A day without the computer (so of course I'm blogging)


I’ve been doing things today that don’t involve a keyboard. It feels weird.

I’ve been putting up with some unusually erratic behavior from this machine ever since I upgraded to Tiger — weird slowdowns and crashes, network settings kept getting lost, lots of the Spinning Pizza of Death — because I just didn’t have the patience to go through the whole reinstall process.

This morning was the last straw, though; I found a whole new level of broken: worse than a normal crash-to-the-finder, worse even than the useless-in-many-languages OSX kernel panic screen (“You need to restart your computer. Hold down the power button for several seconds.” Because that’s how we mac people restart our computers. We think different™.) No, I managed to crash the sucker so hard that it started blitting debug info directly to the monitor, right over the top of the GUI (which gradually scrolled upwards as the screen filled up with stack traces.) Lovely.

So today I’m finally biting the bullet, wiping the disk and doing a clean install. What that actually boils down to, so far, is start the backup process, mow the lawn, check the progress bar, have a swim, check the progress bar, have lunch, check the progress bar, write a cruel blog post mocking an ex-co-worker, watch the progress bar climb through its final percent; reboot the machine using the backup as the startup disk, admire the kernel panic screen, reboot from the original disk, find that the backup disk is now unusably corrupt, reformat it, start the backup process from the beginning again. That’s where we’re at now (4pm). I’ll update as I make progress. I’m sure you’re fascinated.

Remember when all you had to do to make a bootable disk was drag a System Folder onto it? Remember when all you had to do to copy an application was drag the application from one disk to another? Those were the good old days. I understand why UNIX-based software doesn’t work like that, and it’s a remarkable engineering feat that the Apple people managed to get it to coexist with their GUI as smoothly as it does, but Apple’s overall software usability has taken huge leaps backwards since the OS9 days.

In The Big Blue Room

Today’s casualty on the lawn was a delicate little grass snake, which curled convulsively around my wrist when I picked it up afterwards and then stopped moving for good. Every time I mow the lawn, it seems, I kill some small woodland creature or other, and then feel terrible about it for days. This may be why I don’t mow the lawn that often. (Or more likely it’s because I’m lazy.)

The worst day was a two-fer: I had a weed trimmer in hand, one of those with the little plastic cord that spins around to chop the plants off, and I had paused to admire this beautiful butterfly that was fluttering around me. Flutter flutter flutter flutter poof as it collided mid-air with the trimmer cord, which even when idling carries enough speed to turn a beautiful butterfly into a cloud of brightly colored bug flakes.

Later on the other side of the house I caught sight of a strange, fist-sized seed pod of some kind lying in the grass; the glimpse I caught as I went by suggested tropical and ferment, some rough brown casing that had split open to show a white, moist-looking shape inside it… I spent the whole of that row and back across the lawn trying to figure out what it could have been, and looked closer on the next pass: it turned out to be a bird that must’ve tried to fly through a house window; the “casing” was its wings, and the white “seed” its belly. That was enough lawnmowing for that day.

That one wasn’t even my fault, so I’m not sure why it hit me so hard; I’ve dealt with my share of small woodland corpses without trouble (including a not-quite-dead mouse which the dog was cunningly trying to pretend wasn’t in his mouth; the tail sticking out where his tongue usually does was the giveaway.) I think it was the sudden transition from mysterious tropical seedpod to dead animal, on top of already feeling glum about the butterfly earlier. I am a Sensitive Boy.

The progress bar is about 30% so far. It seems to be going more quickly this time through.