Becoming my own computer expert

February 21, 2014
I recently recovered from a computer meltdown. It started with one of those enigmatic error screens that could mean a hundred different things. After trying a few options, I conceded defeat and visited my local PC repair shop. I was convinced it was just a faulty connection somewhere, but the diagnosis came back: failed hard drive. Again.

Having already spent quite a bit of money to replace the hard drive and retrieve my data only a year before, this time I decided to fix it myself. And yes, I also resolved to back up more regularly so that I wouldn't have to deal with the data retrieval issue again in future.

It had been a while since I fossicked in the innards of a PC, but it was a lot like riding a bike and I picked it up again fairly quickly. I purchased an external hard drive enclosure, inserted my failed hard drive, and attempted to retrieve the data via my netbook. No luck. It caused Windows to freeze completely. Reluctantly, I sought professional help once more, but the same thing happened to them and they said they couldn't help. They did, however, give me a brochure for a data recovery firm that could retrieve my data. For $600-$700. Minimum.

Righto. My resolve was strengthened. I Googled for alternatives, and hit upon a possible solution. Using an external DVD-RW drive with my netbook, I burnt an Ubuntu boot disk for my very first foray into Linux territory! And it worked like a charm :) By reinstalling my old hard drive in the PC and booting up with Ubuntu, I was able to retrieve 99.9% of my files and transfer them to an external hard drive. I was over the moon!

Now I just had to buy a new hard drive, reinstall Windows, transfer my data across, and reinstall my software. There were a few more hiccups along the way (mostly involving Microsoft), but I think I've bored you enough by now. Suffice it to say, I got there in the end with the help of Google and my trusty screwdriver. I even installed an extra DVD drive while I was at it :)

It was great to get back on the bike again and solve technical issues under my own steam. It's easy to convince yourself that it's all too complicated, but it's really not - and there's so much help and support available online, with instructional videos and step-by-step walkthroughs. I felt such a sense of achievement when I'd finally got everything sorted out (and saved a lot of money).

Oh, and I liked Ubuntu :) My netbook still runs on Windows XP, which is no longer going to be supported from April 2014, so my next project will be to switch the netbook to entirely open source OS and software. I'm looking forward to it!

Photo credit to Thomas Hawk.


On being quiet

January 29, 2014
Long time, no blog.

We arrived back in Melbourne in July last year (gosh, 'last year' makes it sound so long ago!) after an amazing holiday in the Kimberley. We're now back in our own lovely home, and have enjoyed settling back in to the house and working in our garden. Melbourne's predictably unpredictable weather is certainly a change that takes some getting used to, but it's nice not to be hot all the time (although it's very hot some of the time!).

I've been on a hiatus from work, taking some much needed time off to look after myself and get my home, heart and health back in order. Unfortunately it hasn't been quite as rejuvenating as I had hoped - some pressing family issues have been keeping me busy, and keeping my stress levels elevated whether I like it or not.

And I haven't blogged. In fact, things have been pretty quiet on the whole social media front lately - tweeting, posting photos, etc. It's funny, I thought I would be blogging my boots off during this time off work. Instead, I found that I didn't really feel like talking to anyone ...

It's not just social media either. Apart from a small number of occasions I haven't really socialised, or caught up with friends. I've been spending a *lot* of time with my family, and just haven't had much energy left over to pursue social activities. I guess my inner introvert took over to help me deal with it all!

I occasionally flogged myself for not being more 'out there', but to be honest I preferred the quiet. The solitude. The keeping of my thoughts to myself (especially the not-so-happy ones). So I decided to stop feeling guilty about not being online much, and just accept it for what it was. Quiet time.

But that was then, and this is now :) 2014 is a new year. The stresses are never going to go away, and I'm accepting that and moving on. It's time to rejoin the wonderful world!

I've polished up my resume and put myself back on the job market. I'm going to Library Camp and a conference-related tweetup next week, and I'm really looking forward to catching up with my friends and colleagues in the library world, as well as re-engaging in professional issues. I've joined the local gym, and am putting my health back at the top of my priority list. I'm also doing some major decluttering at home, and am implementing the Getting Things Done system in my home office. And I'm itching to put some dedicated time aside for creative activities each week.

It's good to be back :)

P.S. Photos of our Kimberley trip can be viewed in this Flickr set. I kept a travel diary throughout, and hope to use some of my scribblings in future blog posts.


On the road again

May 30, 2013
Well, we are on the move once more! This is a short post for a lot of news, but time is limited so here goes ...

