Monday, January 20, 2014

A driver lesson & phishing expedition in the Anza Borrego Desert!

We feel as though we have established residency, at least temporarily.  Not in a hurry to see or do, resuming some sense of normalcy.  The weather, though dry as a bone with not a breath of humidity, has been great, mid to high 70s in the daytime with cool evenings.  And no wind to speak of, though we know that can change in a nanosecond.  I do find myself boiling recycled water to create a humidifier effect and consuming lots of coconut oil through absorption!

One of my New Year's projects was to transfer 2013 photo and document files to an external disk for storage reasons, but now that has taken on more importance.  Seems my old Windows Vista laptop is losing her drive.  I have been unable to edit photos in Google+ Photo Editor and today realized my Picasa program, both of which just received updates, would no longer create collages as I was trying to put together a sequence of moon shots.   I know there are lots of great editing programs and a quick search online produced this easy collage template.  Light Room has been suggested by many so maybe it's time for a change from the familiar.  

Found an online template!

When I started delving into some help tutorials Google suggested I check my GPU or graphics driver as it may need to be updated to handle certain changes.  After downloading literally hundreds of megabytes, and watching the Verizon meter running rampant, I got error messages saying that my operating system wasn't compatible.  I don't have a clue what's going on but I've often wondered if Microsoft plants a little time bomb for those of us who are technically challenged so we run out and buy a new computer. 

Next on my ToDo list was to dispose of my old Canon camera kit to make room for the new Nikon.  I decided to give eBay a try.  Talked to some experienced friends, did my research on comparable sales, took the requisite photos, supplied all information on contents and condition. Bingo, I get an offer right away.  I know this because I received an email from eBay saying my item had been sold, with a follow-up email from PayPal saying they were holding the buyer's funds and I should prepare to ship. The buyer had requested overnight shipment and had included an extra $100 to cover.  He also sent a note saying this was for his son's birthday!

In reality, I had become the victim of a Phisher!  The PayPal receipt was phony but looked completely legit.  What saved me from last minute shipping was attempting to reply to the PayPal email to enter my tracking information....Yes, I actually had gone that far!  When the message was returned I went into my PayPal account, what I should have done to begin with, and found no funds received.  I then called them, they got eBay on conference call, copies of emails were sent, and a dispute filed.  What I learned from both eBay and PayPal is this: legitimate emails from them will address you by name, as in Dear Howard Stilley, rather than Dear email address.

The camera was re-listed and 3 more offers received.  By now I know what the procedure is so accepted the highest offer, checked the buyer's eBay credentials, and was soon notified by PayPal that they were holding funds.   I still double-checked my account and, yes, funds were being held pending my agreed shipping of USPS Priority Mail.  So, for now, it's a done deal!

Our first (trial) set of LED lights was received from Cabin Bright.  Howard tested the old fluorescent tubes before dismantling, then re-checked after installing strips in one fixture over the galley sink, and the amperage was exactly cut in half.  This will amount to a considerable amount of energy savings once all the old tubes are replaced. When LED first came out the blue/white effect was unpleasant but this one has a soft yellow glow to it.  Plan to live with it for a few days before ordering more as they are not cheap.

Back to the Friday Farmers Market at Christmas Circle in town.  Most of the same vendors are there with their produce, flowers, crafts, bakery goods, meat from local farms and fish caught as near as San Diego.  All very expensive and a few disappointments.  We bought a small tri-tip roast and chicken leg quarters that were delicious, but the lamb shoulder steaks were so tough and membranous, we couldn't eat.  Sea bass is one of our favorites so we paid the $20/lb just to treat ourselves to fresh fish caught locally.  I have always prepared sea bass by sauteing in butter with capers and lemon, delicious and easy.  This filet had so much water content that even in butter it ended up poached and tough....grrrr!

There have been lots of fun days just relaxing in a lounge chair and reading Sycamore Row by John Grisham.  I haven't read his books in years but heard good reviews about this one.  It is a stand alone sequel to A Time to Kill, and a thoroughly riveting story and thankfully not all boring courtroom drama.  Currently reading a great novel recommendation received on Facebook, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  The book got five star reviews and I am thoroughly impressed with the excellent story and artful writing.  Howard focuses on his chess moves!

Late afternoon barbecues followed by a roaring fire and beautiful sunsets set the mood for some camera practice with the tripod.  Getting the whole sequence of aperture, exposure and ISO are frustrating enough, then throw in all the focusing options and learning a new camera set-up.  I get everything just right, or so I think, then forget to change the white balance! Well there is plenty of time to learn and lots of good subject matter.

Profiles in sunset

A slice of moon at sunrise

We never tire of visiting the Ricardo Breceda sculptures scattered around Borrego's Galleta Meadows Estates owned by entrepreneur, Dennis Avery, who wanted to use his land as an enormous outdoor gallery.  Sadly, Mr. Avery passed away in 2012 but his legacy and Breceda's artwork remain for all to enjoy.

The Dragon

The Chief

Here are a few photos from drives around the area and walks about the neighborhood, though we really haven't left home much!

Playing among the rocks at Blair Valley
The quarry down by Clark Dry Lake

Clark Dry Lake looks like a jigsaw puzzle

The landscape changes in Blair Valley

Dizzying view toward the Salton Sea from Montezuma Grade

Helloooo.....Can you hear me now?

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