Photo of the month

Reveling in the beauty that is spring, Roni inhales the fragrant aroma of wisteria blossoms growing on our gazebo. The blossoms, which last barely a week, are the payoff for the other 51 weeks of the year when the plant is nothing but a tangle of vines. Photo by Glenn.

March 2004

Hope you like flower pictures, because there are a lot of them this month. This is an almond tree in bloom at DuPont in Oakley. Photo by Glenn.

A honey bee is hard at work. Ben (visible at far right) is also hard at work getting ahead of the photographer as we take our blossom trail walk Feb. 23. Photo by Glenn.

The blossoms are already falling from these trees, creating a snow-like carpet of petals on the sandy soil. Photo by Glenn.

As you can see, we had some patchy clouds but no rain on this perfect day for a walk near DuPont. Self portrait by Glenn.

Ben displays some of the spikes he found along the walk. We're in the DuPont rail yard — and not standing in the middle of the mainline. Photo by Glenn.

Lots of blossoms... This is our ornamental plum, showing off its late winter coat. Photo by Roni.

We're in Sacto now, and there's the capitol dome, or what we could see of it as we drove through downtown. Wonder if Guv Arnold was hanging out there. On a Sunday? Naw. Photo by Glenn.

The Discovery Museum awaits our visit. This end of Old Town is usually pretty dead, as the lack of bodies indicates, because it is on a plaza closed off to through traffic. Photo by Glenn.

Roni watches over Ben's shoulder as he reads a plaque detailing the history of the California gold strike. Photo by Glenn.

Eureka! We have found it! Gold, in the form of $10 and $20 coins, on display at the Discovery Museum. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn smiles through a mouthful of sausage as the I Street swing bridge opens for a passing boat. The bridge, built in 1910, carries cars on the top deck and trains on the bottom. Photo by Glenn.

In the words of Jennifer Warnes, "I know a heartache when I see one." One rotten Apple fresh from the store and out of the box for its 19-day visit. Photo by Roni.

March 6 finds Ben enjoying his new computer. At right sits the new eMac, six days from its terminal meltdown. Photo by Glenn.

A window on our gazebo creates a Ben-sized picture frame. Photo by Glenn.

And more flowers... Can't get through a March newsletter without a picture of lupines. This is the same plant we threatened to take out two years ago, still growing strong in 2004. (Of course, this is the only branch left on it...) Photo by Glenn.

It's a bit hard to see at this resolution, but there are three trees here, two of ours and one of the neighbor's. They make for a colorful trio. They don't hide the fence or the weeds, sadly. Photo by Glenn.

Our four-foot windmill still stands in our garden, or what will be a garden again once the weeds are gone. Just don't have the heart to paint it. Photo by Glenn.

Ben makes a point about something during our conversation, while walking through our very weedy back yard. The weeds are on their way out, the house will soon be repainted and come this fall (fingers crossed) it won't look anything like this. Photo by Glenn.

We always enjoy hearing from our visitors. We welcome your comments.

That does not compute

March 22, 2004

The plan seemed ridiculously straightforward: Purchase a new computer system so that Ben could have our old iMac with its faster Internet connection to replace the creaky 8-year-old Macintosh Performa he had been using. We had been thinking about this for some time as Ben has been moving along through elementary school and catching more assignments that involve computer research. Seems now that everything educational is on the Internet, and when you are an impatient 9-year-old, computer-savvy kid, any wait longer than five seconds for a Web page to download seems like an eternity.

We finally decided to bite the bullet on Leap Day, making a stop at Best Buy to pick out a spiffy new Apple eMac with its larger 17-inch monitor and 1 gigahertz processor that made our 3-year-old iMac look like a rusty tractor by comparison. We got it home that evening and Glenn immediately went to work setting it up and transferring files to the new machine. At least a couple of days, he figured.

But that was before Glenn realized that the eMac requires newer system software than we had been using. With no way to start up the new computer with the older, more familiar operating system, that meant several additional days in the file transfer process as we inventoried our software collection and determined which programs would need to be upgraded. Then there were problems in networking the new machine with the one that Ben was getting and Roni's laptop. We'd seldom encountered these types of problems when all the computers operated on the same software.

Ben was as patient as a 9-year-old boy can be, and at last on March 6 he had his "new" computer on his desk ready for use. Dad had cleared off a fair chunk of disk space to load it up with educational software. The rest was available for Ben's favorite games, some word processing and graphics programs, and of course the Internet browser that he would use for what we expected would be more time online.

