To Quote Yogi Berra, “It Feels Like Deja Vu All Over Again”

For those who might not know, we have been experiencing a rash a fires in the area over the past several years.  The most recent (up until yesterday) was about two weeks ago (post of previous fire here). Yesterday, in the early afternoon, I again noticed smoke, but this time about a quarter mile to the east of us.  I immediately phoned a neighbor whose new log home was in the direct path of the fire, just to make sure she was aware that the flames were headed in her direction.

 Onset of fire

Not only was she aware of the fire, she had reported it to the authorities, along with the information that she had seen the fire being set by an individual in a white pickup truck.

Knowing that the VFD was on the scene, and seeing that the wind would not push the fire in our direction was comforting, but I empathized with the anguish my neighbor must have been going through.  A short while later we received a telephone call from our neighbor, who informed us that she had just seen someone in the same white pickup truck igniting fires along our road and on our property.  I jumped in my truck and headed down our road, hoping to catch sight of the perpetrator.  He was nowhere to be found, but the evidence of his visit remained – fires set in many places on our property.  I quickly returned to the house and asked Retta to call 911, while I grabbed my steel-tined rake and headed back to the newly set fires.  The arsonist had set fires on both sides of our road, one side being pasture, the other wooded.

Burnt pasture

It was apparent I could not put out the wooded portion alone, so I set to the task of containing the pasture fire.  I was soon joined by a member of the Lead Hill VFD, who had come to assess the situation.  Because the Lead Hill equipment had been dispatched to fight the original fire, we struggled to contain the grass fire, while we waited for personnel and equipment from the Bergman VFD (a neighboring community about 15 miles away).  Soon, the Bergman VFD arrived and began battling the blazes burning in the woods, along a fire lane I had built last year.  Before long, the Lead Hill VFD had a pumper truck available that they stationed near our house and structures,  which is quite reassuring.

 A reassuring sight, indeed!

The Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) office in Marion County, which has usually responded to fires on our land, had already been dispatched to deal with the original fire to the east of us, which now looked like this:

 Blaze threatens new log home

So the AFC office in neighboring Boone County sent men and a bulldozer over to assist us.  The fire that had been burning in our woodlands had been set in many places along both sides of an existing fire lane that the AFC built for me last year.

Planned Burn

In the aerial photo, the red x’s denote the approximate locations of the blazes.  The green o’s represent the boundary of a 37 acre controlled burn that the AFC was scheduled to conduct for us this spring.  Rather than trying to extinguish what was burning, the AFC ranger suggested we just take this opportunity, since men and equipment were already on scene, to backfire the entire 37 acres.  That sounded fine to me, so off to work they went, setting a portion of our woods ablaze.

Meanwhile, our neighbors to the east stood vigil while the Marion County AFC and Lead Hill VFD (perhaps assisted by the Peel VFD, I’m not sure) built lines around the blaze threatening them.  It is once again with relief that I can say that no one was injured and no structures were lost. All of the personnel involved in these fires did an outstanding job.  Our heartfelt thanks to all of you, for the selfless way you give of yourselves to your neighbors and community. It is much appreciated!

This morning, George, Gracie and I took a walk to assess the outcome of the burning.  There are still areas where downed logs continue to burn.

Burning log

There are also areas of incomplete burning, such as the downed wood in this cedar glade.

Partially burned debris

The large oak tree, which lightning had downed and which blocked a fire lane, is now history.  The remnants of it’s trunk stands to the right in this next photo:

Downed tree is now gone

I wonder what Gracie thinks about all of the fires that keep burning up her playground?

Gracie surveys the ashes

I have absolutely no idea what story underlies this remnant of the firefighting.  Anyone care to speculate?

Mystery fire extinguisher

Computer Backup – The Time to Do It Is Now!!

We all know that we should backup our important data.  We know we should do it on a regular basis.  And yet, the vast majority of computer hobbyists either ignore, or put off this important task.  Now, more than ever, we must recognize the importance of maintaining a reliable backup system.  The use that we put our computers to today eclipses the uses of the past.  Who can imagine communicating with only a telephone and  snail-mail anymore?  How many of us do all (or most) of our banking, investing, and bill paying on-line today?  Many of us even maintain a quasi social life via computer.  Not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands of valuable photographs that exist only as bits on our hard drive.

Computer backup has generally been performed in the context of commercial, scientific, and governmental data processing.  Reliable backup hardware and software has been available for some time for these large data processing entities, and the cost associated with these reliable systems is low relative to the enormous costs of the “big iron” that is being protected.

The situation with respect to home computer users has been entirely different.  Small tape backup systems, while available, have never become commonplace among home users.  The sequential nature of these systems, along with the associated complications this casts upon the backup process, make tape backup systems an appropriate tool mostly for large DP operations.  The home user has been left with a few (not so great) options.  In earlier days, floppy disk backup was commonly utilized, due to the low cost involved, and the fact that floppy drives were standard on home computers.  But as hard disk drives grew in size, the time involved in shuffling enough floppies to create a backup became prohibitive.  To help alleviate this problem, backup software began to implement compression schemes, most of which attempted to pack all of a users computer files into one large, compressed backup volume.  This solution has evolved to use CD and DVD disks as the medium, which have increased capacity over floppies, but still suffer the same limitations.  A user must still be on hand to swap disks in and out of drives, compressed backup volumes are utilized, and special software must be used to restore these compressed files to your hard disk.  Additionally, to ease and speed up the backup process, incremental backup methods are employed.  But anyone who has ever used these backup tools, and needed to restore their lost data after a disk crash will attest to their inherant unreliability.  There is nothing quite so exasperating in the computing world as believing you have a reliable backup in hand, only to have your backup software choke in the midst of a restoration procedure (an all too frequent occurance).

But there is a new breed of device out there that has solved these problems, and in a most simple, but elegant way.  I am refering to dedicated, external backup drives, engineered specifically to perform the important task of data backup.

Seagate External Backup Drive

Unlike previous hard drive solutions to data integrity, such as the various incarnations of RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks), which are expensive for the average user to implement and require special disk controller cards and empty drive bays, these drives are the epitome of “Plug and Play”.  Inexpensive to purchase, simple to install, highly portable, and very reliable, these backup drives should be high on your list of computer hardware upgrades.

The Seagate backup drive (pictured above) has both USB and Firewire connectivity.  Capacities range from 200GB to 400GB.  BounceBack software is included in the price, and couldn’t be simpler to use. There are two modes of operation, manually initiated backup, and/or scheduled backup.  To perform a manual backup at any time, just push the power button on the front of the drive.  This launches BounceBack Express, which performs a file-by-file backup of your hard drive onto the Seagate drive.  After the initial backup, which copies the entire drive to the backup device, subsequent iterations of the backup copies any new or altered files.  The files will be uncompressed, exact duplicates of the files on your computer’s hard drive – accessable via plain-vanilla Windows applications and Windows Explorer.  Backup can also be on a scheduled basis, simply by entering your desired time and frequency in the BounceBack software interface.

I now rest a little easier, knowing that at 2:00AM every morning, all of my important (and not so important) backed-up data is safe, secure, and current.