Friday, July 22, 2011

It Must Be the Heat

Today is 100 degrees and I'm having some flashbacks to brutal heat waves of summers past. Summer is work time--the only time we academics get to do what we're really paid to do, which is research, write and publish. Teaching may take up our time but few institutions really value it, even as we spend a good majority of our time in the classroom, preparing to teach, grading work or other instruction-related activities like meeting with students, responding to emails, writing letters of recommendation etc.

Of course, summer is also the most brutal time of year to get anything done--at least for those folks like me who don't have central air and don't live particularly near campus. This heat may in part excuse two of the most stupid mistakes I've made in writing this book. Last summer, in the height of the heatwave, I spent a week slowly going over one of the central films for the chapter I'm currently writing, taking meticulous notes (in a very long file). It was not comfortable work as I had to be at home near my dvd player as my laptop screen isn't big enough to play discs and have open files. One afternoon I had a brainwave about another very minor film that might at best be a footnote--opened the file--added the notes and then realized that the file was wrongly named. I waved away the prompt asking me if I was sure, and then had a horrid epiphany. I had just overwritten my file on Valley of the Dolls by accident--a move that totally destroyed my momentum to finish the chapter as this was the film I was about to discuss. I am usually very good about saving everything to dropbox, emailing myself copies of files, and backing up to my portable hard drive but this file was completely gone because I'd just bought a new computer and was feeling complacent. Stupid, stupid girl--I should have remembered all the friends who'd had similar experiences, mainly with new machines.

Roll onto this summer. This afternoon I decided to print out the rather large 60+ page chapter draft from last summer, merged with some relevant material from my recent conference paper. I was surprised to find that I only had 15 pages. I checked all the versions on my laptop and all were the same. Fortunately, I remember emailing a copy to a dear friend, located the email where I'd referred to something I'd said on p. 47. Sure enough, I'd edited an old copy of the chapter and managed to delete/overwrite about 50 pages of text... At least I'd been a little less complacent about saving/duplicating work, although my dropbox version of the chapter was (sure enough) the older one.

It's just as well that I planned to upgrade to OS Lion, which reportedly does what the time machine function does (when you use it...). It stores earlier versions of files so overwriting isn't so much of a problem. I think this is a must for me, especially when most of my intensive writing seems to take place during these dog days of summer in a not-too-well air-conditioned bedroom.

I also managed to print the old version of the chapter about three times before realizing that I need to rename this sucker and move onto finishing it by the end of the first week of August so I can get the whole proposal to the press and move onto finishing some articles.


jennifer said...

What a nightmare! After having my computer die on me two days into my PhD comps, I've become very meticulous about saving files. Now, if I'm working at my desk, I always keep the computer hooked up to my external HD with Time Machine turned on.

Marti said...

Moya you can do it. Jon also installed the new operating system (not a fan) I have confidence that you will soak up some NYU AC and complete this book :)