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To Our Mothers

proud mama

My mom lets loose at my Harvard graduation.

I just got off the phone with a college friend who also lost her mother to cancer, and we agree, whoever came up with the concept of Mother's Day was kind of an asshole. :) Since my mom passed in October 2005, this day and her birthday have been the most intense, jogging old memories, evoking what-if scenarios but mostly generating extreme levels of gratitude.   Yesterday, at a cafe in San Francisco, someone asked me to what do I attribute my success and my free-spirited, positive, happy outlook on life. Apparently, I don't fit the stereotype of the maladjusted, depressed, bitter comedian. We'd gone a couple of rounds on this subject, and finally I just said, "I had an awesome mother." That's what it all comes down to. My mother encouraged my curiosity, my creativity and my confidence. She believed, far more than I did, that I've got reserves of strength and purpose yet untapped. And contrary to many people I know, she never ever made me feel guilty for forging my own path. She expected it. For everything I've done and have yet to do. For the love of incredible friends. For a better life than I could ever possibly have imagined for myself, I thank you Ma. Happy Mother's Day

Baratunde's Yay Area Office Hours Sunday at Revolution Cafe

As I used to do in college and have started doing again in my travels, I'm holding office hours as a way to connect with my Bay Area people and have them connect with each other. I'll be sitting (ok squatting) at Revolution Cafe in the Mission all Sunday afternoon from about 3:30 to 7:30.

Revolution cafe SF

Revolution Cafe 3428 22nd Street, between Mission and Bartlett

My flight out is at 10pm, so I'll head out straight from there. The last time I was there in February, I unlocked an iPhone I picked up for $50 after it was run over by a car. In my recent Boston office hours, we got into discussions of feminism, immersive gaming and manipulating the electorate. What craziness will ensue on this trip? The Yay is a magical place, so come by and let's hold palaver and more. If you use Facebook, you can find the event listed there, RSVP etc.

