Moll Ball

Well folks, apparently the only place I can blog is at the coffee shop. I started this draft probably six months ago. There it sat, saved and only half-written, and completely forgotten about.

Here I sit at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon. I came here to get some grading done while I wait for Andrew to get home. I think I’ll blog instead. (Hey, when the mood strikes, I of all people must just go with the flow.) It goes without saying that this particular post is so long overdue that I debated not even posting it. But anyone who has spoken to me in the last 8 months knows this is one of my favorite topics. So, without further adieu, allow me to introduce a special someone.

This is Molly.

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She took up residence with us mid-January. We had wanted to get a cat for a long time, and now that we have her, I can’t imagine not coming home to that face!

Around Christmastime last year, we began scanning the CASPCA website occasionally, and noticed a “funny looking one with crossed eyes,” never really giving her a second thought at the time. We went just to look and see who was there one snowy January afternoon. Who was waiting by the door of the cat room? That cute little crossed eyed kitty! She rubbed, and she passed the lap test (sit on the floor, see who climbs in your lap), and she obviously liked people. But, we browsed, and we said hello to other kitties, and we stayed until the dander in the air was getting to us, and we went home. We were dragging our feet bringing cat hair into our apartment, but went back about a week later and brought her home. She proved her worth by saving me from a bat the very next day. She’s a keeper.

Molly is what I like to call a “cat-dog.” She looks like a cat, but on the inside, she is all dog. She is food motivated to the point of begging, cannot stand to be alone, and, like Ariel, wants to be where the people are. If you realize you haven’t seen her in a while, just glance around the room, she is never more than five feet away. I like that.

She’s awesome, and you should all come meet her. Not convinced? See below:

20170308_182801I call this her “fat cat” pose. One arm out, looking cute, begging for food.

 

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Those eyes. That face.

 

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That attitude. Also, she sits where she fits, and sometimes where she doesn’t. Usually on top of you in some form.

 

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She does not understand puzzles, like, at all.

 

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She had a “scarf and barf” in her favorite spot on the couch. She still sat there with no cushion. In her defense, the first time she scarf and barfed she did so in the sink.

 

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 This has been her new favorite place recently. She does not move until you turn the water on her, and even then she stands in your way and plays in the water. It makes bushing teeth more interesting, that’s for sure. Hoping for a picture of her missing the jump up to the counter soon. That happens about 30% of the time. It’s funny.

Anyway, thanks for reading about my initial descent into crazy cat lady land. The rest of my decline is being documented via Instagram if you’re interested.

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Katie’s Biannual Update

Oh hi.

So, yeah, this site still exists. As do we, we just really suck at keeping up our online presence. We are busy, and to me, my day to day life is not exactly worthy of documenting in the great inter-web for all eternity. Alas, this blog was created as a way for us to keep friends and family updated on our comings and goings. There may be about three of you out there that want to know what’s going on, so I will grace you with my biannual update, as has been my habit the past two years. Actually, I take that back. I posted three times in 2015. Go me.

When we first started this blog I had visions of sitting in coffee shops, spouting great wit and wisdom, reviewing all those books I have piled up that I have definitely had time (and motivation) to read, and connecting with all the people. Then again, when we started this blog, I was unemployed and admittedly feeling rather sorry for myself and looking for ways to make my time valuable. And although I do presently find myself sitting in an aforementioned coffee shop, the thought for this post came from a desire to procrastinate.

It is the Thursday of Spring Break, and I suffer from an extreme case of “cannotworkathometosavemylifeitis.” Lucky for me, there is this great little place called Shenandoah Joe that is walking distance from our Charlottesville apartment, plenty with coffee, wifi, and electrical outlets. Andrew and I come here often; it’s one of the treasures we’ve found. I came here to work on IEPs and lesson plans, which successfully happened for about an hour. But it is Spring Break, and I did get some work done, so…time for a break!

I suppose I owe a little update on the occupational changes I’ve experienced. Since beginning this blog, I have transitioned from substitute teaching, to teaching in a private Christian school, to currently filling the role of Special Education teacher in a public school. Man, oh man, has it been a whirlwind! It challenges me in ways I never imagined. I struggle sometimes, and I am stressed to maximum capacity sometimes, but I really do love it. Not every second of every day, but students are learning how to read before my eyes, and it is a beautiful thing that keeps me going. Plus they’re hilarious. Plus I work with wonderful people and am very supported. Couldn’t really ask for more.

