Behind the scenes, and why I still hate computers

I just spent the better part of an hour going over what I did this past week, and then when I went to save the draft (since I thought WordPress autosaves – at least it did a couple weeks ago when I could neither post nor delete my draft), my computer, as is its wont, decided to crash and I lost everything, and I just had to restart the damn thing 5 times before it unfroze and/or worked properly. This was that kind of a week. I kept going in to the office because my home laptop doesn’t have the capability to work with photos, which is what I needed to do, but in the office I kept getting interrupted with other stuff. Finally one night I stayed until 1 a.m. to the surprise of public safety, who wonder always why I don’t work at home.

It was a bad week. I did not even yet transcribe the talk I gave a few years ago which I need to turn into a chapter, and then I cancelled my five days in Vermont, to which I was going to bring writing and some chapters/papers to share with a friend/colleague and get her advice about putting together a book proposal. I got turned down for conference travel funds, which I kind of expected, although they had said to ask in the summer as money might become available. So now I am going directly to the conference next Thursday, my paper is on Friday. I just cancelled my hotel room for the first night to save another $100, and now that I’m going for just two nights, I don’t have to hire a cat-sitter, which will save me a little more money. But I’ll miss about a third of the conference, which is a shame after shelling out so much for registration. Still, I will give my paper which will be a draft of a peer-reviewed article, and I’ll do some networking.

The main reason I had to cancel was that I hadn’t heard back from the people I need to interview for my talk. This paper is on the Nepali Indigenous Film Festivals in New York, and while I should have contacted people during the school year, for whatever reason I didn’t, and the last six Saturdays of the term were also taken up with a side humanities project (for which I still haven’t gotten paid). People didn’t get back to me until this week and weren’t available for interviews until this weekend when I was supposed to already be in Vermont. In any event, not only do I have three interviews lined up, and another two tentatively, as luck would have it, Sunday there is another Nepali film festival, this time short documentaries, but there will be people there I can also interview and meet for the fuller version of this article.

The other major thing I did this week was to continue to back up all my photo memory cards onto an external hard drive. I had done this once before, several years ago, but the hard drive got knocked over and I can’t access the storage, so I have to bring it in to be fixed. I worked on this all week, in addition to a couple days last week, because I also had to reconstruct the order of the photos and my research trip itineraries for the purpose of identifying which cards are missing or non-functional. I got my first digital camera in 2007, a point-and-shoot, and my first DSLR in 2011, so for most of the last eight years I have been running two cameras and two cards. By the time I finally got everything copied, there was one 4GB card that would not allow access to the 600+ photos on it – nor could I identify which ones they were – and another three, possibly four gaps for which I have no cards. One of these was a significant portion of a European research trip in 2009. Once I came back home, I found two more 8GB cards I hadn’t copied, so I hope those cover the two major gaps. But I brought them into the office then got interrupted with other stuff so regularly that I haven’t been able to sit down and open them. I also found, on an old laptop I hadn’t turned on in a year or two, a complete copy of a 4GB card, probably the one I can’t access, that completes a 2012 trip to Bangladesh with some important pictures from the Rohingya refugee camp when it was very difficult to get access. But over 600 images recovered, so that felt good.

I’m hoping that the other missing photos from 2009 are on another old laptop that I got repaired, but now I can’t find the power cord. Still, I have to find either the original card, or get access to the other external hard drive, or another old laptop on which I would have copied them.

The whole urgent purpose of this exercise is to find all the photos I have taken of the Sikh parade over the years for this opportunity to create a photo essay on the Smithsonian website. I have the pictures from this year (about 400 of them), and last year (only about 75 then I had to leave early), and in my copying I found some from 2008 taken on a point-and-shoot at 72 dpi. I also took some in 2017 when it rained, but my best set is from 2014. Both of those correspond with gaps in my cards, but I’m hoping the two cards I found are in the place they would be given when they were shot. Fortunately, I have kept copies of the best 10-15 photos from the 2014 series, so I could include those in my initial cut even if I don’t find the whole series. Everything is in my office now and I can’t get back there until Monday.

I also realized I am going to have to label all these photos so that they can be of use to researchers after I am gone. But what a challenge for archivists and curators. I have dealt with flash drives that have failed, floppies (of course), memory cards that have failed and even an external hard drive, which is supposed to be the most secure! At the same time, on one card I found the undamaged “originals” of files that had gotten damaged on flash drives, but on my laptop I just realized I also found good copies of photos that became damaged on memory cards. And I backed up some old flash drives that have the only copies of some photos that may even be lost. So clearly the important lesson is to maintain multiple copies of each photo file.

So in brief: interviews this weekend. Conference paper written and delivered next week – which will be a draft of an article to finish this summer. Transcribe the conference talk I gave for the book chapter. And find the remaining Sikh parade photos and winnow down to the best 35.

Summer school begins on the 24th. We also began our junior faculty writing group meeting at the university. Three of us got together out of the full ten who expressed interest. We will follow up with weekly email check-ins and biweekly skype sessions.