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January 09, 2006

Just Another Government Conspiracy

By Harley

When my mother died, she left behind several million slides and photos, most of them in boxes, a large number featuring parades, marching bands, and canoe trips. My sister Ann periodically tried to organize them, but ended up on medication, because when it comes to bodies of water and drum majorettes, you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen ‘em all.

Which is why, for the last two years, my own photos have awakened me in the night, whispering, "Put us into albums. Now. Before you die.”

In the olden days, my snapshots lived in chronological order, in a series of matching leather books, embossed with the year. Then, two events occurred, producing a Perfect Storm of procrastination: my first book came out. And I went digital.

I did not immediately see what a Faustian bargain those tiny cameras are. It was all so seductive: click, delete, click, click, click, plug camera into computer, hit “print.” No more trips to Rite-Aid, no envelopes to fill out, no negatives to squint at. And then the worm turned. I woke up one morning with two thousand photos, and a printer so slow it’s like watching snow melt in Minneapolis. So the photos stayed in my computer, awaiting that magical day—well, month—when I’d have no deadlines to meet or dinner to cook.  You know, like in a parallel universe.

But two weeks, ago, A Miracle occurred: the photos disappeared.

One minute i-photo was bulging with pictures, and the next it was nearly cleaned out. Yup. From over two thousand photos, to . . . sixty-three. And those 63 are from early 2004. The twins are still bald, the cat has not yet been eaten by coyotes, and I’m still writing DATING IS MURDER. That’s where our photo collection stops.

My first reaction was disbelief. My second was relief. A clear conscience and I didn’t even have to live through tsunami, brush fire, or hurricane to acquire it. I can’t be held responsible for photos that got eaten by my computer. Plus, I have a few favorites backed up on my laptop, a manageable number that I can someday organize without requiring an extended period of bed rest.

Which leaves only one question – where did the missing photos go?

The only other person to use my computer is Jenni, our au pair. Compared to me, Jenni’s a rocket scientist. (I’m still using dial-up. There. I said it.) If Jenni says she didn’t delete them, she didn’t delete them. And I know I didn’t, because deleting takes forever. This leaves three other possibilities:

#1: it’s the work of the Computer Fairies, who work through the night.
#2: one of my preschoolers is a technological savant, systematically freeing up RAM while I’m folding laundry and thinking he/she is playing with Lincoln Logs.
#3: Espionage. This is the right answer. I know it. I feel it. Remember Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION? Or Antonioni’s BLOW UP? At one of the Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties we always seem to find ourselves at, I must’ve taken a photo, and in the background was a U.S. spy making contact with a Soviet agent providing information to Mossad, and in the interest of national security, our government entered my house, fed the dogs raw meat laced with Rohypnol, and wiped out my i-photo, all the way back to March of 2004.

If you have an alternative theory, weigh in. But you know what? If I’m right, if this is how Uncle Sam is using my tax dollars, I say it’s money well-spent.

Happy Monday!



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Will you be totally devastated when I tell you that you can probably recover these missing photos? I doubt they are actually gone, and with a little more info I might be able to tell you where they went.

But only if you want to know...

I think it was the tooth fairy. Did she leave a nice shiny dime behind?

Your dog ate them?

Your husband secretly had them printed out at the local Kinkos and will have them mounted on wallpaper, then redecorate your office or kitchen?

You were identified by terrorists as being a threat for writing a book that provides entertainment for US troupes and therefore they needed to get back at you - stealing the photos and eventually trying to ransom them off on eBay. You'll get an email with a link in the next hour or so.

You can make your photos into WALLPAPER?!

Sure, why not? Get some Elmers, a little spit and Wah LAH!


wouldnt spray glue make the process a little easier and faster?

But does Kinko's really do this? (it's probably a question for Nancy "Office Supply Stores Are My Life" Martin.) Although I suppose Kinko's will do just about anything, for a hefty fee.
DawnMarie, no. It's just too gruesome to think my photos are hiding in there. Because I'd have to pay someone to come do some kind of forensics session and then I'm back where I started, only a lot poorer.

Did I mention that Susan McBride got a fabulous review in Publishers Weekly, by the way? I meant to work that into Paragraph One, right after the Drum Majorettes.

Yup, Kinkos does reproduces photographs. They have an entire section dedicated to large printing and many small businesses use Kinkos for their promotional/PR materials.

So, in all seriousness, this is feasible. And you can convert any thing on paper to wallpaper. You'd just need heavy weight gloss paper and the right glue.

