THE AMAZING CHANGING SEASONS: APRIL 2018 – Marilyn Armstrong

The Changing Seasons: April 2018

Speaking of changing, what a month! For that matter, what a couple of months this has been. Crazy weather.

The Nice Weather Gallery

Not that crazy isn’t an inherent part of our New England weather. The northeastern piece of this continent has weather that is utterly unpredictable, especially as winter tries to turn into spring and generally fails.

Good morning little red finch!

Typically, we get winter. Then we get the end of winter which is like winter with occasional warmer days sandwiched between cold ones.

The Not Nice Weather Gallery

I suppose what has made this “spring” particularly difficult has been the cold. By this time of year, I’m usually turning down the heat, opening the windows. Cleaning out the garden. Getting excited about daffodils and glorying in the yellowness of forsythia.

As of right now, we have no flowers. We have had crocuses and they were lovely and we have a lot of growth — the beginning of what I fondly believe will be flowers in a couple of weeks. Maybe even less. But as of right now? It’s the end of the winter. Freezing temperatures at night, warming into the high forties or low fifties in the middle of the day.

Snow along the road

And then there were the super storms. We are not on the seashore, so we didn’t get the kind of battering people living closer to the ocean have gotten. During the past ten years, we’ve gotten giant storms, often stretching from coast-to-coast or taking up most of the Atlantic Ocean.

The scientists dealing with climate change believe these super storms are prime indicators of climate change.  It’s not that we don’t get strange weather in New England, but rarely do we get three super storms with hurricane-level winds in less than two weeks. With snow and rain and sleet and flooding.

Almost daffodils

It’s sort of like the weather we have always gotten multiplied by a factor of five. Very intense weather packed tightly together.

We will have spring and in many places, today was the day it seemed to show up. It was love here today. Blue skies, moderate weather and the song of the Carolina wren can be heard all around the property.

Christmas cactus ready to bloom again

Tomorrow, there will be rain and wind — but after that, I think we will have a few days of spring and then it will be summer. I’m hoping I can get down to clean up the garden before the flowers open. It’s really hard to rake when the day lilies are blooming and the roses are rampant in the garden.

HOW DELL DONE ME IN – Marilyn Armstrong

How a vague idea became real when the company you loved gives you the final boot. Dell, Apple, and why Apple has finally won the endless war.


I have been buying Dell computers for more than 20 years. Not only have I always loved how Dell’s were made, but they lasted a long time.

On the other hand, their customer service which had been great, was on a rapid downhill slide for the past 15 (or more) years. Above and beyond liking Dells because there’s no bloatware on them and they are designed to do a job, was their sturdiness. They were business machines for people who took their work seriously, even if their work was a hobby. I’ve used their equipment for work only, for work and play, for whatever I’m currently doing which you can call whatever you like. Dell did the jobs.

The old 14Z in its youth …

Many Dell’s I bought 10 years ago are still working. Some needed a reinstall of the operating system and a couple needed new hard drives, but that was small stuff, all things considered. I really use my computers. I push them hard, I make them work.

Until the past two — expensive — Alienware — machines. The one Garry has lost its battery after less than 3-years. The only other Dell that ever lost a battery lost it after 7 yeas and it was a cheap machine. I replaced it and it works again, though now it seems to be losing its monitor. It’s old. It doesn’t even have Bluetooth, so it has, I think, hit the end of its road. It doesn’t owe me a thing.

When the little old Dell was beginning to display not having enough video to do what I do, I got a new Dell with the biggest NVIDIA video card I could afford and passed the two-year-old Alienware machine to Garry. After which the battery died. It’s pretty new so the price of getting a new battery is high. The battery replacement was more than most laptops.

The old one works, as long as it’s plugged in, so I suppose you could call it a laptop-shaped desktop. It weighs more than most desktops at a solid 9-pounds including its brick.

My new machine is working fine and does what I bought it to do, but I’m out of service contract. The company got in touch (and back in touch, and back in touch) asking me if I wanted a one-year contract for service on the new machine.

Older Alienware

The price? I kid you not: $850 for a single year of service. I had tried to get service from them during my first two years with the computer and they were useless. No one had a clue how a dual hard drive machine worked and all the advice they gave me was wrong. I eventually doped it out myself, but I’m still not really sure it’s backing up the way it should. There are many things about this computer I love, but also a bunch that I don’t.

