Coffee and computers
This past week I left all the work there still is to do on this house and kicked back and worked on video games. Sometimes I need a head break to just let stuff go. I had a blast. Learned a lot more about the system I use and made progress on a game I have been working on for quite a while. That gives me winter to catch up on writing projects and that should be fine.
What went on this week:
Monday night my cat kept me up all night long yowling. There was a female outside and when I let him out Tuesday morning that was it. He hasn’t come back yet.
Tuesday I spilled a very small amount of coffee onto the keys of my laptop and messed it all up. How, you might ask, could I be so stupid as to spill coffee on my keyboard? I don’t know. Plain old stupidity… Half awake… A cup of coffee in my hands… All of the above. After determining that, yes, it was fried, I bit the bullet and headed to eBay where I found a replacement.
Wednesday I wrote code all day and into the next day (3:00 AM)
Thursday I did the same, and then tried to put together some computer parts I purchased. Failed. Realized I had bought a BTX form factor Motherboard (Advertised as an ATX), and even though it would not have fit the case I bought, I had not purchased the ATX case I thought I had, but a MATX case. Confused? So was I. After a gazillion hours trying to make it all fit I went online and looked for solutions. Ha Ha, I say that with the deepest sarcasm.
To fix the situation I needed to purchase a BTX form factor case, but I quickly found out a BTX case is hard to come by and more expensive than the whole combination I had bought. So, I looked for an MATX board to put the processor I had purchased on. But, a MATX board, at least the ones I found, would not hold as much memory, slots, etc. They were generally more expensive with less to offer.
Which begs the question, why? I have noticed that a lot of the last several years. Want to buy a dog? Well, a German Shepherd or a Malamute, both about the same size, will cost about the same price. But, a small dog, I won’t mention the breed, costs more than either of those dogs. Huh. Along those lines, as a dog, if a cat can kick your butt you’re probably too small.
Anyway, I finally decided to buy an ATX board and case. That worked except I was out more green. BTW, if you followed all of that you are probably as geeky as I am.
Friday I did some editing. Why is it that it is so easy to edit someone’s work, find all the mistakes and correct them, but not your own?
Saturday (So Far) site updates for SOTOFO and a few other sites. Writing, and eating Candy Corn. I have to admit it was great to get back to writing, but the Candy Corn was pretty good too. And, listing all of those computer parts I bought that I no longer need. Let’s see. I spent about $250.00 in parts that I didn’t use, and another $200.00 in parts to actually build the thing, plus the cost of another laptop (Used on eBay), a really good deal for $125.00, I would say this week the computers won. And the thing is, in this society, you cannot do without them. I guess I’ll be happier on Monday when the laptop shows up, and in a week or so when I put my fast computer together and convince myself that I am not really an idiot at all, technology is just faster than it used to be… Did that make sense? No.
What did I learn this week?
#1. Cats are not very useful when it comes to making you feel good about yourself. I mean they take off chasing the lady cats and don’t even bother to come back. That is a direct hit to the old self esteem. Of course maybe he was kidnapped or eaten by a dog, or a Sasquatch. After all there have been a great many Sasquatch sightings lately on the National Geographic channel of all places. I hope he didn’t suffer. That is of course if he was eaten. If he did run off with a lady cat I hope she takes him for everything he has.
#2. Laptop computers really suck. I have spilled whole sixteen ounce Cokes on my desktop keyboard, no problem except the keys began to stick bad. Also, the laptop keyboard stayed screwed up, I had to plug in a USB keyboard to type with, until I bought the replacement laptop. Second, I looked up form factors with Google. Holy Crap. The odds of me getting the wrong parts are very high, especially since some of the people that sell them don’t have a fricken clue what they are selling. There are dozens of form factors. Let me geek this out for you. Form factor refers to a common build for a particular board, across different manufacturers. Same pin connections, width, length. Etc. The last time I built a machine I only knew of two form factors, ATX and MATX which is a smaller board, and then there were proprietary boards built by some manufacturers. Yeah. No longer. So now I think, spend the extra and have someone else build it to your specs. And, after I get through this fiasco I will do that the next time.
#3. Writing code is easier on the body than building a house is.
#4. I am no longer sure I should drink and keyboard. Coffee, Coke, it always ends up on the board before I am finished.
The new Zombie Plagues Book at Smashwords
Everything else is in line and going well. Well, except computers, Cats and coffee cups
I will leave you with a true short story…
THE DAM Copyright Wendell Sweet 2010 all rights reserved
This work is copyright protected. You may read it in its present form. You may not alter or transmit it by any means. If you would like to share this material with someone, please direct them to this URL. This is not a work of fiction. The people and circumstances really existed and I have faithfully reproduced the circumstances without excessive artistic license. I have changed names to protect innocent people.