I, too, am still on dial-up, so you're not alone, Harley. But I think we could be the only two people in the world who still haven't converted to high-speed yet.

As for the photos, perhaps Bush illegally tapped into your computer believing that a mystery writer might have secrets that al-Quaida might want. Of course pictures of the cat not yet eaten by a coyote could be some sort of evidence against the coyote in question.

My God, Karen, you're right. I never thought to blame the coyote. They're very wily, you know.

oooooh you're in trouble now.. a blog talking about espionage... george and laura will surely be listening in on your calls with the tarts from now on.. surely you will be classified an enemy combatant by month's end..
as for the photos.. Walgreens has a nifty service, as I am sure other 1 hour photo shops do as well, where you just upload them straight to the photo counter and pick them up all nice and printed later in the day.. week..etc... it's great if you don't have dial up though.....long upload time..
My vote is for the super intelligent preschoolers.. ya never know what they are doing when you think it's lincoln logs and legos..

Yes, I know someone would bring up one of those places where you e-mail them and they send you nice glossies, but I'm telling you, I can't send a jpg across town without a map. As you may have noticed, my blogs are always graphics-free. It's tough being dumb.

Don't worry, dial-up is alive and well in the forests of New England. What do owls and voles and hermetic humans need with modern technology?

"They" tell us "someday" we'll get the good juice, but we don't believe "Them."

As a photographer, I mourn the loss of your photos, Harley...even if you don't.

I rarely print my stuff--except to send my mom and dad sometimes. Most places I supply images to accept them digitally, via email. (So does my mom, in fact.)

However, I occasionally burn 'em to cd or throw 'em onto a secure digital card. Just in case I'm visited by the same sort of Miracle....

Congratulations to Susan on the PW review!

For me to send images via e-mail I have to beg my agent (the one who looks like Audrey Hepburn) or Susan McBride (who got a great review in PW) to do it for me. Honestly, I feel like my mom sometimes. The one who never trusted anything newfangled. You know, like answering machines. ATMs. That sort of thing.

I thought there are naked or topless (or something) pictures of you on the Internet. You posted about that some time ago. I guess you had nothing to do with posting them, assuming that they actually exist. Or so you would claim.

Of course the thing that stands out for me is the fact that you're still on dial up.

DIAL UP????!!!!!!!?????

That's all I have to say.

Thanks, Margaret! And, hey, Rob, I'm still on dial-up, so I can relate. It's a sure-fire method of teaching patience...or realizing I have none. Argh. One of these days, I'll move up to DSL (or whatever it's called) and get cable, too. But I'm waiting for Harley to do it first, so it could be awhile. Ha ha.

Have you considered the possibility that that is not, in fact your computer? It could be a fake, put there by agents of a nefarious organization, for purposes of nefariousness, who were interrupted before they could finish transferring the photographs. Your real computer is probably in some starkly-designed underground lair, feeling lost and alone.

(What do you mean, 'they've been showing a lot of Bond movies on TV lately'? What does that have to do with anything? It's a fine theory.)

Josh, I'm still puzzling over what naked photos of me on the Internet have to do with anything. And, as I thought I made clear, they're not of ME, they're of my head, with some lovely - I hope and pray she's lovely -- uh, model's body parts grafted onto me. Not that I've seen these photos, but my sister has. Me, it takes too long to look at stuff like that. Dial-up, you know.

"I thought there are naked or topless (or something) pictures of you on the Internet."


JD, what does that MEAN? Did you mean to say "giggles"?

we recently found out that my mother-out-law (as I like to call her) keeps ALL of her memory sticks from her digital camera.. If she fills one up.. no prob.. just gets another.. I have this feeling that in 20 years we are going to open a door to the attic and be engulfed in memory sticks! I guess she's afraid of just what happened to you.. if she puts them on her computer they will eventually disappear..
(she's been known to hit a wrong button or two and wipe out her printer and other things..)

sorry about your pictures I am just as bad on the computer. I need to constantly as my husband (who is a genius with one) to fix it. I have a yahoo email so when ever I have importan info like my stories or pictures I email them thier since they stay on the net for me to access. I am the queen of oops on the computer. My mother and in-laws still have dial up so you are not alone. We still would if it weren't for my husband needing fast conections for work. I'm not so sure I can go back now.

I love the idea that while at Chucky Cheese you accidentally snapped some undercover sooper espionage deal happening! That's brilliant! Definitely write it into the next book! :)

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