Tuesday, January 18 2011
This morning sleet was falling heavily, accumulating for awhile on surfaces and then collapsing like mounds of tiny ball bearings. These produced little avalanches that resembled the pouring of sand. The air near the ground was still quite cold, tjough evidently there was warmer air high above the ground producing rain, not snow. I feared at some point actual rain would begin falling and greatly increasing the weight of what had already fallen, so at some point before the storm had passed, I went out and shoveled out the driveway. There was only about two inches of accumulation, but there was also a snowplow-created barricade at the road that I had to cut through. As I worked, Deborah's enormous dog Juneau lay in the accumulated sleet watching me. The weather wasn't quite as cold as he likes it, but by now a cold rain had begun to fall as well, and I'm sure he was finding this refreshing.
As the air temperature grew gradually warmer, I expected conditions to improve. But they didn't. Rain was now falling and forming an icy glaze on surfaces such as trees and the hard-frozen ground. Were it not for the enormous amount of salt applied by the Town of Hurley, Dug Hill Road would have been a bobsled track. Still, Deborah made it out early this afternoon in her all-wheel drive Toyota Matrix to pick up Juneau, who I was now referring to as "Bonzo".
At some point I called Gretchen and told her that she probably shouldn't attempt to drive back from Western Massachusetts today. She agreed, and spent another night with Sarah the non-Korean Korean.
Since the early 1990s, I've had a collection of hundreds of old Macintosh 3.5 floppy disks containing various software treasures I'd collected at East Coast colleges, at department store Macintosh displays, and from friends. During that period of technological evolution, there had been a nascent internet, and, using FTP in networked computer labs, I'd found it easy to download shareware. But there had been nothing like today's deep and wide ecosystem of software piracy. To pirate software in those days, I'd had to either copy it directly from a specific computer I was sitting at, or download it from some other unsecured computer on the network. Security was lax in those days, and most of my best finds were downloaded across college intranets. This was how I came to amass my impressive collection of Macintosh 3.5 inch floppies, which amounted to more than I could ever fit on the affordable hard drives of the day.
These disks didn't follow me to Charlottesville, California, or Brooklyn, but they did eventually join me here in Hurley, and they've been taking up room. I'd been meaning to start copying them all to some modern digital location from which I can eventually burn them to a CD or a DVD, but it's a lot of much work. I'd half-heartily done a little backing up but then abandoned the effort.
Today, though, the memory of my dead Mac IIsi was fresh enough to remind me that there's a real danger of the data being orphaned. I still have a Macintosh Performa 475 with a working ethernet card and floppy drive. So I booted it up and began shuffling disks into and out of it.
It wasn't long, though, before I had to stop and take some time to improve my vintage Macintosh environment. It seemed an important control panel called PC Exchange was missing, and many of my old disks had been factory-formatted as PC disks onto which I had written Macintosh software. After tracking that down, the backing up process went fairly smoothly. Occasionally files couldn't be read and had to be skipped, but I was able to transfer about 95% of what I attempted to transfer.
Handling all of those disks was a trip down memory lane. It wasn't just the software; it was also what I had written on their labels and how I had digitally named the disks. The process of having to quickly name things forces you into creating free associations, and these often reflect things bubbling just beneath the surface. Suffice it to say, most of my names for disks were innocuous references to sexually-charged events (for example, "not even make it to the room"). Well, that was the case from about 1992 onward. Before then, there was a lonelier disk namer at work. One disk from the earlier period is actually named "no one loves me."
After copied about 60 megabytes' worth of floppy info to the Performa 475, I'd be running out of room. So I'd use CompactPro (an old Macintosh utility) to turn the collection into a single compressed file. And then I would FTP it (using the old Mac program Fetch) to Dingo (the Toshiba laptop I hope to eventually use as a MP3-playing jukebox) through the Performa's slow 10base-T ethernet card. Once there, it was part of our modern digital ecosystem. There's a certain anachronistic thrill to using Fetch 2.1, a program I used for downloading shareware in the mid-90s, to connect to a fresh installation of Linux on a crappy old laptop.
Making serious progress on backing up my trove of Macintosh disks was just one of many real accomplishments I made today. Unusually (for me at least), today was something of a triumph of determined human effort, and I pulled off something approaching effective multitasking. While loading disks into the Macintosh one after the other, I was also working on a birthday present for Gretchen: a painting of Sylvia the cat. (She's so unassuming that it's taken nearly six years for me to get around to painting a portrait of her.) I'd actually begun that painting yesterday, but the salvaged board I'd been using as a surface (a piece originally cut out of the brownhouse's "shitting bench") had been covered with polyurethane and the paint hadn't been sticking very well to it; this morning I'd had to sand the painting away to give myself a more adhesive surface.
I completed two other "birthday presents" that weren't as amenable to multitasking more complex than listening to podcasts. I cleaned both the mudroom and the basement walk-in closet, both of which have been cluttered and disorganized since 2006.
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