Update - October 31, 2014: Thank all of you for your kind comments. It means a lot to me, and it was really heart-warming to read.
Here's a small update. I'm feeling better now than I did last week. My start-up time for work is still slow, but at least there's progress. The woman who ran over my sister came by last week, and thankfully she acknowledged and took full blame for the accident. She filled out the insurance form, and the repairs for the bike have been taken care of. Should the concussion ever develop into something more serious, (unlikely to happen, but still) we should hopefully also be okay insurance-wise. My sister seems to be feeling better lately. She has more energy and has taken up pestering me again, just for the sake of pestering. Everybody needs a hobby, I suppose.
The computer has been behaving well so far, which I'll take as a good sign.
Both my sister and my mother have been commenting on my acting and looking depressed, which I think might be somewhat exaggerated on their part, but nevertheless I then remind them that: "Well yeah, I've got a lot of things to do and I lost Max two weeks ago. I'm bound to look a little stressed right now." They both seem to think that the answer is for me to get a new cat as soon as possible, but I'm still not sure about that. They have some nice cats in the shelter right now, yeah, and I'd certainly like to have cats again in the future. But I'm not really the kind of person who gets a new pet immediately after losing the previous one. And while two weeks isn't the same as getting a new animal the very same day (some people do that), personally I had anticipated waiting at least a few months. So I'm still thinking about that for now.
Original post - October 24, 2014: Life sometimes throws you a curve-ball. And sometimes it just plants that ball right in your face. On purpose. Then brags about it on Twitter to its asshole friends.
I've been kind gone for 3 weeks in a row, and here's why.
So, October 7th, and I'm about to start on a new intense workday of trying to meet my (frankly ambitious as it is) deadline of hopefully getting the fourth revision of my dissertation done by the end of December. And just for reference, the thing was supposed to be done two years ago. To say that I'm quite fed up with it, would be an understatement.
I boot up my pc, go through my morning rituals to prepare to the tedium (i.e. grab a glass of water, feed the cat, stare sullenly at paperwork), and after the boot-up is done I open my documents. Or at least, I try to. When it takes 3 minutes to even open a single folder (20 minutes to boot up in the first place!) I go: "Hmm, that's new." The slowness does not go away after I wait a while, and in fact it gets worse, because it also starts to temporarily freeze up at random intervals. It becomes pretty obvious at this point that the machine is completely useless to work with, so I spend the rest of what was supposed to be a precious workday, and the following day trying to fix whatever the issue is.
Virus scan comes back clean. Memory test detects no problems. Drivers are up-to-date. Disc test looks good. Logbooks offer no clues in the slightest. I start eyeballing a recent Windows update as the possible culprit, but a system restore to two weeks prior fixes nothing. I just kind of throw my arms up in the air at this point and boot up in safe mode, to see if the problem persists.
So I order a new copy of Windows 7, figuring that whatever's been screwed up has been rendered beyond my ability to fix. In fact, at some point it just refused to boot up at all. (I mean, I don't pretend to be some kind of computer expert. Perhaps I did more harm than good, lol.) The new Windows key arrives in the weekend, and until then I make do by working on my mother's pc.
Sunday, October 12th, and I format the old girl and install Windows 7.
Aaaaand it takes 3 bloody hours to install, and by the time it's done it's obvious it's still in the same laggy state as before.
And my thoughts were: "Aww hell, it's a hardware issue."
Now for reference, my pc is about 5 or 6 years old. At this point most people would label it ready for replacement, but it had a new graphics cards, PSU, and two shiny new hard drives, so I'd figured I could probably squeeze perhaps two more years out of it. Except, considering that I already eliminated the RAM and various other parts as the possible causes, that only left me with two likely candidates: the processor or the motherboard.
Yep. That's new pc time right there.
I made an appointment with my much more computer-savvy brother for the next Tuesday, to come over to his place and pick out new parts.
Tuesday, October 14th. I got up and told my sister that the day before, I noticed that my cat Max was not himself. He was completely fine on Sunday, but on Monday he seemed to have lost his appetite. So that Tuesday morning we made an appointment with the vet to have it checked out. To keep a long story short, it took the vet over an hour to narrow the problem down. It wasn't a stomach flu, as I had anticipated, but HCM (or acute heart failure) paired with arrhythmia. Apparently it's typically hereditary, and it tends to fly under the radar for years before it finally strikes. So we got sent home with some pills to help ease his breathing and to help his heart beat more normally, and we got told that his life expectancy at this point could be expressed only in months.
This is the kind of news that knocks you off your feet of course, but unfortunately it got much worse in less than a day. Apparently the heart problem had already existed long enough to allow for blood clots to form, and when the heart medication improved Max's blood circulation, one got lodged in his aorta overnight. I'll spare you the details, but it was unsettling and deeply distressing. He was essentially paralysed from the hips down, in incredible pain, and in full panic-mode. The vet told us his chances of surviving this were practically nil now, but considering he still seemed to have some fight left in him we gave him 24 hours with all the medication needed to try and pull through.
