My NDSU laptop froze up unceremoniously yesterday. When I had to shut it off and restart it, I was a bit put-out and irritated. Then I learned – after about a dozen attempts to restart it that ended in what my friend calls the “blue screen of death” – that my computer would not be restarting for me at all. Suddenly, my life – my written life – passed before my eyes; and, my anxiety level went from about a 2 (which was what being a bit put-out and irritated had me at) to a solid 8. I have to tell you folks, the blood drained out of my face at the notion that all I had on that computer was inaccessible to me.
Students have told me for years that they were unable to turn in assignments on time because their computers had died and they couldn’t access anything. Truth be told, I always believed those claims to be somewhat spurious. I put that excuse in the category with Grandma Lil who passed away five times over the time I had them in classes…highly unlikely, but too difficult or awkward to prove untrue.
Yet, yesterday I have to admit that I felt like the universe was teaching me a lesson on the realities of computer usage…the realities of one’s intellectual life being stored on a memory card that was made for fifty cents in a factory in China. Immediately I knew that I should have known better. I should have been more religious about backing things up on an external hard drive. I should have sent more things as attachments to my email box for storage purposes. I know the importance of redundancy when it comes to these type of things, but somewhere along the line I grew lackadaisical and allowed myself to trust the fortitude of the fifty cent chip. Arrrggghh!!!! What was I thinking?
The bottom line is – I wasn’t (thinking that is). I posted my frustration about this situation on Facebook and one of my emergency management colleagues queried, “Aren’t you in the disaster recovery business?” Touché. I am also in the business of risk management. Let’s hope the recovery process goes better than my management of the risk did.
So now I’ve got anxiety that will endure long after I discover whether or not I will ever be able to revisit the files on my NDSU laptop. But anxiety is okay if it means that it keeps me alert to the potential for catastrophic failure of a system that is far from impervious (which the systems analyst in me knows – all systems are far from impervious). And of course there is the added benefit for students that I will be a lot more likely to believe them when they say their computer died and they cannot access anything. But as for Grandma Lil’s numerous passings – I’ll reserve the right to believe that when I experience it myself. I may have died many figurative deaths in my lifetime, but as far funerals go – I have had none. But note students, upon my first funeral I give you all permission to turn in your assignments late.
Day nine hundred and thirty-eight of the new forty – obla di obla da