One of the problems is weight. The thing feels like two cinder-blocks. I have developed significant upper body strength picking it up and moving it off my lap to a side table. Taking it with me when we travel is just this side of a nightmare.

I’m sure most of the weight are the batteries which basically last for just over two hours. Which means effectively, even WITH a working battery, the machine is still a desktop.

I hate new computers. I hate moving material from machine to machine and moving the material from a PC to a Mac doesn’t sound like fun. I’m sure there’s an app for that and I will have to find it because all my photo and writing backups are for PC and won’t run on a Mac.

I’m not a Mac fancier. The loose style that has been typically Mac/Apple since forever annoyed me. I like orderly computers. I like knowing where stuff is, where it belongs. How to find it. Ironically, the recent changes Mac is making to the operating system is going to make them much more PC-like and PCs are making their OS slightly more Mac-ish. The world comes round and round.

Reality bit. I couldn’t keep hauling the big, brawny, 10-pounds of Alienware and moreover, I didn’t want to. I’m not getting younger. Garry’s machine, now that it has to be plugged in, is developing other signs of flakiness that make me wonder if it will survive.

I knew I could not buy another Dell. I’ve used other bloatware special PCs and I won’t go there. Also, I know what I need, which is a honking big piece of video ram and equipment I can pick up which will not dislocate my shoulder from its joint.

Apple.

Then they offered me the Apple Card. Zero percent interest. 18 months.

I got a Macbook Air — as high-end a version of it as you can buy. It isn’t their top machine but it comes with sufficient USB 3 ports and other connectors, like an SC reader slot. Sometimes, the newest machine on the rack isn’t your best choice.

Meanwhile, Garry needed something. I thought long and hard about what Garry really does. After serious thought, I figured he could live his virtual life on an iPad with a keyboard. And enjoy it, too. Meanwhile, as long as the big Alienware works when plugged in, he has a full-size computer to fall back on.

My only question is why does this iPad have a mouse? You can’t use a mouse on an iPad. Even I know that. Did the photographer just happen to have a new mouse to show off?

In the end, you can’t take two heavy computer users and have only one fully functional computer in the house. It won’t work.

I need to point out to Dell that I was about as loyal a customer as you could find. It took them a decade to get me to where I couldn’t deal with their customer service department again. Ever. They did me in.


Mac/Apple did not win my custom. Dell LOST it. 

I’m pretty sure half of Apple’s new recruits are people who just gave up trying to stay with other companies and were driven screaming into the night.

I am one of them.

PREVIOUSLY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS – Marilyn Armstrong

As promised, here are the questions from Willow’s post, sans her answers, but including mine. Just in case anyone wants to answer them for themselves, check out Questions Unanswered on Willow’s site. If you do answer them, please paste a link to your answers in the comments. Thanks!



Do you have a nickname? What do you prefer to be called?

No nickname. But please call me Spike.

Do you have books on your shelf (eReader) that are begging to be read?

Are you serious?

Are you a doodler? What do your doodles look like?

Horses.

What do you do if you can’t sleep at night?

Listen to an audio book and take drugs.

How many days could you think you would last in solitary confinement?

It depends on if I have access to a computer and books. Almost unlimited with enough WiFi.

Do you save old greeting cards and letters or do you toss them away?

Toss them. I am not that sentimental.

Who is the biggest pack rat you know?

My husband.

Were/are you a good student?

Yes.

How often do you look at yourself in the mirror?

Every morning when I brush my teeth, brush my hair, wash my face, put on earrings. Ditto in the evening when I brush my teeth and hair, wash the face again, and remove the earrings.

What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

That my life was normal.

Do you regift items that have been given to you?

No, because I rarely get gifts. The few that I get, I treasure.

Do you know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?

Technically, but I probably would miss the subtle differences if I was in the water being dragged away.

Do you still read the newspaper?

No. I was never much of a newspaper reader. Magazines, yes. Newsweek. Time. Life. Look. The New Yorker. But Garry does read papers and he likes to circle articles he thinks I should read. I read them because he’s pretty much always right.

Are there any animals that frighten you?

Big hairy spiders and centipedes.

