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January 17, 2008

a clean well lighted place

This machine is filled with crap. Each time I buy a new one it asks me whether I want to move my old crap over. And I do. There’s no other choice.

It’s like a shopping cart.

I remember my first shopping cart. It was shiny and it squeaked a little. I’d put things in it carefully, arranging items so that I could keep an eye on them as I wheeled my cart around.

I loved my cart and my cart loved me.

The cart started filling up; it was a small cart. So I found a bigger cart and moved my things over. I’d find things that I had forgotten about , smile and play with them for a moment before burying them deep to make room for new things. "My cart knows me," I thought, "It’s a patient cart, waiting for me to dig through it when I have time. I’ll have time."

And then I got a bigger cart…and a bigger cart. And instead of carefully placing items and turning them over in my hands I just dump them all in. Once in a while I have to dig to the bottom, and my hands get all cut up from the jagged edges of unpolished, unfinished projects I started and aborted long ago. I push around this massive cart, muttering, and people ask, “What’s in the cart”. And I say “A bunch of crap” I say. I realize that the cart doesn’t know me. Its not trying to take care of me. The cart is me: a terrible version of me that has lost the ability to forget. And I’m helpless because it’s so hard to forget on purpose.

I just want a clean well lighted space. Instead I’m surrounded by all of these little icons and folders. Sure I can create a new folder, or a new document, but I’m keenly aware of all the clutter that lurks just behind the door. That’s where the bathroom is, and the kitchen…so eventually I have to open it and struggle as all the crap tumbles around me.

I want a different sort of desktop. I want a desktop that starts out clean and empty, and slowly discards things as time goes by. I want an operating system that has trouble remembering. Some days it would find nothing when I searched for “taxes”. Other days a folder might appear randomly on my desktop, reminding me to jump on the opportunity before it was too late. Files that surfaced would degrade over time, shrinking down, becoming fuzzy and round. Sometimes things would move to different folders, sometimes titles would be swapped, sometimes things would merge with other things in the strangest of ways. And whatever I had just made, or found, or stolen, would look so new compared to all of that.

If I am to have this mirror self, please let it be as broken as I am.

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Comments (42)

I know you might now want suggestions, but as is of all the internet, I'm going to give it to you.

First of all, I'd suggest reading/watching Kinkless Desktop at http://kinkless.com/article/kinkless_desktop

Second, there is a nice program out that that will automatically delete pointless files after certain dates or whatever you want it to. It's very useful. It's called Hazel at http://www.noodlesoft.com/hazel.php

Just an tip. I was in the same boat as you, but I keep my desktop clean so I don't go mad.

Posted by: Ali Karbassi at January 17, 2008 3:14 PM

Ze, maybe you'd like a third-party pref pane called Hazel (www.noodlesoft.com). I just found it myself. It monitors folders on your Mac and tidies up as needed. (Example actions: "Delete items on the desktop that I haven't opened in over one year." Or, "Move them to this 'vault' folder." Or, "Set the color of any document older than 6 months to red.") I wuv it. Especially handy for that new-fangled Downloads folder in Leopard, which in and of itself helps to keep my desktop tidy.

Posted by: Kevin at January 17, 2008 3:17 PM

Oh dear. The first two things that come to mind are a bit prescriptive. First, ever read The Muse in the Machine, by David Gelerntner? It doesn't exactly speak to the operating system you desire but DOES talk about the need for an emotional component in any meaningful artificial intelligence. (Gelerntner--who got his hand blown off by the Unabomber--does AI at Yale and is quite an engaging writer.) Second, something personal in response to how glum you sound. I've been experimenting with SAD light therapy. No side effects (unless you're bipolar) and it takes the edge off Dec/Jan/Feb/ without turning the brain into a soft-focus quiescent blob. I find it helps in the battle to get from zero to one.
On my screen your desktop looks quite beautiful. At first glance I thought it was some kind of electronic mosaic installation.-SDN

Posted by: susiedebbienancy at January 17, 2008 3:23 PM

Ahhh, I'm not alone!

