Thursday, July 21, 2005

Entry 3047 The Start of My Love Affair With....

I suppose it’s time I wrote something more positive here, instead of lamenting about relationships and all that. About another thing that excites me, gives me passion, so to speak.

Let’s see…what shall I write about? Hmmmmm….

Well, I do have a “new addition” to my extended family, so to speak. My “family” of things made of semiconductors, chips, circuits, plastic, metal, wiring, and little square chiclet-shaped “keys” with numbers and letters on them.

Recently on eBay I purchased at auction a DataGeneral One Model 2T. This model--although 21 years old--did offer a hard drive as an option, making it a somewhat closer resemblance to the laptop as we know it today. Certainly better than the FIRST DataGeneral One laptop I purchased in May 1998.

I feel a story coming on….

Near the end of May 1998 I found myself in Parker, AZ on business…with one of the best jobs I have ever had. Wow, what promise with this one…working for a gentleman named Randy (some of you know about this already), doing essentially what was the job that first drew me into my present occupation in the first place.

For those who don’t know…I traveled; all over this state and its neighbors. I serviced and supplied grocery-type stores…still do. I just don’t travel all over any more. But…I told you all this already. (One more reason to Scroll Down and read everything.)

Anyway…I was at a computer shop in Parker. I really really wanted a laptop computer, and couldn’t afford a new one. Now, let me tell you that I was born to be around computers…but growing up, I HATED math and numbers. And, in college, working with computers meant making and assembling punch cards in the exact proper order (this was how you ran your program). I saw and watched my friends and what happened when the 1,072 punch cards weren’t in the EXACT proper order. That wasn’t for me. But, also in college, I saw a glimpse of what could be my future--my roommate Buz’s computer, an Apple IIe. Now, this was cool!

My first computer was a far cry from that, though…a Timex/Sinclair 1000 in 1981. Membrane keyboard (no keys)…a whopping 2 kilobytes with the optional Memory Expansion module. There were no real graphics, just black and white text through your friendly local television. But, it was a computer…!

And, I purchased (and still have) several Atari computers in the new few years, starting in 1983. These actually were REAL computers…not the toys they’re thought of today. I learned the language of BASIC and C+, and 7502 machine language (which is SO much faster, because it’s not an interpeter language, like BASIC, but direct commands that the computer understands instantly.) And, being picky I wrote my OWN games, as I wanted them to be a certain way, to play a certain way. I knew these machines inside and out…I gave advice to those who asked about them.

Then, I moved to Arizona. I spent less time inside, less time on the computer. It very rarely rains here…where I’m from it’s the opposite. There, when the sun is out, you go outside…I applied that same rule here. And, there was much to see in my New Home…so even at night I was Out, seeing and experiencing. Soon I put the computers away.

I had little contact with computers for the next eight or so years. It wasn’t until my ex-girlfriend Kerry used to come home and talk about what she had done at work on the computer--emails and Instant Messaging, and games—that I started to regain interest. And, our next-door neighbor worked for a large supplier of hardware and software, and she had a desktop computer that she often played games on. She would tell us what these were…I was VERY curious. But the final step in reviving my interest was when I was looking later on to do research on the laptop that I would get in Parker. I was at the Tempe library when I soon realized that I was going to have to use a computer there to go on the Internet and look stuff up. I had only the vaguest of notions as to what the Internet was, and I had NO IDEA how Windows worked or how to use it AT ALL…what was the mouse for? What were the icons on the screen? I was used to DOS-based text entry, not a Graphical User Interface like Windows. A nine-year-old boy there showed me how to use it. I was so embarrassed and full of shame…I was grateful to him, but the look on his face and the tone of his voice made me feel very ancient and out-of-touch. Antediluvian, even! I vowed from then on that I would learn this new way of computing…that I would absorb as much knowledge as I could, that I would again be the one that people would come to when they wanted advice or answers, just as before….

So…back to Parker. There was a used DataGeneral One laptop in that shop, and I really wanted something I could take with me and write stuff. This was an OLD laptop, from the early 80s. Later on I learned that it was, as PC Magazine would say, “the first real self-contained laptop”.

It was DOS-based…which meant no Windows as an Operating System. That was fine with me…as I said, at that point I knew nothing about Windows. It cost me $100. I was lied to about some things that I could do with it. For example…it did NOT have a hard drive, necessitating that I load the software EACH TIME I wanted to use it. And, the battery was no good (a word to those buying ANYTHING used—do your research FIRST, BEFORE you buy). But it didn’t matter…it was a laptop, and it was MINE.

(Upon learning that most of what I’d been told was not true I wrote a letter asking for some sort of credit or refund…seems kind of na├»ve now. No response ever arrived, and the owner did not take phone calls…although through another employee I was told that I was “misinformed” in my account of what he had said. The next trip through was about 5 weeks later and the store was now under new ownership. Soon after that it was gone completely, becoming a saddle and leather shop.)

It would cost an additional $85 to have a battery place construct one for me. And I had to find OLD word processing software that was compatible, which wasn’t readily available OR cheap. And, there was no hard drive…this meant that when the computer was restarted it was essentially a rock, and anything you were working on had to be reloaded--from scratch, so to speak. Imagine if when you woke up everything you knew was all gone…only after putting on special headphones for 10-20 minutes each morning did you get it all back; and you had to do this all over again when you awoke each and every day...and any time you went to sleep, even for a few moments.

