Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Kingdom for a Flash Drive!

Circuit Board
Circuit Board by Fisherss Zhang

It seems that Spring is the time the of year for technological mayhem to come down on me.  Always.  I don't know if it is the tricksy hand of Fate or something less cosmic.  The laptop being the sole canvass on which I write my novels, this is always a big deal. 

2012: computer virus - vanquished with the proper dosage of anti-malware software.
2011: laptop fails to recognize power cord - BestBuy (grr!) sends laptop to Dell to fix.
2010: Jillian falls down the marble staircase at work, is fine but laptop is injured in the most expensive (warranty-won't-cover-it) way; the screen is spider-cracked.  Costs hundreds to repair.
2009: Old (5 year old) laptop acquires virus and Jillian buys the new Dell.

This year, aside from the typical wear-and-tear, unsightly scratched keys and dusty screen, the 4 year old Dell is healthy.  The casualties this year are two of the secondary gadgets that have become important to my creative life.  1.) My little green iPod nano (6th generation) died a sudden, unexplicable death after a year and a half of musical life.  It simply died in its sleep.  Baffling because I purchased the thing to replace my 7 year old iPod Classic, which for some reason STILL WORKS.  2.) The 4GB flash drive that I use to store the scanned files of my writings from the nascent childhood years through high school decided that it had no will to live, either.  Plugged into the computer, the laptop doesn't acknowledge its existence.  Neither does roommate's computer. 

These, in comparison to the laptop woes of yesteryear, are more inconveniences than crises.  The iPod can be repaired (for a fee) or replaced.  My music is safe.  The only thing I can't do is walk around with my creative mixes and transport myself into those inner worlds.  (The Olde iPodde only works from one earbud and has to be plugged in all the time.) Yes... there is that thing called silence I've discovered recently.  Nothing tickles the anxiety demons like listening to a lot of loud epic music (ahem, Two Steps from Hell).  Walking in silence allows me to take in the sounds of birds, of people talking, of the wind in the trees, thunder, planes, etc.  An internal, world-building brainstorm takes shape in a quiet(er) mind... on its own, without any help from soundtracks or symphonies.  Nothing clears the mind like quiet.  Nothing. 

The flashdrive is probably the bigger problem.  The day I discovered the 4GB's death, I spent way too much time trying to find solutions via Google.  The verdict is that the thing is dead, dead, dead.  Some tech-savvy people had suggestions for taking the drive apart to see if the elements in it were broken, and if they were, solder them back in place.  Even if I could take the thing apart, that seemed out of my range of skills.  Another idea: send the drive into a data recovery service for a couple hundred dollars and receive the files back on a disc.  Hm.  Not today. 

The bottom line on the flash drive problem is that this form of data storage is getting cheaper to obtain, therefore it's wearing out faster.  I had no idea about that.  All I cared about was that the flash drive could hold everything from my 1,000 page high school journals and much more and STILL fit in my hand.  For years, the flash drive has been the convenient alternative to the compact disc.  And now... learning that I should have had back-ups to these back-ups is news to me... that perhaps I was foolish to be scanning those files onto a flash drive instead of the harddrive in the first place, because all of my careful work is essentially gone.  All those writings, musings, prayers and projects - not to mention hours upon hours of scanning it all page by page - gone.  Almost.

Upset as I was, I didn't shout: "Cry havoc!  And unleash the dogs of war!" or "My kingdom for a flashdrive!"  I didn't beat my breast and roll in the ashes.  I took a hard look at these things I'd held so precious for so many years, scanned to PDFs and finally shredded.  Why did I shred those things?  Those papers and letters and journal entries and poems? These same things that took up most of the space in my backpack in high school?  I shredded them to make space for other things on the shelf, to be more organized.  I scanned them as an act of preservation, to remind myself where I started in this writing life.  But... I did not scan them to tell me where I was going.  In all honesty, I hadn't touched the 4GB in months.  If not for the residual pile of papers I wanted to scan, I would have forgotten it was there. 

All of this has me thinking about our reliance on technology... from e-readers to iPads to data clouds.  Nothing lasts forever.  I remember that my parents decided to assemble items for a time capsule around the time of the millennium.  I had a brilliant idea: record audio tapes (the favorite creative medium of my sister and me) of the four of us to carry messages into the future.  No, my dad said, it won't work; the batteries and the magnets will have worn out by then.  Or the technology will be so changed no one will know what an audio cassette is when they pluck it out of the box, just a hunk of plastic with a not-so magnetized ribbon and some holes. 