Posted by: Carl at January 17, 2008 3:42 PM

We live in an age of "stuff". Stuff on our computers, stuff on our cell phones, stuff on our ipods, stuff in our homes. I'm of the generation ahead of you, Ze, so my stuff is mostly a plague in my home. Just plainly: TOO MUCH STUFF.

I'm not sure an operating system is what will cure it. I think it is deeper in our psyche, in our very souls. How to discern. How to let go. How to approach it, consider it, and leave it where it is rather than even 'putting it into one's cart' if it is not highly relevant and able to do good in our lives.

Ultimately, the discernment process is good work whichever 'cart' we are considering. Now I gotta go git rid of something!

Posted by: Bridget Qualey at January 17, 2008 3:53 PM

Whenever I used to update my desktop with a new hard drive I'd start fresh. But I used to use the old drive as a slave, just in case I needed that 'old crap'.
I never would, and when the next clean drive came, the old slave just went on a shelf. I never lost anything, but I still got to forget it all every year or so.

It's not so easy on the laptop now. I have to let go. I've learned to. I even smile at the digital sound of ones and zeros crunching out of my trashcan.

Posted by: ElGouldo at January 17, 2008 3:57 PM


Moving is the time you are supposed to dump the clutter. Just say no when it asks if you wanna move the crap.
It's best to clean when you are angry. It's easy to throw out crap when you are angry. Of course when I was younger, I kept a lot of crap. Now that I am older I am giving away all my stuff, simplifying life.

There is a Zen saying "possessions are a trap".

Even nature cleans out its crap... forest fires are nature's way of rebooting the landscape. Volcanoes and meteors are like reformatting the drive.

How are you doing on your 3 New Year's resolutions?

Posted by: Schmoopy43 at January 17, 2008 4:04 PM


Posted by: Ben at January 17, 2008 4:05 PM


Moving is the time you are supposed to dump the clutter. Just say no when it asks if you wanna move the crap.
It's best to clean when you are angry. It's easy to throw out crap when you are angry. Of course when I was younger, I kept a lot of crap. Now that I am older I am giving away all my stuff, simplifying life.

There is a Zen saying "possessions are a trap".

Even nature cleans out its crap... forest fires are nature's way of rebooting the landscape. Volcanoes and meteors are like reformatting the drive.

How are you doing on your 3 New Year's resolutions?

Posted by: schmoopy43 at January 17, 2008 4:12 PM

Yeah, tell me about it!

I've recently bought myself a new, shinier cart. On the surface - the desktop, that is - it is kept nice and clean. But, I am increasingly aware of the jungle that lies beneath that surface; a complicated matrix of directories and files, that I doubt the even whole of Ukraine could sort through in less than four months.

Posted by: Blackmirth at January 17, 2008 4:12 PM

There is another choice: next time you buy a new cart don't move all the old stuff to it right away. Just keep the old cart around an move things over when you need them.

After a short while it'll be clear what you can throw out.

Posted by: Paul at January 17, 2008 4:23 PM

You might consider pawning off the job onto an external hard drive. ...In the faith that the projects that are worthy of your current attentions will surface and demand it.

that way, your laptop becomes your present state and your external hard drive becomes your memory, a backlog of your experiences you can call upon when needed but that you needn't consciously sift through on a daily basis. (the whole thing about memory is it is constantly sifted through in order to figure out what we're looking at. You don't need to think about it or see it happening, it just does.)

So, before you in the current moment is a clean slate, a starting place, where you can 0 and 1 to your heart's content without all the coulda, woulda, shoulda of past... crap.

Each new cart gets a new hard drive. It's like a digital journal of your journey, a full sketchbook to peruse when needing inspiration. Or you can schedule forget festivals along the way. I say dump it all to the drive and only bring stuff to the slate if your current interests demand it. No sifting required, except by your Biographer or Hypothetical Interested Grandchildren or maybe Tabloid Journalists and Political Competitors looking for Dirt.

Technological compensation for technology's elephantine tendencies.

Posted by: Zea at January 17, 2008 4:51 PM

This is beautiful, and true, in a very real way.