Are you a collector of something? If so, what do you collect?

I have given up collecting. it’s dangerous to the credit cards. I still, however, have a few hundred antique plastic dolls and several dozen ancient Chinese porcelain pots.

What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will?

At this point? Nothing, really.

What’s a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but no one believes you?

Nothing I know about.

What’s something that amazes you?

The incredible greed and stupidity of many Americans who, like sheep, willingly follow the worst people in the world.

Do you prefer the blunt truth or would you rather people temper their words?

As long as they are polite, I’m fine with blunt.

What’s one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself?

Everything involving housework. All repair work. Sewing. Cooking. Cleaning. Grooming. Dusting. Vacuuming. What have I missed? Oh, I know. A professional driver.

What are the qualities that tend to draw you to someone new?

Intelligence, open-mindedness, a sense of humor, loving dogs, and not being afraid of me.

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

Delores. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea.

Do you believe ignorance is bliss? Why or why not?

Are you serious?

What (if anything) do you consider unforgivable?

Eavesdropping and rumor mongering. Maybe I should add a lack of commitment to righteousness.

Do you ever break out into song just because you feel like singing?

Yes. Hopefully no one is listening. But the dogs like it and that’s important.

ODD BALLS FROM THE MOB – CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 22, 2018


A little light on the party

We went to a party. They aren’t my best pictures, but they were more fun than most.

A word about processing people pictures from parties. I use a lot of creative effects on people pictures because what I want to show is their faces, their laughter, the fun without making every look like they have the neck of a chicken or, as Garry puts it “the chrome dome.”

Everyone wants to look good. Most people our age don’t expect to look young and they don’t mind seeing character in their faces, but they also don’t want to look like they were just unearthed from a grave. Finding a balance is a bit of a trick. I put more time and energy into processing people — especially people in my age group — than I do for anything else.

Trees don’t care if the bark looks grungy, but people care a lot when their skin looks like tree bark.

A STATE OF CHAOS AND CONFUSION – Marilyn Armstrong

This morning, I took the camera and went out to see what I could see. It isn’t nearly as cold today as yesterday, but warm? Not really. Still, I could be outside in just a sweater for the fifteen minutes it took to take a few shots of our so-called garden.

Garry took the fallen Fred Flamingo and stood him upright. He now welcomes all comers to the garden mess!

I have done no gardening at all this year. By now, I usually have it cleaned out, clipped down and about as organized as it ever gets — which isn’t very organized. It has been too cold, snowy, rainy, and windy for any kind of gardening. It has been bad enough to make me want to completely avoid going outside. At all.

Today, the sun is shining. It isn’t raining. Although we don’t have snow on the shoots (no flowers yet, just shoots), it’s a complete chaotic mess of a garden. I’m hoping by next week, not only will I have finally stopped coughing, but the weather will coöperate so I can go and do the few little things I can to make the place “almost” respectable.

In the meantime, everything is growing! Give those shoots a few days of warmer temperatures and sunshine, and we might just have a springtime miracle.


From Nancy Merrill:

Spring in Utah is like living in a state of confusion. Each year, the fruit farmers live in constant dread of late spring snowstorms and hard freezes that could wipe out their entire crop. The day after my tulips opened, we had a crazy snowstorm that blanketed our garden with about an inch of snow. Fortunately, the next day the temperature was in the 50s and the snow melted. At least we don’t have to water the gardens yet.


You can see the daffodil greenery and the many lilies. It’s going to be a bonanza year for day lilies.
This green and yellow climbing plant is not a wildflower and I don’t know its name. Probably put here by a former owner, but has in the past two years, really taken over the picket fence.
A big year for day lilies. I can see it!
More of the green and yellow climbers!

IF I HAD A MALLET – Marilyn Armstrong

Mallet from Daily Post

Between one thing and another, Word Press has killed off my following. In ONE month, they’ve knocked me down by more than 80%. I’m finding it hard to convince myself to bother writing since it seems no one can get to me to respond.

I’m getting many new followers. Dozens and many per day, but I hear from a few and all say that no matter how many times they sign up, each time they try to like or comment, they are locked out and have to do it again.

After a while, they give up.

My hammer

If I had a mallet, I can think of a few heads I’d really like to crack with it.

