May 27, 2004

A temporary loss of technology 

How many of you start to sweat if you cannot access your email for more than a day? Check your stock? Conduct on-line banking? Book movie tickets for the weekend? Converse in your favorite Yahoo group?

Recently at work with modifications being made to the server, the email system has been "down" for 30 minutes or more. I rely on my business email as an intergral communications tool and such interruptions cause unproductive breaks.
The phrase, I would give my right arm to have my email back is common enough.

Yesterday was a great challenge, if fact from the kindness of another I am allowed to post to London Chimes. Here is my horrific story.

After a long and productive day at the office I was in wind-down mode when my wife called to tell me to be prepared to look at the computer when I got home as "it was not working" static perhaps or a bad cell, technology again, prevented the full horror from being described to me.

I arrived home and sat at our four-year-old Gateway that simply refused to load windows. It had been fine that morning, indeed the last few days. But despite loading into the DOS and reading messages about himem.sys files not existing, when the directory listing clearly showed the file existed was but the tip of a nasty iceberg.

Using the restoration disks available to me from Gateway, I slowly follwed the screen prompts to load windows in a safe mode. This worked, momentarily and then crashed. Running out of options, and my reasonable knowledge of dos, Taney & I discussed the final option available to us, to reconfigure the hard disk, reload windows, AOL and Microsoft but loose all our data, in particular the precious photos downloaded from our camera over the years.

We agreed that there was little else to do and hit the F1 button to start the process, windows failed to load, again and again.

I tried to hide my frustration from Taney and finally left for bed, too late and too tired with an effectively comatose computer. All was not lost, there was still tomorrow.

The situation went from bad to dire, Taney called Gateway technical support who explained from an error message Taney had seen before everything collapsed that we had fallen victim to a spider virus and that Gateway had no way of fixing the problem but gave a number of a group that could help.

Taney called the second number, the diagnosis that this virus attacked windows was preventing us from loading windows and our idea of reformatting to reload had caused a problem of being unable to copy across those cherised pictures by email or to disk, with no guarantee that the virus would not copy across only to infect a second machine in time.

Our Gateway desktop that had served us so well since arriving in the USA had died a death before its time.

Now if not having email for thirty minutes is bad enough to give your right arm for, imagine being computerless in a household that truly rates a home computer as an essential household applicance and communications tool.
With all our resources reserved for our adoption plans, the mere thought of how do we finance $1000 for a new computer was at least stomach turning. While my stress levels soared to record heights in recent years. You see since moving to the US, the home computer has been my communication tool to my friends and family back home, it has helped me work from home when the opportunity arose and with the assistance of the APC group on Yahoo, offered many helpful answers in our adoption journey.

To be without a computer in the home, for a few hours I was close to distraught.

With a number of calls between Taney on her cell and I on mine, we discussed our options and concluded that we were in a jam.

Dear reader, I am certain you are observant enough to notice that I am posting on a computer, how and where?

Taney's Grandmere, a wonderful woman a couple of years ago purchased an iMac to be able to read and send email to her son who at the time was working overseas in New Zealand. The iMac in all this time may have only been switched on a few times but not more.

During Taney's visit this afternoon, she asked if her Grandmere would be interested in selling the iMac to us as our desktop was dead.

To cut a beautiful story short, I am sitting at my desk in my home working on an iMac, a new permanent addition to the technology in our home.

iMac's are different from the IBM type desktops I have owned and worked on for nearly 25 years. I have a small learning curve to climb to understand how to use this Mac to its potential that meets the needs of Taney & I.

So as I put in the header, a temporary loss of technology, this is only the second PC to expire on me in 24 years, not a bad record, but one I am not eager to repeat.

Through ther kindness of others, Taney & I are able to continue contact with the friends we have made adopting children from China, as well as our adoption agency. This more than any other reason tops the list for being connected and on line. Communication with the UK is a very close second, everything else including London Chimes is a distant third.

The last 24 hours have seen me totally technologically challenged, I did not enjoy the experience and see clearly how much in 2004 I rely on a computer.

In the 70's my Mum did mention that computers will be a future, they are now part of our culture and everyday needs. What did we do before email and the world wide web? Can anyone really remember?

Feedback always invited, please email me.

May 25, 2004

BBC Searching for a Presidential Panel - Pick me! 

Auntie Beeb, www.bbcnews.com are currently searching for ten individuals to write about the upcoming Presidential election in the US this November.

As I simply stumbled on this request I added my four cents and submitted my application. We shall see if they indeed pick a Brit in a key state for the election in 2004, or pass me over in favor of a biased reporter from left field, rather than to the right of center.

I thought with my perspective on the elections and unable to vote, yet a resident in the States, my opinion would be worthy of selection.

