MacBook fix-up to fend off the urge to upgrade

The upgrade-itch is familiar to all mac enthusiasts.  No sooner have you gotten your shiny new mac product out of it’s well-designed box, and Steve Jobs is unveiling the Next Best Thing!  I got sucked into the new product lust when I abandoned my perfectly functional 2 year old iBook for a MacBook, and although I keep casting lusty glances at my hubby’s unibody MacBook, I definitely cannot afford to upgrade this time.  So my mantra is “make the most of what you’ve got.”

I’m fixing up my 2.5 year old white MacBook in hopes of making it purr like it’s just out of the box again.  Here’s what I’ve done so far:

0. Upgrade memory

(I did this when I first acquired the MacBook – installed 2GB memory)

1.  New battery

The rechargeable battery in my MacBook had gone from achieving an impressive 5 hours of run-time to a measly 2.5 hours.  It took forever to recharge and then drained pretty quickly.  After 415 charge cycles, that’s pretty normal.  So I ordered a new battery, calibrated it, and I’m back to a happy amount of battery time.

2.  Clean out the cobwebs

I bought software called “Clean My Mac” that made short work of all the junk taking up space on my computer.  So far it’s recovered 2.07 precious GB of space.

3. Upgrade iLife & Office for Mac

iLife ’09 seemed worth it.  The update to iPhoto was excellent, with the new “faces” and “places” features and all the great photo book templates.  I’m looking forward to trying out iWeb too.

And since hubby was buying a copy of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac for his macbook, I upgraded my old version too.  I already really liked the old version (especially the “notebook” view in Word), but 2008 is even better.

4. Organize my photos and music properly

I wasn’t using iPhoto properly.  Instead of importing directly into iPhoto, I was first importing to folders within my Photos folder, (a hold-over from my PC days) which meant duplicating my photos in the iPhoto Library folder and using a ton of space.  In some ways it’s easier to use the folder system, but I decided to relinquish a bit of organizing control to the iPhoto software to make life more simplified.

Similarly, I had a few folders of music in my Music folder that weren’t within the iTunes Music folder, so I imported those and deleted the out-of-place folders to simplify things.

5. Organize my out-of-control Firefox bookmarks

Still working on this one.  I bookmark so much stuff!  But I’ve been trying to go through and consolidate all the odd bookmark folders such as “dec16tabs” and “nov14blogging”.

That’s all I’ve done so far to try to make my MacBook good-as-new.  I would welcome any other suggestions people have.  The best defence against new Mac lust is to make your current Mac as awesome as possible!

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in the stars for 2010

The G&M published horoscopes for the upcoming year…I know I may as well read tea leaves or interpret signs from the pattern of dog shit strewn on the lawn, but what can I say, I love reading horoscopes.

Here’s what’s in the stars for this Virgo in 2010:

VIRGO You are still feeling the after-effects of the past 12 months and although January’s solar eclipse will herald a respite, you may have to wait until late June for definite signs of progress. Because expansive Jupiter and restrictive Saturn are both focusing on your finances for much of the year, you will need to find a balancing point between parsimony and profligacy. With a friend or loved one relying on you for practical, emotional or moral support, your resources will be sorely stretched, especially around the time of April’s Saturn-Uranus opposition. The year will end on a higher note than it began but just how high depends on you.

Ignoring the broad applicability customary to all horoscopes, I find this to be quite spot-on for me.  I am definitely still feeling the after-effects of the past year (mental health tanking), and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes until June before things start looking up on that front.  I particularly like “just how high depends on you”…I know I have a lot of work to do to get healthy, and I find this horoscope very motivating, what can I say.  I’m ready to work hard and kick some mental health ass!

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Pour your apathy into the “meh.” flask

This meh. flask almost makes me wish I were a drinker.  I’m too much a teetotaller to justify procuring a flask, (after all, I am on a decluttering kick), but I do think a flask is an essential part of any holiday family gathering survival kit.

