Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On going paperless

Maybe the prophet Isaiah is the original Luddite :

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many

I'm back a the place that I hate most of all: a university library computer lab. My "chariot" (or rather, laptop) gave out on Easter and stopped connecting with the charger (and the charger is fine).

I just bought it in October, but I made sure to go cheap and get a 2-year service plan through Best Buy rather than getting a Mac (even though I use it as if I were a Mac person.) Now, when the chips are down, I find out that Acer's one-year warranty probably covers it too. I also picked up a nifty 250gig plug-and-play USB external hard-drive, but grew unfortunately lax with my backups the last couple weeks. And yet, I use it for everything. I decided to lug it to my classes when I realized that my car, room, basement, mother's basement, and every house where I had every lived for the last 8 years, steadily filled with JSTOR and Project Muse printouts. I'm not one to file my papers, but I do have a nifty-if-compulsively organized hard drive.

I spent five hours on Saturday diplomatically transcribing Albert Fine's Tune and Chorale. I also finished a midterm last week that I hadn't bothered to print out, written out another large sketch for an essay in another course, worked on an editorial policy for my music editing class, and--because Gil Kalish and the Walden Quartet are awesome--I downloaded a few otherwise out-of-print Ives
Folkways recordings from the Amazon Mp3 store
, and took a bunch of detailed digital notes of my archival research Friday, entered attendance for my classes in a spreadsheet... Agh!

Best Buy is sending my computer away for either replacement or a motherboard repair. Because it will probably be a replacement, I had to bite the bullet and pay 100 dollars to back up my old hard-drive once and for all, and it would have been more if I hadn't brought in my own hard-drive. But then, I realized I played this entirely all wrong. What I should have done was to buy a replacement battery at 85 bucks, run the backup myself, and--when I get the computer back--I'd have a failsafe.

Sigh. I panicked and threw away money. But the way I look at it, my computer stopped working on Easter, as I came home from church to find it dead. I made 100 bucks playing my Easter gig, and I would have gone to church anyway so, really, I broke even! And yet, here's the weirdest thing: I could not fall asleep last night. I always stick on a DVD and fall asleep to its incandescent glow and white noise. Typically, it's a disc from The Office, but when I really need to fall asleep, I'll put on the best sleep-movie ever, soft enough that I can't make out the words: The Fog of War.

Once I turn out the lights and hear Bob McNamara droning on over a Phillip Glass score, I'm out--but this major part of my routine is gone! One other reason I stayed up, I think, is that my techno-fail caused me to crack open some good books once again. I re-read some oldie-but-goody Taruskin.


During the drive to Best Buy, I put on a calming disc of Scriabin and Griffes and told myself, "I am patient. I am patient." And yes, I was patient. But I still don't like wasting money, especially since I just splurged on a USB Turntable that came right after my fail.

Since I'm going un-paperless for at least a week, I thought I'd share an anecdote about the silliness of PC culture (no, the other "PC") in a university setting. About six years ago, I participated in a university committee, and, while I take seriously my non-disclosure agreement (there were about a half dozen lawyers on the committee), there was one delicious irony that I remember from the early on in our proceedings. As per custom at a liberal arts institution, someone brought up the idea of "going paperless." And yet, to keep everything offsite, we were meeting... in a paper company. Now, I'm all for going green, but I thought it through and realized that 1) that's funny and 2) the company's CEO, a very congenial fellow to whom I ought to drop a line, had endowed the money for my particular named scholarship. When I thought through the chain of philanthropy, I realized that his success behooved me.

I must have paper companies on my brain because I'm cut off from my regular flow of The Office. Grrr!

UPDATE: As if on cue, right after finishing this post, I finally used up my $10.00 University of Iowa printing quota for the semester. But typically, it's gone in the first month, so... Progress? And yet, a handy green-gadget tells me I've printed out, in sum, 1,500 pages at the University of Iowa.

Wait... I'm now printing out five copies of a 22-page brass quintet score. Whoops. And that's not counting my $25 Zephyr copy card. Harrumph. Someone buy me a kindle!

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