Saturday, December 01, 2012


It was a Star Trek hyperspace jump to go from Operating System 4.9 to 10.8.  Stars were whizzing past my ears, but it was all amazing -- if a little confusing -- for a week or more.  Then everything went crazy and no amount of banging on the dashboard could cure it.  So I resorted to a techie, reluctantly because they get so out of patience with me.  I always tell them I’m an old lady in Montana which seems to help since being old is clearly the same as being disabled and being in Montana sounds romantic.

This time I got a young woman who couldn’t figure out my problem and passed me on “upstairs” to what sounded like a young man in Kansas City.  (I always ask where they are.)  He says that the MAC service network is small centers scattered all over the country -- the rhizome or neuron pattern.  Brilliant.  I just read about the hub financial communication hubs in Manhattan who centered ALL their information management in skyscrapers that are without power since Sandy.  Possibly for a month.  The skyscrapers are state-of-the-art.  The infrastructure is 19th century.  What good is a cloud if you can’t get to it?  And the technology of the cloud is dependent on huge factory-like energy-gobbling plants that people are beginning to resent.

All this is irrelevant.  The bottom line is that this techie, whose name I don’t know and who said that if my problems came back to call though I probably wouldn’t get him next time, was so decent and patient that I was delighted to be on the phone with him for at least an hour and a half.  With my permission he came onto my screen with me so he could see what I was doing.  Then -- piloting his own red arrow around the dots and lists -- we went spelunking into the cave of the depths of programmer logic.

They say that to be a success with computers it is not necessary to be intelligent: only patient and tenacious so as to keep finding new angles, re-framing the problems and solutions.  So we considered the evidence, figured out tests, investigated settings, and dumped things into the trash.  EEEEKS!!  The basic auto repair principle is to save all the parts, but with computers evidently less is more.  (Be SURE that when you change a tire at roadside, you turn up the hubcap and put ALL the nuts in there so you can find them again!)

I tried to make as many jokes as I could without being excessive and the techie laughed, but not excessively.  We weren’t irrelevant.  Instead of berating me for “operator error,” he said,  “Hmmm.  Interesting.”  And occasionally he reassured me that this was not hopeless, that we would eventually get the job done.  And we did.  I’m working fine again now, and learned a lot.  One of the most basic repairs is STILL to unplug the machine and go do something else for a little while.

My own tendency is to look for human patterns.  Most of my keyboard paralysis seemed to hit when it was a meal-time or homework time, so I figured it was traffic overload when many computers came on-line at once.  This was true of DSL problems a month ago.  That techie was an older woman in a nearby community who somehow remained civil while I threatened to tear her head off.  It took a week to figure out the problem and by then we seemed like old friends.

Later in the day I was the techie being asked for advice but this time it was about one of Bob Scriver’s bronzes that had come into the hands of an antique dealer back East.  He knew very little about the arts in general but was persistent in trying to figure it all out, so I tried to walk him through the arcane (and largely obsolete by now) customs of producing bronze sculptures.  

For instance, Bob was always scrupulous about registering his work with the Library of Congress though it meant time and money to take photos and send fees.  In those days the period of registration lasted seventeen years and then you could renew for another seventeen years.  Now the law, which is treaty law between signing nations, is for the lifetime of the artist plus a hundred years.  This is because there is an enormous boodle of money tied up in licensing dead celebrities.  The irony is that today copyrights are nearly useless.  Once controlled by the difficulty of creating a bronze or a fine painting, now reproductions are a snap.  Whole books are easily sent via the internet in a few moments.  As soon as I sent a pdf of “Twelve Blackfeet Stories” to someone, it went worldwide on Google with NO sales.  By now even “Bronze Inside and Out,” my bio of Bob which was published by the University of Calgary Press, shows up as a free download on Google.

This dealer had grasped the notion of provenance: that a bronze is best authenticated by tracing the casting in one’s hands back to the artist through each owner transaction, but the chain was broken.  Normally the number on the casting is a clue, but the careful records Bob kept have been missing since the Montana Historical Society took ownership of Bob’s estate.  Anyway, this particular casting said “artist’s proof” instead of having a number.  Numbering is a practice that came out of early mold materials that deteriorated with use, and also the idea that the scarcer something is, the more valuable it is.  But this casting said, in a second number, the edition was of 250 castings.  In the Sixties an edition of 24 was considered to be too many.  Labeling “artist’s proof” meant that there could be an “edition” of 250 plus at least one more.  In short, meaningless.

My third techie conversation was via email with my friend who likes old Montana stuff and who had just rediscovered his own hoard of old glass beads and horse sinew, dried, which he had intended to make into thread for beading.  The problem was that when soaked up, the sinew filled his house with such a stench of rot that the dog kept looking at him reproachfully.  Now what?  So we were pooling our knowledge of organic materials.  Old timers worked outdoors, of course, and the “technology” of fibers, whether those from flesh or those from vegetable matter, was mostly a matter of just rubbing and bending and scraping against an edge, patiently repeating for hours.  No button to push.  No automatic machine.  The secret, again, was persistence.  

And visiting with others in hopes of touching off new ideas or reframing the problem.  All this time people thought I was sitting here all alone, spinning moonbeams.  The dealer had been talking to members of the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel, who advised him I was eccentric.  I’ll cop to that.  It only means they wonder what I'm really up to.

No comments: