Archive for April, 2010

Spring in my bit of Nice

Posted in Gardening, Nice at 13:55

Patio, end of April

After an interminable winter of rain — and I say that as a native Oregonian who enjoys the rain! — the sun has finally begun to emerge from the clouds, and plants are finally growing. Ever since October we’ve had dark, windy, rainy, and even snowy weather the likes of which no one has seen in living memory. It was so dark that my daffodils and irises never bloomed; so much colder than usual that seeds that typically sprout in March have only begun to grow just now. And yet we’re still getting rain every day, with very rare exceptions. (Every. Single. Day.)

This winter I bought a few pumpkins to make pumpkin soup. With the last two, I realized that since they were organic, I could try planting their seeds. I figured that only some of them would sprout… well, all of them have! And I planted four! What am I going to do with four full-size pumpkin plants? For now I’ve repotted two of the seedlings in a planter; the other two are already in pots that should keep them happy for another month or so. Provençal pepper seeds I planted a month ago have just begun to sprout as well, and I’m looking forward to tasting them in autumn.

Renovation on my apartment is continuing too. I started pulling up linoleum in the entry last week, and have nearly finished. It will be nice to have an entry no longer in a state of flux.

Spring in Nice

Posted in La France, Nice at 14:07

Cherry blossoms (3)

Spring has finally begun here, with the arrival of cherry and wisteria blossoms. I took photos of the pink and purple flowers near my home just an hour ago.

In photo-related news, recently a picture I took of the reimbursement statements we get for health care here was linked in a Wired article, which was soon after taken up by The Guardian, in a writeup aptly titled “Stories of healthcare heartbreak hidden away on Flickr”. As a reminder, my photo was part of a post I wrote here on French health care basics.

Reading nook

Posted in Home improvement, La France at 17:53

Reading nook, mostly finished
I’ve been working on my living room for a year and a half, since finding tomettes beneath the cheap brownish-yellow tile that the previous owners had put down. Not long after I finished renovating the floor, my upstairs neighbor’s pipes burst and flooded my couch nook in July last year. Ever since then, I’ve been working around the damaged nook, painstakingly scraping off the textured paint, something I had wanted to do anyway.

Yesterday I finally finished painting the nook, and was able to move in furniture today, shown above. I chose this blue because it has some depth to it, and it goes well with the burgundy tomettes floor and red touches. I also wanted it to be darker than the rest of the living room, in order to bring it closer visually. For comparison, the nook two years ago, when I bought the apartment. As you can see, the blue also helps the lighting immensely: before, everything had a yellowish tinge to it, but now the area has “truer” colors. Eventually, once I scrape the textured paint off the rest of the living room walls (ugh!), I’ll paint them in a nearly neutral lavender (it’s closer to grey than to purple/pink).

I’m delighted with my art deco chairs and this color scheme. I had considered reupholstering the chairs, but their deep brown goes beautifully with everything. As they say in France, le hasard fait bien les choses ! (“Chance does things well!”)

The AMS Pigeon Dual CatCore

Posted in Home improvement, Journal at 15:31

Dual kittehs
About four and a half years ago, I built a PC to take over from my aging laptop. That PC served me faithfully until December 2009, when I got myself a 24″ monitor for Christmas and upgraded Ubuntu to 9.10 (Karmic Koala). My four-year-old graphics card, with just 128 megabytes of memory, could barely handle my monitor, meaning I couldn’t watch DVDs full size. Furthermore, two weeks ago, while playing a complex Flash game, Ubuntu… crashed. Yes. The almighty Linux operating system crashed, for the first time in the three years I’ve been running it.

It was time to upgrade core hardware (motherboard, processor, graphics card). It was a bit disorienting to see how far things had come since building my PC in 2005! After getting up to speed on modern developments, I opted for a smaller-format motherboard (Micro ATX), a decent dual-core AMD processor, and a cheap but fast graphics card. I reused my old PC case, hard drives, CD/DVD drive, multi-card reader (mainly for SD cards), and no-name 7.1 surround sound card that I got for 15 euros a year ago and that works great. I don’t demand much of my system, so I always focus on the best quality I can find in the lower price ranges, making sure everything is compatible. Spending the time to research components really pays off in the end. I did also spend a bit of money to replace the old power supply that came with my computer case, since I wanted something more ecological. The components arrived today:
– ASRock N68-S micro ATX motherboard (this has great reviews)
– AMD Athlon II X2 245 (2.9Ghz) dual-core processor
– Gigabyte NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS graphics card (512Mb of memory)
– 1Gb DDR2 RAM
– Antec EarthWatts 380W Green power supply, rated 80Plus Bronze

My PC innards looked like this before, and now look like this. Time from start to finish: two hours. Zero problems, and excellent performance. I didn’t even have to reinstall my operating system! I just turned off the computer, unplugged it, changed around the innards, plugged it back in, turned it on, and it worked. Vive Ubuntu! I did need to remove some tweaks to Ubuntu for my old graphics card, but that was it. DVDs play smoothly at full resolution now, and I’m delighted with how fast Gimp opens and edits my photos. My old setup (AMD Sempron 2800+ 1.6Ghz processor, 128Mb graphics card, and 1Gb of RAM) had a rough time with Gimp, taking nearly a minute to open; the new setup opens Gimp in less than three seconds. I’m happy!