Sunday, November 27, 2005

Mostly Caught Up & Other Thoughts

It was a day to catch up on various projects:

1. Back up My Documents on my computer (1 CD)
2. Back up photos (11/27/04 - 11/27/05) on Jean's computer (1 DVD)
3. Kitchen clean up - dishes, sinks, stove
4. Go back to Staples and buy TurboTax Deluxe
5. Enter preliminary data in TurboTax (Federal)
6. Practice band music (holiday concert 12/20/05)
7. Apply bore oil to new clarinet
8. Have all rebates from Black Friday completed

All of the above has been done and I am pleased that what we will owe in federal taxes this year (due to my contracting income while still at my "old job") will not be major AND we get a $2,000 credit deducted from our income due to having bought a hybrid vehicle this year.

Yesterday I was asked to do special music for Sabbath School in 2 weeks. I thought "clarinet piece!" and went looking immediately for the church member who sits next to me and plays 2nd clarinet in community band, to see if she would do a duet on the piece that I played with Cheryl and her cello at the Surrey Filipino Church.

YES! She will play with me and was excited about making it a trio or even a quartet. She has the contact phone number for the 1st chair clarinet in the community band (retired lab tech from Stoneham that I knew when we lived there) and I contacted Allison. Allison is really interested in doing it as well!

So yesterday afternoon I arranged parts for 3rd clarinet and bass clarinet from the hymnal so that if we have 2, 3 or 4 clarinets we will have music to play. The bass clarinet part can be played by a soprano clarinet (which is one octave higher than a bass clarinet - same fingering: sort of like a viola-cello situation) but it would not sound as nice as if it were actually pitched lower. As in - a bass clarinet.

Of course, I had to see how the bass clarinet part sounded. This involved getting out the bass clarinet, playing it, oiling the keys, tightening the screws, and oiling the bore (which actually looked to be in very good shape with only one very slight check in the wood at a joint that is superficial and contained by a ring - it may even be old). So the bass clarinet has had maintenance done on it for the first time in 12 - 15 years.

The other thing that we (my Sabbath School class) are toying with is re-instituting a mid-week prayer service. The November 17 Adventist Review has an interview (Stephen Chavez with Frederick Russell, Baltimore, MD, USA) of how the mid-week prayer service has changed their congregation after he visited the Brooklyn Tabernacle mid-week prayer service.

That article in combination with this quotation:

"God calls for a spiritual revival and a spiritual reformation. Unless this takes place, those who are lukewarm will continue to grow more abhorrent to the Lord, until He will refuse to acknowledge them as His children."

"A revival and a reformation must take place, under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Revival and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend."--The Review and Herald, Feb. 25, 1902 (Selected Messages, Vol. 1, Pages 127-128)[emphasis supplied]

suggested to my class that we need a mid-week prayer service desperately. We are praying that our pastoral staff will join us to help provide leadership.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Black Friday

Shopping happened yesterday with Beth leaving well before dawn at about 5 AM and us old fogies left about 6 AM after corraling a skittish Mopsy who flew through the open doors to the garage when Jean returned to get a key to the Concord which we had pulled in behind the Cruiser during the snow/ice/snow storm over Thanksgiving day. One bright spot is that she was attracted to the hiding places in the BACK of the garage, not the wide open garage door leading out to the slush/snow covered street.

My quick tour of about 4 stores was completed by 8:30 AM thanks to Beth and Allison taking my few Staples purchases through line (an activity that took =/> 1/2 hour at 6-6:30 AM).

By 9:15 AM I had eaten a second breakfast to fortify the cereal & orange I'd eaten at 5:30 AM and was ready to return a call from the Medical Examiner's office that had come in as we were sitting down to our Thanksgiving Day Supper the night before to enjoy the company of Miss Elizabeth and Jacki - retired physical therapist church friends who were kind enough to join us with a fresh fruit/veggie plate and the best cranberry relish that I have ever eaten and steamed broccoli. This supplemented our chef's (Beth) whipped mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffle (nothing like what it sounds - it is really a dessert item that used 7 LARGE sweet potatoes: can you say "left overs"?), Mock Chicken (an egg/cottage cheese entree that is a Thanksgiving staple here), peas and apple cider (local).