Frontlines for Obama in the Potomac Primary: Saturday

cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics Years ago, I found myself upgraded for free on a flight from Florida to Boston. The man seated next to me was of the prostelitizing flavor of Christianity. He went on missions abroad and door to door to spread the good word. I asked him, "Why can't you just leave people to their beliefs?" His response: "If you knew this plane was going to crash, wouldn't you try to tell the captain and all the passengers so they could try to correct the situation or at least call their families? Well, that's how I feel about my religion. I know that these people will go to Hell if I don't help them get saved." While I would hardly go so far as to say that those who don't vote Obama are going to Hell, I have felt a sense of mission about sharing the vision of a politically engaged America that Barack Obama's campaign has rekindled in me. I looked forward to moving my words from the computer screen directly to my fellow citizens (blogging in 3D!), and it was with that sense of mission that I traveled to DC this past weekend. My initial mission was to have a face-to-face discussion with the family friend I referred to last Friday, but the trip included so much more. I returned exhausted but also reinvigorated about the potential each of us has to contribute to this world, and I have an increased respect for the value of simple conversation among neighbors. The second mission was to meet up on Sunday with fellow New Yorkers who traveled down to volunteer by canvassing door to door in Northern Virginia. This post deals just with Saturday. Considering how little sleep I've gotten, I can't promise the most eloquent (or spell-checked) tale, but I'll do my best to cover the highlights while only slightly blowing up your computer screen with an insanely long post. Friday night - 11pm-3am: Planning & Packing
  • burned a couple of CDs with my Obama music to canvas by mix
  • reserved a Mini Cooper via Zipcar to be picked up at Union Station in DC
  • downloaded some videos to the ipod including Obama's address to Google where he unveiled his technology plan last November
  • downloaded and printed Obama's position papers on issues I had never bothered as much to dig into including immigration and homeland security
  • charged my TomTom GPS
  • printed some detailed, two-sided, info sheets that friends in NYC had created which described Obama's accomplishments and plans for 11 issues
  • printed some black and white "Yes We Can" 8.5x11 "posters" on my home printer
  • sent some color prints to a Kinko's on K Street that would be waiting for me when I arrived. The posters are these "Progress" joints from Obey Giant
  • printed Krugman's health care critique and critiques (another) of his critique
Saturday - 10am-1:30pm: Meeting A Fellow Self-Canvasser I had the train ride all planned out. I had my downloaded and printed info plus the Google video. I wanted to be prepared for my encounter with the skeptical family friend, and I was going to cram for this exam. But when I got to Penn Station, I saw another self-motivated Obama supporter. She rocked several buttons, homemade posters and info sheets. Her name is Andrea Fazzari, and she's a world-traveling photographer whose work appears in Vanity Fair, Gourmet magazine and others. She has done street canvassing in NYC on several occasions, never at the direction of the campaign. She just felt moved to do it, made her posters, and made her case to strangers. She had a few nightmare stories of encounters with rude Hillary Clinton supporters, including a hilarious run-in with an elderly woman who shoved her so hard she almost fell down. Ah, New Yorkers. Andrea was heading to Baltimore. She had identified a Whole Foods there, figuring it would be a high-traffic location for a Saturday, called them to be sure she had permission, made her posters, printed her info sheets and just rolled out. Han Solo like that. I wasn't the only crazy motivated one. We talked a lot about her travels (especially to Cambodia), why we were supporting Obama and America's challenges with racism and poverty. Yep, just your average conversation among strangers on the train! We also checked out the Maryland resources on my.barackobama.com which is seriously useful. Obama has provided some great self-organizing resources at his site. After Andrea got off the train, I got in touch with a Jack & Jill Politics reader who had reached out via email that morning. She was planning on doing street corner canvassing in Georgetown. We exchanged some text messages and set a meeting place. Saturday - 1:30pm-5pm: Jack & Jill Politics Live! The reader who contacted me is Rebecca Abou-Chedid. We have some crazy cool people as part of this JJP community. Until two months ago, Rebecca was national political director for the Arab American Institute! After pimping out my Zipcar with my homemade posters (here I just mean "pimp" as in "heavily accessorize" not as in "create opportunity for Clinton to yet again play the victim"), I met Rebecca over at Wisconsin Ave & M Street (blasting the mix the entire way). I wish I had video. I think I was born to do this. In college I loved working tables for the student organizations trying to recruit freshmen. Nowadays, every week, I "bark" in Times Square to get folks in the seats of comedy shows. Barking for Barack. Ha. That's what's up! Rebecca and I then headed to unofficial Obama HQ in DC which is Busboy's and Poets at 14th & V St NW (Potomac Primary watch party Tuesday Feb 12 6pm-midnight). It's a very cool spot inspired by Langston Hughes with a great restaurant, bookstore and lots of artist space and performance (Bomani Armah of Read A Book fame is on the board). The owner is Iraqi. Rebecca has worked for O in multiple states including New York, South Carolina and Nevada. She told me Nevada got real ugly, ugly that has yet to be reported and which we didn't have time to get into completely. As one example though, she said the Clinton volunteers's main pitch was to yell repeatedly that Obama is a Muslim whose middle name is Hussein. Ugly and hate-filled. You hear that Mr. Krugman??!! Saturday - 5pm-7pm: Back to the Hood. I drove slowly through my old, now heavily-gentrifying hood blasting the Latin music Obama jams. I stopped by my next door neighbors who immigrated here from El Salvador. None of them can vote because they aren't yet citizens, but William has his interview this Tuesday. He was frustrated with his Latino brothers who were not for Obama. I left him some info sheets though I didn't have any in Spanish. Saturday 7pm-9:30pm: dinner with family friends. no politics