Plugged In

New USB keyboard, new USB mouse - and now the disk drive is failing. Gah!

A year ago, I thought four USB sockets was generous. Now, with plugin mouse, external keyboard, external hard drive, external CD burner and speakers, plus the option of a wireless dongle, eight would be useful.

Still, at GBP6 for a keyboard, GBP4 for a mouse, GBP40 for a 120GB hard disk and GBP10 for an external hard drive enclosure, there's simply no need to upgrade or renew hardware that's theoretically long past its obsolescence.

That, and the small matter that new computers are no more powerful than they were five years ago - except for the still largely unutilised duel-core system.

One of the problems the Strict Machines have - apart from a frequently ill singer, some lousy amplifiers, and a guitarist with temper tantrums that eclipse tsunamis - is that they've all got jobs. Specifically that two of them work long, unpredictable hours. So finding times when they're all free to practice and play gigs isn't easy.

However, Paul the guitarist has had a brainwave: When Fabio the drummer isn't available, replace him with a CD player! Which means getting good kind Kapitano to come up with real-ish sounding drum tracks, complete with fills and frills, for the fifty or so songs in the repertoire.

But don't worry they say, there's no great rush. Right now they only need tracks for fifteen songs finished for their gig in six days time. But can they be more-or-less done by Monday morning, please? Just so the band can practice with them.

The weather's been a bit weird recently - hot days that turn suddenly cold, moisture and wind, and two or three brief but intense thunderstorms per week. In the streets you can see people shivering in shorts or sweating in raincoats, dressed a few hours behind the weather's current mood.

I got given a dose of amphetamine recently - about one third of a teaspoonful, wrapped up in a cigarette paper and swallowed, known to the cognoscenti as a "bomb". After half an hour it kicked in and all sensations became...not exactly louder and brighter, but more detailed. The rain wasn't any wetter, but each drop was clearly visible.

We had the most amazing sex, of a sweetness I haven't known since I was twenty - except that when I was twenty I was much too nervous and ashamed to enjoy it. I found myself thinking, "The speed's given me the apparently traditional pounding headache and stomach cramps, so I really ought not to be enjoying this, but I can't stop burrowing my tongue into this fellow's ear canal because it feels so good. It's not even as though I especially like them."

After two hours we went for a walk, compared lives to see who was the most bored lately, and went back to our respective homes. Where I couldn't sleep for six hours because my head was buzzing. And then couldn't do anything but sleep for twelve hours. And still felt shattered afterwards.

So, not an experience I'd seek out again, but certainly worth trying.

Day four on the course - we were treated to a cringe-inducing "educational film" about how to behave at job interviews. In summary: be honest but only about nice things, be confident but submissive, tell the employer what they want to hear but surprise them, have a sense of humour but don't laugh, and never mention money. Well, I'm glad that's all sorted out.

Then for the rest of the day...absolutely nothing. Again. While pretending to scan the newspapers we exhausted two days ago for job vacancies we've already applied for.

Day five - more absolutely nothing, but without the newspapers. According to some inmates who've been through the scheme two or three times before, CDG are pretty useless at finding the work placements they promise, so it's not unusual to spend the entire thirteen weeks stuck in a room.

There are inmates there who've only done the most unskilled labour for forty years, can't read and have never used a computer. Not the kind to use terms like "soul destroying" - but they do, because it is.

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