ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

How It Goes —

It goes like this.

Outside of my health, I have to maintain items in three realms: data, physical, and mental.

In the realm of data, that’s things like e-mail, files, disk drives, sets, and the arrangement of these therein. I might have an inbox that makes your eyes water or a pair of terabyte hard drives in need of synchronization, or maybe it’s something as simple as knowing which bookmarks should really be deleted or grouped together. Since it’s not inherently obvious when you’re sitting around, it’s quite easy to forget about it until you go deep into a directory and go “oh”.

The realm of physical stuff is more obvious. It’s piles of papers waiting to be scanned, or disks donated from kind folks. CD-ROMs stacked in a corner, awaiting addition to, or a pile of books I bought online because they were vaguely rare. In a corner is a hand-built Russian computer I bought at auction and I also have a sizeable collection of hats. The office looks like something exploded, or I went out of business. This is the most obvious, and therefore the most irritating of realms.

The third is the mental bit, keeping track of what I know and what I should be focusing on, making sure the poor little thinky-sac isn’t being abused, and taking care of it with sleep and not getting split across too much work. I don’t do this so well sometimes, but if I fail at it you’ll know it because I’ll go completely off my rocker. Current status: not off my rocker.

Some of these issues and projects produce very little you immediately notice. For example, I recently took a CD-ROM sent to me by the creator of Radio Freek America, an enjoyable hacker radio show that enjoyed a couple years of success, and added it to the directory. I already had all the shows, but these are the original high-fidelity recordings, which were not available at the time because of bandwidth and storage issues. I have less of these issues than RFA did, so now they’re available to the world. It takes a while to shove 2 gigabytes of audio data into a directory, so that went on in the background. It’s a subset of the original (only some episodes were recovered in this fashion) and it the whole thing could use a nice going over to look better and provide more context, but at least it got somewhere.

Similarly, I’ve been burning a lot of DVD-ROMs. A LOT of DVD-ROMs. I can’t stress “lot” here enough. When I interview people with the new camera, it produces about 4gb of data every 10 minutes. This data has no tape backup like Mini-DV did. This is good in the context of now we’re in the spectacular flying car future, but it’s not so good when you realize that you’re putting all your data on spinning plates and little burned pieces of plastic and hoping it will survive. It won’t survive all that long, or at least the vectors for losing it are significant. So, I store the data in either 9 or 4 places. If it’s shown to be critical to my movie, it ends up on two DVD-ROMs, three hard drives of clips, two raw footage hard drives, and two more DVD-ROMs for raw data. If it’s not, it ends up being on just the two hard drives and the two DVD-ROMs. This comes down, when I’m working with the raw data, to putting it on two DVD-ROMs, then deleting it from the “to go to DVD-ROM” section. This sounds like a lot of work. It is. It sounds tedious and on the edge of requiring human interaction. It is. It sounds like I need an intern. I do, but I don’t want to pay for an intern. So this goes on in the background, all the time. I have, wait for it… tons of DVD-ROM binders containing this backup material. I have stacks of storage hard drives for the footage.

Some work is fractal. Actually, all work is fractal but I mean that some is very obviously fractal, even before I dive into it and discover it’s fractal. An example is a CD-ROM. I could take the contents and dump it on, but a lot of times the CD will have data of use to another project, like; the right thing to do is to pull the BBS lists out and add their data to the BBS list, and similarly pull out artpacks of ANSI groups and see if someone by luck grabbed a version of an artpack heretofore unseen. It does happen… some of these CD-ROM groups were unstoppable in desperately trying to get new data in to claim that this quarter’s 600 metabytes of BBS shareware was “all new”. So some amazing stuff gets sucked up in these, and I need time to go through them. That time hasn’t completely come yet.

Scanning is a low priority. Benj Edwards, the little mynx, has time to add a new retro ad a week but I’m really strapped for time and setting up for scanning is one of those all-day things for me, because I’d like to jam out a hundred or more pages at a sitting, at least. I have stacks of stuff in the office waiting for a scan before being permanently bagged and tagged, but they’ll have to wait a bit longer. Until then, they sit in the office taking space and piles of that stuff was starting to take things over. So now they’re rearranged. This is quite a way to spend a holiday weekend.

I had stacks of DVDs in here (standard DVDs, although some are amateur productions with hand-made DVDs). I’ve now started taking out DVDs I’ve seen, which will go elsewhere in my home, leaving just the once I haven’t, meaning it will go from a proud collection of DVD spines to a massive to-do pile.

I finally hung up the nice ANSI artwork displayer from the ANSI Art Gallery showing. It’s not connected to a monitor but it certainly looks like it has the potential to observe and kill you. And with it on the wall, that means it’s off the floor.

This is likely rather dull to hear about. I mention it because there’s the glamor bit (and it really is sort of glamor) that people get to see of my work: the archives, the browsable entities, the movies, the photo collections. But beneath all that is a lot of drudgery. A LOT of drudgery. An amount of drudgery that eats days and weeks and has little obvious advantage at the time but which rewards me months or years down the line. Some of it is to prove a point. Some of it is compulsion. A good percentage is because of some requirement that any other person would barely register as being in the realm of a requirement. It is, however, what I do, and I will continue doing it.

Looking around, I think it’ll be for quite a time.

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One Comment

  1. djmollusk says:

    Awesome, I’ve wanted the hifi versions of RFA for awhile, being a rabid fan and kind of an audiophile. This reminds me that I have pretty much all of the Geek Love Radio episodes we did in 128kbps. I might be preparing a DVD for you in the near future.