Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reduced my chicken load

The other day I went into the coop to collect egg (notice I didn't say 'eggs', because I only have one hen laying right now, so it's one egg every other day for us), and the stink just about knocked me over! Yuck! It occurred to me that 18 chickens in my 8 x 10 coop might be a bit much. It was ok when they were little, but the youngest chicks, Red's Six, was growing up fast. I had just put down a fresh layer of chips a week or so before, and it was already time for more. Plus they'd just eaten through another bag of pellets, and I am having enough trouble keeping ourselves fed - no need to be feeding all these extra chickens. Time to lighten the load!

I advertised the 6 chicks on the Portland Chicken List. I already got rid of the roos from this group, so I think all six were pullets, unless there was a slow-maturing roo hidden in there. Also those six were driving me nuts because, just like their mom, they were wanderers! They were never in the coop area, always out wandering around. So I figured when they did start laying I'd be going on easter egg hunts everyday looking for the eggs. So it was an easy choice to let them go, and the money could go towards buying some more pellets.

I got a response, and it was an older lady from a town in the far corner of our county. I made her a deal on the chicks, and we agreed to meet at a nearby store parking lot. She kept wanting to come to my house, but I didn't want that, my house is hard to find, and besides I would have to catch the chicks the night before anyway - so it's not like she could just drop by. Well, she canceled, and rescheduled, and rescheduled again, and I was getting the idea she was high-maintenance. And she wanted to pay with a check, which was ok if she was getting them that day, but after a week of trying to arrange a pickup, I just wanted cash so I could go buy some chicken food.

Finally we had arranged to meet Saturday morning at 10, so at 10 I was in the arranged spot, with six chicks in a box, listening to Car Talk on NPR. Time passed and eventually I realized it was 25 after, and she probably wasn't coming. Grrrrr. I called Dave and let him know. So we agreed to wait five more minutes and give up. A few minutes later, as I was driving home, he rung me back, and said the lady had called, and she was at another store, about 7 miles away, and thought we were supposed to meet there. Dave had told her I would come there, and although I didn't want to, I couldn't call her back because she didn't have a phone, she had borrowed someone else's phone to call.

So now I had to drive all the way to this other store, and when I got there she insisted she was at the right place. I know she wasn't, I never would have agree to meet 15 miles round-trip from home, that was a whole gallon of gas or more for my huge van. I didn't want to argue, I just wanted to be done. Either way she gave me the cash, and I gave her the chicks, and that was done with! And I went right to the feed store and got a few bags of layer pellet for the remaining girls. Then I went home and laid down more fresh chips, refilled the feed bin, and gave them all a treat of leftovers from the kitchen. Happy chickens!

So my current chicken-count is five young hens that haven't started laying yet, one buff girl who is laying, and four older hens (including Penny) who are not laying - I don't know if they are done laying forever or just taking a break. And two roos. That's 12 chickens! Last year I had 8 hens laying all summer and had more eggs than I knew what to do with. So this year even if only the new girls are laying, we should have plenty of eggs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Downtime caused by illness

Poor Dave had a cold this week, and spent much of the time laid out on the couch catching up on all the stuff he saved up on the DVR while he was away from home finishing up this play he was directing. Jack kept his feet warm.

Downtime caused by New Laptop!

I've been recovering from a big computer changeover. A friend heard about my sad old laptop and GAVE me a new one! Unbelievable! I've never had anyone do anything so kind and generous out of the blue like that. I am so grateful to him! But of course it takes a while to get everything moved over, learn to navigate Vista, and get all my accessories (like my wireless keyboard) working again - all things that turned productivity way down. But today I've finally got it all back together. I ca get pics off my camera again, and the keyboard/mouse is working (hard to get any serious work done on the laptop keyboard and touchpad). I LOVE my new laptop, a Dell 1545. It is fast and the screen is HUGE and it's been pretty easy to work with so far. I don't even have any complaints about Vista (it was free, who am I to complain?)

After copying all my data off the harddrive, the old laptop retired to the store, where it is getting used everyday. Nice to not have to drag a computer between home and work anymore.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hot Rod Laptop

My six year old Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop has been a faithful friend. Oh, we've had our ups and downs, but for the most part it has been a workhorse. A couple years ago I upgraded to a bigger/faster harddrive and maxed out the internal memory. For the past year it has gotten dragged to work everyday, and back home at night.