From ThinkGeek

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Pantry: OCD for your kitchen

In my quest to obsessively organize everything in the house, I’ve stumbled upon what looks to be some fabulously useful grocery inventory software: Pantry by ThinkFresher.  I’m using Pantry for Mac (free) and Pantry for iPhone ($2.99).

Here’s the scenario.  You want to make a recipe, but you aren’t sure if you have all the ingredients.  But you’re already at the store!  So you buy everything you’ll need, only to find that you already had a giant sack of spelt flour at home, and you sure did not need any more cinnamon.

Alternatively, you’re pretty sure you have a can of pinto beans at home, except that oops, you didn’t, but now you can’t make your awesome stew without trudging back to the store.  Sigh.

Pantry seems like the ultimate, overkill answer to this problem.  I say overkill because, in the “olden days”, people just got a little organized and checked for ingredients before going out shopping, right?  Well, for those of us who are too disorganized to do that, this software promises to get your grocery inventory organized to an obsessive level so you’ll never have to dig through the cupboards again.

The daunting part is taking the initial inventory.  Holy crow, how many bottles of different oils and vinegars do we have in here?!  And spices!  So many spices.  That’s going to take a while.  But the payoff will be fabulous, especially for more obscure ingredients that we’ve bought for one recipe and then barely used.  Don’t want to end up with another jar of coconut oil.

But once you have that inventory done, you’re set (err, aside from keeping quantities and items updated).  You’ll never run out of toilet paper again, because Pantry will automatically put it on your shopping list when you’re running low.  Phew.

Pantry’s sync capability is a crowning touch.  You create a free account for your household’s pantry, and this will keep your grocery inventory synced between your desktop software, and iPhone apps.  You’ll be able to check to see if you have cinnamon while you’re in the store, and view your real-time grocery list.  So when the hubby calls to ask if we need anything at the store, I can just remind him to check Pantry on his iPhone.  Dig it :)

Now, Pantry is not all sugar and spice (though it is very nice); there are two things I would change:

One is to make the quantity tracking a little easier.  I can track how many cans of chickpeas we have by calling each can a unit, fine (though I would love to be able to select “cans” out of the drop-down list).  But with stuff that doesn’t come in such clearly defined units, I am still trying to get the hang of the quantities.  E.g., dog kibble.  I want it to be added to the list when we’re down to a third of a bag.  But it looks like my only option is to use cups or kg or some measure like that.  I feel it would be more useful to be able to enter a percentage, because I’ll never keep precise measurements on that stuff.

The other thing I would change is that I would like to be able to edit the categories to fit what we buy a little better.  We don’t need a “meat” category, because we don’t buy meat.  I put the tofu in there, but it’s not really intuitive for us.  So I’d love to be able to take it out or rename it.  Minor edit, but it’d be nice.

Anyway, overall, I think this one is a winner, if I can keep up with it.  But it does make me wonder…is it really necessary to expend all this energy to get the kitchen organized to this level?  I guess time will tell.

I’m off to inventory the spice drawer!  You can check out Pantry here.

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Too many vitamins

I have just realized that I have a ridiculous vitamin hoarding problem!  Seriously, there must be dozens upon dozens of bottles of vitamins in my cupboards.  His and hers multivitamins, co-enzyme Q-10, vitamin D, calcium + D, zinc, echinacea, some kind of thyroid formula, greens + fibre, iron, ginko, ester C, Greens+ extra energy tablets, MSM, B12, some other kind of calcium…and that’s just the stuff in pill format.  Don’t get me started on the powders and liquids.