Andrew previously wrote about our move to Charlottesville, Virginia, so I won’t rehash that same event. I will say that it is beautiful here, and spring begins at a reasonable time of year. Flowers and trees have bloomed and the weather is warm, which does the soul such good. It is taking a while for it to feel like home, though. I occasionally find myself quite homesick for Rhode Island. About an hour ago I experienced the most extreme craving for a lobster roll, I could actually smell the inside of Anthony’s Seafood. Looking at Rhode Island pins on Pinterest definitely does not help – pretty sure that’s what incited the lobster roll incident. I do like Charlottesville very much, I just wish I could be on my island with my ocean a little more often. At least there is fresh seafood here – that certainly helps.

Anyway, back to C’ville. There is an overwhelming amount to see and do here, but I guess it is that way in most cities. Such a beautiful place to walk around, it never gets old – we love to explore. There are so. many. places. to eat here, it’s ridiculous, and most have been very good! The real challenge is remembering to try someplace new once we’ve found someplace excellent. Plus for every new place we try, we discover two more to add to the list as we wander through side streets and get to know our new city. Not a bad problem to have.

I still love to cook, and have been experimenting with making pasta and bread. The pasta has been a great success, the bread not so much, but I’m not giving up! If anyone has any great bread making resources, please send them my way. Cooking is my stress relief. I can come home and completely focus on something that has nothing to do with school. It is the only thing that truly clears my mind.

We also recently adopted a cat! Her name is Molly, she has crossed eyes, she’s the best, and she deserves her own post. Sorry if that never actually materializes. Perhaps my real problem is too many things to blog about and an inability to commit to a single topic. I bet posting more than twice a year would help with that. We may never know.

This is getting a little ramble-y, so I’m gonna go. Thanks for bearing with my train of thought hodgepodge, I hope it’s coherent. I am sorry for being horrific at staying touch. I genuinely intend to be better about it, but my track record is not promising. I’ll do my best.

~Katie

Goodbyes

Yesterday morning, my sweet grandfather passed away. My heart is broken. The anticipation of this news has been building for a long time, but the sting still cuts deeply. Every time I spoke to him on the phone this week, I knew I was saying goodbye, and he did as well. We spoke of the weather and hospital food, as usual, but we also spoke of memories, including the one I am going to share. I got to tell him I love him and I how thankful I am that he is my grandpa. I got to hear him tell me he loves me too. For that, I am grateful.

My grandfather was one of the most loving men I have ever known, albeit a little blunt in the delivery of that love sometimes. He never failed to speak his mind and tell you exactly what he thought no matter what – a true believer in tough love. But he loved fiercely, and I am proud to be his granddaughter. I am proud to be a Schulz.

These past weeks have been filled with the memories I carry of my grandfather. Camping in the Redwoods, a trip to Disney World, listening to his stories, playing slot machines together, dancing at my wedding. . . There are too many emotions flying around inside of me right now to put into words, so let me try to convey a snapshot of my grandpa with one story in particular.

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One of my earliest memories of grandpa is captured in this photo, and I love it, so please excuse the poor photo of a photo quality. When I was seven or eight years old, my grandparents were visiting us in Rhode Island. Whenever they came, they would be with us for several weeks and we would go on all sorts of adventures. This particular trip included a day at Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA.

There are several memories from that day that I remember: exploring a submarine and dad talking about his time in the Navy, being anxious about getting locked in one of the ships because they kept announcing the closing time over the intercom (me? anxious?), and most vividly, the carousel. Most kids love the carousel, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even ride on one of the stationary horses until I was at least 6. Until then, I was all about the sleigh bench, and even when I did get on a horse, I needed my dad right next to me.

Well, on this particular day, dad put us on the carousel and then proceeded to depart and stand outside the ride, probably to take this picture of me and Rachel. I was not. happy. I remember beginning to panic, worried that somehow I’d never find my dad again. What did grandpa do? He got on the carousel and rode it with me and Rachel. He even got on one of the moving horses while I was safe and sound on a stationary one! This is the kind of man he was – stepping in to save the day. He was always there when needed, especially for those he loved. I miss him.

My grandfather leaves an amazing legacy  of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. None of us would be us without him. Please keep my father, aunt, grandmother, sisters, and many cousins in prayer as we mourn and weep together.

I have so much more to say, but I am out of words. There are too many stories. Too many memories. Too many thoughts. Perhaps more of them will formulate as time goes on, but for now,  all I can say is that I miss him, but I am grateful that his suffering is at an end and he has peace. He remains an important man in many lives and always will be. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us – your kind words mean more than you know.

