Sunday, January 5, 2014

And that's how the fight started...

And that's how the fight started...  Reader and friend Simon M. passes along this collection from a classic humor genre:
My wife and I were watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire while we were in bed. I turned to her and said, 'Do you want to have Sex?' 'No,' she answered. I then said, 'Is that your final answer?' ... She didn't even look at me this time, simply saying, 'Yes..' So I said, "Then I'd like to phone a friend." And that's when the fight started...

Habaneros Mexican Grill...

Habaneros Mexican Grill...  Debbie and I just got back from a fine breakfast at a restaurant in Jamul that we never tried until the past couple of months: Habaneros Mexican Grill.  Now that we know it a bit, we're very sorry we ignored it earlier – so far, everything we've tried there has been great!

This morning we both had machaca burritos: Debbie's dry, but with cheese; mine “wet” (slathered with enchilada sauce and melted cheese).  This is a favorite dish of ours from years ago, when we lived in Chula Vista, and a local restaurant (La Nena's) offered up a tasty example. I've never had the equal of La Nena's wet machaca burritos before, but I have to say that Habaneros bested them.  The machaca was perfectly done (onions nice and transparent, peppers still slightly crunchy, and the beef fall-apart tender).  Habaneros puts both green and red peppers in their machaca, a nice twist on the green-only that I'm used to.  The tortillas were absolutely perfect.  The enchilada sauce was unusually tasty, and not at all oily, or overly salty.  The refried beans were as good as I've ever had.  All-in-all, an awesome (not to mention filling!) breakfast.

We'll be going back, you can be sure...there are so many things on their menu that we haven't tried yet!

Pater: digital archaeology...

Pater: digital archaeology...  The photo at right is a time exposure of a tumbling stream that my dad and I enjoyed together on July 18th, 2005.  We were just below the north side of Stony Pass in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and we had just walked perhaps a half mile from the road, up the west side of the canyon.  I remember this particular walk well, as my dad found it quite challenging – fairly steep uphill over mostly fist-sized rubble underfoot, made more difficult by the thick grass and wildflower cover over the talus.  My dad badly wanted to see the flowers that grew all along that little stream, especially a patch of Parry's Primrose that he'd spotted as we drove by – it was in prime, as we ascertained by scoping it out first through binoculars.  We did make it there, and he thoroughly enjoyed the entire walk, as we were wading through thickets of columbine, elephant's head, and other favorites all the way there and back.  We plopped ourselves down on a big flat rock (where my tripod rested for this photo), and my dad immediately curled up, head on his jacket, and took a nap.  I wish now that I had been smart enough to take a photo of him napping – he looked so happy, so much at peace, when napping like that...

My dad wasn't at all interested in archaeology (though his brother, Donald, was).  However, over the past week I've done quite a bit of “archaeology” on the hard disks from my dad's computer.
Digital archaeology...

My dad got a computer in early 1989 with the goal of writing a horticultural reference book.  He wanted to record all that he had learned in his years of study and work as a nurseryman, horticulturist, and botanist.  I know exactly when he got that computer, and what it was, thanks to a note he made about it:
1989 Computer (1st) Epoch Technologies 1/17/89 PB28610 computer, 40 Mb hard drive, monochrome card 1475. 2/11/88 Monitor, 30 mg HD, Mouse, Okidata 182 parallel printer 724.
I can translate some of that: he got a Packard-Bell 28610 computer (most likely a 80286 processor, though I couldn't verify that), a 40 megabyte hard disk, a monochrome (black-and-white) video card, a monitor (for some reason with a date almost a year earlier; possibly a typo), a 30 megabyte external backup disk (this was a removable media device, probably something like an Iomega Zip drive), a Microsoft mouse, and an Okidata dot matrix printer.  Epoch Technologies was the name of the company I was co-founder of, and was running at the time; either I gave him that computer, or (more likely) he purchased it at cost through me.

For many years after that, my dad used that computer (and a couple of subsequent replacements) almost exclusively to work on his book.  He made a lot of progress through about 2003, but then he slowed down considerably as he started to have challenges with his vision and cognition.  Still later, and at first unknown to anyone in the family, he started deleting parts of the work he'd done.  On one of my visits with my parents, I checked to see if the automated backup I'd set up was still working correctly, and I was shocked to see that most of his work on the book was gone.  I said that to my dad, and he said “Oh, that’s ok, I saved it all on these backup disks first.”  They were DVDs, and indeed there was a lot of data on them, so I stopped worrying about it.

A few weeks ago, my sister removed the two hard disks from his computer and sent them to me, along with the backup DVDs.  I set out to see if I could recover my dad's writings.  The first thing I did was to check out the backup DVDs – and to my vast disappointment, I found almost nothing on there of any use.  Either he had backed up after deleting his work, or he had somehow screwed up and not backed it up at all.  That left the hard disks.

