Sunday, December 26, 2010

Graduation

Graduation was a week ago and it's high time I posted some pictures. Here you go:

Walking down the aisle before things start. The departmental ceremony was held in a church.

An action shot after the ceremony.

Posing with the fake diploma. Actual diplomas will be mailed in February.

What will I do with all my free time now, you ask? That's a subject for another post.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'M DONE!

Tonight I gave my final presentation and submitted my paper online so I can finally say it: I am officially done with my master's degree. I still have two class periods left to attend (to listen to other peoples' presentations) but my part is over. Two years, countless nervous breakdowns, and a large amount of Coke and chocolate and I finally made it. I'm still getting used to the idea that I am really and truly DONE.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Four More Weeks

I have four weeks left of school. Sort of.

According to the calendar it's actually five, but the last week is just one evening for the final exam period so I'm not counting that. I don't have a final exam, that time will be seven people doing their final presentations. I signed up to do mine earlier so I'll have to go and listen but I won't have to do anything myself.

So that leaves four weeks. I'm giving my presentation on November 29th, and my paper needs to be done before that, so that's only three weeks away. Hubby and I will be in California the week of Thanksgiving. Since my presentation is just a couple days after we get back I need to have at least the paper done before we leave; it'd be nice to start working on the presentation, too, though I have a feeling part of my vacation will be spent up close and personal with PowerPoint. So that gives me two weeks to complete the paper—a paper I essentially haven't started yet, of course. I'm meeting with my professor on Monday to discuss it so I'll have something to say about it by then.

As you can see, what looks like four weeks on the calendar is actually much less in reality. My paper is officially due on December 3rd, giving me a few days to edit it after my presentation. So on December 3rd—if not before—I will officially be done with this class, this semester, and my degree.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Homeward Bound

I'm happy to report that my dad is going home from the hospital today; at least that was the news when I talked to my mom earlier today. I talked to my dad, too, and he sounded stronger and almost normal for the first time since he went into the hospital. He was there for 11 days and had surgery last Wednesday (I think... I lose track of time these days) so he's recovering from that now. The doctors decided he could recover just as well at home as in the hospital so that's great news all around.

In other news, I'm trying something new at the moment: Typing while lying flat on my back. I had a medical procedure this morning and while I'm not sick from it, I need to be on bed rest and be a couch potato (official terminology from the doctor) for a few days now. I have to eat meals in bed for a couple days so I asked hubby to get me a bed table for that; what he found is one that's designed for laptops. It has a stand that tilts the laptop so you can type. It even has extra USB ports on it so you can hook the computer into it along with other devices, I guess. It's very cool. It's a little awkward lying down and would probably work better if I was sitting up, but this way I figure I'm following the letter of the law and lying down like I'm supposed to be.

Typing lying down. Not quite as comfortable as it looks.

Of course no bed rest would be complete without a dog:

A special treat for doggie. She's not normally allowed on the bed.

Typing this way does make my arms tired—sounds like a good excuse to wrap this up and move to the couch to watch TV while I wait for hubby to make dinner. That's right, hubby has to make dinner while I'm horizontal. I hear we're having spaghetti.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Asking For Help

I don't know what it is about asking for help, but I'm not a big fan of it. For big things, that is; when it comes to little things I'm all for it. I'll ask my hubby to open a jar, get me a drink of water, carry something heavy—that sort of thing. But when it comes to the big things I keep quiet. I'll pray quietly to God but I don't like asking people for prayer. I'll tell one or two close friends and they always say they'll pray for me, but I rarely ask.

I'm not entirely sure why this is but I've got a few ideas. For one, I'm American, and Americans are indoctrinated from birth to be independent and not rely on others for help. Okay, that's probably part of it, but it's not entirely it. Another factor is I don't like to get hurt, and if I don't tell people things then they can't hurt me when they don't live up to my expectations. That's definitely a big part of it. Hubby says that may be my plan but it doesn't work and I still end up feeling hurt and disappointed sometimes; that may be true but that pattern is still pretty ingrained in me. Last but not least, I'm a pretty private person and I don't like having to explain things, and if I don't tell people then they don't ask. Particularly when it's something that could go wrong, then I don't have to explain things if there isn't a happy ending. Like my job search: I don't talk about it on this blog for a number of reasons, but I don't always talk about it with people in-person, either. I told some people when I had interviews, but if I didn't get the job I then had to go and tell all those folks who knew I was interviewing, which was a huge pain. (For the record, I've had several interviews where I was a finalist and someone else ended up getting the job. Yes, that's the way things go and no, knowing that doesn't make it any easier.)

So back to asking for help. This morning I told a friend at church that my dad is in the hospital. She knows how busy I am and asked if I'd like her to send a prayer request to the church email list if I didn't have time. Without a second thought I shook my head and said, "No." It isn't that I don't want people to pray, it's just that sharing thing again, I don't like to broadcast things. I didn't even tell a lot of people when I had surgery (which I've now had twice in the past two years—following in my dad's footsteps a little too closely, if you ask me) and I certainly didn't use the church email list to ask for prayer. That's just too open for me. On the other hand, hubby and I are part of a small group now where one of the goals is for people to get comfortable and learn to trust and support each other. That's the kind of forum I can accept, in time. (Assuming I can get enough homework done and manage my time so I can actually attend. That's the first step.)

In the spirit of branching out I'll say that hubby and I do have some things going on right now, things that actually make it impossible for us to go to California (where my parents live) this month, regardless of the circumstances. For now there's no reason that we'd need to go and it sounds like things are under control, but it's still an added stress that I really don't need in my life right now. On top of everything else hubby is out-of-town this weekend, though he'll be back tonight. Nothing like when it rains, it pours!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Want a Toad Hole

The other day hubby and I were walking the pooch one evening when it was actually a little cooler and we didn't see many toads; hubby commented that "toading season" may be nearly over and the toads may be settling in their toad holes for the winter. I thought that sounded lovely—a nice cozy toad hole to curl up in. I want one!

Life has been ridiculously busy since I started working and I've barely had time to breathe (or sleep), let alone cook, clean, watch TV, or any of the other things people do in their daily lives. On days I have class I go straight to class from work so that makes for 12-hour days for me; over the past two weeks I had other things going on that made for several other 12-hour days in addition to just class days. (Class days are only two days a week.) I guess a lot of people live this way all the time but I'm not one of them, and I don't think I want to be long-term.

I've decided for the rest of my time at this job (it's only for a few weeks) I'm going to work M-Th and take Friday off completely, rather than work shorter hours all week. I'm not working full-time so dedicating M-Th to work gets the hours in, then I can have a three-day weekend to catch up on other things I need to do, like keep up with my one-and-only-class this semester. (This particular class is on the heavy side and feels like a full-time load itself sometimes.) On the bright side, the extra activities that overloaded my schedule for the past two weeks should be subsiding now; hopefully things will quiet down to a dull roar so I'll have a few hours each week to feel like a normal person again. "Normal" being a relative term, of course.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something To Say

I haven't been writing here much lately because: 1) I don't have time, and, 2) I haven't felt like I've had much to say recently, or at least nothing that I want to talk about on the Internet. But now I've got something to say:

I'm going back to work tomorrow.

