14. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

This week I put away the “kitchen laptop” once and for all.  We got our weather webcam working again with Dave’s old PC laptop that had been sitting in our front office unused since we moved here.

With no kitchen laptop to occupy my time reformatting and partitioning, I’ve taken on a new hopeless project.  Wasn’t sure whether to call it my Waterloo or my Achilles’ heel or what, but it’s effectively taken the place of the kitchen laptop.

I’ve talked about the small pond in front my rental house before.  It’s pretty, and the cascading fountain is really really cool.  Most of the time my involvement with the pond isn’t the greatest.

The hose in the background is connected to our well pump, thus making it easy (and free-of-charge) to refill the pond with non-chlorinated water.

It’s too small.  I’m going to guess the homeowner doesn’t read this blog so I’ll just be honest here and declare that it’s almost inhumane to have tried to keep 4 large koi in that small space.  I’d guess it’s about 55-60 gallons.  Not enough for large goldfish.

I’ve been keeping notes of my “pond issues”.

  • At first there was a lot of splashing out of those cascading trays and when the sprinklers weren’t running in the winter, I had to manually refill the pond almost daily.  I recently rearranged the trays and virtually eliminated this problem.
  • The hose that runs up the center of the fountain often slips and without warning the water isn’t cascading down the trays.  I have to remove one of the trays to access the hose and thread it back up the center of the fountain.  Darned gravity!
  • As I had written about this past spring, I had killed all 4 of the original koi that were with the house when we moved here in December.  So I had replaced those koi with 3 smaller ones.  The day we left on vacation we had thunderstorms and the outdoor electrical circuit that includes the pond pump shorted out.  Within 24 hours, those new koi were dead.
  • The algae!!!  Once the weather started warming up the amounts of algae have been very difficult to control.  The pond is too small for a UV filter, which probably would solve all of our problems, so I’m trying humane methods to control the algae: barley straw packets and manual water changes.
  • There is a frog that lives in or near the pond.  He’s really loud.  My neighbors send me Facebook wall posts, he’s so loud.
  • Or shall I say…”She?”

Meet Mr. Tadpole, one of about a dozen living in the pond now!  Perhaps this picture is difficult to see?  I brought 3 of the tadpoles into the house to show to the boys.

So I now have 3 tadpoles in the kitchen swimming in a Pyrex glass and I’m not sure what to do with them.  I’m considering setting up a small habitat and seeing if we can see the development over the next few weeks…a cool summer science project, right?  After all, I’m the ant-farming, vermicomposting Mom, right?

Also, to replace the koi that died during our vacation, I bought 8 feeder goldfish from our local Wal-mart.  At 38 cents a piece, I’ve officially thrown in the towel on making large investments in this pond.

I tried to get pictures of the new little goldfish trucking around the pond, but the water is so incredibly murky from the algae, it’s been near impossible:

Do you trust me when I say there’s a goldfish in there?

Wish me luck!

26. April 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

The webcam on my HBTS Rexford St. Weather Underground setup is dead.

I don’t think it’s the webcam itself, it’s most likely the laptop that was hosting the webcam.  That dastardly “kitchen laptop” that I’ve kept alive all. these. years.

Anyhoo, since the screen on the laptop isn’t working, I have to plug it into our TV with a VGA cable to see what it’s up to.  For all I know, it’s probably some update to the software that I need to download or something like that.

I’ll check it out later this week — I’ve a bunch of odds and ends to tend to.  New license plate for the Prius (switching from Nebraska back to Florida), squaring away our Family Care Plan, and finally squaring away our claims from our move.

In the meantime, I’ve removed the blankness on the tag to the right so conserve a little space.

03. January 2011 · Comments Off on Webcam is Back! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

We haven’t completely worked out where we’re going to put it yet, but we have our webcam back running.

Like last time, we’re pointing it out the front of the house, through the window. It’s pointing SOUTH, so we should be able to see systems coming in from off the Gulf.

It won’t work at night.

Since our kitchen laptop’s monitor doesn’t work, we’re using a lot of trial and error on how to aim it. We might even have to zoom in some to get the our roof and our neighbors’ houses out of the view.

