The Upside of Mudslides

Adrian van Leen's Paving Bricks photo used under Creative Commons
Adrian van Leen's Paving Bricks photo used under Creative Commons

I got a new computer this week, and in the process of transferring my data from one machine to the other, it occurred to me that this is the first time since I can remember that I’ve actually been able to salvage everything in a machine swap. The last two laptops I’ve had before this one died suddenly and completely. Kaput.* Gone were all the clever chat transcripts, the sweet emails, the occasional photo, random data orts, bookmarks… all gone in a moment when the systems bricked. Don’t get me wrong: Like some weirdo that stashes money under the mattress and in juice cans in the freezer, I do have my dissertation backed up in several places, but as for the rest of it, after the initial shock of data loss, I actually found myself strangely relieved. It’s like my documents and pictures and preferences take up all this space around me, and the spot where I fit nestled in there is largely defined by the datafield in  a face/vases sort of way. When all the data disappeared, I could kind of start over again. It was liberating.

And that brings me to the “what the hell is this post doing on Metblogs” point–coming to this realization about my relationship to data made me understand those rich people in Malibu whose houses slide down hills. I’ve always thought “why in hell would someone live there when they know there is a good chance they might lose everything in the next bad rain?” Well, now I get it. Getting rid of all that stuff that is the ground to your figure lets you stretch out a little. If you’re rich enough to rebuild after each disaster, why not? My friend Chris went so far as to speculate that maybe that’s part of why those folks are rich–because they can reinvent themselves from time to time. Maybe so. Me, despite my periodic data loss, I rent.

*Yes, I have a PC, and yes, I know that means I deserve any horrible computer fate that befalls me. No, I’m not going to get a Mac. Bring it, haters.