talk allowed as it was a birthday dinner and the celebrated one did not want to have people warring. We held our tongues except for brief moments when she went to the bathroom Saturday 10pm-2am: The family caucus This was why I had come to DC, and I was tired as a mug by this point. I ended up talking with two people skeptical of Obama for different reasons. Robby is basically my age. Our mothers were good friends back in the day, and we share a life trajectory. Both raised by strong black women during the crack wars, escaping the city against the odds to be educated at Ivy League colleges, currently employed in stable jobs having avoided both the prison industrial complex and baby mama drama. Robby is cut from a different political cloth. He's basically a libertarian brotha, and despite some frustrating moments when I felt like my two conversion targets were not letting me answer their questions, we had a damn fascinating conversation. Robby actually had four very good suggestions/observations for Obama.
  1. When he comes to DC, he shouldn't just appear in the newly gentrified section. He needs to come to the still-black parts of DC in SE/Anacostia or Benning Rd. etc. It would do a lot for black DC to see that someone who works in their city actually cares about it beyond kickin it on Capitol Hill. Obama does support DC voting rights, but Robby's basic point was that he could get extra mileage out of showing he cares. He reminded me that Bill Clinton marched down Georgia Ave back in the day, and there are still black folk who remember that fondly.
  2. Despite the dogwhistle concerns of a lot of us about the Hussein, muslim father issue, Obama needs to own and advertise the value his heritage and name bring BEFORE the Republicans paint him as a traitor with it. One of my own strongest selling points is that O is uniquely capable of playing makeup with the world after Dubya has taken multiple dumps on it. With family in Kenya and years spent living in the most populous Muslim country in the world, Obama is connected to global poverty (for example) in ways no other president has ever been or will be
  3. Obama has rightly focused on inspiring and motivating the American people, but in order to realize many of his stated goals, he needs to inspire and motivate federal employees. If he can do that, he has a good chance of getting something real accomplished
  4. (updated. just remembered). Can black people criticize or not be for Obama without being considered traitors (similar to the NOW fanatics who call women voting for not-Hillary traitors)? This is a great question, and the answer should be yes. It depends on the nature of that opposition (CBC water-carrying vs. policy/philosophical/fact-based critiques like the Black Agenda Report peoples). It would be a travesty if black people did not feel free to raise concerns about Obama, and I know I have to be careful to check my fervor when confronted with facts. We all should. Blind followership hurts us all.
My primary reason for being there was someone I'll call Anita because I never got her permission to use her name. We talked more about this concept of "who does Obama owe" (and yes I've read your comments that just because a Goldman Sachs employee gives to Obama doesn't make him indebted to global imperialistic finance interests). She is someone who didn't start voting until very late in life because she never had anyone to vote for and considers all politicians to be corrupt. My case to her as I blogged last week was, if that's the case, you should consider Obama the least corrupted for having been in national politics for far less time than Clinton or McCain. After taking some detours through a discussion of DC's mayor Fenty, Anita threw out something for which I was not quite prepared. I had always feared that it was white people who had unachievable expectations of this articulate, educated black man. But Anita works in the city's welfare department. She sees people on a daily basis who lack basic access to services. She nearly cried recalling the times (multiple) she has had to teach 13 year old black children how to write their own names. Her point was that there are many black people expecting the world from President Obama. They see him as someone who can finally bring an end to their suffering, to their broken schools, to their poverty to racism. These people who have no money yet find money to donate $10 to his campaign worship him as a man with a magic wand. Anita's question: what will he actually do for him? Robby and I had similar initial reactions: for people expecting Obama to solve the problems of poverty and racism for them, too bad. He cannot do that. Robby added that it's not even the president's job (Constitutionally) to go lead such interventionist policies. This was not satisfactory to Anita who wanted to see the National Guard sent to inner city schools to protect kids from violence there. "If we can send them to Iraq to protect those people, why can't we send them into the hood to protect ours?" After thinking on it further, I found a better answer to Anita's concerns. I do agree that there's a limit to what the federal government can do for everyone, and that the wheels of government turn slowly, but that's only true to a point. The president (and especially a President Obama) can shine the light of government on society's problems; he can direct certain government resources like the department of justice toward eradicating certain types of ills; he can initiate job programs that re-establish local economies; he can motivate the collective citizenry to invest in changing their communities for the better themselves. And as for the government moving slowly, well that's all a matter of priorities. This government moves very quickly when it comes to war and big money. At points during the conversation I found myself so very frustrated. In part because I was fielding incoming questions, rapid fire, from two people often at the same time. In part because I sometimes felt inadequate to the task. In part because I was mad tired. I almost gave up and called it quits a few times, but Anita, to my surprise, said the following: "You have already moved me more towards Obama, and I'm glad you came down. I still can't say for sure who I'm voting for, but don't you ever give up on him. As long as you have the breath, you go to the floor for him because you never know just what it is that will sway someone." Today, I sent her Obama's urban poverty address from July of 2007. That push, from someone who wasn't even fully down, turned out to be useful advice for my door-to-door canvassing in Northern Virginia the next day. More on that later.

