Public Service Announcement

I have some excellent advice for all my readers. Back up your hard drive. Now. No really, right now. Do it! Because if you don’t, you could lose everything at any moment. You could be, for example, happily putting the finishing touches on a project you’ve spent a month creating, when poof! Computer dead! You already know this, of course. Sometimes you say to yourself, “Gee, I really should back up all my music and photos and work and papers and like 40 blog drafts that all took hours to research. Because it would really suck if they all went away forever. Eh. I’ll do it later.” Don’t do it later. Do it now. Seriously. If you don’t have an external hard drive or some other back-up method, go out and buy one. Immediately.

Now that I’m done playing Ann Landers, I’d like to thank Kent Lewandowski, Chris Kidd, and Vivek B. for very kindly filling in while I was taking my little break. If you somehow missed their excellent posts about the clean trucks Port rally, the Estuary Specific Plan, and crime trends since 2005, you should go read them immediately. Well, immediately after you back up your hard drive, which, seriously, you should do right now.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little out of practice here after my little vacation. I’m going to need to ease back into this blogging thing. So I’m just going to start out today with some pointless whining about something that frustrated me.

So Tuesday was National Night Out, right? Which I think is really nice and everything, for people to say that once a year, they feel comfortable standing outside on their street for an hour in the early evening, or whatever. There was no party in my neighborhood as far as I could tell, so I went with a friend to an event elsewhere downtown. I had some soda and chips and got a City of Oakland refrigerator magnet and a cool coloring book and talked to some nice people. I hear that Lincoln Park had an awesome party with like 10,000 people and music and dancing and like an Olympic ping pong player or something. That was more exciting than the event I went to, which was kind of winding down by the time I got there, a little after 8. Anyway, National Night Out overall seems like a nice holiday or whatever, although I do have to wonder, what with all the promotion I’ve been seeing for months, just how much money the City has spent on this year’s National Night Out, and whether it’s, you know, the best possible use of tight funds.

I also find it super lame that despite the endless promotion, the City couldn’t like, put together a list of all the registered National Night Out parties so that you could find one near where you live. A friend of mine wanted to attend an event in his West Oakland neighborhood, but didn’t know where there was one. I suggested (in retrospect, I have no idea why, I should have known better), checking Nancy Nadel’s website to see if she had a list of parties. Of course she didn’t! She just had a link to the City’s National Night Out page, which does not list parties that are happening. It just tells you how to register your own party. Compare this to Jean Quan’s National Night Out page, which lists every party in all of District 4. By beat! Then I suggested (again, foolishly) trying the Mayor’s website, but that was also a bust, featuring no information at all about National Night Out except for a press release (PDF), dated August 1st, begging people to register parties before the deadline of 5 PM July 28th. Unable to determine where there was a party, my friend ended up staying home. If the City wants people to celebrate National Night Out so bad, maybe next year they’ll think about telling people where to go to do it.

17 thoughts on “Public Service Announcement

  1. gwen

    Welcome back, please don’t leave us alone with your minions again.

    Apparently there was a shindig at Lafayette Square; everyone and their dog sent me notices about it even though I moved away two years ago. I’ve hung out there after dark before anyway and honestly it’s not very exciting.

    [Incidentally, in Alameda? I stand in the middle of my street all night long, every night, without fear.

    Except of the raccoons, the way they rub their little hands together is terrifying.]

  2. Andy

    Good advice on backing up. My hard drive crashed at home last fall – lost a ton of stuff, mostly photos. Now whenever I download photos, I immediately 1. send them to Shutterfly, and 2. send them to an external hard drive.

    For my work computer, I use a great service call Mozy ( This provides 2 GB of free on-line backup. The best thing is it does it automatically on a schedule you provide. This has saved my ass several times already. 2 GB does not sound like much, but it is plenty for me – I mostly back up documents, spread sheets, and databases that I am currently using. Older stuff I archive to a CD.

    Great points on NNO too.

  3. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    V – the weather was a negative this year for National Night Out. At the JLDA event some of us were reminiscing (sp?) that a few years ago I had hosted an ice cream social that just so happened to be on a warm night, so we had a great turnout. Also, several people mentioned the lack of booze to draw out the masses, which as a past organizer I admittedly used, especially on neighborhood clean up day (Trash Bash), but never during National Night Out. Why push things with OPD?