In this world, technology is obsolete the moment you buy it.  In a few years, when your MP3 player fails or your laptop bites the dust or your phone "needs" new apps, you'll wind up buying a new one, the next bigger-and-better thing.  Nothing we make will ever be completely permanent or backed up.  What about the pyramids, you ask?  Well, even those can crumble into dust.  Nineveh, anyone?  Whole cities and civilizations have been lost to the devestation of time.  Whole libraries have burned.  A number of Shakespeare's plays were lost.  This is not going to change simply because we have "better" technology - portable data drives and that nebulous thing called a data cloud.  These things break.  Data clouds, as I understand it, are expensive to maintain.  What about hacking?  And server glitches?  What happens if everybody saves everything to these clouds - pictures, videos, journals, recipes, stock market numbers - and the clouds keep growing?  Can the clouds hold it all?  Or will they burst and come raining down?  (And... there is an idea for a sci-fi story.)

This isn't a campaign for writing everything on paper and throwing one's laptop or computer tablet out the window.  I'm all for technology - old and new.  This is why I get excited about typewriters and calligraphy, old stand-by technologies that may be out of style in some spheres, but are definitely alive.  Perhaps I've read too much dystopian fiction lately (i.e. The Stand by Stephen King and The Passage by Justin Cronin), but I can't help finding the thought of typewriters and pens and paper comforting... something to fall back on if or when the lights go out.  Ah, technology - the tools change but the goal is the same: create something new.

Old Typewriter by Peter Gray

If time passes and I learn that the files on my flash drive are irretrievable, it will be a sad day indeed.  But... I have what I need to write forward.  If my iPod cannot be revived, I'll purchase a new one.  Not all is lost.  What's important cannot be down- or uploaded, saved to multiple devices, locked in a safe.  It's inside: that passion to create something new.  And sometimes, frankly, we have to make room for those new things. 

And I'm okay with that.  Are you?

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Episode 205:


Efflorescence is the state of being flowery, blooming or having such an appearance, a perfect word for the budding, opening and awakening of blossoms.  Like those above, I amazed to see these dobs of color give life to an otherwise struggling lawn. Many people remarked yesterday in Boston that flowering trees were in fantastic bloom on a day that saw so much anxiety and pain.  Spring is hope.  And here is proof.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Quicksilver Month

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 203:


Anything mercurial is characterized by the rapid or unpredictable changeableness of one's mood.  It also might mean something is more directly related to the element, the planet, or the mythological messenger god.  Sometimes all of these at once.  The general adjective and the element are no doubt named for the god Mercury's ability to change places so quickly.  The element was once called quicksilver, because it looks like moving, living, moody silver. 

Quicksilver by Keith Moseley at flickr

Mercurial seems to best describe April 2013, half-spent as it is.  Living in the middle of the continent, we've seen March and April change their moods frequently from calm, halcyon days to blustry wintry ones.  Snow and rain have been competing for territory this week, leaving us in a state of jaded confusion: I thought we were done with winter!  Look, there are flowers!  It shouldn't be snowing when there are flowers!  What is wrong with this world?  Global warming!  Well, I say.  At least it's wet.  Perhaps we've finally begun to turn this neverending drought around.

I'm not a climatologist, and this is not a science blog, although I can say our fears about weather, climate and our inability to properly harness them make for great science fiction.  Spring has a temper in general: it has good days and bad days: the lion and the lamb; blizzards, tornadoes and thunderstorms; sunshine, daffodils and birdsong.  This month is absolutely and indeniably alive.  I'm sure February is mighty jealous.  And May will be especially glorious when all calms down!

Mercury Bronze 1570 van der Schardt 4
Mercury by Mary Harrsch

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Whale Song on the Plains

Stories come from the strangest of combination of places, events and people.  They hit me over the head sometimes as I'm walking - often times quite actually because my head is usual off pondering in the clouds.  This is a wild circle of thought that occurred to me this week:

Tornado Sirens

It is early spring and they've begun testing the tornado sirens in our city, as they do most places with a tornado warning system.  The siren blares out in thick waves of sound - not merely loud but inescapable.  This is sound you can feel rattling the pavement beneath your feet, shaking your ribcage, startling the air, stopping your heart.  You are breathing in that sound.  Unlike the eardrum-cracking call of ambulances and police cruisers, it does not fade away as trouble races down the center lane.  Growing up in Nebraska, this is typical of the spring and summer months - the worry that sudden disaster may be hurtling nearby. 

Nebraska Tornado
by Anthony Woods

Sirens and Whales

When I was a little girl standing my grandparents' driveway  I remember asking my mother what that horrible drone was.  She said it was a whale, perhaps out of sarcasm.  (She might have actually said "dying whale" but I doubt she would have been that mean.)  I was a gullible imaginative child and wanted to see this whale, marvelling at the idea there was an actual whale somewhere in our landlocked state.  As we drove home, I had a vivid picture in my head of a whale lying out on the plains somewhere... not exactly making the connection that if, by some strange set of events, a whale was lying out in the middle of Nebraska, it would be a very sad story.

Whale Fluke 6 October 2012, Gloucester, Mass.


