It has been my experience that the most important discoveries are born out of necessity.  Take the latest technological snafu presented by my daughter.  I found her crying in utter despair over having just unintentionally deleted from our camcorder ALL of our family videos of the last 3 years.  She realized immediately what she'd done and there was no amount of consoling I could offer to ease her mind, until I - perhaps foolishly - promised I'd look into a way to recover the deleted files. 


Now this comes on the heels of a recent disaster where my wife lost ALL of her files when her external hard-drive died.  In that episode, we'd found out that recovering those files would potentially cost somewhere around $2,000 dollars - upon hearing which, my wife did not even bat a eye while I nearly lost my lunch.  So it was to my great relief that the computer store called back to report that the drive could not be saved, as in fact, one percent of these cases cannot.


I bring that up to show that I was not hopeful of any kind of recovery, which is why I felt kind of foolish making that promise to my daughter. 


A couple of days go by in which my daughter repeatedly asks me if I'd saved the camera videos.  By then I knew I wasn't going to get out of this easily.  But I was also growing more and more curious about finding some solution to this conundrum.  And curiousity finally got the better of me.


I was browsing no more than a few minutes when I found the answer graciously and generously provided by another person who was immersed in a similar type of data disaster.  And I'm not talking about one of those "coulda, woulda, shoulda" type of answers that you frequently find online.  This person did their homework and FOUND the answer.


Thank God they did do their homework too.  Because this statement could have easily applied to me too:  "[the program] runs through the terminal with a basic user interface so my initial reaction was ‘ugh – this looks too hard’ and I forgot about it."  But after taking a second look and realizing how simple operating the software program was, she could report with me, "what do you know, it recovered everything!"


And I can tell you too, truly, this thing works.  I went from having almost no hope that any of the videos deleted from the camcorder would ever be recovered to having a folder sitting on my computer with every last bit of those deleted files intact.  I was ecstatic!


So now, while reveling in this latest discovery of mine, that's not really mine but a person named Fuzzy14 here, I now resolved to record this discovery here under things that work.  Because there's nothing more inspiring than discovering things that work.


The program is PhotoRec and it can be downloaded from, the website that produces it, here.  I really can't say enough about how amazing this program is.  But I need to say that the risk is all yours if you decide to use it.


And another thing that bears emphasis if you decide to use PhotoRec, is that you need to follow the instructions that are provided on carefully and diligently.  The instructions are not hard or complicated.  But if you're someone like me who is not that comfortable around a terminal interface that PhotoRec operates by, you could miss it altogether, or - worse - make matters worse (as in do some permanent damage to your files).  For example, I would not let my daughter or an average nine year-old try to operate this program.  But if you're a Dad or Mom who is comfortable on a Mac or Windows machine, this should not be a problem for you.


With that, have at it!


Additional Note:  This program comes together with another program called TestDisk which is possibly the more weighty data recovery program.  I'm going to have to dig into this program shortly to try and recover some files that were "lost" when my external Seagate drive had the biscuit some time ago.  Most indications are that there is no hope of recovery outside of some high cost forensic data recovery service.  However, I will give it a try.


TestDisk is available under the same link for Photorec above.  But here is the direct link:  TestDisk


On a further note, I recently found a good YouTube describing how to use TestDisk for recovering files from a "dead" hard drive.  That video can be found here or you can view it above.

Long before I had kids, if you asked me how hard it would be to get my kids to eat, I'd probably stare back at you blankly.  How hard could it be?  You make something, and put it in front of them.


Well, years later, and plenty of fabulously failed kids dish ideas, I sometimes feel like I'm no closer to finding the secret key to making kids eat at all.  However, I'm practically kicking myself now for not latching onto this one particular trick for making food go down the hatch.  And to illustrate what I mean, here are a bunch of my latest dinner concoctions.  Can you spot the key to getting my kids to reach for that fish and chicken?


If you said, Cheese, you'd be correct.  I'm not Mr. Chef by any means, as you can tell.  Just a Dad trying to get his kids to eat nutritiously.


Of course this doesn't always work, as the example of the tuna casserole and salmon patties shows.  You can't win the all.  Sometimes a bowl of grated cheese and some toast is the only thing left up your sleeve. 

I've been in the habit of making spaghetti with my own "special" cheese mix for the kids for years now.  This is because my two kids will not normally touch tomato sauces of any shape or form.  Correction:  My youngest definitely not; My oldest is slowly coming around to the awesomeness of real tomato pasta sauce.  In the meantime, as I said, cheese serves the place of tomato sauce to my young kids' palates.


So what happens when I find I don't have any cheese and it's spaghetti night? 

