Just. Fabulous.

According to the astrologer in my local paper, Mercury retrograde means "[it's time to improve and revise your plans, strategies and dreams." I've noticed they do that now, put a nice spin on what used to be described as a three-week episode of holy hell going on in the spheres of communication and technology. Not anymore! These days, Mercury retrograde is all about time to consider, to reflect, to finetune your plans so that within a few days of the planet going direct again - remember those extra buffer days! - you can confidently stride forth and implement your polished plan to the awe and applause of the general populace.

Well, they're not fooling me. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet and so does a pile of poop. Well, not that it smells sweet or anything, quite the contrary in fact, but you get my drift.

And why am I nattering on about astrological happenings that nobody believes in unless it happens to dovetail exactly with what happened to them that day? I'll tell you why. This is not the first time that Mercury retrograde has seen fit to interfere with my life, but so far this year, they haven't been so bad. I had therefore started to believe the propaganda, prepared to concede that with the right attitude, even the heavens could rehabilitate themselves. I’d even relaxed my normal Mercury Retrograde instinctive duck-and-cover reflex.

I should've known better. It turns out that the reason the bastard had been so relatively innocuous in 2008 was that it was busy cooking up a humdinger.

Friday afternoon, just as I was about to head to bed for my Mandatory Rest Period, I decided to do a quick check of my other e-mail (I'm sorry Gmail, you're not the only one). And downloaded 1000 messages. All of the variety of "Delivery Status Notification (Failure)" and "Undelivered Mail Return to Sender". To my knowledge, I had not sent out 1000 messages and as I was pretty sure I hadn't been taken over by an alternate personality (I checked the sent folder just in case), clearly, I had a bit of a problem. Spoke to a nice man at my IPS’s technical support line and he helped me do some thingy online that should keep some of these messages from being downloaded, thereby cutting down on the number of messages actually arriving in my inbox. Which it certainly did, as when I got up again two hours later to check how well that worked, this process we’d done had cut 603 messages from arriving on my end. That's the good news. The bad news is that 4532 messages were not blocked. And that was just the beginning.

Since then, I've received many (many) more, totaling by the time I post this, somewhere north of 11,000 emails. Which I have combed through to make sure I didn't miss any real email (of which there were about 30 this weekned). Initially, I designated them as spam, meaning I also had to send a similar amount out to help my spam filter organize things. That was a whole other nightmare and at some point during the whole mess (and the exact timing is fuzzy to me, as the weekend is just one big blur of neverending email, but I think I cottoned on to it fairly quickly), I decided to just delete the blasted things instead, to avoid that particular bucket of nastiness. And in so doing, accidentally deleted all my other sent messages, as well. That I hadn’t backed up.

The next guy at my ISP’s tech support line told me I had a mailerbot virus and to do a system restore. Any time before the meltdown happened? I inquired, to which he replied "I guess so". Which infused me with all kinds of confidence in his level of expertise (by the way, as the flood of emails has now slow to a trickle, it appears doubtful that it's a mailerbot virus). Doing a system restore screws with the user files in Dragon, rendering it inoperable, so I uninstalled to prepare for later install next time an attendant came and could put the disk in the drive for me, which means I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t write anything. And all of a sudden, I could breathe again, when the ever-present feeling that I ought to be doing something productive lifted. So I popped on my headphones, listened to a book and started cleaning. You can actually see the surface of my desk now and everything has been discarded or neatly organized in a thingy with 'file' and 'do'. Actually? Quite fabulous.

After this blissful interlude, Mercury Retrograde picked up the pace again. Saturday evening, I unpacked my birthday present to myself (Dragon v.10 with Bluetooth headset - I will write untethered!), installed it only to have mysterious messages pop up, not able to turn the computer off becuase Dragon was "busy" and long story short, it turns out that in order to use my birthday present to myself, I need a new computer! As this particular version of the AMD Athlon processor does not have something called an SSE2 (despite buying my computer over a year after Wikipedia says everyone else had incorporated the SSE2. Whatever that is). Since it is the fourth Dragon product I've bought, it didn't occur to me to check if there were different tech specifications and it wasn't as if the promotion e-mail I got with this special offer mentioned it.

So since Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., I have done two virus checks, two system restores, uninstalled and installed Dragon twice (had to get v.9 back on), spoken to three tech support staff (only two of whom actually seem to know anything), spent an inordinate amount of hours researching miscellaneous technical problems and I want to you to know that I am a cautionary tale. Believe Mercury retrograde. Do what I didn't.

Duck and cover.

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