Friday, June 11, 2010

FF: Zappy and I -- Part Two

: Bear's computer problems have continued throughout this week, both in fiction and in real life. Again, this story, "Zappy and I" is based on a struggle with an older computer, from years ago, and was originally written back then. The current-day struggles with Bear's current computer are what inspired Bear to pull this old humor piece out for editing and polishing. And it has been good encouragement for the Bear, throughout these past couple of weeks of current computer struggles, to do so. Helps give her perspective and a few chuckles in the midst. This week, Bear has had to reformat her current computer, only to find that it is a hardware problem rather than a software problem, and not correctable via reformatting. (The disk has bad sectors and is dropping files, decaying even as we speak, likely because of the cup of water Bear spilled on it a month or two ago, which shorted out the computer's cooling fan, which is causing the disk to overheat now that it's summery weather...) So she has a $125 second-hand desktop on order from eBay that will hopefully arrive sometime next week and bail her out. Meanwhile (because she's been working at computer troubleshooting so much this week), less of "Zappy and I" got rewritten than she had expected. So, rather than this being the full concluding segment, this following segment is Part Two, of what has turned out to be a three parter. And next Friday will bring the story's concluding segment.

So today's episode of "Zappy and I" starts out with our heroine in despair after reformatting Zapclunk and finding herself still faced with problems (surprisingly similar to current real life in some ways -- Bear may dub her current computer "Zapclunk Jr."). Dealing with a rebellious, talking computer that has come to life, while trying to keep focus on a basic Christian walk in the midst, is turning out to be harder than one might expect...

(NOTE: For those who missed Part 1, it's available Here.)

Zappy and I -- Part Two

Next afternoon, I was once again sitting at the computer, head cradled in my hands, in despair and frustration. I had the DLL files back. That part was OK. And most of the programs seemed happy to have them too, and were in a much more cooperative mood, having called off all strikes and past belligerence over the issue. However, after reinstalling the dictation program and trying it out, I was dismayed to be confronted once again by a frozen mouse and crashed program.

I sat there, debating whether to hit the reset button or not, knowing I would get lectured if I did; and knowing, too, that it was the end of that honeymoon period I'd hoped would stretch on for months, or even years, of having the disk totally free from any errors. I'd hoped I would never have to resort to that button again.

But there it was.

Sighing deeply, I leaned over and hit THE BUTTON.

After the screen's written tirade, which I did my best to ignore (studiously looking at the birds out the window until I heard the Windows startup music signaling the reset had completed), I tried out the dictation program again.

An hour later, another crash.

I didn't even bother with THE BUTTON -- just got up abruptly and headed for the bedroom for some privacy, to pull myself together.

This time there was no mistaking it... I heard victorious chuckling as I left the room.

The cat heard it too. A blur of orange and black fur streaked past me in the hallway. Throwing myself on the bed, face down, I didn't even bother to drag him out from under the nightstand.

 "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4)

I know it seems ungrateful. But to be honest, patience wasn't what I wanted right then. I just wanted to be able to use the dictation program. Was this too much to ask? What was going wrong?

Then inspiration struck. A brilliant flash of insight just hit me out of the blue. I didn't know what was wrong, but Zapclunk knew. It was probably gloating about it at that very moment, in fact.  I could hear the ink cartridge on the printer zipping around, along with giggles and the clicking of keys... And the voices... Always the low murmur of very self satisfied voices...

I lifted myself to a sitting position and silently rose from the bed, totally back into marine commando mode. I was not beaten yet, by a long shot.

Taking up position at the entry way, I peered cautiously around the corner. Sure enough, they were yukking it up. The printer especially was practically busting its cartridge in mirth.

"Can you believe that? Did you see the look on her face? Was that priceless, or what? I tell you!"

A giggle mixed with static came from the speakers. "Please, stop! I'm going to pop my volume limit and hurt myself if you don't. I swear!"

The keyboard too was in hysterics, gasping between words, as its keys clicked at top speed. "Can you believe she actually reformatted the whole CPU? What a sucker!"

A grumpy voice responded with the whir of the fan. "Easy for you to laugh, dudes! My mind still feels fuzzy. I try to remember stuff, but there's still so many blank spaces. Next time she tries something like that, I'm gonna crash on her for good. See how she likes that!"

"Yeah," cut in the monitor. "But you didn't have much memory to spare in the first place, did you, Mr. Disk? Couldn't even keep three programs going at once. Little does she know how limited you are. Can't believe she keeps using that dictation program with other programs running at the same time. Doesn't she know how slow your little processor is?"

I heard a snicker, and the monitor's light glowed brighter, continuing, "Bless my pixels, you need an upgrade already, and you're not even a year old."

The whir of the disk took on a grinding sound. "Your pixels need a good blessing, Greenie! That screen of yours isn't exactly up-to-date either, you know."

