Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Day

Yesterday we were bracing for a winter storm, not something we see often in the South. Schools remained closed in anticipation of snow, and we even cancelled clinic, which is a rare occurrence. Our office is north of where we live, and interestingly the weather is often quite different. So we decided to stay in, and waited for the snow. And waited. By the afternoon, the only sign of snow was this slushy mess in our back yard:

Not very remarkable, and surely not enough to call it a snow day? The kids ran and skidded around outside for a while, but with barely enough snow to make a decent snowball, they ended up coming back indoors pretty soon. The rest of the afternoon we experienced a mix of rain and sleet, and nothing really stuck on the ground. I tucked Bilal into bed at his usual 8 pm, and happened to look out the window, to see this:

It actually waited until 8 pm to start snowing! At least in our neck of the woods. We learned that further north of us, there were areas that received around 9-10 inches of snow, which is actually close to record levels. Nope, we don't have to have 8-10 feet of snow in Alabama to set records, 8-10 inches will do it! And our roads are not really prepped for the snow and ice either.

This morning the boys had delayed starts to school, two hours for Bilal and three for Hamza. Bilal got out of the house bright and early, and had a snowball fight with the neighbors' kids. And a good idea, because by the time we were headed out to take Hamza to school, most of the snow had already melted. It still looked pretty on the bushes, though.

Our drive through the neighborhood at 10 am revealed how rapidly the snow was melting.

But it was a different story up in Blount County where our office is located.

We did open up clinic at 11, but naturally, there weren't many patients who wanted to come out and see us, with most of the roads in the area still covered with snow. Still, we made a day of it, saw a few patients, and wrapped up a lot of things that get pushed aside on days when our clinic is packed with patients.

By the time we got home, there was barely any sign of the pretty blanket of snow that had covered our yard. And the high temperature predicted for this weekend is 69 degrees. There's Alabama for you!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to get your MacBook stolen... and then get it back

Step 1: Travel through Dallas Airport, on the third leg of a very long journey
Step 2: Remove your computer from its bag, and place in x-ray machine, in compliance with TSA instructions.
Step 3: Get separated for your computer for no more than 3 minutes, as you go through the x-ray machine yourself.
Step 4: Exit the machine, only to discover that some thief has walked off with your computer
Step 5: Report to TSA immediately, and watch them not take the complaint seriously for at least ten minutes, while alleged perp disappears in to the crowds.
Step 6: Finally manage to get attention of the supervisor, who spends another ten minutes, going through the emptied hand baggage bins, convinced that the computer just got 'left' in one of the bins.
Step 7: Wait as they finally agree with you that someone has swiped it, and they inform you that you have to call 911, because they don't have access to the security footage.
Step 8: Call 911, and wait another ten minutes for the airport police to arrive, only to be informed that the cameras are used for security concerns only, and not for property theft. If someone has time, they will look at the footage for you. Property theft is just not priority.
Step 9: Wait, as the video is reviewed, and the person who walked off with the computer is identified on camera. The police officer states that the person's photo has been circulated and the officers will scan the airport to see if they can find him. At the same time, be informed by the officer that TSA is not liable for any theft of property while under their watch, unless you wish to sue them.
Step 10: Leave contact information with officer and head to your next departure gate.
Step 11: Call the officer an hour later to get an update, only to be informed that they 'looked' around the airport for the thief, could not find him, and so have ended any further attempts at locating your computer. If you desire, you may file a police report for the theft.

Now the really important to get the computer back when law enforcement's half-baked attempt at locating your computer has failed.