Last Christmas the monitor went out, and I was lucky to find one on eBay which was mis-labelled as the smaller monitor, when I could tell from the picture it was the larger one. So I got it for a steal and replaced my broken monitor. Then this year the power adapter went bad and we found replacements for $6. Then the battery gave up and it turns out the laptop won't work without a somewhat functioning battery, even if it's plugged in. So we replaced that, and it kept plugging along.

A couple weeks ago the fan gave a sad little squeel and quit. Without the fan the laptop could only run for a couple minutes at a time without overheating. Once again to eBay, where I found a new fan and heatsink combo. While waiting for it to arrive I pulled the laptop apart.

There's a view I've seen all too often. The fan is on the right, and the CPU is under it, just to the left.

Pulling out the fan/heatsink as a unit, I realized the chip was cemented onto it from the years of cooking that cooling gel between them. This is actually an opportunity in disguise. Instead of trying to pry the chip off the old heatsink, or pullling just the fan out of the new one, why not buy a new CPU? The old one is a Celeron 2.3GHz. It only has a 128k cache I think.

I did a bit of research, went on the Dell forum to double check my understanding, and went on eBay again, this time looking for a Pentium 4 CPU, with a 400MHz bus and 512k cache. I had my choice of CPU speeds, since the laptop requires the more plentiful desktop CPU, not a laptop CPU, so there were many to choose from. I went with a 2.4GHz, hoping that would not increase the laptop's cooling issues. Then I sat back and waited for my parts to arrive.

Drops right in.

New heat sink and fan go in on top of it (with cooling gel between). I reassembled and held my breath as I pushed the power button. It made a noise like someone had stepped on a small animal. Uh-oh! I tried a couple more times, then followed the power cable back to the wallplug and discovered I had unplugged it! Duh! That sad little noise was the dead battery. Ok, plug it in, turn it on, and it came right up like nothing had changed. Ran a few programs, and it seems nice and quick. But the real change is online. Suddenly it can handle watching videos online, and even streaming video on Hulu - what a bonus for those long boring days at the store!

Yay - long live the Inspiron!

When I bought this laptop I was thinking it was going to be a sort of throwaway computer. My last couple desktops had grown obsolete so quickly, and I knew that laptops were even less upgradable than desktops. So when we bought it we bought the cheapest one available. It has been a great little computer, and thanks to the pages of information on the internet, as well as the easy accessability of parts on eBay, it is going to continue to be a workhorse for a little while longer. I can't complain about the six years of use I've gotten out of it so far.

Friday, October 09, 2009

LCROSS and the moon

I'll admit I was excited to hear they would be crashing something on the moon, and that it would be visible to folks with big telescopes (because I have a big telescope, and because the moon is pretty much static so it would be cool to actually see something happen), but disappointed when I heard I needed at least 500 power to view it, since my smallest eyepiece is about half that, and even at that magnification you have to constantly nudge nudge nudge the scope to keep what you're looking at in view. I've never gone higher power, and rarely even use my high power eyepiece anyway, because it's a rare day when the atmosphere is still enough to see at that magnification. So last night I stayed in bed while NASA crashed their project into the moon. I heard from other astronomers that our area was socked in by clouds anyway, so just as well.

I didn't want to miss the excitement, so I set the DVR to record NASA TV. NASA TV is about as dull as watching paint dry, even to me, and I'm actually interested in what they're doing! While setting up the DVR I had it on ISS coverage briefly as they determined that the new space treadmill wasn't working. Nothing like ten minutes of the view from a camera pointed at a treadmill that isn't moving. That's some gripping TV right there!

You'd think someone could make it more engaging. But instead it's the same old thing: watching people at flight control punching away on their laptops. Hard to decipher technical messages between the various stations. At least in this case there was an interesting view from the LCROSS spacecraft as it got closer and closer. And then the screen went white. So I assume that was impact. The guys at mission control clapped, got up and stretched, folded up their laptops and got out of there. And that was it. Literally, they were clearing the room within 15 seconds! And then the announcers said they'd have pictures in about 2 hours! What, are you kidding me? I'm so glad I didn't climb out of bed at 4:30AM for that - talk about anti-climactic!

