Back it up

 

I was just reminded of something. I go long periods and don’t think about it, but I shouldn’t, and neither should you. By “you” I mean absolutely everyone. Whatever you do — write, take pictures, or whatever — if you do it on a computer, back it up. I learned the hard way.

ILOVEYOU (aka Love Letter), was a computer worm that attacked tens of millions of PCs on and shortly after May 5, 2000. It showed up as an email message with the subject “ILOVEYOU” and an attachment: “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs“. The  ‘VBS‘ file extension was typically hidden by default on PCs back then. It wasn’t on my computer, but I worked on a development team on my own computer at home — an early telecommuter — so it wasn’t unusual for me to get files full of code as part of my job.

It took a mere few seconds to destroy every single jpeg file on my computer. That represented all of the photographs I had ever taken that I was storing on my hard drive, more than a decade of family and artistic pictures. It only took a few hours for a fix to be created and distributed, but it was too late for me.

I had been backing up to CDs, but I hadn’t backed up my photos, only financial records and my writing because that was work-related.

I lost hundreds, maybe thousands, of photographs.

External hard drives existed, but they were uncommon and expensive — very expensive. Now, there’s no excuse. You can get a huge external hard drive for short money. I back up intermittently to my two external drives, but a make sure to move files between my laptop and my big desktop everyday, and I save things online too

Eventually, I have 3 or 4 copies of everything, not counting whatever I store online. I don’t feel it’s too much. You can’t have too many backups of things that are important.

Even if it doesn’t seem very important. it can suddenly become very important if you have lost it forever and can never replace it. Back everything up. If it’s important enough to save it on your hard drive, it’s important enough to back up.

You can, for example, get a 3 TB external Seagate drive from Amazon for $139 including shipping. One and two terabyte drives are less expensive. If you don’t like that, there are ample choices for every budget. Don’t make excuses. One day, something bad will happen. A hard drive dies on you. It happens. It has happened to me twice. The first time, it was a secondary hard drive and I got enough warning to get my stuff off the drive. The second time, a message in a black  message box — I’ve never seen one like that before or since — appeared on my screen saying that there was a problem with my hard drive, back up now. By the time I finished reading the message, everything was gone.

But that time, everything was backed up. It was an inconvenience, not a catastrophe. I had learned my lesson.

Skip learning the hard way. Back it up.

 

Bees and Flowers

In front of the drive in restaurant,  they grow sunflowers. There were bumblebees on the flowers … gathering pollen against the coming cold weather.
Lone bee on a sunflower as summer draws to a close.

Pale Demon, Kim Harrison

Pale Demon (The Hollows, #9)Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

The next to the last (so far) in this great series. I’ve come to love the characters so much that they feel like personal friends … and come to feel like the world Kim Harrison creates is as real as the one I live in. Almost.

Most books in this genre are fun, but not especially well-written, Not true of Kim Harrison (or her alter ego, Dawn Cook). Her writing is elegant, beautifully crafted. She doesn’t count on sex to keep you reading. She does it with interesting characters who grow and develop. With complex plots crafted with as great a skill as any mystery writer ever has. These are not just “chick” books. There are GOOD books.

This book falls late in the series. You do need to read from the beginning. Do not start with this book. The relationships between characters are based on long history and shared experiences, and to appreciate them, you must have been there too. For you mid-westerners, the entire series is based in Cincinnati.

The plot in this story, as it does in all the books in this wonderful series, moves briskly along. You will laugh and cry at the same time. If you’re looking for sex, you won’t find it. Romance? A whiff, a hint, a tease. More action and mystery-thriller intertwined with magic and myth than romance. Which I appreciate. She does it all by writing well rather than via steamy sex. Not that I have anything against steamy sex.

There will only be another few books in the series, so I’m gearing myself up for going cold turkey when they are done. GREAT series, read them all!

View all my reviews

Neighborhoods

96-Holliswood1954People are surprised when I tell them that this town with its oak woods, huge plots of land, picket fences and farms reminds me of the neighborhood in which I grew up. I was raised in the middle of Queens, one of five boroughs that make up the city of New York.

My neighborhood was an anomaly. The city had grown up around us leaving us in a tiny rural enclave within easy walking distance of the subway.

My childhood home was more than a hundred years old or at least its foundation was. It had been changed by each family that lived in it. I’m sure the original builder would never have recognized it. It began life as a four room bungalow. Subsequent owners added to it, seemingly at random. By the time our family moved into it in 1950, it had become a warren of hallways, staircases and odd little rooms.

