As I said in the previous entry, I was pretty upset when I realized these pieces were gone, as several of them represented some of my favorite writing for the year in which they were posted. I could maybe reconstruct a couple of them — The Girl with the Gray Eyes and the Ebert obituary, perhaps, and of course the memes — but they wouldn’t be the same, would they? They wouldn’t use the same language, and likely wouldn’t have the same energy as the originals. And I no longer have any idea what I said about my 43rd birthday, or about the impending demise of 35mm film projection, or about that road rage incident. Losing those posts really bothers me because they were essentially diary entries, capturing what I was feeling about those subjects in real time. And my annual Media Wrap-Up for that year is gone because I didn’t save my paper list (Why should I? I had recorded it here!) I’ve got a record of what movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read stretching back over a decade… except for this one year.
It sounds silly to say this about a few blog entries, but I feel a keen sense of loss and not a little despair over this, even now a couple months after discovering what had happened. I can only imagine what poor Hemingway must’ve felt when Hadley told him the suitcase containing all of his early work had gone missing on a train.
And of course I feel like a colossal jackass for not better protecting my work to start with. If I hadn’t gotten lazy about the backups, I’d still have this stuff.
Hello? Anybody out there? It’s good to see you all again. It’s been far too long. You’re probably wondering just what the hell happened and where I’ve been, and why it’s taken so long to get this place back in business again. At least… I hope you’re invested enough to be curious about all that.
The short version is: the old server crashed, data was lost, and it’s taken time to reconstruct everything.
To flesh that out a bit, let me first remind my Loyal Readers that Simple Tricks is hosted by my good friend Jack on his personal server, as a favor to me. About a year ago, Jack warned me that the server was on its last legs and would need to be replaced soon, but he was going to try and keep it running just a little longer, until he was in a better place to deal with it. A little while later, with the server becoming more and more unstable, he decided to lock me and the other bloggers he hosts out of the back-end, to prevent our tinkering from inadvertently hastening the inevitable. That meant we couldn’t post new entries or edit existing ones, or much of anything else, which is why activity seemed to freeze on June 4, 2013, for several weeks. Despite what you may have heard, I didn’t lose interest in writing, guys!
Even with that precaution in place, though, entropy finally won out and the server failed. And naturally it did so before Jack was quite ready with the new machine, which meant none of our precious data had been transferred yet. It’s a cold, cold feeling you get in your gut when you’re told that all of your work for the past several years might be permanently lost in space. Sure enough, when Jack spun up the old server’s hard drive to see what could be recovered, he couldn’t find anything more recent than 2010. Three years’ worth of my blog entries had evaporated when the server died. (I don’t know about the other bloggers who shared the server, but I imagine they were in a similar place.)
But Bennion, you say, surely you had a backup? After all, that’s the very first thing they teach you when you start messing about with this intangible digital stuff, that you always make a backup. Or six. And you’re reasonably savvy about this tech stuff, even with that self-deprecating “analog guy” thing you wear like a badge of honor, right? Right?
Um, yeah. Well, you see… I did have backups, but the truth is… I’d gotten kind of lazy about running and exporting them — it was a manual process I had to think about performing — so the most recent one I had was months old. Which meant that even after Jack had recovered what he could from the old machine and supplemented that with my inadequate backup, we were still missing a year or so of content, everything from March 11, 2012 (“The Best John Carter Quote I Saw This Weekend“), forward.
Lesser men would’ve just shrugged and said “c’est la vie” at that point, but I am, if nothing else, one stubborn bastarddedicated, and I wasn’t yet willing to give up on my precious word-babies. Fortunately, the Internet provides. There’s this website called archive.org, which stores copies of… well, pretty much everything on the web. And it had a snapshot of my lonely little blog as it existed just before it died. Perfect. I was elated.
Then I discovered that archive.org doesn’t provide any easy way to export content so you can just plug it back into, for example, a blogging platform. I was going to have to laboriously copy and paste every… single… entry… one at a time.
And if that wasn’t disheartening enough, I also learned to my absolute horror that some of the archive.org copies were incomplete. In a number of my longer entries, the ones where you have to click “continue reading” to see the whole thing, the “front page” was there — usually just an introductory paragraph or two — but everything that should’ve been “below the fold,” as they say, was missing. And naturally, these were my favorite entries from the year I was reconstructing, the ones in which I felt like I really had something to say and told some good stories. Entries like my rumination about that road rage incident with a guy my father’s age, or my reminiscence about that girl I knew back in college, the one with the gray eyes. My tribute to Roger Ebert, and to the fading magic of motion pictures on 35mm film. The good stuff — or at least the stuff that meant the most to me — all gone, with no further hope of getting it back. And no good idea what happened to it, either. Jack was as baffled as I was. The best theory he had was that something about our server’s particular method of dying had interfered with archive.org’s capture process.
Anyhow, once I reposted everything I could salvage, I had to repair a bunch of formatting that somehow got borked during the transition — spacing between paragraphs, bullet lists, that sort of thing. If you go roaming back through the archives for any reason, you may notice that there aren’t any italics on anything anymore, but I fixed all the big appearance issues at least. You may also encounter some dead links here or there, but the internal-facing ones, i.e., the ones that point back at my own blog, ought to be working.
I still need to see if I can re-upload a bunch of photographs.
But for the most, we’re back. And with any luck at all, we ought to be even better. The blog is running on shiny new hardware with multiple redundancies, and we’re on a whole new blogging platform too — WordPress instead of Movable Type — which apparently causes more headache for Jack, but is much easier on yours truly.
And here’s the big announcement of the night: we have comments again! I invite everyone reading this to drop me a line right now, just to see if the system is working, if nothing else. I’ve really missed the feedback and sense of community that used to exist around this place. Facebook took up some of the slack, but it wasn’t the same as having a conversation right here, attached to the entries that inspired it. I’m looking forward to having those conversations again…