1994

Nature
A NERD IN NEED
by Clarence Wright

I'll admit it. I'm a computer nerd and proud of it. Around Perelandra, I'm known as the one all the other computer users go to when their data has evaporated into the ethers of cyberspace. I can usually pull a few tricks out of my back pocket and heal their fractured files. I've gotten rather blasé about my co-workers' expressions of gratitude and sheer amazement in face of such technical wizardry. All in a day's work. Ho-hum!

When I'm not keeping bits and bytes in order, I manage the finances. Our bookkeeping is done on computer, based on a nifty little program called Quicken. It's such a reliable checkbook manager that I took it for granted. I ran disk and tape backups, but more as a formality, and not every day. After all, what were the chances I would actually need them? Well, as I found out a week ago, about one hundred percent.

I had just run payroll checks. While they were printing, the nagging thought came to me that I should do a backup. It had been a while since I did one. "OK," I said, "I'll do one just as soon as I'm done with the current transactions." I exited Quicken and, remembering one more check that needed to be entered, started the program up again. I got an innocent message to the effect that Quicken couldn't read the checkbook data file. However, it said, don't worry, it will reconstruct the index and we'd be back in business momentarily. This has happened once or twice before, and I know it takes less than a minute to re-do the index. An hour later, the reconstruction of the index was still going on. But I wasn't worried. Surely, it was just a minor glitch that the good folks at Intuit Software could help me with (they make Quicken). I rummaged around, found the program manual, and dialed the customer support number. I plunged through the voice mail menus and spent twenty minutes on hold, listening to some laid back Palo Alto radio station. The live person who finally came on the line informed me that I had dialed the support number for the Windows version of Quicken, and I had the DOS version. He very graciously offered to connect me to the right number. I was soon back in the voice mail twilight zone, listening to more music from Palo Alto.

I gave up on the customer support idea. I figured the easiest thing would be to restore the data file from my most recent disk backup (three weeks old, I'm ashamed to admit), and then re-enter the transactions from my paper trail of receipts and deposit slips. This was when I discovered that my normally reliable disk backup had gone south. Now I was sweating a little, but not really worried, since I had a tape backup that was five weeks old. It would just mean a little reconstructive work on my part to get the file back in shape. Since it was late in the day, I closed shop and left the office, confident that I would run the tape restore in the morning, and all would be well. The next morning, I loaded the tape into the drive, commanded it to restore my lost file and . . .

Nothing! The tape backup was bad as well! As some yawning chasm started opening up in the pit of my stomach, my mind was wondering about the odds of two normally reliable backup procedures failing at the same time. I calculated them to be pretty high indeed.

Full blown panic was huffing and puffing and trying to blow my mental house down, but I did my best to remain calm and scrape the bottom of my cerebral cavity for new ideas. It was slim pickings. I was even ready to get on the phone to Palo Alto and spend the morning listening to more music, though I doubted that the Intuit gurus could really get my data back at this point. That's when I got the idea to ask nature for help. What a great idea! Why didn't I think of that before?

I connected with the Deva of the Computer Finance Program, Pan and my higher self, and asked for some help or intuition. A few minutes later, I got the hit to open Quicken without the payroll module and allow it to reconstruct the index that way. It worked. I had all my data back in less than a minute. The clouds parted, the sun shone, birds sang and I said, "Well, I'll be (bleep). It worked!" I thanked nature for its help.

I learned several things from this experience. First, I now run three distinct backup procedures and have tested each one to make sure they actually work reliably. I also now keep a paper copy of all transactions. Second, and more important, I've learned how helpful it is to include nature as a partner in my computer work, not only in disaster recovery but in organizing my procedures to make disaster unlikely. I have a clearer sense of how my computer and finance work is just another type of garden, subject to the same co-creative principles as the Perelandra garden.