End of an era…

The base of operations in North Carolina has been sold. I’ll still get down there, but it won’t be on the semi-regular basis that has been the rule for the past fifteen years.

In 2004, all the buildings were gray.
In 2004, all the buildings were gray.
But by 2015 new colors abounded, and the A building got a green cast with white trim.
But by 2015 new colors abounded, and the A building got a green cast with white trim.
I'll miss seeing Pedro on the move in the early morning...
I’ll miss seeing Pedro on the move in the early morning…
And I may never again see the Coast Guard running exercises with a C-130 and a fishing boat.
And I may never again see the Coast Guard running exercises with a C-130 and a fishing boat.
But in 2005 the Captain Phillips was busy most evenings catching shrimp...
But in 2005 the Captain Phillips was busy most evenings catching shrimp…
...and years later, the scene is still much the same.
…and years later, the scene is still much the same.

I’ll miss the place, sort of… but it will give me more flexibility to travel in the Old North State (and others).

All in all, it’s the end of an era.

 

 

 

Revising the photo website

Since March of 2005 I’ve had the photo collection on a service called SmugMug; accessible either as http://www.woodallphotography.com or wpw.smugmug.com.

When I signed up all those years ago, the choice was hobbyist or professional; I took the professional choice, registered a domain, pointed it to the site, and started uploading photos. The fee was reasonable I thought for unlimited storage with video and commerce options. Prices have gone up a couple of times, but as an early-adopter I got something of a discount. And there it stood for quite some time.

A few weeks ago SmugMug decided that simply being a photo-hosting site wasn’t enough; they had to start bringing politics into the realm. As I can’t figure out how photos of old buildings, railroads, birds and landscapes create a political view I stay away from that, but it caused me to reevaluate the situation.

Running some comparisons, it is clear that for an advanced hobbyist with little need for ‘event-oriented commerce’ (aka wedding photography), while SmugMug continues as the best-available photo hosting service, I no longer need the extensive commerce features (most of my sales are either digital licensing or largish fine-art prints). So going forward, the photos will stay hosted on SmugMug, but the commerce fulfillment will move elsewhere. On an ongoing basis, it saves $140/year in hosting fees.

 

Hummus among us

With the new year (2017) comes the resolution to diminish oneself – at least to remove some of the mass of self accumulated across years of ingestion. To that regard it is necessary to change the eating habit, and with it comes new foods; or variants upon old favorites.

Hummus is a preparation of the chickpea. Now the web abounds with all sorts of traditional recipes… uh huh.

I start with chickpeas. I get ’em mail-order from Camellia Brands (great place to get beans; only source I know for crowder peas) and then cook them in the crock-pot. Just rinse, put the pound of beans into the cooker along with a dash of salt and eight cups of water, set for high heat and let it go five or six hours.

The recipe is for a cup of hummus – my blender only handles a cup and a half and it gets really messy to clean if you fill it completely… but with a pound of beans you’ve got six or seven cups.

1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cooked
1 oz lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, bit less if concentrate)
1 oz olive oil (cheap stuff works fine)
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon ginger (optional, but nice ‘kick’)

Put half the beans/peas in the blender, add the sesame seeds and oil, put the rest in, add the lemon juice to the top, blend until it gets creamy. Yield is one cup.

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In Memoriam -Evelyn Stewart, 1920 – 2016

Well it’s more a reminisce…

In the early winter of 1990, Bill Powell suggested we forgo the trip to Milltown for the Kaypro Users Group and check out the ‘local’ club instead. And sitting right there in the front row so she wouldn’t miss hearing anything (or being able to contribute), was the quintessential “little old lady” – Evelyn Stewart.

I never knew Evelyn when she wasn’t retired (from a varied career that included wartime manufacturing, being a school librarian, running a credit union, publishing cookbooks and newsletters, raising a family)… and she was the busiest retired person I’ve ever known!

We quickly became friends, and started collaborating on Evelyn’s Senior Center project – bringing computer literacy, arts and crafts to a wider audience. Over time the program grew to have a dedicated lab and staff, and continues to this day.

The first visit I made to Evelyn’s home in Holland Twp was an adventure: drive down a narrow lane next to a busy golf course, find the 1814 farmhouse with the open spring-fed cistern inside… and follow 70-odd feet of extension cord over to Evelyn’s computer. The basement was another strange land, dirt-floored and populated with Doug’s machine tools.

In time husband Doug passed on, and Evelyn moved from the farmhouse to a smaller condominium nearby, where she continued the crafts and began to rewrite the printed cookbooks for the web.

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Evelyn in the Senior Center Lab, March 2004.
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Digital camera lessons, June 2004.

In 2005 Evelyn decided to quit driving, and found an assisted living place – Fallsdale Meadows, in Tyler Hill, PA. On October 26 the big move took place… and it didn’t take long at all to realize this was a mistake. While the staff was well-intentioned, Fallsdale was a care facility; a holding pen for people. It wasn’t at all the place for a mentally-alert lady. I visited up there in mid-December for a short visit… In June 2006, we went over to a diner in Callicoon NY for lunch, and then a walk for photography:

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Street photography – Callicoon NY, June 2006.

And by then there was the new plan, and the new move.