Unfortunately it was not enough, and it became pretty obvious that he was starting the feel pain despite the pain medication. Even if we had gone on for days, he wasn't going to improve. This much was obvious. On Thursday, October 16th I had my little friend put to sleep, since it was the only thing I could still do for him.
Max was one of the most social cats I've ever known, and he was friends with almost everybody in our home (even the dogs to some extent). His death, especially at such a young age (8 years) and so quickly (two days) shocked us all deeply. He will be deeply missed, and to be honest it affected me physically for several days. It doesn't help that I don't have very many photographs of him, because we've only had him for 3 years and I was always so busy. I'd figured I'd have more time to take care of that later.
So there's a life lesson if there ever was one. Don't put this kind of stuff off.
Friday, October 17th, and even though I told myself I was going to work, I found myself not being able to just quite yet. Even so, I was feeling better than I did two days ago. I'm home alone and just spending most of my time sorting out my-emails and doing chores. At night I get a call from my sister, who was coming home from her shift. And she basically just tells me: "Yeah so ... I was hit by a van today."
"I'm sorry. What?"
Again, I'll just relate the short version. Apparently my sister was on her merry way to work, riding her bike (front of the pack, as always), when a van suddenly backed out of a driveway and onto the road. It was much too unexpected for her to do anything but faceplant straight into it. My sister later told me that her last thoughts before the collision were: "Sure, why not? A perfect ending to a perfect week."
The woman who was driving the van sounded, according to my sister, as though this had not been her first flattened cyclist, because it was almost as though she operated on some sort of scripted action plan.
Step 1: Get rid of the other cyclists (a.k.a. witnesses) with: "Don't worry, I'll take care of this!"
Step 2: Downplay damage to bike ("Ah, it's an old beater anyway" - front end was totalled), and face ("You're not bleeding!" - she has a concussion).
Step 3: Leave behind semi-intelligible contact details (we managed to make sense of them eventually).
Step 4: Make clean getaway.
Of course, my sister being who she is (even when dazed), still decided to spend the rest of the day at work as though nothing was wrong. Only later did she start to feel cramped, bruised and fatigued. Not that I can't say I wouldn't have done the same, if I'm honest. Putting work before physical well-being seems to run in our family.
Saturday, October 18th, and it's a bit of a crisis. My two young cousins are coming over for the week, and the house needs to be prepared. My folks are away for a few days, my sister is out of commission - I'm basically ordering her to go back to bed at some point -, so it's up to my second brother and myself to race to get everything done in time. It's then that I realise how exhausting grief can be. Doing simple chores doesn't normally wear me out like this.
The computer parts arrive, and later that night my older brother arrives to help me put everything together. This week's expenses: roughly a thousand Euros.
Monday, October 20th. I'm sitting behind my new computer, transferring my files and installing new programmes. Today I'm finally going to get some work done, I tell myself. Suddenly an ominous message pops up, telling me one of the hard drives is failing, and that I should immediately back-up my files. I'm not terribly concerned, to be honest. My files are backed up, my programme files are sitting safely on a SSD, but it still bugs me, so I investigate the problem. After some tinkering I figure out which one of the drives is most likely the problem, I see that it wasn't functioning properly, I format it when it asks for it, and then I run a disc scan which apparently finds and fixes some issue with the hardware. That's another workday gone, because I hadn't dared alter any files until I was sure the problem wasn't on the drive that was holding my files.
Now I don't know what to think about it anymore. Maybe the problem all this time lay with the hard drive after all? Even though I checked it? Even though it was sitting in a RAID 1 configuration?
Well, whatever. I'm definitely not going to put anything crucial on that thing anymore, even though it's now claiming to work fine again.
Today, October 24th. I just arrived home, after giving a guided tour or a church with medieval stained glass windows for a group of 50 medievalists. It's my subject. I know this church inside out. I've done it before. And for some reason I still needed 3 full days (and nights) to prepare for it. By the time I got there, I found the place to be a noisy construction pit, I got less time to speak than anticipated, and I found out that I had prepared my speech in the wrong language (Dutch, instead of English).
Thankfully I'm pretty decent as winging things in English, but still. At least the feedback was positive.
So those were my last 3 weeks. I can't promise that I'll be more active again from now on, because frankly I'm still bushed, and those deadlines haven't gone away of course. But at least I now have my own computer again.
So, y'know. I'll be around.
By the way, van-woman has been contacted and apparently she'll come over next Monday to discuss the damage. Not sure why that's needed, but fine. As long as she owns up to it. So far no actual apologies, though. She sounds like a strange person.