The call (notice that I'm avoiding discussing it?) was a double fatal auto accident that occurred just before noon on Thanksgiving Day. It has been reported in a Channel 6 News article online. What the article does not say is that they have only one son. I could not help think what it must have been like for him to get that knock on his door when the town police came to tell him both parents had died (Ages 59 & 62).

Anyway, at ~3 hours per case, I finished the paperwork just before Sundown at the start of the Sabbath last night. The only really good news in all of this is that the fees that I will get from the State of Maine for two ME exams plus the funeral home's fees for completing the ME release forms comes to $200. The money that I get from my medical examiner work all goes directly to local charities such as our Soup Kitchen, Food Pantry, Homeless Shelter, Free Clinic, etc. This will be a blessing to those in our area in need of services. But at what a cost. It was a melancholic day, for sure.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Not Jinxed After All

This morning (US Thanksgiving Day) I slept in until 9 AM (almost unheard of) and while I was hydrating for the day I set Deb's computer up to install my "free after rebate" NAV 2005 software to replace her "free trial" software that came with her new computer. And it worked! There was only one glitch when ICQ found the internet and NOTHING else could - including the activation process for her new software.

A brief check of the internet connection properties found that it was trying to connect to the college's proxy server. Duh! Checking the "detect connection automatically" immediately resolved the problem.

Her software is installed, multiple updates done, computer scanned (no viruses - which is good to know as she lets multiple people use it), and her vertical mouse drivers reinstalled so that her (and mine!) eVoluent vertical mouse will have all 5 buttons working properly.

Now to re-set her internet connection and shut down.

On a more sober note (you couldn't tell that I was delirious to have finally broken the technology jinx - yes, Allan, I DID read your comment and am blaming the gremlins sent or sponsored by our dearly beloved Bill Gates anyway!) - Allison is still sick, likely with a viral bug on top of whatever else she had last week. And Brian is out clearing roads during our first "sticking" snow storm of the year - today. So we may not see either one of them for supper tonight.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Am I Jinxed?

Beth arrived home for the holiday today (stuck in stop-and-go traffic for just under 2 hours due to an accident which delayed her arrival - she is safe and sound).

She brought her computer to receive an additional 512 MB RAM (2 DIMMs PC3200 to match what it already in the computer).

I installed the memory.

Powered on her computer.

The computer would not boot. It gave a BIOS error beep (actually: beep, beep, beep, beep ---- beep, beep) code and displayed error lights on the back (B & D were displayed orange/yellow while A & C were green). This matches a memory fault according to Dell's 8+ MB Owner's Manual, which I downloaded.

I tried again (nothing if not persistent here - see below for more evidence of my willingness to try the same thing over, and over and over ... while expecting DIFFERENT results).

Same result. (Is ANYONE out there surprised by this?)

New Test: remove ALL the memory (without mixing them up) and installing JUST the new memory in the slots formerly occupied by the OLD memory.

Same result. (You thought doing something DIFFERENT would give a DIFFERENT result? Vain optimist, I see!)

Current situation: back to just the OLD memory in the computer. RMA request for warranty replacement made to OEMPCWORLD. It's hard to believe that memory is bad but it surely does not work! I even read their troubleshooting tips and I've done pretty much what they suggested.

We'll see what happens when we get new memory. If and when Beth is back up here again. Sigh. Maybe I should have just returned the memory for a refund and gone to Staples. But this was a mighty good price online. We'll see.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Problem Solved!

I tried Repair Re-Install and got booted into a Blue Screen of Death. I tried Windows Re-Install and got the BSoD repeatedly on each successive try. (I know, I know - those who do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results are ...)