Sort of. I mean, it's a job, but it's not the elusive (as a friend calls it) permanent position, I'm still working on that. Someone I know who owns a technical writing consulting company (yes, there are such things, quite a few of them, actually) wrote to me last week and asked if I might be available to help with some proofreading and editing. Apparently she's got a lot of files that need to be proofread and she's overwhelmed. She has several regular employees and is hiring me as a contractor for 4-6 weeks to work on this project. It's flexible hours, I probably won't work full-time (my choice), and she knows I'm looking for permanent work so I won't need to make up stories if/when other interviews come up. So it should work out well and give me something else to do for a few weeks, which will be nice.

Of course this will mean a whole new routine for me and remembering how to do things I haven't done in a while—things like having to be somewhere every morning, deal with a commute, and eat lunch in an office. I worked from home for several years before I went back to school so it's been a LONG time since I've had to make myself a lunch to take to work; I make hubby a lunch (or dinner, depending on his schedule) to take to work everyday but he's not a picky eater and I kind of am. (Okay, no "kind of" about it, I just am.) I went grocery shopping this week and got some things that should get me through this week, and I know there are a lot of websites out there with good recipes for lunches to take to work so I'm sure I can get creative if I want to take the time to do so. The good news is I may not need to be in the office everyday after the first week so that will help with the lunches and the commute. (At the moment I'm not sure how long the commute will be—especially if I try to do it during normal rush hour times—so I'll definitely try to avoid that. Hopefully it won't be more than 30-35 minutes if I can avoid traffic. Hour-long commutes are not my thing.)

To get ready for work—and because it desperately needed it—yesterday I took advantage of the nicer weather we've FINALLY been having the past couple of days and gave my car its semi-annual cleaning. (I'd like to say I'm exaggerating on the semi-annual part but, um, no.) It'll be nice to be able to see out of the windows again. And we gave doggy a bath; we wash her more than semi-annually but she definitely needed it. We usually give her a pedicure (as in cut her toenails) whenever we give her a bath so she's clicking less when she walks now, too. She'd never admit it, but I'm sure she feels better when she's all clean and fluffy again. It's just the process of getting that way that isn't so great.

I hope you all are having a wonderful Labor Day. I'm working on homework and trying to catch up on some other computer things, like finally updating this blog—that's one thing I can cross off my list!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School for the Last Time

Today is the first day of my last class of graduate school—only 121 days until graduation, if anyone is counting. (Why yes, yes I am.) With only one class I don't expect school to be my entire focus anymore, which will be strange since school has been my LIFE for the past year and a half. And I'm fine with that. School is fun (sometimes; sometimes not) but I'm ready to have a job and go back to the "real" world now. (Still working on that.)

My last class is a required theory (vs. application) class called "Rhetoric of Science and Technology." (I'm working on memorizing the title so I don't have to look it up all the time.) Rhetoric is an important part of writing, and even technical writing addresses the rhetorical situation of the audience. (I actually used the phrase "rhetorical situation" in my capstone presentation last semester; I was so proud.) I wasn't an English major as an undergrad so rhetoric isn't something I think about everyday, and I'll probably learn a thing or two in this course. And get more practice writing papers and doing presentations and reading what others have to say on the matter until my eyes fall out... I can't wait.

But it'll all be worth it in December when I can walk down that aisle and say, "I did it!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Getting to Know Our Neighbors

Some people get to know their neighbors by inviting them over for a barbecue or having a block party. We have termite and water damage on our house.

The rotted frame.

Hubby and I had both noticed water on the porch where there shouldn't be any after recent rains, and then hubby noticed part of the trim was buckling (more like disintegrating). When he took the trim off he discovered the extensive damage underneath.

Hubby worked in construction before we moved to North Carolina so he can do a lot of things himself, but he recognized this probably needed a professional. Thankfully, we have neighbors involved with construction. Our next-door neighbor works in sales with a local construction company, so hubby called him and asked his opinion on the matter. He came over and recommended another neighbor around the corner who does residential construction for a living, and who of course had already seen the damage while walking past our house. (It's right by the front door so kind of hard to miss.) To make a long story short, this neighbor is able to do the repairs and it worked out that he could work on it today—and hubby happens to have this weekend off—so they're out there hammering away as I type this. Fun times.

I went shopping this morning to get some badly-needed clothes and take advantage of North Carolina's sales tax holiday, then met a friend for a previously-scheduled lunch. When I got home here's what I found:

Hole in the house, anyone?

That's where a window lives, folks, not a door. Isn't it lovely?

Since I've been home another neighbor has already stopped by to introduce himself and see what's going on. Some people get to know their neighbors socially. We get to know them through rotted wood...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Flowers and Chocolate

Today is my birthday. I'm still recovering from my surgery last week (as I knew I would be on my birthday this year) but I'm getting closer to normal so at least I'm on the tail end of things. More importantly, I'm spending the day surrounded by flowers and chocolate, as is appropriate for birthdays. Hubby did well; guess I'll keep him for another year. :-)

The birthday spread.

Flowers from my parents. A combination happy birthday/get well soon thing.

Flowers from hubby. Roses always work.

Chocolate ice cream cake, chocolate covered blueberries, lemon drops, and creme soda—yum.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Need To Know

I guess I should update this blog someday. It isn't that I haven't had anything to talk about lately, but when it comes to my personal life I tend to share information on a need-to-know basis. Occasionally, that need is my needing to vent, so sometimes I'll tell someone something for my sake rather than theirs. I never vent on the Internet, though, and when it comes to personal information I generally feel the Internet doesn't need to know.

One can only talk about mundane things for so long, however, so I decided I'll mention the surgery I'm having this week. Relatively minor surgery, I'm told, but nothing is ever easy with me. When I sat in the doctor's office for my pre-op appointment I casually told him, "You know I had surgery last year so I already have a scar, right? Are you going to make me symmetrical now?" It didn't occur to me that the fact that I had not-so-minor surgery a year ago might be an issue (proving once again I am NOT medically-inclined), but luckily it did raise a red flag for the doctor and it occurred to him I might have scar tissue or other potential complications due to that surgery. (And I gotta say here, this is where I wish there was a single, national medical record in this country, 'cause relying on my memory for medical things is just not a smart way to go.) Since my surgery was done here last year and in the same hospital, even, the doctor decided he needed to contact the doctor that did last year's surgery and find out more about it at the very least, and if possible have that doctor present for this surgery. Amazingly, they were in fact able to coordinate things and only needed to delay the surgery a week so both doctors could be present. The week delay means I'll most likely be recovering from surgery over my birthday, but when I found out I'd be having it I figured with Murphy's Law alive and well it was a pretty good bet that was going to happen, anyway.

