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December 03, 2006

I Has a Karma

First, I had yet another entry vaporized by a power outage, so to compensate you all for the loss of this entry, which would have changed your life forever, here's a picture of a kitten and some very poor grammar:


Second of all, what I really don't want is suggestions on how not to lose work when I lose power, or surprised commentary that I don't automatically save work, or whatever. I know all the ways not to lose work and you can assume hearing any of them just after I have lost some work is going to just annoy the holy living crap out of me. I mean, I appreciate the thought and all. But, really, no. Just, no. Hush.

Third of all, the reason that winter is power outage season here in the Scalzi household is that the mastermind who built this house put both the room that is my home office and the room that is the master bedroom on a single circuit breaker, so in the winter, when I run a watt-sucking space heater in a room filled with electronics and the lights and TV are on in the master bedroom, plugging one more thing into a wall sock will cause it all to shut down. In this case that one other thing was the vacuum cleaner. Snap.

The bitter irony here is that Krissy, who went out earlier in the day, asked me to vacuum the upstairs while she was away, and i said "sure" and then entirely forgot about it. So when she came home she decided to do it herself, plugging in the vacuum and entirely unintentionally consigning my work to nothingness and causing her husband, a man of normally mild disposition, to swear like a sailor dropped into a jostled box of wet cats.

After I came back up from resetting the circuit breaker, Krissy admitted to me her first reaction to having the power go out and me cursing was to think "Ha! Karma!" to herself. Because if I had vacuumed earlier, like she asked me too, this never would have happened. And of course she's absolutely right: Karma done kicked my ass. But, hey, at least you got a cute cat picture out of it.

Posted by john at December 3, 2006 08:56 PM

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Jon | December 3, 2006 09:41 PM

I think of this as a solution for the bad wiring decision in the house rather than a description of how you could avoid losing work.


John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 09:48 PM


Is it really that difficult to see that offering me a solution based on my wiring is just as aggravating as offering me a solution based on automatic saves, inasmuch as neither helps me now? Really?

I want no solutions! None! This is a solution free zone! If you feel like offering a solution, stop. Before I have to take a hammer to something.

Cassie | December 3, 2006 09:58 PM

I think the kitty is pretty, for, you know, a cat without bacon attached. Did you bambi-ize those eyes?

John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 10:00 PM

Nope. It's not my cat, just one of those cat pictures floating about the Internet. I think it's a Scottish Fold, which are known for their big eyes.

Cassie | December 3, 2006 10:02 PM

Then that is one freaky looking cat.

Chang, who gets nothing done without BRAINZ | December 3, 2006 10:12 PM

I offer you no solutions.

Used to happen to me all the time. My office was on the 3rd floor. Wife would vacuum or something and the circa 1910 wiring in our house would trip the breaker and whatever music or writing I was workingon would suddenly vanish. I would do my best to no get angry. Then I'd stomp 3 flights down and across the house to turn the breaker back on.

Stopped when we moved to Maine. But now all of my stuff is in boxes and the house is too small to trip a breaker.

P.S. Kitten cute.

KevinQ | December 3, 2006 10:14 PM

When your computer craps out like that, here's what you do:

You put that computer in a box, and then you put that box inside of another box, and then you mail that box to yourself, and when it arrives...


It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say!

Or, to save on postage, just post a picture of a kitty.


Dan | December 3, 2006 10:38 PM

There's some brilliantly bizarre elegance to the ancient power grid in my town. And, the best part was when my brother bought a house literally at the end of that grid. It was an almost constant brown out. On the plus side, I think his light bulbs lasted for years.

Now, as for some advice: go cook some eggs. You'll thank me later.


Paul | December 3, 2006 11:02 PM

Geez. Go ahead and take a hammer to something. Take it out on me, if you want. But go out to Office Depot and buy a freakin' UPS! I've spent more on your books than a good UPS would cost!

I apologize for violating the solution free zone, but I'm a guy AND a techie -- it's what I do.

Djscman | December 3, 2006 11:03 PM

You know, if you had something flexible and stiff, like some paper clips, and some adhesivey stuff like duct tape, you could make it so the ears on that cat won't bend over. Ot you could crop 'em, like a Schnauzer.

Ha! Kidding. Did you get "I has a flavor" from this very image intensive depository? Or is there some site that's even better?

I want a kitty now.

