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Fresno - Routine and Holiday

June 23-July 4, 2017
Written June 26+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Goodness, I do not know why I am writing this.  Not much special is happening.  I have tried to get inspired a bit with picture-taking, but no luck.  My attitude is negative, never good for creating anything.  I'll blame the Fresno summer heat.  Or the Valley flatness.  Or the national politics.  Or the local crime. I need to talk myself into a more positive outlook, and maybe that's a good enough reason to write an otherwise unneeded diary.

d170623_02_mariannepool.jpgWe just finished a week where every day was above 105F (41C), sometimes well above.  In the shade.  This week is staying in double-digits and actually cool in the early morning.  That's pretty good and we have passed the longest day of the year so, in principle, we should not heat up more.  Still, the average Fresno high for July and the first half of August remains 99F(37C) and above average weeks will remain a feature.  At least we have Mamo's pool and we have something to talk about.

d170623_04_guests.jpgSpeaking of Marianne's mom, she had "Hungarian" visitors the other day, so there was a "big" party - Mamo, Babs and Rubin, Marianne and me, hosting Kati and her two early-20s kids Tomas and Anya.  I am not completely clear on the connection, but I believe Kati's father was friends with Marianne's mom and dad in the old days in the Hungarian Department of the Monterey Language School.   The family was visiting from South Carolina and made a positive impression on all of us.  Magdalena particularly enjoyed reminiscing about the days when she and her cohort were all young refugees, starting their American lives.
Last Saturday, I forced myself to get out and take pictures.  The local attraction was a small car show, sponsored and populated by the "Pan Draggers" club.  I think there are events like this every weekend, where area folks, generally, older, white, and male, show off their hobby cars to anyone who will pull off the road to look.  To make sure I blended in, I wore my new car-themed shirt.

Some of the cars were "regular drivers", like this 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible.  It is hard for me to remember that this car is more than a half-century old.  Time flies.
Several roadsters were showing too, not exactly the cars one would commute to the grocery store in.  This purple-with-yellow-flames project was typically understated.  While car mechanics and restoration are not my thing, I can appreciate the care and attention to detail owners lavish on their projects.

d170624_10_bonneviler.jpgd170624_12_complexengine.jpgOne of my favorites was this Bonneville racer, the 2009 record holder for its class.  (Don't ask me WHAT that class was.)  The builder-owner was very proud of having a timed top speed of just over 151.8 miles per hour that year.  He was also willing to start the engine if anyone asked, and I did.  It is hard to imagine the experience of driving such a beast.  Probably not on my bucket list.
One "produce farmer" had a pair of projects: a small "legacy" racer and an open-top towing car. There was not a spec of dirt anywhere on either car or the trailer, so the guy must have a pretty clean barn.

d170625_02_mandhummer.jpgAfter that excitement, it was back to our own little hobbies.  We both spent some time in the rose garden, with Marianne entertaining her hummingbird friend.  This little guy comes down from his tree perch every time Marianne walks out the back door.  They are surprisingly social animals.
She also worked on painting, as long as her little art studio stayed below oven-like temperatures.  I liked this one, but apparently she didn't.  As the artist in charge, she decides and, in this case, she decided to just cover it over and plan some thing else.

For me, it was a few more rose pictures.  After our 100F+ heat for a week or two, our roses definitely are tired and sunburned, but they have a worn attraction.  At least I think so.

John's Museum
Since I have some space here, and I have had time to organize my office "museum", I thought I would share.  For several years, I have had a hard time throwing away the digital gadgets that have been parts of our life.  Replace them?  Sure.  But throw them away, along with all the memories they represent?  My answer has been a de facto "museum" on my office shelves and this week I took the time to organize things into three shelves: computers, cameras, and hand-held devices (aka phones).

I really don't know how many home computers I have had, starting with an Apple II we brought to Brazil almost 38 years ago!  Most of them have been discarded, often during moves, but my museum does still have one desk top and three laptops, all Macs of course.  On the left is probably the biggest computer I have had, a Power Mac G5 , vintage about 2003 or 2004.  It was purchased in Frankfurt and served for a decade before we headed back to America.  Although I have not turned it on in three years, I assume it is still working since it had given no problems in all that time.  Apple really does make better  - and prettier - gear.

To the right of the Power Mac is a black PowerBook G3.  This was one of the first practical laptops and was nicknamed "Wall Street", in part to identify the hoped-for market.  I think I bought this in 1998, on our way to Ukraine.  Not only did it serve us at home in Ukraine, but we also drug it along on our "Big Road Trip" in 2001 and 2002.  Along the way, we uploaded diaries as best we could, considering internet-in-hotels was still not a regular thing yet.  The black brick (it was pretty heavy) served well and it still works, but only on an obsolete operating system (OS9.7).

