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.

BRONZE ORIENTAL FIGURINES – Marilyn Armstrong

I decided to try to see if I could get some better photographs of two of my old bronze figurines. I’ve pretty much pinned down the provenance on Vishnu riding Garuda as being most likely 17th or 18th century Chinese — or possibly from Tibet.

He has his original medallion from Chinese authorities indicating his status as an antique. It’s a small piece, as most of these items are. It has been certified by the Chinese government as an official authorized antique.

Bhoddivista buddha – a perfected soul returning to help others achieve perfection. The stuff that looks like gold on the figure is actually gold. Probably 1700s, but possibly 1800s.
Bhoddivista -(Corrected colors) If anyone recognizes this fellow, I’d appreciate the help!

The other item has been harder to pin down. I have no provenance on him. he is a buddha — what is called a “Bhoddivista” — a perfected soul that has returned to be a help to others seeking perfection.

When I talk about provenance, that is the issue. Identical items may come with “official” a government or museum insignia. Even though they are identical to items which do not have the same insignia, their value is significantly lower because without it, proving provenance — where the piece came from and its likely age — is difficult.

This does have the Chinese government insignia. Probably 1700s, but could be 100 years earlier. Possibly from Tibet, but claimed by the Chinese (who are also claiming Tibet)
Vishnu riding Garuda the power of whose wings were said to allow Vishnu to circle the planet in a mere two beats of his wings.

It’s easier when you are dealing with porcelain because porcelain was fired in kilns that often leave specific markings on the base of pieces fired within.  Most of my pieces came without provenance because getting them certified would have cost me at least three more money.

Identical piece, but the seller didn’t want to battle with the Chinese government for their insignia. And who could blame them?

That little metal tag is the Chinese government’s seal of authenticity. This piece is old. How old? I don’t know. 1500s? 1700s? Somewhere in between? Hard to tell with anything made of bronze.

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.

MEETING THE MOB: A PARTY FOR THE GANGSTERS OF MEDIA – Garry Armstrong

MEETING THE MOB AT FLORIAN HALL

Once a year, we gather to catch up.  It’s time for the getting together and annual partaking of the M.O.B. party. It’s the Media Of Boston where everyone who used to be someone and more than a few people who still are someone, get together and remember news — the funny, the weird, the crazy, and the scary stuff they covered during Boston’s news history.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, famed meteorologist sharing old Dodger baseball memories

I usually don’t go to these things. Part of it is that we are out in the boonies and all these events are in Boston or Dorchester. It’s a long drive through heavy traffic. As a general rule, I can’t find my way anywhere anymore. I never really could, but now that we don’t live in or near the city, it’s worse.

Lots of pictures of “the old days”

Marilyn promised to come with me this year, acting as my ears (she just went around telling everyone to yell in my left ear and oddly, that worked), and as my navigator which mostly meant yelling out the directions from the GPS. It’s not loud enough. Almost nothing is loud enough.

Andy announced dinner about to be served!

In past years,  most of us were competitors at Boston’s major TV News Departments, radio stations, and newspapers. Unlike media elsewhere, we always had a sense of respect, camaraderie between us — even though we all chased the scoops in one of the most  competitive major news markets in the country.

Three guys hanging out!

Careers overlap the end of radio news dominance, the transition from film to electronic news gathering. Some of us began working with elders from the Murrow Boys’ days. Our careers included covering the assassinations of political and social legends,  the Vietnam War, volatile court ordered school busing and integration,  Anti-Nuclear Power demonstrations, Watergate, Three Mile Island and the AIDS epidemic. The end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st saw an explosion of news coverage to match events like 9/11 and beyond.

Birth twins! Garry with Delores Handy (Brown) – both born April 7th!

Many of those at our newsies gathering have put their lives on the line —  multiple times — in pursuit of the truth which is often ridiculed by some public officials.

Charlie and Irene Ballantine – caught off-guard at the table!

The faces are probably familiar to those who have turned to the Boston media for news coverage for the past half a century.  Critics who have questioned their ethics have faded from public view as new crises demand instant and intensive coverage 24/7.

Something to drink?

Some of these careers began with Dwight Eisenhower in the Oval House,  John F.Kennedy as the Junior Massachusetts Senator and Mayor Kevin Hagen White overseeing the transformation of Boston into a world-class city that would host celebrated Tall Ships festivals,  court ordered school integration and a mega-expensive architectural “do” known as “The Big Dig”.

Garry, Lester, and Harvey. Someone is really tall!

Those of a certain age will remember some of these faces as young reporters and photographers who spent the best years of their lives covering stories that are now archive material.

You may not know some of the faces.  Many are behind the cameras that bring you haunting images of the news that never stops. They are reporters who never get their due respect. They’re part of the reason that Boston News coverage is highly respected around the world.

Many of us were bright-eyed idealists when we began our Boston careers. The city and New England region are journalistic gold mines and have been well paved over the years by those seeking journalistic treasure.

You’re looking at many ink-stained wretches who’ve been recognized for their diligent work.  Pulitzer, Emmy and other prestigious awards dot the homes of many of these folks who have devoted their lives to finding the truth, a job that is harder than ever in today’s political climate.

Our stories get bigger with each passing year.  We remember the facts but, in many cases,  prefer to “print the legend”.  We tend to remember our gaffes, the “egg in our faces” stories that go with any lengthy career. We smile at the recollection of our youthful energy and pursuit of stories that would top the likes of Watergate.

Garry and Fred Ward sharing stories

Amid the laughter of shared adventures, we remember those colleagues we’ve lost in the past year. Their images linger in our collective and personal sense memories.

Most of all, we agree, bad times aside,  we’ve been lucky to have spent years pursuing one of the best jobs on the face of the earth.


NOTE: Marilyn took pictures. Not enough and not as good as they should be — but she says she had the wrong camera. And it was hard to get people to stay put long enough to get a good shot. Also, there were so many cameras everywhere (what a surprise! with all those camera people and there were a lot of cameras!), she figured there would plenty of pictures getting taken, even if she personally didn’t take them.

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!