Way, way too many vitamins.  I think if I actually took them all, I would make myself sick; but here’s where my absentmindedness is actually good for my health.  I buy vitamins impulsively after reading this or that about them in some kind of health news, take them for maybe 3 days, and then completely fall off the wagon.  So for all of the vitamins in the cupboard, I end up just randomly taking one every once in a while when I remember they’re there.  Yesterday, for example, I ate leftover birthday cake for breakfast, which prompted me to wash it down with a multivitamin.  Because they totally cancel each other out…right? :)

Anyway, my absentminded vitamin hoarding problem is probably a huge waste of money because I bet that many of them will expire before I get around to them.  And maybe I’m missing out on some possible health benefits from taking some of them religiously…after all, that’s why I bought them in the first place.  E.g., as a Canadian, and a depressed one at that, I should definitely be taking vitamin D more regularly.  But the prospect of figuring exactly which ones I should be taking and when and with what and without what and how much and for how long…well…shit, I have no idea.  So I’ll just keep taking a random one out of the collection when I remember, and try not to bring any more home.  I like to think of vitamins as a stop-gap anyway…I should really be getting my vitamins from my diet in the first place!


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the giving tree

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A hiatus for mental health


I’m slowly resuming blogging after a long hiatus from just about everything.

I’ve spent my entire life perfecting the art of being outwardly “fine” and putting one foot in front of the other.  I have a “good job”,  graduated with my BA highest honours, volunteer, am nearly done my MA (ABDT – all but damned thesis).  I’m in a happy forever relationship with a wonderful man, and we have two poodles instead of kids. Our spice drawer is alphabetized.  Basically, the ducks are in a row.

But reality is so messy.  I’ve been riding the mental health rollercoaster my entire life…slowly and laboriously climbing up the hill, and suddenly dropping back down.  I work hard at sanity.  Enough therapy to buy a degree at an Ivy League.  Vitamins and diet tweaks of every description.  Yoga and new age stuff.  Enough books to keep the self-help and psychology publishing business going strong.  I even studied psychology as my minor in school.  Always searching for understanding.  I’m a figurative mechanic.  If I can understand it, I can fix it.

Despite my inherent distrust of the pharmaceutical industry, I’ve tried that too.  I’ve tried many medications without much luck, and have mostly just struggled along on my own until recently.  Two summers ago I had a bad relapse and went back on medication, and at long last it seemed like I had found one that was a good fit.

Fast forward to this summer.  The meds lost their effectiveness over a period of two or three months, so gradually that by the time I realized what had happened I was having an awful relapse.  I changed meds, which just made things worse, turning me into a zombie.  I couldn’t function, so I took a month away from work to find the right meds and get stable.  I felt fairly mortified to be going on mental health leave, feeling certain my bosses and colleagues would think I was pathetic and lazy and weak…I know, quite uncharitable, and I’m sure it says more about what I think about myself than what others think about me.  But at this point I had become so paranoid that I actually believed that my own family despised me, even my dad, with whom I’ve always had a great relationship.  I even thought my poodles hated me!  Clearly I was not in a rational state of mind.

I think I must have changed my meds 5 times in as many weeks.  When I was losing hope of ever finding something that would work, it seemed I had found the right combo of drugs, just in time to return to work.  What a relief that was.  As much as I don’t relish the cubicle life, I missed my coworkers and the normalcy of routine.  In hindsight, I think I was in a rush to get back to avoiding the problem.

I returned to work, but soon realized I wasn’t as well as I had hoped…I was having terrible mood swings, bursting into tears in my cubicle, looking out the window at the river and having intrusive thoughts of “going for a swim”.  On top of that I was exhausted, and having headaches, dizziness and nausea from my medication, and would sometimes close my cubicle door and curl up under my desk waiting for a wave of sickness to pass.  It was awful.

When I described this to my doctor, he said it sounded like I wasn’t stable yet, and we talked more medication options.  I ended up switching from an SSRI to an SNRI (even though the last SNRI I tried was horrendous), in hopes that it would perk me up a bit during the day.  So far I’m on day 6 of the new meds and they seem to be working okay…knock on wood…I know it’s still too soon to know, but I’m really hoping that this one will get me “back to normal” – whatever that is.

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