Ebullient radio interlocutor Hugh Hewitt quoted a National Geographic article that puts the number of Shi’ite dead under Saddam at five to seven million. Why, he asks, isn’t this being treated like the I’ll take a run at that in a moment. First, pointless tales of an aimless life.

Well, hey! One-touch backup? What a wonderful idea! Here’s a hard drive that runs a script, examines the hard drive for files generated since the last backup, and backs them up. Downright Jetsonesque, really. I generate 100 new files per week, and I always back them up – but oy, such a pain. One touch backup? I am so there.

I buy the drive and bring it home. Plug it in. It calls itself MAXTOR. That’s nice. I rename it Atoz, after the librarian in a Star Trek episode. (Played by Ian Wolfe, who I swear was born 80 years old. He was 38 when he made his first movie in 1934; his last movie was “Dick Tracy,” in 1990. Wow.) I give it a custom icon. Kernel panic. Hmm. Reboot.

It still has the custom icon, but it calls itself ATOZ now. Apparently it has been possessed by the spirit of one of those Caps Loc Usenet posters. I run the Maxtor Retrospect One-Touch Set-Up program. Rather straightforward: here’s my hard drive; back it up, if you don’t mind. Deucedly kind of you, old sport. I go downstairs for a while; when I return it’s still assembling a directory. Fine, fine, take your time, I know it’s a lot of data. I’m asking you to hand-count all the plankton in the sea, more or less. By midnight it’s done assembling a directory. Before I go to bed I hit the “Backup” button in Retrospect. Seven hours of sleep follow. Sweet, blissful, clueless sleep.

When I check the machine in the morning I find that it gagged on the big wad o’files it jammed down its piehole. BACKUP FAILED - CHECK LOG, the window says. I do. The log reports, with a slight air of irritation, that the maximum size for any data cud is 2 GB.

Oh. Thanks for the warning. Thanks for stopping the program the moment you realized I asked you to backup 68 GB. I don’t understand this aspect of backup programs. People want backups to look like the original folder. They want to see the individual file. Shoving everything into a huge single file makes me nervous – if it gets corrupted, everything’s lost. Ah! but, you say. Compression is your friend; you can fit more information in that cud. Yes indeed. But my hard drive has 160GB. The backup drive has 200GB. It could actually expand the files if it chose, and I wouldn’t care.

I dug around in the settings, and tried to target the backup to a specific directory. ATOZ dutifully writes the backup cuds. I examine the result. They contain no data. Hmm. Perhaps I can back up iTunes from the iPod? Let’s try! Plug in the iPod. Kernel Panic. Reboot.

Drive does not mount. Try again. Drive mounts. Let’s try USB 2 for a backup, and use the Firewire exclusively for the iPod. Reboot. Monitor does not come on. Monitor light flashes two short / one long, which is Cinema Display Morse for “my backlight is probably shot, and paying for this one is going to be like drawing knotted fishing line out your urethra.” Unplug everything. I mean everything. Throw circuit breaker. Submerse Wozniak Bobblehead figurine in holy water. Reboot. Everything mounts. Move 36GB music folder to ATOZ – which has now renamed itself MAXTOR. Progress bar says this will take 29 hours. I hate USB.

Well, progress bars are the Scotty of the Mac environment; I find they always overestimate the time required. I go downstairs to make Gnat lunch. She wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just like you, Daddy! Good for her. I’m tired of making that Easy Mac – not that it’s hard; as the name suggests, it is a rather idiotproof way of making macaroni and cheese. She used to love to stand on the chair and push the microwave buttons. COOK – 3:30 – START. I did it! But last week at Target she wanted the house brand, for some reason. I’m sure it tastes the same, but once again you can’t help but feel that the designers of house brands aren’t happy unless they’ve made budget-conscious shoppers confront the fact that they can’t afford the good stuff, and hence must SUFFER. In the Easy Mac world, the pasta rests in one packet, the cheese powder in the other. They are separated as easily as Hollywood couples. But in the MarketPlace brand – that’s the cheap crappy Target house brand – the perforations are rather perfunctory. Rip them apart with the brio you previously brought to the Easy Mac environment and you release a choking cloud of cheese dust, because the individual packets are gossamer thin, and the weld between them is made of titanium-inflused foil paper. Who cares? You’re poor! Clean it up! Ha ha!

So now Gnat eats what I eat . Low-carb bread, low-carb peanut butter, low-carb jelly. Go ahead, scoff, but why? The only difference is the reduction of sugars. The bread is delicious, incidentally. Full of nuts and seeds and flax hulls and metal shavings and shredded rotogravure sections and other non-carb-adding items. For dessert, carrots and a small cigar. (She declines the latter.) I head upstairs to check the progress of the music transfer.

The transfer has stalled after six files, because MAXTORATOZ has encountered a file name it doesn’t like. It has too many characters. Wha? This is the Mac world. It’s like a Robert Altman movie. You can’t have too many characters. I plug in another drive, a portable FireLite I use for non-mission-critical backup; the folder transfers without so much as a by-your-leave. It may have an auto-detect by-your-leave enabling protocol in its firmware, granted, but it doesn’t seem troubled. Try another drive: same thing.

