Tuesday, January 17 2012
Today I took delivery of an Intel Core 2 Quad processor, which was a cutting-edge processor about five years ago (which is perhaps one or two years further behind the bleeding edge than I usually like to be). In using it to replace a Core 2 Duo on Woodchuck's motherboard, I would be getting a computer capable of doing twice as much per unit of time. At first I thought the replacement would be easy, but I hadn't counted on the clunky imperfection of a 3rd-party CPU cooler, which had never really fit my Foxconn motherboard. Today I had such trouble getting it back in place atop the new processor that I took it out to the shop and drilled a couple more holes in it to better match the motherboard's holes. This worked well, and the only glitch after that the computer wouldn't come out of hibernate. It seems that a computer that goes into hibernate with a Core 2 Duo cannot wake up with a Core 2 Quad; it must be rebooted.
The fact that a five year old CPU can still be considered useful as a processor for a computer professional underscores the declining power of Moore's Law. Today's cutting-edge processors only work about three and a half times faster than the Core 2 Quad, while Moore's Law used to give us nine or ten fold throughput increases in that amount of time.
Gretch had a series of mishaps today, not all of which I am going to relate publicly (and one of which was less of a mishap than an instance of karmic churn). It all started when she learned that not enough prisoner-students at Woodbourne Correctional Facility had signed up for a class she'd been planning on the sonnet. She'd been pouring over books and vastly articulating her knowledge of the material, but all for naught.
Feeling demoralized, she didn't feel like doing much to prepare dinner, so she suggested that we bust into two delicious-looking packages of frozen Thai food we'd bought at Trader Joe's. Once microwaved, they looked good (but nearly as good as the photograph on the packaging). Unfortunately, though, some genius had decided one of their spices must be lavender, and they tasted as if someone had shredded a bar of soap into them. They were nearly inedible, but we (mostly I) ate them anyway. Unfortunately I'd bought two of each.
The mishap that might be better-described as karmic churn began at about 7pm, when Gretchen got an email from Jenny, the woman whose memoir Gretchen is ghostwriting. It contained the manuscript with correction and reference confirmation assignments, all of which Jenny was supposed to do. And though she'd had the manuscript for eleven days, she'd only looked at it two days ago and only tonight (when it was due) decided she couldn't do her assignments. So she was sending it to Gretchen to have her do it instead. You can imagine what Gretchen thought of this. In the past when Jenny has insulted her or made unreasonable demands, Gretchen has sucked it up and soldiered on. Jenny is famous for bad mouthing and trash-talking, and Gretchen didn't want to be on the receiving end of that in the course of, say, a nationwide book tour. But tonight Jenny had gone a step too far. So eventually Gretchen called her up and tried to make Jenny see what a terrible position she was putting Gretchen in. Jenny responded with all her usual crude rhetorical devices, claiming that Gretchen was trying to wriggle out of her obligations as ghost writer and that, really, she should understand that she's only working for Jenny. It's precisely this kind of entitled condescending bullshit that enrages Gretchen, and she pointed out that no, they were both on the Penguin contract to write the book and that, furthermore, she, Gretchen, had worked extremely hard and repressed a lot of rage just to get this book written despite Jenny's constant procrastination, infuriating demands, and counterproductive editorial churn (a chrun of a different sort).
The conversation spiraled downward from there, as an increasingly livid Jenny began calling Gretchen an "obnoxious twat," and a "snooty bitch." She also promised to do everything she could to get Penguin to remove Gretchen's name from the book and to get her percentage of the advance reduced. I sat in the living room for the whole thing; it was by far the most interesting thing happening in rural Hurley at the time. At some point Gretchen turned to me and said something and Jenny, who was suddenly shamed by the fact that someone else might be witnessing this, hung up.
"I guess we're not going to their party on Friday," I said. "No, we're not," Gretchen agreed. She barely had time to tell me all the juicy details before the phone rang.
It was Jenny again, who opened with, "Are you done attacking me?" (oblivious to the fact that she had been the one lobbing all the ad hominem attacks, comically-generic though they'd been). I don't know if her husband Doug had talked her down or what, but suddenly she was a lot more contrite. She apologized for everything she'd said, blaming it on nicotine withdrawal (among other things). Of course she wasn't going to try to get Gretchen's name off the book or reduce her fraction of the advance. She didn't know what had gotten into her.
Still, despite all that, there's no way Jenny is ever going to do the work she'd been assigned and so Gretchen's going to have to end up staying up late working on it. But at least she got the chance to give Jenny a piece of her mind.
I should end this tale with a piece of foreshadowing that would have to appear in the novelization of this story. Back when our friend Deborah worked for Jenny for a few months a couple of years ago, a similar altercation happened. Deborah, unable to do the impossible for Jenny, was first yelled at, then verbally abused, and ultimately fired. (There has been reconciliation since, which is also part of Jenny's pattern.) It seems Jenny often subjects her employees to adolescent rage (as well as low salaries). And then she wonders why she can't keep good people.
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