Julie | December 3, 2006 11:16 PM

Ok, as Paul's wife, I apologize on his behalf for the solution-free-zone violation. We have the discussion all the time about how men want to fix everything but women just need to talk it out, and he is obviously not respecting your need for a feminine moment. Please feel free to emote freely and I will keep his solutions muzzled.

On another note, thank you so much djscman for the kittycat pix link. The lapcat is purring at the monitor.

Julie | December 3, 2006 11:18 PM

PS - To build your karma back up, you should buy Krissy a Roomba for xmas or the gift-giving holiday of your choice.

Diatryma | December 3, 2006 11:21 PM

I'm not certain cat pictures count as poor grammar. They're in a class unto themselves.

And for the solution-free zone, remember: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

Mary | December 3, 2006 11:23 PM

I won't nag you about saving and UPSs and whatnot, probably because I'm so bad at it myself.

But may I gently suggest that you investigate purchasing a Roomba? It's a really, really nifty toy. Buying toys make people feel better. And dude, the company is called iRobot.

*spinning sound is heard from the vicinity of Isaac Asimov's final resting place*

Anyway, I rolled my eyes when my husband brought one home, but like the rice cooker, this is a surprisingly useful household device. You plug it in and let it charge in a safe, non-overloaded part of the house, then set it down in the area that needs cleaning. Surprisingly, the cats don't freak out over it, but generally sit and stare at it with that quizzical cocked-head pose. In fact, one of them was so relaxed about it that he lay down in front of it while it was working and was rather miffed when he got run over. (Sorry, no video.)

So, this is a suggestion. For a neat toy. A neat toy that will spur your cats to some kind of cute reaction. Not a solution. Nope. No solutions here. Honest.

Mary | December 3, 2006 11:23 PM

Julie snuck in with her suggestion while I was typing. Wah!

Julie | December 3, 2006 11:26 PM

mwah hah hah :evil laughter:

but I will concede your post was a bit more informative, Mary!

Cassie | December 3, 2006 11:32 PM

Mary and Julie,

So you're saying that Roombas can thwart karma?

Wow. I should look into that, but then, I have no cats. I'm sure half the value is the kitty reaction.

James Nicoll | December 3, 2006 11:35 PM

I believe that you could avoid unwanted suggestions, meta and otherwise, by simply boiling the Earth clean of all life, using a simple system that I have devised for just such occasions.

I call it the sun.

Please be warned that it takes roughly ten billion years for it to warm up properly. Bring reading material.

Kate Baker | December 3, 2006 11:38 PM

Okay, just because I'm mean, and while we're on the subject of posting bad grammar utilizing kitties...

Emo Kid

It's not because I don't like you Mr. Scalzi, but Karma is a beyotch isn't it? Trust me. I know.


Nathan | December 3, 2006 11:46 PM

Feeling your pain.

3 months ago, I sent my ibook back to mac 'cause it wouldn't startup. Oh, that Applecare. They sent it back 4 days later.

NOTHING on it. Phone call. "Oh, we installed a new hard drive", they said. "Where's the old one", I said. "In a large crate headed to India", they said.

Of course, they asked me why I didn't back up data more often. I asked them why they didn't fuck off and die.

Feeling your pain. No solutions offered here.

Annalee Flower Horne | December 4, 2006 12:06 AM

That sucks chunks. I hate it when that happens.

My house is like that too. My father the electrician hates having to touch our wiring, because there's no logic to which rooms (or parts of rooms, for God's sake) are on one circuit or another. As a child I had the advantage because my room somehow ended up on its own circuit, impervious to the doom of the dreaded large appliance. Now that room's the office, and I'm in a room (when I'm at home, which is not during the school year) on the same circuit as the interior wall side of the kitchen. The microwave has become death, destroyer of game progress.

Seriously, though, I'm sorry. It's really frustrating and obnoxious when that crap happens.

fishbane | December 4, 2006 12:14 AM

So long as there's a kitten, I'm good.

Wait, give me a second... I'm in ur novel consuming ur werds.

No, that didn't work.

Sorry. I got nothing.

Lisa, expecting a very confined, long winter with toddlers. | December 4, 2006 12:25 AM

In-laws gave DH a microwave/convection oven which was nice of them, even though we have a microwave and a regular oven/convection oven. And there is the little matter that when you use the convection oven on the microwave, the whole place seems to go up in smoke--several circuit breakers switch.