I tried calling Dell Technical Support for my laptop problem. I was warned by a wise advisor that I would be connected to a 3rd world country but proceeded anyway. In the course of the preliminary routing I was directed to a "Pay For Service" line for out of warranty computers. That number was no longer in service and I was referred to another toll free number which gave me tinnitus when it connected me to a fax line. I returned to the Technical Support Line and heard a message about contacting Dell Online Chat, which I have previously used to get UPS Tracking Numbers after my order has been placed.

Off to the back room to set up the laptop and fire up my desktop computer for the chat. After about 1/2 hour the tech came on and for the next 45 minutes we worked on my computer's problem. I identifed up from that this was an "out of warranty" machine and that I had tried "pay for support" and the number was not in service and that the toll free tech support line had referred me as well as putting the diagnostic test error code in the subject of the chat session.

It was disconcerting that everything that I was asked to try didn't work. At all. Clt-Alt-D at the Dell splash screen was supposed to boot me to diagnostic testing. Instead it gave me a Safe Mode start up menu. F12 boot was supposed to give me a Bootable Device Menu that would include Boot to Utility Partition. It didn't. It did boot to the Bootable Device Menu that listed "Diagnostics" at the bottom. I told the tech that was how I got the error code. Finally she came back and told me...

"Your hard drive is bad and needs to be replaced."

At last! We know what is wrong and I should be able to fix that. Believe it or not, but the least expensive hard drive I could find is on Dell's website and the drive is discounted 20% and the shipping is discounted 60% this weekend. I'm actually getting a slightly smaller hard drive (40 GB) that is faster (5400 RPM) than the one currently in it (60 GB, 4200 RPM). Dell lists it as being compatible with my particular laptop.

We should be back up and running well before our next road trip. I'm so glad this happened now and not while we were in BC or worse yet, on the road somewhere else where there are no other computers available! God is good!

Friday, November 18, 2005

A More Positive Note

Tonight was the first time in 3 months that my new Buffet R-13 clarinet could actually be assembled and played!

I had really enjoyed playing Cheryl's clarinet in (see Allan's blog post) BC because it is a professional quality Selmer. I had even started playing some of my older clarinets and found them to be "not too bad".

But when I started playing my new clarinet I found that it has a brighter, bigger sound than any of them and is very, very easy to play (similar to Cheryl's Selmer).

Now it can be played for 15 - 20 minutes per day and must have its bore oiled weekly for a month then once a month through the winter before the wood will be adequately seasoned or cured to tolerate conditions with high humidity.

This is a very good start though! I thought I would never look forward to fall with the furnace having to start up, but this year it was necessary to dry the clarinet out to the point that the swollen wood would shrink enough for the joints to be assembled normally.

BSD - Blue Screen of Death

Our Dell Inspiron 600M laptop just croaked.
BSD with the following message:

ntfs.sys Address F84554E6 base at F8404000

I managed to boot to a diagnostic screen and ran the system diagnostics which hung with the following error code: 0F00:133D (which apparently has to do with the system memory bus.

None of this shows up on the Dell Support website. That gives me a Diagnostic Tree to follow which comes down to "Prepare to Reinstall Windows".

So there you have it. Instead of listening to a Gaither DVD (Jerusalem) and posting on the Swap I got to chase computer problems tonight. The Windows Reinstall can wait for some night other than Sabbath.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

We're Home!

We spent 8 days in British Columbia visiting our daughter and her family, including 5 grandchildren who are 6 years old and under. Cheryl has chronicled some of our time out there on her blog recently.

I thought that I would mention our trip home. We got up at about 3 AM PST to shower and get ready to go and left shortly after 4 AM with Allan very graciously chauffeuring us to Vancouver Airport (YVR). At that hour of the day traffic was light and we arrived just before 5 AM.

Jean had warned that the lines are long so we were prepared for a wait. However, by 5:15 AM PST we had our boarding passes, had cleared security, customs and agriculture and were in the lounge waiting 1/2 hour for Tim Horton's to open so Jean could buy a bagel. After briefly searching for an AED (defibrillator) in vain, I settled down to reading book.

