Monday, April 25, 2016

New life for an old computer

In two recent posts I wrote about the problems with my old desktop and what has turned out so far to be a disastrous attempt to replace it. In hindsight this was a classic example of ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’. I completely overlooked the obvious. While talking with neighbors about the problems several of them recommended a young man in the neighborhood who has a good reputation fixing hardware and software issues. We asked him to look at our desktop. He said the noise at startup was not the hard drive. He replaced the power supply and cooling fan. He replaced small parts on the card reader and DVD functions. Both had worked infrequently only after much coaxing. He replaced the corrupted XP operating system with a clean Windows 7. He was here for over six hours; the last two configuring system defaults to our preferences and helping us to learn how Windows 7 operates. We couldn’t be happier. Everything is working smoothly. It’s as if we have a new computer. Parts and labor cost us $61.

I’m on the verge of trusting him with the new laptop. He tried to start it and said the problem is definitely the hard drive. He is also hopeful he can repair or replace the drive without losing Windows 10 and Office. Best Buy in Miami where I bought it is no help so I can’t see that I have anything to lose
One issue with our refurbished computer is disc space. When the computer guy loaded our files into the new OS he put them all in the D drive, which is now 96% full. The system keeps warning us about this. So for the last few days we have been deleting. I estimate we have a million photos. We have 50,000 photos of our niece CJ alone. Here is CJ at age one hour; here she is at age two hours, etc. I think we have photos of CJ doing everything she has ever done, except sitting on the potty. Opps, I retract that statement.

Some albums are seven layers deep. We discovered we have many duplicate and triplicate photos and documents scattered in those layers and in multiple drives. I figure we’ll have all unwanted photos and documents deleted and the remainder organized in about eight years. And that’s only if I stop getting sidetracked. I’m finding documents from years ago that I only have vague memories of writing.

Below is an example. It looks like I was on a forum and was not happy with some of the forum members. I have no idea when, what forum it was, or if I even actually posted it. My ‘unique’ sense of humor has not changed much.


Yeah…well….see, that’s the thing. I mean, it’s easy to write stuff on a forum but perspectives are not static, so often…well, maybe not often, but in point of fact (what does that mean…”in point of fact”? I never did understand what that means) we frequently….THWACK! Ow!!! What did you do that for?

You were experiencing another synaptic gap loop, Tom.

You didn’t have to hit me in the head!

I’ve found it to be an effective attention getter.

Who are you, anyway?

Does it matter?

Probably not. Where was I. Oh yeah…I was saying that words we may use in the spare of the moment (what does that mean…”in the spare of the moment”?) I never did understand what that means) over time may appear….THWACK! Ow!!! Dammit!!

You were in another loop.

Okay but you better find another attention getter. Your present method is highly offensive. THWACK! Ow!!! What was wrong with that!?

It’s not highly offensive. It’s deeply offensive….deeply.

I don’t think so. I think it’s “highly.”

No…’s “deeply.”

Look, here’s an idea. There are some folks on this forum who are experts at being highly offended - DON’T YOU DO IT!

I’ll let it go this time

…..highly offended. Let’s ask for their opinion.

That wouldn’t work. They would take offense at the question.

Ha ha--you just reminded me of the old Al Capp cartoon strip; Little Abner. Do you remember during the 60s when he came up with the acronym SWINE…Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything”? THWACK! Ow!!! What the...!!

not politically correct Tom. You can’t single out a group of people these days and say something that could be considered derogatory.

Well what can I say that doesn’t get me a hit in the head?

How about just getting back to your post?

I forgot what the thread is about.

You forgot what the thread is about? So what!? Just write something. It doesn’t make any difference! It has never made any difference! SWINE don’t care about the intent of a thread!! They’re only looking for something that could be construed as being politically incorrect so they can play victim and express their righteous indignation andTHWACK!

Ow!!! What did you do that for?

It’s called payback pal, payback.


