Mac vs PC – The Computer Cold War In Our Home

Cracked MacBook 15 inch screen

Mac vs PC

I would be lying if I told you there was any really real frostiness in our home over the Mac versus PC issue, but my husband John and I certainly have different opinions on Apple computers.

Until a few weeks ago I was the only one in our relationship who had used any Apple products and I was less bothered by his anti- Apple stance than he was my devotion.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

I know they cost more and there are limitations to what one can do to upgrade an Apple computer or repair them yourself. Until recently I’ve had to place my faith in the Apple Genius bar because the internal workings bit seemed too intimidating to attempt to dig around in there myself.

Apple Genius in the Making

John has always scoffed at the name given to the folks who sit behind the Genius bar in the Apple stores, but he has shown himself to be one of those, dare I say it, slightly geeky computer guys who can and does build his own computers. I should add that he’s not limited to desktops, I’ve seen him buy a used laptop,  take it apart, and rebuild to suit his needs too. While I haven’t always understood how he could do what he did, I have always had a healthy appreciation for his ability to do it.

Some of you may remember that the screen on my MacBook cracked about seven months ago which severely limited the ways I could use it. Lacking easy portability, I found myself doing less writing and photography. I blogged less, I read less on-line, and although I had an older model iPad that was helpful, it was still not enough. I had planned to buy a new Macbook this summer to replace the damaged one, but other things got in the way and I had to put that big purchase on hold.  After this morning, I am glad I waited.

Picking at the Fruit.

While I was in the US this summer, John’s brother spilled something on his MacBook making it unusable. Cost estimates to repair it made it too much to consider so he offered it to John knowing he would want to take it apart.  John happily settled in to see what the inner workings of the great and powerful Oz , oh wait, that’s another story … anyway, he went to work and learned so much about MacBooks that mine now has a new screen that looks great and works as well as the old one.

The quote for replacing my screen by an Apple Genius  was about $700 US.

The total cost of having John do the repair was $0 and only required his time, his brother’s broken laptop, and my having a little faith in my new home-grown ” Apple Genius. ”

Replaced Screen On MacBook 15 inch

Just so you have an Apples for Apples reference point ( sorry, I couldn’t help myself ) John said if he’d had to buy the screen instead of using his brother’s it would have cost about $140 US for him to personally replace it.

(My Desktop image was taken by Tim Hollister and is the St Mabyn Inn where John and I had a lovely dinner on his birthday last week.)

So one question for anyone reading this post … Mac or PC?

I’ll be interested to see which one gets the most comments.

Leaving Cornwall – Moving On

Cornwall 2013

” How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if we would only listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown. ” ~ Elizabeth Kubler -Ross

A local friend of mine told me the other day that he’ll be moving at the end of the month. He is leaving Cornwall to be closer to the family he has left. Having been born in Cornwall, he is what you don’t often meet here, a true Cornishman. His words are of those of acceptance, but they are tinged with a sadness that I can almost feel.

We have talked at length about Lanhydrock, a place very familiar to him and his lively stories have made a place already special to me, even more memorable.

Last week John and I walked into Lanhydrock from a new direction. We parked at Respryn Bridge and wandered down a long tree-lined road that once welcomed carts and carriages and the first automobiles. I thought of my friend as we enjoyed the fresh beauty of our long-awaited spring weather. The sun came and went as we walked with dark clouds shadowing us at points along the way before retreating without even a drop of the rain I thought might come.

After hearing me talk about distance running not long after we met, my Cornish friend shared a bit about his running days … telling me of a time when his feet knew the way to all the best paths around Lanhydrock. It will be impossible not to think of him on days like the one we had even though his season of running has passed and his time in Cornwall is at an end.

I imagine I will see him there from time to time in my mind when the weather shifts as it did with us. I’ll think what a fine day and suddenly he will be there, on the path in his running shoes with no need for walking sticks … moving easily in a place between the past and the future.

Safe travels, my friend.

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

A Castle For Your Dreams

13th Century - Restormel Castle, Cornwall, England

13th Century – Restormel Castle, Cornwall, England

Hundreds of years ago someone imagined a life on hillside overlooking the River Fowey. Not content with the natural height provided, they scooped up the earth to build a motte and bailey design castle. The first structure appeared around 1100 in what would eventually become the stone remnants you now see in the photo above. Restormel Castle in Cornwall is considered one of the best remaining examples of a motte and bailey castle and according the English Heritage site, one of 70 remaining in Britain.

Fulfilling the dreams of others

When my best girlfriend Patrice came for a short visit in 2011, she had a list of things that she wanted to do while she and her partner Lisa were here for a few days. One of which was a visit to a castle.