Two staircases went to the second floor, both of which ended on the same landing. Eighteen doorways on the first floor meant that there was not a single unbroken wall in any room. The living room was cavernous and dark. Amongst the many unfathomable additions to the house was the living room’s huge field stone fireplace that lacked a chimney. No mere faux ornament, the fireplace was a massive construction that completely dominated the room to no real purpose.

Despite the strange interior, the setting was stunning. Beautifully situated on more than two acres, it stood at top of a hill, enfolded by mature white oaks. They were the last remaining mature white oaks in New York state, the rest having been cut down to make masts for tall ships.

Because of their rarity, the city of New York cared for the trees free for as long as we lived there. My mother was passionate about trees, which is why she’d wanted the house. She became a fierce protector of her trees, never letting anyone as much as trim a branch from one of her precious oaks.

All the land belonging to the house lay either in front of it or off to the side. There was no back yard except for maybe a 15 foot sliver separating the house from the back property line. After that, the land there dropped abruptly downward … so sharply that it was useless for any purpose.

The house had been placed at the highest point of land on the property, set back about 250 feet from the road. The enormous trees towered over it. Summertime, when the trees were in full leaf, the house was invisible from the street. In all seasons, it was a long climb from the street to one of the house’s many doors.

Our oak trees loomed. No sunlight penetrated their canopy. The house stayed comfortable through most of the summer because of the perpetual shade, but was bitterly cold in winter.

My mother was stingy about heat. The furnace, an old converted coal burner, was nearly as old as the foundation and very inefficient. With huge amounts of hissing and groaning, it delivered some heat to the first floor of the house and almost none to the bedrooms on the second floor. I was cold from fall through spring, no matter how many blankets were piled on my bed. Some mornings, a thin skin of ice formed on the glass of water on my night table.

Being such a small, thin child, I was cold even when I was fully dressed. All complaints drew the same unsympathetic response from my mother.

“Put on another sweater,” she said. End of discussion.

Pointing out that there was a practical limit to the number of sweaters that I could actually wear was pointless. Once my mother had her mind made up, she was not going to be confused by facts.

The shadows of oak trees were always present, summer and winter. They were magnificent, but also ominous. Many branches of those oaks were bigger than the largest tree on our land in Mumford. As a child, I would watch those branches sway during storms and wonder when one of them would crash through the roof and crush me like a bug.

I was just past my fourth birthday when we moved into the house in Queens. I was considered a precocious child, which meant, I suppose, that I knew a lot of big words and could talk in full sentences. I’d had no contact with children my age and was a complete social retard.

When winter turned to spring and the weather warmed up, I was told to go out and play and so discovered that there were other little girls in the world. I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was supposed to do about that. I might as well have been commissioned to make peace with the Martians as make friends with other kids.

First contact took place on the sidewalk in front of my house. There we stood, three girls, all not yet five years old, staring at one another. We stood on one foot, then the other, there on the sidewalk until I broke the silence with a brilliant witticism.

“I live up there,” I said, and I pointed at my house. “We just moved here. Who are you?” I felt left out, as if the two of them formed a private club into which I already knew I wouldn’t be invited. And they were both pretty. I felt lumpy and awkward, standing there on the sidewalk.

“I’m Liz,” said a pretty girl with green eyes. She looked like a china doll, with a sweet, smooth face. Her hair was absolutely straight. I wanted that hair. I hated mine, which was wild and curly, always full of knots.

“I live down the street.” She gestured in the general direction. “There,” she pointed. The house was a barn red Dutch colonial. It had dark shutters and a sharply pitched roof.

A dark-haired, pink-cheeked, freckle-faced girl with braids was watching solemnly. “I’m Karen,” she said. “That’s my house,” she said, pointing at a tidy brick colonial across. There were bright red geraniums in ornate cement pots on both sides of a long, red brick staircase leading uphill to the house. I’d never seen either geraniums or vase-shaped masonry flower pots.

“Hello,” I said again, wondering what else I could say to keep them around for a while. I’d never had friends, but something told me I wanted some. We stood in the sunlight for a while, warily eyeing each other, old friends, the in-crowd. I the stranger. I shuffled from foot to foot.

“I’ve got a big brother,” I announced.

They were not impressed and I found myself at a loss for additional repartee. More silence ensued.

“We’re going to Liz’s house for lemonade,” Karen said, finally. Liz nodded. And they turned and went away. I wondered if we would meet again because at four years old, I hadn’t the experience to know that our future as friends was a virtual inevitability given the proximity of our homes.

Summer lasted much longer back then than it does nowadays. By the time spring had metamorphosed into summer, I had become a probationary member of The Kids Who Lived On The Block.