Meanwhile, please forgive me if my enthusiasm for writing seems a bit dimmed. Should they ever fix whatever is wrong with this site, I’ll be back, but right now, it seems like I’m at square one, getting the kind of responses I got 6 years ago. If WordPress is fixing this, I haven’t seen any evidence of it. There are problems all over their platform and they are forging forward with more changes which are causing more damage.

Their search engine is whacked. Their sign-up isn’t working. People can’t comment or “like” and many blogs come back as “not there” when they really are. But yet, they push forward — and to what purpose? To attract the kids who blog for two weeks, get bored and leave while simultaneously driving away the people who helped them build their success?

WordPress needs to stop forging forward and figure out what you are supposed to be achieving. Then they need to work together to make the platform FUNCTIONAL for everyone. This isn’t a game where you just press “end game” and “replay” and that will fix everything.

I don’t want to play this game any more. I’m not having fun and I’m tired of paying money for nothing.

If the point was to convince me to give it up, it’s working. I’m just about ready to throw in the towel and I never imagined I would say that.

APPROACHING EARTH DAY WITH THE SWANS – Marilyn Armstrong

Usually, when I publish pictures of swans, I clean up the water, but these are the originals … the way the photographs looked before clearing out the rubbish.


As we again approach America’s “Earth Day,” I find myself ready to go on the “lecture tour.” I grew up in a country setting. Technically, it was part of New York, but really, it was a strange little farming community that got surrounded by a city, but never became a part of it.

I grew up with people who raised plants. Wheat and corn. Who raised horses and burros and geese. Who nursed sick birds. Who cared for the trees.

Along the shore – where all the garbage lives

We were surrounded by woods and trees. We learned how to find rare plants and we played in the woods … and apparently children don’t notice mosquitoes as do their elders because we must have been chewed to pieces. But we never seemed to care.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

That didn’t make me “ecology” conscious, of course. What made me conscious of the ecology was — you guessed it — my mother. She grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That was where most new immigrants grew up, especially Jewish and Italian immigrants.

As a result, my mother believed all trees were sacred — and her personal crusade.  She could not bear the idea of anyone cutting down a tree and that’s why we had so much land. When our neighbors decided to sell the woods next to our house, my mother told my father that he was going to borrow however much money it would cost him to get that parcel because someone else might build factory or an apartment house.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Those were her trees. Really, they were all her trees. From tiny little sprigs to the giant white oaks that towered over the house, they were hers.

Every year, she called the city’s tree specialists to check out the condition of the white oaks on our property. They were the last remaining white oaks in the five Burroughs, all the rest having been cut down to use as masts on sailing ships. How they missed that little corner of New York? Just luck.

I still hate the idea of cutting down trees, even when its obvious the tree needs cutting. We had to take down some trees that were too close to the chimney and we had a cutter come and cut down about two dozen more oaks because they were growing so close together, it was unhealthy. Also, we had no light in the house at all. But it hurt me to see the trees being felled, even though it was necessary, safe, and would in the end, improve the forest.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I grew up hating trash. I grew up believing littering was a crime. That hurting any living creature was cruel and even though I never made it to vegetarian, I feel guilty eating meat. I don’t believe that vegan is a healthier way to eat, but I dislike knowing something died so I could eat. I don’t think it will ever stop bothering me.

I learned early that breakwaters damaged the sea-shore. That sandy beaches can disappear during a hurricane. Several local beaches did exactly that while I was growing up on Long Island. That dune buggies destroy the dunes, the nests, the birds, the baby birds.

Dirty water swan

And my loathing of people who throw trash into the woods or the river grows with every passing year. Every time we go down to the river to take pictures of the swans, I see them swimming through trash and wonder how they can eat whatever is growing in the grungy water that’s full of filth.

It wasn’t hard to make me ecologically conscious and six years working at the University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory taught me much more than I wanted to know. I saw the plumes of pollution pouring out of the rivers into the Mediterranean. I saw the reports of what was in those plumes.

I understood also that just because a microbe is in the water does not mean you will necessarily catch it because not all microbes are absorbed the same way … but after seeing those pictures, I could never bring myself to swim in the Mediterranean again.

At this point, I don’t even like swimming pools. All I see are tubs of microbes.