Saturday, April 11, 2015

And The First Law Shall Be RTFM

I got a new phone last week. Apple this time, not Android. I hear Scrivener is coming for iPhone this year, which was a factor. So were the better games. So were the numerous glitches my Droid RAZR developed over the last year after one too many OS updates.

Changing your phone's operating system is a chore. Not a huge one, since Google is ubiquitous and the cloud has its pseudopods into everything. But getting used to a new interface, and a new level of responsiveness, can be a pain. So can dealing with the tiny little wrinkles you didn't expect. Like Bluetooth not working.

My old phone paired to my car and just worked. My new phone paired to my car, then unpaired. Then refused to pair again. In Maryland it's illegal to be caught diddling your phone on the highway, so I kinda needed the Bluetooth to work.

I turn the phone off and on again, same thing happens. Google tells me this is a known bug in iOS 8, but a patch is due out this very day. I apply the patch and nothing changes. I try out about ten home remedies from various Mac forums and nothing changes.

I end up sitting in my car at 10 p.m. with a flashlight and a Subaru owner's manual before I realize that I've been pairing my phone as an audio device, and not a phone. "But a phone is an audio device," you say. "Yes," I say, "but Subaru made some less than intuitive design choices in their dashboard computers."

I pair the phone as a phone. It works. Sweet Home Alabama returns to plague me for the millionth time. I realize that every complaint I had about Apple's Bluetooth was Subaru's fault. But really, my fault.

I forgot to RTFM.

Or, "Read The Fucking Manual", for the uninitiated. It's a sysadmin solution for a user problem that wouldn't be a problem if the user had deigned to read the documentation on his shiny new toy, covered in blinkenlichten.

It's generally not polite to actually say this, of course. Nor is it wise to list PEBKAC* in a trouble ticket. But RTFM is the Truth and the Way, and you shall be rewarded if you abide by its tenets in all walks of life. The most successful criminals know the law inside and out. So do the most successful businesses. This is not a coincidence. They have RTFM and it has given them power.

If you drive a car, you want to know what all the levers, knobs and buttons on your dash do. You want to know how to open the gas tank, adjust the steering wheel, and put the rear seats down so you can fit that Vegas billboard in your cargo area. So you read your owner's manual. If you're on the road you want to know what the speed limit is, what the rules are to pass a bicyclist, and what side of the road you should be driving on in the first place. So you take a class and learn the traffic laws.

If you make money, you'll want to read up on the basics of paying taxes. That goes double if you're self-employed because you won't have a company figuring any of the numbers out for you. If you're planning for retirement, you want to know how IRAs and mutual funds work. If you're planning your estate, you want to know how wills and powers of attorney work. Because you can pay an accountant or an attorney to know all this stuff for you, but they'll do a much better job if you know the right questions to ask.

(I took an estate planning course recently and it's like I read five fucking manuals. Protip: if you own a spouse with your house... Jesus, did I really just type that? I can't believe it. I'm leaving it in as evidence.

If you own a house with your spouse, and she slips into a coma and you need to sell it to pay for her care, you can't do that unless you have a valid Power of Attorney. Same for your spouse's car. And in Maryland, the statutory, standard, fill-in-the-blank Power of Attorney form will only cover the house, not the car. Your lawyer will not explain this to you for free, so if you live in Maryland I've just done you a favor. A non-binding favor that should not be considered expert legal advice. Feel free to send money.)

And if you are a writer, you've heard that you must know the rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling before you can break them. The same holds true for character, story structure, pacing, you name it. Hell, maybe you want to publish your book in literal blood. Isn't it best if you know the right blood-to-ink ratio to prevent flaking? Or what type of blood to use to prevent the CDC from stomping your ass?

I could talk about James Joyce,  or E. E. Cummings (sorry, e. e. cummings), but my personal favorite example is: you're not supposed to write books in second person. First person or third person, fine; second person, you're on drugs, or drafting a sourcebook for a role playing game. Nevertheless, Charles Stross did it twice, in Halting State and its sequel Rule 34, and because he knew what he was doing (aping the style of a game) and why he was doing it (because he was writing about a heist set in a game world), they were awesome books.

RTFM. Know the rules. Know how things work. Then go forth and conquer, in the full knowledge of how far you should go and how far you can go.

*Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

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