Our flight left on time for Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) on time and we had "good winds" which resulted in our arriving about 44 minutes ahead of schedule. We took the skylink train from terminal D to terminal A where our outgoing flight to Boston (BOS) would depart as well as the location for the only "in house" Subway shop was located. We ate our veggie delite subs then stopped at McDonalds for a small order of french fries and one of their parfait yogurts, which we took back to our gate to eat.

There we discovered that the flight was overbooked - seriously overbooked. They needed 5 - 6 individuals to fly the following day or be routed through Chicago arriving at nearly 1 AM EST for a $300 travel voucher. The annoucements about the overbooking stopped at about the time for scheduled boarding. But no boarding occurred. Jean investigated and a few minutes later it was announced that the flight staff were in Terminal C and would be about 15 - 20 minutes getting to Terminal A.

We were not started boarding until about 5 minutes before scheduled departure and we did not pull out of the gate until about 1/2 hour late. For the first time in my limited flying career we rolled past a line of eight airplanes waiting to take off so we could go ahead of them!

The flight was due into BOS at 7:46 PM EST and our Concord Trailways bus to Portland was scheduled to leave at 8:25 PM EST. The margin was reduced to about 10 - 15 minutes and we were getting nervous. Our flight was re-routed to avoid a band of strong thunder storms stretching from Houston to Chicago but we were still scheduled to "make up" about 10 mintues in flight time.

We were about 25 minutes out when the captain informed us that there was "visibility" problems at BOS and while we had begun our descent, we were in a "holding pattern" for about 15 - 20 minutes while planes ahead of us landed. I told Jean that I wasn't giving up hope but it looked like we would be delayed getting home by a couple hours if we missed the bus at 8:25 PM.

The "holding pattern" only lasted about 5 minutes and we started down to land once again. We reached the gate at about 8:23 PM but Jean had found out where we needed to go by calling Concord Trailways right after we landed. I grabbed the two larger carry-on bags and Jean took the two light ones as we de-planed. When we got to the door of the plane we came to a stop. The gang-way was completely filled with people - standing. Not walking. Finally an individual was put in a wheelchair and moved out and the line started to move.

When we hit the top of the gang-way we ran through the terminal to the entrance we were told to go to meet the bus. We arrived at 8:27:30 - there were LOTS of buses: Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Ramada, Airport Parking Shuttle, etc. Another man came up moments later - his plane had also just gotten in and he was trying to catch the bus to Portland as well. About 30 seconds after he arrived, Jean saw the Concord Trailways bus pulling up - it looked like he would go right by us. I got out on the edge of the street and waved my hands. He stopped, lectured me to NEVER get in the streets in Boston or I would be run down by reckless Boston drivers (he was the only vehicle moving at that time, and I was nowhere near his trajectory). Then he loaded our luggage!

This is one of the two closest calls ever. May 2004 was just as close - we arrived at the terminal where the incoming flight had radioed ahead that we were coming, we raced through the terminal, boarded and they closed the doors behind us and the plane took off. Our luggage did NOT make it on that flight and arrived in Seattle later that night after we had already left for British Columbia. This time we made it by about 1 minute or less. That was a really close call.

We had a great time in BC even though it rained most of the week. That's what there are shopping malls for, right?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Remember That Abandoned Room?

If you remember, I posted back in May about a mystery room that was literally cut off the end of a house when the new owners didn't want to pay the additional $30,000 - $50,000 for the "upgrade" that wasn't included in their contract.

The room sat out exposed to the elements with holes cut in the walls and roof for the chains that were used to lift it off its foundationa and move it off to one side.

Mystery Room Archive Link

NOW, it has been added to the back end of a new house that is being built next to the one it was cut off back in May. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera along to take a picture. They took off the roof, and put the room onto a foundation and the next time we walked by they had put the roof back on it. The holes have not yet been patched in the walls or roof.

I would be VERY unhappy to be the owner of this "new" house to find out that my "upgrade" was built of pressboard that sat out in the elements for about 6 months! At any rate, the mystery of that room has been completely solved now!