Just after Easter, I submitted my resignation at the university I've worked at for the last 3 years. It was both a hard and easy decision. Hard because I loved my job and the team I worked with. Easy because I miss my family, and as time went on I struggled more and more with the Darwin climate.

It's both a happy and sad day today

So we're returning to Melbourne (again). My last day at work was a couple of weeks ago, and since then we have been busy packing, planning, and doing some of our favourite things around Darwin while we still can. I'd love to write more about our decision and everything leading up to it (and following on from it) ... but the computer is about to get packed, so it will have to wait!

Before we go home, Tim and I are taking advantage of the beginning of the dry season to do some travel. There's a road trip we've long wanted to make, and now we have the perfect opportunity - we're going to drive across the Kimberley to Broome in Western Australia! We'll be visiting Katherine, Kununurra, Wyndham, the Gibb River Road, Derby, Halls Creek - with lots of fantastic sights along the way that I'm really looking forward to! We'll be camping, which means we've been doing lots of preparation, planning and packing to get ready for the trip.

We expect to return to Darwin in 4-6 weeks time, hopefully with a few days in Kakadu National Park on the return trip. We'll catch up with friends in Darwin, collect our cat Roxy, and then head south. We don't have any dates set in stone, but will probably be back in Melbourne in mid-July.

I won't have much internet access for the next month or so, which means my communication will be fairly sporadic and mostly through Twitter, as well as photos on Flickr if I can manage it. Unfortunately I won't be able to blog every day in June this year! But I have heaps and heaps of blog posts and photos waiting to polished and published (with a few more to come from our Kimberley trip), so once I'm online again I promise I'll make up for it :)

Mindil Beach sunset market

Nightcliff jetty

April 7, 2013
Last weekend (the Easter long weekend) marked the end of the busiest time of year for a liaison librarian in an academic library. The beginning of first semester is incredibly busy, with heaps of classes to plan, prepare and deliver - as well as an orientation program to run, lecturers to assist with unit readings, and of course lots and lots of students needing help.

So it was lovely to have a few days off to relax and enjoy myself, for what felt like the first time in months!

On Saturday afternoon we went for a drive (so nice to be going somewhere other than work or the supermarket!) around Rapid Creek and Nightcliff. We stopped for a while at Nightcliff jetty and watched a rather dramatic stormfront in the distance. It was also a very high tide while we were there, and watching the unusually choppy waves crashing into the cliffs was quite breathtaking. The sun began to set while we were there - mostly obscured by the storm clouds, but there was a hint of pink to show us what we were missing.

Nightcliff jetty

Nightcliff jetty at high tide

Nightcliff breakwater at high tide

Nightcliff at high tide

After the sun went down, we headed down the road for a drink at the Beachfront Hotel. The weather has been so hot and humid this season that we hadn't been to an outdoor venue in ages - the breeze coming off the stormfront made it quite pleasant though.

Over the next couple of days I spent some time sorting through old photos, and found a bunch of pictures I'd taken at Nightcliff jetty in the dry season that I hadn't uploaded yet. I've now added them to my Flickr account and have included a few here too, to show the difference between seasons (as well as at different tide levels).

Nightcliff jetty

Nightcliff boat ramp at low tide

Nightcliff at low tide

Nightcliff sunset over the jetty



February 3, 2013
Tim recently complained about me steaming up the bathroom with my hot shower. Fair enough too - the last thing you want in this humidity is to have more steaminess added on top of it. Except I hadn't had a hot shower. I'd had a cold shower. Just like I have every day for the last 2 or 3 months (though the cold water is never really cold at this time of year). Darwin is a very hot and humid place right now.

This wet season has been disappointing - not very wet at all. We've had one really lovely weekend of monsoonal rain ... and that's it. The last I heard, we're not expecting any more serious rain until late February. There's a few showers scattered about, and plenty of teasing thunder. But I am aching for it to rain!

Tropical downpours are the *best* part of the wet season! After so many dry months, it's wonderful to have a change in the weather - the frogs come out, plants grow crazily, everything becomes lush and green. Most importantly, the rain provides temporary relief from the neverending humidity that starts in October and doesn't go away until April. And when you're sitting inside with the aircon on watching it rain, you can even kid yourself it's cool outside :)

Ah well. Here are a few photos of some of the nicer aspects of the wet season, including a rare spot of rain ...

Clouds at sunset

Frog on the wall

A storm!

It's raining, it's pouring

Roxy is having second thoughts about her decision to go out onto the balcony in the rain

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2013
Happy New Year!