This is the last time that document will ever see the light of day. I need to force myself to delete it and hundreds of other old documents without reading them. I’ll probably lose some that I should have kept but the alternative is to never finish this project.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Computer woes just got worse

A month ago I wrote a post about problems with this computer and my plan to replace it with a new one. I didn’t stick with my plan. I should have. Instead of having a desktop built here in Chiclayo I bought a laptop in Miami. It’s a Dell Inspiron 15 7000 series. One of the features that sold me is the two-way option that allows me to position it with the keyboard behind the screen, so I can use a wireless remote keyboard and mouse. I bought it at Best Buy, where the ‘geek squad’ people set it up and also installed a permanent (as opposed to subscription) version of Office. When I tried it in the store I commented that start up was slow…the Dell emblem appeared, disappeared and reappeared and a ‘please wait’ message seemed to last for minutes. The technician said “That’s Windows 10.”  

Back at the hotel everything worked fine…email, Excel, Word, the card reader, etc. That situation continued when we returned to Chiclayo – until a week ago.

The slow startup got slower. Then the wallpaper screen started flashing, and the flashing soon progressed to all the screens. Next a message appeared saying “Your PC ran into a problem and needs to be restarted. We’re collecting information and will restart the PC for you.” Then it went into a restart/shutdown/restart loop. It would not respond to the keyboard or mouse. I had to push and hold the power switch for 15 seconds to shut it off. After two or three manual shutdowns a different message appeared saying “Looks like Windows didn’t load properly”, and offered some options to correct the problem, cautioning “you may want to have someone you trust do this for you’. When I read that I knew that 1) I had a major problem, and 2) it was probably beyond my limited ability to deal with. This secession of problems all happened gradually over the course of two days.

I did some internet research and found that many people with similar problems recommend doing a reset, which as I understand it is a complete reinstallation of Windows. There is not agreement among them about whether programs such as Office will be deleted during a reset. I can’t find an English speaking computer technician in Chiclayo and the Spanish speaking technicians do not want to look at the computer because of the language issue. I sent an email to Best Buy explaining the problem four days ago but have heard nothing and don’t really expect to. Seeing no option I decided to try going the reset route, even if I lost Office in the process.

I discovered that I can’t even do that, because at one point in the reset process the system prompts for a password. When the technician was setting up the computer he asked me to enter a password. That password does not work.

As I see it I’m sitting here with no options. Returning to Miami to get it repaired would cost twice the price of the computer. Mailing it is out of the question for many reasons. So I’m typing on this quirky 8 year old machine while 10 feet from me is a brand new laptop with all the bells and whistles that I can’t use until I return to the US to get it repaired, whenever that will be. If anyone reading this has some suggestions I’d appreciate hearing them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gettin’ it done in Los Sanchez

This morning couldn’t have gone better in Los Sanchez. The furniture arrived five minutes before we did. We brought with us a whiteboard with markers and erasers, and two storage shelves. In just a few minutes the women and kids had everything inside the building. After a few more minutes the shelves were assembled and the whiteboard was hung. The man on the right in the photo is Maribel’s brother Luis. He is visiting from Lima and was a big help in transporting items and assembling the storage shelves (and in making a duck disappear which will be explained later).

What a difference from our first visit when the room was empty except for pails and bricks that the kids were sitting on. Now it looks like a cheery, vibrant classroom. I’m sure more organization took place after we left. This project felt good to us. Three months ago there was no school in Los Sanchez and no option for the kids to attend school in another community. Today there is a fully equipped classroom ready to go.

If you take a look at the whiteboard you’ll see the names of the folks who made this day possible. The printing is not perfect, but the boy who wrote it (dark blue shirt) took 15 minutes to get it done and he was proud of his work. So were we. Thank you from them and us.

When things calmed down a bit the president of the parent’s association mentioned their goal of a new school, as she did during our last visit. She gave us a copy of the deed describing a vacant lot owned by the community for the purpose of a pronoei. We have never worked with a group of women more dedicated to their kid’s education than these mothers. These women are not going to let the issue go until either a school is built or it’s proven impossible. They again asked if we would attend a meeting with school officials in the city of Tùcume. We told them we would. I’m betting it won’t be long before we get a phone call from them.

We anticipated a cost of about $700 for this project. The actual was $545.77. The savings came about because of a great job by Karina, the teacher in negotiating with the carpenter and in Maribel getting a reduced rate on the whiteboard.