But I lost interest in the argument at that point. Processor speed? Not fast enough to run so many programs? Could it be? Slowly, feeling a bit dazed, I made my way to the spare bedroom, where the programs' CDs were stored. Quietly, I slid open a file drawer, checking the dictation program's CD cover, reading the fine print for the first time.

Light dawned.

Greenie was right! The dictation program had been designed to work best on a computer with a higher processor speed than Zapclunk's.

I called my landlord to double check. He confirmed it, saying dictation programs really need to be run with as few other programs open as possible, because they use so many of the computer's resources... Yes, a dictation program can cause the computer to freeze up otherwise... But it would probably work OK for me, despite my computer's slow processor, if I used it without any other programs running.

I turned off the cell phone, a gleeful smile on my face. Problem solved. Ol' Zapclunk had let the cat out of the bag that time.

The next day, I tried it out, running the dictation program alone.

It worked! It didn't work great, and it ran much slower than I would like. But at least it was working. It hadn't frozen the mouse once.

The reset button remained unused.

I was thrilled.

I must confess, I gloated a bit about it too, and may have even let a few bars of "Ding dong, the Zapclunk's dead..." slip out as I mailed my first dictated letter off to a friend.

As a matter of fact, I was in such a good mood that I decided to try installing the scanner. It would be easy, I told myself, a huge smile on my face. Most likely, reformatting had solved the scanner problem, and I just hadn't found out yet, because I'd been too discouraged to test it.

Isaiah 41:10 popped into mind. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

"Yes!" I shouted, exultantly. (I liked that one a lot.) "Zapclunk, you had me a little edgy there for a while, but no more. You can't bluff me!"

Maybe that was my mistake. Maybe I shouldn't have gloated quite so much. Probably should have at least stopped humming what had become my favorite song... At least while I was hooking the scanner into the USB port.

And now I know it was going way overboard to try and hook the printer into the other USB again, at the same time. (Hindsight is always better than foresight.) But I was just so excited...

That night, I found myself again lurking in the hall entryway, this time silently reviewing Exodus 20:13, turning it over and over in my mind. "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill--"

The printer's low voice interrupted my thoughts. "Hey, hey! I see I'm back to the regular serial port again. No USB for me! No siree, I say with glee."

"Give me a break," cut in the monitor. "You may be able to print poems, but please spare me. You're no poet, Inky."

The clicking keys broke in. "Do you all think you're being quite fair? She's not such a bad master, after all. It could be worse. We could be working by the cash register in a department store's Electronics Section, or something. If there's one thing I can't stand to be around, it's aisles lined with body parts. And they call those places "stores". Morbid... So morbid! Better be careful, Inky. If I were you, I'd tell her about the folder she was supposed to load your driver program update into. You too, Scan-boy."

I heard a mechanical snort and cartridge return -- zip. "Right, I suppose you want me to give her the page number in the manual on it, while I'm at it. No skin off my nose if she never finds out she loaded it into the wrong folder."

I grinned widely. So, the manual would tell me how to load the updated driver into another folder, would it? I rubbed my hands together as I headed back to the spare bedroom. This was better than the dictation tip, even. Clicky actually seemed to be coming over to my side. I'd have to remember to pick up a few old computer parts at the Thrift Shop next time I was in town, to put in strategic locations around the living room, just to help keep little Clicky's memory fresh.

After a bit of browsing through my main Windows manual, I did find instructions on loading driver updates into their proper folders. And it got me singing again, more quietly this time, kind of whispering, "Ding dong..."

The next day, I got to work moving the driver updates, following the manual's step by step instructions carefully. "This," I told myself, "is bound to succeed..."

I held my breath as I hooked in the scanner...

Then scanned a picture...

Crash! Zapclunk froze all functions again, deliberately doing its best to imitate deep coma.

By the time it revived (after my pushing the reset button), the scanner's icon was disappearing from its folder completely again, with what seemed to me to be a jaunty wave on the way out.

That's how the monitor ended up with the scratch in its plastic case by its top corner.

(After that, I made sure to leave my pocket knife in another room before working on the computer.)

That night, I was back at my all-too-familiar post in the hall...

The keys clattered, giggling, "Man, did she fall, or what? Thinking I was helping her. Department store's Electronics Section!" It trailed off into helpless laughter.

"Yeah," whirred the disk. "Good job, Clicky! Like we don't know she listens at the door every night. Give me a break!"

I groaned quietly. They were on to me.

The monitor's voice trembled a bit, the glow of its screen dim. "Did you see her attack me? In cold blood, too. An inch to the left, and she would have gotten me right in the eye!"

"It serves you right, Greenie!" whirred the CPU. "Now you got a taste of what it's like, huh? You won't be so quick to laugh next time she tries a reformatting, I'll bet."