We’re considering an inexpensive “IP Camera” to replace this setup.  An IP Camera doesn’t need a supporting computer, just let it ride on your network, and you can make changes from any computer on the network.  Just type in the IP address (like how you could adjust settings on your wireless router).

23. February 2010 · Comments Off on RIP Kitchen Laptop, June 2000 – February 2010 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Okay, maybe I’m jumping the gun a little by considering it dead already since technically it’s still serving its purpose.

For those who had been following the adventures of my poor dilapidated Dell Inspiron 4100 “Kitchen Laptop” (yeah, I’m sure I’m so popular that you guys are following my laptop), yesterday was another step in the eventual death of a computer that I REFUSE TO LET DIE! After getting my Macbook in April 2009, the “Kitchen Laptop” (as it was fondly named when we got to NC in 2005), actually became the “Living Room Laptop” as it hosts our weather webcam pointing out our front living room window.

The screen stopped working. I had made a point to nix all screen savers/sleep/hibernate modes on this laptop a couple of rebuilds ago because of its inability to come out of sleep. Like it went into a coma, and the only way out was a cold restart. So when I walked past our laptop in the living room yesterday, I should have seen the webcam image fully across the screen. It’s the only non-critical software on the laptop now, in fact. A copy of “TinCam” runs in full screen with the image in real-time. Every minute, the current image is FTPed to Weather Underground for posting to our weather station’s website.

If you’re reading this via my Blogger page, that image is to your right. If you’re on Facebook, you can see the image here.

So I know the Kitchen Laptop is working. It’s sending out the webcam images. In fact, I’m sure if I hauled our desktop’s monitor over to the laptop, I could plug it in, hit “Function + F5” and see the screen just fine. I know what the problem is.

But I don’t feel like taking the time to continue to troubleshoot. I feel like a caretaker for a very old pet, or a very old human even. Once the computer, pet, person gets too old, is surgery going to really help the individual get better? Does the risk of surgery outweigh the benefits of the surgery?

Instead, I’m goin’ SHOPPING!

I’ve been interested in the new Dell Inspiron Zino for it’s stylish appearance and ability to customize to exactly what we want. I think this is what we’ll end up getting, thanks to Dell’s Military Employee Purchase Program. Free shipping and decent discounts on the Zino.

As for hosting our webcam, Dave’s 4.5-year-old Gateway laptop can do that. The hinge supporting the screen is broken, so one has to prop open the lid to do work on it, but it’s otherwise a good computer.

NOTE: I took some time the other night and was reading through my first blog posts from January 2008. Boy was I funny! And boy was the posting profuse! I need to do better than I have been. Perhaps I need more going on in my life than all this snow. Now that some of my blog posts are contributing to another website, I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for more weather items to post about. Another snowstorm coming up this weekend???

19. April 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

The kitchen laptop has officially been REPLACED!


I haven’t been this excited about computer stuff in a really long time — I’ve been looking forward to getting a new laptop for many months, and for once I was going to save up and get something I REALLY wanted.

After those months in the desert, getting kicked off the WiFi just because someone with a Macbook sits next to me got quite old.

So today I marched down to the Apple Store in West Omaha, took advantage of their “Personal Shopper” service and walked out of there with a Macbook of my very own!  It’s AMAZING!  It immediately hopped onto my WiFi (yes, after I gave it the security code) and I was surfing SO FAST!

A couple weeks ago Dave’s laptop ran into some troubles with the hinge that keeps the computer open, so he’s contemplating getting a Macbook of his own.  They’re offering a military discount, which made it even more appealing!  He’s taking a trip in a couple weeks so it’d be nice if he had a new computer to take along.

The Macbook I got was the most basic of the aluminum models (there’s a white model that costs less, but the aluminum seemed more durable), which has a special multi-function touch pad, it doesn’t work like a typical PC-laptop touch pad, you have to learn some new moves for scrolling and zooming in and out…much like what you can do with an iPhone.  It has a built-in webcam, which is nice, and when I plugged in my iPhone to it, it automatically synced with iCalendar, iPhotos, iTunes and my Address Book.  I didn’t have to do a thing!