Published by independAntwriters Publishing and Wendell Sweet
It was summer, the trees full and green, and the temperatures in the upper seventies. And you could smell the river from where it ran behind the paper mills and factories crowded around it, just beyond the public square; a dead smell, waste from the paper plants.
I think it was John who said something first. “Fuck it,” or something like that,” I’ll be okay.”
“Yeah,” Pete asked?
“Yeah… I think so,” John agreed. His eyes locked on Pete’s, but they didn’t stay. They slipped away and began to wander along the riverbed, the sharp rocks that littered the tops of the cliffs and the distance to the water. I didn’t like it.
Gary just nodded. Gary was the oldest so we pretty much went along with the way he saw things.
“But it’s your Dad,” I said at last. I felt stupid. Defensive. But it really felt to me like he really wasn’t seeing things clearly. I didn’t trust how calm he was, or how he kept looking at the river banks and then down to the water maybe eighty feet are so below.
“I should know,” John said. But his eyes didn’t meet mine at all.
“He should know,” Gary agreed and that was that.
“That’s cool. Let’s go down to the river,” Pete suggested, changing the subject.
“I’m not climbing down there,” I said. I looked down the sheer rock drop off to the water. John was still looking too, and his eyes were glistening, wet, his lips moved slightly as if he was talking to himself. If he was I couldn’t hear. But then he spoke aloud.
“We could make it, I bet,” he said as though it was an afterthought to some other idea. I couldn’t quite see that idea, at least I told myself that later. But I felt some sort of way about it. As if it had feelings of it’s own attached to it.
“No, man,” Gary said. “Pete didn’t mean beginning here… Did you,” he asked?
“No… No, you know, out to Huntingtonville,” Pete said. He leaned forward on his bike, looked at john, followed his eyes down to the river and then back up. John looked at him.
“What!” John asked.
“Nothing, man,” Pete said. “We’ll ride out to Huntingtonville. To the dam. That’d be cool… Wouldn’t it?” You could see the flatness in John’s eyes. It made Pete nervous. He looked at Gary.
“Yeah,” Gary said. He looked at me.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’d be cool.” I spun one pedal on my stingray, scuffed the dirt with the toe of one Ked and then I looked at John again. His eyes were still too shiny, but he shifted on his banana seat, scuffed the ground with one of his own Keds and then said, “Yeah,” kind of under his breath. Again like it was an afterthought to something else. He lifted his head from his close inspection of the ground, or the river, or the rocky banks, or something in some other world for all I knew, and it seemed more like the last to me, but he met all of our eyes with one sliding loop of his own eyes, and even managed to smile.
The bike ride out to Huntingtonville was about four miles. It was a beautiful day and we lazed our way along, avoiding the streets, riding beside the railroad tracks that just happened to run out there. The railroad tracks bisected Watertown. They were like our own private road to anywhere we wanted to go. Summer, fall or winter. It didn’t matter. You could hear the trains coming from a long way off. More than enough time to get out of the way.
We had stripped our shirts off earlier in the morning when we had been crossing the only area of the tracks that we felt were dangerous, a long section of track that was suspended over the Black river on a rail trestle. My heart had beat fast as we had walked tie to tie trying not to look down at the rapids far below. Now we were four skinny, jeans clad boys with our shirts tied around our waists riding our bikes along the sides of those same railroad tracks where they ran through our neighborhood, occasionally bumping over the ties as we went. Gary managed to ride on one of the rails for about 100 feet. No one managed anything better.
Huntingtonville was a small river community just outside of Watertown. It was like the section of town that was so poor it could not simply be across the tracks or on the other side of the river, it had to be removed to the outskirts of the city itself. It was where the poorest of the poor lived, the least desirable races. The blacks. The Indians. Whatever else good, upstanding white Americans felt threatened or insulted by. It was where my father had come from, being both black and Indian.
I didn’t look like my father. I looked like my mother. My mother was Irish and English. About as white as white could be. I guess I was passing. But I was too poor, too much of a dumb kid to even know that back then in 1969.
John’s father was the reason we were all so worried. A few days before we had been playing baseball in the gravel lot of the lumber company across the street from where we lived. The railroad tracks ran behind that lumber company. John was just catching his breath after having hit a home run when his mother called him in side. We all heard later from our own mothers that John’s father had been hurt somehow. Something to do with his head. A stroke. I really didn’t know what a stroke was at that time or understand everything that it meant. I only knew it was bad. It was later in life that I understood how bad. All of us probably. But we did understand that John’s father had nearly died, and would never be his old self again, if he even managed to pull through.
It was a few days after that now. The first time the four of us had gotten back together. We all felt at loose ends. It simply had made no sense for the three of us to try to do much of anything without John. We had tried but all we could think about or talk about was John’s father. Would he be okay? Would they move? That worried me the most. His sister was about the most beautiful girl in the entire world to me. So not only would John move, so would she.
He came back to us today not saying a word about it. And we were worried.