Yet, still...everytime Mother-in-law comes over, she wants to try cooking something like frozen french fries with that damn convection oven. And we tell her everytime that it will kill the power. And every time, we stand back and watch her try to do it anyway...because she knows better and you can't tell her anything. So, we actually go around and back up and turn off things to prep for her visit. It's crazy. But, I've been an angry nonbacker-upper many times myself.

Dr. Phil | December 4, 2006 12:25 AM

Scene: an old mining company house in Michigan's U.P., 1989. Machine: One of the last original IBM Personal Computers ever built. 4.77 MHz 8088, 640KB memory -- the works. Cat: Herbie the Wonder Cat. ~16 years old and qualifies as Schrödinger's Cat because she is half-dead/half-alive with a bad liver.

Phil, working feverishly on doctoral dissertation in applied physics. Writing the theory chapter in ChiWriter 2.13, under PC-DOS 3.20 (patched). "Herbie, don't go behing the computer desk. If you have a seizure back there, it'll be hard to get you out."

Herbie goes behind computer desk. Has seizure. Unplugs the surge protector. PC goes dark. File not saved in 3-4 hours because it "takes too long". Theory chapter disappears. Phil drags kitty out from behind desk and comforts her. Then mourns for all those equations.

Today own six APC UPS units for home and office machines.

Dr. Phil not convinced Big Name Author has learned The Lesson. (Sorry.)

Dr. Phil

Michael Rawdon | December 4, 2006 12:41 AM

I have a similar problem: Most of my downstairs is on the same circuit breaker. Often if I have my halogen lamp on and run the microwave at the same time - zzzt! It's even more fun at Christmastime with the extra lights up.

PixelFish | December 4, 2006 02:20 AM

Thursday night of last week, my bf and I spent a cold cold cold night, because the main fuse in his apartment busted. We went and flipped all the breakers, but no dice. Turns out the main fuse is in a different part of the breaker box, but we had no way of knowing that--and being that this was an apartment building, it seemed a good idea NOT to flip everybody else's breakers. To top this off, we could NOT engage in the normal time-passing activity reserved for when the lights go out in a cold cold house, because he'd torn a disc in his spine and I was on medication for another ailment. (It was very frustrating because I had some fresh books too, and NO LIGHT TO READ 'EM BY.)

Kevin Marks | December 4, 2006 04:53 AM

American wiring is odd and flaky, but at least it's less likely to kill you than UK wiring. However, when fitting a fan in my kitchen, it had 3 wires attached, and after shocking myself twice trying to get them connected, I got out a multimeter and found that the potentials between them didn't add up. apparently they were on 2 separate phases, and there was a diode between them somewhere.
This isn't a solution, but it is a handy hint for other readers - laptops help against brownouts, as the battery acts as a big UPS (in general - I once unplugged someone's in an airport while plugging in my power squid, and his PC shutdown).

Norwegian Woodsman | December 4, 2006 07:35 AM

Hey John!

Sorry for your loss (and everything else that is bugging you or will bugg you in any way).

I'm a first time "commenter", so I'll just go right ahead and say what I wanted to say (actually, I'm going to write it, but let's not be pickish about these things, m'kay?)

Norway suffers from being a terribly rich country, and as most norwegians; I suffer from this failure myself. That is why I haven't picked up "Old Mans War" before last night (had alot of other cheap fluff that I had bought that needed reading). Tomorrow I have my termexams in Maths, and because of YOU, mister Scalzi, I am going to fail.

So, what I'm trying to say is: 1. I love you. 2. I love kittens. 3. What the heck is two times four?

I hope the rest of your books are just as good. You may very well be my new favourite writer!

G. Jules | December 4, 2006 07:38 AM

Yeah, my home laptop shuts down when the power goes out. But that's because I've had it for almost four years now and the battery is shot. (Although my one major data-loss incident was actually triggered by a Windows fault. If I didn't have a really awesome techy friend, nearly a year of writing would have been in the trash. I have an external harddrive now.)

I third the Roomba suggestion. Just think about the adorable picture and video potential! And don't you owe it to yourself, as a science fiction author, to have your own household robot?

Ginny | December 4, 2006 08:59 AM

I'm going to honor this solution-free zone by high-fiving Krissy for ensuring that you never fail to do your housework again.

