Thursday, January 24, 2008

Keep your poems safe: Part 2

I've improved my backup and cleanup strategy a little, and greatly simplified it (again!).

Earlier I'd crowed about the security scan at, and I'm still crowing but they've added a significant upgrade, and still (for now at least) it's free. Secunia offers Secunia PSI, which you can download and run from your computer (instead of just from their website). Secunia PSI adds some significant handy stuff -- you can configure it easily to run at startup or whenever you want, and after the initial download and first-time scan it performs seamlessly, quietly, and does so without hogging the system. It displays links for updating software, clear indications of whether the software you have is dangerously outdated or is merely obsolete, and allows you to say "ignore" if you know it's obsolete but want to keep it anyway. It provides links to the vendor website for software that is obsolete, so you can look for replacement software.

What does this have to do with poetry? Ah, not much. But if you're reading this blog, you are probably writing and storing poems on your computer, so you'd best keep that system in good shape. Secunia PSI is a first-rate way to do that. If you let programs such as Java (which you probably have, even if you aren't aware of it) or Adobe get outdated, you've left the barn door open and nasty little viruses may come creeping in to do unspeakable things to your computer. Secunia PSI requires one download, and from there you can let it do its thing, and it will politely and unobstrusively inform you when any program has been updated, or has gone obsolete and needs a spruce-up.

That leaves....backups! I still use and highly recommend it, for quick file backups and for file sharing. I have also started using MozyHome ( which, like Secunia, requires a free download, one initial setup and run, and then purrs like a kitten in the background to keep your system forever backed up. MozyHome requires patience the very first time you run it -- you tell it what you want backed up, and it does your complete backup, telling you how much of the available free online space you are using. My backup took about 12 hours, and included quite a lot of documents and spreadsheets and photos. After that first run, I've set MozyHome to run backups every week, quietly in the background, and it does so obligingly and quietly and very quickly, since it picks up only files that have changed since the last backup. It also will let you restore individual folders or files quite easily. It's a dream. It is, in fact, much easier to use than

So, for 0 dollars -- zip! nada! -- I have two reliable backups, with one of them covering all documents on my computer and regularly backing up any changes. And for the same great price I have a scan, thorough and now ongoing, to make sure my virus-prone applications don't get outdated and vulnerable. Secunia PSI and MozyHome are both easy to download, easy to configure for when you want them to run, and after the initial setup are reliable, pain-free, and best of breed. Even the technologically faint of heart can use them without breaking a sweat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day Job

Some poets have one; some don't -- the "day job." Recently, a long and interesting discussion on the WOM-PO newsgroup list centered on how writers who have a "day job" (a non-poetic, non-academic job in the business world) balance work and art. I wonder.

I do feel like an oddity when the topic comes up. I've always had a day job, and all along have made the conscious choice to not use art to feed spirit and pocketbook at the same time. I am amazed by folk who are able to make a living from their skill with words -- generally indirectly by being a teacher of literature or writing -- and can still summon up the magic of creation when it's time to write. They have my admiration and respect. They are probably less schizophrenic than I am.

Keeping spirit and pocketbook separate does present problems, even though it's the only form of balance I feel capable of. At work, poetry is nearly always there, but unvoiced. It's a ray of light glazing the edge of the windowsill in the copy room. It's a story a coworker tells, some dialect or tone in it that surfaces as a song. I pocket the moment, write it down later. It is an exercise in finding the extraordinary within the ordinary.

It frees me up to keep career-related ambition, fear of poverty, and drudgery out of the poetry sandbox. Of course, the downside is that it's more difficult to be connected to the world of writing, and to keep poetry a priority when things get hectic or when work imposes pressures and deadlines.

Of the five authors published in the Cherry Pie series so far, two work in an academic literary setting, one in an academic nonliterary setting, one is a retired elementary teacher, and one is raising a child and working part-time in a medical office. Three of them have worked (unpaid of course) as editors of either poetry or fiction publications. My own jobs have included medical copyediting and computers (programming, now quality assurance).

Poetry comes in so many guises. It has no uniform.