04 Jun 2012

Deep in a box of wires, cases and old drives, I met a basilisk.

I was looking for a blank DVD. Instead, I found one labelled "Archives '95 - '03, copy 2 of 2". I knew this wasn't going to do me any good, but it was no longer my choice. Basilisks want to be seen.

In a way, I was relieved. I don't make any effort to keep old possessions or old data. I'd assumed that anything I don't remember, and where I no longer really know anybody who does, is gone - that it might as well not have happened. No longer true.

Love letters from 1995 in a password-protected zip file. A retrospective from 1998, where I resolved to start working out how to be happy, very similar to the one I just wrote. A short video from 2002, standing awkwardly on a boulder I can't climb back down from.

Those who cannot erase the past are condemned to relive it. If Viv hadn't rescued me at 2am, I'd have been there all night.

Clearly, this information is dangerous. But it's also useful. At the time I was too close to see the bigger picture, but looking back a decade, it's almost like reviewing the life of a stranger. It's too late to do anything there, but with enough data I can draw trend lines, so the analysis hints now at what I might look back on in another decade. If I'm largely succeeding - and failing - in the same ways now as when I was 20, then it's safe to assume that I'll be feeling the same way at 40.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

I'm glad this data exists, but it won't be easy to keep it that way. Already, it's only a few random fragments, enough to get a glimpse, but not a full archive. And ten years seems to be about the limit; those archive DVDs had deteriorated to the point where they were no longer fully recoverable. Like every other possession, data needs maintenance; a tiny piece of your mind dedicated to knowing what it is, where it is, and that it's okay. I've tentatively specified New Year's Day as annual Archives Preservation Day: a time to add to the stash, and to migrate it as necessary.

In the meantime, I'm trying not to let s3sync's scrolling filenames tempt me to peek as I spend the long weekend moving this data from flaky DVDs to secure storage.

Where it will sit, until the next time the basilisk gets hungry.