The surgery is outpatient and just a few days recovery under normal circumstances, I'm told (unlike last year's where I was in the hospital for 5 days), so barring any complications I should be back to normal the following week. I've got things on my calendar then so I'm hoping that'll be the case.

So that's the story. Here are a few of my thoughts:
  1. This is the third year in a row that I'll have been put under a general anaesthetic. That represents once a year since we moved to North Carolina. Maybe it's something in the water...
  2. When the person from the hospital called to pre-register me for this event she looked at my chart and said, "I see you were here last year. You've got to stop meeting us this way!"
  3. The hospital has free Wi-Fi. We'll bring the iPad so hubby won't be bored while he waits. And he may not even really need the Wi-Fi since my aunt gave me an iTunes gift card for my birthday and we've already spent most of it on several games we'd been wanting to get. Hubby has plenty to keep him busy on the iPad now.
Hopefully, while I'm recovering at home I'll be tired enough to not want to do any real work and actually lie on the couch and watch the Food Network without feeling guilty about it; that was the best part of my recovery time last year. This recovery will be much shorter so I won't have very long to forget about reality, but even if I get just a day or two of guilt-free Food Network time it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Next Step

Last Friday I finished my summer class (an independent study). With my grade posted today I am officially three credits closer to my master's degree. In just a year-and-a-half I've completed 30 of the 33 credits required; no wonder I'm so tired.

My next (and last!) class doesn't start until August so that means for the first time in a long time I have some free time—no homework or due dates to stress over. So yesterday I made a blueberry pie:


I figured it was necessary.

Of course having free time doesn't mean I don't have anything to do; it just means when I don't want to clean the house now I don't have nearly as good an excuse for putting it off. And there's that ironing I haven't done in, uh, ages... And last but not least there's that job thing. Oh yeah, that.

As I've always said, I didn't go back to school for my health—I did it to catch up with the field of technical communication so I could get a job. And not just any job—a good job that I would enjoy and be challenging and utilize the skills I have. That's always been my goal as I labored away on reading and projects and everything else being a full-time graduate student entails. And now I'm done. Yes, I still have that last class left, but I'm done being a full-time student with no time to think about anything else. So, after I've taken a little time to relax without feeling guilty (well, try to do that, at least), and catch up with things around the house, I'm planning on starting my job search in earnest. As they say, searching for a job is a full-time job; now I'll finally have the time to do it. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Exercise

I don't know what it is about exercise but I seem to avoid it. Don't get me wrong, I love feeling exercised, I just don't seem to like the process of getting there. (I also like having a clean house but I'm not so keen on actually cleaning it.) Numerous times over the past year I've told myself I'm going to get into a routine and really be serious about it, and just as many times I've had a ready excuse not to do it. Granted, over the past year that's usually been because of school, so it's also been an accurate excuse, but given how much time I waste on other things I'm sure I could have fit in exercising if I'd really wanted to.

It's not like I don't have any good reasons to exercise, either. I've had back and hip problems off and on for a while and my body usually feels like a pretzel, and I know I have fewer problems (and feel less pretzel-like) whenever I exercise.  Last year I was diagnosed with osteoporosis (something I am way too young to have, might I add) so I know I need to exercise to keep that at bay as well. Hubby even bought me some weights a while back, which I really ought to use more than I do. (My plan was to use them while I watch TV, but quite frankly I hardly ever just sit in front of the TV.)

This time of year I even have the opportunity to swim. Our subdivision has a pool which we pay to use as part of our homeowner association fees. Last summer I found out the pool is open for adult lap swim before it officially opens for the day, so I took advantage of that and swam in the morning when I could. The pool opened a month ago and I'd planned on doing that again this year, but somehow I just couldn't get myself motivated to do it again—until this week. I've gone twice now and even though I'm horribly out-of-shape I definitely feel better so hopefully I'll keep it up. I usually try to go around 8:00 or so and I usually have the pool to myself, which is really nice.

So we'll see how long this lasts. On the bright side, I've got less than two weeks left of my summer class so when that's done I'll finally get a break and really have free time to exercise (and no excuse not to). On the other hand, I'm hoping to get a job sooner rather than later, and when that happens I'm not sure how exercising (or anything else) will fit into my daily routine, which will take some getting used to after having a rather unstructured daily schedule for so long. Guess I'd better enjoy exercising while it lasts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's a Miracle

His name is Moe.

The weekend was tough. Little Guy did quiet down and seemed to get more used to things after the first night. We have a dog house on our deck that our dog never uses, and Little Guy took to it and made it his, spending most of his time in there when he wasn't walking around. He slept there (he's a very sound sleeper) and was warm and safe. He also stayed in there and stayed dry when it rained Monday night and Tuesday; unlike our dog who ignores the dog house and stands in the rain and gets wet.

He didn't bark as much as when we first brought him home but he did whimper sometimes, particularly when he woke up from a nap and was disoriented, I think. When I heard him I'd go outside to pet him and reassure him, then he'd settle down for a while again. Naturally, I got pretty attached to him and the thought of taking him to the shelter to let him die there got harder and harder, even though I knew it's what we had to do.

We took him to the shelter yesterday, getting there about 45 minutes before they closed. They scanned for a microchip and didn't find one, as we'd suspected. But then a miracle happened: When hubby was giving them the information on where we found him we said we lived in a subdivision and they asked for its name (every subdivision around here has a name), and when hubby said it the shelter worker said he thought the owners were in earlier looking for him. He went and got a flyer that described the dog and specifically mentioned they lived across the street from our subdivision. His name is Moe, he's 16-years-old, and HE HAS A HOME. While we stood there the man called the owners and told them we'd found their dog. We weren't going straight home after dropping him off or we would have taken him home ourselves, so we ended up leaving him at the shelter and his owners came out and got him. It was getting closer to closing time by then and I wasn't sure they could make it there fast enough that evening, but the shelter worker said since they knew the owners were coming they'd stay open a few minutes late for them (which they did).

So "Moe" wasn't starving when we found him after all; he was just thin because he's old. He's a very good eater and likes his food—and what we fed him was different than his usual—so that's why it seemed like he was hungry all the time. His toenails were long because his owners hadn't trimmed them during his last bath, it turned out, and they knew they needed to be cut. The shelter couldn't give the owners our information but we had theirs, so when we got home a couple hours later we stopped by their house to meet them. They were so thankful and appreciative. And there was Moe, in his own house, lying on the carpet next to the couch. When he saw us he came up to us wagging his tail, obviously recognizing us, then he settled back in his spot while we talked to his owners. Apparently we found him right after he wandered off on Saturday; if we hadn't taken him home maybe he would have wandered back home on his own after all, who knows. His owners had each thought he was with someone else in the house and they didn't realize he was missing until Sunday morning. When they realized it they called everywhere putting out a search for him, though if there were flyers we didn't see them in our neighborhood when we were walking our dog over the weekend. Thankfully, and amazingly, we connected with them through the shelter 25 miles from our home; a county shelter that is about as far away from us as it can be and still be in the same county.