To be continued …

From The 12-Foot Teepee, by Marilyn Armstrong

Copyright 2007

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#FWF Free Write Friday: Welcome to Kindergarten

There I am. Probably the youngest kid in the class. I’m only four, but somehow, here I am anyhow. I’m certainly the smallest. All the others seem awfully big. I don’t know it yet, but I will always be either the shortest or next to the shortest kid in every class for the next six years.

P.S. 35 looks gigantic. Monstrous. Many years later, I will come back here and it will seem tiny, a school in miniature. Even the stairs are half the height of normal stairs.

But I don’t know about stairs yet because kindergarten is always on the ground floor. They don’t want the little kids getting run down by bigger ones.

The windows go all the way to the ceiling, which is very high. To open or close them, Mrs. O’Rourke has to use an enormous hook-on-a-pole. I wonder why they don’t have normal windows like we have at home. Our windows open by turning a crank; anyone, even I, can open them.

The teacher is kind of old and she’s got frizzy grey hair. She talks loud and slow. Does she think I’m stupid? Everyone in my family talks loud, but no one talks slow.

Now it’s nap time. We are supposed to put our blankets on the floor and go to sleep, but I don’t nap. I haven’t taken a nap ever, or at least not that I can remember. And anyway, I don’t have a blanket because my mother didn’t know I was supposed to bring one. I also don’t have a shoe box for my crayons. All the other kids have them. I wish I had one because I feel weird being the only one without a blanket and a shoe box.

Worse yet, I don’t have crayons. I wish I had some because the ones they have that everyone can use are all broken and mostly, the colors no one likes. My mother didn’t know what I was supposed to bring. She’s busy. I just got a new sister who cries all the time and mommy didn’t have time to come to school and find out all this stuff that all the other kids mothers know.

There were no air conditioners when I went there. We just sweated.

So I sit in a chair and wait, being very quiet, while every one is napping. I don’t think they are really asleep, but everyone goes and lays down on the floor on a blanket and pretends. It give Mrs. O’Rourke time to write stuff in her book.

It’s a long day and I have almost a mile to walk home. My mother doesn’t drive and anyway, she doesn’t worry about me. She knows I’ll find my way. It’s just the walk is all uphill and I’m tired. Why do I have to do this?

By the time I know the answer, I am in third grade.

And the grave is not the goal …

Memories from the final road?

On the outskirts of Scranton, Pennsylvania, settling in for the night. A road trip moment.

We just drove through the Catskills, past so many places we remember from childhood. In those days, these mountain towns were home to the best resort hotels, Grossinger’s, and so many others. It was the upstate New York version of Las Vegas, sans gambling.

The hotels became the casualties of the huge cultural changes of the 1960s. By the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, all were gone. Their ghosts linger on … empty swimming pools, huge buildings filled with once-luxurious, empty rooms.

Ghost lounges at Grossinger’s. Photograph by Steve Bley

I was expecting to see the same dingy, sad mountain towns … Liberty, Monroe, Monticello, Peekskill, Catskill … they always looked to me like they might have been lovely and could be lovely again. I was right. It just took a lot longer than I ever imagined.

The area has indeed come up in the world. Gone are those down-at-the-heels towns with boarded up main streets. Today the mountain towns look healthy and alive. Apparently time has wrought positive changes including sources of revenue other than hardscrabble farms. There are new buildings. These look like prosperous suburban towns.

As we rolled out of the Catskills around the edge of the Poconos toward Scranton, we hit rush hour traffic. Time to stop.

Finding a motel was interesting. Although I printed directions, I switched Richard (our handy-dandy GPS) on as soon as we were past Hartford. With a little coaxing, I prevailed on him to take us the way I wanted to go, so I could have maps to look at and a way to locate restaurants and motels.

There was supposed to be a Motel 8 around here. They are usually a bit less expensive than other chains, so I told Richard to take us there. We wound around the Route 81 and seemed to be going in circles, discovered the most dilapidated motel we’ve ever seen, said “No thanks!” and headed for what presumably would be a Motel 8.

A few minutes later, in the firm, authoritative voice we have come to know and trust, Richard announced “You have reached your destination.”

We looked to the left. A familiar sight greeted us. McDonald’s. Obviously not the motel. So, we looked to our right and indeed it was our destination. Ultimately. Just, not today.

It was a cemetery. A large, old, long-established final resting place. Although I’m sure they had room for us, we were not prepared for that destination.

.

I didn’t know a GPS could have a sense of humor.

So here we are at a Sleep Inn which while overpriced, is at least clean, available, and not the nasty place down the road or the waiting graves across from Micky D’s.

Tomorrow, Silver Spring. Happy Trails.

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