But I COULD WRITE…the way I imagined I should be writing, using a portable word processor…there were lots of ideas I had (and some I still do). I knew in the back of my mind there was something better ahead…but for now, I was very pleased.

In fact, it wasn’t until October that I would get a “real” laptop…a Toshiba 105CS. And even this one didn’t have a cd-rom drive or a sound card, so it was limited as well. But I was on my way.

And, that’s the end of this part of the story. In August 1998 the brother of my best friend would come to Phoenix on business…he would build a computer from scratch for Kerry and I, from mostly used parts.

I would discover places where I could get these used parts, and cheap…I would build my own computers. The period from July 1999 to June 2000 would be an exciting time for me in this regard. It was like a whole new world of puzzles and problems to solve…some would say it was almost like learning a new language.

This type of experience would repeat from September 2002 to March 2003, when this excitement reoccurred…but this time with Macintosh computers.

Those are other stories, though. Thanks for taking the time to read this one, about one of my passions…albeit a sort of different one.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Entry 3039 A Lingering Sadness

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the passing of a dear friend.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this…I’ll write more on it later, I’m sure. Even though it has been that long, I will become consumed with grief. Still. But it would not be fair to him to not mention how much he is missed.

There are stories throughout history of man’s closeness to certain animals…how these creatures somehow transcend the barrier between man and beast.

Khi Nutzho was such an entity.

Brought to our house as a stray cat in 1984, Khi came with me from Pennsylvania to Arizona in 1987. He was my closest friend, and often a great pain in my existence, as well.

He passed away on this day, July 14 1998, at about 2 am. He had recurring problems with his colon…it would become flaccid, and stool would back up. He had two trips to the vet for this condition. After the first one we were advised that he should have an operation to remove the flaccid portion.

I mulled over this decision.

I traveled much in those days. I could not watch him as much as I should have…I trusted others to do that for me. So I could not be sure that it was not going to happen again…was he eating? Was he able to use the litter box and successfully pass his solid waste?

About six months later it did occur again…this time much more seriously, as it had been causing a stool backup for about six weeks. He turned yellow, as jaundice and liver disease set in. Such an operation was not possible now…at least, until the liver disease was alleviated. The vet did not have anyone there to watch him overnight…so we brought him home that evening…and he never recovered.

He died in my arms. I said, “God, do what you want to me…but don’t take away my 'little boy'.” 

But He did.

I administered CPR, and actually brought him back for a few seconds. But he cried…he cried out to let him go. And, then he was gone.

A few nights later my work took me to Ajo. I sat outside my motel room in the dark, drinking to help relax and soothe the pain. As I began to slip into a sort of twilight unconsciousness I thought I saw him...he was running toward me, meowing and calling out for me.

How I wished it was him!

I have tears in my eyes now as I write this. I miss him so.

Perhaps someday we will be reunited...until then, God bless you, my close friend.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Entry 2120 (revised--from August 2004) Musical Romantic Revelations

“Still is the life
Of your room when you’re not inside
And all of your things
Tell the sweetest storyline
Your tears on these sheets
And your footsteps down the hall
Tell me what I did
I can’t find when the moment went wrong at all

You can be mad in the morning
I’ll take back what I said
Just don’t leave me alone here
It’s cold, baby

Come back to bed

What will this fix?
You know you’re not a quick forgive
And I won’t sleep through this
I survive on the breath you’re finished with

You can be mad in the morning
I’ll take back what I said
Just don’t leave me alone here

It’s cold, Baby

Come back to bed

You can be mad in the morning
Or the afternoon instead
But don’t leave me
98 and 6 degrees of separation from you, baby
Come back to bed

Don’t hold your love over my head.”

--John Mayer, “Come Back to Bed’ (from the CD “Heavier Things”)

One afternoon two songs I had never heard before came on the radio just as I arrived at the Bookman’s on Grant Road in Tucson. It was mid-August 2004…I sat patiently as the engine idled, the air conditioning doing its job and keeping me cool. The first was “Grey Street”, by the Dave Matthews Band. Someday I will write more about why that song is so important…let’s just say it perfectly describes an ex-girlfriend. “There’s an emptiness inside her, and she’ll do anything to fill it up.” There’s more too…as I said, another time. But I didn’t know that there could be a better song that this one to describe her.

Ah, except for this one. OMG…did John Mayer date her too? Did he know someone else that DID?

There had to be a hundred, a thousand times when this could’ve been my theme song, at night or anytime…”come back to the CAR”…”come back to the TABLE”…”come back to the LIVING ROOM.”

Taken together, I was given cause to stop…to ponder, to consider. Two songs, appearing together randomly...but describing the relationship I had just been in perfectly.

When both songs had played I shut the car off and went into the store. But I never forgot....

Everything happens for a reason, even if that reason is just coincidence. I was fortunate that day to be able to listen, to allow me to get a better understanding—a new perspective—on something I was still trying to understand.

I am always watching out for such opportunities. They’re there…every day. Every single day.