A big bunch of boxes

My situation is not quite this extreme, but sometimes it feels like it

I went a little off the rails, a couple of weeks ago. I decided I needed some new computer equipment, and I bought a couple of items I’d had my eye on at Amazon for some time. I knew I had the money, and I got a deal, so I went for it.

The only problem was, I forgot that A) My spouse had just paid off a bunch of bills that drained our bank balance, and B) I had moved money into our savings account. Saving occasionally is on my to-do list. I used to direct deposit $50 into savings each month, but then things got very tight for a few years,and I had to stop even that.

Yes, we were living close to the bone. Since getting back, I still have this sinking sense of dread that catastrophe is just around the corner. It’s not true, but I feel like I need to be constantly prepared for disaster. So, I haven’t done the regular direct deposit, recently. Even a little bit helps. … Actually, let me fix that now.

Okay, I’m back. I’m putting a little bit aside with each paycheck, now. That feels better. It’s not a ton of money, but it can add up.

Anyway, as it turned out, last week, I really miscalculated about how much money I had on hand. Not only did I spend more than I had on that equipment, but I also spent more than I should have on a couple of side projects I’ve been doing. For some reason, I was convinced that I had $5,000 more to my name, than I did. And the bank was kind enough to inform me of my miscalculation.

I fixed the problem, then it happened again.

More overdraft charges from the bank. Good grief.

A series of confused choices commenced, with me transferring money to and from the wrong accounts, and completely screwing up my mortgage payment. My susceptibility to short-term interference really bit me in the ass, in the space of only a few minutes. It’s crazy. Unless I write stuff down and keep referring to it, it might as well have never even entered my mind. It can evaporate in a matter of minutes — sometimes seconds.

Thanks to the magic of online transfers and a 30-day grace period, I eventually managed to sort things out, but it was a comedy of errors there for a while. I got so confused about which account was which, even though I was looking right at everything on the screen in front of me, and I thought I was 100% clear, each time I set up a transfer. I did it wrong three or four times, before I was able to get it right. And just now, when I looked at my pending transactions, I realized that I’d actually cancelled the mortgage payment transfer. So, I set that up again.

It wasn’t that difficult, but for some reason, my head got completely turned around. I’m still a little fuzzy about it. I’ll check again later this week, when I’ve gotten some more sleep.

It’s all sorted out, now. At least, I hope so. And … getting back to my original subject… I have the new computer equipment I have been needing. And I now have a bunch of boxes I have to figure out what to do with.

The equipment was shipped to me as boxes within boxes. And a bunch of packing stuff to go with it. What the heck? How many boxes do you need? I have them stacked in in front of my bookcases, awaiting their fate.

Not that this is a bad problem. I have shelves full of crap books and papers that I have not used or looked at for years. I’ve moved things around a bit, but I haven’t actually used them. Not the way I used to, years ago. But fortunately, with these boxes, I have a solution – at least in part. I can put some of that stuff under my bed in the narrower cartons. It’s an elegant solution, really. Space is at a premium in this house, and I’ve long felt that space under beds is best used for things other than gathering dust.

So, there’s one solution.

Now I just have to choose what goes there. That’s another question.

As you can probably tell, I’m still in quandary-mode over how best to organize my workspace in my study. I’m incredibly fortunate to even have a study.Β  It’s mine, all mine, and it’s my sanctuary. It’s a cluttered sanctuary, but I’m not convinced that’s necessarily a bad thing. But with freedom comes responsibility, and I’ve been so caught up in all my projects for the past six months (if not more), that I’ve ditched a lot of the responsibility and let things slide.

With the end result being that I have a lot of stuff that needs to be rearranged and put in proper order – stat. So, I’m working at it a little bit at a time. Not making myself nuts over it, but trying to be smart. A little goes a long way, actually, and that’s a good thing.

Enough talk. Time to solve some stuff. And go for a long walk on this beautiful day. And get a nap.

Onward.

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Broken key – common theme

This may be me, later today.

So, the space bar on my keyboard is acting up. I will be typing along, and it will decide that it doesn’t want to work. And I’ll have to hammer on it a few times, to get it to work. How frustrating. I have to keep stopping to get it to work.

I will be typing along, and see that a space didn’t go between a number of words, so I stop and back up and put in the spaces. And then I’ve lost my train of thought, and I can’t remember exactly what I was going to write. 😐 How frustrating.It’s not like my brain does well keeping things in “RAM” memory in my head, anyway. But all these constant interruptions keep slowing me down even more, so by the time I’m done writing even a paragraph, I’m a bit frazzled and fried.

I was thinking that maybe it was because of my bum left right thumb (see? the interruptions have me so turned around, I’m getting my left and right confused, and that normally never happens). I have been having a lot of tremors and twitching in my left hand,especially my thumb. Maybe I have less strength and/or coordination in it, so it’s not hitting the space bar as hard as it should. It seems like it happens more when I am hitting the space bar with my right thumb. But it also happens with my left,so I think it may just be the space bar, period.

