The parts for my new computer arrived today. Anytime a shipment of computer parts arrive it's like Christmas morning. Lots of packaging and unwrapping to do.
Chris says my new case is like a mini-fridge (it is a tower as opposed to a mid tower which is what I normally buy).
The assembly went faster than expected. Each time I build a new computer it seems like more and more components become snap in/plug and play. I'm just happy that I haven't had to manually set the voltage for the processor with (jumpers on the motherboard) in ages.

It also helps to have all of your data stored on a different hard drive than your operating system. No waiting to transfer files!

That doesn't look like much does it? That's the view from the couch where I laid down after work.

Headaches are annoying...

We've been doing a lot of this lately. He just kind of naps on the file cabinet next to my desk.

I'm glad we've finally come to an arrangement and he's not doing stuff like this anymore.

What can I say? The game is still new....

Took a stroll downtown after work and saw these in the Grand River.

Yes, you guessed it. Today is another Guild Wars 2 filled day. But! I did do a few other things...
Chris went grocery shopping while I was gaming and came back with some blueberries. That means blueberry cobbler!

Since it was hot out, I took decided to use the grill. Man, I love that thing.
 We also took a long walk through Palmer Park

And I finished out the rest of the day gaming with my Norn Ranger in Guild Wars 2....
...and my adorable fuzzy real life companion Leki. He slept next to me almost all day.

So I went to bed around 7pm last night in anticipation of the Guild Wars 2 launch at 3am. Why? Because it's the weekend! And because I wanted to be on a specific server that also happened to have a lot of people who wanted to be there.

There was a possibility of servers coming up at midnight, so I got up then, logged in, and got on the server I wanted. It was painless! And I should have probably just stayed up as opposed to going to bed so early.

I played for a few hours then went to bed. I've never been really great staying up late and I don't operate well on less than 8 hours of sleep.

I made some cinnamon roll pancakes in the morning then played on and off for pretty much the entire day.
I did take a break to grill some home made pizza though! With a bread machine, whipping up a tasty pizza is really easy. Plus, with it being so hot outside I used that as an excuse to grill more food instead of bake the pizza in the oven. I really do like the taste of it grilled over baked.
Then I just played a lot more Guild Wars 2. It's a really pretty game on my system and I have an aging video card. Yes, I have two video cards for SLI but at the moment Guild Wars 2 does not support it...yet.

I'd love to see what it looks like on a top of the line machine.
I still have a lot of lag while playing in World vs World vs World combat, even with the graphics turned all the way down, but I'm sure part of that is just the sheer hammering the Guild Wars 2 servers are taking at the moment.

Chris was far more productive today than I was. While I was questing away in a virtual world he was cleaning the garage, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, and picking up around the house.

Today is the first day of the Dozynki Polish Harvest Festival in downtown Grand Rapids. My friend Lori first introduced me to this festival a few years ago and I've tried to make it every year. It totally helps that I work downtown. Going to this festival for the first time also resulted in my love of pierogi. Come to think of it, I should try making them again.
I made sure to get some pierogi, because lets face it, I'm in love with those things. I also thought I'd try the Polish torte this year. Tasty!

I kind of want to go back there for dinner...

I had a headache all day so when I got home I wanted nothing more than to go to bed. Chris (and the cat) hung out with me for the evening. They're so great.

I like having bananas around, but I never seem to eat them before they start to get overripe. To be honest, I'm sure part of the problem is that I like a lot of my fruit slightly underripe, so I start to consider it banana bread fodder sooner than I probably need to.

Anyway, I stumbled across this tasty looking recipe for Grilled Banana Boats and I just happened to have two ripe bananas lying around.

So I cut open a slit in the banana peel and stuffed it full of chocolate and marshmallows. I did not have any peanut butter chip.
I tossed them on the side of the grill that is the coolest. I tried to get them nestled in the grooves so they wouldn't fall over.

Then I left them there for about 10 minutes...
One of them had fallen over slightly, but did not spill any thing out into the grill. Hooray!
I even decided to grab some peanut butter and try it that way. Tasty with or without! I will definitely make these again!

 I should be reading one of the bunches of books I have started (especially the library book)....
...or I should be working on integrating the proximity sensor I have into an arduino project. I really think that would be a fun thing to play with...
...but instead I spent several hours playing in a Guild Wars 2 stress test this evening. Woo!

Anticipation for the launch of Guild Wars 2 is in full swing this week. The game launched next Tuesday but I'll be in the headstart beginning on Saturday. So I was pretty excited when Charrlie, an adorable Charr plushie, arrived in the mail today. Even Leki had some interest, if only to lick and chew on the hair.

I spent a little more time tweaking the arduino snail mail project today. First and foremost was getting the arduino to send emails. It's all well and good to get iOS notifications but neither of us have iPhones. While an iOS notification would be useful to Chris (he uses his tablet a lot during the day) it's not for me. I'd much prefer to get an email notification.

So Chris wrote a little PHP code that send emails and I tweaked the arduino sketch to pull the PHP.

Suddenly I was receiving emails!
Next was getting an LED to light up when the snap action switch opened. Initially I ran into an issue where I was using a pin already reserved for the ethernet shield, but once I plugged into pin 9 (instead of 10) it was smooth sailing.
Now when the mailbox opens, the green LED will turn on (and stay on). I also get an iOS notification (as you can see in the background), and an email.