Step 1: Attempt to remotely locate the computer through your 'find my iphone/ipad/macbook' app. Unless the computer has already been powered up, this will not be successful.
Step 2: Remotely set up a PIN and lock down the computer, so that it is essentially useless to an amateur, the so-called 'opportunist' thief.
Step 3: Make sure you also remotely add a telephone number to the home screen, so that any poor innocent traveler who has accidentally picked up your computer in a jeg-lagged fog, can contact you.
Step 4: Wait nearly two days to see if the computer gets powered up. When this does not occur, remotely erase your computer in order to protect any personal files you may have saved on it. Chances of getting the computer back are quite slim at this point.
Step 5: The thief finally powers up the computer, which connects to whatever wifi network is available. At this point you get an alert on your iPhone that the computer has been located in San Antonio. Simultaneously, receive an email from Apple, with the exact street address of where the computer is located. Aha!
Step 6: Start pinging the remote alarm mercilessly. This cannot be switched off by the person who stole your computer. So there is a loud, constant beeping noise, along with the alert that flashes across the computer screen, stating that 'This computer has been locked down and erased. If found, please call (205) ___-____.' (Insert telephone number here)
Step 7: Receive a phone call from the thief, stating that the computer was 'accidentally' picked up, and a promise to reurn it via Fedex overnight. The only way he can get any reprieve from the constant beeping going off on the computer!
Step 8: Receive the computer via Fedex, less than 24 hours after Step 7.

The computer was safe and sound at home, and was fully operational, after we entered the PIN. However, because we had remotely erased it, everything, including the operating system had to be re-installed. This wasn't really a big deal. My fatal mistake was not having had backed up about 1 years worth of photographs on my computer, although there are some other locations where I have access to a small portion of them.

When Zakir persuaded me to purchase a MacBook about one year ago, I was skeptical, mostly due to the cost of the hardware. I have used an iPhone and iPad for years, but have historically had a PC and not a Mac laptop. But I agreed to take the plunge and have enjoyed learning about the Apple operating system. Now, after seeing how the devices can communicate with each other, particularly after retrieving my stolen computer, any question about going back to using a PC in the future has been completely erased. No doubt I'll be a Mac gal from here on.

Of all laptop computers that are stolen, only 3% of them are ever recovered. I wonder how many of those are Macbooks? Probably a good number. My computer definitely beat the odds, thanks to a little technology know-how on my part, and a very tech savvy husband! Yes Zakir, I admit you were right!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Visiting family

I recently returned from a 2 week trip to Pakistan, to visit close and extended family. Two weeks seemed to fly by, especially since almost 60 hours were spent directly in travel. A couple of flight changes, several hours in layovers, and I eventually made it into Lahore. I spent a day in Lahore with close friends, before driving to my parents' home in Burewala, in the heart of the Punjab province. In addition to parents, I have a large extended family, many settled in that area, and it was a joy to meet some of my great nieces and nephews for the first time. It had been more than 10 years since I visited Burewala. I took lots of photos during this trip, but sadly I lost almost all of them along with my stolen laptop. I did, however, get my laptop back (long story for another day), minus the photographs, and any other files that had been saved on it, and not backed up.

I had spent hours with Abbu, going through old albums and envelopes full of faded photographs, some dating as far back as 1951, when my father was in high school. I also took photos of many of them, with the hopes to share them on this blog. Unfortunately, I no longer have those files, but my father still has the photographs. Hopefully some day, I'll be able to go through them again. Reminiscing about my childhood, with my parents in Ireland, and learning about Abbu's school and college years was a treat I'll never forget. I did have a few photos of my parents' beautiful home, still salvaged on my phone.

The main family room:

The guest room where I stayed:

A sample of Abbu's beautiful Islamic calligraphy. He has a lot of talent!

The formal sitting room:

 Me with Choti Ammi:

My sweet Tahira and my oldest nephew Usman:

We took a coach to Islamabad and spent the last 3 days of my trip there, before flying out from Islamabad Airport. It was great to have my father and father-in-law together after a very long time. And by the way, the large white ball of fur is Oscar, the deaf Persian cat, sitting in Abba's lap.

It was great to spend time with my little niece Leena, unfortunately all our selfies were erased with the laptop. This is her riding her trike on the driveway:

I have a handful more photographs saved on a journal app I used, called Day One. I should be able to download those, so there will be more photos to come. This is a photo that Nadia (my sister in law) sent me, the only one for now, that I have with sweet little Leena.

Now that Abbu and Choti Ammi have permanently moved back to Pakistan, and are settled in their lovely new home, we are hoping that they will be able to make more trips to visit us here in the States. Their grandchildren still have more memories to make with them!

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