Posted by: Amber at January 17, 2008 4:53 PM

you are not alone in this.

Posted by: rorr at January 17, 2008 5:09 PM

my solution: lots and lots of cds. *blush*

Posted by: Marianne at January 17, 2008 5:28 PM

what you need is a maid or a secretary

Posted by: cheerup at January 17, 2008 7:05 PM

Sounds like you want your computer to work like your brain. Wouldn't that be interesting? I think I would end up with quite a temperamental computer if that were the case - finding things have disappeared when I'm stressed or bizarre things organized in random folders. But think of sleep mode! The computer sleep mode would become a psychedelic show...

Posted by: Nicole at January 17, 2008 7:26 PM

Very nice. It does appear from this view that your last line is realized already. If the metaphor is mirrors, then I do wish at times the actual ones were not so reflective of the cart. I cannot click and drag the hours of worry that created the lines on my forehead. There is no new folder in which to toss the myriad giggles that created the ones around my eyes. And if I splurge and get a cleaner slate, it just won't look like me anymore and in very short order all the items will be recovered anyway.

In all practicality doing the girly fashion thing works. Four piles. Keep, toss, mend and donate. There are analogous things to it for cleaning up such a joint but each would define his own.

Posted by: Boo at January 17, 2008 8:01 PM

Write Room is the closest thing to a clean, well-lighted place I've found as far as word processing goes. Wish I had a suggestion for the desktop.

Posted by: Ním Wunnan at January 17, 2008 8:32 PM

The best thing I ever did was make the desktop have the largest possible icons. You can't put very many on it and they are big targets to click on. You have to move them somewhere else before they pile up quickly.

Set all your programs to automatically download to a folder called Downloads or Stuff or whatever and drop it on your Dock.

Other than that, I follow the tips on the Kinkless Desktop guide.

Posted by: Grant Hutchins at January 17, 2008 9:09 PM

i enjoyed that.

Posted by: nick at January 17, 2008 9:35 PM

Ah, old crap. We seem much freer without it, don't we?

Posted by: girlie_sportsracer at January 17, 2008 10:18 PM

Have you read any Jorge Luis Borges lately?

Posted by: Industrious Warrior Maiden at January 17, 2008 10:39 PM

fyi - if you have upgraded to Leopard, OS X 10.5, simply having that many icons on your desktop will significantly hurt the performance of your computer overall. New is Leopard is Quick Preview (or something like that) that generates actual thumbnail previews of all your files. If you have files visible on your desktop, Leopard will constantly be recreating those previews, since they're visible to you all the time. If you simply move them to your Downloads folder or to a subfolder on your desktop, it can significantly increase the overall performance of a 10.5 machine.

Posted by: joe at January 17, 2008 10:57 PM

You’re an excellent writer ze!

Posted by: Gen at January 17, 2008 11:22 PM

Some one stole my computer.
All my music, games, pictures, years of crap gone.
It was awesome.

Posted by: Skelly at January 17, 2008 11:56 PM

Just to mix the metaphor: it is our modern equivalent of our parent's basements/attics. (My own parents completely terrifies me. I'm sure there are things lurking in there, amidst the 1960s National Geographics, my dad's huge collection of obsolete electronics and functional satellite tracking station and the 40 years of shoes my parents have managed to collect in a bookshelf (?!).)

Stacks of memories and moments collecting dust. All in weird sort of order that used to make sense. Some of the photos are in albums and others are loosely thrown into boxes labelled MISC, sticking together by only their proximity.

Lots of broken stuff that (using the parent analogy) my mom won't let me throw out because there is some story there, some story she's not telling me, but that makes this seemingly useless object important to her.

I think that even in the mess: there is a beauty of memory. And while it might make sense to take a photo of the chaos and then throw a garage sale. . . There's something lovely about the dream behind things and the the wishes that have changed: even if it seems unmanagable.

As always the comments of everyone here and their gentleness really touches me. Thank you for always making me hopeful.