As we were leaving, the women gave us a variety of food items including bananas, sweet potatoes, papayas, and a duck roasted over an open wood fire. Less than half of that duck made it to Chiclayo. The bananas took a beating too.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The thing we like about Florida is….

….well, there’s lots of things we like about Florida. First, it’s convenient to get to. From Lima to Miami my favorite airline LAN Peru takes only five and one-half hours. And I believe it is the least expensive destination in the USA from Lima. Going through Miami’s immigration process is a breeze, and at least on this recent visit the stop at customs had been eliminated.  I’m curious to know if that is a permanent situation. I never did understand what that stop was supposed to accomplish. After collecting your luggage you get on the Metrorail for a short ride to the car rental center, pick up your car and you can be at your hotel in less than an hour after landing.

There are lots of hotels near the airport. We like the La Quinta Airport West mostly because in our experience customer focus is outstanding. And it’s about half-way between the airport and Miami’s two big malls…the International and Dolphin malls. And it’s close to a Denny’s restaurant, where tradition dictates that we go for our first breakfast in the US and I pig out on a lumberjack slam.

Florida has a lot to offer for tourists. On previous visits we’ve been to Clearwater Beach, Coco Beach, the Kennedy Space Center, Orlando and several other destinations, but finding new places to visit is not a problem.  

Located on Florida’s west coast, Naples doesn’t have a lot in the way of typical tourist attractions. The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is worth seeing. The municipal pier is unremarkable. What Naples does have going for it is shopping. The Miromar Outlets and Tin City malls are impressive for their ambience and offerings. Visiting both of them can easily consume a full day. The city also has a wealth of fine restaurants…and some that are not so fine but pretend to be so. Our dinner at the popular Watermark Grille was worth the 20 minute table wait.

Our primary purpose for visiting Naples was to see Maribel’s uncle. Carlos left the village of Puerto Eten, Peru many years ago to take up life in New York. A few years ago he and his wife Mary had had enough of New York winters and moved to Naples. They have a daughter also living in Naples. Carlos is 90 and still in great shape physically and mentally. Both he and Mary are interested and informed about a wide range of subjects. We had some lively discussions about the presidential candidates in the upcoming elections in Peru and the US.

From Naples we drove to Key West. What should have been a five and one-half hour drive took eight hours. I don’t ever want to see highway 997 (Krome Ave) again, and I will never drive on US 1 through the Florida Keys on a Saturday. The 20 mile stretch between Homestead and Key Largo was the worst. Progress was measured in feet per hour. Inching forward three car lengths without stopping was cause for celebration. It was curiosity and the need to get out of the traffic for awhile that prompted us to stop at a restaurant in Key Largo.

I don't know what I was expecting to see in Key Largo; maybe giant sized statues of Bogart and Bacall on the edge of the highway welcoming visitors, or a cocktail lounge named Rick's Place, or a saloon called 'Here's looking at you kid', but there wasn't anything to set Key Largo apart from any other town in the keys. So much for romantic images.

In the end Key West was definitely worth the effort to get there. It is unlike any Florida city we’ve visited. The western half of the city; a small area of only 2.25 square miles is where everything is happening. There is the Ernest Hemingway museum (his bedroom in the photo), the Truman White House, a light house museum and many other attractions to see.

Without a doubt the most popular attractions are not what you would call cultural. Duval Street, with a total length of a little over one mile is the place to be. The street is lined on both sides with shopping boutiques and restaurants, every one of them with a constant flow of tourists entering and leaving. The northwest end of the street transitions from shopping to drinking and eating. It seems that every bar/restaurant offers entertainment in the form of a guitar playing man with a raucous voice booming from massive speakers. On the street it’s possible to hear three or four of them at the same time.  You’re also likely to hear chickens. Key West has a thing about chickens. They are everywhere, including on top of our breakfast table at the hotel, and crossing busy Duval Street. Drivers brake for chickens, and merchants sell tee shirts with that message among others. One of my favorites was:

“I dream of a society
where a chicken can cross the road
without its motives being questioned”

Captain Tony’s and Sloppy Joe’s were haunts of Hemingway in the 1930s and are very popular, as is the Hog’s Breath Saloon. At the top of Duval Street is Mallory Square. Hundreds of people gather there to take photos of the setting sun and to be part of the night life that springs up at sundown. Strolling the ‘harbor walk’ (photo) reminded us of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Two days in Key West was not enough. We could have used two more.

