Friday, 15 November 2013

Inspiring Autumn

Hello Friends and Curious Anonymous Readers,

A couple of weeks ago I was mourning the end of the brilliant summer we had and the fact that an Indian Summer never materialized.  My tomatoes, peppers and sunflowers continued to grow and bloom but I needed to put on a sweater or jacket to sit out on the balcony, the leaves n the trees took on a variety of red, gold and brown shades and the rainy, windy weather started up.  So I decided to embrace the Autumn by crocheting something for the season.

It was a lot of fun to make.  I have fun seeing bits and pieces here and there online and then making it from just what I see.  I don’t really use patterns. I just look at an object and then imagine it constructed in yarn. I spend quite a bit of time checking out the pumpkin and gourd display on a trip to the local garden centre recently and didn’t buy anything. It takes a lot of experimenting and lots of frogging but it’s so satisfying to have someone correctly identify what it is that I’ve struggled to recreate. I’ve also learned to take very detailed notes as I go along so that I can recreate it again when I finally get it right.  I had it mostly all put together but felt that it was missing something.  I had made the sunflower last year and it was being displayed in a vase and admired by all that saw it.  The other day I was checking out the balcony after a severe storm and was doing an inventory of what was left and still viable.  Being prepared for the storm and securing as many of the plants as possible there I was fairly lucky.  The pot with sunflowers had been knocked over though but when I put it right I noticed that more flowers were just about to bloom and how pretty it looked in contrast to the multi-coloured leaves on the trees.   Thus I was inspired to add the sunflower to the wreath.  The whole wreath is a tribute to the beautiful coloured leaves, flowers, veggies, etc. that Nature gives us during this time of the year: a little something to cheer us up during the colder weather and shorter days.

The wreath is now on my front door where I hope it cheers everyone up as they go by my door in the cold, dark mornings on the way to work or school and in the dark, cold evenings as they return from their long day.

PS: I’m still working on how to get my photos to look better short of spending hundreds of €€s that I don’t have on a new and probably complicated camera.  I’ve really got to get to grips with the photo editing software that I have but find it all quite daunting.  And can I really improve the photo quality that much from a plain old point and shoot camera?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Long Road Back to Blogland

Hello Friends And Curious Anonymous Readers,

Whew!  I finally made back here.  It was a tougher journey than I thought when I said I’d be back soon in my last post in September.
But of course events conspired to keep me from Blogland.

My laptop developed a fatal problem suddenly.  I had had it hooked up to the tv via HDMI and before I went to bed I simply closed the laptop lid which usually puts it into hibernation and also removed the power cord. (I don’t know why I did that although the battery was fully charged.)  I turned on the laptop next morning and was warned that I needed to recover my desktop or something like that. Of course this all happened at a time when I had been a little lax in my back-up routine so I looking at losing a couple months of photos and other stuff.  After following the suggestion to do the recovery I was on a loop of doing that and being brought back to the screen that said I needed to do the recovery.  The recovery disc didn’t work.  I tried safe mode and tried to do a system restore. No dice.  I decided to try to take the drive out and hook it up to another pc I had via an IDE to USB connection gadget.  I’d never worked on the innards of a laptop before but it was fairly easy to do the extraction of the drive.  I had a program that recovers data on a damaged disk and it found all my stuff but in a RAW format which meant everything was in a jumble and too much of a mess to bother trying to recover.  I searched on the ‘net for recovery programs looking first for free ones.  Out of about a dozen of them tried only one found anything in it’s original folder and file name but wasn’t able to actually recover them.  Then I googled paid programs and read reviews for them.  I tried R-Studio’s free trial and it found everything.  By this time I knew that I only had one or two recovery attempts left before the drive packed in altogether.  It had very good reviews from various sites so I took a chance and paid the $29 for it.  It was money well spent. I was able to recover everything and put it all on an external hard drive.  After such a major FUBAR I wasn’t going to trust this drive to run an Operating System so ordered one online. (I’m getting good at ordering from Dutch language websites!)  

Luckily the shop had the same exact drive that my laptop uses so I ordered it and it arrived two days later.  I managed to get it hooked up and recognized by the laptop.  Another problem I encountered was that Windows 7 had been preinstalled in my laptop with no discs.  I had to reformat but had nothing to reformat it with.  After a bit of Googling where I discovered  that I could download Windows7 from the Microsoft site and as long as I had the COA for my laptop it would all work.  I downloaded the ISO and with the help of some easy to use software was able to make a bootable flash drive rather than a dvd.  I got everything up and running but had to search for many of the drivers online and download and install them.  After a couple of days I had everything installed and tweaked to the way I like things.  I tested the failed drive with some diagnostic software which said it was healthy but needed formatting and decided to put it into the spare spot that I had noticed in the laptop when I doing my removal operation.  I’m now using that drive for storage and with 750 more gigabytes I was able to but all my music and photos on it as well. I don’t trust the drive 100% so have been more diligent with my back-ups to another external HDD.  But it’s handy having those things right here without having to hook up to some other gadget to view photos or listen to music.  Now I can organize all those photos finally.

I’ve learned some big lessons in all of this:

1.    Don’t leave the HDMI cable connected when not in use. 
2.    HMDI cancels any hibernation or sleep options.
3.    Back up more regularly.
4.    Always have a physical copy of your Operating System. Get this sorted right after you acquire the new machine.
5.    I don’t need to pay a technician to fix my laptop.  I’m pretty damned good at troubleshooting and fixing the problem myself.  I’m also rather comfortable removing and replacing hardware, even from laptops.
6.    Sometimes it’s worth it to pay for software.

After lots of  frustration, aggravation, anxiety a bit of money I finally have things working the way I want them to.  I was in the middle of making a blog post when the crash happened but had to scrap it in order to move on to it being November now, clearly late autumn/early winter and not the late summer I was trying to trick myself into believing it was.

But I will allow a short revisit because I spent many peaceful afternoons sitting out on the balcony and crocheting or reading, listening to the sounds of life all around me and sometimes to music.  We’ve got a nice assortment of birds that live here in the trees and I enjoy watching them and listening to their sounds.

I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t take nearly as many photos of all the growing things this year as I did last year.
The view from favourite spot:

 The plant with beautiful orange flowers is called Ornithogalum dubium.  I bought it just before Queensday (29 April) in a shop on the Albert Cuypmarkt for a very cheap 1.25 and it kept blooming all summer and well into September when it very quickly gave up the ghost.  I’ve been searching around for bulbs to grow it again but have had no luck. I tried to keep the bulb for this plant but it developed mould as did some saved tulip and narcissus blubs and had to be thrown out. 

In the spirit of being neighbourly I offered to water my upstairs neighbour’s plants while they went to Argentina for a month July-August.  We happened to have had a long very hot and dry spell during that time and I was kept going trying to keep my plants going as well as theirs.  These peeps have plants EVERYWHERE in their apartment!  I was only going to take care of the outside plants but noticed floppy foliage all over the place when I was walking through from kitchen to outside.  Every time I looked there was another plant that I hadn’t noticed before: on top of the fridge, on various shelves on bookcases, etc.  They were coming out everywhere at me!  I didn’t even check one of the kids’ rooms and missed a few plus one window box.  But I got a shot of what my entire balcony looked from above.

I moved the tomato plants in the mid afternoon so that they could also get the brilliant late afternoon sun at the other end. 

And now back to November…..