This too shall pass

“You drink plonk, right?” wrote my friend.  “So I can drop off all my old bottles of gut rot at your door this aft?”   I thought for a nanosecond about taking offense, and shot back a relatively grateful yes.  I know my friend wouldn’t turn her nose up at a bottle of ripple were she between a rock and a dry place, and I know she knows I prefer something better.   And we both know she’s a more efficient shopper than me, and more likely to have something better in the house.  Or maybe I just chose to take the gift in this spirit, because the only other spirit I could think of was something like: eat my trash, Loser.

So I’m drinking Two Buck Chuck for the first time in a couple of years, and thinking about what I lost when my laptop was stolen, a subject I’ve been avoiding since Tuesday morning when I entered my still-locked office and discovered the theft.

1. Some recent work, but not a lot.  I’m a relatively religious user of the printer and, too, I did an electronic backup of all my documents about a year ago.  That means I have all my old stuff in soft form, and most of my new stuff in hard form.  The only exception is the recent changes I’ve made to some work in progress — revisions, new footnotes, new ideas stuck in as suggestions.  Some of this I will never remember, and that’s a blow, as is the fact that all new work (five or eight articles) will have to be re-typed.  Drag factor:  4.

2. All documents pertaining to work that require constant updating:  new CV, personal statement for tenure, prospectuses for new books, etc.  Drag factor:  8.

3. Photographs.  Haven’t backed them up in a couple of years.  Lots of snaps of family gone forever.  Drag factor:  10.

4. Music:  Thousands of cuts, uploaded from CDs I no longer own, burned from vinyl with a good deal of labour, bought on itunes, stolen years ago via napster.  Irreplaceable collection.  Drag factor:  10.

5. Email saved onto folders on my Mac Mail program and not backed up on the server.  Personal and business messages documenting friendships, committee business, correspondence with scholars in my field.  Drag factor: 7.  Liberation factor: 8.

At least I’m not in the same boat as my colleague down the hall.  Her laptop was taken too — same night, same m.o. — and on it she had the photographs she’d taken in Asia to illustrate her next book.  Her work is in Buddhist material culture; she looks at temples and icons and uses what she sees to measure what she reads.  The pics are integral to the enterprise.  All gone.

Muh.  Soon I will stop thinking about this and start thinking about what an honour and a pleasure it is to be preparing to teach, tomorrow morning, Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in combination with George Orwell’s “Such, Such Were the Joys.”  That is So. Very. Wonderful. and I must not lose sight of that.

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3 thoughts on “This too shall pass

  1. This happened to me in December 2004. I hadn’t backed anything up in two years. It sucks. Hard. I cried for days.

    Hugs. More hugs. And still more hugs. The photos especially. My God, the photos.

    Some glass-not-as-empty-as-you-might-think points:

    1) It’s amazing how quickly one can rebuild a music collection. And iTunes may, if you ask them nicely, allow you to redownload your purchases. (They did this for me because my iPod was stolen at the same time as my computer.)

    2) Scanning the printouts and using some OCR software to import it into a word-processing program is not impossible. Talk to your tech people.

    3) The main thing I lost was an article on Mendelssohn that I’d just finished (and not printed) the night of the theft. I’ve never gone back to it since. But I’ve given part of it as a conference talk, and I think that that talk is much stronger than the original paper was. In other words, just because you’ve lost certain thoughts doesn’t mean that you’ve lost *future*, possibly *better* thoughts.

    4) Start using your friends’ inboxes as remote backups. (R. and I do this with each other.) Or MobileMe and iDisk and synchronize backups often.

    5) The fact that you see that the “liberation factor” is higher than the “drag factor” with regard to the lost email is a good sign. A really good sign. Don’t lose sight of that.

    Still more hugs.

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