My dad's old computer was running Windows XP; my computers are all Macs.  The disks were fairly modern 5.25" disks with a SATA interface, but still I couldn't plug them directly into either my Macbook Pro or Debbie's iMac.  But these days you can buy an adapter for just about anything-to-anything, and in fact with just a bit of searching I found the perfect adapter for me: a $20 widget that included a power supply for the hard drive and a SATA-to-USB adapter.  That allowed me to plug it straight into my Macbook Pro, and OS X knows how to mount a FAT (Windows-style) disk, so as the ad says “it just worked.”   I do love my Macs.  With very little effort, I was looking at my dad's hard disk. 

But right away I ran into a challenge.  I wanted to attempt to “undelete” the files my dad had deleted, but that's not something that's built into OS X.  I searched around and found some open source software (TestDisk) that does have that ability.  When I ran it, I was able to recover some files – but none of them were old enough to still have the book data that I was looking for.  Some notes in its source code led me to the idea of searching the free space on the disk.  I made some quick-and-dirty changes to the TestDisk code to scan the disk looking for some patterns one would expect in a Microsoft Word file, and bingo – I found lots of stuff that way that the undelete function had missed.  In fact, I found dozens of files laid out in sequential sectors – and when I wrote them out to Mac files, they loaded up with OpenOffice just fine.  I got everything off the free space that I could.  Life was good!

However, when I started looking at those files in detail, it was obvious that there was still a lot of missing material.  I remembered things from his book that didn't show up in the files I'd recovered.  Dang.

In my desperation, I tried something else: a search through every directory for any file ending in “.doc” (the Microsoft Word document extension).  That search took over four hours to run, but it located two directories with gobs of .doc files.  The first one was a directory named “OldBook” (very hopeful!) that was in a crazy place – the directory containing data files for a scanner program.  I'm guessing that my dad, who never did understand files and directories very well, somehow accidentally copied his book directory there.  The second one was buried within a top level directory named “Old Computer” – apparently the last time I upgraded his system, I had first made a copy of the entire hard disk from his earlier system.  Woo hoo!

These two directories were snapshots in time of the work my dad was doing.  As far as I have been able to tell, they are complete.  With some editing, we will, I hope, be able to recover some material that we can figure out how to publish.

There were also some files also some files on his system that had nothing to do with his horticultural book, and some of these are veritable treasure troves for the family.  One of them in particular caught my eye this morning: a file with a half-dozen pages of dense notes about the history of our nursery.  Here's a sample entry:
1955 payroll was $19000. Tom traded Mr. Shaw of Cape Cod, MA a load of potted holly cultivars for a load of milled tongue and groove white pine lumber that was cut from his hurricane downed white pine plantation. Many large holly trees were planted for Mr. Schweiker, several homes in Tuxedo Park, H. M. Royal’s home & factory, etc. Lee Werst rototilled the new home yard and planted grass in exchange for young nursery stock & the plant market office. Mike Stevens purchased a lot of young Holly trees. Harry’s old home was wrecked in one day by Tom & Bill Wilson. Harry & Marge moved to Mr. West’s former home (formerly Thomas Jobe’s last residence). The 1949 Farmall M & C tractors were traded for a 1955 MTA tractor and loader. The International K5 truck, Farmall Cub & post hole digger were traded for a Super A tractor and highway mower. The irrigation lake was dug by drag line.
$19,000 in payroll for (I presume) the entire farm.  That would have included my dad, two helpers (Julius and Chalky).  That's not a lot of money for three families, even back then.  The white pine lumber paneled several rooms of the house I grew up in, including the large living room and the bedroom I shared with my brothers.  I had no idea that's how it was obtained!  Harry was, I think, the man I knew as “Chalky” – one of the guys who helped around the farm, especially when I was younger.  We kids were in awe of his strength, and he was always kind to us.  His little Chihuahua dog, not so much :)  When I knew him, he lived on our farm, in a small house just east of the house I grew up in.  My mom tells me that the house mentioned above as the one Harry (Chalky) and Marge moved into wasn't the one I remembered Chalky living in – instead, it was where the Ames family lived in times I can remember.  Before that, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather Jobes lived there.  I don't remember my great-grandfather at all, but my great-grandmother Jobes I spent many hours with in the early '60s, when she lived in a wing of my grandparent's home on our farm.  I was fascinated by the old books she had, and even more so, by her reminiscences from her youth – first seeing a car, a train, and a plane, especially.  I'm guessing that the “irrigation lake” mentioned is the small irrigation pond just east of the house Chalky lived in when I was a kid.

For a while this morning, while reading this document, I could almost imagine I was talking with my dad again.  His writing style was distinctive, at least to me.  It had me smiling and crying at the same time, and occasionally exclaiming out loud – usually with delight at finding out some new nugget (like the source of that pine paneling)...