I shall of course dear reader keep you appraised of the outcome.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

May 22, 2004

Philadelphia Flyers lost 2-1 in Game 7. 

This is going to be brief and to the point.

The Philadelphia Flyers, despite their daring doo on the ice in Tampa Bay this evening failed to win a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. The game was in my personal opinion not as good as game 6 but had plenty of moments to keep my two brother in laws and I rivited to the screen.

On a personal note, I have to thank my dear wife who kindly supplied an array of "nibbles" to eat with the case of Stella Artois purchased this afternoon. Taney headed out to the movies to see a "chick flick" and has yet to return, allowing the three of us to have a guys night with the ice hockey. I have a wonderful wife.

In conclusion, once again a Philadelphia team reaches the semi-finals but somehow fails to make the final two teams - AGAIN.

Here is to the 2004/5 season.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

May 21, 2004

Election Day June 10 

Don't forget to get out and vote on June 10 for the new mayor of London.

Odds are on that the present incumbant, Ken Livingstone, love him or loathe him will probably win the election as Steve Norris really does not measure up as real competition.

Some years ago I had the opportunity to come across Ken before his current job walking down Victoria Street in Westminster talking very loudly on a cell phone. Well the noise from all those buses was not exactly quiet and environmentally sound.
Once I realized who I was literally about to walk into, I was surprised how small the man is, somehow I thought he was taller!

Ken's latest tirade in on owners of large four-wheel-drive vehicles in London that he calls unnecessary status symbols. Especially those used to ferry the kids around Chelsea on the school run.

This is not exactly the geographic area that he will find voters, and he really doesn't care one dot.

Another equally crazy policy is that he want power to prevent people from paving and concreting over their front yards for off street parking as in some areas when it rains the run off creates flash floods. The North Circular Road A406 was sited as one example. Well Ken if the owners of the 4WD who live on the A406 did not have off street parking the inside lane would be filled with parked cars and that would not exactly be a good policy to keep London on the move.

Sitting 3,500 miles away I know over the last 4 years that London has changed under Mayor Livingstone, perhaps in some ways for the better, I hear from tourists from the US that have returned they have mentioned that the roads seem a little quieter since the introduction of the toll to enter the city.

One day I shall return to London and I look forward to seeing the changes for myself, and this will be the place I write about them.

Meanwhile, and I am not a fan of Mayor Livingstones policies - with the exception of Fares Fair when he led the GLC many years ago. He is certainly something of a character, not that policitics needs any more of those but he has a charm that defies the MP's in Westminster and as Ken will seek more power should he be reelected it will be interesting to see how the game rolls out.

At least unlike the Mayor of Philadelphia there has not been a bug device found in his office, and most recently news has broken about a big drugs case that the facts are still not wholly in the public domain.

Watch this space.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

Philadelphia Flyers and Monaco Grand Prix 

This is a huge sporting weekend for me and given that I do not take to watching sports on television too frequently this is a bold statement.

Philadelphians are known across America for being proud of their sports teams, the Eagles, 76ers, Phillies, Wings, Phantoms and of course the Flyers.

Last night I stayed up a little to late as I screamed at the television during game six against the Tampa Bay Lightening, as the flyers took a 4-4 game with less than a couple of minutes of ice time, into overtime and eighteen minutes of some of the most frantic ice hockey I have ever seen.

The Flyers needed a win to take the play-off series to game 7 and a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, Tampa Bay needed the win, to prevent a seventh game and move into the finals themselves. With less than two minutes left in overtime, the Flyers scored their fifth goal and forced a seventh a final game to be played in Florida tomorrow evening.

I have invited my brother-in-law more a lacrosse fan than a hockey fan and my friend Tor to sit and watch the game on Saturday evening as a “guys” night. This is a do or die game, either team must win to move to the Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams have consistently won on “home” ice as the six games have alternated between Tampa and Philadelphia. With the lighning on home ice, and everything to play for this will be a tough game on two teams, and all the fans in both cities.

Sunday is the annual Monte Carlo Formula One Grand Prix. I rediscovered motor racing because of this race twenty one years ago and my passion for the sport has taken me in many different directions over the years, although I have declared retirement since moving to the US from active motorsport, I do miss the competition, the people and the atmosphere of club events to the international razz-a-mat-azz

Formula 1 racing for many years have morphed from a sport into a global business where sponsors pay big bucks for small logos, governments are integrated into the support process, team owners have egos to large to fit into the cars they own and the drivers are the kings of the road.

There are many that complain F1 is too processional, that the skill of the driver is taken away from the technology in the cars, the circuits offer too few places to overtake and pit stop times are too critical in the outcome of the race. Tis so. Yet with the cars racing at speeds of upward of 180 mph on narrow winding tracks, overtaking is dangerous at best and only the foolhardy will attempt an impossible pass, with possible retirement or serious consequences from a racing accident. F1 agrees that the technology is becoming so advanced and costly that changes have to be made and on this fact the team owners are in broad agreement. Its all about sponsorship, by keeping the costs in check, the sponsors will remain without increased demands each year by the teams.

