Back in December, I visited my friend, Mark Perakh, author of “Unintelligent Design” and the fellow behind the TalkReason website. He lived with his wife and two dogs in a two-story home a bit north of Escondido, California. He sent an email earlier today to say that his house has burned down. Everyone got out fine, but the house is a total loss. They are staying in a hotel until a rental house is available.
So why do I say “tragedy” when everyone made it out OK? There are some material things that are not easily replaceable, no matter how much money you have. And Mark’s collection of his papers certainly qualifies on that score. While I was there, Mark showed me a sampling of his papers and his two dissertations. While I don’t read Russian, I know that the dissertations had the elegance that follows from function, with many fold-out hand-drawn illustrations, and each equation hand-inked in the text (and there seemed to be equations on most pages). Mark had many letter-file boxes holding reprints of articles that he had published, and showed me some of the hundreds of papers to his credit. I’m not sure whether Mark will try to re-assemble such a collection again, but I know that it was difficult to obtain publications from the Soviet Union in the past, and I suspect that things have not gotten much easier in that regard with the breakup of the USSR.
This has got me thinking about my own collection of “stuff” and what to do about disasters. There aren’t that many “things” that I would be too broke-up over, but I hate to think of the computer files I’ve got becoming lost forever. So I think one project to bump up in priority is making a set of DVDs with the irreplaceable data such that I can send copies elsewhere: to parents, to friends, to anyone living under different circumstances who would be unlikely to suffer the same disaster.