Friday, August 17, 2012

Upgrade weirdness

I've recently been upgrading my Macs to Mountain Lion, and I hit one particular problem that may be relevant to someone else.  When I upgraded my Mac Book Pro, everything appeared to be fine - and then I noticed that when the screen saver cut in, the password lock was not activating.

Inspecting the System Preferences - > Security & Privacy dialogue revealed that the check box of "Require password after sleep or screen saver begins" was greyed out.  Everything else in the dialogue worked as expected, but not that.  I tried the usual things - log off and on, reboot, etc. - to no effect.  One thing that I did notice was that if I tried to set account password to blank from this dialogue, I got a message that said "Your password did not meet the requirements specified by your server administrator..".  This struck me as odd, and pwpolicy revealed no specific policy settings.

Eventually I called Apple support, and spent about 90 minutes with them, with much deleting of preference files, resetting of ACLs and many reboots.   The check box remained stubbornly greyed out.  Apple support stated that the problem was likely to be a third party application, and delicately suggested a reinstall.

I thought about this, and decided that it made little sense.  I run essentially the same applications on all my machines, and only the Mac Book was experiencing a problem.  The password requirements error message struck me as significant, and it occurred to me that, in the past, the laptop had been joined to an AD domain.  I believe I have stated before that, every time I am compelled to interact with Microsoft products, I have bad experiences;  how one company can have unleashed so much truly nasty software on the world and still made a profit defies understanding.

Other accounts did not present the same problem, so, working on the theory that AD had in some way corrupted the user account, I decided to try something.

Login as root, and start Terminal.

mv /Users/myaccount /Users/myaccount.backup

Go into System Preferences and delete the affected user account.

Recreate the user account.

Go back to Terminal.

mv /Users/myaccount.backup /Users/myaccount

chown -R myaccount /Users/myaccount

Log out as root.

Login as myaccount

Problem solved.  If you are going to do this, be VERY CERTAIN that you have a good backup before you start.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


After Mungo died, it rapidly became obvious that our surviving cat, Percy, was not going to cope with being on his own.  He became increasing clingy and demanding, and for a cat who already thought he was the centre of the universe, that's saying something.  When he began getting weird about going outside unless one of us went with him, we knew we had to do something.  So I called our vet, and asked for his recommendations about what sort of cat would stand the best chance of integrating with Percy.  Our vet knows Percy well, having cared for him for 14 years, and he recommended getting a younger cat, about 4 months old: out of really silly kittenhood, but too young to look threatening.  And so I began the search for a 4 month old female kitten to join the family.  Of course, there were none.  I called every pound and cattery, all the reasonably local vets: no joy.  Older cats, younger cats, but no cats around 4 months old, of either sex.

Meanwhile Percy was driving us both nuts, and putting on weight because he was comfort-eating.

I dropped into the vet's office late one afternoon to pick up some supplies, and mentioned to the girl on the desk that I was looking for a 4 month old kitten, and she informed me that they had two out the back, who had been handed in as strays.  She went to fetch one, and came back with a little calico persian cross, who turned out to have a purr like a motor.  Then her sister was brought out, also calico, but short haired.  Short hair seemed calmer, so I said I would take her, took a photo with my iPhone, and arranged with the vet's assistant that they would call me when candidate kitten was ready for collection.

Went home.  Showed the photo to my husband.  Talked about it.  Called the vet.  Said we would take both.  Not quite sure how we talked ourselves into it, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I picked the girls up from the vet on July the 14th, and we are still trying to convince them that we are not threatening.  They are getting better, but we've missed the crucial 3-7 weeks old window, when kittens are pretty easy to socialise.  They are both litter tray trained and very clean, so we are guessing that someone's pet cat had kittens, and these two didn't find homes easily: they've had some handling, but not enough to be comfortable with people.

Percy has not yet met them, though he has grumbled at them under the closed dining room door, and seen them through a window.  He's not exactly happy, but he seems calmer just because there is something else living in the house - he's not alone all day.

So here they are:

Matilda of Flanders, or Tillie for short.

And Florence Von Sass Baker, Flossie to the family:

Right now they are under my desk, behind the printer.  They've spent the day playing wildly all over the north end of the house, and they're probably exhausted.  If we can just get them comfortable with us, we can try introducing them to Percy.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Death in the Family

On June the 6th my beloved ginger cat, Mungo died at the Sydney Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Camperdown.  Mungo was, we think, a few weeks short of his 15th birthday, and while we had noticed that he was slowing down, the end, when it came, was very sudden.  He seemed slower than usual on Monday evening, but ate his breakfast on Tuesday morning.  However, when I came home - fortunately a bit early - on Tuesday afternoon, he was obviously unwell, and I took him to our vet.  They admitted him, and called at 8PM to say that he had a build up of fluid on his lungs, and that he should be transferred to the teaching hospital if we wanted him to have overnight care.

