Thursday, March 14, 2013

"This is no time to panic."

"This is the perfect time to panic!"

Okay, so no one is really panicking, but that's one of those lines that pops into my head anytime anything is going wrong. Sometimes, it's joined by the corollary to the first part of that exchange: "Don't Panic!"
It always makes me want to grab a towel.
Speaking of which, it was Douglas Adams' birthday this week.
And all the loose computer cables we have running everywhere right now makes me think of him, because he had things to say about loose computer wiring and cables.
Which brings me back to what all of this is about. Or one of the things this is about.

We are in the midst of restructuring our computer set up, because I was gifted a computer by my good friend that works over at Lucasfilm, which is very timely, because I'm sure my wife's (old) computer is going to drop dead any day now. It's just like the one I had drop dead back in the fall, and we got them at the same time, and it's sounding really bad, lately. Like a guy with lung cancer or something. I'm halfway expecting it to explode or some such. But I digress...

So we have this new computer, which is currently set up across the room from the place where it will eventually be, so there are cords stretched all over the place. The worst one is the one running from our phone socket on the wall in the kitchen over to the modem. Earlier this week, my oldest son stepped on it and jerked it forcefully from the jack, breaking the clip that holds it in. Of course, that was accompanied by a loss of Internet connection, which was accompanied by me losing what I was working on, because I couldn't save it.

Why couldn't I save it? Well, because... That's the best answer I have. Once I got everything set back up again, my computer wouldn't recognize the connection. The other computers did, but my computer kept saying, "Hey, Buddy, what do you think you're doing? We got no connection here."
No, I do not know why my computer talks like that, but it does. And I said, "Why, yes, we do have a connection," and I held it up and showed it and said, "The other computer recognize it; why not you?"
And it replied, "I'm tellin' ya's, we got no connection."
And we went on like that until I shut it off. When I turned it back on, it said, "Oh, hey, you plugged us back in."
But I didn't get to save anything, because I had to re-boot to get the computer to recognize that I had re-connected everything.

Then, Wednesday morning, the dog jumped on the phone line.
It wasn't exactly her fault; she thought she was getting a treat and got all excited. Well, actually, she was getting a treat, so she had a reason to get all excited; my younger son just didn't think about where he was standing when he was offering it to her.

Whatever she did, she did it good. I spent around 30 minutes trying to get the connection working again and hadn't managed it by the time I had to get the kids to school. Once I got home, I spent another hour working on it before I got everything working. It's like the sudden disruption just fired everything, and I had to go over every piece of equipment and every connection. I don't know what was actually knocked loose or what, but, eventually, I did something that got it all working again.

And, while I was doing all of that, I had Bill Murray screaming in my head, "And if I can't work, THEN I CAN'T WORK!"

Which just makes me glad I'm not more plugged in than I am, because I hear too many stories about people that don't know what to do with themselves when they lose or break their phones. No, sir, I don't want one of those.

Then there's the cat...
As I've mentioned before, the cat, my cat, Jack, has some kind of weird abusive relationship with this orange tabby from down the street. I call him The Orange. The Orange will come down to my house and pin my cat down and make a horrible mewling noise. This noise greatly disturbs my dog, and she goes crazy barking, but I can still hear the horrible sounds The Orange makes even over her barking.

It started up yesterday, and I opened the front door to find Jack huddled at the bottom of the steps with The Orange standing over him going "merow" "merow" merow." However, The Orange knows enough not to hang around when I come out, so he turned tail and ran. But, see, my cat can't just let him go. Jack always follows him anytime anything like this happens. And they go through bushes and crap that I can't go through, but I have to follow them so that I can get in between them, which gives The Orange a chance to run all the way off, and, then, Jack will come home.

But, yesterday, I didn't get around the hedge in time, because The Orange was really running much more quickly than normal, and Jack was chasing him, so I got around just in time to see The Orange turn on Jack and attack him.

You know how in cartoons when animals fight they always show these dust clouds with the occasional paw or whatever popping out of it. Now, I know why. This looked exactly like that. It was, like, three seconds of a squalling blur. And you know how they say "the fur was flying"? Well, I know where that comes from, too, because a great cloud of fur flew out in every direction, which only heightened the sense of them fighting in a dust cloud. I just stood there and blinked and wondered if I'd stepped into a cartoon. Then it was over, and The Orange was running for home.

