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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Not a Creature Is Stirring

Every once in a while, I try out some new (or not-so-new) piece of technology just because it sounds really cool. Most of the time, it doesn’t quite work out the way I think it would.

And more often than not, I keep on using the new (or not-so-new) piece of technology, anyway. Because I’m an idiot sometimes. Admitting your problem is the first step to a cure, I’m told.

No one ever tells me what the second step is, of course. So I wind up stuck with a bunch of technojunk I don’t really like, but still use anyway. You’d think natural selection would have whisked me off to the ether by now, but no. Somehow I and my ‘idiot for complicated crap that doesn’t work very well’ gene manage to survive. Pray to god we never reproduce; future generations would be doomed to substandard food replicators and prototype transmitter beams that scatter your constituent atoms randomly throughout the Kuiper Belt instead of beaming you down to the fridge for another beer.

Because that’s what my hypothetical descendants would use a transmitter beam for, that’s why. What the hell else would you use it for? Solving mass transit problems forever? Instantaneous globetrotting? Interstellar exploration?

Sounds like awfully thirsty work to me. I’ll stick with my idea, thanks.

Meanwhile, I’m stuck trudging down my stupid late nineteenth-century stairs for a beer, and shooting myself in the foot with early twenty-first-century technology. Like the computer I’m currently typing on, and its cordless mouse.

“It’s not like I’ve always wished I could click on things from the other side of the room, or down the hall, or from across the state line in Maine, where people click on those sorts of links all the time, from what I hear.”

Look, I”ll come clean. I don’t know why I bought a cordless mouse in the first place. It’s not like I’ve always wished I could click on things from the other side of the room, or down the hall, or from across the state line in Maine, where people click on those sorts of links all the time, from what I hear.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, who doesn’t like a nice moose in fishnet stockings or a lacy teddy? It’s not ‘weird‘.

Well, not if you’re a moose. Nyah.)

The point is, when I’m using this computer, I’m right here, at the desk, using it. If the mouse has a cord, or a tether, or one of those unbreakable pen chains from the bank, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going anywhere with it. And the keyboard’s not wireless, so how far would I get, anyway? A foot and a half? Oh, fancy day! I can mouse from the middle of the floor now, instead of sitting at the desk. What wondrous times in which we live!

So why did I buy a cordless mouse? Because it sounded cool. And because I’m an idiot. Not in that order — and not in equal proportion. If you weighed them against each other on a scale, my ‘an idiot’ would clang the table and send ‘sounded cool’ flying like a bag of goose feathers. No contest.

Still, the mouse was fine. It worked like any other old mouse, corded or not, and I was okay with that. Sure, I paid a little extra for the ‘free range’ capabilities that I never used — none of that driving down the street while mousing, or surfing the web at home while riding an Appaloosa through the SIberian steppe — but that was no huge deal, so long as it worked. Which it did.

For about three weeks.

That’s when I began to notice the pointer acting a little ‘sluggish’. I thought maybe it was just me. I’ve had entire weeks where I seem to move a few percent slower than the rest of the world. Who’s to say my mouse hand doesn’t suffer from the same affliction?

But the problem gradually got worse. Sometimes, the cursor wouldn’t move at all, or a click wouldn’t register. Finally, the mouse just stopped performing altogether, and the cursor sat motionless on the screen, refusing to budge. It was like having a little labor negotiation on my very own desktop. I thought maybe the mouse and cursor had formed a union together, and were staging a walkout to protest working conditions. Or to get me to stop clicking on those links that the perverts in Maine keep sending me. I fully expected to see ‘list_of_demands.txt’ show up on the desktop — but how in the hell would I open it? Alt-Shift-Control-ScrewThisI’llJustBuyANewComputer?

Just as I was pricing cashmere mouse pads and Googling — on my laptop, of course — to find out how many weeks of vacation is standard for a cursor these days, my wife swooped in and diagnosed the problem. She smiled sweetly and said, ‘You think the battery’s dead?

Well… no. No, I didn’t think anything at all. I’m the idiot, remember?

So I opened up the mouse, fished out a couple of spent Duracells and replaced the batteries. Immediately, the mouse and cursor were in sync and working together again. Strike averted! And I didn’t even have to cave on the worker’s comp package. I knew I put the missus on the payroll as a management consultant for a reason.

And things were fine, again. For another three weeks, when the next set of batteries crapped out. And then the next. And the next. And several more sets, until tonight, when I sat down to write this post, gripped the mouse to click the bookmark, and the cursor mooooooooooooseyed across the screen in the general direction I was indicating, and ground to a halt an inch or two short of the mark. Seems my three weeks are up again already. Jeez, it seems like it was just Christmastime when… oh, that’s right. It was Christmastime when I switched those last ones out. Out. Standing.

I did manage to coax the stupid thing to finally stretch the cursor over to my link. And, after letting it sit in ‘cooldown mode’ for a few minutes, got far enough to open this page and highlight the post area in which to write. But will I actually find a way to submit it, without hooking it up to a car battery or charging the defibrillator paddles between clicks? At this point, I have no clue. Every twenty-one days or so, it becomes a total crapshoot. Maybe it’ll work, and maybe it won’t. Maybe it dies completely tonight, or maybe it lags and stutters just enough to make me want to chuck it down the garbage disposal. Maybe it actually behaves for the ten minutes I need, or maybe it paints handmade signs and parades around the status bar with the cursor, chanting, ‘To hell with this joint; we won’t point!

God, I hate that stupid mouse.

So why do I still use it? Because it’s cordless. And that’s cool. Also, that transmitter beam hasn’t been invented yet, and my old Bronze Age corded ghetto mouse is all the way in the other room down the hall. Who’s getting up for that? Not me. Not while there might still be a hard-fought click or two I can squeeze out of this damned thing, and that link to MooseInGarters.com right there in my inbox. I may be an idiot, but I’m not stupid.

Permalink  |  3 Comments



3 Responses to “Not a Creature Is Stirring”

  1. kerry says:

    you’re doing better than me. i’ve just gone through my third, that’s right–third, cordless mouse. i can usually manage to get them to work longer than three weeks, except for this last one, without changing the batteries, but then at some point whether i change the batteries or not becomes moot because it still won’t work. and yet i keep buying them because i hate using the little mouse pad thingy on my laptop. i also don’t like having to deal with the cord from a regular mouse.

    the last cordless mouse i bought made this big deal about being made by the same people that make swiss army knives. i’m thinking swiss army knives must either be really crap these days or they just went in the totally wrong direction in deciding to make cordless mice because the thing crapped out on my after having only two weeks. i changed the batteries and it still sat there and stared at me.

  2. Charlie says:

    Sorry to hear about your input device woes, Kerry. Though I have to say, I’m not sure I would have trusted a ‘Swiss Army mouse’ in the first place.

    All I need is some doodad that points and clicks. Not one that points, clicks, cuts, unscrews, sews, pokes, slices, dices and opens tuna cans.

    Or in your case, unfortunately, none of the above, it seems. Hope you find a working one soon! I’m about three misclicks away from going back to ‘the cord’, myself.

  3. kerry says:

    i may eventually give in and go back to “the cord”, but i am so stubborn.

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