Steve and I collected Mungo, now with an intravenous drip bag attached, from our vet, and drove to the university.  The folks at the university did everything that they could, but when the pathology work came back on Wednesday afternoon, the diagnosis was carcinoma.  They called me just as my last webex of the day was ending, to tell me that there was nothing that they could do.  I called Steve, and we each made our way to the hospital to day good bye.  I took some cream, and Mungo was still well enough to lick a bit from my fingers: he always loved dairy products.

We were able to stroke him and talk to him, and then the attending vet injected the lethal dose into his intravenous line, and he was gone in a few seconds.  The autopsy report confirmed carcinoma, involving both lungs, which apparently explains some of problems that were treated earlier in the year.

We are both a bit shattered, and Percy, the surviving cat (aged about 14) is beginning to accept that Mungo is not coming back.  Percy has never been alone, and we are hoping that he will adapt: because he is so territorial (and violent), we are not keen to try to introduce another cat into the house - it would just traumatise everyone, including the new cat.

I've disposed of Mungo's favourite cardboard box (the latest of many), donated the special diet food that he will never eat to the vet, and notified everyone who knew him.  He had quite a fan club, for a cat.  Several people have sent me sympathy cards (I didn't know that there were sympathy cards for the loss of a pet), and I am getting into a routine that does not have Mungo in it.  Pets get so intertwined in your life, the hole that they leave seems enormous.

So now my gorgeous ginger fluffer is reduced to ashes, contained in a rather twee little urn adorned with a paw print motif.  We'll pick a sunny day one weekend, and scatter the ashes in the garden.  But I don't want to remember the tired old cat with an oxygen tube up his nose and an intravenous line in his foreleg.  I want to remember the happy kitten who would leap into the bathroom sink, to play with the water coming from the tap.  The regal ginger puss who liked to sit in the fork of the tree on the east side of the garden,

or go out onto the gallery above our family room, and stick his head through the railings. The cat who would wedge himself into a box, no matter how small.

The cat with no dignity

and a tendency to try to hide under furniture...

...if he could find anything big enough.

I adopted Mungo from the Animal Welfare League refuge in August of 1997.  He was named after Mungo Park, the 19th century Scottish explorer who was the first European to see the Niger River.

I shall miss him terribly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


What a sink hole of time is genealogy.  You tell yourself that you will just have a quick look, figure out who your great-great grand parents were, get a bit of a sense of the family history.  Then the next thing you know you are spending your spare time transcribing 19th century church records into spreadsheets, so that some reasonable level of correlation and analysis is possible, and chatting to other researchers about interpreting really difficult handwriting.

And I mean bad: I've worked for doctors and lawyers, and they are not even in the running for illegibility compared to some of what I've dealt with recently.  Between the erratic spelling of place names - some of which are pretty strange to begin with (Hurtletoot, I'm looking at you), the splotches and smears caused by old fashioned ink pens, and the extremely indifferent handwriting of people who had little or no formal schooling, and you begin to look forward to the entries where the officiating minister wrote all the names, and everybody else just wrote an "X" next to the words "his mark" (or "her mark").

However, the marriage records make interesting reading.  You can follow the changes in occupations - almost none of the brides had occupations before about 1955; after that, few of them didn't have an occupation, unless they were very young.  And the change in given names is interesting - in the early records they are all James, John, Mary, Margaret, Archibald, Alexander, William, Elizabeth, Annie, Jeannie; but 1965 there are people called Stanley, Gerald, Nancy, Pauline, Dora, Josephine.  The big change comes at the beginning of World War II, when there must have been soldiers and airmen stationed near the town I am working on, people from other parts of the country.  They started marrying local girls, and in quite a few cases it appears that a brother or sister who attended the first wedding met someone they liked while they were there, and a few months later there would be another wedding.

And the men's occupations change - originally the men were all farmers or worked in the flax mills, or as weavers.  Slowly engineers begin to crop up, school teachers, chemists, business managers, lorry drivers, even a detective.  People began to live longer, and marry later.

The end is in sight: two volumes of marriage records to go.


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