I don't know if that means Jack won or not. He watched The Orange run off and, then, walked away. Actually, he came home with me and lounged around in the house for a couple of hours which isn't something he generally does at  that time of day unless it's raining. I couldn't find any wounds on him, although he can be kind of difficult with being examined.

The thing that disturbs me is that the owners of The Orange acknowledge that their cat is a bully (and I've heard complaints about him from other people in the neighborhood -- on the other hand, everyone in  the neighborhood loves Jack (heck, people come to my house just to see Jack if he's hanging out in the driveway)) and, yet, do nothing about his behavior or his comings and goings or anything. It would be one thing if Jack was going down to their house and these problems were happening, but, no, The Orange comes here, and I have to run him off (at least) a couple of times a day.

Which makes me want to sign Jack up for martial arts training. Or something.

I think I need to just get a towel that I always carry with me...


  1. Ah, computers, the source of all my frustrations. And somehow the solution is always turn it off and then turn it on again.

    mood]Moody Writing

  2. I think Jack would become an indoor cat at that point.
    Have you opened up your wife's computer and cleaned off the fan? A dirty fan makes that racket.
    And that's why I like my router - less cords. Although it still requires two power strips to plug everything in under my desk.

  3. Sounds like Jack at least won that round. If the computer came from Lucasfilm have you checked it for anything cool like maybe a hidden script for Episode VII?

  4. You have the sound of an IT professional. At least, that's what they talk like when they're explaining why the servers went down at work.

  5. The most ingenious thing about a Mac is the magnetic-like connection the power cord has to the laptop. If you trip over the cord, the connection breaks off like a lizard's tail. Saved my computer a few times. In fact, since I got my Mac I no longer panic over computers. It's an odd feeling to get used to, but it settles in eventually. :)

  6. mood: Yeah, I kind of hate that about computers. Why does that work? It doesn't work with anything else. If there's something wrong with your car, turning it off and turning it back on does not fix the problem.

    Alex: Well, see, that would require logic of some sort, and I'm pretty sure cats don't have that.
    The racket doesn't happen all the time; it's related to what (usually) the kids have going on on the computer. Like, lately, my daughter has been into PetPet Park, and it doesn't seem to like that game.

    PT: It didn't come from Lucasfilm, just from someone that works there. At least, I don't think it did. I didn't actually ask...

    Rusty: Is that what IT professionals sound like? Can I always blame it on the dog eating my homework?

    L.G.: Well, this was where the cord went into the wall, so it wouldn't have helped.
    For whatever reason, I'm just not able to do the whole Mac thing despite the fact that all of my early computering was on Apples.

  7. That'd be cool if the computer he gave you used to belong to Lucas himself.

  8. It's a sign of how litigious I am that I was thinking how you could sue your neighbor for The Orange doing stuff like that. Although probably your cat is just property under the law and you'd only get property damage.

    Still, I think that people who don't have well-behaved pets have a problem. If you don't care enough to take care of your pet, why do you have it? It's not like it's mandatory.

    As for the computer stuff, I sympathize. Our old internet hookup came through cable and was always going out, and I got so frustrated that I finally got DirecTV for our TV and Verizon for our internet, and sued the cable company. (I got $400 when I settled.)

    So it's fair to say I do not deal well with problems like that. Or I deal exceedingly well with them. Whichever.

    I'm more impressed that you were able to get past the frustration of not being able to work. I like that Bill Murray line. That frustration of wanting to get to the thing you actually wanted to be working on, as opposed to fixing the thing so you can work, is phenomenal. Nicely handled.

    Also: is that opening line from Toy Story 3?

  9. And in reply to your response to the other post:

    But they only own that particular work. Not any other stuff that you come up with. So they would own "House" but now "Shadow," for you, and you could, if you got popular enough, leverage your next idea into a better deal.

    As for being taken advantage of, I think the biggest thing is people making a major decision without professional advice. Agents are helpful for dealing with publishers (assuming you get a good agent.) People who are going to enter into a contract without getting some advice from a professional are looking to get taken. But legal stuff is something where people feel as though they can do it themselves.