So, I have a number of choice:

  1. I can put on my static-grounding wrist strap and try to take my laptop apart and clean under the keyboard and see if the key is getting jammed on something.
  2. I can change how I type, slowing down and taking time to really hammer on the space bar each time I use it.
  3. I can just keep typing along and ignore the missing spaces between words, then come around a second time after I’mdone and put in the spaces after the fact.
  4. OR I can buy a new laptop.

Choice #1 is a little tricky. There are a lot of screws in the bottom of this thing, and I’m not sure I’m up for the ‘adventure’ of taking this thing apart and putting it back together.

Choice #2 is a no-go. I’ve tried it over the past few days, and it is terribly frustrating

Choice #3 is what I’m doing now, and it’s irritating. But it also gives me a chance to go back and revisit what I’ve written up, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Choice #4 will probably be what I do — after I put in some extra hours next week to stash some cash. I need a new laptop, actually. And a new desktop. All the machines I have are is Windows XP, which is about 3 versions of Windows behind, and a lot of the programs that are available today just don’t work very well on XP. They crash or they take forever. I need a Windows 7 laptop and a Windows7 desktop. I’m not doing Windows 8, because I’ve seen it and I don’t like it. Windows 7 still works just fine, thank you.

This all seems like a common theme for me. Things go wrong — not huge things, but disruptive things that block me and keep my head in the wrong place. And I have to stop, slow down, re-do my work, etc. I forget things at work. I screw up and have to scramble. I am chugging along just fine… then I run into a roadblock and have to double back and rethink/redo my work. Argh! It’s so frustrating. It’s like nothing really flows. I have to keep pausing to adjust. And I can’t build up momentum.

I was reading a self-improvement book a few weeks ago, where the author was talking about how important momentum is — you need to get into a regular pace with things and get in a groove.And then you get carried along by the flow.Β  Maybe they do. As for me, I *think* I’m going along in the flow, making good progress, and then WHAM! I hit a speed bump or a pothole, and I have to stop and check myself, and make sure I didn’t screw things up permanently, before I can continue.

Like typing along — chug-chug-chug — and the space bar is not putting in spaces, so I keep stopping to fix the broken places as I go, and that completely screws everything up.

Frustrating, to say the least.

But I don’t need to solve that problem just now. I have a bunch of things to do that don’t involve a computer that I need to finish up today, and I’m feeling really good about them. I’m helping out some friends, and I’m doing some of my own things. And I’m going to take a walk before the day gets too crazy. I have a good feeling about just about everything I’ve got going today.Plus, my spouse is away on a business trip later today, so I will have 8 hours of uninterrupted focus time.

I love my spouse with all my heart, but alone-time in the house is a luxury I seldom get to enjoy. And it is heaven, to not have to make myself understood to anyone, not have to navigate other people’s emotional “stuff”, and just go about my business at my own pace.

Except… there’s the Super Bowl tonight.

Anyway, I’ve got the whole day ahead of me, and it’s good. It’s really, really good.

The Computed World : The most massive exercise in inclusiveness in the history of the human race?

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how much the web has changed my life. And the lives of others.

It’s integrated me — an esoteric iconoclast with a long history of injuries and interpersonal issues — into the mainstream in ways that I never before dreamed possible.

This is nothing short of a miracle. When I was growing up, I had such intense problems with other people and completing basic tasks, that I was often ejected from the midst of “regular people” (like after my head injury at age 8, when I was removed from my gifted students class because I was both unable to keep my attention on the subjects we were studying, and I was also becoming an increasingly disruptive influence on the class). The problems didn’t diminish as I grew older, either. If anything, they intensified, with considerable social consequence.

As I grew up (I won’t say “matured” πŸ˜‰ I found myself so often at odds with everything around me, that I became increasingly marginalized, to the point where I could not hold a regular job and I could not perform the duties of the jobs I did have with any reliable regularity. But when I got into the world of computers, I found I was actually able to keep my attention on my work and perform valuable duties that earned me good money. The world wide web, in particular, made me more of a wage-earner than I ever thought I’d be. It’s made it possible for me to purchase a reliable car, to buy a house, to keep my pets healthy with proper veterinary care, to support valuable cultural initiatives that otherwise would not be able to exist, to have clothes that grant me entrance to the land of civilized people.

For someone who was for a long time socially marginal (as in, extremely and vehemently “alternative” to the point of being borderline feral), the influx of not only adequate money to pay grown-up bills, but also of work opportunities that not only challenged me but rewarded me with social acceptance and recognition, has had nothing short of a dramatic transformative effect. I would not be the person I am in the world, today, if it were not for the world wide web. You would not be reading this (obviously) if it weren’t for the web — and I would probably never have been able to write it.