Evelyn bought a house in Plattsmouth Nebraska, found via the Internet. She relied on son Bruce to make sure the house actually existed, and prepared to move out there. Soon enough the troops arrived, along with her trusty RAV4, and packing was done and she was off, to new adventures…

In 2007 I decided to take a great road trip, and go visit Evelyn in her new digs. Loaded up my RAV4, headed west, and eventually arrived in Plattsmouth… and found during this trip that Evelyn was secretly a hardware-store junkie. One day we drove down to the small town of Weeping Water and spent most of the day in a giant hardware store; on the way back stopped in at Harbor Freight to pick up something she forgot to get in Weeping Water!

The little house in Plattsmouth was cosy; it provided room for her, her crafts and photos, computers and memorabilia… even two cats!

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The Plattsmouth “command center” in June 2007.

After a few days, it was time to head back. That was the last time I saw Evelyn, although we stayed in touch via email for years… the last email was a couple of years ago but there was sporadic contact via Facebook after that.

Others can fill in more details about her marches in the Smith College parade (she was class of 1941), the puppetry conventions and the PrintArtist clubs.

What a wonderful life.

 

 

A tale of two states – comparing food prices

Yes, this is a post about supermarkets.

Fresh Market is an upscale market, concentrating on fresh food (wow!), trading on the organic foods fad… it competes with Whole Foods and Trader Joes on a national level. In the Northeast, Wegmans is also a competitor. Fresh Market is the closest store to my home, thus I’m very familiar with its prices on my basic food items.

In New Jersey, Fresh Market is definitely competitive with Kings, marginally competitive with the artisan products and meat counter at Wegmans, and radically out of line in any comparison to Shoprite, Stop-n-Shop, Acme, Walmart… (Can’t compare to Trader Joe or Whole Foods; don’t have them available at a reasonable distance).

But this is just in New Jersey. Recently I spent three weeks on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, and boy howdy was that an eye-opener! One afternoon I stopped in to the Fresh Market in Wilmington NC and found that many of the prices I’d complained about in NJ were the same in NC. And in North Carolina, Fresh Market is competitive – in many cases cheaper. I find it amazing that meat-counter bacon is lower-priced than prepackaged national brands, but that was the case in almost all comparisons.

At first, I thought this was just the usual “stick it to the beach tourists” markup so common in the area from May through October. So I checked some inland stores as well. Food Lion was the only real competitor price-wise, and the prices were consistent across all five stores I checked. Lowes Food is an oxymoron; it may be food but it’s certainly not Low(e) – the prices in two stores were higher than any price I’ve encountered in NJ. Harris-Teeter (three locations) were consistently higher; Piggly-Wiggly (three stores) is lower on staples but astronomical on meats.

Note that in New Jersey almost all foods are non-taxable (candy being the big exception in my experience) whereas North Carolina has the philosophy of “tax everything!”

Astounding.

(The market basket for comparisons: pint half-and-half, eight ounce hard cheese (Cabot), sixteen ounce cottage cheese (Daisy or Breakstone), pound bacon, pound ground chuck, salad package, pound fresh-ground peanut butter, pound lima beans (frozen), pound green beans (frozen), broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts).

Getting your system back (The Win10 blues, part 1)

Microsoft has decided to force-feed Windows 10 updates, as a “recommended update” which will not only automatically download, but also actually upgrade your system to the new OS. I think this is a mistake, but since there is no longer any adult supervision in Redmond, it will probably continue.

If you’re caught by the Windows 10 forced-upgrade, here is how to get Windows 7 (or 8.1 if that’s your flavor) back.

Go to Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Recovery and you should see an entry on the right for “Go back to Windows 7” (or “Go back to Windows 8.1”). Click “Get Started” and follow the directions for “Keep my files.”

Figure it will take at least an hour, maybe two or three, and when it’s done you should be back, but you’ll have lost somewhere between 5 and 25 GB of disk space (which can be purged later).


 

Now – if you have a laptop machine, you may just want to play for a bit with Windows 10; I’ve found it to be a noticeable improvement over Windows 7, especially as far as managing battery life. But depending on your system’s age it may take a week to get all the necessary updates so that everything is working.


Otherwise, if you want to stay on Win7 (or 8.1) for a while longer, go get GWX Control Panel and make the headache go away.

Fixing a problem

So here I am, getting four or more emails a day for various Nissan vehicles I don’t own, from a dealership which  doesn’t read email, and now it escalates.

It’s not just the dealer sending email, now it’s Nissan USA itself, wanting a quality-control survey filled out. And blocking Nissan USA isn’t particularly viable because they use an anti-spam service which is fairly popular (thus blocking them blocks many other emails which I do want). And  while Nissan USA will eventually (takes 10 days, jerks!) unsubscribe the address from one vehicle, their system won’t scrub it from other vehicles.

This is getting out of hand. And no one at that dealership apparently reads email.

Thus it is  necessary to take the battle to them.


 

Those surveys affect a bit more than just the commission structure of the service adviser. The manufacturers base a lot of discounts and media buys and other spifffs based on dealer satisfaction ratings.

Let’s see if this dealer pays attention to his rating surveys.

I pick one, and rate everything as low as it can go, and use every available text block to complain about getting spammed and neither the dealer nor Nissan USA being competent to handle basic email management (so why would I ever buy a car from them?).

Got his attention… and an email to “whoever you are we took your email off the vehicle  and checked our files and took it off some others and won’t use it again.”

Congratulations on finally getting a clue.

But I still don’t expect to ever buy a Nissan.