Ridin’ the Bus

We moved.

Packing is the worst. Loading trucks is the worst. Hauling boxes is the worst. Moving is the worst.

The consolation, of course, is twofold. One, we moved out of Monroeville. Don’t get me wrong, our friends there are fantastic. But speaking realistically, is there anybody out there who would miss this?

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That’s Monroeville, Y’all, and it’s fun. This is probably my favorite photo ever. That’s the McDonald’s where you can watch the employees twerk and grind while you wait for your food. Look at the car with one headlight! Look at the friggen sky! Why does everything look wet? This photo is real, folks! It’s real! In a strange part of my mind I imagine locals framing pictures like this and hanging them in their living rooms so they can use them to play depressing games of I Spy with their children. “I spy something dark and deep that eats car tires, yum, yum, yum!”

The other upside to moving is that we moved to Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia–the academic heartland of the state, TJ’s (Thomas Jefferson’s) home, all that good stuff. It’s beautiful. I’m pretty excited. Katie is too. And truth be told, we’re actually a little closer to Rhode Island here than we were in PA.

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Photo from http://www.huffingtonpost.com

So this is where we are now. The last week and a half have been filled with cardboard boxes and a playful/pretend version of organization. And at least we finally have internet Netflix after going for a week without.

Katie has begun her second year of teaching, now as a special educator for Louisa County Public Schools. Although it’s a little bit of a commute from our home to her school, we’re both really excited for her new opportunity.

In a few weeks I will start my first classes in the electrical engineering doctoral program at UVA. Part of my job will include TAing undergrads . . . please pray for me.

While I wait for that day to come though, I’m getting a little bored. I should probably be using this time to brush up on my calculus and all that engineering-y stuff that I haven’t used for two years. But in reality, I’m just becoming a hobo.

The first step to hoboism was getting my student ID, which, like consuming alcohol, owning a firearm, or shooting webs from your wrists, came with great power and responsibility. Why? Because now I can ride the bus. Charlottesville has a pretty extensive system of these toothpaste-colored buses with mildly worrisome phrases on them like this:

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Remind you of anything?

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So that’s what I do now while Katie has the car. It may take an hour to get to Walmart this way, but at least I can play spot-the-methead while I do it. And then of course I can continue my game in Walmart and on the way back.

Obviously I’m exaggerating just a little. I’ve had an awesome time exploring the local flavor of C’ville: the Corner, the Mall, the Grounds. I gotta say there is so much more to do here than in Monroeville, and it’s probably got a lot to do with the presence of the university. It occurred to me the other day that I’ve spent 19 years of my life closely associated with a college campus and 15 of those years actually living on a campus. Maybe I’m just predisposed to be more comfortable here.

I think Charlottesville is going to be a wonderful home for us for the next five years. To our friends and family, we’d love for you to come visit us if you’re in the area. As long as you don’t mind being shown around by a couple of people still discovering the area for themselves, we’ll have a grand old time.

 

Andrew Makes a Thing (Second Monitor)

Back in the olden days when my sister was in college (what was that, like 2008? People have died since then), she had a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop to do her schoolwork on (and watch Youtube videos and log into Facebook). This is back when Vista was standard on new hardware, so let’s just be honest and admit that it was a terrible laptop. This is not considering things like the the 1.8 GHz processor or the 6+ lb weight that were commonplace for laptops of the era. Maybe we’re just spoiled with today’s technology; even so, it should be noted that the user manual specifically states that this laptop was “built for today. Designed for tomorrow.” Maybe that’s true. But I doubt they meant it in the specific way it ended up being realized.

My sister has been through a couple laptops since college, and this Dell dinosaur sat around collecting dust for several years, despite being “designed for tomorrow.” Eventually it was handed over to me, where it sat around and collected even more dust.

At some point, I happened across this article, and an idea was struck. After all, the old dinosaur laptop did have a 1280×800 display. I would just take the whole thing apart, and like, connect it up or something, and boom! I’d have a free computer monitor.

Hah.

I guess you could call it a learning experience. But first things first.

This is be beast:

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Does it remind you of George Bush, My Chemical Romance, and Pontiac Azteks? It should.

So I ripped it apart.

So. Many. Screws.

Eventually I got rid of the self-destructive plastic casing and set aside the laptop butt:

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About 9000 screws later, and I had the more meaningful parts out of it, such as the 80GB hard drive, the screen, the DVD drive (ooh, fancy), and the T-shaped motherboard, which looked like this.