My Boy Derrick Ashong Holds It DOWN For Obama and Intelligence

proudly cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics What a great video! Derrick and I went to college together and have worked on mad projects including the Sweet Mother Tour. He's a member of the award-winning band Soulfege, and clearly knows how to handle himself on camera. The interviewer clearly started off thinking he was gonna catch some uneducated Barack supported who connected only because of "emotion," but Derrick made that interviewer look like a fool and all of us look good. He got waaaaay beyond the talking points and ultimately earned the respect of the interviewer. Oh, and Derrick lives in California, so he was holding it down for black voters out there at least :) Thanks to JJP commenter jstele for pointing this out. Enjoy.
Update: a followup video from Derrick explaining how the interview went down, among other things.

Why I Support Barack Obama

cross-posted to jack & jill politics Just before Thanksgiving, I wrote a series of blog posts titled, "Why I Don't Support Hillary Clinton." Honestly, I've been overwhelmed by the number of people contacting me to say how those pieces have influenced them. I was at a holiday party in Columbus, Ohio and an 80-year old family friend was half-excited, half-annoyed that I had upended her presidential choices.

In an effort to clarify my own thinking and perhaps influence others, it's now time to offer the flip side argument on who I do support: Barack Obama.

Besides, as one of 10 black people to have ever visited Iowa, I think I am uniquely qualified to influence caucus voters today. :)

Fellow Jack & Jill blogger rikyrah has already spit a pretty comprehensive post on her endorsement of Obama, dealing with issues of progressive values, electability, the symbolic value of a black president and more. I won't re-tread those fine steps. Instead, I'll try to share pieces of my own Obama story.

The Buildup

In hindsight, I was probably sold during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I had worked hard to convince myself that I actively supported John Kerry beyond the pro-sanity-anyone-but-Bush wing of my psyche. I watched that documentary about his Vietnam service and was moved. However, the convention was the beginning of the end of my forced love affair of convenience. I was living in Boston at the time, and Obama's speech lit a fire in that city as it did across the country. I remember many conversations with fellow citizens going a little something like this: "Uh, you think maybe it's too late to switch the nominee?" When rumor spread that he would be showing up at a convention afterparty at a spot called Vinalia, the place instantly flooded with people.

How many state senators could have that instant effect on people? That doesn't happen very often.

As the current campaign season kicked off, I watched and waited. Like most black people, I did not instantly decide to support him. As I wrote several seasons ago, I sincerely worried about his safety and doubted his ability to survive, much less get elected. Like a good citizen, I felt a duty to keep an open mind, watch debates, read extensively and survey the entire field.

At the Yearly Kos 2007 convention in Chicago this past August, I had to chance to see him in a small setting and ask a pretty tough question about his support for coal and a Renewable Portfolio Standard. His answer wasn't perfect (we reminded him that all coal is evil), but was was excellent nonetheless. While I don't think he had the best answer on coal as far as my stance, I respect him for actually listening to the question and giving me a direct, complete and thoughtful answer.  Watch the video right now. (his answer to my question is about 4 mins long).


