November 19, 2002
Reconnected [And It Feels So Good]

miles to go: 123.80 [YTD: 1,878.20]

For two people resigned to living an unplugged life, David and I spent an awful lot of *Time and Effort Molecules* over the weekend, trying to plug ourselves back in.

We tried not to obsess. We tried to just ignore the dead silent computer, sitting in the middle of our dining room, and to enjoy a weekend free of e-mail and pop-up ads and people calling each other "tool" and "nimrod" on the message boards. But you know how it is. The more you try not to think about something, the more impossible it becomes to think about anything else. It's like starting a new diet: regardless of how committed you are to eating right and avoiding junk food and losing some of that excess flab around your jawline before you go home for the holidays (so your mom doesn't look at you and say "How can you ride 2,002 miles on your bike this year and still GAIN weight, forcryingoutloud?") ... all you can think about for the first few days of the diet are Twinkies. Preferably deep-fried, drizzled with Bavarian chocolate and nestled in a bed of french fries.

That's how it was with the computer this weekend.

We didn't go 100% cold turkey. I managed to get the laptop hooked up to the Internet on Friday night,  just long enough to upload that last pathetic *FootNotes* entry, and then again to update our mileage totals on Saturday and Sunday. But it was a very unsatisfying connect, and eventually we just sort of gave up. The logistics (twenty feet of modem cord stretched across two rooms of apartment) and the connection "speed" (five minutes to open a Notepad window) were beyond maddening. Plus I immediately managed to infect my laptop with a raging case of KLEZ, pretty much the instant I logged on Friday night. It's been at least six months since I've used the laptop for anything but offline word processing, and I forgot to make sure that Outlook Express was properly muzzled before I signed on. So of course the moment the Internet connection was established, my stoopid mail program sprang to life and began opening and downloading every single piece of unread cyber crappage waiting in my In Box. I was frantically trying to shut the program down before it opened something I didn't want opened -- lately I've been averaging four to five infected e-mails a day: McAfee usually swallows them whole -- but with the laptop's plodding, slow-as-molasses reflexes, it was sort of like trying to stop a speeding locomotive with your thumb. By the time I managed to get one e-mail closed, another would be opening. There was nothing I could do but sit and watch helplessly as a particularly sinister-looking piece of crapmail with the Subject Title 'hello darlingg' vomited its germy executable file directly into my laptop's hard drive.

"You're having a disastrous week, aren't you?" David teased, as I patiently scraped the virus from my laptop afterwards with a McAfee squeegee. 

He doesn't really blame me for the hard drive crash on the big computer -- at least I don't think he does, even though *I* was the one sitting in front of it when the hard drive blew up -- but it's clear that wherever I go lately, computerwise, trouble seems to follow.

We rode in Contra Costa County all day Saturday -- taking a fifty-mile chunk out of the elephant, in the process -- and at least that kept us too busy to worry about broken FAT tables and missing C: drives for a good six or seven hours. Saturday night was the usual blur of pain and pizza and John Walsh exhorting us to help him catch this week's scumbag. The computer was all but forgotten for the evening, especially since we were both sound asleep by 9:30 p.m. 

By Sunday morning, though, David was starting to get twitchy. You could see it in his eyes. Forty-eight hours without checking his Yahoo Finance page ... without reading The Guardian Online ... without burning a CD or downloading a bootleg cover or playing with his Super Fun Time action figures ... it was all obviously starting to unravel his nerves. We got home from our Bay Farm Island ride just after 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, and before we'd even stripped out of the Spandex or hauled the leftover pizza out of the fridge for brunch, he was on the phone to Gary.

That's when I knew that our period of involuntary unpluggedness was going to be over sooner rather than later.

Gary is our computer guru of last resort: our own private Bill Gates, except vastly better-looking and marginally less cranky. (Or is he marginally better-looking and vastly less cranky? I can never decide.) I like Gary a lot. I think he likes me too -- he approves of me as wife-material for his old buddy Dave, anyway -- but I suspect he secretly thinks David and I are a couple of idiots, especially when it comes to computers. The truth is that we ARE a couple of idiots, especially when it comes to computers ... but we don't necessarily want Gary to know that. So we try not to crawl to him for help unless we're 1.) really desperate, 2.) really broke, or 3.) really desperate AND really broke. In this case, turning to Gary was definitely a last-ditch act of desperation. We'd tried everything else we could think of to fix the computer, and nothing had worked. David explained that our hard drive had died on us, possibly as the result of another virus. 

"We think we may have gotten it through Secra's Outlook Express," he said. 

"You mean 'Outlook Depress,'" Gary snorted derisively. (Idiots, you could almost hear him thinking.) 

The two of them spent the next hour running tests and diagnosing the problem over the phone. By nightfall, David was installing the new bazillion-gigabyte hard drive he'd picked up at Fry's, on Gary's recommendation.

By bedtime on Sunday night, we were plugged in again.

Things aren't running exactly the same as they were before the crash. Every time we experience one of these catastrophic computer meltdowns -- whether due to viruses or hardware failure or eight ounces of chocolate soy milk accidentally dumped down the back of the monitor -- there is always a long painful period of readjustment, as we struggle to destroy our freshly-repaired computer all over again. Right now, for instance, we've got our printer and our CD burner up and running ... but we're still having problems with the scanner. I've re-downloaded my favorite FTP program and the Internet answering machine software ... but I'm holding off on reloading the virtual windchimes. (And you'd better believe I'm rethinking Outlook Express.) Plus we've got all those annoying new-computer pop-ups appearing onscreen every ten minutes -- Welcome to the world of Hewlett-Packard! Don't forget to send in your registration card, OK? Click here to learn about the WORLD WIDE WEB! -- and it's going to take a while to make all of that go away. 

All things considered, though, I think we got off amazingly easy this time: four days unplugged, total, and the cost of a new hard drive. (Which actually wasn't as much as we thought it was going to be: Gary steered us toward the best deal. We saved enough money on the new hard drive, in fact, that we may even be able to afford to have the old hard drive repaired, sometime in the not-distant future ... which means we might be able to rescue David's irreplaceable artwork files.) We're just happy to be reconnected ... and we're determined to take much, much better care of our nice new 100%-paid-for computer, starting immediately ... and we're equally determined not to humble ourselves and call Gary for any further computer advice until at least the year 2003. Or until the next time we're unplugged.

Whichever comes first.


in memory of marcella degrasse
in memory of marcella degrasse
[aunt marcie]



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