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Keeping it Real 23 March 2017

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Ponderings, Technology, Time.
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At this very moment I have in front of me on the desk a small, red, hardback notebook. It’s only red notebooka few months old, and so not quite as battered as it could be or will become, but I know that it will last. Barring fire, flood, or similar accident it should be readable and usable for many years, quite possibly, indeed quite probably out-lasting me. It is not alone – I have a great many notebooks. In a box file at home I have one of not dissimilar proportions, written by in a slightly spidery hand, dated, and with a sepiacolour portait post-card slipped inside the the front cover, also dated. The book contains family history details purporting to be a copy of information sent to the (Huguenot) French Protestant Hospital in the hopes of securing a pension, by the person in the picture, a sharp-featured old lady by the name of Henrietta, or as the same handwriting puts is, “Aunt Topsy” on the occasion of her 72nd birthday in 1911. Inside are notes of births, marriages, places and dates of death, information spanning the best part of 150 years on both sides of the Atlantic. The lady in question was my great-great-great-aunt (if I have the levels of magnitude correct.) I can hold her handwriting in my hand, this never-met, distant, blood-relative.

And in fact I want to go home and do just that, to check that it’s still there and refresh my memory of the artifact that started my interest in genealogy! The reason I’m trying to remember is because I don’t have a copy to hand, and the website that I wrote, of which it was but a part, got taken down some years ago (with every intention of re-writing) and that my NAS drive at home is no longer set for access from beyond the home network. Neither is it in my Dropbox, or any other Cloud storage.

I know that the paper will eventually decay, indeed I’m unsure of the lifespan of even the first volume of my own journal, hardback but cheap paper, from 1991, but it has a tangible, physical existence. It will not suddenly disappear if the power fails. It will not be quite so easily lost, or accidentally destroyed as the 2GB microSD card in my phone. Unlike my PhD, it is not written in a format became compromised and partly unreadable within 15 years of writing it. For the same reason I value my printed collection of Role-Playing Games in their dead-tree editions far higher than the PDFs. At the back of my pre-digital mind there is a recognition of the difference between the real and the virtual, and for all the utility and value of the latter there’s still a preference for the physicality, and a trust that it will probably long-outlast it. (And no, I don’t need a lecture of digital fingerprints and the immortality of internet and related data, especially as I just found a page of an even older website of mine as the top result in a google search! This blog post may outlast my journals, and is that’s one reason that these posts are less candid than the hand-written stuff, but it may not, and may prove far less accessible in the ever increasing mountain ranges of digital data and information.)

Ultimately, the written word, has a wonderful capacity to endure, which is the theme given for toady by the Bible Society. The written word and the lived faith, not a bad combination.

Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you endure;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
You change them like clothing, and they pass away;
     but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Psalm 102: 25-27)







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