And here's a photo from after the event.

Baratunde & Obama

I warmed up to him even more by October when he dropped a bomb of an editorial blasting Democrats for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard resolution and was reminded that while his 2002 opposition to the Iraq war looks mainstream from the perspective of late 2007, at the time it showed real risk-taking and leadership during a frightening era in which the White House, Congress and the media made that war seem like the only reasonable response to 9/11. The deal was sealed when I saw him at the historic Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

But wait, there's more.

His Life.

I don't make book recommendations lightly, so please take seriously this one: read Dreams From My Father , a book he wrote after he graduated Harvard Law School and long before he held any public office. It's both an amazing story and amazingly written. I just finished it two days ago, so it's fresh in my mind.

At the young age of 30, he offered an impressive overview of the history of race in America and the history of America in general. In so many ways, his story was my own: warnings from black elders to watch your back (and identity) in college; wrestling with the tug of war between black consciousness and mainstream American culture; experiencing the endless loop of self-important college "activists"; the barbershop!

Through his family history, I felt that I was better able to connect with America and even the world because his experience is worldly, and not in that backpacking-through-Europe with my parents' money sort of way, but more in the living-under-a-corrupt-government-in-Indonesia then talking-to-my-grandfather-about-the-War then reconnecting-with-my-East-African-relatives sort of way.

Those who think of Obama as just another elite member of the political class would gain a lot from reading this book. Granted, he has been influenced by the high octane educational institutions he attended, but he seems to have exited largely intact, having worked in community organizing both in New York City and Chicago when his degrees could easily have swayed him toward Abramoff-Kravis wing of the socio-economic spectrum. Organizing residents of the Altgeld Gardens projects on the South Side is not the standard pedigree of the political elite.

His Policies.

I have not done a comprehensive review of all of his policies, but two specifically excite me.

Obama's plan for driving innovation and openness in our tech/communications infrastructure and the government itself is inspiring as hell. Matt Stoller at Open Left said this:

...Obama has thrown down a big gauntlet, policy-wise.  He is pushing to break up the wireless gatekeepers, net neutrality will be a strong priority in his administration, and open government will allow citizens to generate new sources of political power.  I don't trust Obama's politics and I find his post-partisan rhetoric problematic, but I believe in organizing, and I believe that if he is willing to put the government on an open level playing field for all citizens while protecting our ability to access it, good things will happen.

Gristmill, a pretty trustworthy environmental site, has a strong endorsement of Obama's energy plan.

In addition, Populista over at DailyKos has a set of insanely detailed and informative diary posts covering "How Obama Will Change The System." This is a great answer to those who consider him a progressive lightweight who is not "serious about change."

  • Part 1 public financing of campaigns. Highlights: Obama teamed up with Feingold as lead sponsor of a public financing bill; he also promoted the idea in the Illinois legislature
  • Part 2: media reform. Highlights: through letter-writing, aggressive public statements and sponsored legislation, Obama fought against further consolidation of our media
  • Part 3: transparency of government. Highlights: has led on the issue of ethics and government transparency for his entire elected career; was lead sponsor of the Google for Government Bill which provides unprecedented public access to information on government contracts. You can play with it now. It's real!
  • Part 4: election reform and voting rights. Highlights: Obama is against Voter IDs, for restoring voting rights to ex-felons, opposed the nomination of Spakovsky to the FEC, co-sponsored legislation to give full voting rights to my hometown of D.C.

My Fears.

It is almost guaranteed that the systemic disenfranchisement of millions by our political and economic systems will remain largely in place with any of the presidential candidates. This nation requires a war-level effort of sacrifice and innovation to reinvent our energy, climate and food systems.

