Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Computer Breakdown

Remember this top photo? I posted it on the blog on November 18th. After I had finished editing it in Photoshop, I quit the program and opened up my Firefox browser to create the blog post. The browser was open to my Facebook page, and this is how the page looked.
I  should have known something was really not right with my computer. Somehow the photo and the browser combined to make this bizarre image. I took a screenshot of it and posted it on Facebook. Computers don't act like this when they are well and functioning happily. I dismissed it as a strange computer glitch and expected/hoped/wished it would be okay. I tried not to think any more about it. Between November 18th, when I took that top photo and December 10th, when my computer died, I noticed some crazy stuff going on. My browser never quite shut down without a "force quit." I got the Macintosh "spinning ball of death" many, many times a day. I often had to do a hard shut down because the computer literally stopped functioning. Then, on December 10th, after my zillionth time restarting it, the computer would not restart. We took it to the local MAC repair shop, and after a few days they notified me that they had to replace the hard drive and the operating system. A new hard drive meant that I had to reinstall my files from my external backup. I had done my last backup on November 30th. So, the only photos that survived between then and December 10th were the ones I had posted on the blog and Facebook.
I had taken several photos of this Townsend Warbler on December 6th, but this is the only one I posted on Facebook. I was so glad to see it. The really interesting thing is that without this visual reminder I wouldn't have even remembered what was missing from my iPhoto files.

 Like, this beautiful sunset of December 3rd. What a sight. I had taken about fifteen or twenty shots of the sun going down on this evening. This is all that's left.

After the computer was repaired and I had reinstalled all my files from backup, I tried to do some system updates when I got this message.

Oh I was not happy to see this. Back to the MAC repair shop it went. So, for about a week I used our old PC, learning the ways of that world. Then, on Tuesday the 16th, the repair folks called to say that they had done all updates and run hardware diagnostics. "Everything is fine, Robin," they said. Everything.

I now have my mac back, but I am wary. Weary and wary.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


our dehumidfier arrived right on time. it's really a kind of air conditioner or refrigerator. there is a cold coil, as there is inside a refrigerator, and a hot coil, as there was on the outside of older refrigerators, to dissipate the heat removed from the cold coil. the dehumidifier sucks in room air through the cold coil. water condenses on it and drips into a tank. the air then goes through the warm coil and back into the room at close to the temp it entered the machine.

the tank in the machine holds 30 pints of water. the machine shuts itself off if the tanks fills. i have emptied the tank at half full 5 times. 5 times 15 pints = 65 pints = 30.5 quarts = 7.625 gallons!!! that's in four days.

the ritual pouring out of the water

the air in our bedroom is down to 55% relative humidity. three other rooms are under 50%. neither robin nor i have ever had a dehumidifier. where does all this water come from?

Friday, December 12, 2014


it seems that complaints about high humidity are usually about warm places. steamy tropical jungles. new jersey in summer. hawaii. here in humboldt county the air is quite damp. at 12:30 pm december 11 the relative humidity was 82%, and it wasn’t raining. we live in a house that was built at least 55 years ago. no insulation. even the newer double pane windows get condensation.

there is a gas-fired wall heater that keeps the house warm enough. except for the room where we sleep, an addition down a long hall from the heater. we fixed that fairly well with a fan on the floor sucking low, cold air from our room, causing the higher warm air close to the furnace flow back into our room. so we went along for a month into colder, wetter weather keeping warm using the fan to evaporate any visible condensation, thinking we were keeping ahead of the damp.

well, there was the discovery that my only leather shoes, in a closet next to an exterior wall, had some green mold. hmmmmm. i moved them out of the closet and now we leave the door open.

but the damp is like rust: it never sleeps. it just creeps on in.

we keep a printer, a file cabinet, and a modem/router in a spare bedroom. we call it the office. there is a stapler, tape, printer paper, envelopes, and a stack of unfiled papers. robin went to get an envelope and found that all of them in the box were sealed shut. and the printer paper felt damp.

we wanted to know how humid is it in our house. we resorted to science. i recalled the drybulb/wetbulb method of determining relative humidity. we only have one thermometer so i recorded the dry temp (22 C) and then wrapped the thermometer in a wet sock and set it in front of a fan. after a decent interval i recorded the wet temp(18 C). a check with a handy weather calculator in the intertubes gave us a relative humidity of 68%. a bit of research indicated that a healthy level of humidity in a house would be below 50%, maybe best at 35%. we are all wet.

                  dry bulb                                        wet bulb
we decided that we needed a dehumidifier. we ordered one. it arrived. will report.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When It Rains

California is expecting a huge storm over the next 48 hours. It is predicted to be serious and damaging, the biggest to hit the state in years.