I took them to Sunday services on St Michael’s Mount and later John walked with us through the attached castle, but I wanted more for her. I wanted her to see a remote castle with no furnishings and few people, a place where she might have a moment alone to think about her mother who had died a few years earlier without going on the ‘Castles of Europe’ tour she’d always imagined she’d see one day.

I remember Patrice telling me how she’d asked her mother if there was anything she wanted to do in the time she had left and how they had talked about castles before her mother began chemotherapy. Her mother died without going on that trip so this was more than just another tourist stop for Patrice, it had a special meaning and while she didn’t mind which castle she saw, I wanted it to be really special and I had a feeling that Restormel Castle might be that place.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

When I see this photograph of Patrice, I can almost hear her saying, ‘I’m here, Mama’ as she pauses in the first entrance to the castle.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see a second entry point into the castle where the person in blue is walking under the arch. The gatehouse was originally three stories high but was partially dismantled during the Civil War. I found the history of this building style fascinating when I researched Restormel Castle. If you’d like to know more, I have done some of the work for you by providing the highlighted links above.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see the entrance to the chapel in the center of the photo above. The chapel projected out past the circular structure and had points of entry from smaller side doors.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel CastleLooking to the middle left of the photo above, you can a side entrance to the chapel as well as an arched entry leading directly into the sanctuary.

Patrice & Lisa

Here’s a shot looking mostly down into the space. I’m afraid these images are not my best work as it was wet and windy shooting that day, but perhaps you can still get a sense of the space.

Patrice & Lisa

From this angle so you can see how thick the walls are and get a glimpse of the lovely view from the castle walls.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

There are stories about a dungeon, but I’m not sure they are more than stories.

Patrice & Lisa

There are stairs which lead to all kinds of hidden areas like this one with Patrice. I said she looked like a monk from a distance with her dark hood up to avoid the rain so she assumed a prayerful position at the end of a moss-covered passage way.
Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

In this photo, you have a window in the center with an open space  to the left where a fireplace once stood. There’s a matching window (not seen here) on the other side of the fireplace shell.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

I wondered how many faces must have looked though these great stones windows over the last 800 or 900 years and thought about how the view must have changed along with the ownership of the castle. My imagination goes wild thinking about the lives of those privileged to have been able to stand or sit near the windows in a room with such an important function.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see how the windows and fireplace might have looked in the great hall by double clicking on this image of a plaque from the castle grounds.Patrice & Lisa, Restormel CastleHere’s a last look at what the interior of the keep might have looked like. You can see the window outline and the fireplace off to the left in this photo of one of the English Heritage information plaques. I usually take a quick photo of these to use later as a reference when I want to do more research online at home. I thought these might be helpful for this post.
Duchy Nursery

One more shot of Restormel Castle from a distance … the first and last photographs were taken during the last week and all others in September 2011.

It was good to help Patrice complete a goal that had been one of her mother’s dreams. Two castle visits may not have been the ‘Castles of Europe ‘ tour her mother dreamed of, but walking through Restormel Castle and St Michael’s Mount, I can’t help but think that Patrice’s mother would have had a little chuckle to see her daughter fulfilling a few of mom’s unfinished dreams.

I imagine most of us have something like that. There are so many places I see living in the UK that I know my dad would have loved to see himself, but the thing I feel most keenly is the connection he and I shared with writing and imagination.

My father left a fair amount of unpublished words and ideas and at least one story he wrote for his daughters. I know he would have been a big fan of my writing (being my dad) and would have encouraged me to go beyond the limitations of my blog. I hope to manage that one day and do something that he, like Patrice’s mom, never had a chance to do himself.

How about you? Are any of you secretly hoping to complete a dream desire that someone special to you can no longer do for themselves or maybe one like mine that you shared with a parent or other loved one?

Synchronicity, Dates … And My British Passport

Cornwall 2013

When a day begins with a sunrise this gorgeous it may be reasonable to assume that something special is going to happen.

Five years ago today I sent the email below.

On 2008-01-07 at 04:19:19, reaching4Skye wrote:

I sent a real email to your other email address.
Sorry I dragged my feet a bit.
I hope to hear from you soon.

On January 7th 2008, he was a man I barely knew. We’d only exchanged one email after meeting on a UK dating site. He had a look that caught my eye, and I liked what he had to say in his Guardian Soulmates profile so when an accidental save to favorites action on my part sent him a message saying that I was a fan, he sent me an email that started a correspondence that led to marriage.

20051000- 017You may know this story if you’ve read GOTJ for long, but I want to point out a connection I found interesting in the date of the email above and something that occurred this morning.

