Friday, November 20, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: I Wish I Were A Packrat, Guest Post by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

I Wish I Were A Packrat

by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

I lost six years of my life. Okay, I’m being a tad dramatic. I lost six years’ worth of word processor documents. They’re gone. They left for the great recycling bin icon in the sky and some jerk emptied it. I’m the jerk.

A few years ago, I decided the old college laptop had to go. It had been wacky since my roommate borrowed it for a night of feverish essay typing and spilled a mug of coffee on it. The keys sank down like molasses when you pressed them and came up 1. . . 2 . . .3 seconds later with a loud click. The down arrow key would possess the cursor, sending it on a race down the monitor, which no control-alt-delete combination could halt.

My new laptop came, with its shiny casing and fancy Windows XP. I installed the software, then made a cup coaster out of the AOL trial CD-ROM.

“Honey,” I asked my fiance when I finished, “we already backed up my files to the server, right?”

“Yep, they’re under Becca’s documents,” he assured me. “You click on the icon for My Network and—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I cut him off. I may not be a computer genius, but I thought I knew that much.

Stop! Check the files! The alarm bells go off in my head now, but they didn’t then.

A few months after that fateful day, I clicked through row after row of pixilated manila folders, hoping, in between my wedding guest list and hotel reservations, to catch a glimpse of Mr. Palen’s tan jacket as he held my hand while walking me the school office when I was 10. He was my teacher when my father died and I had written about him in a piece that I wanted to revise.

I still haven’t found him. Nor have I find my friend Ruth. I did a character sketch based on her once. When someone pissed her off, she would catch my eye and trace a checkmark in the air with her pointer finger. Then, she’d mime killing him or her, perhaps by pulling back a crossbow wire and releasing it. My personal favorite was her duck, roll, and rifle shoot. Her blonde ponytail would bounce with each trigger pull.

It’s most painful to accept the loss of my college papers. How many sleepless nights’ work are now gone? I’d tangled with Twain’s inner demons, battled the titan of Homeric verse, and analyzed depictions of African American manhood from slavery to OJ. Yes, I still have my degree, but none of the work that earned it.

In my dreams, I catch a glimpse of that lost folder of Word documents, just beyond my Excel spreadsheets and resume versions. It beckons me to double-click it, like a ghostly guide pointing toward a cave of treasure. If I just keep my eyes closed long enough . . .

Rebecca Gomez Farrell, a Californian with a bad case of wanderlust, migrated to the East Coast after college, thinking to improve her writing by gaining more life experiences. She presently writes, edits, and blogs from Durham, NC. Under the pseudonym, The Gourmez, she writes reviews of restaurants, cocktails, and wines as well as a weekly column on her lifelong obsession, General Hospital. She also writes modern short fiction, creative nonfiction, and is working on a fantasy novel.

You can view Becca’s work at http://blog.thegourmez.com/, http://eyeonsoaps.net/, and http://carpedurham.com/.



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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

 

Confessions of a Saving Queen

By Margo L. Dill

margodll@aol.com

www.margodill.com

A bright blue computer screen full of white letters and numbers in a strange code, instead of the opening page of Windows XP, is a frightening thing for any computer owner. When that owner also happens to be a writer, it is sheer terror. I experienced this horror at a local coffee shop a couple weeks ago when I accessed the Internet with their free Wi-Fi. After taking a terribly long time to get connected and go online, a message popped up: “A Trojan Horse has been detected.”

This, I knew, was not a good thing. Not because I knew a lot about computers, but I did remember the actual Trojan Horse story and how the Greeks used it to catch the Trojans unaware. To make a terribly brutal long story short, my laptop did not work after I saw this message, except for an annoyingly bright blue screen with the strange white code--only decipherable to people who speak computerese. SO, I immediately took my laptop to a computer shop and said, “Help!”

When I called my husband to let him know what had happened, I was remarkably calm. He was surprised, and I was even more surprised at my demeanor. Then he pointed out, “Well, you do have it all backed up, right?”

And you’ll all be glad to know my answer was, “Yes. On that Geek Squad online backup thing.”

Then he pointed out another fact so simple and true, “This is really just an inconvenience, then. Not a big deal.”

Now, I knew he was right. My desktop computer had crashed before a few years back, and I did learn my lesson about saving my work. (Although the wonderful computer man in Columbia, Missouri, saved all my files, and I lost nothing.)

But still the paranoid writer in me kept racking my brain, going back over my steps of the last day, week, month--did I save my book every time I edited it? It has to be turned in by Dec. 31. Do I have time to type the whole thing over? I did save it. I know I did, didn’t I? These obsessive thoughts haunted me until I got to a computer and checked my Geek Squad account.

For those of you unfamiliar with Geek Squad, they are a group of computer geniuses or computer repair people, whichever way you want to look at it, that work for Best Buy and drive around in little white Volkswagen bugs. I have no opinion on them one way or another. But this online backup service they offer is the next best thing to thin crust pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. For under $10 a month, you can back up all your files, wherever you want, 24 hours a day, and then access them from any computer at any location. Your life’s work is saved somewhere out in a secure, cyberspace place that the Geek Squad owns. I don’t claim to know how it all works. I just know it is extremely convenient and easy to use and I love it.

Anyway, I digress. So, I went to check to make sure I had been backing up all my files on Geek Squad’s online backup while my laptop sat at the computer shop. When I logged in to my account, I kid you not, there was NOTHING there. NOTHING. I then panicked. I wanted to call my husband and tell him, “This is a little more than a small inconvenience now, buddy. It’s seven years worth of brilliant writing.” (I could call it brilliant if it was missing because no one would ever be able to read it and say differently.)

I called Geek Squad immediately, and the first little agent said, “Did you try to refresh your screen?”

“Yes,” I said. “And nothing came up.”

“Oh,” he said. “Ummm, could you hold on just a minute?”

Time stood still. Sweat trickled down my chest. I almost stopped breathing. When he came back, he said, “My supervisor is having the same problem. It will be fixed within 24 hours.”

I breathed again, and it was actually fixed in a few minutes. When I logged on, my files were all there, happy to be read, but no longer claimed as brilliant.

As it turns out, the computer store did not fix my laptop because it was still under warranty, so I called the company to help. I had to wind up reloading Windows XP and erasing all my files saved on my computer. I admit I shed a few tears when the consultant on the other end of the phone said, “Ma’am, you do understand all the files in your documents folder will be erased?”

But I was lucky because I had backed my stuff up—all my stories, articles, and novels-in-progress were on Geek Squad.

So, my point of all this is NOT--don’t use your computer at a coffee shop and scream and shout if you ever see the words TROJAN HORSE on your screen. Instead, take the time to back up your files because you can be surprised at any time by those creatures on the Web. Your work is important!

My husband has me overdoing it a bit, though. Of course, this is the man that buys EVERY warranty and insurance known to man. Salespeople at appliance and electronics stores LOVE my husband and his eagerness to sign on the dotted line for the extended warranty. I actually had to stop him from buying insurance on a foosball table we bought on clearance.

Anyway, just in case, I am now saving my work on my hard drive, online backup, CDs, and a flash drive. Some of my stuff is even saved in email. But I’d rather have a little inconvenience, than a black hole any day.

Keep writing and keep saving!

Margo L. Dill

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