Saturday, June 22, 2013

Traveling Again

Well my dear readers, that time of travel has finally come around again. I will be starting my master's degree at a university in the UK in September, but until that time Bo and I will be traveling in Serbia and Albania. I leave on Tuesday, so be alert for updates.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

adventures with my computer

My laptop is 5 years old. It's been holding up pretty well, and I'm very fond of it - not to mention I don't really feel like spending lots of money on a new one right now. So, when the airport started having problems, I was concerned. Very concerned. I looked on mac forums for a quick fix. I found a whole lot of people with the same problem and no sign of relief. I tried all the little things anyway, just in case, but to no avail. So I did something drastic - I switched my operating system to Linux. Those who know me can tell you I'm not particularly computer savvy, so I'm on a steep learning curve with my Ubuntu desktop. But! It seemed to be working! My airport hadn't randomly cut out for days! I had solved the problem!

Nope, not so much. This made me face the hard reality that my problem was not with software, but hardware.

Since I'm in England, and far away from any Mac store or Genius Bar, not to mention the age of my laptop puts it well past any warranty date, I had to find another solution.

So I decided to take it apart to see what was going on. It seemed like it wouldn't be that big a deal. Pull out the battery, peek inside. But to reach the airport card, I had to go a bit further. Well, a lot further. Next thing I know I'm carefully inspecting a teardown manual online (this would have been impossible without access to another computer and the internet), and triumphantly pulling out the set of tiny screwdrivers I bought in Japan Town in San Francisco, knowing, of course, that they would be well worth the $1.50 blanket price tag for every item in the store.

So I took it apart. Really, really apart. 

I pulled out the airport card, blew on it, and put it back. Snugly. I inspected the wires leading to the airport antenna hidden in the screen. I found a little kink. So I ordered a replacement antenna online, and spent two days casting nervous glances at the table full of tiny screws and fragile computer bits, just waiting to be knocked over or spilled on or otherwise destroyed. Fortunately, none of that happened.

When the mailman came yesterday, I nervously got to work. It's one thing to take all the pieces apart without visibly breaking one, it's quite another to put it back together so that it still works. There were some stumbles. There was a bit of cosmetic damage. At one point I accidentally stabbed the motherboard with my tiny screwdriver. But, in the end... I did it!

Not only does it look basically like it did before, it turns on! And the internet works! I'm writing these words on it right now! I had a (large) glass of celebratory wine and pondered the two tiny screws that somehow failed to make it back in and the now very mangled antenna that had (hopefully) been causing the problem the whole time. Thank you middle-school shop class.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

an ironically foul day

A few weeks ago, Bo and I woke up to some really miserable weather. While bad weather is kind of par for the course here, this day was particularly horrible .

Standing in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil the water for the tea, I was staring out the window with my face all scrunched up (to convey to the weather exactly how I felt about it) when Bo commented that the weather was really grim. Then his face lit up with a massive smile, and he said "actually, the weather is foul, isn't it? I've just had an idea."

So it was we decided to take a day trip to Foulness Island, and revel in all the horrible aspects of the day. I decided it would be an ironically foul day, so I wore a pair of 3D movie glasses with the lenses popped out and called them my hipster glasses.

We looked at the map and took off into the foggy rain, stopping along the way for an absolutely terrible cup of coffee.

We got lost. We wandered around through Southend-on-sea looking for signs to Shoeburyness, then got trapped in the loopy maze of a drizzle-shrouded housing development before finally breaking free and reaching Greater Wacking. Look at google maps, I'm not making these names up. Finally, propped up ominously in front of a cemetery, we saw the sign for Foulness.

It was like being in a horror movie. We drove slowly down the horribly-maintained road, passing houses barely visible in the mist, and a tattered flag writhing balefully in the wind. Finally, we reached the island. A military defence research and development base. But the gate was open and the signs indicated that while we weren't allowed to take pictures (oops) or use firearms, we could actually proceed. A ways down the road, a pair of pheasants stood squarely in the way.

"Do you think they're warning us?" We agreed on the ominous portent of the pheasants, especially when they refused to move out of the road. The island must have been so horrible they were resorting to suicide. Better than becoming dinner for a radiation-mutated deranged killer! Or being used as target practice by suspicious robotic military technology! Yeah, we were going to town with the horror movie suspicions.

Really, can you blame us?

On the way back we stopped at the shabby, run-down sea-side arcade boardwalk of Southend-on-sea, with a funpark and lots of colorful tiny beach huts (because, I assume, one needs a nice warm little place to have a cup of tea when coming to the tiny, pebbly, cold beach). At that point the clouds had let up enough to let the descending sun peek through a bit.


