Two Close Calls (Dennis Aubrey)


Life is always a series of adventures, some of which we would gladly avoid. There have been two incidents recently that fall into that category. PJ and I bought a wonderful Salvatore Grippi painting at auction but it turned out to be too big to mail and a delivery by truck would have cost a fortune. So Mike Bruce, my brother in law, and I drove to Ithaca, New York to collect the painting. Of course, the day we selected for the pickup coincided with a snowstorm. We went to the auction house for the painting and Mike and I began our journey back to Columbus, Ohio. The first five hours of the drive were icy and snowy and we had to be very careful of the conditions. As a result, we didn’t talk as much as we normally would. After lunch, though, conditions were better and we sped merrily on our way. Mike and I were still busy chatting at about 8:30 at night on the freeway, so much so that I wasn’t paying attention to the gauges. I ran out of gas!!!!!!

We ended up on the side of the highway in the dark with trucks roaring by. It was 15 degrees outside. We called AAA but they didn’t have anyone immediately available. We were disturbed to hear that it would be 45 minutes, but as that time stretched to and hour and a half, we still had no help. The battery on the car died and our flashers didn’t work. Mike had a flashlight app on his cell and we used that until the battery died there. We were now in the dark and very vulnerable to the speeding traffic – we were just a dark shape five feet from the outside lane of the highway. We called the State Police, but they didn’t arrive until we had been on the side of the road for over two hours. Finally, after two and a half hours, AAA came to our rescue. … two and a half hours!!!!! Poor Mike almost froze through; I’m well-padded so there was no problem for me.

The worst part of the whole adventure is that we were just 25 miles from Mike’s house. On a positive note, we now have flashlights, flares, and light sticks in each of our cars.

Salvatore Grippi Still Life (1965)

The second adventure did not involve physical danger, but was even more distressing. Our Via Lucis photo library consists of about 120,000 images stored on a Thecus NAS server with a RAID 10 array This provides us with redundant protection, but we have more. We also have a full online backup. Call me paranoid.

The files are organized and edited in Adobe Lightroom, a tremendous application which allows us full control over the images. The editing is non-destructive; there is no change to the original image, but the instruction sets for the images are stored and applied as needed. We also have complete metadata on every single image. This Lightroom library must be stored locally for each of us. PJ’s was stored on an external hard drive. Don’t worry, there’s a point to all of this.

We recently got new desktop systems, very nice iMacs with 32 GB RAM. We needed to transition from the old computers to the new quickly because we were traveling. I set up the computers as normal, with a new 4TB backup drive. But I did not notice that PJ’s partition on the backup drive was full and she did not pay attention to the notice that the backups were not happening. Of course we had a disaster. PJ had a disk crash on the external hard drive that contained her library files for all of her Via Lucis work. She lost the library files that contained all of the metadata and edits for 10 years worth of work.

Here is an image of the missing files! There were five; France, Spain, Italy, USA, and Iceland (?). I checked everywhere for copies but nothing remained.


Finally, we sent the disk in to a company that specializes in recovering data, and although it was expensive ($2000+), after a month we got word that everything was recovered. We got the disk back yesterday and can go back to work and start posting again! Suffice it to say that double redundancy is the order of the day now.

Ambulatory, Cathédrale Saint-Etienne, Bourges (Indre) Photo by PJ McKey

17 responses to “Two Close Calls (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. I feel your pain regarding the disc crash– I was migrating 14 years of syllabi, research, image library etc. to my cloud storage when my hard drive failed (this was the backup to the backup to the backup, those earlier devices long since having failed). The cost to retrieve is prohibitive, so I am dealing with the loss of my professional identity (as well as grappling with the realization that a good deal of my personal identity is wrapped up in my professional one). I’m so glad PJ was able to retrieve her work. I am also relieved that you and Mike were not injured or worse. The painting is stunning– worth the adventure, yes?

    • So nice to hear from you again, Holly. How horrible that you weren’t able to recover your data. It was very expensive, but we had no choice not to do so. Being without it was crippling.

      As for the painting, well worth the adventure. It holds a pride of place in our living room.

  2. Extraordinary! We all are very grateful to God that you recovered your library. If I may paraphrase what you have said “Church architecture sings with joy” and so it appears that the architecture of disc technology does,too!
    May you an PJ have a spiritually beneficial Lenten Season and a joyous Easter.
    Deacon Paul Iacono

    • Paul, a delight to hear from you again. We were so fortunate with PJ’s data. Right now she is sitting at her computer working merrily on preparing images for the next post. That makes me so happy.

  3. I’ve been the “rescue” person for family members stuck on highways, we’ve been very fortunate that it hasn’t happened often and no one was hurt. It is scary sitting there on the side of a busy highway even with lights to warn of your presence.
    A hard drive crash is a miserable thing. I had one and lost a few documents and photos, the kicker was the backup external drive quit, there was an I/O error and the cost of sending it out was beyond my means. I was glad that I had copied the lion’s share onto USB drives, so lost very little. It was losing everything in the storage units this past August, family heirlooms, household goods, all the hard copy items of the decades of genealogy research, the old family photos (none scanned – an activity scheduled for our future permanent residence which was supposed to happen last March or April), and the various craft tools and supplies, art works, antiques, just eveything. It was, and is, miserable.

    • Aquila, can’t imagine losing all that you have like that. We were so lucky to be able to recover everything – and today we posted because of it! Thanks for writing. It is always such a pleasure to see your name on a note.

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