    Along with JLDA having an event, so to did Jack London Square, which they didn’t advertise until about 3-4 days before the night in question.

    Sadly it wasn’t announced (or if it was I missed it) on sfgate, although I think the Trib did have an article, but probably so few people bother reading that for local news….

    We had a woman from the Mayor’s office (sorry, left her card in a pocket), and a district attorney that lives in the area speak… I didn’t stay long because I am tired of being trapped by people asking the same questions over and over again – which indeed happened two minutes after my arrival. By someone who has asked the same questions of me EVERY event for the last two years. It’s a key reason I’ve been trying to go into hiding. Why is it that some people can read the same info over and over again and never get it?

    Anyway, yes, the City spends loads of money on National Night Out. I kind of wish they’d split those funds with National Neighborhood Day, which we used to do a few years ago. At some point JLDA decided to focus on just one, not both.

  4. dmw

    A newcomer’s perspective on “National Night Out”… My former neighborhood in Seattle was about as Norman Rockwell as you could get: one neighbor actually bought the house he grew up in from his parents. National night out was promoted by the city, but other than
    providing a sawhorse barricade to block traffic that was it.

    Isn’t the whole point to get neighbors to extend themselves to neighbors? Yes, that means the person you pass every once in awhile walking their dog; the apt. building tenant using the shared laundry facilities; the person who sometimes waits at the bus stop with you.

    Council member Quan’s website did provide a great service for her district, but if it takes a city bureucracy to encourage citizens to do something as grassroots as organizing a pot luck dinner in lawn chairs on the side walk… well what’s the point?!

  5. Eric

    Oh man, there must be something going around. My external hard drive just crashed a couple days ago, and it was partially the backup for files from another drive that had also crashed. I’ve been trying to see how much of it can be salvaged. The lesson? Apparently two copies aren’t enough: at least three are needed! Anyway, sorry to hear about your computer troubles. This is indeed an excellent public service announcement.

  6. Moschops

    I can recommend Mozy or possibly Carbonite for some level of free networked (read “offsite”) backup.

  7. Mike Hardy

    As a computer professional I’ll say just get a big USB hard drive, and for windows folks either use the software that came with the drive, or for Macs use TimeMachine with OS10.5 (it’s that good, upgrade to Leopard for it)

    Then it’s just a habit – when you get home, leave the laptop on and plug the USB on. Have the schedule auto-backup in the middle of the night.

    It has to be automatic like that or you won’t do it. Setup takes an hour. Easy! and what a relief.

  8. Max Allstadt

    Mac users: get a time capsule.
    Everybody else, get some other wireless enabled backup system.

    My mac backs itself up over 802.11g every hour. Pretty sweet. PC users have even better options: the Mac built in backup works at the file level, which sucks if you have big files. PCs offer bit-level backup solutions. If you don’t do this already, you’re crazy not to.

  9. mark

    At least the mayor was in town and looked like he is mad. That is a big improvement from last month. It is nice to see him getting angry like the rest of us.

    Unfortunately, the problems in Oakland will continue until the city recognizes that the problems are of our own making. We need the city to focus on the needs of the city and not the needs of the city employees. The police union and the district attorney’s office has to step up and take ownership of this problem.

  10. samee roberts

    Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of representing the City of Oakland at several National Night Out parties in various neighborhoods citywide. What I experienced continues to inspire me to this day. Each party is the creation of the individual neighborhood – very organic, real. One neighborhood turned a somewhat run-down strip of shops and businesses into a bustling street scene where families sampled locally-made foods while learning how to make their homes safer — and children were given play badges and made police officers for the day. Another shopping district used NNO to showcase its stores and businesses by having them stay open late that evening — talk about low cost marketing! A group from a neighborhood located next to an elementary school closed its block to street traffic and invited all of the neighbors for a potluck complete with games for the kids and safety information for all. Another used the evening to gather for a bbq at which everyone added their contact information to a phone/email tree to keep each other informed and aware of happenings in the neighborhood. And yet another gathered in a large backyard where a mostly older crowd shared safety and emergency preparedness tips while noshing on homemade goodies and singing along to guitar played by neighbor delighted to share his talent in support of the occasion. All across Oakland, 400 neighborhoods hosted gatherings this past Tuesday evening – by all accounts, a huge turnout. National Night Out is exactly how the City should spend its resources in lean times – to help empower citizens to take charge of their respective neighborhoods and serve as eyes and ears for local law enforcement. In fact, at a mere fraction of the cost of employing one police officer – the City can’t afford not to!