The next major bit I'm going to tackle is building in a timer for the LED. I'd like to have it designed so that when the mailbox first opens, the light comes on. Hours later when I come home and get the mail, the light is turned off (triggered by the second opening of the box). 

If you're wondering what the purpose of the LED is, its to work as a visual status indicator. The intent is to have this arduino project sitting in its to-be-created housing by the front door. Then, on the off chance that neither of us have checked email or used an iOS device recently, we'll see the green light is on and check the mail.

Soon there will be no excuse to leave mail in the mailbox. Ever. Even if I wanted to.

Of course there's still the issue with the wireless. I've been eyeballing those two WR703Ns I have but haven't worked up to messing with them.

NOTE: Update 1/9/2013: A full project update can be found here.

I'll admit it's been awhile since I've messed with the arduino. I've been pretty into Guild Wars lately so I haven't been messing with it as much. But this morning I decided to get this little project going again.

This version (as opposed to the RF transmission one) involves using an ethernet connection and pushes notifications to iOS using Prowl. There's a nice video out on MAKE which is where I got this idea from.

It's really a pretty easy setup.
Using a snap action switch inside the mailbox, the lid keeps the switch normally closed...
...and when the mailbox opens, the switch triggers the arduino to send the notification out.
Yay technology!

One of the major hurdles with this setup is the need for an ethernet cord. Since my router and front door aren't next to each other, I need a wireless solution.

I spend a chunk of the day trying to get Open-WRT configured on the little WR703N to act as a bridge between the arduino and the wireless network. I only succeeded in wanting to rip my hair out. I'll get there eventually, I just have to undo a lot of "damage" I did today on the router configuration.

Sometime down the road I plan on adding an LED notifier (hence the breadboard in the photos). The plan is to have the light go on once the switch is triggered. The light would remain on until mail is retrieved from the box later in the day. I'm still working out the code for that.

Anyway, if you're curious here's the example code, schematic, and a list of hardware/software I used today.
schematic courtesy of Fritzing



This arrived today. It makes noises, lights up, and comes with a multi-page manual. Chris was very excited.

Guild Wars 2 launches on August 28th. What better way to prepare than to blow through the two novels currently out that bridge the story between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.

I spent my lunch hour down at Rosa Parks Circle, as I usually do during the week. This time instead of a friendly squirrel I was greeted by an enthusiastic sparrow curious to see if I had any crumbs near me.

Sadly I did not.

Finally! This is the first time I've seen the cat actually use anything that came out of the cat bed crafting day in June (aka first wedding anniversary).

Glad to see he's using one of the beds, even if it is the super over-sized mistake one.

It's still construction season.

This morning I picked up right where I left off last night and started baking. I started out making some Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. They're super delicious but incredibly rich. Its easy to slip into a sugar coma after having a few of these. 
We went out shopping so Chris could pick up a scanner, then I immediately started baking again when we got home. Next up was a pan of Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. I didn't have any Fleur de sel, so I used a smidge of regular salt. I don't typically add salt to recipes anyway, so I'm sure these will still taste delicious.
I grilled up some barbecue chicken as well as corn on the cob. I even prepped four patties of Black Bean Burgers. Unfortunately I think the bean burgers are a little dry (which is my fault) so these are going to be extra crumbly. They're no substitute for Brick Road Pizza's delicious veggie burger, but they'll hold me over till our Friday visit.

I did think seriously about making some Banana Boats on the grill and S'mores Bars in the oven, but there are only so many sweets the two of us can realistically eat. Besides, I already have some cheesecakes from several weeks ago in the freezer.

It stopped raining over night so Chris was able to test out the mower this morning. He has a pretty good write up of his experience and the differences between the electric and gas here, on blog.
While Chris was out being productive, I was trying to finish up the one last thing in Guild Wars. I finally snagged the last bit I needed to get 15 points in their Hall of Monuments. So my intense binge the last few weeks have come to a close (until Guild Wars 2 launches in 2 weeks, that is). Now I have a lovely set of tonics to turn my character into random things, including a Mursaat.

With the last point achieved, I needed a break from Guild Wars. But I'd been playing it in all my free time the last several weeks I flailed around all afternoon trying to find my footing. Read? Naw. Watch TV? Naw.
Finally around 9pm I decided to bake. I've been saving a few different recipes to try and tonight sounded like a good night to try the chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe.

They're not bad cookies. I made them as huge cookies, but that's ok. They're a nice change from regular chocolate chip cookies.

The electric mower we ordered last Sunday arrived today. We did come home to it sitting in a puddle of rain, and with the hassle last Sunday of trying to get our hands on this mower, we figured something important would be wet and ruined.
But nope! Everything inside the box was still dry and Chris set to assembling it for a test drive tomorrow morning.

It's raining! Finally! It's been pretty dry the last several week so a nice steady rain is what we needed. Plus the rain sounds fantastic throughout the house when all the windows are open.

No surface is safe from the cat's laziness, not even a lonely hand.

And you better hope you don't have to move or there will be a lot of angry protesting.