Posted by: ingrid at January 18, 2008 4:19 AM

you could buy a new monitor and a long ocean voyage.

we're all broke, some more than others, how would any one learn what compassion is otherwise?

Posted by: nailingcolourstothemast at January 18, 2008 9:04 AM

We live in an age of "stuff". Stuff on our computers, stuff on our cell phones, stuff on our ipods, stuff in our homes. I'm of the generation ahead of you, Ze, so my stuff is mostly a plague in my home. Just plainly: TOO MUCH STUFF.

I'm not sure an operating system is what will cure it. I think it is deeper in our psyche, in our very souls. How to discern. How to let go. How to approach it, consider it, and leave it where it is rather than even 'putting it into one's cart' if it is not highly relevant and able to do good in our lives.

Ultimately, the discernment process is good work whichever 'cart' we are considering. Now I gotta go git rid of something!

Posted by: Bridget Qualey at January 18, 2008 11:21 AM

I will drop a few pennies and nickels in your vicinity as I do all I can to avoid meeting your eyes... digital homelessness... such a blight... your squalor
embarrasses me!!

Posted by: Richard Walker at January 18, 2008 12:18 PM

someone (pssbly William Morris?) once said, if it is not beautiful or useful, then do not keep it in your house. i like to use that as a sort of mantra when cleaning things out. but the 'beautiful' part can be complicated. is something beautiful because one has beautiful memories associated with it? can i trust that my memory will recall that bizarre and delightful party i went to 15 years ago without the shoes, now creased and worn beyond repair, that i wore to the event? do i really needs physical talismans to cherish and learn from my past? does the my whole world need to be spacious and well-lit? can i keep an attic, or at least a cigar box?

Posted by: ergo at January 18, 2008 3:27 PM

although you probably got a ton of comments saying the same thing im going to, i'm much too lazy to read them, so here is my suggestion seeing as that is what everyone else gave.
first off, i would like to say (my little story on the matter, skip it or whatever) that my harddrive is actually named 'Clutter' and before it was named 'Other mind'
until about a month ago my desktop on my laptop had a picture of salvadpr dali looking face to face at a rhino. and this had been my background ever since i purchased my laptop up until a month ago. Over time the 100GB hard drive started filling up. Fast. by the 2nd month of owning my laptop i had more then half my memory taken up. but i had no idea with what. It did not bother me much because none of it really took up much room on my desktop, so i never really noticed the useless data stored in my computer. and until a month ago, or maybe more or less, my whole entire life, i had thought that if i let go of any little memory, threw out any small document or broken object in my possesion, be it a small doodle i had done in class. Everything was a part of me and if i lost anything i would lose a part of myself. as with your shopping cart, all these things that i normally did not pick up and only had a sudden memory of some day that i normally did not remember each time that i stumbled upon something while in search of whatever it was that i needed. and only about the time of that month ago (pardon my grammar if that didnt make sense) i realized that all of these experiences that i once had would always be a part of who i was and who i am, even if the actual material object or even memory of it did not come up into my consciousness. because if i kept clinging to the past, there wouldn't be any room for the present and the future. that i would be putting more effort in reliving the past, instead of using what i learned to progress with my life. and so, after this epiphany (hooray for fun words) i packed up all these past objects into boxes, with the exception of things that i would see and use everyday which would remind me of important times in my past. and so, the enviornment that i lived in, which was messy, unorganized, and dirty, which was what i woke up to and lived in and therefore made my life the same messy thing and dealt a constant blow to my self esteem because i was allowing myself to live in this filth. and even after all the small things from my past were packed away, some discarded, i did not feel that i had lost a part of myself, instead i felt that i made it even more a part of me and that i could use that past to better the future rather then sit around cherishing things long past and trying to relive them.
yea, thanks for letting me store that somewhere, where i might stumble upon it at a later time.
anyhow, back to the issue at hand.