Our monetary, currency and banking policies would probably be significantly improved if we shifted a greater portion of them to local systems.

While economic growth is sought universally by both political parties, few acknowledge that endless growth is impossible within the closed system that is this planet.

Our military industrial complex has grown far beyond Eisenhower's worst fears. (check this April 2006 edition of my old podcast - I interviewed an Air Force official who oversaw contractors)

And then there are these five issues raised recently by Matt Stoller.

And then there is overpopulation.

Obama is not speaking much about most of these issues, but then again, few presidents ever have. Still, as I pointed out above, he's been very active on key threats to our democracy such as media consolidation, government corruption and campaign financing.

Conclusion

Obama is neither a Magic Negro nor a messiah. He is not Martin Luther King Jr. nor is he Sojourner Truth. He cannot change this country and make it all the great things so many people want it to be on his own. No politician can. No single person can. Anyone who promises that cannot deliver it. What I hope and increasingly believe, however, is that his ability to connect with people, to inspire participation, to transcend some of the more obscene flavors of recent partisanship will encourage us to take a step closer to fixing this country ourselves.

It says something powerful when you have the largest pool of small campaign donors in the history of presidential elections. It says something powerful when you can lure 30,000 ordinary people to a political rally, especially when you do so in a country whose leader doesn't wear fatigues or put his image on the nation's money.

If President Obama can accomplish two or three of the changes that candidate Obama has laid out, that would be a vast improvement for the country. But what I'm really rooting for is that he will help rekindle that spirit of civic engagement and community that is the lifeblood of this experiment called democracy. In the end, it's not about Obama. It's about us!



Check Out a Much Smarter, Geekier Baratunde

"Baratunde" is a very unique version of the much more common Nigerian name, "Babatunde." Years ago, I remember looking for other Baratundes, and I found maybe five. I'm definitely the most public and the only comedian/writer/entertainer dude. One was a Louisiana teacher owed some money. Another was Miami carjacker heading to jail. Yes, a carjacker also tried to jack the reputation of my name. And then there was Baratunde A. Cola who recently got some press for his scientific endeavors. I can't even make up this headline: Nanotube forests grown on silicon chips for future computers, electronics
Mechanical engineering doctoral student Baratunde A. Cola, from left, looks through a view port in a plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition instrument while postdoctoral research fellow Placidus Amama adjusts settings. The two engineers recently have shown how to grow forests of tiny cylinders called carbon nanotubes onto the surfaces of computer chips to enhance the flow of heat at a critical point where the chips connect to cooling devices called heat sinks. The carpetlike growth of nanotubes has been shown to outperform conventional "thermal interface materials." The research is based at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park at Purdue.
Uh huh. Go head wit yo bad self other Baratunde! And if anyone out there thinks I'm a geek, you don't know how geeky we Baratundes can get :)

Commemorating another September 11 - Steve Biko

(cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics) When I think of 9/11, I initially think of a birth, my own, then a death, that of South African freedom fighter Steve Biko, who was murdered by police on the 11th of September 1977. Some of you may remember his name from the movie, Cry Freedom, made based on his story. A clip from the movie of a memorial celebrating Biko:
My mother raised me with her own Pan-Afrikan educational bent, and I've been thinking about her as well, since I recently lost a massive amount of data on a hard drive that included conversations with her (please backup your precious memories, people). Today, the UK paper, The Independent, has done a lengthy article on Biko that's worth reading. It covers the circumstances of his death, his political beliefs, the pop-culturalization of his image a la Che Guevara and the impact he might have in South Africa today were he alive to criticize the ANC-led government. Excerpt from the article:
To an ANC government vulnerable to left-wing accusations that it has pursued rigidly orthodox capitalist economic policies that have not done enough for the masses, it is not an entirely comforting thought. There is disenchantment among young South Africans, who see the country's leaders embroiled in scandal and a new black elite growing richer while most blacks find it harder and harder to keep up with inflation.
As we combat our own disconnected leadership in a country attempting racial reconciliation, and as we are engaged in an occupation of another nation, no one better embodies the idea of "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" as does Steve Biko.