Looking at this view while eating fish and chips in the car and licking ketchup off your fingers... well, it was pretty much a perfect end to the day. A deliciously, beautifully foul day.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Radio! Radio was a great invention. I'm only just starting to appreciate how wonderful it really is - especially here. BBC does several radio stations with no commercials, which is akin to heaven in my opinion. We have the radio on basically all the time. We are awoken by it in the morning (very loudly, I might add - my first morning here it scared me senseless, I almost fell out of the bed), we leave it on whenever we happen to be around it (which is most of the time) and we make a special effort to be next to it when a particularly sounding special is going to be on.
We like channel 6, which "brings together the cutting edge music of today and the iconic and groundbreaking music of the past 40 years" according their website. I guess that's as good a description as any. One of the DJs says that he tries to play music people like, and if you don't like what's on just wait for the next song. The sheer variety they play is mind-boggling (although there are a handful they play ad nauseam, like any radio station worth it's salt), and the specials they do are entertaining and wacky. One Sunday they did a show about casette tapes, and on Christmas night they did a dinner-themed show, which was thorough to the point of being organized by courses. One song was all about onions. I have no idea where they get this stuff, but it's pretty amazing. 
Oh, and a little side note for everyone - when I say "we", I am referring to myself and my beau, who I am currently living with. I haven't done much with the codenames lately, but here's another one - he will be dubbed Bo.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

English gardens

Have you ever seen the movie Greenfingers? It's a pretty good one, especially if you like Clive Owen and/or Helen Mirren. It's set in England and features a lot of gardening. I have rapidly come to the conclusion that this is representational of how the English feel about gardening. If you haven't seen the movie, I'll fill you in a little: they love it.

There are garden stores everywhere. Massive ones, tiny ones, even ones with attached stonecutters for fountains and pond installers with huge koi fish swimming around and big heavy machinery you can rent. Why do I know this? Well, when the weather is nice, a garden store is a great place to stroll around. Particularly if you're holding hands and being all lovey-dovey. Oh, and did I mention they all have cafes attached? All of them. Every single one. And some even have drip coffee! The last one, which had the drip coffee, also had massive portions of baked goods, including a particularly tempting bread pudding the size of a brick.

I have also observed an abundance of greenhouses in backyards. They're lovely little things, about the size of the self-assebled garden sheds you see sometimes in the parking lot of Home Depot. We have one here, although it's been abandoned for quite a few years now. I really like them, and there are so many that it seems they've just popped up out of the ground. I suppose they're particularly useful given the combination of local climate and inclination for growing things, but I think they're just beautiful as well, especially when glimpsed behind hedges and across fields while driving along the little windy roads.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The sky is falling! Oh wait, that was just a tree.

The other day it got really windy and nasty out. Kind of like a blizzard, but with rain instead of snow. It was one of those days that makes you glad to be warm and cozy inside and thankful to have a warm cozy inside to be in.

The next morning, we got a phone call. Turns out a tree in the back yard was damaged by the wind. A massive branch snapped mostly off a big cedar pine and hit the branch of another tree on the way down, breaking it too, and ending up in a big tangled heap over the fence and in a farmer's field. Thankfully it didn't hit a house or person or anything particularly damageable, but it seems like the neighbor (who may or may not actually have anything to do with this field besides also living beside it) took it personally and was very insistent it be taken care of immediately. So today I learned when not to ask about neighborly tiffs, and that sawing through a tree trunk is a lot more difficult to actually do than to watch being done while standing around trying to look helpful. Shocking, I know.

I also made friends with a dog who was just loving the abundance of branches being thrown around. He picked up the end of a particularly long and muddy one and tried to convince me to play with him by winding slowly around my legs like a cat. This had the side effect of smearing my jeans very thoroughly with mud. Had it been butter, I would be convinced the dog was preparing to eat me.

Once all the branches were sawed through and heaped into a massive pile (that would have made a highly dangerous but incredibly impressive bonfire), I observed the muddy, churned up section of the field. Impossibly, beautifully, it still had little spears of bright, beautiful green poking up from the mucky sludge. I find it extraordinary that such a delicate little bit of life is able to survive a storm that blows down half a tree taller than a house, a storm that would possibly have killed me if I had stood out in it all night and all day.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Follow me by email!

A little logistic side-note: my blog has a new feature! You can now follow me via email! Just enter your address in the little box on the right hand side of the page, and every time I post something new it will show up in your inbox.