The Goddess Speaks

By Treena Shapiro

Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Reality bytes in
the life of a luser

MY 3-year-old son Corwin's genes have computer geek encoded all over them, and he never tires of reminding me that I am a technologically-inept "luser." (According to The New Hacker's Dictionary a luser is "a user; esp. one who is also a loser.")

It started when he was still pretty immobile. About the time he was 6 months old, he gained enough control of his arms to maneuver his palm to my keyboard and slap it in just the right way to shut down whatever program I was working in -- without allowing me to save the work, of course.

Need proof that I'm a luser? Despite the fact that this has happened hundreds of times over the past few years, I still rarely save works-in-progress and almost never back-up to disk unless I have to move a file to another computer.

When Corwin was a year-and-a-half old I bought a computer with a magic button that launches any program with a single push. It took me a couple weeks and some help from my friends to figure out how to make it work, and I eventually got it to automatically dial my Internet service provider.

The thrill of being able to connect to the Internet with the push of a button was immense. After all, that glorious button shaved almost two seconds off my previous method of guiding my mouse pointer up to my shortcut bar and clicking the dial-up icon.

MY joy soon faded, however, and I realized why many techies shun those user-friendly innovations. It's because they are tools for evil. It took Corwin about 23 hours to learn how to use that button against me.

The problem is that once it's pushed, it automatically activates the modem and disables the telephone line. So if Corwin pushes it while I'm in the middle of a conversation, the phone goes dead. And there's no way to stop it. Sometimes I manage to shut it off before the other person hangs up, other times they just decide I'm rude, or an idiot. But really, I'm just a luser.

My latest humiliation occurred at the hand of a computer game. "Blue's Clues Birthday Adventure" is aimed at 3- to 6-year-olds, so I figured it wouldn't be a problem, especially since Corwin can load the CD-rom for us. The way to complete the game is to locate three clues and six noisemakers, while taking part in a number of educational skills-building activities.

The first time we played, it took us about a half-hour to find two clues and one noisemaker. We turned it off to do something else and, although I could have sworn that I saved our progress, we ended up having to start over at the beginning the next time we played. This time we found the same two clues quickly and picked up a couple more noisemakers. But after an hour, we were still short a clue. Corwin gave up, but I kept playing, even after Corwin fell asleep out of loneliness and boredom.

Six hours later, I decided to go to bed, still clueless. My sleep was restless with frustration, so I was ready to wake up with Corwin and, even before I gave him breakfast, I powered up the computer and forced him to play with me. It took him all of 5 minutes to find the "secret" sandbox and the third clue. Five minutes! The kid can't even use a mouse.

But it just goes to prove that he's a geek-in-training, and I, alas, am merely a luser. But you know what? Corwin failed to locate three noisemakers, and after several months, I'm only missing one.

Treena Shapiro is a Star-Bulletin intern.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
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