrisons in the woods. Yesterday it must have been a fairy and her child, out for a bit of sun and a laugh.

Where does this conviction come from – that the world is out to get me? I suspect I’m not alone in such thinking. The truth is, the world is only interested in its own problems, and that’s bad enough. I’ve suggested here that I’m mellowing with age, but it’s a slow process. Today I’m calm and reasonable, but tomorrow I could be clawing my way up the walls again. So I have a question. Do people mellow with age – or do they simply resign themselves to fate?