Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Backing up

Looking back on the month that was, I realize that things here at Mode have been pretty maudlin of late. This has not been intentional, but it is perhaps not hard to explain. In the month to come, however, I do intend to at least leaven my lachrymose posts with lighter moods. I also hereby resolve to cut down on ridiculous words like "lachrymose."

As usual, it helps lighten my step to be listening to some jazz. In fact, my mood has not even been ruined by the fact that this post was accidentally erased after it was almost completed. No, Blogger, you will not get the best of me tonight, because today I purchased a used copy of Billie Holiday's classic Songs for Distingue Lovers, and now I'm having a listen. Who sells an album like this? This is the kind of pearl you sell a field for, not the kind you foul with an orange sticker and file in the same row with Kenny G, where it will be cast, as it were, before swine. But since in this case I am the lucky swine, I thank you, Nameless Former Owner, for your momentary lapse of judgment. If you don't want them, I'll take care of "Sweets" and Web and Lady Day and their Verve Master Edition. God bless the child that's got its own copy, because they can't take mine away from me. (Hey, I promised to watch the ten-dollar words; for now you'll have to pardon the snooty jazz allusions and puns.)

Julie has just bought a new flash drive for her keychain. I've been thinking of asking Santa for one myself. The seed was planted earlier in the month when I read about Sepoy's meticulous procedures for backing up his files. That got me thinking about the "redundancy" -- or lack thereof -- in my own data storage. Currently, my most irreplaceable dissertation materials are saved in three places: on the hard drive of my laptop, on my quickly obsolescing Iomega Zip drive, and on a file-sharing campus network. I also have print-outs of most drafts and notes. But all except one of these storage spaces is located within the walls of my apartment. And what would happen if an aging Russian satellite fell out of orbit and crashed directly into my building? And what would happen if this catastrope were to befall me (told you puns were still fair game) on precisely the same day that the campus network was infected by some particularly hardy breed of Trojan horse. At least I would know, with my keychain snugly tucked in my pocket, that as long as I am in one piece, so is my dissertation. With such peace of mind, I could share with Thane Plambeck the patience of Job: "You shall know that your tent is safe, and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing."

Lest these scenarios seem outlandish, I actually have empirical reasons to be especially careful with backing things up. At our last apartment complex, there were two fires in our row of buildings within about two months of each other. (This is why it is our complex no longer.) One of the fires was two floors below the apartment immediately next door to ours. I remember being awakened in the middle of the night by banging on the door and finding the room filled with haze. A police officer was shouting to get out. In these situations, you learn a lot about yourself by what you do next. After ensuring that my wife and I were up and on our way out the door, I distinctly remember standing in my living room, pajama-clad in front of a serious policeman, hysterically calling out the name of my cat. That's one I will likely never live down. I'm not sure what's sadder, though: my pitiful falsetto yelling "Where's my cat?", or the thought that if I were to find myself in such a situation again, I would most likely head first for my laptop and filebox. At least if I had a flash drive, I'd have less to carry. Perhaps I could hang one on my cat's collar. Then I'd really be ready to go.

Collective Improvisation:

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