Of course I'm relieved and overjoyed that Moe's story ended this way. A simple tag on his collar could have avoided a lot of anguish on both sides; they said he's had tags before and lost them, and a phone number written on his collar had faded off. But he did have a microchip: Apparently it was farther up on his shoulders and when they scanned for it at the shelter when we were there they didn't run the scanner high enough to find it. His owners said when they picked him up they scanned for it again—higher this time—and found it. The bottom line is Moe is home now and will live out his life where he belongs: With his family that loves him. Praise God.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Little Guy


Yesterday while hubby and I were walking the pooch we came upon a stray dog. He's smaller than our dog so I called him, "Little Guy." Since he was in our subdivision at first we thought he was lost, particularly because he had a collar, but he had no tags and now we think he's probably a stray. He's very old (probably 14 or 15 I'd guess), thin, losing hair on his back and tail, walks stiffly, it looks like he has cataracts, and I think he may have trouble hearing, too. When we found him his toenails were so long he could barely walk. We wonder if he was abandoned because he's old, as terrible as that thought is. Yet he's a very sweet dog: We brought him home and fed him, and hubby was able to clip his toenails so that helped, at least. Our backyard is fenced in (for our dog) so he's safe there. Our dog was interested in him at first but since he isn't playful she just ignores him now, which is fine.

Little Guy was quiet at first but now he wants to be with us and we're not letting him inside, so he's been barking; he barked off and on for a good portion of the night (keeping us awake) and he's been doing the same through the morning. I don't blame him but unfortunately there's nothing we can do about it, we just have to hope he quiets down on his own and our neighbors don't lynch us in the process.

Our subdivision has an e-mail list so I sent a message to it about him, but we aren't surprised that we haven't had any responses. We aren't prepared to keep him so we'll take him to the animal shelter as soon as we can; of course it's not only a weekend, it's a holiday weekend, so we won't be able to take him to the shelter until they reopen on Tuesday. We have to take him to the county shelter and we live at the edge of the county; naturally the shelter is all the way on the other side, about as far as it can be from us and still be in the same county (about 25 miles away). Naturally.

Getting through the next two days is going to be tough (hopefully he'll quiet down and we'll get some sleep). The thought of stray animals always breaks my heart and makes me sick to my stomach. I hate the thought of taking him to the shelter where they'll probably end up putting him to sleep, but we know it's the right thing to do. At least he'll be taken care of and die humanely there, rather than starving or being hit by a car. In the meantime we'll deal with the inconvenience and keep him safe, fed, and give him attention when we can, which I guess is the best we can do.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's in a Name?

I'm trying to come up with a name.

One of my projects for this summer is to put together a WordPress blog. This will be a professional/personal blog: It'll be a personal blog since it won't be sponsored by my (future) employer (whoever that turns out to be) and I won't be representing them, but I'll be discussing professional topics related to the field of technical communication. So I'm trying to come up with a name for my new blog. In doing so I'm considering several factors:
  1. The URL must be available. To simplify searching the blog title and the URL should match. When I know the name of a site I often type it into the address bar directly rather than search for it through a search engine. Using my name as the URL is definitely one way of identifying the site with me, but these days it's more common to tie the URL to the name of the site and identify yourself on your blog in other ways.

  2. The name should reflect what I'm talking about. This is tricky. I'm planning on talking about technical communication, but that encompasses a broad range of topics and I haven't narrowed it down to individual facets of the field yet. Which tells me I should probably think about this more before I start my blog, including coming up with a list of tags I intend to use.

  3. The name should reflect my personality. Personal branding is a big concept these days and this blog will become part of my personal brand. In my mind, how this works into the title is in what types of words I use. Does my title include an action verb? Alliteration? A made-up word? How I put the words I choose together can reflect a little about who I am.

  4. The name shouldn't be too long. One word probably isn't enough for me but 16 words is definitely too long. There's a happy medium out there, I just have to find it.
I read quite a few technical communication blogs (see the sidebar on this blog) so I've seen plenty of good examples and I've come up with a few ideas that are definite possibilities. I haven't come up with that one, magical, "This is it!" name, though, so I'm still thinking. But soon I'll settle on a name, register the domain, do some design work and be off and running. Ultimately, while the name may catch people's attention it's the content that will keep bringing them back. That's where the real fun begins.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More Pics

I thought I'd post a few more pictures I've taken of things around the house lately. Everyone likes pictures, right?


My roses are doing a lot better this year; last year some of them got blackspot and lost most of their leaves. This year I gave them some food and medicine, which seems to have helped. The large rose in the foreground was pretty resistant to it last year even without treatment and this year it's gotten even bigger with lots of blooms. The one in the background isn't nearly as big though it has had some blooms, so I'm happy.


This little rose was given to me in the hospital when I had surgery last year. I planted it and it's done very well this year with lots of blooms.


I've planted herbs in a planter on the deck for a couple years now and this year they're doing really well; giving up on seeds and starting with small plants definitely helps. I've got more thyme and basil than I know what to do with. See that chive in the background? (It's on the right behind the tall basil.) That is from a seed—from two years ago, I think. It's dormant in the winter but now it just keeps on growing and won't quit. Nice for the rare time we want a chive.


We miss having a garden. We had a small one in California but here in North Carolina we chose a house with a backyard full of trees and there's nowhere to put a garden. We really miss tomatoes, so since the deck is the one place that gets sun we thought we'd try a tomato in a pot. As you can see it's doing really well! It has over a dozen tomatoes-in-progress on it now and lots of flowers so we're expecting a good crop. Fresh tomatoes—yum.


This is a baby bluebird. (Well, probably a juvenile bluebird, more accurately.) Since I got home from church today I've been watching this little guy and his (or her) sibling come to our suet feeder with their parent. They're really cute.

And, last but not least...


It's toading season! I found this little guy at the bottom of our deck steps; I've seen him there several times lately so I think he lives there. Since I name all of our toad friends I've named him "Hoppy." We have to make sure we (and the dog) don't step on him when we go down the steps. It's always nice to have a resident toad.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Recharging

My handful of regular readers have probably noticed I haven't posted anything new lately. No, I haven't abandoned this blog, until recently I've just been too busy to keep up with it. Since defending my capstone project almost a month ago (wow, has it been a month already?) I've completed my last project for my other class, gone to the other side of the state for a meeting, finished the semester, cleaned the house, travelled to Dallas for a conference, and had hubby's parents come to visit. All of the activity overloaded this poor introvert's circuits so I've now spent the last week recharging by staying home and trying to remember my name. I've also attempted to catch up on things that inevitably got left by the wayside while I was running from one thing to another, though I've come to the conclusion that my feeling caught up on everything that needs to be done may be as elusive as my winning the lottery. (Particularly since I've never bought a lottery ticket in my life.)