Surfing the web has been like lightning, and even task-intensive sites like Facebook have been a breeze to navigate.  I haven’t had this easy a time with our PCs since we moved to Omaha.

So it case you hadn’t noticed, I’m pretty excited about this.

I’ll leave you with this silly picture of me, taken from the built-in webcam. You can see how happy I am:

04. April 2009 · 8 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Hello! No pictures for today, since I’m preparing to go to bed, but here’s quickie update for the gang!

1.) My replacement, Paul, is here. Yay! Paul showed up in great spirits and so far has been taking the firehose of information quite well.

2.) Paul arrived on Thursday night. About 12 hours prior was when I was notified to pack up and move out of my room, it was to be given to Paul upon his arrival. Great. Typically, one moves into a “transient tent”, which is fine when you have an outbound flight arranged. I didn’t have an outbound flight arranged at the time so our first sergeant said that if someone in a dorm was willing to take me in, I can share a room with someone. Enter Rose! I had stayed in Rose’s room in March when she was on vacation (she’s deployed here for MUCH longer than me!) and she took me in for the duration of my tour, bless her heart. Thanks Rose!

3.) I don’t know exactly when I’m coming home quite yet. Even if I did know when I was coming home, I wouldn’t publish it on the Internet, but I could at least say here “Yay! I know when I’m coming home!”. I will say that the suspense is killing us!

4.) Those computer batteries I had purchased my first week here, that provided me 8 hours of life back in February before requiring a charge, now gives me a whopping 45 minutes of untethered support when I’m trying to webcam with the family. But that’s okay, I’ve found several hidden outlet spots that I can take advantage of when I’m doing the webcam thing at 3-in-the-morning here…very few others online at the time. Besides, something strange happened to the WiFi here and my connections aren’t so hot as it is.

Just as well on the computer and the batteries — it’s literally going into the GARBAGE when I get home, so it only has another month-or-so to live. MacBook, here I come!

So as you can see, there are many signs out there that my time here is wrapping up, even if I don’t have a clear date for leaving. I’m homeless, my replacement is here and is being trained up, and I’m getting weekly e-mail notifications about what date my e-mail address here will be turned off! All good signs.

Besides my husband and kids (and Howie, who is recovering exceptionally from his surgery of 10 March), I think the thing I can’t wait to do is COOK!!! I’m breaking out the big guns when I get home, I think: chicken etouffee, beef bulgogi, homemade bread, hand-decorated cakes!

Time for bed!

19. January 2009 · Comments Off on Happy Place · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Greetings from a happy place! Today has been a good day. I got some 9 hours of sleep yesterday and the weather I help to forecast has finally calmed down from the ridculousness I experienced my first week here. After this blog post I plan to hit the gym for a nice long run on the treadmill (it’s dusty here so I’m not sure I want to be outside much longer).

Let me start with a little history. From my very first blog post, I’ve told stories of my “kitchen laptop”. This is the computer I have with me in the Middle East…it’s circa 2000, so I’ve no qualms if something bad happens to it, except for all the pictures I have saved to the hard drive. When I’m at home, I don’t even save things to this hard drive. It’s a “dummy” machine, merely for websurfing and until recently, it played host to our home weather station. It doesn’t even host the weather station anymore, since the computer here now here instead of at home.

Click Here for more adventures of the Kitchen Laptop.

I’m writing you this post from a table in the Bra NOWHERE NEAR AN OUTLET! These batteries are great! I’ve had the laptop unplugged for 55 minutes so far and only used 13% of the battery life.

I’d been running into keyboard problems lately and I figured out it was related to the keyboard being cold. So every time I power down the laptop, then turn it back on, it’d be about 10 minutes before the space bar, “v”, “b”, and “n” keys would respond to typing.

Over the weekend I was sitting outside early one morning with the computer — the temperatures were probably in the 40s — and for the entire time I had the computer powered up, I couldn’t get those four keys to work. The keyboard never warmed up.