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On the back was a whole gig of RAM. Woot. We can play all the greatest games with that. I ended up selling the whole thing on eBay for about $20.

I’m in the process of getting rid of the other parts now, but of course, I kept the screen.

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Because I’m the very best at planning things out, it wasn’t until this point that I waited to purchase the controller board, which actually makes the screen usable (see the article linked above for more information). Of course, this board is fabricated in China, which means it arrived in a crushed box about a month after I ordered it.

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Ain’t it purdy? Connected to this board was an LVDS cable, an inverter board, and an input keypad for graphics settings.

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Although delicate, the LVDS cable was easy enough to connect. I was super close to having a whole new monitor!

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As I mentioned before, I am an expert planner, so it wasn’t until this point that I realized I didn’t have a VGA cable to connect to my computer. So I decided to order this from China also (it was cheap, don’t judge me). But wait! What about my trusty DP-to-HDMI cable!? Who knew that the inflexible mess that once connected my computer to my 60 lb TV would come in handy again?

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At this point I knew I had a problem, because the screen only produced some barely-visible shapes when I turned it on.  I chalked this up as a success because there was no smoke. Smoke can’t usually be retracted once it shows up.

Eventually though, my VGA cable showed up from China, and I was able to test it out. Unfortunately, I only achieved the same results as before. It was at this point that I contacted the board manufacturer with my problem and hoped they could read English. A couple days later I got a very legible response that boiled down to “make sure you plug the inverter in.”

Wait, what? That connector on the side of the inverter is supposed to do something? No way! So I looked a little closer at the old screen.

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Oh. Crap.

This is the old inverter board, which obviously can’t be used anymore:

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I am an electrical engineering failure. I will hand back my diploma just as soon as I can find it.

I redirected the inverter cable to the corner of the screen and cut a small hole in the plastic enclosure for it to fit through. With this additional slack in the cable, I reconnected everything and Voila!

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Now all I need is a stand to hold all the loose ends and keep any wires from pulling out.

In the end, I spent about $55 for a ~720p monitor. Here are a few things I learned:

  • Don’t leave pieces of your computer on the floor. People will step on them.
  • Order products from China several weeks in advance because that’s a long way away.
  • PLUG IN THE INVERTER BOARD!
  • The LVDS cable is very short and needs to be accommodated.
  • The controller board has an audio jack and your guess is as good as mine about what that thing is for.

And lastly, if I can do it, so can you! Clearly my degree didn’t help me at all. Take those old dinosaur laptops and make monitors! They’re weird. And ugly. And recycled stuff is cool these days. Besides, once you have a second monitor, you can watch Netflix and browse Facebook at the same time. That’s the real American dream.

Lifehacks for Technophobes

People consult me all the time with tech problems they’ve been experiencing. As a result of the increasing complexity of today’s technology, I decided to provide some of the advice that people have found most useful. My hope is that you will be able to return to this list of common issues and solutions for the majority of your troubleshooting needs. In the words of the Travelocity Gnome, “Help is on the way!”

 

