Whiplash: Computer Crash

When it happened I wasn't brave. My heart lurched like Uhura and Sulu during a bridge-rattling attack on the Enterprise. "It'll be OK," I chanted moronically, clutching my rib cage and pacing. But it's been 10 days since my computer meltdown, and still I pace. My fingertips long for the velvet click of those smooth grey keys. My ears crave the sound of her plucky little hard drive spinning. My eyes yearn to gaze upon that consoling LED. And my brain aches when I ponder how much information got eaten. I paid the computer paramedics $120 an hour to come to my house on a Sunday. They palpated the comatose hard drive and found that my AWOL data were spewed throughout the RAM universe as if dispersed by a malevolent internal Big Bang. "Your FAT needs to be rebuilt," they said. Ahem. I spent Sunday night trying not to think about the letters, phone numbers, notes, addresses, essays, research files and Whiplash columns splattered amidst numerical gibberish and unintelligible byte-babbled profanity. Five hundred clusters of unlabelled, untraceable "stuff." After piecing together this week's column (notice the sutures?), I carted my electronic invalid off to specialists who said the FAT was fine. Elaborate tests ensued. Just when life support was about to be disconnected, another meltdown occurred. Uh-oh: "Intermittent failure." The most dreaded of diagnoses, particularly in conjunction with such pronouncements as "corrupted," "unrecoverable," "possible virus," "memory blight" and "bad chip." I sank into purgatory. Would we ever be reunited and, if so, will she ever be the same? Limping along on a borrowed, inhospitable computer, I was but a shell of a woman. I avoided the room in which we spent so much meaningful time together. I recklessly authorized prohibitive charges in the hope of saving her. I postponed answering my email. I entertained desperate thoughts. I trusted nothing. And yet, so help me, not once have I longed for those days when my biggest technical grief was that the lower-case m on my Underwood wasn't hitting the platen.Why exactly is an acre 43,560 square feet? It seems an odd number. --City Kid It IS an odd number. The word "acre," in wide use pre-10th century, defined the amount of land that could be plowed by a yoke of oxen in one day. Really. But precision-minded individuals were disturbed by the variables inherent in such a calculation -- how many hours did the oxen work, what was the soil like, how new was the equipment, how often did the farmer break for O.J. updates. So a couple of English kings decided to standardize the term. They decreed that an acre should be 40 poles long by four poles wide (or 160 square rods). The units of measurement, common to agricultural societies, now translate to exactly 43,560 square feet. But how much can a farmer plow in one day TODAY, here? Well, umpteen variables still apply, but according to a salesman at the Floyd Boyd Company, which markets farm machinery in Oregon, "with a good four bottom plow or five bottom plow you could do two and a half to three acres--an hour." An hour! (what most reckons now is not the stamina of your ox but the horsepower of your tractor). An acre, much like a million dollars, ain't what it once was.I heard somewhere that the body ties its need for nicotine with the need for oxygen. Noting that smokers generally don't breathe deeply except when smoking, I tried 10 deep inhalations before I lit up. I did experience hyperventilation, but I also didn't need a smoke! I even did this covertly in a bar and it helped. I was a two-pack-a-day addict who smoked for 17 years, but I quit for good in 1990. --Liberated Lungs There is no evidence that your technique will help other nicotine junkies, but I am printing it anyway, just in case. And because "10 deep inhalations before" many things can be a boon, I'd like to hear a lot more deep breathing out there.I heard on the radio the other day that Debbie Reynolds owns a Las Vegas casino that contains such movie memorabilia as the "Rosebud" sled from Citizen Kane. How can this be--wasn't the sled incinerated at film's end? --Once Burned And did you also think Debra Winger really died at the end of Terms of Endearment? These are MOVIES, friend, movies. There were four sleds (few people know that sleds need body doubles). One was indeed destroyed in the film, another has been lost, Steven Spielberg has the third, and the fourth is on display at Reynolds' Hollywood Movie Museum in Vegas, where you can also see Sonja Henie's skates, that famous white dress from The Seven Year Itch, and the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore -- well, one of the SIX PAIRS of ruby slippers used in the on-screen Oz (why so many, those pumps had scarcely more than a walk-on). If you want to pay the $7.95 admission fee, you can view some 3000 costumes on the casino strip. Reynolds has been collecting movie memorabilia since 1970, and she has uniforms from Bridge on the River Kwai and BOTH Cleopatra get-ups (Liz Taylor's, circa 1963, and Claudette Colbert's from 1934). At the "celebrity cafe" ($5 minimum) you can see Rip Taylor (did he make any movies? Never mind -- he's a show biz antique). And if you want to CALL the museum, you dial "7 Debbie" (I swear) and when you get put on hold, as I was, you listen over and over again to "I Hear the Cottonwoods Whispering Above" interrupted by "Abba Dabba Dabba" and Debbie's pitch. I needed a digestive purge by the time I hung up. The place opened on April Fool's Day of this year.Can too much coffee kill me? --Admittedly Addicted Soitenly. 100 cups in a four-hour period will do you in, and you'll probably die on the toilet.Send questions to Whiplash by fax (503-297-6620), Email (74710.3505@compuserve.com), phone (243-2122, ext. 320) or slug mail (822 S.W. 10th, Portland, OR 97205-2519).

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