Another year begins, and I'm hoping that 2013 will be a good one! 2012 was a challenging year in many respects, but of course there were plenty of highs to balance out the lows. Mostly it just felt really busy - moving interstate (again!), lots of visitors, lots of work. The year seemed to pass in a flash.

My blogging frequency dropped off a cliff after the #blogeverydayofjune challenge, as per usual. My PC was out of action for much of the year, and I don't really enjoy blogging with my netbook's small screen and keyboard. I wonder if I would blog more if my website provider had a mobile publishing app ... I often lack the energy to turn on a computer at the end of a working day, but I find I now use my mobile phone to do a lot of the activities that I used to do on a PC (eg. tweeting, emailing, uploading photos, reading news, watching videos). I also tried to spend more time doing "offline" activities in 2012 - especially reading novels, crafting, and getting out and about during my downtime.

I'm in Melbourne at the moment, having a rare day off amongst a busy schedule of visiting family and friends. I've managed to catch up with some of my favourite places too - parks, shops, and restaurants :) We'll be back in Darwin next week, but hopefully we'll be returning to a wet season with some real rain to provide a bit of much needed relief from the humidity. The build up seemed extra long this time around, with very little rainfall in the last few months.

I hope that my readers can also look back at the past year with fondness and/or perspective, and I wish you all the very best for a successful, happy and healthy 2013!

Talk soon :)


Territory Day (aka cracker night)

July 2, 2012
The 1st of July is Territory Day - the only day of the year when any man and his dog can buy fireworks and set them off to their hearts' content. Which is why it's also known here as cracker night.

There's a big official fireworks display from Mindil beach, but the main event is really happening all over Darwin (and the rest of the Northern Territory too). Pay packets are blown on pyrotechnics, and the sky is filled with bright lights and the smell of gunpowder.

We went along to Fannie Bay, where we could see the Mindil beach display as well as the fireworks that were going off at East Point and all along the coastline in between. We arrived in time to see a beautiful sunset too.

Sunset and fireworks on Territory Day

I took a short video of the amateur fireworks along the beach. They're not as spectacular as the professional fireworks, but it gives an indication of the enthusiasm shown on the night! I've also included here an audio capture of the crackers that were going off nearby :)


Tour time! (30 June)

June 30, 2012
Yes, it's that time of year again. Late nights watching bicycle wheels turn, close-ups of exhausted faces, tension-filled race finishes and lots of beautiful French scenery too. It's the Tour de France :)

My own race preparations have included:
Vive le Tour!


A friendly hermit crab (30 June)

June 30, 2012
On a recent visit to East Point Reserve, I picked up a pretty shell and got quite a shock when this little fellow crawled out to say hello!

A hermit crab says hello :)

Tim is much braver than I am around creepy crawlies, so the photo is of his hand of course. It was quite fascinating to watch the hermit crab pop in and out of its shell, and explore Tim's hand freely. I filmed a short video of it, which I've uploaded so that you can watch it too :)


The problem with pom poms (28 June)

June 28, 2012
A Christmassy/crafty post in June - why not? ;)

Each year for the last few years I've made little ornaments for my sisters' Christmas trees. Photos of some of my previous efforts are on Flickr HERE. For Christmas last year I didn't have much time to put something together, so I decided to make something I'd been wanting to try my hand at for a while - pom poms! It sounded so simple :)

I soon learned that there are a few important things to take into consideration when making yarn pom poms. The process was very much a case of trial and error, and fixing up mistakes was not much fun. I used Clover pom pom makers, which I thought would make it a breeze. It was probably much easier than using a cardboard template, but wasn't idiot-proof by any stretch of the imagination!

The first lesson I learnt was to use lots and lots of yarn! And when you think you couldn't possibly add any more - add some more. Secondly, it's important to choose the right thread/yarn for tying the pom pom off. For large pom poms, I imagine it would be fine to use the same yarn that the pom pom is made from. But for small pom poms like the ones I made, a finer thread was required, otherwise it would look split in half. I ended up using a fine metallic embroidery thread. Finally, the right knot is key. A double knot just won't work, as you can't keep the first knot tight enough while tying the second. I had to learn to do a slip knot for this.

Once I'd figured all this out, it was pretty easy from there on in. The finished pom poms just needed a little trimming to neaten them up, and then they were all ready for the Christmas tree. Except that then I came down with the flu and was quarantined for Christmas :( But my family got their pom poms eventually!

Christmas pom poms

It turned out pom poms had another tricky aspect - photographing them. They're really hard to get the camera to focus on them properly!!

P.S. Yes, the title of this blog post is a poor attempt at a Star Trek pun ;)

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