Saturday, January 30, 2010


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:


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.