...or not. I've been trying to get my own husband to run a vacuum for 24 years.

Steve Buchheit | December 4, 2006 09:49 AM

Ah, cats and their bad grammer and spelling. I feel so at home with them. When I saw the cat photo I initially thought we were going to be treated to a "here is one of the animals that was flung from the roof" or a "raining kitties and puppies" post.

But, as everybody knows, cats don't believe in karma. They are creatures of pure dharma and live in the moment by nature, not nurture.

As for the nobackups/autosave, well, who do you think you are? A Superstar? Well, right you are. But the monitor will shine on.

I've slammed my head against that wall enough times that I do both. That command-S keyboard stoke is so ingrained that I have to stop myself (sometimes by sitting on my hands) when I know I need to save as a new file name.

John H | December 4, 2006 11:07 AM

An oft-recited proverb (by my mother) states that 'a word to the wise is sufficient.' John, you are obviously intelligent, yet your stubbornness in the face of so much lost work is truly foolish. Call it karma or kizmet, or whatever, but you know the easiest way to solve the problem and yet continue to drag your feet about solving it.

Perhaps Krissy will read this and decide to get you that UPS for Christmas. Or maybe she likes listening to you curse like a sailor...

Tripp | December 4, 2006 11:42 AM

Wow. I've been trained since youth to figure out problems and fix things. I'm good at it. I get PAID for it. It is one of the most difficult features to turn off. Fortunately I have at least some practice at STIFLING myself with my wife who many times wants to be heard and not fixed.

So - no solutions, but a somewhat funny story of my first PC printer that would shock me. Yeah, the frame gave me a nice 60hz tingle.

A guy at work explained that they'd run the hot wire to ground through a capacitor to filter it and since I had only a 2-prong outlet with no ground and the case was grounded I essentially had a hot wire (through a capacitor) wired to the printer case!

Bottom line is it came nowhere near killing me but damn I flinched whenever I touched it. I've had too many encounters with live 120V wires thank you very much.

Tripp | December 4, 2006 11:47 AM


..or not. I've been trying to get my own husband to run a vacuum for 24 years.

If a guy refuses to run a vacuum then he's not pushing the vacuum the right way.

Brian | December 4, 2006 12:03 PM

KevinQ, I see you and I both are fans of the same movie. :-D

... More broccoli?

Madeline F | December 4, 2006 05:39 PM

Commiseration here. My rented 1905 Oakland house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room/dining room/kitchen/spare room/outside plug has:

1 circuit. For the whole thing. And it's 15 Amps.

Come winter, with the downstairs in shade and made of single-pane windows (why wouldn't you want the house to be at the ambient temperature? 42 F is a fine temperature!), it's only by the grace of housemates with lives that we live in the electric age.

JD | December 4, 2006 06:00 PM

Madeline F:

Wasn't that the plot of Apollo 13? How to get everything they needed to run to start up on just 15 Amps? I feel for you.

Colin F | December 4, 2006 06:58 PM

You know, it's not the grammar in the picture that catches my eye - it's the spelling!

I *know* that in the context of an American web site it's correct to say 'flavor' but it just looks SO wrong to those of us raised on British spellings.

Cute cat though. It's a nice COLOUR.

Billy Oblivion | December 4, 2006 07:36 PM

to swear like a sailor dropped into a jostled box of wet cats.

Why would a Sailor curse when dropped into a box of wet pussy? For many of them that is a life-long pursuit!

Unless that sailor was a gay man, not that there is anything wrong with that. Or a straight woman, I guess.

Gwen | December 4, 2006 10:43 PM

Brian: And me! And me!
Although that's in fact the only line I remember very well at all, because I got to see the actress who did the voice for it recording it on the Disney Channel. That dumb Moviesurfers thing (can't believe I still remember what it was called) actually comes in handy when it comes to awesome evil-witch lines.

John Scalzi | December 4, 2006 11:24 PM

Billy Oblivion:

"Why would a Sailor curse when dropped into a box of wet pussy? For many of them that is a life-long pursuit!"

It's all a matter of definition, I suppose.

mds | December 8, 2006 04:35 PM

and causing her husband, a man of normally mild disposition, to swear like a sailor dropped into a jostled box of wet cats.

Clearly, you haven't hung around too many sailors. The sailors I know call a jostled box of wet cats "a fine night out."

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