At home, I’d keep this computer on all the time…and the keyboard usually would be there for me whenever I needed it.

So…now that I have working laptop batteries, I can keep the computer on all the time…all I have to do is unplug it and walk over to the Bra area for WiFi access. And my keyboard is here for me when I need it.

This is great! I love that I can blog freely whenever I’m off duty…and not wander around with my power cord for 5-10 minutes looking for someone to leave — like a car driving around a crowded mall parking lot waiting for someone to pull out of a parking space.

The signs with the red stop signs are warning not to plug in multi-outlet surge protector strips. This is at the BX WiFi hotspot, at the Bra WiFi hotspot (next to my dorm), people do that all the time. It’s discouraged, but not forbidden.

So I don’t have to be one of THESE people anymore!

From 2009 01 10 Southwest Asia

Coming soon: the combat omelette and other changes to my eating habits!

07. August 2008 · Comments Off on The Weather is BACK · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Check out the current conditions at our new house! We unpacked the “kitchen laptop” this morning and with the way our home network will be set up, the only thing the kitchen laptop will be used for is running the weather station.

You can click here and see how many weather stations there are in the neighborhood on the map on the right side of the page. The one on Chad St. is at the home of someone in Dave’s office.

08. May 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

The latest laptop trauma: I believe the fan has stopped working. Our weather station receiver that feeds the outdoor weather to our websites also has a local thermometer and while it used to read the ambient temperature pretty well next to my laptop, it’s now reading the mid-80s consistently.

Maybe that’s why it arbitrarily reboots itself every 24-30 hours or so…

We are really, truly coming to the end of this kitchen laptop’s service life. A few weeks ago, the one-year-old battery stopped carrying a charge. It keeps itself at about 5%, just enough for me to run across the house to plug it into a living room outlet.

But there’s a silver lining! When Dave is finished with his PhD program and he starts at his new position at Air Force Weather Agency, his Gateway laptop will stay home! Yay! Mine is circa 2000, his is from 2006! Just a couple more months to go…

It’s now sitting atop a small cookie/cake cooling rack. Let’s see if that helps.

25. March 2008 · Comments Off on It’s Been One of Those Days… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I’ve been sorta, well, SLOW today. Last evening at about 11:30pm, I received an e-mail from my friend Susan in Norfolk about her seeing news of one of our high school classmates getting killed in Afghanistan. So I did a little research and found out that our friend, William Jefferson, was an Air Force Combat Controller stationed at Pope AFB just south of here. The work he did for the Air Force was pretty high speed and among the most dangerous for Airmen. He was in Afghanistan when his vehicle was struck by an IED.

I was pretty upset at the news and didn’t sleep too well last night. Since I worked all day on Sunday cleaning the house, plus mowing the lawn and doing some landscaping, plus making a nice Easter dinner…I was pooped. But my mind was too busy to rest well.

So I’ve been very sluggish today. I helped Susan pass the word about Willie’s death to some of our other high school classmates, and I was able to get on the phone with the public affairs office at Pope AFB and found out about a memorial service scheduled on Wednesday morning. I think I’d like to go…I just need to arrange child care and reschedule a parent/teacher conference and I think I’ll be set.

Dave suggested dinner out for the family tonight, and while at dinner he mentioned that he didn’t think I’d take Willie’s death so hard, considering I’d NEVER mentioned him before. He’s right, I hadn’t. Willie wasn’t exactly a close friend, but we had many classes together during our 4 years of high school.

Upon reflection, last night I had realized that in the 6 1/2 years since we’d first invaded Afghanistan, and in the 5 years since we’d entered Iraq, TSgt Jefferson is the first combat death that’s struck a personal chord.

Also, my kitchen laptop died yet AGAIN. Another hard drive format, another reinstallation of Windows XP — which has to be followed by Service Pack 2, Wireless card adapter, IE 7.0, and an Anti-Virus. That’s just so I can hop back on here and write this to you. But it’s back up, by some miracle.

Early bedtime tonight! Stay tuned for updates on the ant farm (it’s still going strong!), getting the house “Staged” for going on the market in early May, and my struggles with Pez.