When we reached the dam the water was high. That could mean that either the dam had been running off the excess water, or was about to be. You just had to look at the river and decide.
“We could go to the other side and back,” John suggested.
The dam was about 20 or 30 feet high. Looming over a rock strewn riverbed that had very little water. It was deeper out towards the middle, probably, it looked like it was, but it was all dry river rock along the grassy banks. The top of the Dam stretched about 700 feet across the river.
“I don’t know,” Pete said. “The dam might be about to run. We could get stuck on the other side for a while.”
No one was concerned about a little wet feet if the dam did suddenly start running as we were crossing it. It didn’t run that fast. And it had caught us before. It was no big deal. Pete’s concern was getting stuck on the little island where the damn ended for an hour or so. Once, john, and myself had been on that island and some kids, older kids, had decided to shoot at us with 22 caliber rifles. Scared us half to death. But that’s not the story I’m trying to tell you today. Maybe I’ll tell you that one some other time. Today I’m trying to tell you about John’s father. And how calm John seemed to be taking it.
John didn’t wait for anyone else to comment. He dumped his bike and started to climb up the side of the concrete abutment to reach the top of the dam and walk across to the island. There was nothing for us to do except fall in behind him. One by one we did.
It all went smoothly. The water began to top the dam, soaking our Keds with its yellow paper mill stink and scummy white foam, just about halfway across. But we all made it to the other side and the island with no trouble. Pete and I climbed down and walked away. To this day I have no idea what words passed between Gary and john, but the next thing I knew they were both climbing back up onto the top of the dam, where the water was flowing faster now. Faster than it had ever flowed when we had attempted to cross the dam. Pete nearly at the top of the concrete wall, Gary several feet behind him.
John didn’t hesitate. He hit the top, stepped into the yellow brown torrent of river water pouring over the falls and began to walk back out to the middle of the river. Gary yelled to him as Pete and I climbed back up to the top of the dam.
I don’t think I was trying to be a hero, but the other thought, the thought he had pulled back from earlier, had just clicked in my head. John was thinking about dying. About killing himself. I could see it on the picture of his face that I held in my head from earlier. I didn’t yell to him, I just stepped into the yellow foam and water, found the top of the dam and began walking.
Behind me and Pete and Gary went ballistic. “Joe, what the fuck are you doing?”
I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I kept moving. I was scared. Petrified. Water tugged at my feet. There was maybe 6 inches now pouring over the dam and more coming, it seemed a long way down to the river. Sharp, up-tilted slabs of rock seemed to be reaching out for me. Secretly hoping that I would fall and shatter my life upon them.
John stopped in the middle of the dam and turned, looking off toward the rock and the river below. I could see the water swirling fast around his ankles. Rising higher as it went. John looked over at me, but he said nothing.
“John,” I said when I got close enough. He finally spoke.
“No,” was all he said. But tears began to spill from his eyes. Leaking from his cheeks and falling into the foam scummed yellow-brown water that flowed ever faster over his feet.
“Don’t,” I screamed. I knew he meant to do it, and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Don’t move,” Gary said from behind me. I nearly went over the falls. I hadn’t known he was that close. I looked up and he was right next to me, working his way around me on the slippery surface of the dam. I looked back and Pete was still on the opposite side of the dam. He had climbed up and now he stood on the flat top. Transfixed. Watching us through his thick glasses. Gary had followed John and me across.
I stood still and Gary stepped around me. I have no idea how he did. I’ve thought about it, believe me. There shouldn’t have been enough room, but that was what he did. He stepped right around me and then walked the remaining 20 feet or so to John and grabbed his arm.
“If you jump you kill me too,” Gary said. I heard him perfectly clear above the roar of the dam. He said it like it was nothing. Like it is everything. But mostly he said it like he meant it.
It seemed like they argued and struggled forever, but it was probably less than a minute, maybe two. The waters were rising fast and the whole thing would soon be decided for us. If we didn’t get off the dam quickly we would be swept over by the force of the water.
They almost did go over. So did I. But the three of us got moving and headed back across to the land side where we had dropped our bikes. We climbed down from a dam and watched the water fill the river up. No one spoke.
Eventually john stopped crying. And the afterthought look, as though there some words or thoughts he couldn’t say passed. The dying time had passed.
We waited almost two hours for the river to stop running and then Pete came across…
We only talked about it one other time that summer, and then we never talked about it again. That day was also a beautiful summer day. Sun high in the sky. We were sitting on our bikes watching the dam run.
“I can’t believe you were gonna do it,” Pete said.
“I wasn’t,” John told him. “I only got scared when the water started flowing and froze on the dam… That’s all it was.”
Nobody spoke for a moment and then Gary said, “That’s how it was.”
“Yeah. That’s how it was,” I agreed…
I hope you enjoyed the short story. Check out the book here: True: True Stories from a small town 1
See you next week, Dell