The other day I set the old PC to defragment itself. For the totally uninitiated I'll quickly explain the rough idea I have of how it works (and it is a rough idea: apologies to any IT minded people reading this who really do understand it). Fragmentation is what happens to a hard drive when it gets used in a computer. Files get left all over the place on it, as the computer tries to carry out its operations as quickly as possible. Like an over-busy, distracted human being, it puts things down wherever it is at the time without any thought of putting them away. Result: chaos. There's a hairbrush on the mantlepiece and the bedside table bristles with dirty coffee mugs. Where the car keys are is anybody's guess. Defragmentation is the computer's equivalent of tidying up. Once its disk is defragmented, it doesn't need to rush around it looking for what it needs.
So much for spring cleaning. I was struck with the wider analogies to life in general, too. We up sticks to go to college, take work where we can find it (I've moved around a lot myself. My children find themselves having to do the same thing. Personal choice comes into it, but it goes beyond personal choice, too. Decisions beget choices, more decisions...). If families split up, the fragments can find themselves heading off in opposite directions. The results fill up the trains and motorways every morning. Hours are spent travelling and hours are spent earning the money needed to travel. Fossil fuels, carbon emissions... (Travel used to be far more fun. Same with computers. In older versions of Windows a pretty pattern of brightly-coloured bricks filled the screen and methodically rearranged themselves when the computer defragged. The effect was hypnotic - certainly more pleasant to watch than your average soap, if you ask me. Sadly, the defragmenter in more recent versions is a boring affair: you click on the mouse and it just gets on with the job).
I often find myself trying to think up a list of "things we would do if we really took global warming seriously". One of the things I'd put close to the top of this list is: defrag. But how?
4 years ago