I'm sure they were off to another room to work on some important science stuff, but still, you think that for an event that had been covered this much in the last couple weeks, they could have found a way to make it more interesting to the general public. It's stuff like this where people actually get excited to see what NASA is doing, and then they let us down. Might as well have not even built it up if there's going to be nothing to see. I mean, I've been being disappointed by NASA for many years, so I had pretty low expectations for the event, and they managed to set the bar even lower.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Playing around

I had an audition yesterday. Yeah, kind of a weird thing for me to do, since I don't perform, and I hate being judged (hey, I have a very fragile ego, so sue me). But it was tempered by the fact that it was our theater company looking to put together a music group, and the folks running the audition are good friends. So you think it wouldn't be very intimidating, right? Yeah, sure. Songs I have played on my guitar a jillion times were suddenly ruined by 'finger freeze up' as my nerves got the best of me. Oh well, I pulled off the strumming portion better. I'm hoping we'll get a group together to play around with.

I have been playing guitar since I was a kid. When I was nine my first acoustic nylon-stringed guitar was my birthday present. I remember I discovered it hidden in the closet and got yelled at for ruining the surprise. Oh well. I loved my guitar, and I tried to take lessons, but I had trouble getting anyone to drive me up to the music store so I missed most of them and didn't get very far. So I played by myself until I was ready to go to college, and then for some reason I cannot fathom now, I decided to give my guitar to my brother, thinking I would need to concentrate at college and it would just be a distraction. How stupid was that?

So I went through college and five years in Yakima, and then when we moved back to Vancouver I went and bought one of those cheap electric guitar kits where you get a strat-look-alike and a little amp for $100. And I signed up for lessons with Mark Lengal at SW WA Music Studio. He was a great teacher, and I learned more from him the year or two that I took lessons than I had figured out on my own in ten. It was a lot of fun! But then I moved and it was too far to drive into town for lessons.

I eventually upgraded from my cheap electric guitar to a Martin dreadnaught, which I soon discovered was just plain too big for me. I could barely wrap my arms around it! It was very uncomfortable to play. Sure sounded nice though. Then one day I was at the local music store and hanging there among the regular size guitars was a little guitar - a 'parlor' guitar. It was a Takamine, made of beautiful red Koa wood, and it had the most heavenly sound, light and bright - not big and boomy like the dreadnaught. That was it, the Martin went up for sale, and for my birthday I got the Tak, and that has been my instrument ever since.

So, many years of playing, a few years of playing well ;-) It's all fun, that's all that matters. I play by myself a lot at home when I've got the place to myself. Now if I can just learn not to crumble from the pressure when I have to play in front of (or with) other people!

(click to see the cute and relevant cartoon)
Rose Is Rose

Monday, October 05, 2009

Cold Uticaria update

A commenter left this link to a news story out of Utah about Cold Uticaria. The picture of the hives is all too familiar -ouch! It's good to know people are looking for a way to treat it. I can relate to everything in that article!

Woman with rare allergy to cold helping researchers in study

Sunday, October 04, 2009

First chicken lost to a predator

I was out in the field with Jack and Barclay, when they both started sniffing at something. I went over to see what it was before they started rolling in it (it's usually a dead field mouse or something disgusting), and I was surprised to see feathers. Clearly it was a bird. I was thinking hawk, but as I looked at it I realized it was a chicken - it was one of MY chickens! Dang it! It was one of the wandering chicks. I knew something like this would happen. They refuse to stay in the chicken yard, and so this one must have been out in the pasture and a coyote or something got it and had dinner. Very annoying, mostly because if coyotes start coming back for dinner all the time they'll pick off my chickens one by one until they are gone, and maybe eat a cat or small dog while they're at it (a couple years ago we lost a cat to coyotes, and I'd rather not do that again). Which is why I have been trying to keep the chickens inside the fenced area where there is lots of cover and trees and it would be harder for a coyote to catch one than to just chase it down in the open field. But this latest batch of chicks are just like their mom, Big Red, who refused to stay in the chicken yard. I found her a new home to wander in, maybe I need to do the same for these chicks.

Update: Because of the condition of the carcass I think it was a hawk that ate the chicken. I think a coyote would have eaten the whole thing, but when I found it the back, wings, and legs were still intact, so whatever it was mostly ate away the breast and body. I'm a lot happier knowing it's a hawk than a coyote prowling around our farm!