On the personal side, the web made it possible for me to learn and study and research a wide variety of subjects, where before I was limited by the time I had to get to the library, not to mention which libraries I could get into. It’s also put me in touch with cutting-edge research that would normally only be available to professionals and people privy to the inner sanctum. Basically, it’s put me on somewhat similar footing (at least in terms of access) to information that used to only be far out of reach.

Email, too, has made it possible for me to communicate with other people in ways that eluded me for years. I remember the day it dawned on me that I could actually communicate with my parents now, because they had email (at last, after I’d been nagging them to get it for a few years). I not only had a window of time in which to pause and reflect on how to respond to them, but I also had their words in print, so when my mother came back and said “I never said that!” (as she is wont to do), I could counter with “Yes, you did!” and produce written proof. I avoided any contact with my parents for a number of years, because of communication problems. But having email solved some of the most significant issues that stood between me talking with them as regular human beings. This is also quite amazing, considering the level of estrangement between my folks and me, 20 years ago.

Forums and blogs have enabled me to have conversations with others that are paced as I like them — with plenty of time to step away and consider my response before I type and send it (which is important, because I’m known to unintentionally flame people, or just get all worked up over things and let fly at the drop of a hat). And while I did screw up a lot of my initial encounters, I could just drop out of the thread, beat a hasty retreat, and think about how I was going to re-enter the conversation — or if it was better that I just left well enough alone.

Going online lets me participate with other people without worrying about what I look like, what I sound like, if I speak too fast or too slow, if I fidget and twitch, if I forget what I was going to say, if I get confused by someone’s demeanor, if I get intimidated by my surroundings or crash and burn in sensory overload. It lets me speak my mind as a real person, not the person someone else imagines I am. It lets me measure my words and make sure I’m saying exactly what I meant to say, not get turned around on the spot and then either teased or mocked or dismissed as a result.

The online world lets me be fully human without the tbi-induced dangers of in-person interaction.

Yes, the web has changed my life. And for the better, in oh so many ways.

As they say over at A List Apart:

“Possibly the most important invention of the past century, the web is undeniably one of the most robust engines of knowledge transfer, political and social change, artistic endeavor, and economic growth the world has seen.

Remove the web, and billions in trade disappear. Websites enable people who can’t walk to run to the store. They bring knowledge and freedom of thought to places where such things are scarce; make every person with a connection a citizen of the world; and allow every citizen to be heard.”

Computers, in general, have made a huge difference in my life. I must admit that before I started working with computers, I was pretty limited. I was restricted to being a typist or secretary. I was limited to doing work that did not suit me, that was highly social in nature (because the non-social jobs went to people with college degrees, and I was unable — for a number of reasons — to ever complete my college degree). Computers made it possible for me to learn as I learned best — hands-on and at my own pace, which is different from others’ paces. I tend to go much faster or much slower than others. In many ways, I am unteachable in the traditional sense. A standard classroom environment just doesn’t work with me. My pacing is just not like other people’s, and I suffered for it for many years in the pre-computer job market.

But from the first time I sat down in front of a computer to learn something new — WordStar for DOS at my temp agency in 1987 — I’ve taken to it — that format, that forum — like a fish that’s been out of water for far too long. At last, I had a way to not only work, but also LEARN, and increase my skills — and employability and my earnability — far beyond anything that I had ever imagined.

After a lifetime of being told that there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t like other people, because I didn’t learn like other people, because I didn’t process information like other people… at last, here was a way for me to not only show that I wasn’t worse because of my differences, but I was actually a whole lot BETTER than anyone had ever dreamed I was. At last I wasn’t going to waste anymore.

At last, I had the right environment to work in. At last, I had the right kind of support in doing my work — a silent box humming away in front of me, not telling me I was an idiot, I was lazy, I was stupid, I was a loser. It just told me “Yes” or “No” or “Try again” — without making me feel stupid in the process. At last, I hadΒ  the right venues and avenues to use my skills and talents and inclinations.

With the massive assistive technology that the computed world is — with the desktops, laptops, email, world wide web, forums, websites, blogs, instant messaging, and more — it’s more than possible for me to excel at what I do best — logically process information and come up with solutions to tricky problems that stump other people. It’s more than possible. It’s now probable. And I can earn a living at it and build a life on that foundation.

And while part of me thinks I wouldn’t mind it at all, if I never put my hands on another keyboard, and part of me would like to find work that offers me more exercise and flexibility and less immobile staring at a screen all day, I know deep in my heart that my life — and the lives of all the people I interact with each day, the people I love, the people I support, the people I work with — just wouldn’t be the same without computers and the online world.

I need the assistance.

I need the connection.

I need to be as fully human as I can be, and use all my skills and talents to their fullest.

If that means I do it through keystrokes and wires, then so be it.