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Random Stratagems

November 30, 2006

Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this. Ecclesiastes 7:10

This verse is a test of faith when I have to deal with extrahuman intelligence. Life did used to be simpler. I won’t say better. Stressors were different.

I remember E. B. White’s story, “Insert Flap A and Throw It Away,” about a hapless klutz assembling a Jiffy-Cloze Closet. It was hilarious, and in its day, was the height of techno-spoof.

The new day has brought new heights. I suspect a conspiracy. My husband refers to “mindless intrigue;” I lean toward the conspiracy of “random stratagems.” It’s what happens when simple things of life are subsumed by idolatrous technocraft.

My iBook was in Tennessee this week. The shipper picked it up Monday, it was repaired and shipped back Tuesday, and I received it back Wednesday. I’d been unable to turn it on for over a week, but didn’t want it traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday. So for nearly two weeks, it was out of commission. I needed back-up. I acquired a Toshiba Satellite. So, instead of having one alien intelligence imposing its logic on mine, I had a new alien intelligence and the task of transitioning between systems.

Computers are a case of tool becoming task and ultimately taskmaster.

The transitions between Mac and XP were huge and terrible. Before the iBook gave up the ghost, I had no place to back up my files. After it gave up the ghost, I had no way to back up my files. All my email addresses are in the iBook.

Tuesday, I called Janice to ask for an email address, explaining my email address book was in Tennessee. She understood. I said I wanted my life back. My life without computers. She understood.

The posh Tosh is a great laptop, and I like it more than the Mac. XP plays well with others. I can tune in to teleconferences for live continuing legal education credit from home–a task the Mac performs with erratic displeasure. Windows Media calls this an “optimal streaming experience.” Everyone else in the world probably knows all about this, but I’m new to this sector of the planet, and last week was my first optimal streaming experience. I earned three hours’ credit, too.

I grew ambitious, and determined to burn some CDs for a friend. This had been a simple operation on the iBook, but I’ve had to hybridize somewhat and add iTunes to the posh Tosh. I thought iTunes would be the best way to burn a CD. It is, if you want to transfer one of 90 selected files to a disc. But if you intend to transfer all the selected files to a disc, iTunes will not do this on my posh Tosh. iTunes in Windows does not distinguish data from audio files. Nor could I find a way for Windows to execute this simple task.

Finally, I remembered I had deleted a lot of icons from my desktop because I didn’t like the clutter. One of these was a shortcut to something called “Toshiba Disc Creator.” I located the program and it was a cinch to burn all the selected files to the CD: a cinch and three hours of experimentation. I reinstated the shortcut and now I can churn out CDs faster than you could say, “All things are disciplined by theology.” I felt smart for the first time in weeks.

Then I began to feel abandoned. My husband never emailed me. My friends never emailed me. And when I tried to email them, I realized our server was down. I called our ISP three times and assured them that I was still receiving error messages after lo, these 48 hours. He wanted to know whether I was getting all my mail.

“I’m getting some, but not all. I know I’m not getting all of it, because my husband sent me something that never came. It’s lost.” He assured me that it was not lost, because they don’t consider email lost until it fails to show up for four days.

“But you are getting mail.”

“Yes. Spam is reduced, but dribbling in with its usual gratuitous fidelity. If nothing else, it serves to test your service.”

“How much mail are you not getting?”

“How can I know that?” Who are you, Bishop Berkeley? How can I know, how can I know….

“We’re not having any other problems in your area. We were, but they’re all fixed now.”

“No they’re not. Send a tech to my house to verify my report.”

Finally I reached someone who admitted they had a “service ticket out” on a server.

So the honest fellow sent me an invitation to open a gmail account. I had no idea gmail was by invitation only. Then I probably became the first person in history who could not figure out how to open a gmail account.

Mind you, I think I have a fair claim on logic literacy. I can identify an enthymematic hypothetical destructive syllogism and my computer cannot. I doubt many computer geeks can, either.

I called the ISP back and he assured me I could set up the gmail account. Then we compared screens. “I don’t see what you see,” I said. It seems gmail didn’t want me to type my password twice, but if I didn’t, it would not open my account. I tried several times; nope. Then, the base curve of the earth shifted, the screen changed, and I could retype my password. I had a gmail account. I had entered the belly of the Google beast.

I still think of leaving computer life behind. I know Janice understands. But I hope she’d miss my blog, so I carry on.

4 comments:

Victorbravo said…
Perhaps the day will come when being able to identify an enthymematic hypothetical destructive syllogism will be appreciated. For the time being, we see how current epistemology has eaten its tail: “How much mail are you not getting?” If we could personally know that, we could conceivable know everything.I fear the random strategems have morphed into that age-old heresy: pantheism. Even some tech savvy people speak of lesser deities such as computer gods, gremlins, and demons. It’s only a question of whether we will stop at the Middle Ages or if we will revert completely to the early classic period of paganism.

11:02 AM  
Mrs. B said…
God uses the world to bless the church. I’ve likened computers to Roman roads. The Empire built the roads to expand its imperial bounds and enforce collection of tribute. But the roads were also used to proliferate the gospel.Computers make possible the generation and collection of vast amounts of information. Most is fairly useless, but the gospel is out there, in every known language, available with wi-fi going up in every nation.

But computers are exacting and demand their tribute. They are pagan products–they have to be, because who else would think they could “create” “artificial intelligence?”

11:13 AM  
Heidi said…
Zack laughed. It wasn’t pretty. He ordered your present today by the way. He loves to use the computer. We have to swat his paw to get him to get off and let us read your blog. You should see him propped carefully on the chair snickering away at your difficulties.
12:06 PM  
Mrs. B said…
Oooo that dog.I can just see him–propped carefully on his one hind leg, paw at the keys, tiiiimber!

12:14 PM  
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