I might have abandoned spaghetti altogether and gone with rice or noodles instead.  But on this night, I responded to the challenge differently.  What else might my kids like on their spaghetti?  Well, if there's a list of three things most kids cannot refuse, it would be:  cheese, sugar and peanut butter.  Peanut butter!


I might have thought the idea was crazy if I hadn't ever tried an amazing dish years ago that I suddenly remembered that distinctively incorporated peanut butter.  I don't even remember the name or details of this dish.  All I remember is that it tasted awesome.  And I was sure my kids could hardly refuse to eat peanut butter in any shape or form - even on spaghetti.


So I looked up 'peanut butter sauce' and found out there is such a thing.  This page is a good example.  In fact, that's the point of jump off for what I did myself.  By that I mean, I took the basic idea and ingredients listed there and modified my own sauce according to availability of items in my pantry.  That is, I had do without certain things like the sherry, and the soya sauce.  And I tried as best I could to replace those and other items with similiar ingredients.


OK.  So maybe that doesn't look quite as appetizing as promised.  But my daughter actually liked it.  So I guess you'd call that a success.  Personally, I wasn't all that happy with the taste.  If I was going to do it again, I'd go to the store and buy the suggested items from the website above and follow the recipe, as Collette would say in the movie Ratatouille.  I'll leave the improvising on this one until I know more what I'm doing. 


The weather outside at first looked kind of frightful - as in icy, cold and forbidding.  But once I got out there and started snapping these shots, I almost didn't want to go back inside.


Man-made decorations can't match this display.

That's great.  I went to open my car this cold, cold, icy day and managed to get the key to unlock the doors, but not get it out again.  That's how I found myself fighting with the car door lock trying to get it to release my key...

being careful not to break the key. 


Now my mind is racing:  What do I know about frozen locks?  I'm thinking lock de-icer, isopropyl alcohol, a lighter...  jiggle the key some more to hopefully get the lock to release?  With regard to the last, I'm not keen on standing in the parking lot with people walking past me seeing me wrestle with my key.  And I don't have any of the other things either.  Great.


There is a Shopper's Drug Mart on the other side of the parking lot though.  I think to myself, they've got to carry lock de-icer. 


Nope.  They do have iso-propyl alcohol of course.  But that only opened up a different set of questions that I didn't have the answer for either.  They also have butane lighters, which I purchased.  I'm not going to mention the other item I bought that I thought might do the trick so as not to embarrass myself unnecessarily.


I got back to the car and tried first the butane lighter.  But again, questions.  How exactly do you make the heating with a butane lighter method work?  I didn't know.


Still not keen on fighting my car door lock in public view, I decided the best course of actions was retreat to the warmth of Starbucks where I'd just come from and another coffee, where I am now, and where I can consult with Google.  


(Incidentally, I had to fight the urge to run outside with my fresh cup of boiling hot coffee and dump it on the offending car door lock.  I'm not rash enough to try this though - not because I can explain exactly why this isn't a bad idea, but simply due to a certain hunch I might regret it later.)


A Google search confirmed my hunch.  And it also revealed three of the best methods of freeing a frozen car door lock.  Using the search term, 'frozen door lock', here is the most relevant page that I could find which explains these three methods best:


I'd already tried looking for lock de-icer unsuccessfully.  So that was out.  I also did not have a blow dryer handy, and was obviously not going to fork out thirty or forty dollars for one at the drugstore.  I did, however, have the lighter that I bought there.  And I also know how to use it to free my key.


So here I am, typing this as my car keys hang from my car door steps away.  I'd go out and try the lighter, except that I'm busy typing this, and also enjoying the rest of my coffee.  Why waste an opportunity to enjoy a coffee, right? 


And in case you're wondering about that heating with a butane lighter method, the steps are described well here:


And for those who want it now without having to click any more:


1. Hold the part of the key that doesn't go inside the car door lock - that remains visible when you insert it - over the butane lighter flame. 

2. Hold the part of the key that does go inside the lock over the flame for a while longer.

3. Inert key and wait for the lock to heat up, hopefully permitting the lock to turn.


Now I'm off to try it myself. 


Note:  The other reason I'm waiting it out in Starbucks is because the sun finally appeared and seems to be warming up things outside pretty good, including - hopefully - my car door lock.  Which means that I might not have to use the lighter.  :)



Update:  After repairing to my car after my coffee, I found my key dangling from the door, apparently after someone spotted it and assumed I'd forgotten to take my key.  Apparently, either the person picked the fallen key off the ground, or removed the loose key without any trouble (naturally, according to some law of Murphy's) and wanted to do me a favour by leaving it where they found it.


My only response to that is that I guess it pays sometimes to take a step back and go for a coffee while the same force of nature that froze a door lock eventually unfreezes it...  Unless you're in a real hurry to get somwhere.

 Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn