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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 1/9/11 - 1/16/11

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"I Want an Oopma Loompa NOW!"

As promised, Part II of my devious plan to conquer the world. I mean, my paperwork! I need to look into storage options for my photos, videos and these soon-to-be-scanned-in papers.

If you thought my paperwork filing plan was sloppy, our computer's file plan is an incredible mess. I try to keep up with it, putting everything in it's appropriate folder on our shared hard drive, but sometimes I get sloppy and will go weeks at a time just dumping EVERYTHING into my MacBook's "Documents" folder.

I try really hard to file the pictures into folders that have both the date and a brief description of the event. My more loyal followers see me doing this all the time when I point you to pictures on this blog. Each album is just my uploading the contents of the photo folder, which is named such that I can go to the My Pictures folder, alphabetize the folder list of photos, and they're in date order automatically.  I like it that way, I know not everyone does things the same way...

Anyway...let's assume I'm organized in that department. Which I'm not.  And that I've scanned in all the paperwork I needed.  Which I haven't.

My next challenge is storage of all of this digital personal paperwork. And photos (I have nearly 20,000). And videos. And maybe even some of the kids' schoolwork?

Starting two PCs ago, I've avoided putting our personal files on our internal hard drives. I have an external hard drive USB-attached to our PC and I ensure all of our PCs and Macs can connect to it to read/write our personal files. The external hard drive is starting to fill out (it's "only" 200 GB) and it's time to look into something new...and bigger.

Many of you have weighed in with me on "off site" storage options, and I've also have discussions about "on site" server and wireless external hard drive options. All of this will cost us money, and LOTS of time ensuring the files are transferred properly. And the I want to have a periodic backup plan.

Okay, I know I'm starting to sound like Veruca Salt here. I want this, and I want that...

In a perfect, limitless bank account world, I would love one of these Apple Time Capsule external hard drives!

The 2 TB version, please. But I think in reality, I need to (a) consider a 1 TB instead, since we don't NEED a 2 TB drive and (b) do a little more research. There are lots of allegations of an 18 month shelf life on these things and I would like to see how well the newer ones are doing.

I'm not looking forward to how much money this is going to cost, either. But the computers we have aren't getting any younger, and the external hard drive everything is on right now is nearing 3 years of age...I'm nervous it's going to croak really really soon. I'm copying my entire 2010 photo gallery from my Mac to it right now, in fact. But the copying isn't doing so well -- 16 GB of files via WiFi? I used to have a nifty auto-backup feature on our old PC, perhaps I should bring it back on the new one?

Back to the office...

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Going Paperless! least that's the plan here....

Now that I have a handsome new office, I was hoping to work on bettering the family's reliance on stacks of paperwork everywhere.  I want to scan in our old bills, bank statements, and receipts, and clear our office of some of the stacks of papers everywhere.  I'm even debating going digital on some of our medical paperwork, such as our Tricare payout (or lack thereof) statements.

This was taken right after I'd put the books in the bookcase in early December.  After 6 weeks, it doesn't look this nice now.
I've been weighing in with my friend Paul about this issue.  He's probably the only person with whom I could have a conversation about filing paperwork who wouldn't run screaming in the other direction.  He's also considering converting his existing files to digital, and then make a habit of scanning in bills every month.

He and I have exchanged some ideas about "smart scanning", which is easier than ever these days.  You can now scan directly into PDFs that allow you to search for keywords.  For example, if you scanned in some medical paperwork related to having a baby, you could do a Microsoft or Mac search on "maternity" and if the word "maternity" is in the PDF, it's possible to find that document.

It also came up in our conversations how much better scanners are than 10 years ago.  Now you can get multiple-sheet-feeder scanners, double sided scanners, and inexpensive all-in-one systems, which include printing and copying.

My current file plan isn't very graceful.  I have two plastic tubs that hold hanging file folders (metal filing cabinets never move well).  I have a pretty basket in the office where I dump all bills, statements and receipts.  Every 2, 4, 25 weeks (depending on how busy I am), I'll sit down with the pretty basket and file the paperwork into the two plastic tubs.  Every New Year's Day (give or take a week), I shred the oldest paperwork using Consumer Reports' guidance on how long to keep records.  Shredded paper goes into the worm bin (which I still have, by the way).