The pit crews are trained, and put through their paces so that only a tenth or two of a second can split two rival teams, enough to change track position and change the outcome of a race.

So in essence it is somewhat processional, the faster cars at the front get away from the slower pack, and this is extended over the laps, but Monaco is different. Racing speeds are difficult to reach, the slightest bump off line will result in retirement, drivers and cars that fail to perform at the other circuits are in with a chance if they gat a good grid position in practice. In essence Monaco is a lottery, it is the jewel in the F1 crown, where the rich and beautiful sail in to the harbor on the yaughts and for a moment in time attend the sponsor parties and rub shoulders with the gallant multi million chariot drivers.

The bold and the beautiful make for classic sporting entertainment on and off the track, Monaco there is no where like it. Suggestions that this event would be replaced are unlikely, as Monaco as a racing heritage, the sponsors love the atmosphere and in a moneyed sport, Monaco will remain the jewel in the crown.

As to the result, will Schumacher win again this year? Will he fall into the Armco as he did a couple of years ago, the lottery is open and it is not all over till the checkered flag is dropped.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

May 12, 2004

Philadelphian outrage at Iraq and other atrocities 

This morning, my drive time talk radio show had one topic of discussion, the murder of a West Chester man in Iraq by decapitate. This news story flashed around the agencies of the world and was made all the more horrific that it was available to anyone to watch over the internet. Truly a distressing and vile act by extremist murderers.

The argument that this was an act of retaliation following the numerous photographs that have resulted in President Bush speaking to the Iraq people and asked for the questioned of Rumsfeld truly does not hold water.

I have two observations, the first is over the photographs that show US and UK soldiers openly abusing prisoners. I have read stories that some of these were staged for a porn site in Turkey, others were staged to be used in the interrogation of the prisoners, while others are it would seem to be what they are and shows one of the horrors of war.

Another horror is the murder of this West Chester, communications engineer. West Chester is a nice town to the west of Philadelphia, and this recent murder has incensed the Philadelphian residents to think about "necking" those responsible.

This is probably an extreme method of justice, certainly in the last couple of weeks I have questioned both human rights and civil rights of the military both those in the UK and the US. However this leads to my two observations.

First with little exception has anyone noticed the apparent drop in deaths of American and allied soldiers in Iraq since the pictures were made public?

And secondly, as an individual, dear reader any news bulletin that carries the story of the decapitate and the photographs, which one pails the other in its dissatisfied horror?

Feedback always invited, please email me.

May 09, 2004

A little slice of Arkansas Americana 

Last weekend I had the privilage to visit Little Rock, Arkansas. Well not exactly Little Rock as many business travellers will know, it was a trip to the airport - shuttle to hotel - hotel - shuttle - airport. Oh the glamerous life.

The reason for my meeting was an annual meeting of the MSAA Mid-South Regional Support Group Leaders Conference. I was there to give a presentation and support the regional staff.

Having only been "down south" on two previous occassions, and never being to Arkansas before, I was looking forward to meeting the people.

No names here, but I was thrilled to meet a "Southern Belle" a lady of gentle years who spoke with a soft dusty southern accent, to the other extreeme a lady who introduced herself as a "redneck" and proud of it.

I met those from the cities and those from the countryside, and when I say countryside directions to their home include turn left at the sunken well. You can't see it, but those who know the area know the sunken well.

It truly was an experience, as volunteers with MSAA who have made a commitment to set up an support group these volunteers are truly valued by all.


To other matters, a five second comment.

"The photos" In a dark difficult week for Bush administration, the photos of the captives cannot be excused for any reason. However I have a nagging doubt that some of these are stage and used for properganda, especially those with a blonde woman in uniform. Something seems out of place.

"The photos UK" same story, same reason, but this time its the Brits.

"Pat Toomey", lost the election in PA by a slim margin.

"Philadelphia Flyers" Are in the semi-finals / play-offs for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 last night saw a loss 3-1 against Tampa Bay. I hope they are only testing them out!

"The back yard" The battle of the ground ivy continues and slowly my lawn is having large patches appear as the ivy is being slowly, beaten.

"Cycling" with the threat of dangerous thunderstorms and hail this afternoon, cycling with my b-i-l Chris, is on hold, unless the storms move off.

"Family" I spoke with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, neice and nephew in the UK yesterday the first time for at least three weeks. It was wonderful to catch up with them and I miss them all very much.


and finally...

today in the USA is Mothers Day, to Mom's everywhere, especially to my Mum and by Mom-in-law, Happy Mothers Day.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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