Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Other people's Problems with Computers stories are like other people's dreams. Your own are, of course, absolutely fascinating, while theirs are kind of dull, because they happened to them, not to you.

This one's mine. And even I don't think it's one of the really interesting ones.

My computer, a very nice, fairly new Dell Latitude, wouldn't turn on a couple of weeks ago, while I was sick. I phoned the Dell helpline, sat on hold (actually lay on hold) for an hour while an irritating voice told me they'd be with me momentarily and I thought a) momentarily means for a moment and not in a moment, and b) whatever it means, you're not so why do keep saying that? Eventually I got a person, who told me I should be phoning the Gold Support Line, not the normal line, and I pointed out they keep the Gold Support Line phone number super secret and don't post it anywhere just to prevent things like that happening. And I copied down the number and phoned the Gold line, and it was picked up immediately by someone who fixed the problem over the phone (I had to unplug the battery and the power and hold down the power button for 15 seconds, and then everything would be all right. And it was.)

"Is there anything else wrong?" he said.

I should have kept my mouth shut. Instead I said, "Well, there's a tiny hairline crack in the plastic case on the front. I mean, you can barely see it, but maybe it should be fixed while it's still under warranty..."

"Not a problem," he said. "We'll send someone over to fix it."

Several days later a nice man came over, and swapped the cracked case for an uncracked case. "That's odd," he said, when he had finished. "Did your keyboard used to work?"

"Oh yes," I said. "It worked like billy-oh."

"Well," he said. "It doesn't now. I'll need some more parts."

He came back a few days later with a new keyboard. "That's funny," he said, after a while. "You'd think it'd work now."

He came back a few days after that. "You know," he said, "you'd think that with a new motherboard and new keyboard, and well, pretty much everything except a new hard disk, that the keyboard would work. There's nothing I've not replaced. Had you noticed any other troubles with it, I mean before?"

"No," I said. "It had a little hairline crack in the case when it arrived, but you fixed that."

He phoned Dell, and got authorisation for them to replace the computer with another, just like it only with a working keyboard. And today, a bit late, it arrived, with a slightly off-putting scarlet refurbished label on the bottom. And now I have to roll up my sleeves and will spend tonight and tomorrow loading all the software and files on it.... which is just a bit frustrating, because I ought to be making things up and writing them down.

And the moral of this story eludes me, except it's probably safer, if you have a hairline crack in a case that's never going to be anything else but a hairline crack you can only see if you tip it on its side when the light is right, not to say anything to anybody about it at all ever in your whole life.

Also I had this dream in which I was escaping from a grapefruit farm, pursued by people with hypodermics filled with botox.


Hello Mr. Gaiman,
You were reading Wee Free Men to your daughter, and then you took sick. Did you finish reading it and what did you and she think about it? Could you give a review, without too many spoilers? (Although, I will be buying it and reading it no matter if you printed the whole dang book.) Thanks, Dave

Yes, we finished it as soon as I was up to it, at a chapter a night. It's a terrific book: it's funny, but it has tremendous gravitas. Tiffany Aching's little brother has been stolen by a Queen of Faerie, and now, armed with only a frying pan and several thousand small kilted blue pictsies, she's going to get him back. On the way she's going to make her peace with her dead grandmother, and find out what a real witch school is. She's a frighteningly smart nine year old, and is the heroine of a very scary, very grown-up book.

The Nac Mac Feegle talk phonetically in Glaswegian accents, which makes it a joy to read aloud, even without Terry's knack of finding the perfect word at the perfect time for it.

And for those who wondered, I'm back to reading Krabat (aka The Satanic Mill) to myself at night before sleep. I don't think it would work as a book to read aloud to Maddy, but it's really a chilling piece of work.