My life in bytes

This week I bought a new computer. I feel a bit giddy getting a new, bright and shiny and more technologically advanced laptop. But making a big purchase made me a little nervous, especially since the number of options and upgrades seemed endless (and expensive!). But my cranky and ever-slower computer was pushing my nerves, and this week I finally broke down. Besides, I have nearly filled its 75 GB hard drive and I simply need more space. That’s right! A whopping whole 75 gigs … not even half of the storage of the lowest models available today.

Despite its blemishes and bruises, my current computer has served me well over the past four years – it’s been with me since I first started my PhD. My advisor very generously purchased it for me when, upon arriving to the MSC, my old computer that I had through my master’s degree and two years of teaching kicked-the-bucket.

Fair-well my old Dell!
Fair-well my old Dell!

As I eagerly waited for my new one to arrive, I decided to satisfy my organizational cravings and take the time to clean-up my files and folders. As I thought about how best to approach this task (did I mention I love organizing?!) I wondered if the distribution of space taken up by my types of files reflected, in anyway, my life. That is, does the amount of space each of my folders takes up on the hard drive reflect the amount of time, thought, and energy I put into these “areas” of my life? So I did what any good scientist would do, I crunched the numbers.

First I made some rules… I would only count files and folders in “My Documents” folder – excluding software, random downloads, temporary files, and the loose yet-to-be filed files. I didn’t include my pictures and music folders because they take up a lot of space and often cross between life categories. Last, I assumed files types (.pdf, .doc, etc.) were similar in terms of size or at least evenly distributed among folders – while this isn’t likely and I am sure there is probably some way to normalize file types, I really couldn’t procrastinate *that* long on this project.

So as a first pass, I divided all folders into two categories: “Graduate School” and “Everything Else” – because, let’s face it, that’s how I really do divide my life these days.

The proportion of megabytes for "Graduate School" and for "Everything Else"
Figure 1. The proportion of megabytes for “Graduate School” and for “Everything Else”

Hmmm… that’s a bit of a reality check. Sometimes, it is 95% grad school and 5% everything else (especially if you don’t count sleep as personal time). Such as times like now, when I am trying to wrap up a bunch of projects and prep for the coming field season. But the nice thing about grad school is that when your nearly burnt out you can take a whole day off and… run a 5k and write a blog post… and answer student emails…

So what makes up these two categories?

Bytes 2
Proportion of megabytes in the subcategories “Graduate School” (left) and “Everything Else” (right).

So here is where my assumption of ‘all file types being equal’ starts to fail.

I would agree that most of my time in grad school (Figure 2 – left) involves Reading (“Literature”), Research, and Teaching (I just wrapped up a 40 hour paper grading marathon) but I definitely don’t spend 18% percent of my time on Courses. I’ve only taken 3 courses since I’ve arrived but this folder has lots of power point documents, e-books, and other such large-sized files. In fact, I spent much more time and energy on applications (can I get some money please?!) but the small-sized word and adobe files only make-up about 1.5% of my Graduate School megabytes.

Now onto Everything Else (Figure 2 – right)… Grad school takes up so much of my time (Figure 1), I haven’t dropped a stitch in so long my sewing machine has about half an inch of dust covering it and I am not even sure it would turn on – this folder has lots of images of projects I’d like to tackle. Everyday I walk past my fabric cabinet dreaming of all the projects just waiting to be stitched together… But I do cook! A girl has to eat right? And baked good make people happy – including your colleagues and thesis committee. We’ll not talk about the Personal Documents – taxes, bills, receipts, etc. – the  stuff I prefer not to spend much time on.

Well, that’s my life measured in bytes. Now time to organize my new computer!

My new shiny Dell! Did I mention it was touch screen! Hello 21st century!
My new shiny Dell! Did I mention it has a touch screen! Hello 21st century!

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