Friday, May 18, 2007

Respect Your Work And It Will Belong To You Willingly

So Blogger now has auto save. Yay! How many times would that have saved me from hours of lost work? The latest being just three weeks ago this coming Sunday morning when I lost the post I'd been working on for twelve hours--the post giving a play-by-play of the ongoing malware attack that began in the wee hours of that Saturday morning.

How ironic that I discover this as I am preparing to post about the ongoing backup project I've been engaged in for two weeks now. The very project put in motion by the expectation that a reformat of the hard drive would be necessary to clear out the burrowing malware. That reformat had been scheduled for tomorrow morning. We now have hope that it won't be necessary. It has been a full week since I've seen any suspicious behavior. But I swore that I would not let a reprieve regarding the reformat stop me from completing the backing up of my files off both the PC and the laptop.

If the reformat had still been on the agenda, it would have had to be postponed until next weekend most likely as I am not quite ready. At least I won't be ready by Saturday morning when my husband has the largest block of available time. I am still pushing to be ready by Sunday morning.

This is the to-do list I'm working off of (the Xs indicate a completed task):

X Get AOL emails off PC.
X Collect PC files into ALL ABOARD file
X Move ALL ABOARD to PC shared files.
X Move ALL ABOARD from PC to Laptop.
Get AOL emails off Laptop.

Collect Laptop files into ALL ABOARD.
Bundle files by type into folders 250MB or less and/or Compress files.
Determine destination for each file:~~DVD, CD, Internet storage site. (No printer available else hard-copies would be on this list)
Move bundles to back up location(s)
Make note of locations and any URLs or passwords in several physical and virtual locations!!
Schedule a repeating appointment in a calendar or task manager application.

I am working on the second four items almost simultaneously but the most involved is the AOL emails again. That entails opening each email one by one and then saving its contents by whatever method is most helpful. For most that means a tedious copy/paste process.

As for that next to last step. You would thing that would go without saying. But we learned that lesson the hard way once. My essay, Goats Will Eat the Darnedest Things, was written in 1998 after my husband had stored all our personal files online while he reformatted our PC hard drive after its registry had been corrupted. The only place he saved the password to those files was in the email from that site's admin--which had been backed up along with everything else on the password protected site. For nearly three weeks, I feared the worst:

Among the material locked away from me was two years of my daily journal.
Stories, novels, essays and poems finished and in progress. Notes and outlines
and character sketches and various writing exercises. Altogether about two
million words of my own text. Enough to choke a goat. And more. Letters and
e-mail both personal and to do with the business of this site. A data base and
address book which I managed for a local Blind and Visually Impaired support
group. A collection of URLs and commentary on their sites harvested for this
site’s Resource page. My browser favorites file. Every project I was working on
for this site was missing crucial parts. There was a real possibility they were
gone for good. Like a whisper on the wires--gone. Along with my confidence in my
tools and in myself and in the validity of my vision. Goats will eat the
darnedest things!

I am pleased to say that after a fierce struggle with private demons,
horned and goateed, I retrieved those last three things and confirmed my
commitment to this project, determined to meet the originally planned deadline
to publish the monthly update on the last day of September. That was the morning
of the 21st, nineteen days since I’d last seen my directory. Ten days until the
thirtieth. I began to plan how to get it done with what I had to work with. The
words in my head and the keyboard, mouse and screen. The word processor, the
WYSIWYG and the browser. All the tools were in fine working order and I was
still a writer. Some things even goats have no appetite for.

Then, that night I was e-mailed a miracle--a replacement password for
the site where my data was stored. A few hours later I was busy counting files
and folders and bytes and words. And as I looked in on certain files for the
first time in months, I knew I wouldn’t let them languish alone for so long
again. Nor be so miserly with ink cartridge and paper. I began to feel a greater
respect for my work, for both the talent and the tools that make it possible.
This time the tools just got my goat. But I got the message: Respect the tools
and they will serve you reliably, respect the w#000080ork and it will belong to
you willingly.

My fingers are itching to fix the glaring mistakes in the above. But then it wouldn't be a quote would it? And I might as well leave the evidence of neglect of both work and 'lesson learned' in place. This is the first time in months if not more than a year that I have looked in on that particular essay posted on Joywrite. I can't believe I never caught that mutilation of the word 'work' by the intrusion of HTML code inside it. Can't blame anyone but myself either. In 1998, my husband did all the HTML work related to Joywrite and Joyread. But when I put them up again in 2004, I had to learn to handle most of it myself as my husband had little time or access to the computer or Internet that year.

Ive been done next to nothing with them since news of my Dad's rapid decline in the summer of 2005. My beginner's facility with the HTML was too fragile to survive the months of no practice. I have dozens of text files ready to convert to HTML pages which this backup project has brought to my attention as I cruise through my files to identify them by type and size. As I cruised past HTML tutorials and HTML applications, peeking inside to determine their relativity and usefulness--the files to determine whether to back them up and the applications to determine whether to put them on the list to download again after the possible disk reformat--I discovered that I have remembered more than I thought, that getting back up to speed would probably entail only five to ten hours of focused attention and practice. Not nearly as formidable as the forty-some hours I've already devoted to this back up project in the last two weeks.

It boggles my mind to think that the incident related in Goats Will Eat the Darnedest Things, happened nearly nine years ago! And that all those files and everything that had been added to them in the following three years were lost when that PC was abandoned with the rest of our belongings in a storage shed on the outskirts of San Jose, California. I hadn't learned my lesson unequivocally.

This month I've once more been forced to see how thick-headed I am. And how much hard work I nearly lost again due to negligence of a tedious task. But it wouldn't have been so tedious if I'd been doing it regularly and I might have been doing so if I'd had methods in place to make backing up a matter of a few key strokes and the task entered in one of the task managing applications available to me. So that is part of what I'm taking into consideration as I bundle the files for backup. Which adds to the time and tediousness of if, but I hope will insure that I don't neglect the task in the future. Or at least not give me the excuse that it is too hard or tedious or time-consuming.

Part of me is feeling very discouraged and ashamed as I'm brought face to face with the evidence of my repeated failure to exhibit respect for my work and stay committed to the various projects. But part of me is also feeling amazed at how productive I can sometimes be and at how much I still like many of the works in progress I've allowed to languish for months or years. The fly-by peek-a-boos I've been giving my files as I prepare them to be bundled into easily backed up chunks, have been stimulating my imagination and making me eager to reengage them.

But not until I have them bundled up and backed up. This time, I am not going to get distracted from that task. I truly hope I never need to be taught this lesson again.

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