my computer desktop too was filthy. now here let me emphasize that a (my) Windows computer is sooooo much better then a Mac, given that i have lost hours of work on a Mac and only at most 15 minutes on a Windows. and then the Mac saved things that were just completely useless instead of the data i wanted saved. but thats a whole different topic.
yes, so my computer's desktop got very crowded and even my attempts to outline the background image were no longer keeping up. so. i took most of the files on my desktop and through a strange and twisted fate, i ended up copying all the files and having double the mess. some of which i manually deleted and then out of impatience dumped almost all the contents into the recycling bin. only afterwards i realized that dumping a large amount of data into the recycling bin makes it actually get deleted. thankfully, a lot of the things were only shortcuts. and so, the left over files got put in a folder that i named 'stuff' and made the icon invisible and then put it in my documents. then after mourning the loss of files. i realized that i didn't even realize what was missing. except for some french techno, which i then just downloaded over again. now i had a clean desktop. but the black and white photo in the background reminded me too much of the :( past desktop. so i found an incredible super high quality picture of the sun shining through a tree (i had searched "tree of life" in google) with brilliant colors of mixing purple, light blue, pink, yellow and a huge variety of shades of colors that i did not know the sky could assume, with a field of wheat that was in full focus. and took this image and set it as the only thing that i would see on my desktop screen. with the exception of a note file and a folder, that is really not visible. and then downloaded Rocket Dock, and set it to come up at the top of the screen. the feeling of freedom and ability to do anything rushed through every part of my body. every now and then i would add a program to my Rocket Dock when i feel that i will use the program atleast once each time the computer is on, and easily organize it. This beautiful desktop worked the same way as my clean room. it gave me the ability to concentrate on the task at hand rather then the clutter of icons that was in the folder named stuff. with this ability to concentrate and understand my needs i was able, little by little to sort through the tangle of objectsin my computer, putting certain items in the Bin incase i might ever have to restore it. and clear out all the programs (but not the projects such as a flash, or a house that i made in the sims)
old pre-nstalled photoshops, games that i never played, and things that i had no idea how they got there. thats atleast 30GB. of items that i never ever used and therefore had no memory linked to them. and all the cluttered icons sorted into categories and folders, which finally gave them meaning and use.
which is the beauty of a computer, it does not think for itself, it does not take the material space that the items it holds would normally take, and it can forget completely.
the mind with its emotions and such is what you wwant in a computer but if you were to have such a computer that thought for itself, it would completely destroy the purpose of the computer. instead another person who is close to your ideas who can share the memories you have and discuss and reminice on them is the better substitute to a cold machine that forgets. the use is unique for each, and the way it can be applied is the purpose of itself. (sorry that last sentence didnt make sense.)
yea, thanks for letting me write down my thoughts. if you read them and got anything at all from it, then im happy, and if i wasted your time then im sorry, but still thank you for the spce and opprotunity you have goven me to think and wirte.

Posted by: Yashinka at January 18, 2008 4:45 PM

The brilliants folks over at 37 signals recently had the analogous iTunes situation covered in their blog:


Posted by: Joe's Brother at January 18, 2008 5:40 PM

The simpler my life is, the more free I feel. I move a lot, and every time I get rid of all of my belongings, I feel great. There is the occasional shirt or pair of socks that I miss, but ultimately, I don't think of those objects/memories once they are out of my sight. I am a sentimentalist, and yet, I don't place much stock in the worth of "things." The things I need to remember, i have faith I will remember. Similarly, it helps keep me from remembering things that do not serve me to remember. I try to leave off things that don't serve me.
I like Bridget Qualey's response. It is thoughtful. Why do we collect things that we will never, honestly, come back to, things that are no longer useful to us after we have experienced them once. It is a matter of being realistic with ourselves, acknowledging why we keep things around, and getting to where we feel safe letting them go.

I always assumed that Ze would be a person whose desktop would be blank, someone whose e-mail account might contain 5 messages at any given time.

I also think that your desktop is not your only mirror. We are also your mirror. And we adore you.