What Glenn did not do was heed the advice computer gurus have followed for ages and back up all our data before shipping it over to the eMac, trusting in Apple's legendary track record for quality to see us through the upgrade. In fact, in over 15 years of being a Mac family, we had never lost data because of a problem with the computer itself (excluding hard drive crashes!) — until now.

On March 12, with most of the software transfers and updates done, the eMac was happily humming away on our desktop. Then suddenly something wasn't working right. We tried to reboot the thing and got an endlessly spinning beachball cursor. We ran a diagnostic on the hard drive and discovered to our great dismay that the system disk had been corrupted and the operating system was no longer there. So we repaired the problem, reinstalled the software and thought all was well again. Only harm done was that three years of old e-mail was lost. We shrugged our shoulders and pressed on. A couple of days later, the system disk became corrupted again, but this time it took out the partitions on the drive that contained all our program applications and a disk with lots of stuff we'd downloaded off the Internet. Fortunately, Glenn had by now backed up the disks after out initial problem, so all our irreplaceable data were safe. Unfortunately, he had not backed up the applications that were lost, having installed them all off installer disks by hand.

For the next week Glenn tried in vain to resurrect the eMac, wiping the hard drive clean, reinstalling the system files, and starting to copy over data until the corruption problems reappeared. Five, six, seven times... no luck. At last, having tried everything he could think of and checking out every online support forum he could find in search of an answer, Glenn performed a hardware diagnostic of the eMac that revealed a problem with the disk drive that couldn't be repaired (by us, anyway). What to do?

Short of accepting the fact that we now had a pricey 50-pound paperweight sitting on our desk, Roni marched all of us back to Best Buy to haggle with the manager in hopes that he would exchange our defective machine for a working one, rather than having to go through Apple's lengthy warranty repair process. Not a problem if you do this within two weeks of purchase, but we were almost at three weeks and needed some divine intervention. Fortunately the manager took pity on us and we were able to swap eMacs. (That store will get more of our business!) That was three days ago, and so far (knock on you-know-what) all seems to be well. But the files are still on our backup disks just in case.

So today, for the first time in over three weeks, there is time to reflect on the month gone by. Phew!

You will recall from last month that the rains were endangering our window of opportunity for getting almond blossom photos this year. Fortunately we caught a break in the soggy, gloomy weather and managed to get over to the DuPont property for our annual spring walk Feb. 23. It was a good thing we did, too, because the blossoms were already past their peak and just a week later were mostly gone. Fleeting beauty to be sure. And by Feb. 29, the day our computer nightmare commenced, it was nearly time to haul off the sweaters and jackets and break out the shorts and T-shirts. As we have said before, we go from winter to summer in a matter of a couple of weeks in Delta country. This past week has been mostly mid-80s. Welcome to "spring."

With Ben learning about the Gold Rush recently, we decided to give him a close-up history lesson by visiting Old Sacramento Feb. 29, where we checked out the Discovery Museum and paid special attention to the gold discovery and mining exhibit. Ben was more into checking out the delicatessens that line Front Street, and we eventually picked up lunch from a sausage stand called the Missing Link and ate out along the rain-swollen banks of the Sacramento River. Still one of our favorite hangouts, filled with lots of happy memories of trips we took there five years ago to show Ben the trains.

Closer to home, the nicer weather has turned our attention once again to the back yard and its myriad of deficiencies, not the least of which is the waist-high weed garden growing in what used to be the middle of our lawn. The plants have been sorely neglected for a couple of years now, but the hardiest ones have survived and even thrived on their own. Our evergreen ash and fruitless mulberry trees continue to grow, and look as though they will give us plenty of shade this summer. Our half-dozen grape plants all are leafing out, and Roni's rosemary shrub is doing its best to take over her forgotten garden. The gophers have been busy too, leaving their little mountains of displaced sand everywhere you step.

We tackled the weed situation yesterday, spending a good three hours pulling, raking and whacking the overgrowth away. Now we can see the base of the trees and the pathway at the top of our retaining wall again. We were just beginning to rip up the old sod for a new lawn when the rake broke, so it looks like we'll have to perform yet another "hardware upgrade" before Glenn can install any new "software" in our yard.

It's time to prepare for Roni's birthday and our anniversary, so that will do it for this month. With luck, our ISP won't experience the computer problems that have plagued us this past month and you'll be able to read this.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 at 00:00 hrs.

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