Monday, June 07, 2010


Hard copy is truth.

I’ve said that before, but I was reminded of the harsh reality of that saying last Thursday night. While I was at an awards ceremony for one of my sons, the hard drive on my HP Pavilion decided to fail catastrophically. I thought we had gotten beyond ye olde blue screen of death, but such is not the case. Another old saying came to my mind later in the evening, as I was “enjoying” a text chat with somebody at HP support – there are only two kinds of hard drives, those that have failed & those that are going to fail.

I knew, immediately, that my own failure to create a set of boot disks was going to be a problem. As, it turned out, was the fact that my system had a one-year warranty and was now one-year and a few weeks old. Fortunately, I had purchased a two-year extension to the on-site support of the warranty. Not so fortunately, the database at HP support has not (yet) acknowledged that extension. But at one point in the process of attempting to restore the system, it did reformat the drive. Whatever file data was there is now pretty much toast.

So what did I lose?

Part of a links list that was originally intended to run today.

Part of a list of recently received books that was intended to run tomorrow.

The first paragraph of a review of Steve Carey’s Selected Poems that I have not yet written because I decided to wait until I finished my review of Chris McCreary’s Undone, which I have not yet written period. I’m still trying to make up my mind how much I should focus just on Undone or whether I should incorporate, by way of contrast, a review of Graham Foust’s A Mouth in California, so that I can make this more of a discussion of The New Precisionism. I still haven’t decided whether that is one note or two.

Maybe 200 lines intended for use in Feral Machines, which like Revelator, is to be a section of Universe. Some of these may be backed up on my wife’s PC upstairs, an old XP system that chugs along. That’s because some of it was written originally on a Palm Pilot (most of the rest on my cell phone), which didn’t sync up with Vista.

Some photos that I believe I still have on a flash drive on my camera.

A fair amount of downloaded music & spoken word audio that I can probably find again in one form or another. The most precious to me was the most recent ROVA CD, but I also own that hard copy. Hard copy is truth.

A bunch of PDF files of stuff I’m interested in reading. Some of this is no longer available, because it was only online for a brief period, such as the most recent e-book free-for-all from Poetry Super Highway. That really is gone for good.

Most everything else I either have on an external hard drive backup, which has everything from another old PC, or in one of two cloud storage programs that I use. Some of what I don’t have there – drafts of my old Grand Piano sections, for example – I can track down as attachments to emails to my co-authors.

But what a lot of work!

This is one of those moments when I remember that my habit of doing my first drafts almost always in longhand – Feral Machines is the one current exception, partly composed on an old Palm Pilot, partly on my cell phone – is about more than just always seeking to recapture the writing experience as I knew it first when I was ten years old (tho, to be frank, that is the important reason). Hard copy is truth, and so long as I have the physical notebook in which I’m working or in which I have worked, I’m golden.

I’m reminded of the devastation people suffer when their homes burn or are destroyed by flood, tornado, earthquake or some other disaster. I have been very fortunate in my life never to have suffered such a catastrophe. My half-sister Nancy lost her home when Hurricane Hugo plowed into Charleston back in 1989. Afterwards, she moved in with her boyfriend (now husband) & when she finally received her insurance settlement, she used it to buy a Winnebago that sits outside their home like a waiting brontosaurus. Everything that is personally important to her in the physical world is stored in that RV and anytime there is a hurricane warning, she & it are headed to the mountains.

I have somewhere between five & ten thousand books, a number that would have been higher if only the tiny size of the houses in the East Bay had not constrained my book buying habits before we moved to Chester County. Those and the notebooks of the works currently in progress are really pretty much the only material possessions I have that matter to me. It’s not that there aren’t other objects that have a personal meaning for me – for example, my grandparents’ wedding photo, the two photographs I have of my father (the only ones I have of him), the helmet my grandfather wore when he served in the army in Paris in 1917 & ’18 – but I understand that they’re objects, and that what really is meaningful to me are relationships, to my wife & sons, to my family & friends.

So I know that I need to do a better job of backing up my files going forward, but I’m not feeling the sense of loss & despair that hit me when I fried a hard drive just by flicking a circuit breaker in my old house in Berkeley sometime around 1989 or so. The net makes a difference, in that an ability to back stuff up to the cloud is a protection even if a tornado touches down over my house. Still, the idea that a library could be as a fragile as a hard drive gives me pause.

All of which is to say that life may be a little ragged here for a few days or weeks.

And to those whose links I had & have now lost, let me apologize in advance.


Also worth noting, while I’m at this. I’ve begun to use a Blogger tool that throws the remainder of a note onto a second page if its length suggests that Blogger will freak out & obliterate my other recent notes. It shows up on the lower left and looks like this:

And will lead you to additional text or video links or whatever, on the days when such exist.

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