I guess I can argue that at least I HAVE a plan, right?  But to go paperless would be AWESOME!  Especially for the major purchase receipts that I've been carrying around for years and years and years.  Just in case we need it.  I've had my Kirby vacuum cleaner for 11 years and it'd be nice to not have to worry about that little slip of paper getting lost.

This will be a lifestyle change for me, but I think I can do it.  When it's PCS (i.e. military move) time in a couple years, just having an external hard drive to protect instead of 2 tubs and 4 banker's boxes full of paperwork would allow more room in the car for the boys to stretch their legs too.

Which leads me to my next challenge, keeping up with data backups.  That's for another post...

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

...And the Earth Shook, And the Rocks Were Split.

For those military families, you know the routine...

You have a limited amount of time to pick out your new house, and there are things you just can't know about the house until you've been in the house for a while...

...and then it's too late. You've tranferred the deed...or you've signed the lease.

In Florida in 2002 it was evidence of prior flooding that wasn't disclosed to us.

In North Carolina it was the woods that were sold to a developer that turned our quiet little cul-de-sac into a construction site.

In Nebraska it was the pig farm and feed lot to the south. And with a south wind, P.U.!!! Oh yeah, and the stupid mulberry tree :-)

This house we're in now is perfect in so many ways, spacious, well-laid out, good schools, nice neighbors, HUGE backyard, etc.

And then there's the bombing range.

We are as little as 4 miles from this area of cratering on the Eglin AFB range. And during our first week in the house, we started to hear it after sunset. The plane practicing their bombing. I'm not completely sure what kinds of planes are out there, unless I hear the Howitzer cannon, which is unmistakable!

Most nights it's in the distance. Like a dull roar of distant thunder.

Tonight it's much louder -- the house is even vibrating!

Honestly, this isn't enough of an issue that we wouldn't have lived here. But it's pretty daunting to hear, let me tell you!

So here's a map.  We live near the "H" in "Holley Nolf" towards the bottom of the map -- I won't go into detail -- and I think the bombing is going on in that faint square in the upper right under the "Ter"/"Earth" buttons.  Zoom in there (go ahead, double click on that spot and it'll zoom in on the spot!) and you'll see that it's an area of craters.  Fun fun!

I'm just glad those planes practicing their bomb runs are on MY SIDE! Thank you for practicing defending our freedom!

View Larger Map

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Shameless Pitch #576: Build and Grow Workshops at Lowe's

Jacob has to complete a number of achievements to earn his "Wolf Badge" for Cub Scouts. Those with scouts know exactly what I mean here...and those who don't have scouts, well, these are tasks associated with being healthy, honest, righteous, and all around good citizens.

One of the achievement sub-tasks is to build a birdhouse or something similarly useful, after learning about tools for building. I got a tip from another parent in Jacob's new Cub Scout den about simply showing up at a "Build and Grow" workshop at Lowe's one Saturday morning. They're usually offered twice per month, on Saturday mornings. Lowe's provides the kits, loaner tools and workspace free of charge! You receive an apron to keep (and allegedly safety goggles too but my boys didn't get those), and a patch to add to the apron after finishing each task.

You can sign up online to guarantee a kit being available, but the workshops are first-come, first-serve with the kits that are left if you just want to take your kids without committing one way or another. It's recommended for kids in elementary school (although I saw many preschoolers getting in on the action).  We were there about 1/2 hour, and the environment was very laid back.  As soon as you arrive (after signing a waiver, tee hee) you get a kit and get to work.  The employees are there to help only if you need it.

The website will show what the kits will be for the next two workshops. So if you click on the link between now and about January 22, you'll see a beanbag toss board and a music box (as a Valentine's Day gift) as the next two projects. I happen to know that the February 26th project will be a wooden replica Lowe's NASCAR car -- such as the one pictured in the cartoon above, complete with a pull-back mechanism, I guess to celebrate the start of the 2011 NASCAR season.

