Put a label on it

Though I’ve previously written about a similar topic with a post which appeared on December 10, 2015 “Organize & Label the Equipment,” recent experiences lead me to revisit the topic from a different angle. That post was about our efforts to label our equipment as ours such that it doesn’t get confused with that owned by others (such as extension cords which could belong to us or could belong to a research facility we were using.) And, it explored the need to organize equipment to ensure that we can distinguish between television 1, 2, or 3, or tripods #1-6 and so forth. But, as noted in some other recent posts, we recently had to deal with a fact of life in south Florida – a hurricane. The threat of Irma was such that we had to undertake significant pre-storm preparation, followed by a significant restoration post-storm to return to normal – whatever that is. In doing so, I was reminded of the insipid ways that technology creates a spider’s web of wires around us. Maybe this is overly dramatic, but when we had to shut down computers, phones, peripherals such as external backup hard drives, and UPS power supplies, putting it back together wasn’t so easy. Which power supply goes with which hard drive? What is plugged into which UPS and into which outlet? These things evolve over time – add a new piece of the puzzle and plug it in – then forget about it. That is, forget about it until you have to take it all apart and start over. This is especially difficult when the cable, USB cord, etc. is fed through those neat little holes that emerge under a desk, behind the computer, in an always dark and tight place. “Where does this cable go?” is frequently said when trying to become operational again. The answer isn’t that difficult, but sometimes we mindlessly incorporate something new without taking the simple step of putting a label on the cable (on both ends) so that reattachment is simplified. In the end, post Irma, I ended up with extra cables, some unidentified, that had been taken out of service long before the storm, but which were now orphaned. I found myself wishing I’d done a better job labeling on a consistent basis over the years and, to the frustration of my primary assistant, I insisted on doing labels as we restored the equipment, to avoid such dilemmas in the future. Better that I had done it right the first time, but at least we are better prepared for the next one – hopefully far into the future!

David’s fondness for labels, checklists, and written protocols is well known by those of us at Magnus. It seems, at least to me, that we have written documentation of almost everything we do, thus, it came as a surprise to me that, in our haste to make hurricane preparations, we overlooked anything, including the important fact that, once the hurricane was over, we would need to put things back into exactly the same condition they were before we shut down the office prior to the storm. In that I rarely participate in the activities related to closing down our office as a whole, preferring instead to concentrate on securing my personal office by myself, without anyone else’s help, I know exactly where everything goes once it is time to restore things to their pre-hurricane function. In addition to remembering exactly how everything in my office is placed (because I am extremely organized), I took photos of the contents of my office in case there was any doubt about the location of something. The only label I have ever placed on an electrical cord says, “Do not unplug this” because it is attached to my clock, which, prior to the presence of my note, was being unplugged by the housekeeper every time the office was cleaned. But, David’s insistence that labels be placed on electrical cords, power supplies, etc. is a good idea, as long as he finds it helpful. I will just continue to know where things go on my own, without a label, at least for now. This post is a good example of the different ways in which David and I work and co-exist. I am glad our differences lead us to work together in a manner that is efficient and effective.

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