Commentary

The Village Grouch: Sour Apple For Chinese New Year

The Grouch was going to hand out awards for 2003, but since nobody else deserved one, he didn't bother. During the Chinese New Year that just passed, the Grouch decided to celebrate this special holiday by getting as far away from China as possible. In doing so, he set into motion a chain reaction of events that once again demonstrated that Murphy's Law–that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong–is definitely a law and not a theory.

This happened before the Grouch had even left the country. On the way to the airport from the Grouchhaus, he realized he forgot his scuba computer and his underwater camera housing. A lot of good those fine products would do him sitting in a drawer in Beijing when he arrived on the Great Barrier Reef. Actually, it didn't matter because the day he left for said reef, he left the camera he would have used at a friend's house on the Sunshine Coast. Want to see the Grouch's photos from his trip to Australia? There aren't any.

There was also the lack of connectivity on the Sunshine Coast. That certainly did a lot to help the Grouch ruin a business relationship that had been forged out of the kindness of the other party. But it gets worse.

And yet in the midst of this unpleasantness, the Grouch had no idea that the worst was yet to come. There was the chilling moment when Brisbane's airport was closed due to bad weather, and the white-knuckle wait as he contemplated what would happen if he didn't make his 7:00 am boarding call in Cairns, especially since the Grouch in his foolishness did not buy cancellation or travel insurance.

None of this prepared the Grouch for what awaited in Hong Kong. During a routine e-mail check, the night before his beloved Apple Powerbook G4 was to go in for a new titanium case, acrid smoke began billowing from the keyboard. Usually, this is not a feature the Grouch looks for in a laptop, the smoke-machine feature. It kept coming and coming. The Grouch began to contemplate alerting the front desk staff, and searching for a fire extinguisher. But before any tongues of flame emerged, the smoke stopped.

The next morning, the Grouch, remembering the incident involving "Sex in the City" character Carrie Bradshaw when she failed to backup her data, decided once more to fire up his machine, hopefully not literally. The machine came on, no smoke. The Grouch slapped in his iPod, dragged icons en masse to it, and copied those suckers as fast as the RAM could carry them. Good thing too–in a later start-up, the computer's fingerpad mouse, then screen display, both failed.

It's a horrible thing to lose one's computer. It's even more horrible when it's not under warranty. To the creative class, a laptop is like a ship to a pirate–it's not just a meal ticket, it's freedom. Now, instead of sitting in Starbucks with the Grouchfeet up and a cold beverage, the Grouch has to sit in a cubicle in an office–using just one of those phrases is enough to make him shudder. Sure, the data's backed up, but that's like having $10,000 in a safe deposit box when you have a medical emergency and need cash.

More than anything, the Grouch guesses this is a statement about the nature of technology. Data's of no use unless it can be retrieved. It's only as good as we treat it.

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