To Peter D. and Mary D., April 1989, Basel
I have a pretty hard time over here: a huge amount of work. Tons and tons of tapes to listen to and to take notes from; the raw material of the biography which I am presently putting together. Presently is a bit eufemice: I am working on this project for years already and I will be working on it for at least another year and a half! Yes: that's a long time, too long it seems at times, for there are so many other things I would like to do, so many things, that should be done! - If I come across some English material about the two people I am biografizing, I will send it over to you, so that you know, what kind of people I am trying to write about and in which kinds of lives I am investigating.
In December I got a computer. It is an IBM-compatible personal computer (AT, Toshiba) with a special device for visually handicapped people, display 40 characters visible on the screen in braille. With this small window of 40 characters I can move up and down, right and left as I please and that way I am reading the screen. Everything else is being done in the regular way, using the regular keyboard and regular programs. It has been quite a challenge to get use to this new tool. By now I am quite able to use the thing for all the work, for which I have planned to use it: letter writing, taking and storing notes, putting together official letter and documents etc. I have started to get more and more interested in this machine and I am using a good deal of my pretty limited time, to try out all kinds of special things. There are still areas in my Word-perfect program which I do not know very well, and a lot of the MS-DOS functions are still a secret to me, too. Beyond these programs I have begun to collect and install other software. If I had more time, I'd also start studying a computer language, I guess, and if things would be less expensive over here, I'd probably get into the electronic mail business, too (I still remember with great fascination the things, you, Peter, told me about computer mail-boxes in 87!).
Yes, Peter: Wouldn't you want to become my computer-counselor and advisor? Can you produce 3.5in disks, or are you stuck with the 5.25 format? Since I have no 5.25 drive, I need to get the smaller disks. As far as the text format is concerned, I can easily handle ASCII and some other codes (just the IBM family systems). It would be so great, to get a letter on this disk from you! (New2 things are always thrilling to me!).
Some more about computers: I am presently looking for a good and comfortable information retrieval program. I think that is the technical term for a program which helps to find information in files and directories, which have not been structured or marked in any specific way, when they were written. The program I have in mind should for example be able to do something like the following: look in all files of directory PGD for the word "Geheeb" or "Paulus" and "kommuni*" or "soziali*" or "politisch*" or "Politik*", * meaning that the word could go on. There should not be more than say 4 other words between each word I am looking for. Show me, how many passages meeting these conditions you have found in the directory PGD and/or show them on the screen or print them, adding say 5 lines previous and 5 lines subsequent to each passage found (to get more of the context) and indicating the file, where the passage was found. - Do you know of any program, which can do stuff like that, or are you using one yourself? If so, could you copy it for me or can you give me more information on programs of this sort (only things, you know. I don't want you to do a big research project on this. That's not worth it!)? I have so far heard of three programs (named "ASKSAM", "GOOFER" and "ZY INDEX"), which seem to be doing some of the things I want. I may buy or get one of these pretty soon (that's way you shouldn't put too much energy in this "project"); it would be my first stolen or bought software! - Do you have any other programs I might enjoy having or is there anything you would like to have from me (yet quite short) list?
These computer freaks! Do not see eachother for years and all they do is talk computers! Well, what else can I say? I enjoy living here with my friend Urs. I have too much to do right now and I feel too often pressured into some sort of work, which I do not like - too much mechanical, repetitive and mindless, uncreative work. I do hope that this situation will soon change or that I will find the little switch I need to turn, so that the situation changes. In my psyche there is a lot a fatigue, but there is a lot of energy, too - quite changing wheather! Clouds, sunshine, rain, wind, blue sky - you never know, what's next! As far as friends, love and sex, marriage, family and all is concerned, things look pretty dull and uneventful. Maybe I am hiding in my work too often, maybe it's because of them stars! How knows. Plans to travel? So far no plans. The plans I create to keep me entertained always melt when the time of putting them into reality approaches. Plans for summer? Not yet. A almost dying and a healthy growing plant in my room; three or four plants in front of my window, exposed to unusual cold and rainy winter since the beginning of this month, since I have put them outside on one of these beautiful warm days at the end of March. - More news? No. Bedtime. Really! It is about the same hour I got on the Portland Bus some 20 and something months ago, keeping you folks, especialy you, early-to-bed Mary, awake! ...
Allready. Please. I bag you on my knees - nose down on the floor! -to write if not now, then tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but NOT later! Please! And do write about your own situation, you own plans, hopes and disappointments. I would really like to know, what is going on with you and inside of you! O.K.? -Thank you both! - Say hello to Bear, if he's (which I hope very much!) still there!