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Please backup your hard drive now... twice!

There is a tightness in my chest, and I am crying right now. I have just suffered a catastrophic data loss for the second time in my life. Fool me once, shame on, shame on, fool me can't get fooled again, or something like that. In college, a freak transformer explosion and subsequent power surge killed my hard drive. From that point on, I swore to always back up my data, and mostly I did just that. As of mid this summer, I had a ridiculous mirrored RAID drive setup with external SATA drives and all sorts of doohickies. I had about 1 terabyte of data backed up locally and had started to upload it offsite to a service called Mozy. But then I started selling off my desktop in preparation for my move from Boston to NYC. I purchased a LaCie 1TB Big Disk and put all my media files and documents from my "Atlas" drive on it. That drive literally held my world on its shoulders. I reasoned that after the move, I would re-establish my redundant data setup. I was not given the time. Two days after moving in, the drive started clicking. I knew that sound from my college crash, and raced to B&H Photo Video in Midtown. I purchased a Drobo storage device (a redundant storage array), hoping to save my Atlas drive. I was too late. I took the drive to Tekserve on 23rd St. It would cost $2,000, but can you put a price tag on your memories and thousands of hours of media production? They couldn't recover it. They sent it on to DriveSavers who said it may cost up to $6,000. I had recently closed out my Discover Card, but decided it was worth going back into nasty credit card debt. Then today, I got the phone call. "We have some bad news." They could recover nothing. They will just charge $400 for the attempt. It's funny, I struggled with the decision to send them the drive considering the cost but it is so clear now that I would rather have paid $10,000 to get my data back. On the technical side, here is what happened. That LaCie big disk is actually two 500GB drives "striped" together in an array. One of those drives failed and because the data is stretched across both, you can get nothing even from the good drive. Fortunately, I managed to get some of my data uploaded to Mozy as of late May 2007. So I've managed to recover all my digital photos as well as my "Documenz" folder which includes my books, jokes, financial filings, scripts and everything else a digital paper version of a file cabinet would have. Over the past year, I have been using Google Docs for most of my day to day creative documents with columns, joke ideas, etc, so that's all good. Unfortunately, I have lost much, much, much more, so much that I cannot even be sure how much.
  • My iTunes music and video library. (~300GB) I estimate I had about $1500 worth of purchased music and videos in there plus hundreds of gigs of ripped CDs. The good news is I saved all the original CDs and can re-rip them. I had also "acquired" a massive music collection from a friend which ended up creating more problems than it solved. There was a lot of music I never really wanted to own permanently. I can repurchase the iTunes music at far less than the cost of the data recovery, though I'll see about begging Apple for a restoration. I've head that happens sometimes.
  • My video projects (~500GB). This includes imported MiniDV footage and many edited and rendered Final Cut and iMovie projects made since January 2005. The good news is I have all the original MiniDVs and I can download the most valuable rendered projects back from YouTube (I hope) and blip.tv which hosts a bunch. The bad news is video is the most time intensive, high learning curve activity I have ever engaged in. Much of my knowledge in those project files has to be relearned.
  • My audio projects (??GB). This includes raw audio for my podcast, including dozens of unedited, unreleased interviews. I've often felt bad that I never got to many of these. Now I have a pretty good excuse.
  • My old computer files. About two months ago, I extracted data from my old college computer hard drives and put them on the Atlas drive. This had emails, papers, mp3s, etc. I was so excited to have found this time capsule, but now it's gone.
  • My mother. At the end of it all, I am pained by the loss of the above items, but nothing can represent the sense of anguish I feel at having lost audio of my mother who passed away two years ago. We had taken a cross-country drive together, and I recorded hours of conversation. I only got to podcast a little bit of it (which can be redownloaded from my webhost) but the unedited stuff is beyond valuation. It's like losing her all over again.