I'm thrilled that my boys are old enough to enjoy this program -- and we'll be sure to keep it in mind as a Saturday morning free activity!  Enjoy some quick pictures I took of our fun morning!

From 2011 01 08 Build and Grow at Lowe's

From 2011 01 08 Build and Grow at Lowe's
From 2011 01 08 Build and Grow at Lowe's
Proud Papa!
From 2011 01 08 Build and Grow at Lowe's
The boys received aprons, certificates and patches for completing this project.
From 2011 01 08 Build and Grow at Lowe's
The completed "Game Box".  Great first project!
From 2011 01 08 Build and Grow at Lowe's

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Return of Runner Girl?

That's what I'd like to think... :-)

Especially before we had kids, Dave and I enjoyed long-distance running.

Obviously, our training dwindled some after the kids arrived, and between Dave and me and our double-jogging stroller, we'd always managed 1-2 races per year even after the kids were born.  Then we hit a lazy streak in Nebraska, Dave's job was really busy, the weather was a pain-in-the-rear (I hate running in the wind!), and Dave had several medical issues that all combined to keep us from do any more working out than necessary.

After a couple years of lollygagging, I took the plunge and signed up for my first running race since June 2009.

Which race?  No, of course I don't go easy and sign up for a 5K.  Here is the race I registered for.

I think I tend to gravitate towards the more scenic races.  Check out the course map!  Isn't it beautiful???  I'm excited to get to see sunrise over those bridges!

So part of my motivation for this is to to get fit again.  Not sure if it was stress, laziness, just plain overeating or what, I'm currently about 15-20 lbs. heavier than when I came home from my deployment in April 2009.  I need a goal, and a plan to reach that goal.

Hence signing up for a 15K race right off the bat.  This spring I'd like to do a 1/2 marathon, I'll wait to sign up until we see whether I can do this 15K okay.

First off, I was in desperate need of new running shoes.  I was in the same old Brooks shoes I'd had since Spring 2009.  Spare me the lectures, I know one should be replace them every 500 miles or so.  So with one of the gift cards I'd received for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad Vollmer!), I got a nice pair of trail running shoes.  I prefer trail running shoes for the broader, thicker soles.

From 2011 01 06 Navarre Beach Bridge Run

I started my "training" in earnest this week, which meant increasing how many miles I run each week.  Normally I do three 5K runs per week, but now I need to do at least 4 runs per week, and at least 15 miles total per week, slowly increasing that up to about 20 miles per week.  I'd like to do 5 runs per week but real life might make that a less-realistic goal.  Included in that is one "long run", which needs to increase by 1 to 1.5 miles per week, hopefully I can do that on Fridays.

Our neighborhood is expansive enough I can plan lots of great routes or any length I need!

This past week I did a 5 mile run across the Navarre Beach Bridge, so I could get ready for the bridges in the race.  Check out these magnificent views during my run!

From 2011 01 06 Navarre Beach Bridge Run
From 2011 01 06 Navarre Beach Bridge Run
There was a hill on my most-common running route in Nebraska.  Westbound Schneekloth Rd. between Spring Blvd. and 34th St. (past the back of the school).  I called it "Heartbreak Hill" since the elevation gain is similar to the "Heartbreak Hill" in the Boston Marathon.  This bridge here is only 55 feet elevation (not the 85 feet in NE).  I'll take this hill (and the view) over the one I had in Nebraska, ha ha!
From 2011 01 06 Navarre Beach Bridge Run

Unfortunately, after that 5 mile run last Thursday (which felt great at the time), my knees were REALLY REALLY sore for 2 days.  I could barely walk on Friday!  Not sure if it's old age or the extra weight I'm carrying around, but I hope this isn't a permanent issue or else long distance runs won't last very long in my future.

Also, I've noticed over the years that my legs, knees and hips are now more sensitive to the cant of the road.  My neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, so I'm on the far left or right edges of the road surfaces, and if there's a slope for too long, I feel it in the arches of my feet and in my hips.

Here's hoping I stick to this fitness plan.

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