20
Jan 06

At the Continential Divide, seeing a sunset and a total eclipse of the sun

Just as the used pickup I’m driving from Billings crosses the Continental Divide outside Butte the sun reappears as it sets in blazing orange, yellow, green and purple over the jagged new mountains I am seeing for the first time. Not knowing how to express the emotion I am feeling I pound the ceiling of the pickup and whoop as my descent to “the flats” hastens the sun’s disappearance. What remains is a radiant glow setting the mountains before me in relief against the sky Darkness descends and we pass down

the narrow hallway that follows the river to Missoula without knowing the mountains and forest service roads go on and on and on beyond sight.

Now I am standing on a hillside just north of Butte with my new spouse and my new reporting partner staring westward down the same valley. Waiting. It is the middle of a cloudless day. We can see for 50 miles at least. And then the wall of darkness approaches us at the same speed as the rotation of the earth. In seconds the wall darts across the valley and quickly engulfs us. All around us, street lights pop on and dogs are barking furiously. It is as dark as night. We have with us some exposed film. We double it over and watch the progress of the eclipse. A total eclipse of the sun. Then we look to the west and we see racing toward us the end of darkness. A line of light careens silently through the valley until it passes through us and to the Rocky Mountain wall at our backs. We can see it touch the top, the Continental Divide. Daylight. The dogs remain traumatized, barking their heads off. And we walk down the hillside to our homes in town.


03
Jan 06

Crash

The screen says that I have to place my Windows XP CD in the CD ROM drive because there are some older files on my computer that don’t belong there. So I dutifully place the CD in the the CD-ROM Drive. The next morning I am trying to figure out how to help my daughter download some i-Tunes and, by gosh, one of my hard drives is, well, NOT there. I stare at the little screen in disbelief. Yep. Not there. The drive that has a bunch of my business-related files on it. Of course, I haven’t backed it up in … awhile. So, the day after New Year’s I get the computer box wrapped up in clear plastic and take it out in the rain to General Nanosystems.

I’ve recently had a strange fantasy that someday General Nanosystems is going to be standing there behind the counter and will say … “Yes, in what way can I and my troops assist you today?” I think, maybe General Nanosystems could be the next Geek Squad, and we’d all have to salute.

General Nanosystems wasn’t in but the place was filled, as always, with guys … only a few women wander into the place. It’s one of those stores that reminds me of the Chicago commodities trading floor. They have a giant white board on one end of the room that shows the prices of all of the stuff they have there. GNS doesn’t necessarily have the best prices … but only because you never have to pay too much and then send in a coupon and wait for 18 weeks to get your check from those rebates.

I digress. Sorry. I’m lucky and get the young technical support guy … the one who doesn’t act like the the Help Desk Guy on Saturday Night Live. Doesn’t sneer at me for doing something really stupid forcing me to come to the General, hat in hand, to ask for forgiveness. So the nice technical support guy looks at my Hard Disk Manager and points to this thing that says Logical Disk 3 is, like, unreadable. He notes it is set as a “Dynamic Disk” and there is no good reason for this and all kinds of bad things … my current dilemma as example … can happen. So the problem has something to do with partitions (can you believe I actually know what that is?). He says the data is lost and suggests we go ahead and make it a “Basic Disk” with the consequence of losing all of the data that isn’t there. I resist the idea and he uses the opportunity to excuse himself. He needs to go into the back to consult a higher technical support authority. Maybe he is going to see General Nanosystems. I wait and try to not make eye contact with the tech support guy who sneers at dumb customers.

Nice Technical Support guy returns looking solemn. “I’m sorry,” is all he says as though he were walking in from an operating room pulling off bloody gloves.

I’ve learned to not panic in such situations. I knew the drive was still working. I could hear the thing whirring in there. So I return to the Internet looking for magic software that can peer into the hard drive and see my files. And I find it. Written by some guys for whom English is not their first language. I’m pulling my data off of the drive and onto a backup disk. Some files don’t make it. Others are unscathed. Hey … anybody reading this remember CP/M? No? It pre-dates DOS. Yeah. Hey … this is naaaahthing. Nahthing. Piece of cake.