To make up for lost time I thought I'd post a few random pictures I've taken of things over the past few weeks. I'm not an avid photographer by any means, but I remembered to bring my camera along most of the time and occasionally I even remembered to use it.
An otter at the Asheville Nature Center. I can't tell you how many pictures I had to take before he finally posed for me this way. That little guy books!

The Hyatt Regency Dallas, where the conference I went to was held.

Results of strawberry picking with hubby's parents. Strawberry pie, anyone?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Note to Mississippians

To the Mississippians who read my blog: I hope you're all okay! I don't know where you all live exactly but I read about the tornado that ripped through Mississippi today and the damage it caused. As a native Californian I've never experienced a tornado and can't imagine what it's like (and hope I'll never know), but I really hope none of you were in its path. My prayers are with all of the people who were affected by it.

Please post or comment when you can!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pass, you're done!

I successfully defended my capstone project last night and got the coveted, "Pass, you're done," from my advisors. (Versus the other option, "Pass, but...," meaning they want you to revise something in your document.) Yeah! I pretty much memorized my presentation so I'm looking forward to forgetting it and freeing up some space in my over-crowded brain.

Now it's onto my next assignment, something for my other class which is due today and turning into a bigger ordeal than I'd envisioned. It's always something!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Big Day

Tonight I defend my capstone project—seems like the time has just flown by, doesn't it? (The answer to that is no, it doesn't, it just sounded good so I thought I'd try it.) Over the next two weeks the 12 of us doing our capstone projects this semester will be presenting them to the class, our advisors, and anyone else who wants to come. Three of us will be going each night; tonight is the first round. Each presentation is about 20 minutes long with a few minutes of questions from your advisors at the end. The class meets at 7:30 p.m. and I'll be going last, so I expect I won't get started until close to 8:30 p.m. I'll have to be pretty entertaining to keep everyone awake! (Then again, if my advisors choose to dose off that might not be such a bad thing, it could make the questioning session much easier.)

While getting past this is definitely an important milestone, I've still got assignments to finish up for my other class, unfortunately, so it's not quite the finality you like to envision with this sort of thing. And I've got that independent study to do this summer, and one more class to take next fall... Then I'll breathe that huge sigh of relief and say, "I'm done!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Broken Blog and Other Things

If you've looked at my blog lately you've probably noticed it doesn't look quite right. The sidebars now have light text on a light background which makes them very difficult to read. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it. It's happening because the colors are part of the template, and the template is drawing color blocks from other Web sites. Something must have happened to the page that has the sidebar color block. I've noticed it's happened before but it's always managed to fix itself. It's been several days now so maybe the break is permanent this time. The only way for me to fix it would be to put together a new template, and needless to say I don't have time to do that right now. So, I'm ignoring it. At least my posts are still readable.

In other news, this is how my hubby spends his time off:

Can you guess what this is?

That, my friends, is a pollen ball—pure pollen mixed with a little bit of water. After working seven days in a row this is how my hubby starts his day off, by making a pollen ball. I'm so proud.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Word About Seasons

I'd like to have a word with the people who told me when we moved to North Carolina I'd get to experience seasons. News flash: "Too hot," "too cold," and "pollen" are not seasons. Geesh.

Last summer, when I sweltered in the humidity, my husband said to just wait until fall, then it would be nice. Well, fall lasted all of about 3 weeks before winter hit, and it was a long, colder-than-usual winter, so I'm told. Don't get me wrong, I like winter, but I think if it's gonna be cold I should also get to enjoy some snow. We did get snow twice over the winter but it was cold a lot more than that.

Then there's this spring thing, or so they tell me. Yes, things are starting to bloom and it's very pretty, but weather-wise we had about 3 days of spring before it seems to have turned to summer. I am just not into summer in April, thank you very much. It's been in the 80's for the past few days and supposed to get to 90 before it cools down toward the end of the week. Overnight we went from having the heat on to needing to turn on the air conditioner. Not good for the utility bills at all.

Last but not least, there's the pollen. Didn't have to deal with that in California. Something else that happens overnight: Yesterday everything started turning yellow. Today, all the cars are covered with it. I only wash my car twice a year here, it seems, and naturally yesterday I finally got to it because my car was so embarrassingly dirty. It's in the garage now and I'm afraid to take it out. SIGH...

Let me be clear: If we're going to have seasons here then there should be four of 'em, and spring and fall should get equal time with summer and winter. Pollen is not a season, it's just annoying. (Ok, maybe not for the pine trees.) And seriously, a couple months of not needing the heat or the air conditioner is required to keep up with the utility bills the rest of the year. Otherwise it's just not right!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

End of the Tunnel

My regular readers have probably noticed I haven't been posting quite as frequently lately. As you can probably imagine, things have just been too busy trying to keep up with graduate school without having a serious nervous breakdown in the process. (And I've had plenty of minor breakdowns along the way.) Going back to school full-time has definitely brought several "What was I thinking?!??!" moments, but I know in the end I'll be glad to have done the program this way.

The good news is I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. After this semester (which isn't over yet, I have to keep reminding myself) I'll have two classes left, and I was originally planning on taking both of them next fall. (One is a required course I have to take in the fall, the other is an elective.) Then I thought it'd be nice to take the elective over the summer if I could, get that out of the way and only have the one required course in the fall. The problem is there aren't a lot of classes offered during the summer sessions and the type of elective I need to take isn't available. In the meantime, though, there is a class I really wanted to take this semester but couldn't due to my schedule and workload, so I'd talked to the professor about doing the work for the class on my own over the summer on a casual basis, just so I could learn the material and not totally miss out. To make a long story short (or shorter, at least), my advisor is letting me do the work for the class I couldn't take as an independent study course over the summer, so I'll not only get credit for work I was already planning to do, but he's allowing me to do this in lieu of taking the other type of elective. This is allowing me to make the most of my program, molding it to my goals and what I want to get out of it rather than molding myself to fit it.

For the independent study I'll be compressing a 16-week course into a 5-week summer session, but I've already put together the schedule I'll follow and it's doable. I took a summer course last summer so I'm familiar with the 5-week concept, which helps. What this all means is that on June 25th—the day my independent study will officially end—I'll have only one course left in my graduate studies. I probably won't have much time to breathe between now and June 25th to get it all done, but being able to see the end of the tunnel there definitely helps motivate me now.