While there are 5-star hotels in Key West, the majority of the hotels are remodeled old houses, many of them located on side streets, and they are pricy. We stayed at the Albury Court Hotel. The service was good and the continental breakfast was a bit above average. Two negatives are that parking is not offered - you take your chances finding a spot on the street, and the room we were in was small.

Back in Miami, we spent our final night with an old friend from my Wisconsin days. Dino and his wife Sara Luisa are good friends that we see each visit to Miami. Following a delicious and humongous steak dinner (when it comes to steaks on the grill Dino is DA MAN) we sang up a storm until it was time to leave.

We’ll be back in Florida. There is the Florida panhandle yet to be explored and I’m sure cities like Pensacola and Panama City have attractions worth seeing.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Furniture in Monsefú and Uniforms in Las Salinas

Wednesday morning we were in Monsefú in time to meet the carpenter who was delivering the six tables we had ordered. On March 10th we had delivered two storage shelves and 25 chairs. Patricia Custodio, the school’s director was pleased with the quality of the tables. Her one minor concern is that she thought two of the tables were too dark. The carpenter, Isidro Uypan said he would correct that when he had time. We believe he will. Isidro was very interested in our opinion of his work, and asked us to keep him in mind if we needed furniture again in the area.

Isidro’s prices were the lowest we found in Monsefú. The tables cost 100 soles each, and he offers chairs for 45 soles. The respective US dollar amounts are $30.53 and $13.74 at today’s exchange rate of 3.275. Incidentally, the rate has been dropping steadily from a high of 3.504 in early March. Our purchasing power is shrinking fast.

The cost for the Monsefú project including two storage shelves, 25 chairs, six tables and transport came to $331.52. We had estimated $327.98.  We’ll settle for that.


As mentioned in a previous post regarding the village of Las Salinas, we had the opportunity to correct a bad decision made last year, and we rectified the situation today by delivering 24 uniforms for the 12 primary and 12 kinder students.  The teachers, kids and especially the moms were happy to get them. Our seamstress had been in the village with us weeks ago to take the kid’s measurements, and the uniforms fit perfectly. We’ve made a change in our thinking about the logos on the uniforms. Instead of the Promesa Peru logo, we’re using the school emblem circled by the words Promesa Peru Chiclayo. That will give the uniforms specific school identity. And in the future we may consider unique uniform colors for each school, though abandoning the Green Bay Packers green and gold will personally cause me some heartburn. 

After the uniforms were handed out and a zillion photos were taken we sat down to a lunch of ceviche and chicken with rice prepared by the mothers. Teachers, parents and the kids were able to eat at the same time because of the cooking equipment we had provided last year.We estimated $571.82 for the uniform project. The actual cost was $575.63.


Next Tuesday we’ll be in the village of Los Sanchez to put the finishing touches to that project. That is a project we’re excited about. Completely equipping a new school in a village that has never had a school, and working with an active parent’s association to get the job done is a rewarding experience. We estimated $700 for this project. There are still some things to be purchased but to date we’re under budget, and hope it stays that way.

There is one loose end from last year that we want to address. In October we wrote about the village of Posope Alto and the needs of their pronoei. We had asked for and received some donations in preparation for providing furniture to the school. Over the past six months we’ve contacted several individuals asking what the status is and each time were told we’d be contacted soon. That hasn’t happened so we’re going to use the $154 we’ve been holding donated for that project for other activities.

It’s been a busy few months and we expect that requests for help will keep coming in. A looming problem is that donations have been really slow this calendar year. If that doesn’t change we may not be able to respond to deserving schools that need our help. We’ve been fortunate that people like Chris Raupe and the friends and family of the Alice Cool Foundation have stood by us. Without them the Monsefu and Las Salinas projects would not have happened, and we would not be going to Los Sanchez next week. Won’t you please consider helping us to help the poor families in the Lambayeque Region? You can do that by visiting the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.