Here are few images from the National Weather Service and local newspapers to give you an idea of what the online reporting and warnings looks like.

This is a weather map of northern California from the NWS. Here on the north coast we're expecting high surf and high winds. We're going to get rain, but not as much as the bay area, Sacramento Valley, and the Sierra foothills.
The San Francisco Chronicle had this photo and headline on their front page. When it rains in California after years of drought, there is much to plan for: flooding, trees falling, mudslides, and power outages. A big storm like this would have scared us if we were still living in the foothills, where they are expecting five inches of rain. We're feeling relatively safe here in our little town, pretty far from possible floods and falling trees.
This lovely photo and headline is from the Sacramento Bee. I grabbed it because I really liked the artistry of it!  The LA Times reported, "The winter storm also has an "atmospheric river" which can be up to 400 miles wide, move with weather and can cause major flooding when it stalls over an area... The weather service describes atmospheric rivers as relatively narrow regions in the atmosphere responsible for transporting water vapor horizontally outside the tropics." I read on Wikipedia that an atmospheric river can carry a greater influx of water than the Amazon River.

I'm sure you'll hear about this on the news and read about it in your local newspapers. California is about to be slammed by a huge storm, and unlike an earthquake, we are being forewarned. I think we're ready. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Meet Our New Car

We had been talking about giving our 2005 Subaru to Roger's daughter Indigo (mom to baby Luna). So, the other day we decided to drive over to the local Toyota dealership and look at the brand new line of the 2015 Prius. We specifically went to look and not buy. Didn't want to rush into anything, but did plan to come back and buy one.

The very nice salesman showed us the three Prius models available right now. They all look pretty much the same, just with different degrees of high-end computer gobbledygook to really confuse the otherwise computer literate buyer. So, we took one car out for a drive. It drove very well, just like a regular car. Zoom zoom zoom, we went. The very nice salesman didn't try to hard-sell us and talk us into buying a car right then and there. He wrote down the numbers of how much we would spend to buy the car we had just driven. We told him we wanted to go home and think about it. And that's what we did.

The next morning we went back in to buy the car. It took a little longer than we had expected. We had to talk to someone who took our money and then tried to sell us every bit of high end insurance we could ever want or need. We had just bought a brand new car that the salesman had been raving about, and the subtext of the conversation we were having with the person was: CARS BREAK. CARS BREAK. CARS BREAK. BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID.

We were very calm. We said. No, thank you. Please can we go home now?

New cars are seriously in a whole new world. No key to unlock the door. No ignition switch. The speedometer, gas gauge, car temp, dashboard are all electronic. The information lights up and tells you a story all the time. Then, there's the steering wheel with gadgets and buttons so that  the driver can communicate with the car without his/her hands ever leaving the wheel. The car connects to our cell phone via bluetooth. We hardly connect to our cell phone at all. We are primitive people. It's a scary beast this new car. It doesn't turn on unless you do everything in the right order. Seriously. If you hit the Power button before you hold down the brake, nothing happens. Red lights blink at you furiously from the digital dashboard. It might as well be screaming, "Hey dummy you're not doing that right. Start over." I may need a cheat sheet for a while to keep the order of things at hand.

We did learn that we're supposed to drive the first 500 miles at varying speeds to "break the car in." I don't think we've put 500 miles on our old Subaru since we moved here to Arcata. This is a new effort for us, driving around town. We're giving it our best shot. That's why we drove 20 miles up the coast to Trinidad and back. The reward for our efforts was this spectacular ocean and sky all along the way.