Saturday, October 30, 2010


It's been a while since I've posted, and while there aren't a whole lot of good reasons, there are some reasons.

The main one was that my laptop, Bookley, appeared to have given up the ghost one Saturday morning. I awoke, preparing to do a few last-minute tweaks before heading off to Saturday gaming, but Bookley's video output seemed dead. Undeterred, I tried hooking him up to an external monitor, but still no luck. I didn't have the time to spend troubleshooting, so I resolved to work on it once I got home.

The more I tried to figure out what was wrong with Bookley, the more I became depressed. This just seemed the latest in a whole series of minor disappointments with the laptop and, by extension, the company that made it. For starters, I'd paid over $3000 for the machine when new, and included in that price was a three-year AppleCare plan, deciding that such a large investment in a computer was worth protecting. But while I registered the computer, I didn't realize that the AppleCare had to be registered seperately, and thus after about 18 months or so, my AppleCare ID had been retired as being 'unused' and assigned to a different machine. By that time, Apple was in the habit of registering all AppleCare plans at the store (probably to specifically avoid this problem); I later ended up purchasing my own replacement battery, when the battery replacement would otherwise have been under warranty, because while I could prove I'd purchased the plan, I didn't have an account against which the store could charge the warranty repair, and I couldn't get an account unless I found the original AppleCare registration card that came with my computer.

So, for nearly two months, I wrote Bookley off as a lost cause and tried to decide what my next computer would be. I'd since purchased both an iPhone and iPad, so I didn't really need a machine for basic e-mail and Internet tasks; instead, after inventorying the actual computer applications I was going to be using, I came to the conclusion that an inexpensive Windows machine would actually meet my needs and my budget, so I started looking at building my own.

Then, finally, seemingly on a whim, I took Bookley into the Apple Store where I'd bought it so that they could tell me, officially, what was wrong. It turned out that my MacBook Pro was one of the ones with faulty NVidia graphics processors, and that the repair would be free of charge, even though I didn't officially have a warranty. I settled in to wait for the repair to come back.

While I was waiting, a leaking brake line turned into a full-on brake failure, which necessitated my taking in the Intrepid for service as well. This one I had to pay out of my own pocket for, though it was also a good excuse to get some needed work done on the front tie rod; all that appears to be left is to replace a leaky gasket on the gas tank (it leaks slightly when the tank is filled, but not otherwise) and replace the shocks and the car will seem nearly good as new.

Lastly, the week before all this happened, I celebrated a personal holiday I called My John Candy Day -- it was the day I was exactly as old as the comedian and actor John Candy when he died in his sleep on the set of the movie "Wagons East".

The combination of renewal represented by the return of Bookley and the refreshment of my car, plus the reminder of my own mortality produced by My John Candy Day has given me a much-needed opportunity to consider what I'm doing with my life.

It's funny, in both the humorous and strange senses; many people who've known me have seemed to assume that I'd do great things. From my own perspective, though, while I've been able to make some things that people assume are difficult look very easy, I've always understood that doing anything of significance and doing it well would require more work, dedication, and downright stick-to-it-ive-ness than I generally figured I had in me. As such, my life to date has been a string of brilliant ideas, hung on a line like glistening pearls, with long stretches of nothing but string between them.

I wish I could say this reflection has given me the inspiration to get up -- or buckle down -- and so something worthy of the gifts that have been bestowed upon me. One problem, though, is that I realize that people often say things, not because they believe them to be true, but because they believe you'd like them to be true; knowing that, I could never entirely trust any praise coming from someone I knew, and I never found myself impressed enough with my own abilities to try to argue the point with my own poorer self.

But, as the month ends, opportunities are knocking. National Novel Writing Month is about to begin, and while my last two attempts have been meager--or perhaps 'meager' is being too kind--there's a vague sense that this year could be different. I'm not considering doing it to impress someone or to insert myself into a social scene; I actually have a few ideas that, if I can choose one, might blossom into, well, not genius or probably even success, but at least a worthier effort than I've put together before.

Bookley's return also opens up the opportunity to record my third 'hobbyist audiobook'; I recorded David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" as a Christmas present for an overseas friend, then followed up with Raymond Chandler's "The Simple Art of Murder" as more of a project I could 'show around'. C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters" are calling me next -- it would be the longest such project I've attempted, but is also the most interesting from a personal perspective.

Perhaps the key is simply realizing that these things are doable; that I control much more of the outcome than, say, trying to find a girlfriend or looking for a new job. Start with the things you can do. Go from there.

Let's see if I follow through.