    As for authors getting first dollar, or last dollar, I'm not sure I totally agree with you. If I set up a publishing company and hire the salesmen and pay the promotional costs and make the contacts and all that, and then decide to publish a book of yours, I'm the one who's risking everything: it's my money out there, not yours, that is paying for the posters and the radio spots and the placement in Oscar bags. So until I make my costs back, neither of us has a profit. If Random House published "This Stupid Pineapple" and put $1,000,000 into marketing, printing, and distributing, and then it makes $900,000, Random House has lost $100,000. If they gave me an advance of $50,000, they've lost $150,000.

    So while it's a better deal for me to get first dollars, I'm not sure any business could sustain that model for long, unless they are very good at picking hits. And insisting on first instead of last dollar might make publishers less likely to take a chance on unknowns, so all we end up with is Lena Dunham's grocery lists repackaged as a coffee table book.

  10. Here is a great article on the economics of indie publishing, from a guy who had the best seller for a while:

  11. Do you have any hair left, I think I would have pulled all mine out by now. As for Orange, I would tell the owners to keep the cat to themselves or else. Not used to outdoor cats any more, all the cats round here seem to be indoors.


  12. Michael: It would be, but I'm sure that's not the case.

    Briane (1): Well, I've already had to spend $400 on the cat because of a wound I'm sure he received from The Orange. I'm sure, but I don't have actual proof.

    The line is just from Toy Story.

    If I was a lawyer, I might handle more things the way you do, but I'd spend way more than $400 to get that $400, so it wouldn't be worth it (except, maybe, in satisfaction).

    Briane (2): A. Actually, no, they don't only own that particular work. Part of the contract is that they get first taker rights to any sequels you write, so, if you plan on writing a series, you're stuck with same deal if they say "yes."

    As for the publisher making an investment, you're argument falls apart at the "investment" part. They are choosing to make that $1,000,000 investment, not you, so whether you get paid $50,000 shouldn't be tied up in their unwise investment. They could choose to invest $500,000 in all of that stuff, pay you your $50K, and, if they make $900K, they've made $350K. The amount of money the publisher chooses to invest shouldn't be tied up in how much the author gets paid unless the author is going in on the investment. The author is not.

    It's like if I invent something and take it to a company, and they say "Wow! That's a great invention! We think we can sell that;" they're going to want to buy that invention from me. I would get paid first. The other option is for me to become part of the investors and get paid from the profit; if I think my invention is that great, I might want to do that.

    That's not really how publishing works, though. If I'm going to sell my product to the publisher (give them the rights to it for the life of the copyright (forever)), I should get paid first. Period. They are -buying- my product. The other option is something like "yeah, we'll take it and, maybe, we'll give you some money for it later on." From the standpoint of the writer that wants to be able to write, if I'm not getting paid to do it, I'm not going to be able to do it.

    Jo: Well, no, I don't have any hair left. Well, some...

  13. Sounds like The Orange needs neutered. You could always scoop him up, take him to the vet, and sneak him back while nobody's looking, lol.

    Grrr, about the computer problems. I finally signed up for unlimited remote assistance through my internet company. It's like $16 a month, but those geeks have saved me from jumping a few times. You should check into it, too. :D

  14. celeste: I'm pretty sure he is neutered. He's just a... bad cat.

    Once we get our new modem/router stuff set up, I might just do that.

  15. I've had not one but two giant orange cats that have stalked my cat in the past. It was weird too, because my cat never used to fight, but now they have turned him into a bully. So while you may wish to give your kitty martial arts training, it's probably better that he remains not being the aggressor!

  16. We had a cat that did this to our cats. I had the orange (Malecai), and Kona was a black long-furred cat that would come to our house all the time, despite the fact that I had THREE male cats that were living in a certain kind of harmony. Throw in a fourth male from down the block and you're bound to have fights. It got to the point that I would turn the hose on him every time he jumped over the fence, because he would also nip at my children, and that is NOT okay. I called his owner multiple times, and he didn't care. He would have cared had that cat ever managed to harm one of my children. I don't really see him so much anymore, so I think he mostly came around for my cats. Once they were gone, he wasn't interested anymore. Territorial little cuss.

    And, yes, a cat fight is terrible to behold! I especially hate the sound. It sounds like they're killing each other.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  17. Winopants: Ah, but the spirit of most martial arts is so that you don't have to fight...

    Shannon: I've heard them before, but I had never seen one before. It's not at all like dogs fight.