This Is My Experience

I’ve had a number of comments and private messages about my rant about my MacBook Pro. People have pointed out that their Macs are reliable and they’ve never had a problem with them. People have also told me that their PCs are very unreliable. My initial response has been that’s all well and good, but it’s not been my experience.

On reflection my sour response is not really fair. My friends and commenters are simply telling me what has happened to them, just as I am telling them what has happened to me. They clearly live in a world where their Macs are trusted partners and PCs are not. I live in a world where my Mac is flaky and my PCs don’t give me any trouble. The fact that my Mac is unreliable won’t make my friends’ computers any less so. The fact that their computers work makes no difference to my wifi problem. We simply live in different emotional worlds when it comes to our computers.

Of course, this is true of everything, all the time. All of us react to events and the world around us based on our experiences and our emotions, our habits and our preferences. Thinking about it, I was reminded of something I picked up from one of Sol Stein’s books on writing many years ago.

Stein talked about an improv exercise in a drama course, where one of the students was told that she was a mother whose son had been unfairly expelled from school because the headmaster was prejudiced against him because of his skin colour. The other actor was told that he was a headmaster having a meeting with the mother of a boy who was a regular and compulsive troublemaker who created problems in class for all the other children. The student actors were told this in secret. Neither knew the information the other had been given. When they did their scene together, sparks flew. There were plenty of misunderstandings and conflicts based on the actor’s different perceptions of reality.

Stein suggested you replicate this technique in fiction. Give your characters completely different agendas in a scene, make sure they had a point of conflict and assume that they saw the conflict completely differently. When you describe the conflict from the character’s point of view, see to it that it is rooted in their view of the world. He thought this was a recipe for good dramatic writing and I agree.

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10 Replies to “This Is My Experience”

  1. Apple people have a cult like devotion to their products. Treat their advice as you would any other advice from a religious zealot.

    1. I can see a flame war starting here! Dons tin helmet. Ducks for cover.

      But seriously I am a (sort of) Apple person– or more specifically a Mac person– that’s what was behind my howl of anguish. Part of what makes yesterday’s response irritating and amusing in equal parts is that here you have a middle aged man so outraged with the failure of his expensive hardware that he’s prepared to vent in front of the few hundred people who read his blog. A bunch of his friends respond by telling him that *they* have no problems with their expensive hardware. The result was like poking sticks through the bars of a cage containing a bear with a sore tooth. It did not lessen my irritation. Eventually, I saw the funny side of it and starting thinking about what was going on. Hence today’s post :).

  2. Well, I could definitely rant about Macs on one level as much as I love them, that being that their touchpads and keyboards on their laptops at least are so fucking delicate and break so easily. Thats why I have two MacBooks – one has a fully functioning keyboard and a knackered touchpad, the other has a knackered keyboard and a fully functioning touchpad. And I’ll admit I’ve sometimes been tempted, just because it’s so incredibly cheap, to pick up something like an Asus Transformer laptop/tablet one of these days.

    1. With me it’s the trackpads– my last three trackpads have all failed within two years. Not totally failed though– that would be too easy. They just fail sometimes and send the cursor jumping all over the screen. Easily solved by using a mouse but annoying. It was your comments that clued me in to the fact that the problem might be the way I type. I was for blaming the software.

      As an aside I have been considering a post about the joys of the Surface Pro tear-off keyboard. One great thing about it is that you can simply get a new one when you wear out the last one. I would be wary of Asus hardware though– ALL of mine except the netbooks have failed at some point in the first two years. I have a post coming up about this.

      1. That’s interesting. I recently got an Asus phone and it’s brilliant (Zenfone).

        Surface is actually pretty interesting to me, except I’m still pretty allergic to Windows and it’s still not very cheap. Microsoft appear to have become good at hardware, however, which is why I got their highly-regarded portable keyboard to use with my iPad. Whatever the hell it’s called. In the future, I’m thinking I’ll just get myself a Mac Mini, previous iterations of which I’ve had a very good experience with, since all I’ll need extra is a monitor.

        All of this is why I believe tablet/laptops are the future primarily because the guts of the machine are behind the screen, and not under the keyboard/touchpad, that being the part of the device you most frequently come into frequent and hard contact with and which therefore carries the greater risk of damage.

        1. I like Asus– they are the most relentlessly and genuinely innovative PC company out there. They are not afraid to try new things and they are always pretty much unbeatable on price to performance. Unfortunately their quality control is shocking ( in my experience!)

          I think you’re right about the tablet/laptop thing, at the consumer end. One thing I hope takes off is Continuum. This is the Windows 10 feature that turns your phone into a PC– just connect a monitor and a wireless keyboard and its UI reconfigures to a desktop. It seems unlikely given Windows Phone’s poor performance in the market place but I love the idea.

          Asus did a brilliant Android phone/tablet/netbook a few years back that shows one way to make this work. The phone had a tablet sleeve that you could slip it into and it became a tablet. The tablet sleeve had a clip-on keyboard and voila a netbook. The way phones and their processors are going they are already the guts of what would have been a pretty powerful PC a few years back. I think one part of the future will be a combination of a concept like this and the Cloud.

  3. As long as it is played honestly to the reader I agree. Unfortunately, when it comes to movies or TV shows scripts it seems that this is overused and often in a deliberately murky way. Example: Mr.A arrests Mr. B because he has valid reasons to believe he stole something.
    There has always been bad blood between them.
    Mrs.B has intel that would set Mr.B free, but instead of providing it, she goes on a rampage against Mr.A because she thinks the arrest has nothing to do with the truth and it’s only about the bad blood.

    When I see this kind of things happening on the screen, it feels upsetting and unreal. Overemotional characters who see red and just don’t even try the obvious logic approach and constantly do stupid things are like cheating the viewer.

    You can find plenty of this in Falling Skies, a show where characters behaved so irrationally that I had to take breaks during an episode to calm down.

    Did you ever notice anything like it?

    1. I think honesty should be at the core of all writing, Davide, as well as giving it your best shot. You’re right about the fake quality of the conflict on many TV series. There was an element of that in the last Superman movie as well with Superman’s dad, quite unnecessarily sacrificing himself to keep Superman’s identity secret. Totally bogus. A pity too because mostly I liked the movie.

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