Fading memories

My wife and I returned from a trip to Argentina and Chile last month, and already the memories of that memorable trip are starting to fade. What was that bird called? Which town were we in? Today I remember you Arlene, Bob, Lydia, Kit, Jane, Mark, Brian, Carol, Paula, Stephen, Mike and Dianne, and I remember our leader Graciela, of course. If you asked me for a similar list from last year’s trip, I would draw a blank, and will probably be unable to make this trip list 6 months from now.

That’s one reason I take photos. I’ve found limited use for my photos to show others. I put a few on Facebook, and people like them. But the real value of the photos is for my benefit, as they help me relive the experience.

I thought that by writing about the trips, perhaps I might preserve even more. That leads to this article and the image below taken in a remote desert location between Calama and San Pedro Chile.


Each of those red vertical poles represents a person killed by a cruel dictatorship for no good reason and dumped in the desert, as part of what was called the “Caravan of Death.” This and other images from Argentina and Chile teach me what human beings can do when they are afraid: the seek safety in powerful leadership and in order and in a less-threatening version of the truth. It teaches me what humans do when they get too much power.

I saw stunning landscapes; rivers, lakes and waterfalls; wonderful animals and trees; and fascinating people. But the one thing I hope I never forget is the image above.

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Blog expands to travel topic

When this blog started, I wasn’t much of a traveler except for business. Now that I’ve retired, my wife and I travel a fair amount. “Travel” as a topic has been added to this blog and I intend to write some articles about the places I visit from my own perspective. These won’t be destination reviews—those I put on TripAdvisor.com, but more about how travel changed me.

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Surface Pro 3 backup

I didn’t have a backup of my Surface Pro 3, so when it because unusable, my only option was to do a Refresh, which uninstalled all my applications, and trashed all my settings, product registrations, 100 Windows Update installations, email setup and on and on. It took about a day to put the system back together after that, and I was not able to re-install one application at all. I’m still finding things that don’t work right.

Oh, if I only had a backup. Why didn’t I have a backup? They say an image is worth a thousand words, so here is the image:


There is no backup except the File History “Back up now”, which only backs up user files, not the operating system or applications.

The reason I’m writing this article is to say that there really is a backup in Windows 8.1—you just can’t find it so easily. Surprisingly, the real backup is under File History, the other File History. Go to the system search and enter “File History” and select the one that has a picture of a folder next to it. This takes you to the desktop. In small type in the extreme lower left of the File History window, there is a “System Image Backup” link that lets you really back up your computer.

To restore, restart your computer while holding down the F8 key (yes, you need a keyboard). Then use the Advanced Repair Options.

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Switching browsers

I’ve been a Firefox user for a long time, too long to remember (and before that Netscape Navigator 2.0 and before that Mosaic). I preferred Firefox to Internet Explorer because it implemented cool features, like multiple page tabs and private browsing. Internet Explorer and other browsers followed to implement these features, and for my purposes they are now functionally equivalent.


As for general layout and appearance, I prefer Firefox, but I have had a number of instances of Firefox locking up lately, and there are some other problems with it not accurately positioning to in-page links, such as a comment on a blog. A big problem is printing a web page to a PDF using the Adobe Acrobat 9.5 driver—some text comes out gibberish. I was looking for an improvement.

Here’s how it happened. My other blog had a huge 2-day spike in readership last week and when I examined the source, it was a link from reddit.com. I looked at the browser distribution in Google Analytics and was surprised to see that the younger-aged folks visiting through Reddit use Google Chrome 61% of the time (and hardly any of them use Internet Explorer).


General usage worldwide web statistics show Google Chrome running around 40% of the time, with Firefox and Internet Explorer at around 20%.

It was time to reconsider my browser choice. I’ve had Chrome installed for ages but used it only on rare instances, mostly for testing. I took the plunge and imported all my Firefox passwords and bookmarks into Chrome (pretty painless once I removed the master password in Firefox) and I set it to be the default browser.

Everything is working well so far. The two problems I had with Firefox aren’t a problem with Chrome. I like the language translation feature built into Chrome, and I like its ability to synchronize bookmarks and passwords across devices (Firefox has this too, but it only works with passwords when you don’t have a master password). I’ve uninstalled Firefox from my tablets entirely.

Internet Explorer in its current incarnation is a very good browser in my opinion, and for technical reasons, it will remain the default on my Windows tablets for now. It is also the only one of the three that has a tablet-centric mode of operation that I know about. There are also some web sites that only work properly with Internet Explorer.

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South Carolina’s Voter ID law

Before I discuss what I think of the law, let me tell you first what it is and what you need in order to vote in the November 4, 2014 election.

South Carolina’s new Voter ID law went into effect January 1, 2013. In order to cast a regular ballot in the election, you must present a qualifying photo ID–one of the following 5 items:

  • A South Carolina Driver’s License. Suspended licenses DO NOT QUALIFY.
  • An ID card issued by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • A US Passport.
  • A US Military ID (includes military contractor IDs issued by the Department of Defense and VA benefit and spousal benefit cards so long as these have a photo).
  • A South Carolina Elections Commission voter registration card WITH PHOTO. Older cards do not have a photo.

If the ID has an expiration date on it, it must not have expired to be considered valid. Student ID’s and concealed weapons permits DO NOT QUALIFY as an ID for voting purposes.

You can go to your county elections commission and get a free voter registration card with your photo on it. This process requires you to give your social-security number, but you do not have to have a birth certificate.

If you show up at the polls without an ID, there is a process for determining your options. If you have an ID, but forgot it, you can go home and get it. If you don’t have an ID and no good reason for not having one, you can vote a provisional (paper) ballot BUT you will have to present an ID to your county elections commission before the date of for finalizing the ballots (the Friday following the election) in order for your ballot to count. If you don’t have and ID and there is a reasonable impediment to your getting one, you bring your voter registration card (without photo), sign an affidavit saying that you have a reasonable impediment to getting and ID, vote a provisional ballot, and if the county elections commission has no reason to doubt the truth of your affidavit, your vote will count.

In order to vote, you must register to vote within 30 days of the election. You can register to vote online. Of course it’s too late to do that for the November 4, 2014 election.

What do I think?

In a recent training session for new poll managers, the head of the Spartanburg County Elections Commission, Henry Laye, was asked how prevalent election fraud was. He stated that since he had been head of the department (more than a few years), there have been no instances of election fraud in the county. That suggests that all of the education, training, publicity, and general confusion about the SC Voter ID Law is for nothing. It is a total waste of time, energy and money. It is a solution without a problem.

Given that the law exists, the details are not bad. It doesn’t cost anything to get an ID. I’ve visited my own county elections commission office several times, and I have never seen anyone waiting to get an ID. It should be a pretty quick process. And if someone doesn’t have an ID for a good reason (and they are the sole judge of what is a good reason), they can vote a paper ballot and it will count.

The problem is that the 5 forms of required ID are prominently displayed, and publicized. The reasonable impediment exception is in small print or on the back of the brochure. Someone who doesn’t have an ID for a good reason may believe that they cannot vote, when in fact they can. That basically stacks the deck against those who don’t have an ID. Anything that makes the playing field un-level is, in my opinion, a bad thing.

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