Unmitigated Disaster (I Thought)
By Cathy Seckman
It was 5:05 on a cold Thursday morning. I was up early with a lot to do, and the first item on the agenda was to type in the last hundred or so entries for a veterinary parasitology index and complete the editing. The index was due that day, but technically I had until 5 p.m. The goal was to finish it by noon so I could spend the rest of the day packing a bag and reviewing the three-hour speech I was scheduled to give at a dental hygiene meeting in Michigan Saturday. (I’m a dental hygienist in my other life.)
I banged out the last entry (Baermann technique, 239-241) just before 8:00, stopped for breakfast and a walk, then settled in for the editing process. Because I had all morning, I thought I’d try some new tricks with Sky Index. I’ve always been one of those people who uses the same favorite features and shortcuts with every computer program, seldom bothering to learn new ones. I should have stuck with that plan, it turns out.
The new trick I wanted to try was called “Duplicate Main Heading and Group.” I don’t even remember now why I wanted to try it, but I did. The entries popped up just as expected, and they seemed fine.
“But wait,” I thought, suddenly confused. “What’s wrong with this picture?” The index just didn’t look right. It took a few seconds of disbelief before the awful truth sank in. Disbelief was followed by dismay, then by anger, then by panic. The index didn’t look right because most of it was missing. Where I had had 1,422 entries, I now had three entries—the three I had just tried to duplicate. What had happened to the other 1,419? I hit the undo button. Nothing. I scrolled up and down both panes. Nothing. My mouse hovered over the ‘x’ at the top right. If I closed the index, then reopened it . . . .
No, that might make the disaster irrevocable. I was afraid to touch anything. I had just lost the entire index, which was due in less than seven hours. I fired off a panicky e-mail to Sky Support, wondering if Kamm checked his messages this early. Then I tried to think.
Backup. Backup! It was like a ray of light in the blackness of my panic. I had backup!
Like everyone else, I’ve accumulated half a dozen jump drives in the past few years. I don’t know where they come from, they just appear in the steel box where I keep backup discs. I use a particular white one for backing up the current index. I dug out the white jump drive and plugged it in. Yes! There was the index. There was just one small problem. I had not done a backup since the previous day. It had not occurred to me to back up the index before I started editing. I’ve never done that. So after the obligatory few minutes of cussing and fuming, I started to re-type everything I’d done in the wee hours of that morning.
The index was turned in at 4:15 that afternoon. Editing took much longer than it should have because I was so nervous and shaky after the near disaster. The leisurely packing I’d planned for Thursday afternoon was done in the 10 minutes before we left home Friday morning. The speech review was done at 9 p.m. Friday evening while I kept my eyes open with a dental mouth prop (just kidding).
So―what did I learn? Well, there are the obvious things: always do a backup before editing; never try a new program feature when you’re on a deadline; don’t panic.
I traded several e-mails with Kamm Schreiner, developer of Sky Index. He had no clue what I’d done. Neither of us could imagine any accidental combination of keystrokes that would erase an entire index. After the third set of e-mails I decided to call up the file to see if there were any overlooked clues.
Ahem. Imagine my surprise when the entire index, partly edited, appeared on the screen.
What!?!?! Why was it there? What happened to the three-entry file that started the whole problem? After I thought about it for awhile, I decided I must have accidentally created a subgroup. The program was only showing me the subgroup, but after I closed the file and reopened it a few days later, the entire index resurfaced. Kamm agreed with my hypothesis, saying, “You may have used the Group on Text command by mistake, which has a similar keyboard shortcut. Shift+F6 will group on a main heading.”
So there it is—probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done as an indexer. I did make the deadline, thanks to my habit of backing up the current index every evening. But things would have been much easier if I’d also backed up just before editing.
© 2009 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.
"What had happened to the other 1,419 entries?"