Posted by: habile b at January 18, 2008 6:35 PM

I originally sent this as an e-mail to ze. He asked me to post it as a comment. I apologize for the questionable English and long sentences; it was stream of consciousness. I did some mild editing and fixed some typos before posting it here.

ze, I know your pain on this subject. I have two computers and a 160GB external hard drive, not including my flash drive. I turn on the computer to a desktop piled with crap. Links upon links, folders upon folders. When I download something form the internet, I usually have to look carefully to find where the computer dumped the file. It looks the same in the sea of mess.

Every week or so, I select everything on the desktop and put it all into a folder called "Mess." I have quite a few mess folders now. When I'm feeling ambitious, I'll go through a folder and sort everything by type. Pictures here, music there, but in the end, it's no different than shoving every bath supply in the house into one closet. There's still no organization, and those great pictures I saved are just as lost as they were before.

I have to say that the worst thing are those unfinished projects. I'm an artist, and nothing makes pangs of guilt and worthlessness ring in my gut more than the previews of half-colored drawings or rendered but uncleaned fractals. I graduated from high school last year, and there are two or three unfinished computer graphics projects left over. It's not just the mess: it's this feeling of unrealized potential.
My sister my was accepted to Yale right out of high school, and even though she hated it there, she still gets all worked up when she thinks about the fact she dropped out. I see that same regret in those unfinished drawings and in the clutter of raw footage for responses to my friend's video blog.

Computers are definitely microcosms of our mind; the pictures we saved showing who we love, what we love, what we find worthy of saving, what music we listen to, what our endeavors are, what we like to do, and so on and so forth. The fact we even have a computer speaks to something. When my father died two years ago, the mess got worst. The number of clutter-filled folders tripled; the mess was too daunting. My desktop became a bizarre reflection of the internal chaos.

I'll tell you what I've started doing in hopes it will help you. My mom and I are finally out of shell shock about my dad, and we're looking to downsize our house. I've cleaned everywhere else (the real bathroom, bedroom, etc), but the desktop is lurking in my mind. I don't want to take that mess with me when I leave my childhood home.
On a day I feel ambitious, I sit down and take a critical eye to a single folder, usually one with fewer than 5 sub-folders. I purge everything I know I'm not going to miss. If it means trashing an art piece, so be it. Once it starts haunting you, you have to let it go. I get rid of that MP3 I only saved because my friend liked it and trash the pictures of the ex-boyfriend that were lurking in a folder somewhere. I decide if I really need to save that picture of the puppy that looks like a panda. If I'm not tired out at the end of that folder, I move on. Purge the mess, then consolidate. I've taken to printing out the quirky pictures I've saved and gluing them, without order, into a scrap book. I use recycled printer paper to stop the internal guilt trip about being a tree murderer, and collage all the images together in Photoshop before printing to make sure I take up as much space on the 8.5x11" as I can.

After that, it's a matter of not letting the mess pile up. I make a new folder to store all the newly sorted files in, and ONLY sorted files go in there. I'm careful about what I download, and I find a space for things as soon as I download them.

I do all this because I decided I don't want to be depressed when I look at my mind's mirror. I want to see the creative sparks and contemplative moments, not the chaos. Be critical and I might just learn something about myself. You are a wonderful, creative man. To take full advantage of the gifts you have, you can't cringe every time you make a folder for the newest idea. It's your gift; take a hold of it and run with it. It's not a matter of clean; it's a matter of an order that makes sense to you. You bring the light in by dusting the skylight instead of trying over and over to install new lights. Open the curtains and wipe the old, dead ideas off the windows. Don't be afraid to throw the old things out. The more space is left over, the more space you have to fill with the new (organized) ideas. Organize the pens and pencils in containers you already have. Odds are, you created your idealistic sense of order the first time you got a shiny, new computer. You had your little labeled folders, but you started slacking off in the organization department.

Sometimes, looking at something a different way is all you need to do to make something happen. Sometimes, it simply takes the right music. I recommend "Fragile" by Peter Oldroyd for those contemplative moods, and "Funeral March of a Marionettte" by Charles Gounod for those sneaky, bouncy moods. The right music changes everything.

I hope you find something of us in my slightly disorganized explosion of thoughts.

