Monday, November 24, 2014

CDO in action

I recently discovered Google Docs, or, more accurately, I finally succumbed to the various entreaties from Google that I check it out. Coincidentally, my desktop computer has begun behaving erratically again. The original hard drive went senile about 18 months ago. It didn't cost much to replace it, but I did lose a fair number of files and photos I had stored on it. Nothing important, but still it was moderately annoying. Since then, I've been trying to remember to save photos to a flash drive or to stash them in various online albums, but hadn't really thought about documents much. After all, most of the writing I do is strictly personal -- letters to pen pals, notes to my sisters, the annual Xmas letter to enclose with cards. Nothing horrible was going to happen if it all vanished. Back in the days of pen and ink, it would all be ephemeral anyway.

And then we decided to become campground hosts. I was going to be away from the desktop for awhile, the S.O. had invested in a tablet that we planned to tote along in addition to his laptop, maybe, just maybe, Google's cloud wasn't such a bad idea after all. I could use the tablet to do my letter writing, then connect the laptop to a printer to get the hard copy to mail. Or I could go to a public library to use the computer there to access the cloud and then print out a hard copy.

As it turned out, I did all my letter writing at Montauk the old-fashioned way: pen and paper. The writer's bump on one finger actually started reforming -- does anyone else still have remnants of the callus left from doing a lot of writing by hand? I found myself remembering why I always liked to write things out in long hand first -- you have to go a little slower than when you type, so you're forced to think more about just what it is you plan to say. Still, Google Docs was still floating around in the back of my mind. After all, John Scalzi had sort of recommended it -- in a blog post a few years ago he mentioned that it was good for doing short pieces, although he wasn't too happy about its rather rudimentary formatting capabilities. Well, how much formatting does the typical personal letter need? Not a whole heck of a lot. So I started doing letters in Google Docs. I figured that way if I'm feeling particularly verbose (not an uncommon occurrence), I wouldn't have to worry about my computer deciding to eat a letter before I'd finished it.

Then I realized that Google Docs also lets you do spreadsheets. And that's where the CDO comes in. You know that Reading List I have over on the right hand side just above the Pulitzer  list? I'm now in the process of building a spread sheet that will do a better job of tracking what I've read than just doing a once a year printout on December 31. No more going to the library and not being able to remember if I've already read a book; no more grabbing something by one of my favorite authors off the shelf, getting it home, thinking, jeez, this sounds familiar, checking the printouts, and realizing I read it two years ago. Nope. I'm going to create a spreadsheet in Google Docs that goes back at least five years. Next time I have a question about whether or not I've read something, I'll be able to log on from a library computer and double check. And it's going to be so much better than the Reading List. The List just displays stuff in chronological order. Whatever's at the top of the list is what I'm reading now. The spreadsheet will be alphabetical by author, which make it super easy to search. At this point, two things are going through my head: 1. Why didn't I do this sooner? And, 2. I almost wish I had a smart phone so I'd be able to access the list when I'm in bookstores, too.


  1. I don't sweat losing pictures on my computer anymore being as most of them are on the internut anyway. Not that twenty years from now anyone is going to give a fuck, they will just be more trash in space.

  2. BBC hit it on the nose: trash in space. That is one way to think of it. I like it.

    There is something impersonal about all this electronic mail etc. We can pass information; but it is sterile.

    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. I keep my reading list on Goodreads. And I want NONE of my trash in space; I want it all on my HD and backup HD.


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