Okay, so we won’t back up our music on MAXTORATOZ. But we can back up the website, right? Drag it over. All goes well. I came back half an hour later to find that the transfer had stopped because the folder “icon “ contained items that could not be copied. Hmm. Try it on another drive. Voila. Try it on the FireLite: whoot, there it is.

As I later learned, Mr. MAXTORATOZ choked on every sixth file whose name contained “index” in a sub-sub directory. I should add that it was a sunny day, blazing with light, overflowing with summery goodness, and there I am at high noon in my studio – the darkest room in the house – attempting to back up nested folders from 1998.

“NATALIE!” I shouted.

“WHAT?” she shouted from downstairs.


And so we did. We were alone at the beach, to my surprise; lots of people biking and running and walking, but no kids at the beach. It was surely warm enough; why, the event even warranted Public Shirtlessness on my part. Gnat splashed and played and climbed a tree. Summer at the lake, take one: June feels like June again. Although I’m sure it’ll be sixty-seven below tomorrow.

Back home. I decide to take the drive back for a refund, but who knows what data got spattered on the platters, so I zero it out. Note: zeroing out a 200 GB drive takes three hours.

Please make a note of it.

Gnat and Wife were away tonight, so I spent some thrilling moments listening to the radio and putting away the haul from Target. This meant a brief rearrangement of the linen closet. In the back I found a travel kit I’d retired from active duty years ago, because it was too big. Too many pockets. When you have that much space you tend to flll it up with things you might need. There was nothing in the kit I don’t have in my usual kit; the difference was that this kit had six of everything instead of two. It presumed I would simultaneously struck with the flu, a cold, a fever, dysentery, Sudden Earwax Onset Syndrome, etc. What to do with this?

Put it the box.

You know, the box.

Do you have a box? I didn’t; never thought I needed one. But after 9/11 I put together a box. Something I could throw in the car in the unlikely, but entirely plausible, event that we had to get the hell out of Dodge. I revisited the box during the garage renovation, got rid of the old outmoded food, repacked the essentials. It was an interesting snapshot of the time – I bought a radio that could be powered by batteries, a solar charge, AND a wind-up crank. And it’s also a flashlight, a distress beacon, and a dessert topping! Waterproof matches. A collapsible propane stove, two cylinders of fuel.

It’s still there. Just in case. And I’ve added to the stores. Paranoid? Maybe. In my defense, I never did buy duct tape. But if the power grid took a hit and we were without juice for a week, I want to eat, and I don’t want the radios to run down.

I put the kit in The Box. Just in case. And if a year from now I find myself in the Civilian Relocation Shelter in Nebraska awaiting processing under the Emergency Post-Constitution Dictates, and I feel an overwhelming need to clean out my ear canal, man! Am I prepared. I feel smug just thinking about it.

ITunes just kicked up the Four Tops, “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got.)” A tune from childhood. I was 15 when it came out. When you’re fifteen, the “Ain’t No Woman” part applies, and the “like the one I got” part seems impossibly remote. It takes an eternity to get from 15 to 18; it takes a shrug and a wink to get from 43 to 46. (Yet I am in better shape today than I was at 26, or 16, and I wouldn’t trade now for any other day.) Walking around the lakes today I heard something that made me smile: “We didn’t get HBO when was I growing up,” said a young woman. Neither did we. Didn’t exist. At the video store, Gnat wanted, and got, one of the horrid “Hello Kitty” DVDs. “This it?” the clerk asked.

“That’s it. One action-packed, thrill-a-minute Hello Kitty DVD,” I said.

“Oh it can’t be that bad,” he said.

“Oh it’s worse. It’s all weirdly dubbed, and the English language story lines are grafted onto completely different plots. And there’s this animation that was made on a 486.”

He grinned. “Hey, old school. Takes you back.”

“Yeah. To the ‘Money for Nothing' video.” The kid gave me a blank look. Oh, right. “It was the first big computer-animated video. Dire Straits, 1985. Polygons and primary colors; we thought it was the coolest thing. Had these two guys, a fat one and a skinny one, moving appliances and talking about MTV. And there was a dog at the end and Sting at the start.”

He gave me an apologetic smile. “Eighty five I was three.”

“I’m going to be four on my birfday next July,” Gnat piped up.

And the river rolls on.

To answer Hugh’s question:

1. Five to seven million “disappeared” is not the same as five to seven million killed. They could have wandered off. The discovery of mass graves that hold several hundred thousands is no proof that Saddam killed any more. Until we have at leave five million skeletons all clutching their national identification cards, with neat bullet holes in the back of their skulls, there is no reason to believe that Saddam had them killed.

If we have learned nothing else in the last few years, it’s that we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

2. So? Other people have died in large amounts elsewhere, and we’re not worried about that.

3. Hey, Arabs killing Arabs. Like that’s news. What do expect of these people? In any case it’s obscene to use the death toll as a justification for Bush’s illegal war. Which was also a racist war, I might add.

4. To paraphrase an influential thinker of the previous century: The death of millions is a statistic.

The reelection of one is a tragedy.


Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More
c. 1995-2004 j. lileks