Posted by: Cel at January 20, 2008 3:05 PM

Have you been reading Hemingway's short story, "A Clean, Well Lighted Place"?

Link - http://www.mrbauld.com/hemclean.html

Posted by: Chris at January 21, 2008 3:15 PM

We are all similar and that we wish we didn't have to deal with it and/or having ways to deal with it. But maybe it some ways. It's best left the way it is.

Posted by: Ashley at January 21, 2008 7:46 PM

Our desktop is a personal reflection of how we live our lives. Sometimes it's a collection of files, some useful, some we're just holding until we stop procrastinating, sometimes it's just a heap of stuff we don't want anymore and thus ignore, accepting it as an unnecessary evil, but one we really are indifferent to. For others it's a collection of the most useful things we can find, constantly updated and paid attention to in great detail, a precise window into our petty existence.

In truth, nothing's really different. The desktops full of junk we're afraid to take care of only exist because of a desire to be like the desktops that are perfect, neat and organized. We throw stuff onto our desktop in the hope that we're going to someday move all the files, empty the trash, and take the ".pdf" and ".mp3" tags off the countless ephemeral files we use, in a last ditch effort to stay sane.

Maybe it's just my constant stress, but I find that sometimes it's necessary to give in, to not do that homework, to not write that essay, to wipe your hard drive and face the consequences. Maybe procrastinating is working in its own way, by sitting around and telling yourself that you're going to get something done, knowing that you won't, creating a translucent desktop, a temporary sanity, just to keep on going until the next file hits the "Downloads" file. Then again, maybe it's not. It's all your way of looking at the desktop ;)

Posted by: harry at January 21, 2008 10:54 PM

Cel: Fantastic articulate letter. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Posted by: ingrid at January 23, 2008 4:23 AM

Could be worse.

All They Didn't Take
by Ruth Doan

Like a table set with hens and jam
or a bath freshly drawn and steaming,
but not one mouth wet,
not one discarded article,
only the rushing of late April afternoon light
through the back door and pooling at my feet.
I retuned from a Saturday walk
and they were gone: four black boxes
and a cat—the emptiness sick and yellow
like something left on the lawn too long.
I stood on the back stoop looking
onto a diminutive crime scene—my life—
two of my three cats flicking
dust off their tails over the threshold.

Whoever buys my laptop at the local pawn
needs to look me up and take me. Not because
I want it back or because lord knows
I need the poetry. Only that’s my mother’s face
on the desktop, at twenty, her sculpted arms
propped up by something like poise, her bodice
laced up like a bar maid’s, gabardine waist coat
on her shoulders. I think she wore the quill
for my father whom she may have just begun
to love, goofing Neil Young from the stage
of a bar in Wichita where they met.
And her cheekbones are only a story I can tell
to a certain point. Is there a word
for the opposite of being born again?

Posted by: Sally at January 25, 2008 1:54 PM

salutations friend. just wanted to tell you how interesting ive found your page over the years, my email address is even a slight reference, aha. i really liked this little piece, an interesting take on hemingways thoughts. sorry i could'nt get as creative as some of the other replys here but alas, im scottish.

Posted by: Garry at January 30, 2008 2:01 PM

Relieved to know my desktop is in good company. Resigned to hyper-clutter on my laptop, my biggest challenge is in containing the spread of links, notes, articles and miscellany to other machines. If my laptop sits too long next to my desktop, I suspect it dumps jetsam onto the other computer when I'm not looking, moving the pack rat habitat to a drive and monitor with even more capacity. This ensures the survival of every useless .jpg and unamusing .mov while creating new capacity on the machine I use most. Meanwhile, my partner at work has insisted that our editing suite should remain somewhat uncluttered but if you log into my user account on that computer there is a cancerous growth of data collecting at the perimeters and slowly moving across two monitors, like a tumor quietly reducing the capacity of the lungs.

Does this prevent us from being literally buried under our stacks like the legendary Collyers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collyer_brothers), or is there a virtual fate equally horrifying but thus far undiscovered?

Posted by: Rob Millis at February 5, 2008 2:27 AM

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