The next laptop was a further evolution of the Mac PowerBooks, an aluminum PowerBook G4.  We bought one with the silver frame in 2002, after retiring the black brick.  My recollection is that it served well for about five years, although batteries became problematic.  The original ones failed and replacements were hard to find in Germany.  Even in California, I considered myself lucky to find replacements at Fry's, THE source for Silicon Valley nerds.  Fortunately, they were easy to pop in and out.  Today, I have one functioning battery and the computer itself works fine.

The laptop on the right was a MacBook Pro dating from about 2009, I think.  This one had a large (17 inch) screen and may have been my favorite for photos and diaries.  The one-piece machined aluminum case just felt "professional".  We replaced this laptop when we returned to the US in 2014, mostly because the battery became unreliable. Unfortunately, the battery was not user-replaceable and, today, the computer works fine, but only when plugged into the wall.

In front of the G5 screen are a pair of the several Kindles we have had.  We were early adopters and consider them another digital part of normal life.  We use them all until they fail, normally from battery problems like these two examples.  Today, I prefer real, paper books at home, but the Kindles are much easier when we travel.

Digital Cameras
Digital cameras have received a fair amount of our money.  By my account, we have bought a dozen digital cameras, not counting iPhones and iPads.  The museum holds five of them and two more are still in regular service. We have gone from a 0.3 Mega-pixel (Mp) starter 19 years ago to our current pair of 20 Mp cameras.  I am not certain where the lost cameras went, but as a rule they became obsolete, either for what I considered acceptable resolution or for other features (low light capability and quicker focus mostly.)

From left to right:
- An Olympus C2000Z, the oldest museum piece, used in 2000 and 2001 during our Ukraine phase.  (It still works.) It was replaced by a C0304Z, that was a mainstay until the end of 2006.
- A Canon IXUS 800 IS, replaced the Olympus 3040Z, because the older machine had become unreliable as I recall.  The Canon still works fine.
- A Canon D10, my first "SLR-like", interchangeable-lens digital camera.  I used this for five years, starting in 2003, and it was absolutely reliable (still works fine) and easy to use.  It was replaced by a D50, probably because I convinced myself that the increased resolution (6.3 Mp to 15 Mp) was now "required".
- A Nikon Coolpix S630, replaced the IXUS 800, probably again because of the perception that doubling resolution was worthwhile.  Besides, it was a nice-feeling, technically interesting new gadget.  What more do you want?
- A SONY RX100, replaced the Nikon.  This was a very capable camera, with resolution equal to my then- and now-current "big camera".  The low light capability was amazing and it still fit in a pocket.  The downside was that all this technology squeezed into a small package made it both more susceptible to damage and more expensive to repair after, say, a waist-level drop.  Two years ago, after such a drop, I received word that repair costs would exceed the not-incidental cost of an exact replacement.  My solution was to buy the then-latest RX100, for just a little more. 

Two years ago I traded in the Canon D50 on a Canon 7DII, a high quality camera with capability beyond my own.  Of course, like many photographers, I would like an even newer and more-capable camera, but I think I need to improve my technique first.  More practice, practice, practice.

Hand-Held Devices
Finally, eight "hand-held devices".   Nowadays, this has morphed into smart phones, but that's not where it started. 

That big lug in the middle is a Newton MessagePad 120, Apple's original "personal digital assistant (PDA)".  I bought this in the early 1990s and, believe it or not, it still works, probably because the batteries are simple, replaceable, AAs.  It was expensive and, by today's standards, pretty limited, but true, "bleeding edge" technology at the time.  The handwriting recognition was buggy, but amazing.  Keep in mind that 15 years would elapse before Apple could regain their technical mojo with the first iPhone (more on that later.)

On the left are two more-successful PDAs from Palm.  The gray one is an M500, not the first offered by Palm, but the first one I actually bought.  We were in Ukraine at the time and I recall buying this on home leave in about 2001, mostly to fiddle with, although the hope was that my address book would get more organized.   The little character-recognition window took considerable practice, but I had plenty of time in the cold Kiev winter. 

I bought the white Palm Z22 (far left) in about 2005, again to get better organized.  By now we were in Germany and I needed even more help remembering names and addresses.  Interestingly enough, my current iPhone/Mac "Address Book" still has some of the information imported from the Palms a decade ago.  The newer (white) Palm Z22 still functions, but I can not find the power supply for the M500.