  11. Jim Ratliff

    V., n August 2007, I asked my Neighborhood Services Coordinator to provide me with a list with addresses/blocks of the National Night Out events in the Lake Merritt area, so that I could publicize them in the Grand Lake Guardian, with a Google Map showing where each one is.

    She responded with: “I’m afraid that the information is confidential, just like with Neighborhood
    Watch. All I can say is there are likely at least 30 parties.”

    I must admit that I don’t get it!

  12. Helena

    and just how much money did the city spend on national night out, samee? I pay thousands, thousands of dollars to the city of oakland every single year, and now theyre asking me for more in november and at the same time saying theyre going to have to cut services because of the budget shortfall and here we have city employees saying that promoting national night out is exactly how we should spend our resources?

    I was leaning towards voting for the police tax even though I dont want to pay any more, just because i think we desperately need more cops. after reading the comment from samee roberts, I have made up my mind and will most definitely vote no. City Hall needs to get its priorities in order before they get any more of my money.

  13. Felicia Verdin

    National Night Out (NNO) is all about neighbors getting to know each other on their block. With few exceptions, every party that took place on Tuesday was a small, private neighborhood gathering, which is the great thing about NNO. NNO parties are intended to be neighborhood-based, meaning that people on the block get a chance to know the people that live a few doors down or a block away. However, party host can invite anyone they want to their party. The idea is that neighbors have an opportunity to get to know each other in an informal, fun atmosphere. We strongly encourage as many folks as possible to host, with their neighbors, smaller more intimate gatherings. Or they could have visited some of the larger parties that were publicized by groups such as the Grand Avenue Business Association, Old Oakland Neighbors, Chinatown, San Antonio Park or the Coliseum Neighbor Council.

    NNO cost very little to produce every year and for the positive press Oakland receives as a result, it’s worth every penny.

    Felicia Verdin
    Community Programs Supervisor
    Neighborhood Services Division

  14. V Smoothe Post author

    How much is “very little”? What is the total cost of the promotional materials printed for National Night Out? What is the total cost of the all the staff time that went into organizing the event? And exactly what “positive press” for Oakland does it generate? I’d be very interested to see a breakdown of the total costs to the taxpayers of Oakland of National Night Out. I wonder how many citizens would agree that it’s worth “every penny.”

    I mean, if National Night Out is just about a bunch of “small, private neighborhood gathering[s]” among people who live on the same block, I have a really hard time seeing the benefit of any City funds being spent on it at all.

  15. dto510

    Ms. Verdin, I understand that, in addition to the neighborhood parties, there was a dinner with a DJ for city staff to get them excited about going to the neighbors’ parties. That sounds kinda expensive. So how much did NNO cost? It comes from the Police Department’s budget, right? And how much staff time was spent on planning events?

    In any event, whatever positive press the event gleaned was certainly overwhelmed by negative press about restaurant robberies, which are a result of the city not spending its tax receipts well.

  16. hedera

    You shamed me into backing up my hard drive. I’m going to make a scheduled task to do it every week, too. And I’m going to check out Mozy and Carbonite – thanks for the tip, Moschops.

  17. VivekB

    Tears, major tears.

    I just accidentally formatted my 1 terabyte major data drive. (don’t ask). It was a RAID1 setup, meaning I was so paranoid I set up a hardware-based auto backup to a 2nd drive, in case of failure. Then, I had a 2nd backup on another machine. Finally, I backed up to a 120GB portable HD that I put in the safe.

    Well, before I did my little experiment this morning, I thought “hmm. i haven’t backed up in a month. I better backup before I do anything”. So I did. And sure enough, I screwed up.

    No worries, I thought. I’ll just revert to the backup I just took.

    Eh, it’s incomplete. I just lost a months worth of email and modifications to important documents. Thankfully my Quicken data is up to date. The backup from a month ago is fine, but the one I just did crashed halfway through but I didn’t notice.

    Moral: Always make sure your backup actually completed fine.