After John and I married and I decided that I was going to apply for a British citizenship, I found myself hoping that I’d be approved in 2012 which was the shortest amount of time it could happen. Given that it can take up to six months for approval, I’d hoped my naturalization ceremony might occur around one of our anniversaries. We have a couple in January and February that are important to us. As if happened, I had my ceremony the day before Thanksgiving and after redoing my passport application four times, (don’t ask) I submitted the dreadful form and all the other documentation required for my British passport.

You can probably see where this going, right?

Today is the fifth anniversary of the day I contacted John after ‘dragging my feet’ as I said in my email. I was worried about things that as it turns out, have not mattered at all.

A black car pulled up in front of the house this morning. It looked like a black taxi you’d see in London only without the taxi sign on top and it was totally out of place in our little village. Seeing it through our kitchen window, I wondered for a moment if it might have something special for me.

Why something for me, you ask?

Because I had an identity interview last Thursday satisfying the last step needed to receive my British passport.

And today … look what showed up!  You can call it coincidence, synchronicity, or luck, but I think it’s pretty remarkable.


That’s right … my British passport arrived exactly five years to the day that I sent John my ‘ foot dragging’ email.


No laughing at my photo, please. You’re not allowed to smile in them anymore so it’s pretty awful.

Still, I’m pleased as I can be.

And I’m smiling now.

How about you … is there some bit of magic you can’t explain in your life?

Big or small, do share it with me in a comment below.

UK Immigration & My British Citizenship Ceremony – One American’s Experience

Elizabeth Harper Receiving British Citizenship Certificate From Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, Peter Davies

Receiving My British Citizenship Certificate From Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, Peter Davies

A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in. And how many want out. ~ Tony Blair

Three days ago I joined a group of fifteen immigrants standing in a half circle as we pledged allegiance to our new country. Even though I was fairly giddy with excitement over the ceremony, I was aware of several things. It was obvious at a glance that we were a diverse group, but it was not until I heard each of them read some variation of the words below that I realized how different we all really were.

British Citizenship Ceremony - Elizabeth Harper, (Far Left)

Only six of the sixteen appeared to have English as a first language and it was almost painful to watch as four or five of those becoming British citizens struggled to read the Oath of  Allegiance.

Listening to a few of them mumble words that bore little resemblance to what they were supposed to be, I was astonished that they were there as I thought we’d all had to pass written tests to get to this final step. As I was writing this post I did a bit of research and it looks as if there are times when people may exempt from some parts of the testing process.

Elizabeth Harper, British Citizenship Ceremony

Cadare, is from Jamaica and we had an interesting chat about the misconceptions many folks have about people from both Jamaica and the US.

I wondered as I watched them about the difficulties they might have faced in the country of their birth and thought about the opportunities  they now have in the UK that they may not have had in their respective countries.

My desire to become a British citizen was not a difficult decision as I was allowed to keep my US citizenship, but after seeing the list of countries that do and don’t, I feel sure some of the people who took the oath with me were from countries that don’t allow them to retain their original citizenship when taking on a new one.

I think like many people I tend to take a lot for granted. Basic human rights for one, and a sureness that every American grows up with knowing that hard work and a bit a luck will carry them far. We are a nation of bold believers in our ability to overcome adversity, an idea made easier by the knowledge that there are laws in place to protect us from governments gone mad. I’m not sure the same is true for some of the people I was with on Wednesday.

British Citizenship Ceremony - Cornwall

Elizabeth Harper Receiving A Gift Badge/Pin Made Of Cornish Tin From Cornwall County Council Chairman, Mrs. Pat Harvey

Immigration for some requires closing a door behind them before stepping through the newly opened one of their adopted homeland. I’m grateful to have two doors that open at will for me and feel fortunate that unlike many brave immigrants, I can go home again.

British Citizenship Ceremony - Cornwall

My Interview With Cornwall Council Chairman, Mrs Pat Harvey, ‘ A Day In The Life Of Cornwall Council Chairman.’ Filmed by Cornwall Channel

I was interviewed by Cornwall Council Chairman, Mrs Pat Harvey, for ‘A Day In The Life Of Cornwall Council Chairman.’ It was filmed by Cornwall Channel and will be on FREESAT  found on channel, 401 or SKY on channel 212. It should air this Monday or the next at 9:00 PM.

Cornwall Council ChamberThe ceremony took place in the council chamber. You can see me talking with an American woman in a hat who also became a Brit and my friend,  Armella Jenkins who happened to be in the UK and came down from Devon to share the experience. She’s the woman to my right.