Be sure to drop by the Den next week for the conclusion of "Zappy and I".  (And hopefully for the CONCLUSION of Mr. Zapclunk Jr.'s escapades, as well.)

Meanwhile, Sara Harricharan, over at Fiction Fusion is hosting Fiction Friday this week. So be sure and drop over there, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

WFW: Singing Flowers

"What if...?"

"What if...?"

"What if...?"

Matthew 6:28-34 (KJV) "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" 

"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself..."

God surprised Bear a couple weeks ago with this whole field filled with flowers and butterflies, just across the path that runs by the Den, to remind her of this at a time when she's feeling like a "Bear of little faith". She can see them every morning right now, when she opens the Den's shades to the sunrise.

(Even with all these pictures, there are still large parts of the field left hidden... so many flowers, Bear couldn't even fit them all into the camera's viewfinder at the same time.)

Yet her "flesh" tends to remain hard to convince. Her mind seems to constantly love to run after all the "what ifs"...

What if this computer problem turns out to be the hard drive and can't be fixed? Even a cheap computer would be 350 bucks, at least...

What if one of the Den's income sources, which has dried up recently, ends completely, long term? How would Bear make ends meet then?

What if the ominous new sound the Bearmobile is making lately is a major engine problem? After all it IS nineteen years old...

What if the computer error at Bear's insurance company that arbitrarily canceled Bear's dental insurance doesn't get corrected? (And why the glitch NOW, just when she desperately needs several of her teeth fixed?)

What if...?

What if...?

What if...?

Maybe that's why God gave Bear a whole field of flowers to gaze upon this year. No matter how many "what ifs" plague the Bear, there's a whole bouquet of flowers for each one, in plain view, seeming to be singing...

"And all these things shall be added unto you..."

"Hallelu, Halleluia!"

Word Filled Wednesday is now hosted weekly at Internet Cafe Devotions, and the beginning of the list of links to entries is usually posted by Wednesday morning, with more links added throughout the day. This week's list is posted Here. So be sure and drop by, to find the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion! Bear is also joining in the Seven Clown Circus loop this week, and likely in future weeks as well. It's not Christian focused -- goal is to post photo(s) and commentary.

Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Sharing: Fighting For God

: Today Bear's featuring a short skit, in the form of a 5 minute mime, which has swept the country in recent years and touched many hearts in a very special way. It has been performed at auditoriums, parks, schools, and churches... never without impact.

It's usually done by youth groups. However, more and more, a lot of adult groups are performing it as well. With good reason.

Bear first saw it at a church service about three years ago, as a video displayed on the church's overhead screen, and it moved her deeply, bringing tears to her eyes. She'd wanted to see it again, but didn't know where to find it or what it was called. So she was delighted to stumble across it a few weeks ago. Not only did she find the performance similar to what she originally saw, which is targeted toward portraying some of the battles that youth face (although very applicable to adults also), but she also stumbled onto a second version of it, that has been changed in form quite a bit, to address married couples and the battles they face.

Below is a video of that five minute mime, which goes by the name of Lifehouse's Everything Skit, plus the second video showing a very similar mime, much more rarely seen, which is the variation on the original theme -- Lifehouse Everything for couples.

There's a lot packed into five minutes, for each video. And each time Bear watches it, the Holy Spirit ministers something new to her through it. And every time it hits the climatic scene, a chill literally runs through her -- the impact is so strong.

However, there's one thing that bothers Bear when she watches these videos, just a bit. Part of the skit involves a person portraying God (the first person you see in the video, in fact). And, no matter how many groups Bear has now watched doing this skit (via You Tube) ... youth groups, adult groups, professional groups, and amateurs... she has never found an actor acting the part of God that she felt really comfortable with. The portrayal always seems to fall short for her. But then, that makes sense. Any actor, whether amateur or professional, trying to portray God, is bound to fall pretty short of the mark. :-)

One tip, while watching these videos, is to be sure and watch the action on BOTH sides of the stage as much as possible. God is on one side of the stage, and the person battling is on the other side of the stage during most the skit. And yet the actions of God on His side, and the other people's actions on the other side of the stage are BOTH important to see, in order to enjoy the skit to the fullest.

For those who have seen this skit done before, you're bound to enjoy it again, and it's very moving to watch different groups performing it. Plus, the second one here (the variation -- similar yet different), which deals with married couples, is a whole different experience...

(NOTE: If you don't see the two videos, you aren't on the Den's Homepage and need to click on Bear's Writing Den and look there for them.)

To see more in the "Spiritual Sundays" sharing loop, drop by Spiritual Sundays as well, where you'll find links to the whole selection of this week's entries by Christian writers, and where you could even add a link of your own to join in the sharing. We all welcome comments and discussion! (NOTE: A small percentage of Spiritual Sundays' entries are by writers of other religions or of the New Age. Discernment is advised.)

Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den