Writing on the Road

A lighthearted view on the trials and tribulations of “going mobile” with your computer, your work and your life. Written by a Kentucky Virtual Assistant…

I just “jumped over” into the world of MOBILE computing! I can now work from “virtually” ANYWHERE! I bought my first laptop and cannot believe the freedom of this 3.5-pound wonder. I’ve wanted one for years, but could never justify it. With my life-style and mobile work-style, I finally managed to convince myself that I needed one. It arrived two months ago. It has been in arms-reach since the moment I unpacked it.

You must understand, I’ve always been a nomad at heart. The laptop fits perfectly into my philosophy. I have always loved the idea of minimizing needs, shunning most of my “worldly possessions” and miniaturizing the ones I must have. Most people I know started buying DVDs because they had better quality and more options. But, for me it was simple: I went to DVDs because they take up less space.

In a former life, I was probably a turtle.


In THIS life, one of my goals in life is to spend a year on the road. I want to discover this great country towing an Air Stream Bambi behind a Jeep Wrangler. For those of you who don’t KNOW what a “Bambi” and a “Wrangler” are, my condolences. But to accomplish this, I must be a nomad – with few items and smallish equipment.

My satellite dish (once the technology has advanced enough to make it feasible) will be affixed to the side of the Bambi for an instant, ongoing Internet connection for my laptop computer. I figure the technology will be ready by the time I can actually do this. But, at that time I’ll be able to take my work with me and just GO. Nothing will hold me down! I’ll return to the cabin on the farm when:

  • I tire of the open road
  • I get homesick
  • Snow flies

But, for now, all the kids are still at home. Right now, they still require rearing. So, that dream of a nomadic existence will have to wait a few years. But, I have my laptop and that IS a step forward!

I’m enjoying life more now, and I can write in whatever environment inspires me. I’m no longer tied to my desk in that dark corner. I’m free! It’s just as I always dreamed it would be… I pick up my tiny, lightweight laptop and I’m off!

Well…

The laptop and the auxiliary mouse with the Internet navigation buttons. I quit trying to do that little touch-pad thing in the first few hours of real work when my hand started cramping up and resembling a claw. And scrolling up to hit the “back” and “forward” buttons on the browser make me crazy now that I’m spoiled to my optical “Internet” mouse. Besides, I had to disable the touch-pad. I would be typing along and my thumb would graze it. But, I’d continue my oblivious typing for several sentences before noticing that the cursor had jumped up two paragraphs. It created some interesting sentence structures.
It frustrated me, so I bought a second optical mouse to carry. It is the only REAL necessity outside the laptop itself…

Except for the power cord. The batteries only last two and a half hours and I usually type for more than that in a single session. So, I’ll need to be able to “power up” with a plug.
Come to think of it, it’s kind of like having an infant again. It’s this tiny, cute little thing that needs to be “fed” every two to three hours and has all this stuff that you have to tote around with it. And it’s STUFF weighs more than it does.

The interchangeable drives, for instance, I have to carry those. And the software disks – just incase I need one. You know how programs are always popping up (at the worst possible moment) demanding their CD. I found a great case to carry 90 or so of my favorite disks safely in their tiny paper-thin plastic sheathes. I even have my top 10 favorite music CD’s with me whenever I leave home.

And, since I got the DVD drive, it only makes sense to include 20 or so of my favorite movies, just in case I have a spare three or four hours, while traveling and working on contracts, in which to watch a couple of the old classics. Yeah, it will be just like being at home, only smaller and with tin-sounding speakers. So, I guess I need to take the headphones to get the stereo sound so I may fully enjoy the theatre experience of my tiny 13-inch screen — when I have the time, that is.

Oh, and I had to get a portable power surge protector. I’ll take no risks with my brand new baby. Of course, I also had to have a properly padded case to keep it safe.
My tiny little laptop now weighs about 40 pounds when slung over one shoulder.
I’ve finally named my new laptop, utilizing nearly the same philosophy that men use when they name their cars. Its name is “Albatross,” I call him “Al” for short.

Al is great and the kids are green-eyed when they glance his way. Perhaps because they want to play with him – which is strictly forbidden –or, maybe it’s because they fear that this will mean even MORE of my time will be spent working and even LESS time playing with them. Most likely, it is some combination of the two.

Perhaps some type of rivalry does come into play with my children. I know it does between the desktop and the laptop. The desktop hates it’s new rival to a degree that can only be paralleled by siblings. I discovered that the weekend I tried to further increase my productivity by wasting the weekend trying to network the two. I have determined that the phrase “increased productivity” and the word “network” should never be uttered in the same breath. It’s an “oxy” which makes anyone who utters it a “moron”.

The desktop has my standard operating system, but the “new” computer (the “baby computer” as my four-year-old calls it) has the newer operating system. Needless to say, they don’t play well together.

It went something like this:

Me: “Al, can you see Bessie on your network?”
Al : “Who?”
Me: “Bessie. Good old stable, Bessie. Can you see her on your network?”
Al: “Who?”

So I move to the keyboard in front of Bessie.

Me: “Bessie, can you see your little brother on the network?”
Bessie: “I don’t have a little brother, I’m an only child”
Me: “Please play nice with Al. You will love him in no time, I promise.”
Bessie “NO!”
Me: “But we need to be able to trade information, I need to use your larger, better hard drive to store things. His is so small and yours is so NICE and BIG!”
Bessie: “I don’t want his stuff in my space”
Me: “I wasn’t asking you, young lady, I was telling you! Now, go look for your brother!”
Bessie: CRASH!

So I reboot Bessie and check all the security settings, make sure that the firewalls are down on both sides and disconnect and reconnect the network line. I reboot Al just for good measure.

Me: “Al, can you see Bessie now?”
Al: “Yes I can, and she’s funny looking”
Bessie: “Shut-up!”
Me: “Be nice Al! Bessie, behave! Honey, can you see Al?”
Bessie: “Who?”

Finally, after two days and one all-nighter, I got the two to acknowledge each other’s existence, but Bessie still wasn’t happy. Al was ecstatic.

Al: “Lookie, Mommy! I can see Bessie! Wanna play, Bessie?!?!”
Bessie:”Sure you go hide and I’ll come find you … later… MUCH later”
Al: “Awwww, Bessie, c’mon, let’s play! Wanna sync files?”
Bessie: “No! Mom, he is TOUCHING me!”
Al: “Am not!”
Bessie: “Are too!”
Al: “Am not!”
Bessie: “Wahhhhh!” CRASH!

At this point, Bessie still refuses to play with Al. Al can back up to Bessie’s 80 gig drive and pull and swap files, so I guess that’s the best I can hope for right now. They will eventually like each other — I just know it. And as soon as I have another weekend to burn, I’ll try again to win over Bessie.

But all those issues aside, the fact still remains that I’m writing this now, on my little buddy “Al” while sitting on the bank of beautiful Goose Creek, in southern Kentucky. As I type, the eldest child is fishing, the middle son is splashing and playing with the dogs and the four-year-old is chasing her favorite insect – a butterfly.

Life is good. And being a part of this WHILE working, is all a result of the purchase of my “albatross.” You should get one.

Really.

© Copyright 2002 by Angela Allen of www.WickedWriter.com

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