  • If you’re having wireless issues, I’ve found that one of the best solutions is to re-download HTML.
  • Lots of times, you will experience a drop in framerate if you are playing an HD game. Just overclock your PC by plugging it into a 240V outlet.
  • People complain a lot about the bandwidth of their local area LAN. The solution is to Google shorter phrases. Boom! Lightning fast internet!
  • Remember Windows 8? The main problem was your ISP. Run a malware detector and delete all of them.
  • If you’re running Linux, just restart the kernel.
  • Most iOS issues can be fixed by installing and playing Candy Crush. Each time you beat a level you’re actually beating a virus.
  • If you’re not impressed with post Windows 3.1 operating systems, you can pretend you still have an older version by using the DOS terminal. It was implemented to help older users.
  • Flash games are named because they can induce seizures.
  • The “#” symbol is called a hashtag because it was originally used by the FBI to track or “tag” phone users. If you’re using a touch tone phone, remove this key immediately!
  • If you are considering building your own PC, be sure to choose a case that’s slightly flexible. This indicates that your PC will be able to “breathe,” which is essential for cooling your hardware.
  • Never run .exe files. This is short for “executable,” and they will execute your computer.
  • The best passwords include at least three “Alt” keystrokes.
  • If a program on your computer freezes, run Windows Updates. This will fix the problem every time.
  • Why would you call a confusing number like 518-376-2931? Call a simple one like 518-123-4567 instead.
  • The number of pixels on your display corresponds to your processing power. The faster your processor, the better the resolution. A 720p display will have Pentium 3 at least.
  • If you experience stack overflow, it means that your PC tower is full. Consider buying one with more space.
  • If you tap “HAXOR” in Morse Code with the hook of a landline phone followed by dialing “1337”, you will be redirected to Kevin Mitnick.
  • When taking your laptop to a new location, be sure to update your MAC address to ensure you don’t miss important emails.
  • Processor speed, which is usually measured in gigahertz, is an indication of the bandwidth that your wi-fi uses. Bad processors can only use ethernet connections.
  • Programming languages are named to indicate their incompatibility. For example, pythons do not drink java. It goes without saying that C# is exclusively used by the government to snoop on internet users.
  • Make sure you upgrade to IPv6 by installing Microsoft Edge.
  • Building your PC with enough RAM is important for running Adobe Flash Player.
  • Remember Windows Vista? You can fix it by throwing your computer in the trash.
  • Sometimes the air becomes so full of wi-fi packets that it creates a traffic jam on the block chain. IPv6 was designed to help prevent this sort of problem.
  • Some tablet users can experience lagging if their bluetooth doesn’t have enough wi-fi. Just ensure your phone is nearby to boost the signal.
  • If your laptop is overheating, it could be because the internet is full. Close the lid and shake it up and down a couple of times to clear your browser cache.
  • If you are hacked and your computer is compromised, just remote desktop into yourself and play Candy Crush.
  • If you have Firefox, make sure that it is running Chrome.

Folks, no matter what happens, just be sure to have fun. Keeping an open mind will guarantee that you’ll discover all kinds of technology secrets. Most of these tips have resulted from just playing around with my stuff and not following the rules.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go play Candy Crush.

2016: Let’s Try This Again

Happy New Year! 2015 was quite a year for us! I started my very first teaching job, we traveled to new places, visited family and friends, saw people we love get married and start lives together, and felt ourselves ease more into this little Pittsburgh life we are living. There were many moments of 2015 that I fully intended to share here. I will be the first to admit, I am full of good intentions – it is my follow through that needs some work.

This week has been the second week of my Christmas break from school, and during that time I have been thinking a lot about what celebrating the New Year entails. It is a time of friends and family. A time of reflection and resolutions and left over Christmas cookies. A time of feeling a little sad that the holidays are over, mixed with a dash of excitement and anxiety for what is to come in the next year. If I am being perfectly honest about those reflections and resolutions, though, I have mostly been reflecting on failing the resolutions I made last year. This blog was one of them, and we can all see how well that worked out. Honestly, I dislike making New Year resolutions. I think it is kind of silly to think that you must wait for the New Year to make a change or recommit to something you know you should be doing all along. Cause let’s get real, March is going to roll around and I am going to be sitting on my couch eating cookie dough ice cream out of the carton when I should be at the gym. I’ll be tempted to say “oh well, maybe next year,” when really I just need to put on my sneakers and go to the dang gym. (Sweats will obviously already be my attire.)

The only resolution I was even partially “successful” with last year was to exercise more and to have healthier habits. I will give credit where credit is due and say that Andrew’s stink eye when I skip the gym has served as some kind of incentive. All in all I do feel healthier and stronger now and a tad less guilty when I eat half a pan of brownies over the course of one weekend, so that’s something I guess.

I figure if I can continue with my current rate of being moderately successful with one resolution a year, this blog is bound to have its year eventually! I am recommitting myself to this blog as well as taking more pictures. I want to document my life better, even just for myself.

I am recommitting myself to read more often with a goal of one book per month. I did reasonably well with this at the beginning of last year, however, when school began, those good intentions went right out the window. Netflix may have been involved, too.

I am recommitting myself to procrastinating less, which is already off to a rocky start considering I go back to work on Monday and the pile of papers to grade is sitting in the bag I brought it home in, untouched. Oh well. This may not be procrastination’s year.

I could go on, but I am sure all that would get me is the topic for another blog post in April when I haven’t posted since today and will simply talk about the list of resolutions I’m not keeping up with. I do not measure the success of my year in my resolutions, although following through with something I commit to always feels good. My life is abundantly blessed, regardless of whether or not I always recognize it and certainly not because I deserve it. My lack of resolve in my resolutions just reminds me how many things do NOT hinge on me, but on God. He is good, always, and I am excited to see what He has instore for us in 2016. I truly promise to try to document our 2016 moments better here for those of you who wish to keep up with us. Full disclosure though: no promises.