Exercise 1 – Rituals

This is exercise one from one of those books on building writing technique and willpower I’ve mentioned. Spend five minutes detailing a ritual. 223 of the words came in the five minute period it allowed.

As a child of the Twenty-First century, it should be of no surprise that when it comes to rituals, technology is at the heart of them. I wake up, and then wake my computers up. When I go out, they go off, and when I come home again, I boot them up. On the desk where they reside, they hold pride and place in the room.

In the morning, the netbook gets switched on first, by virtue of being closest to the bed. While that boots, the desktop is switched on. They’re different breeds of machine, of different calibre. The netbook serves its purpose as something to be social on, to browse the internet and talk on while the desktop is in use. Its battery died a year ago, which has since relegated it to being tethered to its power cable. A sad loss of freedom for a device that used to come with me on trains to London. Not that it got used for writing much on those train journeys. I could never get comfortable with it on the small, fold out tables on the back of the chair in front of me. It became a glorified eBook reader and MP3 player instead.

By virtue of its SSD drive and fresh Ubuntu operating system, it boots quickest to log in. It bides its time then, waiting for my log in details, to authenticate that I am really me. The desktop on the other hand loads straight to desktop, as befits its name. It is sure in its components that I am me, mostly due to the fact that I never planned on taking it with me anywhere.

Its purpose is threefold. It entertains me with computer games. It runs movies on the friend-gifted seventeen inch monitor. Its battered speakers pump out the eclectic mix of music of various genres, times and places that I like to listen to. And it is inevitably the one I open up to upgrade.

By all means, the netbook has had some work done to it. One gig of RAM became two by necessity of speed. But there was not the scope in it that the large black case of the desktop possessed. Three graphics cards have called its PCI-e slot home. Additional cables have been plugged into a modular PSU to feed the more demanding GPU. Hard drives have been swapped out, swapped over or added in as the need for storage increased. In one worrying incident after its delivery, when a one gigabyte stick of RAM fell to the curse of the bathtub curve, the diseased component was removed to be replaced, and the machine soldiered one, bereft of one of its pair of dual channel sticks.

Of more mundane reason for me to slide open its aluminium carapace is simple house cleaning. Dust congregates in the pews of heatsinks, and nestles down in the various nooks and crannies that run between motherboards and components. Little want for expensive tools, never before used make up brushes are the tools used as I lovingly sweep from top to bottom, treating the precious heatsink that clads the CPU with as delicate a touch as I can.

But aside from rising with the machines and suspending with them in the evening, where does ritual come in to maintenance? The answer lies in the justification that there is a spirit in the machine, and only through mysterious, deeply personified ritual and channelling can it be appeased into working correctly.

Examples range from a Reiki-style infusion of energy directly into the chassis when troubleshooting, to attempting to invigorate it with intense mental concentration, to more ludicrous methods. Home remedies are of great help. In a sense. Well, actually, with the fact that a hardback home remedy book is situated on top of the case to prevent rattle-induced noise. There’s always that little catch in the breath and moment of silence when powering the PC on again, after unplugging to get my hands in the silicon organs of it.

It’s silly, but it’s my way. And when I get those little twinges of intuition that she may not be okay, or even if it’s just time for a dust, I treat my PC with the reverence and affection she deserves. Because at the end of the day? My computers are my windows to the world, that bridge the geographical gap between me and my friends. And that’s worth some cyber-hokum and techno-shamanism.

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