Between the two Palms and the Newton is an original iPod, the one with a mechanical scroll wheel. I remember getting this one on a home leave, shortly after its October, 2001 release.  I bought it just because I thought it was technically cool. The Apple iTunes store didn't even exist yet.  Music was input manually, via the Mac (no PCs supported.)  This was the only iPod we ever bought, probably because we had iPhones before we outgrew this little (5 megabyte) iPod.

To the right of the Newton are some early mobile phones we had.  The three on the left are all Nokia's and all were made in Hungary, for some reason.  The orange one is a Model 5210.  We bought it in Kiev and it served us throughout our Big Road Trip in 2001-2002.  Our Ukrainian service provider featured free roaming throughout Europe, something that only recently has become "standard" in the EU. Our provider also had a website for anyone to send us SMS (text) messages, and I can remember getting short notes from Gabby from time to time while we were wandering Europe, wondering how she and the family were doing. 

The ivory phone is a Nokia Model 6610i, one we purchased in Germany about 2004 and used for several years.  While it had a camera, I do not remember ever using it! 

The "flip phone" is a Nokia Model 6103, and I cannot remember, for sure, our history with this particular phone.  I think this was our US phone for several years while we were living in Germany but traveling to the US.  We bought minutes, but had no contract, perfect for our occasional use.  I miss the simplicity of a mobile phone that was just a simple stick-in-the-pocket device.  The battery in this flip phone has swollen and cracked the back of the phone itself.  The battery in the earlier Germany phone also looks swollen and, in any event, none of the three Nokia phones function.

The last hand-held museum piece is our first iPhone.   This was the mobile phone released in America almost exactly ten years ago to change Apple's fortunes and our lives. My recollection is that we waited a bit after introduction, partially because the German release was later and partly because buying the first-of-a-kind seemed a bit too risky, even for us.  I think my example here is an iPhone3Gs, probably purchased in 2009 from Deutsche Telekom in Bamburg.  This example, while not functional, is very clean, because I sent it through the clothes washer, something I have done twice with iPhones. 

We replaced the broken 3gs and its pair (we always get two!) with a new iPhone 4s's.  One of those was ALSO  lost to a washing machine and the other is still used to play music in my car. When we came back to California in 2013, we needed to change from European to American service, so we moved up to 5s models.  We have since moved on to iPhone 6 plus models, for reasons I don't even remember, but I did not keep a museum example because we could trade them in for a couple of hundred dollars apiece.   I swear, we will NOT get an iPhone 7, just to demonstrate that we do not need to buy everything Apple sells.  Probably.

Celebrate the Fourth

Finally, the big summer holiday arrived:  The Fourth of July! In the old days (Pommersfelden at least), we enjoyed having a crowd over for the American holiday, or at least on the weekend nearest to it.  (2009, 2011, 2013)  Nowadays, here in Fresno, things are quieter.

d170704_02_breakfast.jpgWe started the day with a fancy breakfast out with Marianne's mom.  Well, fancy enough: Denny's.  It was her choice, but would have been mine as well.  This ubiquitous, anywhere-in-America chain seemed appropriate for the holiday.  Marianne and I both placed calorie-conscious orders and Mamo had her regular: eggs, pancakes, and bacon.  She powered away everything, confirming the correctness of the Denny's choice.

After a break at home for chores, we returned to the Mamo pool for a quick cool-off from the Fresno's triple-digit heat.   Quiet, but refreshing, and we value the time we get with Marianne's 97-year-old mom. 

Our other Fresno-based social circle is the group of neighbors that gather on Cambridge Avenue front porches.  Those of the group with no grander holiday plans, descended on the Selland's back yard for a "chow fun" barbecue. It is reportedly a Selland family tradition, dating from a trip to Maui many years ago.  Guests added bruschettas, salsa and chips, and salami and cheese.  We declared this mix of foreign-origin food to be about as American as it gets, given that  most Americans started as foreigners.  The dessert was very American: Nancy and Gene's chocolate chip cookies and Susan and Jon's home made ice cream.

Our celebration was mostly chit chat and sipping wine or gin and tonics. 
Cooling was provided by Steve's giant "swamp cooler".  Elsie and Zoomer learned quickly where the best resting grass was.  Gene managed the wok, guided by Joan's recipe and Jean's supervision.

We all pronounced this as a "best way" to celebrate the Fourth - good food, drink, and no traffic. 

(For the rest of the evening and through the night we could hear other celebrants' fireworks and, this being Fresno, gunshots.  Hiding inside seemed like a good solution.)

And that's it for now.  Next week we will check in with the Monterey family and in six weeks we will head to Oregon to see the total solar eclipse.  No other plans, at least not yet.  We need more!

Stay tuned,

John and Marianne


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