Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dad's new novel - "Sunrise in the Cloud Forest" - launches on August 19

Looking for a great, late summer read? How's this for a teaser:

Dr. Matthew X Landry, organizer and senior pastor of Mobile's Harmony Temple, wants nothing more than to make the Temple the largest Protestant church along the Gulf Coast, counting on the help of his wife and co-pastor, Georgia Landry . . . until that goal and his marriage are threatened by the public confession of a woman who claims to be the pastor's lover. While Private Investigator Lettie Fortenot labors to prove the pastor's innocence, a wounded Georgia Landry flees to Costa Rica in an attempt to carve out a new life for herself.

Is Dr. Matt guilty or innocent?

The couple's own sons, who are themselves conflicted in their religious loyalties, are not the only ones divided on this question. Exploring the depths of ambition, trust and forgiveness, the future of a family, as well as the future of a great church, is at stake in this compelling new novel by Bert Johnston.

I'll admit to a bit of bias here - Bert happens to be my father.  He is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, just east of Mobile.  

This is Bert's second novel.  He has been on an interesting journey for the past five or six years.  His first novel, "Parson Campbell's Breakthrough" was published in 2009, several years after he entered the "National Novel Writing Month" and wrote the first draft.  ("NaNoWriMo" is a worldwide event that encourages would-be authors to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  I've done it for a couple of years. Bert and I did it together one year.  He kicked my ass in word count.)

"Sunrise in the Cloud Forest" is available as a paperback or a Kindle book.  For a brief moment a few weeks ago, it was in the top 30 bestsellers on the UK site for Kindle books.  You can help influence its ranking in the US by buying your copy on the official launch day, tomorrow - August 19.  

More information about the author and sample chapters from "Sunrise" can be found on Bert's web site - .

Let me know what you think of the book.  I'll pass any comments along to Bert.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Successful surgery on the MacBook in 94 steps!

Two things I haven't done much of in the last few years are:
  1. Publish anything on this blog.  The last post was in October, 2009.  (There was actually one in November, an embarrasing rant about reality TV - the only post I've ever deleted from the blog.)  Lots has happened since then, but most of it will have to wait for another post.

  2. Repair a computer.  We haven't had a desktop computer in the house for at least 5 years, and my primary platforms have been a laptop issued by work and most recently, an iPad - neither of which I can tinker with.  
But today I spent about 3 hours doing a repair on Mary's MacBook.  Here's the story:

Mary has had her MacBook for about 5 years.  Several months ago the display started going black when she moved it.  In order to use the laptop, she would have to pivot the display slowly, sometimes getting it to 90 degrees, sometimes not.  After a couple of months, it got to the point where she could only raise the screen about 45 degrees.

I did some research on the Internet and found a description of a likely cause and a procedure for repairing it at  The procedure had 47 steps, and that was just to get to the point where the old part was taken out.  You had to repeat the same steps, in reverse, to put the machine back together - a total of 94 steps.

It was rated "difficult" - not a surprise.

I passed on the chance to repair it myself.

Another month passed, and the problem got worse.  I called a repair shop in Indy and was told they would gladly diagnose the problem for $90 and then would give me a quote me on the repair.  It seemed silly to drive to Indy for the chance to pay several hundred dollars on a 5 year old computer.  I went to the Geek Squad counter at the local Best Buy, but was told their company policy prohibited them from opening the case on a Mac.

I went back to the ifixit site for another look.  The 47 steps didn't look so daunting this time.  Plus, the site suggested the tools I needed, including a coin which had a face value of 25 cents that they would sell me for $2.95.  There was a button to add all the tools to my cart.  Easy.

After a few minutes review, I figured "What the hell, how hard can it really be?" and sent in the order.  To their credit, they didn't add the coin to my cart.  With an online coupon code, I got the part and the necessary tools, including something called a "spudger" that I thought might be a British screwdriver...I was wrong, for $30.

I reserved a Saturday afternoon for the repair.  I printed out the 47 step procedure, cleared off a work space, readied the spudger and took a deep breath.

Over the years I've disassembled and updated a lot of Windows / Intel desktops.  I've added memory to a Dell laptop.  But I've never cracked a Macanything.  The ifixit instructions proved invaluable.  It took about an hour and 45 minutes to go through the 47 steps, with only a few minutes set aside for head scratching.

The thing that amazed me the most was the tiny size of most of the hardware components.  To keep things orderly, I took the screws from each step and taped them to a piece of paper.  These were some of the tiniest screws I've ever seen.  Here they are, next to my 25 cent tool.

Not surprising - the interior of the MacBook is tight and tidy.  There were some of the smallest connectors I've ever seen.  I needed a magnifying glass to see some of them.

I got a kick out of seeing the speakers...smaller than my 25 cent tool!

After an hour and 45 minutes, I had done all the disassembly and had installed the replacement part - a 3 inch long cable.

Working backwards through the 47 steps took another 55 minutes.  Surprising that it went back together faster than it came apart.  When the case was all back together and the battery was reinstalled, we held our breath and pushed the power button.  

After a few seconds we heard the familiar sounds of the MacBook booting up.   A minute or so later, the desktop appeared.  I pivoted the display, hoping it wouldn't black out.  

It didn't. Success.  Woo hoo!  Probably should have cleaned the screen before we took the last photo, but who really cares if there are a few fingerprints?  

If you've got something at home that needs fixed, I highly recommend  Their website is easy to use, they bundle the tools you need, and most importantly, they give you the step-by-step instructions.  Yes, this one probably was "difficult", but it worked!  Thanks, !