Last but not least, finishing the program this way means I'll be able to start my job search several months earlier than I'd originally planned. Living on one income and our savings has been so much fun, of course (or not), but I'm ready to start earning money again sooner rather than later. More importantly, I'm more than ready to put what I've been learning into practice, which has been the goal all along here. If I was taking two classes in the fall I wouldn't want to work full-time while I did that (many people do, I know, but I wouldn't want to), but having just one evening class will allow me to go back to work full-time if the opportunity arises. I definitely hope it will arise and I'll be working toward that. Just last night I got a possible job lead that would be the right timing and could possibly turn into something, so I'm already keeping my eyes and ears open for that perfect job.

If you don't see me much over the next couple of months now you know why. (Well, more specifically that you probably guessed already, anyway.) As part of my independent study I'm also going to be putting together a new blog, which I plan to host on my own Web site. (A Web site I don't have yet, but will.) My goal for that blog is to focus on topics in the field of technical communication; I'm not exactly sure what topics yet, but something where I can contribute to the technical communication community. I'll probably still maintain this blog as a purely personal blog; after all, I need a place to post pictures of the pooch!

Lazy dog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Smart Dog

I think our dog is pretty smart. That is, she knows how to communicate and tell us what she wants.

Last night hubby and I were sitting on the couch watching TV, and doggie was lying on the floor. She got up and looked at us and wagged her tail as if she wanted her nighttime biscuits; she'd already had them, though, so I told hubby she probably wanted to go out. He got up to let her out, at which point she ran around the coffee table, jumped onto the couch where he'd been sitting, settled down and put her head in my lap, then looked up at him with her big brown eyes as if to say, "What?" Apparently doggie was trying to tell us that hubby was sitting in her spot on the couch (which he was) and she wanted to sit there! While laughing, hubby called her a conniving little mutt. I thought she was pretty smart.

Not to let the dog get the last word hubby squeezed in next to her, which she thought was just fine. She didn't move, of course; after all it was her spot. But she's willing to share. She's a snuggly dog and likes to be close to her folks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Break

Spring break is coming up next week and I've been making plans. Wanna hear them?
  1. Take one entire day off from school work to go shopping with my husband. We both need clothes. Really. We've been putting it off way too long.
  2. Clean the house. ('Nuff said.)
  3. Have lunch with a friend.
  4. Write the majority of the content for my capstone project and put together a 30-page document for my other class.
I really wonder why they call it spring break; "break" is such a misnomer when you're a grad student. There's really nothing "break" about it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vancouver 2010

I've been watching the Winter Olympics this year and I can't resist making a few comments about them. I'm struck not by just how different the athletes are but how differently they're treated by their home countries.

When I was watching the ladies' figure skating the announcers emphasized the pressure the two favorites, Kim Yu-Na of South Korea and Mao Asada of Japan, were under. Not just the pressure of being in the Olympics and wanting to do well, but enormous pressure from their countries: These girls were expected to win gold. One of the announcers commented that winning silver would be a huge disappointment. I have to agree, the expression on Mao Asada's face during the medal ceremony certainly reflected that sentiment. I don't follow figure skating except for the Olympics so I'd never heard of either girl, but apparently they're both huge celebrities in their home countries. Kim, they said, makes $8-$9 million dollars a year marketing every product imaginable. If she hadn't won gold apparently she would have disappointed her country and could have lost her celebrity status, and I gather Mao Asada may face a similar fate with "only" a silver medal at the Olympics. I think that's absolutely horrible and an astronomic weight for these 19-year-old girls to bear.

Then there was Canada's Joannie Rochette, skating only days after her mother died suddenly from a heart attack while at the Games. From my limited perspective she's received only praise and support from her country and the world in choosing to deal with her emotions as she sees fit. Yes, she won the bronze medal, but I doubt anyone in her country or otherwise would have treated her any differently if she hadn't won a medal, or if she'd chosen not to compete at all.

Watching Apolo Ohno compete in the short track has definitely been entertaining, and the expectations he endures from the U.S. appear to be a huge contrast from those of the Asian figure skaters. Apparently, Apolo has also become a celebrity in the United States; when I heard his name I recognized it from previous Olympics but otherwise I've been oblivious to his growing fortune and fame. (I don't watch Dancing with the Stars, which he apparently competed in and won in 2007, so that probably has something to do with my ignorance regarding his social standing.) What struck me about Apolo, though, was his maturity, both in how he handled the actual races (demonstrating his experience in the sport and in international competitions), and in how he handled the results, whatever direction they took. While Apolo certainly had pressure on him and undoubtedly hoped to become the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian, I never felt that he was carrying the weight of his country on his back the way the figure skaters were. I certainly hope Apolo didn't have to worry about losing a product endorsement if he happened to make a mistake in a race and didn't win a medal. Being disqualified in the final heat of the 500-meter race probably would have been devastating to other racers but Apolo handled it with such poise (in front of the cameras, at least, and you want to assume he handles things equally well in private), accepting, as Phil Taylor of SI.com put it, "the seemingly random twists of fate that can make or break a speedskater on the short track." Taylor's article doesn't focus on the disqualification but instead notes that Apolo has, "grown into a great Olympian and more importantly, a mature man." I think that's a greater testament to the man, his sport, and his country than any gold medal could ever be.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Some Notes on My Interview with Adobe

Recently, I was interviewed by RJ Jacquez, Senior Product Evangelist at Adobe. I met RJ over Twitter and have communicated with him about a variety of topics, including Adobe Community Help, which is the subject of the interview. You can read the full interview here:

Interview with Peggy Harvey - The Future of Documentation: Adobe Community Help

RJ conducted the interview using Adobe Buzzword through Acrobat.com, a collaboration tool that allowed us to edit the same document without having to send files back and forth through e-mail. Since we're in different time zones we took turns editing the document, notifying each other through Twitter's direct messaging when the document was ready for the other person to respond. In this way we completed the interview over a few weeks without any disruptions to our regular schedules.

I really enjoyed doing the interview and thinking more about how user assistance is changing in the 21st century. As I finish up my master's program and get ready to re-enter the workforce as a technical communicator, I'll be looking for opportunities where I can contribute toward the type of collaboration Adobe encourages, merging user-generated content with official product documentation to create a more unified user experience.

UPDATE: If you'd like to learn more about how companies incorporate user-generated content you can read my original paper, Enabling User Interactivity with Documentation, now shared on Acrobat.com.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Headed Toward Employment

Even though I'm still a little while away from graduating I've started thinking more about getting a job. My focus this year is to have a job next year, and you have to sow your seeds before you can harvest them, right? For me, that means working on networking and establishing relationships now, while I'm not looking for a job, in order to have those contacts available when I am job searching later on.

One thing I've found is that people in industry are generally very receptive to students, or at least people in my field are. My theory is that students are less threatening; especially in today's economy, people who have jobs are used to being asked for help by people who don't have jobs. Students in the middle of their program generally aren't asking for jobs, so there isn't as much pressure involved in talking to them. I've taken advantage of this numerous times already, talking to people in my field about various projects I'm doing. It's made my projects more relevant and contributed toward that all-important networking, getting my name out there as someone who takes initiative and has the drive to succeed.

