Photo of the month

Glenn puts our new Black & Decker Grass Hog to the test as he takes on the weeds in our garden. We're a little late getting to our spring planting, so this was more an exercise in keeping this year's weed crop under control than in preparing the area for anything useful. Photo by Roni.

June 2009

One of our daylilies blooms in its planter barrel in our backyard. We've been giving it regular water and it is rewarding us with plentiful white and purple blossoms. Photo by Roni.

We love our strawberries, which have been loving the cool weather of late. A remnant of last year's crop, this plant has been producing all spring. Photo by Roni.

You can't live in California without seeing a few black widow spiders. However, we prefer them not to be hanging at eye level near our front door, where this one was. Glenn rescued it, moving it to another spot in the front yard. Live and let live. As you can see from the quarter we used for size reference, this was one big mama. Photo by Roni.

Ben makes do after hitting a huge pothole on the Information Highway. His eMac died a fiery death, so he is puttering along on Roni's old iBook. Don't worry, it's only temporary. Photo by Glenn.

It could be a prop for a Hollywood production of "Jack and the Beanstalk," but there's nothing artificial about the wild sunflower growing in our tomato garden. The fence is about 6 feet tall, so we put the flower's size at around 14 feet. Photo by Glenn.

The maturing seed head of our mighty sunflower should be open just in time for summer. Looks sort of cool against the cloudy June sky. Photo by Glenn.

A vine that we transplanted after nearly a year leaving it in its original nursery pot has returned from the brink of death last summer and is now thriving in its planter barrel. Photo by Glenn.

It's been a month and Spring is looking more at home in her garden by the day. Here she is surrounded by fuchsias. Photo by Glenn.

Meanwhile, Spring's older sister Summer is being choked again by the ivy that is growing wild in her garden. We're sort of curious to see if it will completely cover her, although we'll likely cut it back before it gets to that point. Photo by Glenn.

Ah, much better. Ben is a happy camper once again as he gets familiar with his new iMac G5. Well, it's new to him anyway. We picked it up used off Ebay. He's happy that it's much faster than his departed eMac. Photo by Glenn.

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Taking another byte of Apple

June 19, 2009

We have been a Macintosh family for nearly 21 years. Since welcoming home our original Mac Plus in late 1988, we have certainly done our share to enrich Apple Computer’s stockholders by upgrading our machines every few years and touting the virtues of what we believe is still the most user friendly line of computers available. In that time we have watched the computers grow faster and more powerful while becoming cheaper. We went from being a household with a single machine to one with a computer for each family member. Today we could no more live with just one computer than many families could live with a single car. How the times have changed.

Ben in particular has been the beneficiary of most of the computer systems that have entered our home. He poked at the keys of that first Mac Plus before he was a year old. He sat on Dad’s lap while they recorded sound bites of Ben’s first words on our Mac IIsi. He played educational CD-ROMS on a Performa 6300CD, a gift from his grandparents, and inherited our iMac DV when we upgraded to a new system in 2004. The iMac croaked a couple years later, but we found him an identical replacement for $120 on Ebay. The growth of the Internet soon made that system obsolete, so for his 14th birthday in 2008 we gifted Ben another Ebay purchase, a speedy eMac that we hoped would serve him well for another few years.

Alas, fate had other plans.

We were all spending a typical Sunday afternoon at home June 7, engaged in our various web surfing activities, when Ben’s startled voice got our attention. He looked at his computer screen and noticed the image flickering, the picture distorting as if there were some sort of power surge. “What the?...” he said. Glenn was sitting right across from him at the dining room computer center and looked over to see orange light dancing at the back of the computer near the power cable. Fire!

Glenn immediately yanked the plug out of the back of the eMac and moved it away from the wall to isolate it from combustibles. The flames quickly died out, leaving behind the stench of fried electrical components and jangled nerves. Now there’s something we never expected. All computers — even Macs — eventually fail, but usually in less spectacular ways. We counted our blessings that we’d been home when this one chose to go supernova; we often leave the computers on in screensaver mode when we go out, but that’s no protection from a catastrophic electrical failure. We might have burned the house down.

The house survived, but Ben was nothing short of devastated. He’d lost more than his computer; he’d lost his main connection to his many online friends and his favorite websites. Fortunately we still had Roni’s old iBook that she hasn’t used since getting her new MacBook for her birthday. We hauled the old laptop out of the closet and had Ben back online within an hour, although at greatly reduced processor speed. This solution would not last very long.

Mom and Dad spent the rest of the day comparing used computer systems on Ebay, and by Monday afternoon we’d settled on a used iMac G5 17-inch that couldn’t arrive a moment too soon for Ben’s taste. He dug pretty deep to find the patience needed to weather the week. Fortunately FedEx had us on a fast timetable, and our package shipped from New Mexico in just five days. It showed up on Saturday, June 13, just as we were heading out the door to go to the movies. Ben was ready to help the delivery driver take the box off his truck.

The “new” computer — our 11th Macintosh — is in pretty decent shape, its only major flaw being a small scratch in the LCD screen. Its 2 GHz processor speed and 1 GB of RAM is a vast improvement over the dearly departed eMac and should keep Ben roaring along the Information Highway’s fast lane for another few years. At least we hope.

Ben is especially thankful to have a working computer again now that summer vacation is upon us. His last day of school was June 3, leaving him with a little more than six weeks to kick back until the start of his sophomore year in mid-July. He’s keeping up with his friends online, but he has also found opportunities to get together with them for parties and his very first date (although we aren’t allowed to call it that.)

Earlier this month he attended the birthday party for his friend Hayleigh, who had last month been the only girl in attendance at Ben’s birthday party at our house. During her party, she asked Ben if he’d like to go see a movie with her sometime. Sometime turned out to be June 13. They decided to go see “Up” at the Deer Valley Regal Cinemas in Antioch. Seeing as neither one of them had transportation, we volunteered Mom’s taxi service. We also figured that it was a good opportunity to enjoy another movie ourselves, so we picked one that closely approximated the schedule of the kids’ choice: “Terminator Salvation.” We picked up Hayleigh at her Mom’s house and arrived at the theater with just enough time to buy goodies from the snack bar before our matinees started. We met up again in the lobby about the same time and headed home, all trying to compare notes for two films only half of us saw.

We all had a great time going to see the movies. Considering that we can’t much afford to go anywhere these days, films are relatively cheap entertainment, plus we’ve had good luck with our choices. It’s usually hard to go wrong with a good summer action flick. For Roni, seeing “Terminator” was like her final fling before embarking on dreaded jury duty. We joke that it seems like she always gets called to serve, but she wasn’t in a laughing mood when she got her summons to appear at Contra Costa County Superior Court a couple of months ago. She asked to postpone her commitment until Ben was on summer break, so June 15 became her new report date.

She called the information line on Friday with hopes that her jury pool would be excused, but unfortunately she had to report to Martinez bright and early Monday morning. After two hours battling with commute traffic on Highway 4, searching high and low for a parking spot, then going through security screenings at the courthouse, she found herself in the waiting room with 45 other prospective jurors. As luck would have it, she was the 46th and last person in the pool, so she got to spend a day and a half listening to all the other jurors’ excuses for why they couldn’t serve.

Fortunately the lawyers were able to select their 12 panelists before they reached Roni, and she was excused Tuesday before noon. It was a great relief not only to her, but to Ben and Glenn, who aren’t used to Roni not being around the house. It was a great disruption of routine. Even for the cats, who wandered around looking for someone to give them the attention that they have come to expect at certain times of the day. We’re all happy to have her home, and hopefully she won’t be called back for at least another year.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 00:46 hrs.

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