Thursday, February 24, 2005


Remember when we blamed everything on sunspots?

The joke actually refers to a phenomena we ought to keep in mind, namely, statistical corellations don't necessarily "prove" anything. They're useful, but they, by themselves, can only point us in the direction of what is actually happening and they really don't tell us what is going on. Too often a statistical correlation is used as "proof" of a theory.

Anyway, what brought that on was -- my external 10GB hard drive failed while we were in Florida. The drive itself was free (to me) -- it came from a friend who said it was a questionable drive in the first place. At any rate, my neighbors have been having problems with spyware on their computer -- they've probably been rooted (taken over, owned), so I'm helping them with that. My mother-in-law had trouble installing the new MSN Messenger update, and I can't seem to connect with her computer anymore with VNC for some reason to help fix it myself. And on top of all of that, my 120GB storage drive at home fizzled out Monday morning.

It's gotta be sunspots.

Well, that drive held most of my digital photographs. And all the music I've ripped from CDs. Not that I couldn't rip it again, but it's a pain. The most important things wer the photographs. And I've been meaning to buy a DVD-R to back up my pictures and MP3's (they can store so much more than CD-R's) but you know I never quite got around to it.

So I bought a piece of software (R-Studio) that allows you to recover files off of damaged drives. I was getting lots of CRC (Cyclical Redundancy Check) errors on it -- which basically means when it tried to read certain spots on the disk and checked to make sure that it read the right thing, in couldn't get the same thing twice so it reported a problem. To make a long story short, the drive is going bad fast -- it's pretty much unusable.

I bought the $80 version of R-Studio, though the $50 NTFS-only version would've done the job (since that's what the format of the disk was). I sprang for the extra $30 because this version will read stuff from any disk format I use, including the old FAT system, SmartMedia, and Compact Flash...

At any rate, I got the pictures and the music off of it. I also ordered a replacement 40GB drive for the 10GB external drive, and I just ordered a new 120GB internal drive AS WELL AS a DVD-RW so I can BACK MY SHIZZIZLE up(!) efficiently.

I made a CD for Mom with the new MSN Messenger client with an AUTORUN file so that it should just start installing when she puts it in the computer. Mailed it to her.

On top of all that, my identity got stolen. Someone got my card number and my ssn and changed my password on a credit card site, changed my address to a New York address, and ordered over $2,000 worth of stuff on it.

Fortunately, the credit card company blocked the attempt. And I no longer have that card. Need to talk to them about their security. I would like someone to have to know at least three things about me on top of my credit card number before they could change my password. Make it a LITTLE more of a challenge.

Now lots of things could've caused that... a trojan sniffer program on my computer, some dishonest employee of a merchant that used my credit card AND then went and found out what my ssn is (it's not really very private these days).... Anyway, I'm fairly careful about these things, and if it can happen to me....

She packed up her bags and she took off down the road
She left me here stranded with the bills she owed
She used my address and my name
Man, that was sure unkind
Sunspot baby, sure had a real good time.

-- Bob Seger

Got a fakebook the other day that has "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy" in it. I was struggling to figure the bridge out. Everything in that book was in C... I got the bridge, then transposed the whole song into "G", and dropped the diminished chords. Sounds pretty good. What a fun little ditty. I've always liked it. Love the quintessential June Christy/Stan Kenton version of it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Molly Bowden

We came home to the sad news that local police officer Molly Bowden didn't make it. She was shot about a month ago by some evil freak who felt the cops had it in for him, so he concocted up this fantasy about killing a cop and carried it out.

That freak died the next morning when he shot himself while police tried to apprehend him. Could have saved a lot of people a lot of pain had he decided to do that about 12 hours earlier.

Molly was the daughter of some friends of ours, and we'd had the pleasure of meeting her socially a couple of times. I remember she and Vicki would feed off of each other and just get real goofy. She was a joy to be around. Real neat lady. Anyway, this is not supposed to happen to good people, but as we see too often, it does...

I was coming back from the grocery store today and happened upon a pile of flowers and balloons and such on the side of the road. At first I thought it was another cross and boquette for someone who died in a traffic accident, then I realized it was an unusually large pile of flowers and such. And I remembered the report in the paper and that that must have been where Molly had been shot.

For those of you who don't know about it, you can read the story here.

What a sweet and pretty young lady she was. Our thoughts go out to her family.


Back from Florida already. Were we ever there? Well, we do have the pictures to prove it.

We drove down on Thursday... made it to Cordele, GA by 11:00pm ET. Got up and did the other 3.5 hours to Ocala, FL, where my Aunt.. you know, the one with the spaghetti sauce? She lives near there.

The one with the twinkling eyes and a certain zeal for life.... That would be the one. She and Ed live in a nice house on a golf course (a pretty nice one -- house and golf course) down in sunny Florida. We, of course, as usual, did our level best to bring inclement weather with us when we visit such places -- the high there on Friday was 58. I think it was 50 in Columbia. Still, we weren't there to sun ourselves, we went to visit.

Friday evening we had dinner at a cool seafood place just down the road a piece by a creek with big cypress trees and spanish moss hanging everywhere. The food and atmosphere were great.

Spanish moss became kind of a fascination with me. I'd only seen it before in Chatanooga, TN, although I knew it was all over the southeast coast of the US. I had to do a little research on it, and I've since found out that it is not a parasite, it is actually an epiphyte like many orchids are -- it grows ON other plants, but only uses that plant for support, not nutrition. It has no roots and feeds out of the air. It has chlorophyll. It is related to pineapples. It can smother a tree -- killing the light it needs, and when wet gets very heavy and can break branches.

We went to Homossossa Springs Saturday and checked out a Manatee preserve where they also had lots of native animals. Got to take a boat ride down Pepper Creek -- kind of reminded me of something out of Crocodile Hunter -- although we saw no crocodiles or alligators or pretty much anything but birds and turtles. But the vegetation was pretty cool. A couple of the pictures above are from there.

I had to go to the Gulf Coast, and we hit it in the afternoon. With the shallow shelf off of the Central Florida coast, there's really no surf -- it could have been a big lake, really. I've seen bigger waves on lakes, truth be told. But there were a couple of flocks of gulls, different kinds, and some sandpipers. A lady and her kids were giving them crackers and they would come take them from their hands.

I got a nice shot of Vicki being swarmed by them in the frenzy. A couple of more nice ones below.

That evening Aunt Pat made us some of the famed spaghetti sauce, and garlic bread served with a cabernet, and it was a great dinner off of our diet.

Oh, the diet -- we've lost 10 lbs apiece, and we were pretty good over the weekend with the exception of some alcohol and the pasta.

Sunday we pretty much putzed around. Put more memory in my Aunt's computer, watched people play golf, sat and talked, and Vicki and I went for a walk in a nearby nature perserve where I took more pictures (imagine that) and we went home for a fabulous steak dinner.

Monday morning we started what was to be another day and a half trip back, but when we realized we could be home by 1:00 AM, we decided to make the mad dash all the way home and took today to recover.

Turns out you can stick to South Beach pretty well while you're out. Hardees, Burger King, and many fast food places as well as Cracker Barrell have options for you. We're back, and back on the diet. I could stand to lose another 2 or 3 lbs, but I'm not too worried about it at this point. Vicki's determined to stay on it, so I'll be eating South Beach food with her for the forseeable future. Won't hurt me a bit.

And one parting shot, the four of us down in Aunt Pat's dining room to prove we were all there...