Recently I've had another reason to think about employment more closely. Last week I was notified that the Society for Technical Communication selected me for their Sigma Tau Chi Award, which honors students with the potential to distinguish themselves in the technical communication profession. I'm told only a few students are selected each year. Besides being a great boost for my resume, receiving the award (or being inducted into the honor society, as it's also put) helps affirm the direction I ultimately want to take into leadership roles when I return to the working world.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Tribute

I thought I'd write this now even though things haven't happened yet. I doubt it'll be any easier later, and maybe it will help me process things now. When I post this we will have said good-bye to my cat.

I've had my cat for nearly a third of my life so making the decision to have her put to sleep is very hard even though I know it's her time. The vet confirmed her kidneys have all but failed and she probably isn't very comfortable. She's so thin she's just skin and bones now, it seems. She hadn't been eating very much before we took her to the vet although gourmet cat food seems to have helped with that somewhat, at least temporarily.

I got her from the pound when I was a graduate student in Oregon. I was on my own for the first time and wanted a pet. For the first year I lived in an apartment that didn't allow pets, but then I moved to one that did. I remember going to the pound that day in January, 1994: When I said I was looking for a kitten they said they didn't have any. I asked if I could still look around, though, and there she was. They said she was about 9-months-old so that's why they said they didn't have any kittens, but she was young enough for me. Apparently, an older woman had taken her and returned her because she was too active; the woman wanted an older cat that would be calmer. A young, active cat was perfect for me.

I went home to California for vacations and brought her with me. Friends had told me horror stories about cats getting carsick so I did a trial run first, taking her on about a 30-minute round-trip drive. She did fine and took several 950-mile (one-way) trips with me back and forth between California and Oregon. One time she flew with me as my carry-on luggage. The first time I drove to California with her I set up the back of the car with her food, water, litter box, and towels to curl up on; she spent the majority of the trip on the passenger seat next to me instead. (Making me find a different home for my snacks so she'd have a place to sit.) She'd eat and use her box during the drives, and at night she would look out the windows at the cars and trucks going by.

Before hubby came along (and even sometimes after) we'd have breakfast together: She'd sit on the kitchen table while I ate my cereal, then when I finished she'd lick the small amount of milk left in the bowl. Here in North Carolina she liked to sit on the back of the couch sometimes; we bought a blanket to put up there just for her. Often she would nuzzle up to hubby's head when he sat on the couch. She didn't do it to me as much; I guess she thought hubby's hair smelled nicer than mine.

I'll also never forget the time the basement apartment I rented in Oregon flooded due to heavy rains. I woke up one morning and saw my poor kitty going "squish, squish, squish" across the carpet. Then there was the time I tried to give her a bath... It was a bloody experience (for me) and I decided from then on she did a perfectly fine job bathing herself.

When I got my dog it took time to adjust to twice as many feet in the house. Now it will feel empty with half of them gone.

She stayed with my parents when I spent two months in Africa, then moved with me through two rentals and to the first home I owned in California. She learned to tolerate a dog and then a husband, then made the 2,600-mile journey with us from California to North Carolina. I know she's had a good life but it's still so hard to say good-bye.

I'll miss you.
Coho
1993 - 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Togetherness

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow!

It doesn't snow very often in our neck of the woods so when it does we have to take advantage of it. For me, that means breaking out the cross-country skis I got when I lived in Oregon. (After I'd learned to ski in Alaska... Long story.) Below are pictures of our winter wonderland, some of which we took as I skied around the neighborhood and hubby followed along with the dog. One of these days we'll have to get hubby some cross-country skis so he can join in the fun!
A pile of snow greeted us outside our back door when we woke up this morning. Doggie wasn't sure how to get through it!

Snow piled around the dog house.

Can I come in now?

Our roses buried in the snow.

Hubby and doggie out for a walk.

Skiing down the street!

We saw this snowman as we were going around the neighborhood. It was so cute I had to have a picture.

Our happy family.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One Word

The DJ's on K-LOVE's morning show have been been doing a program on "My One Word" this week, asking people to select one word as a kind of "New Year's Resolution" for 2010. Some words I've heard people use are "purpose", "available", "present", and "dream". When I heard the challenge I immediately knew my one word for 2010:

GRADUATE

It may not be the most spiritual or enlightening word but that's definitely it.

What's your word?

(Note: K-LOVE's blog post on the topic directs readers to the Choose Your Word Web site for help in choosing an appropriate word. If it doesn't immediately come to you like mine did, that is.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stumbling Into the 21st Century

I caved. Actually, hubby caved, I just drooled. Here's a picture of my new toy:

It's really Amazon's fault. As I mentioned in a previous post I'd been thinking about getting a smartphone, but after thinking about it and talking it over with my husband I decided not to get one for now. I kept thinking about it, though, which is odd for me once I've made a decision about something. I probably still wouldn't have one, though, if it hadn't been for Amazon.

Since our desktop computer died we had to replace it, and after two days of research I ordered a new one from Amazon last week. They said it wouldn't ship until mid-February; I didn't know why it would take so long but it was a good deal so we figured we'd live without a desktop until then. (I got a laptop when I started school so we weren't completely computerless.) Then, last Saturday, I got an e-mail from Amazon that said the following:

"Due to a lack of availability from our suppliers, we will not be able to obtain the following item(s) from your order... We've cancelled the item(s) and apologize for the inconvenience."

That meant we were back to square one with getting a new computer, so since we were planning on going out to run some errands on Saturday, anyway, we went to Best Buy to see what they had and talk to an actual person (which had been my original plan once upon a time, anyway). I hadn't thought about it but of course Best Buy is in the cell phone business now, and when we walked in the first thing we saw were all those phones. Hubby hadn't seen the Droid Eris himself yet so I showed it to him, and as I commented once again how pretty it was he said, "Let's get you the phone. Happy Birthday." (My birthday isn't for another six months so he just made that up.) Thanks to discounts and deals we ended up paying only half what I thought we would for the phone itself, and hubby ended up getting a free one for himself—all in all a pretty productive day. Since I've never used a smartphone before (or a touchscreen) it took me a couple days to figure out how it worked but I've gotten the hang of it now and am having lots of fun with it. And it's so pretty. 21st century, here I come!

Oh, and we got the new computer, too: Best Buy ended up having the next model of the one I'd ordered from Amazon. The model I'd originally chosen came out last November (I think) and this newer model came out in January. It hasn't been in the stores very long (only a couple weeks, the salesperson thought) and it may not have even been on the Web site yet when I was looking at computers before. So we ended up getting an even faster computer with a ridiculously large hard drive (1 TB) for only a little bit more than the other one would have cost. Here's a picture of our shiny new computer:

Isn't it shiny? I've never had such a shiny desktop computer.

