Legacy in the New Normal

Floppy disk art

Floppy disk art (Photo credit: elmindreda)

Influenza has become a lot like hard drives in that countless numbers of infectious disease experts say things like, “It’s not a matter of if a flu pandemic will happen, but when.”

As a technology consultant, I have been telling people for years that it’s not a matter of if their hard drives will crash, but when, and that it is important to back up your data regularly and to have a back up of your back up, too, if at all possible.

We prepare for killer flu a lot like we prepare for the death of our hard drives: we simply do not notice; until it is too late and we are left scrambling for vaccinations or undergoing expensive data recovery by companies who charge you more money than you thought possible for an exercise of this kind.

I used to be on the side of the non-yearly flu vaccination camp. But since I have been assured by doctors I believe that mercury is not used in the vaccine, nor is anything else that might cause permanent, long-term damage, I will possibly go back to getting a flu shot next season. While in my early computing days, I started backing up fairly regularly–to floppy diskettes. Remember those? I was not going to be caught with my pants down by some floppy diskette or hard drive going south on me. Even though it was a laboriously manual operation, I would religiously drag and drop files on my old Mac Performa 5215CD from the desktop to a floppy disk inside the Mac’s floppy drive. The whirring, cranking sound of the operation was strangely comforting. After a series of chugging noises, the process would signify completion by the blissful silence of both the hard and floppy drives. Not one to ever leave well enough alone, I would then create a disk image of the contents of the floppy drive onto my Mac’s desktop, and then eject the floppy disk, place another blank floppy disk inside the floppy drive and drag and drop the image files onto the new, blank floppy disk–beginning the process anew and hence creating a back up of my back up–very laborious, but not at all discomforting, especially if you had access to a beer or two while you were working on your machine.

These were the kinds of times when, if someone else was in the room with me, I’d say something like, “You know it’s illegal in the State of Colorado to be working on computers without a beer, right?” And, typically, there was not anyone in the room and so, if at a client’s place of business or home, I’d say, “Yes, Bob, yes I do,” confirming that 1) I’m sometimes a little off, and 2) There was no beer to be had until I completed the task at hand (unless I was working on my own machines).

I heard a guy say today after school that he was getting ready to start the weekend with some drinking and some chain saw action. He’d obviously done these two things together before, so I fully trusted that he was competent with his chain saw under the influence of a few drinks. I chalked it up to one of the pleasures and wonders of life in Kentucky–there are things people do here that might not be considered normal elsewhere, but it’s always been normal to the folks who do these things here.

My work Mac

My work Mac (Photo credit: randomduck)

Even if he were joking (and we all chuckled after he made the statement), it was something no one gave a second thought to. It was like, “Have a great weekend, Buck!” You didn’t want to say, “Be careful!” “Be safe!” “Hope to see you, Monday, man!” “Don’t forget to back up your computer in between all the chain saw action!” Just beat feet to the driver’s seat and get out of there–best thing you could do; so I did.

Late at night, before we go to bed, sometimes we worry about things that get back-burnered in favor of all other pressing worries at daylight hours. We start to let our minds wander…we drift off…

We check our 401Ks and are generally pleased with how well our paper investments are doing these days. We see how the unemployment rate is stagnant at eight percent or whatever it is. We think how working at Home Depot for $8.50/hr. is not so bad compared to the guy next to you who does not have any job to speak of. We feel we’d like to buy a new Apple Mac, but are just not convinced Macs are the great value they once were. Plus, we are unconvinced that Apple has any software worth anything to us–iTunes? C’mon, 10 years old, but it remains a completely unnecessary behemoth that only got used in the first place because it was 1) on our Macs and 2) we had an iPod to use with it. Now that we use our smart phones more than our desktop computers every day, where’s the beef in iTunes, I ask you, Apple? Because it hasn’t been there for quite some time for me. iPhoto, iMovie, iCalc? Again, only used out of convenience–they’re there and so we try them. The App Store? Too controlling. Why let Apple limit your choices for Fart software?

Although more people still try to get in to this country than any other, things are not as rosy as the stock market makes them out to be. A lot of people don’t want to think about things like killer influenza or their computer’s hard drive crashing on them before they can back up. We just want to have a good life. We want to be happy and we want to be remembered as a good person when we are gone. We accept that which we won’t change, instead of that which we can’t change–what I like to call the “new normal.”

As newspapers and print media die, die and die some more, what happens if you don’t at least record your personal history somehow–whether it’s writing things and stories about your life down on paper, having them stored digitally and printing out some hard copies, and/or blogging, tweeting and Facebook-statusing ourselves into a coma (you can’t believe how tired you are at 9 p.m.? Nobody cares.)? I like a good end of the world scenario as much as the next person, but our legacies are in jeopardy once everyone we have ever known either dies of killer flu or trauma from paying data recovery companies tens of thousands of dollars to retrieve our family dog’s photos so we can print out the pictures and put them in air-tight vaults for safekeeping.

If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.


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