Whales in Nebraska

The closest whales have come to Nebraska was the in the Cretaceous Period when a great north-south swath of the continent was a shallow sea called the Western Interior Seaway, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic.  The "whales" were plesiosaurs (probably smaller than modern whales) - head of a brontosaurus and sea turtle flippers. 

By Dee Jay Morris

A Sea in Nebraska

Then it strikes me that Nebraska geology and paleontology is rich.  We had a sea!  We were underwater!  Okay, "we" weren't but the land that became our state (and Kansas, South and North Dakota, Minnesota and Texas) was underwater.  Comparing that reality to our current drought, the heat, the snow storms, the farmland, the ranches, the bison herds, the sand dunes... wow!  This storyteller is struck by the malleability of the earth beneath our feet, the fact that some day Nebraska may not look like it does now.  I don't know what the projections indicate for our geologic future, but if the Rockies continue to grow, so might our Plains.  This might become a desert or a marshland.  Someday Nebraska may have native camels (yes, camels) or saber-toothed cats (the descendents of our urban ferals?), bear dogs or a new breed of bison.  Or will there be a sea big enough for humpbacks and dolphins to swim down to greet us?

The Golden Sea
by Petter Sandell

And there will probably be tornadoes spilling across whatever version of the Plains comes to pass.  Will the whales warn us with their song? 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Word-smithery: Halcyon Days (Jillian)

A word has been dancing in my head these last few days. Since the bizarre 85-90 degree heat of March has finally retreated (anything goes in the Midwest), we have returned to halcyon days: temperatures not quite at 70 during the day, cool nights, blue skies with a swirls and daubs of cirrus cloud here and there. The violas and pansies are growing. Birds (and the gibbons at the zoo just a few blocks away) are in chorus from the wee hours of the morning till sunset.

Halcyon? It is a simple adjective, really, meaning "calm and peaceful." A halcyon is also a bird out of Greek mythology, but probably refers to the kingfisher. According to Ye Olde Wiky-pedia, it is "said to breed in a floating nest at sea during the winter solstice, during which time it charms the wind and waves into calm." The myth tells of Alcyone and Ceyx who angered Zeus. Ceyx was killed at sea, and Alcyone threw herself into the sea in grief. Out of pity, Zeus turned them into halcyon birds.

I've also learned that "halcyon days" refers to a seven-day period in wintertime when storms do not occur. Apparently, this is when Alcyone (or the kingfisher) lays her eggs. Nevertheless... "halcyon" as a descriptor for a period of mild, calm weather in Spring... or Summer... or any season is appropriate. I think so, anyways.

I hope at least the halcyons of Spring stick around for a little bit longer before the heat returns and scorches all this lovely greeness.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Artist Date (Jillian)

I have begun to revive the practice of going on purposeful artist dates - just me, myself and I. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, it is basically the act of taking yourself out to recharge your creative batteries - do something simple but stimulating and freeing.

This activity could range from venturing to the local craft store for modeling clay and spending an afternoon twisting it into shape. Or it could be spent trying to figure out a sewing machine. Or simply take a long, thoughtful walk. Last week, I watched a movie. This week on my day off, I decided to plant flowers in the pot on our front porch which until then had been occupied by a very dead geranium. "Enough is enough," I thought. "It's finally spring, and I have an artist's urge to do something!" Hence the violas and purple allysum you see below.

It was a nice little creative project to accomplish in one afternoon. I didn't go ahead and tackle the garden like I'm tempted to do, but I know that will follow. These little bursts here and there are nice bits of encouragement I've been able to give myself. And flowers, with their bursts of color, really do give hope for brighter days ahead. Nature is in our veins; creativity is our natural interaction with the world, so I am not going to apologize for smiling with pride on my little flowers every time I leave the house!

Apart from the neighborhood squirrels digging in the pot for non-existent acorns, I'm satisfied to call this a success!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nurture By Silence (Jillian)

One delightful thing I have discovered that helps me in my daily quest for writing is silence.

I'm not talking about the heavy, daunting kind of silence, but the rich, lightly-flavored silence that nurtures my whimsy instead of crushing it with boredom. Spring is rich with it. Especially after a long, hard winter, the mere idea of birds singing bell-like arias, new plants growing up out of what once had been a brown, dead garden, and the peace of a warm breeze coming in an opened window create an environment that is nurturing to the creative spirit. It is May, and I find myself surprised to see sunshine and go out into mild coolness instead of frigid air.

Situated with the background of wind through trees, wind-chimes, and - because it is unavoidable - traffic, I find it easier to just give into instincts and pour words onto a page. I'm even finding inexpressible contentment in writing without music. Ah, simplicity,

I suppose that is the defining nature of our writing journeys - we're always searching for our own, custom-made equilibrium, that place where we are the freest and our ideas are the clearest.

Where is yours?

Wisdom from Emily Dickinson:

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
that day.


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