Unfortunately, hubby still can't play one of his games on it: Apparently that particular game requires a 3D video card, which the computer doesn't have. Interestingly, he's sure he played the game on the laptop before but it doesn't have a 3D card, either, and when we tried it gave the same error about the video card as the desktop. Oh well, we knew that might be the case. For now, enough is enough. We'll upgrade the video card on the desktop at a later date.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Goodbye, Part 2


Hubby had fun with the old computer last night. It's now an empty shell and a bucket of parts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Goodbye to an Old Friend

Hubby and I are saying goodbye to an old friend this week. Well, not really a friend, and more like good riddance and no love lost, but definitely old. Our desktop computer has died.

When we took the computer to my school's IT department I asked them to not even look for the virus and just wipe the drive and rebuild the system. As I mentioned in the post about the virus I got the computer in 2002 (brand new and state-of-the-art then) so it was no spring chicken here in 2010. I used that computer to work from home for several years and it occurred to me there was undoubtedly all kinds of junk on it I hadn't been able to uninstall (mostly due to services related to databases and other corporate applications, I imagine), and a good wiping was probably just what it needed. The IT guys checked it out when we got there and said they'd be happy to work on it, but warned that due to its age they might have trouble reloading some of the hardware drivers (due to their not existing anymore). We said that was fine and left them to do their best.

Turned out the drivers weren't a problem. Or at least they don't know if they were. The person working on it never got that far: After reformatting the drive multiple times he couldn't reload the Windows XP operating system. He described everything he did to try to get it to work before calling me; I felt sorry for him going to all that trouble, but on the other hand he gets paid for all the work he did on it (since it's his job) so better him than me. He doesn't know what happened between the time we brought it in and when he started working on it but his guess is it's something physically wrong with the hard drive itself—the thing is just old and it wore out. (Happens to the best of us, eh?) Tomorrow hubby and I are going to pick up the computer to say goodbye... Or more like bring it home to take it apart and salvage some of its parts.

More importantly, now that the computer is a confirmed casualty it means we need a new one to replace it. I have a laptop I use for school but the desktop was our household computer (and the one hubby uses for everything), and frankly I'm just not comfortable having only one computer in the house now, sad as that sounds. We really don't need another laptop so we're getting a new desktop; desktops are a lot cheaper than laptops but they're also harder to find these days! My school bookstore doesn't even sell them (only laptops). I did some research and consulted with my dad (who knows a thing or two about computers) and I found one that will suit us just fine:
I ordered it from Amazon the other day. (They happened to have the one I was looking at for a cheaper price than where I originally found it.) It says it will take 2-4 weeks to ship so we won't get it until sometime in mid-February; I don't know why it'll take so long, maybe they have to build it from scratch or something. Oh well, we'll live with just one computer in the house until then and hubby will just have to use the laptop to check his e-mail when I'm not on it.

There is one happy result from all this. (Not that I consider any of this particularly "unhappy" other than the days I wasted trying to eradicate the virus myself). The new computer will have an updated video card (compared to the one from eight years ago) so hubby will finally be able to play some games on it. He has one particular game that he couldn't play on the old desktop due to the video card; he loaded it on the laptop and it works fine, but since I'm always on the laptop he never gets it for long enough to play it. With the new desktop he should be able to play it to his heart's content, and it opens up the possibility of getting more games in the future. (Can you say birthday present idea?) Not that hubby is a huge gamer and he doesn't have a lot of time to play them, anyway, but at least now he'll have the option to waste (I mean spend) some time playing some computer games if he wants to.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Sentinel

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Virus

How to deal with a computer virus:
  1. Spend two days playing system administrator, running every virus and malware scan imaginable to try and track down something. Without knowing exactly what you're doing. Hope the computer still boots when you're done.
  2. Become immensely frustrated.
  3. Order pizza.
  4. Buy an external hard drive to backup data to prepare the computer to have its drive wiped.
  5. Take the computer to NC State University's IT department and let them deal with it.
I haven't actually done step #5 yet but that's next. We have two computers in our house: A laptop we got for me to use for school and a desktop I've had since 2002. Even though the desktop is archaic by computer standards it works fine for our purposes, particularly since I have the laptop to use for newer, space-hog and memory-intensive programs. About a week ago the desktop started notifying us that the virus definitions hadn't been updated in over 14 days. Then when I tried to run LiveUpdate (which should be running automatically) nothing happened. (The desktop uses an old copy of Symantec Anti-Virus. It did its job just fine until recently!) Finally, when I tried to go to the Symantec Web site in any browser it failed (with different errors depending on the browser). Further testing revealed I couldn't get to the McAfee site, either, and clicking on Google links to anti-virus related sites were often redirected. Eventually it dawned on me these were all probably signs of a virus.

This was supposed to be my week "off." I thought I'd finally have time to attack various things on my list that never get done, and start working on my capstone project for this semester. Instead, with classes starting in only three days, my list is virtually untouched and I'm feeling way behind where I wanted to be with the project. Instead of working on those things I lost two days of my life to a computer: Not sitting in front of it getting work done like I'd planned, but attempting to deal with the first computer virus of my computing life. (Since my dad worked with computers we had computers in our house way before it was fashionable to do so. I've been around home computers for a LONG time.) Suffice it to say I was completely unsuccessful in my attempt, other than last I checked the computer still booted. (This is a good thing.)

Thanks to being a student I can take the computer to my school's IT department and let them try to fix it, which will most likely mean wiping the drive, reinstalling the operating system and starting from scratch. The computer has been through a lot in the seven-and-a-half years I've owned it so a good wiping probably isn't a bad idea. Eventually we'll replace the desktop computer with something newer, but at least this will allow us to put it off a little longer.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I always miss California the most on January 1st. I grew up watching the Rose Parade on TV, and when I lived closer to Pasadena I sometimes heard the Stealth Bomber fly over my house on its way back to base. I still watch the parade on TV, but it's just not the same as being in California (even though I never had any desire to actually go to the parade myself). Now I just look at the mountains in the background—"my mountains," as I call them (otherwise known as the San Gabriel Mountains)— and enjoy the scenery from afar.

I've never been much of one for New Year's resolutions. I've always figured if there's something I want (or don't want) to do I should just resolve to do it, with or without a change in the calendar. Sometimes it seems like making New Year's resolutions is a recipe for failure from the beginning: There's so much hype and pressure around the very concept it's hard to live up to expectations. I don't know what the average for keeping New Year's resolutions is (two weeks? three?), but I know I never managed to keep them for very long. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to eat better and exercise more as much as the next person, but I just don't feel the need to resolve to do so on New Year's Day.

There is one resolution, however, that I will say today, and it's something I'll probably start talking a lot more about next summer. I'm currently on track to graduate with my M.S. in Technical Communication in December, 2010. My 2010 New Year's resolution is I'd like to have a job lined up by New Year's 2011. Not quite a resolution that I have complete control over, but definitely something I'll be working toward during the second half of the year.