Me standing in the queue with Armella waiting for a coffee and scone after the ceremony. I’m happy and clapping, saying, ‘ Yay! ‘

Most of the photos are video screen grabs from a video John made. Thanks also to Armella Jenkins who took some additional images of the day. I may post an edited video version of the event later if any of you are interested in seeing it.

So ends a long journey that began more than four and a half years ago when I came back to the UK on a fiancé visa. I didn’t know then that I would apply for British citizenship and I’m happy that the only paperwork that remains now is that which is needed for my British passport.

This photo of a Celtic Knotwork lapel pin made from Cornish Tin is like one I received from Cornwall Council to mark the occasion. It’s made by Blue Hills Tin ,which is where I snagged the image.

Approved … For British Citizenship!

Sometimes there can be no shortcuts when you’re working towards a goal especially when others have the final say. All you can do is put your head down and slog on and hope it will go your way.

Yesterday marked an end to almost four years of documenting the details of my life, along with bit of test taking and fee paying, and multiple appointments with officials asking loads of questions as I worked to meet the timelines in my application for British citizenship.

Since submitting my final paperwork in August, I’ve spent the last two months listening for the sound of the postman’s shoes on the walk and  racing to the door when I heard the rustle of mail being pushed through the letter box. When I was not able to check it myself, John would usually announce in an increasingly weary sounding voice that there was nothing for me or at least not the letter I was hoping might arrive.

He was away yesterday morning and I was in the shower when a single letter was left for me. I was rushing about as I had to be somewhere when I realized that it was past time for the mail delivery and hurried to the front door still wrapped in my bath towel. I saw the brownish envelope on the floor as I climbed the stairs and could see that it was addressed to me. It was crumpled a bit, in part because of the flimsy ultra-thin envelope, and also the force required to push it through the slot in the door.

Scrawled on the envelope of my much-anticipated letter was ordinary message written in patchy ink saying, ‘parcel in garage.’ It wasn’t until much later that I remembered to tell John that there was a delivery for him as well.

I held my breath while tearing the envelope open and saw a detailed letter with the important words below:

I immediately called the number in the letter to schedule my citizenship ceremony and in a few weeks, just before I celebrate another American Thanksgiving in Cornwall, I will complete the last step to ensure my permanent place in United Kingdom with all the rights and privileges enjoyed by British citizens.

Someone asked me yesterday why having a British citizenship was so important and I cited a few of my reasons, many having to do with my life with John, but some of which are just for me … such as the right to vote.

In fact when asked what was next for me, I said with a smile, A seat in Parliament before adding that it might be wise for me to start with the Parish council first.

Having a dual citizenship was never on my ‘Before I Die List,’ but I love how staying open to change continues to enrich my life.


Presidential Elections & The Expat Vote

Expat Voting

After dropping my absentee ballot into the post box in the photo above, I thought of how many times I’ve enjoyed the privilege of voting in a Presidential election. At 52, I’ve seen my choice for president win only three of the previous eight times. Each time felt important and no matter how close the race looked or how dispirited I might have felt about the possibility of change, I voted.

The envelope above holds my ninth opportunity to make my vote count. Three times out of nine have seen me voting from a distant shore. While serving in the US Army, I voted for the very first time in 1980 from a military post in Germany, and yesterday’s vote marks the second absentee ballot I’ve mailed from the village where I live in Cornwall, England.

It was a bit more trouble this year because I applied late for my absentee ballot and the closer it got to the deadline date, the more worried I became that it would not make it in time. When I searched the internet for an alternative way to vote, I discovered that I could print out a write-in ballot so my vote could make it to Georgia in time.

If you are living outside the US and would like to vote but don’t have time to get a ballot, go to this Federal Voting Assistance Program site and follow the directions as I did.

You must fill out a Declaration/Affirmation statement to show you are a legitimate voter living abroad and I found the classifications questions the most interesting with only two being a possible fit for me.

I am a member of the Uniformed Services or Merchant Marine on active duty or I am their spouse or dependent

I am a U.S. citizen residing outside the U.S., and I intend to return.

I am a U.S. citizen residing outside the U.S., and I do not intend to return.

I am a U.S. citizen otherwise granted military/overseas voting rights under State law (check the Voting Assistance Guide).

While John and I were talking about the wording of the questions and the flexibility of the word intend in the two classifications that might apply to me, it struck me how well the word intend fits a politician’s life as it leaves a lot of wiggle room for shifting away from promises made during campaigning.

I believe my choice for President will do better than that based on what I’ve seen, but I don’t have that same confidence in the other guy. 

Intend: verb

1. plan, mean, aim, determine, scheme, propose, purpose, contemplate, envisage, foresee, be resolved or determined, have in mind or view.