This page written circa 1 January, 2004.
Have you ever played that dinner-party game where everyone has to say what they would grab if the house was on fire? What would you take, given one or two arm-loads? "My photograph albums" has always been a popular answer. Some select crucial documents like passport, drivers licence, credit cards. What do you have that is irreplaceable and of value? My answer changed with the century: I would grab my primary hard disk drive.
The drive carries most of my correspondence from the last 18 years. It carries scans of the documents and cards in my wallet. I have copies of all family birth and death certificates, passports, etc. All the common software I use is duplicated there, save a few large programs, but including all my own programs and scripts. All my publications are held there, my CV and so forth. It mirrors my PDA including all the ciphers and steganographs there. Edited highlights of all the video material I have is there (including my mother's old 8mm movie films, for what that may be worth). It holds all my photographs from the last 5 years, and I am perhaps one third of the way through digitising those of my photographs from the era when I used a film camera that seem worth keeping. I have ripped my entier CD collection to disk. It is true that I have sentimental material posessions, stuff like a klein bottle Eric gave me, a parting gift from Sydney University colleagues, old kitchen equipment used by my mother, but it is the thought and the memory that counts, and the picture is almost as good as the item for stirring my memory. And now for less than $50 I can duplicate the whole lot in 5 minutes.
So, now I can entertain this fantasy... if I decide I no longer like this lifestyle, I drop the disk into my pack and simply walk out of the front door of the house and disappear into the world. For so long I felt I had posessions and contacts and I felt anchored. My time with Toni Levot cured me of too much attachment to material things; the arrival of the internet made keeping in touch over a distance relatively easy, the connections became elastic and I felt comfortable moving to California; now the condensation of my "personal IP" makes me feel somehow portable.
If you are on the ball, you will have noticed that I do not actually have to grab this HDD during the fire, if I have kept good off-site backups of it... I have all but the latest sherds of information squirrelled away somewhere else. I can sit at this dinner party, smile, and honestly answer that I grab a bottle of Scotch to drink while I watch the spectacle, and a credit card to let me buy essentials while the place is rebuilt. I am better than portable, I am secured. I have preserved some kernel of my existence: A bit like fixing a small stake in eternity, the feeling you get from having children or getting written down in history.
Perhaps I ride away on a motorbike. I could spend some time in Mexico. If Warwick wants to sail a boat from San Diego to Sydney, I crew. In Wales or Jordan I look for a village that needs a mechanic or an English teacher. I cannot imagine doing exactly what I have yet dreamt, nor exactly anything I might plan, but that is part of the appeal.
Either I have not spotted the right dream yet, or the fantasy itself is keeping me here. This is probably good, because I am sure Kay does not want to have to sell the house and return to Sydney by herself... or at least, with two demanding anklebiters.