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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

In Praise of Networks -- and Thanks to Nam Pho

Seeing that I'm sending this from a writers' conference, I suppose I should wax poetic. But in this case I hope a simple thank you will do.

A thank you for the generosity (and good record-keeping) of the people in my network, for connecting me with computer experts who advised me on what might be going on with my computer crash (see previous post). In the end, Nam Pho, in Manassas, VA, diagnosed the problem and was able to retrieve my data. I was back up much sooner than I expected!

A thank you to Nam and a thank you to Chris Montone, for referring me to Nam.

Readers, if you'd like to keep Nam's phone number in your file for just such emergencies (but he also does other computer things, too), let me know.

Friday, June 02, 2006

On the Job and Feeling like Job

You remember Job, the biblical character who experienced tribulations that severely tested his faith? I really empathize with that man. It's been one of those weeks.

Last Tuesday, my computer crashed. Yes, Virginia, I backup regularly. I even had a backup for my backups—an external hard drive.

Guess what? The backup drive failed, too.

It doesn't appear to be a simple crash. Several things may be going on: a possibly failing hard drive, a definitely defective power supply, a potentially fried motherboard or chip. Maybe even a virus—though I have AVG antivirus, which updates almost daily.

Except for the inconvenience of having to reload the operating system and all the programs (it's unbelievable how many programs I use just to get my work done), it may not be a truly terrible scenario. At least that's what I'm hoping. Before I closed up shop for the week before the crash, I saved all the document files I'd worked on in the last month. And, with any good luck, I'll be able to reinstall Roxio and restore my archives for the months and years before that.

It's been an interesting experience, and here's what I've learned:

1. Have a couple of backup systems in place. Then check every now and then to make sure they're working and that you're able to access your files.

2. Let people know what's going on, especially if you keep your calendar on your computer and have scheduled recent appointments that for one reason or another escaped the backup (as happened to me). If nothing else, you get lots of sympathy. In my case, I got sympathy, empathy (two colleagues had just gone through this in the last couple of months), and bona fide references of computer guys who have been wonderful at helping me deal with the crash—Thank you, Generous Network! I also got reminders of the appointment details I'd lost.

3. As my friend and colleague Paula Tarnapol Whitacre says, "It's just stuff." Deal with it, but then relax and know you're doing the best you can, and that soon this, too, shall pass.

4. Even though you've got tons of catch-up to do, take time to breathe. Then take a walk, and have lunch or dinner with a friend. It makes you feel like a human being again, not just a human doing.

5. As the Buddhists like to say, life is impermanent. I find it helps to react to these kinds of losses with curiosity (once I get over the initial panic, of course!). On the practical level, as a result of this crash, I may simplify how I organize my data files. It's something I've been putting off for awhile . . . now here's an excellent opportunity to try out a new system.

Meanwhile, I'm striving for equanimity and patience. Wish me luck.