I certainly blame Lacie for the drive that failed, but my data is my responsibility. I will mourn this loss forever, and I really will never let it happen again. I'm trying to be open minded about this. It's the most aggressive "spring cleaning" I've ever done. Even with my mother's memories, I have thousands of photos and a bit of video. Mostly I have her in my heart, and if I think about it, I just happen to live in an era where it's possible to capture image and sound in such high fidelity. Most of the people that ever lived had no such technology to remind them of their lost loved ones. The best memories are always going to be with me. Now, here's the plan
  • I have the Drobo with 1.3 terabytes of capacity to be the home of New_Atlas. This drive will also be mirrored on a 1TB external Glyph and online via Mozy or a similar service. Any recommendations?
  • My MacBook Pro internal drive will be mirrored on the Drobo/Glyph/Mozy setup as well
  • I'll keep a smaller subset of high priority files for more frequent offsite backup
I urge everyone reading this to backup your most important files right now. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. But right now. Do a local backup. Upload files to a server. Email them to yourselves. Print things out and put them in a lockbox. If you're interested in the Drobo, I have a discount code you can use for $25 off. It's EVBARATUNDE, and yes I get some money out of it. Mostly, I want you to avoid what I'm going through. Update: September 10, 2007 @ 11:13am Wow, I never expected such a massive response to this, of all my posts. Most of yall found me through reddit, it seems. Thanks for dropping by and thanks for all the very useful suggestions. I wanted to provide a few more details of what went down and why I wrote this in the first place
  • The more technical side of the failure is that the "master" drive is fine but the "slave" drive suffered a series of head crashes. Basically, a major mechanical failure happened, and the platters inside the drive collapsed. It does not appear to be due to physical impact but just a mechanical malfunction
  • I appreciate just about all the comments except for those telling me I'm an idiot. I know that. This single-point-of-failure system was temporary during my move. The odds of the drive failing in such a short period of time are low, but it happened. Remind me to drop in on your house and mock you when you suffer your own tragedy
  • I wrote this post to 1) provide an emotional outlet for me 2) see how others might be handling their own data backups in this era of digital memories but mostly 3) to scare people into backing up their stuff as soon as possible in one way or another. I really don't want this to happen to others. It costs too much in time and emotional energy.
If you're interested in what I do when I'm not lamenting the loss of my digital existence, here are a few posts to give you a flavor for what I'm about. If you like what you see/hear/read, subscribe to the feeds or join the email list (both at the top of the blog page in the left and right columns) Update: September 11, 2007 @ 8:50am First up, welcome digg users who put me on the front page. I am so glad this story is making people back up their stuff. This is unbelievable. A few more updates
  • Apple's iTunes folks restored almost all my purchased items, 83GB worth in over 900 tracks.
  • A 1TB Glyph drive has arrived which I will use to back up the drobo in a "spanning" setup. It's two drives, but in this case the Glyph will fill up one drive then the other, sequentially. I'll store this in a fire-proof box in my home. I'm also gonna store this all on Mozy, so that's three places (two on-site and one remote) with ALL my data. I'll make smaller backup sets of really important stuff
  • Today is my birthday, and getting Dugg is the best web gift ever... way better than a $1 Facebook "gift" :) And yes, it really is my birthday. Check the vid...
Update: September 11, 2007 @ 1:05pm  Another update. I've been reading the comments further and want to point people to a few more resources
  • The Infrant ReadyNAS is a tool many have mentioned for hard drive backup. I studied it vs. the Drobo and chose Drobo, but that may not be right for everyone or even for me.
  • An eBook recommended by Macworld called Take Control of Mac OS X Backups, 2nd Edition. Here is a free article in two parts which goes through a lot of the same material. There is some great content here even if you don't have a Mac

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Happy Birthday Ma

She would have been 67 today. Long days and pleasant nights, ML.