Friday, March 22, 2013

The Chaos Demon

Well, as some of our regular readers know, I’ve once again been computerless. The new laptop that replaced the one my jealous dog destroyed crashed and had to be replaced after they simply couldn’t repair it. So I’ve just received my new laptop and am replacing programs, files, etc. Only to realize this morning that I lost my calendar reminder to write and post my Stiletto Gang blog. My apologies to everyone for this late post.

And now for a little ranting. I am a compulsive backer-upper of data, especially since losing my other laptop to the jealousy of my particular member of “the ninja warriors of dogdom.” I have files backed up on jump drives, on an external hard drive, and I often email key files to myself on Gmail for cloud back-up. So my only concerns with this computer crash were the extensive time I was without a computer (because they kept thinking they should be able to fix such a new laptop) and the inevitable drudgery of putting all the programs and files back on the new laptop.

Hah! Little did I know! I have written about my husband on here before, I know. He’s a brilliant and sweet man, and I’m very lucky to have him. BUT… (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?) Our youngest son fondly refers to him as the chaos demon. He is the classic absent-minded professor. Sometimes people who work with him at the university take someone new into his office just for the shock effect. Over the years—after many efforts to set up systems he can’t destroy and after giving him books designed to help him understand the simplest organizational principles (like ”throw the trash in the trashcan—don’t just walk past it and deposit it on the kitchen counter”) I’ve stopped trying. I try to keep a couple of areas clear and comfortable for me, and I don’t look when I pass the rest. I haven’t had guests to my house in years, although I had many before he fully imbedded himself in my house. (It takes a year or two to completely undo good systems, I’ve found, even for a chaos demon.) He is a wonderful man, and it’s his only real fault, so I long ago decided to live with it.

My resolution may have gone up in smoke, however, when I found that the jump drive containing my most recent back-ups disappeared overnight after he borrowed it “for a minute.” Also, he took the external hard drive from where we always keep it, for some reason, and now he doesn’t know what he did with it. I have recovered some of what I need from emails, but not all, even though I had backed it all up to both a jump drive and an external hard drive. The frustration is about to drive me to drink.

Okay, I can understand how you could lose a tiny little black jump drive, but that external hard drive is bigger than a big hardcover book with lots of cables connected to it. What could he have possibly done with that?

I have informed him in stentorian terms that this weekend we will be doing an archaeological dig on all his areas of the house until one or the other of my back-up devices is found. Like my dog, he’s truly sorry and he truly loves me and he’s basically very smart and very good. So I guess I’ll keep him. But it was touch and go for a second there (not really).


  1. He's safe now, Warren. But there was a tetchy minute there... ;-)

  2. In Ben's defense, computer thingy companies ought to make those little gizmos neon hunter orange and have clap-clap lights on them plus little sirens.

    Btw, one trick to finding things is to hunt for them using a flashlight -- with the room lights on.

    Another is the hula hoop method: place the hoop on the area to be examined and look through everything there. If you don't find it, move the hoop.


  3. Good luck! My cousin claims that St. Anthony helps her find things.
    I'm remembering a couple of friends, she messy/he neat, who each claimed one room for fully indulging their own preference with no interference from the other, and then compromised on the rest of their home . . . It was long ago, so I don't know if it worked long-term.

  4. Valerie, we'd try your method, but no hula hoop.

    Storytellermary, I have my workroom (which he's cluttered some, but I'm clearing all that out) and my part of the living room, and he's got the rest of the house. If I'm not diligent (witness workroom), he encroaches.

    To be fair, I'm no Better Homes & gardens housekeeper. I can be quite messy when in the throes of a project or book, and then when I'm finished, I clear it all away so I can find what I need next time. Ben can't seem to learn that last bit. But he's the greatest in-house editor there is, and he supports everything I do. Last year, he took all his vacation time to ferry me around for book tours. Even with the chaos demon, he's a keeper.

  5. Yikes.

    Here's my drill:

    1. It's very normal and reasonable to share, or at least want to share, equipment at home but the deal eventually breaks down. I have MY OWN large capacity flash drives and my own external hard-drives. Mine. Period. No borrowing, no "just to test", no swapping temporarily. I doubt my husband knows what they look like. It's not to be mean, it's to be diligent. In fairness I fully go along with him having his own tools that I don't touch, either.

    2. I do a weekly swap out back up. By this I have one large capacity memory stick and one external drive for even numbered weeks and one duplicate set for the odd weeks. Whichever ones I back up to on a given week get stashed for two weeks until it's their turn to be backed up to again. This gives me decent overlap of content. It also protects me a little better from catastrophic hardware failures, etc. I know it's sort of high-cost for the extra hardware, but this works for me and stops me worrying.

    3. In addition to the weekly backups, I keep a flash drive to which I back up during the work day all text files that are current work. Basically, there is a folder or two that I back up to the thumb drive on the fly each day.

    You're braver than me to use the cloud. I am too paranoid of putting things into the ether, though I hear over and over that it is pretty secure. Also for me is the issue that contracts have begun to carry clauses that specify where and how I can store, transfer, or network the intellectual property I'm dealing with for any given project.

    Reloading the o/s and software is a drag, I agree, but I know it's the content files that would be the worst to lose. Hope you got/get all your important work back asap.

  6. Vicky, with all the redundancy most of my absolutely current work is okay, but until we find the high-capacity jump drive and external hard drive, I don't have access to lots of older files, many of which I may never need again, but I'm a compulsive backer-upper of everything--just in case.

    I am going to adopt your method of "these are my drives." You get your own, and if you lose one of your own, you go buy another--you don't borrow one of mine. Hate to take that attitude, but I hate this more.

    Thanks for the suggestion about the alternate-week back-ups. That makes good sense.

  7. I know that it can feel so "mean" to look at your much-loved one and say "NO!" but honestly, it is sanity preserving in the end. The upset and tension that losing stuff because one of you isn't being as careful as the equipment owner (not just) would like (but NEEDS) is just so lousy and can lead to so much trouble, it is worth the fleeting bit of tough love to do it. It is a bit more expensive to do it this way (around here we always say "memory is cheap", and it sort of is compared to other tech, but it ain't THAT cheap!). But the cost sort of spreads out over time and that time passes pretty peacefully! New hardware is far less costly than negative feelings and downtime at work, right?

  8. You're right, Vicky.

    Also, an update on the situation. The search this weekend was hopelessly unsuccessful, and Ben finally got fed up with it. So I mentally made an adjustment and told myself that I'd manage. Then last night late, he started frantically searching for a book of his that he'd promised someone something from. Said book was never found, but in the midst of that frantic search, he produced... my external hard drive!! There is joy in River City again.


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