Wednesday, July 31, 2013

And the First Stop is.......

Tbilisi, Georgia (country not the state).
Image from:

It is such a relief that after months and months of being asked where we are moving to (and saying I don't know) or getting the eyebrow raise when I said I moving overseas and don't know where.....yeah.

To help you orient yourself, I found this map online:
Image from:
Now its time to plan......figure out kids clothes (how quickly will they grow and how much can I find on clearance based on the climate, which looks surprisingly similar to Charleston....except there are mountains full of snow close by to go play in during the winter!), food and toiletries we can't live without and don't want to pay an arm and a leg for (we are actually allotted 2500 lbs of said food and toiletries...called consumables, because they are so hard to find/expensive!).

Flag Day

So I sat in an auditorium waiting for the program to start.....finally, the standing room only auditorium quieted when the mike was turned on. Introductions of everyone on stage, a short speech by a member of the specialist class. And finally the part everyone was waiting on....a completely random mixed up presentation of flags.....I picked up on Richard's CDO (its the gov't, would you expect anything less...Career Development Officer) would stand before a IMS (information management specialist) flag was announced. \

So when she stood up, I hit record.....I apologize for the focus being on the head of couple in front of me...but I was filming with one hand and taking photos on my iPhone with the other....
And after all 95 flags were distributed (oh and Richard's was around flag was over!
Richard was part of the 130th specialist class.....the number started around the not too terribly many classes....this is an elite group of professionals!

Here is a shot of all the IMS people in Richard's class (less one guy who jetted early) with a statue of Ben Franklin on the FSI campus (looks a lot like a college campus).

Then it was off to Happy Hour to celebrate (or chase a 3 year old around in my case)!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pins and Needles

On pins and is the day of Richard's training that we are suppose to get the bid list (aka the short list of 13 possible places we will move to).....then the fun part! Research for ranking them high, medium and low based on how much and why we want to go (or prefer not to go).  Eek! Getting real now!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dear Charleston.....

It's not you, it's me....

Back in 2000, I was looking for a grad school. Nearly a year of pipetting at Sequenom, Inc (while cool and interesting well as some awesome co-workers) wrist informed me it was time to go back to school. I found you, Charleston, I found you.

August 2001, I moved here and started working on my Master's in Environmental Science (or as I joked with my students, my Master's in Tree Hugging) at College of Charleston. I did my thesis work studying the dolphins along your coast (even published it here!). I finished my degree and I worked here. You supported me, Charleston, at NOAA as a contractor and at First Baptist School as a chemistry teacher.

I fell hard for you Charleston, I fell hard. You were the perfect city in my mind....far enough south to have mild winters but not Florida getting hammered by nearly every hurricane going by. So perfect that I have lived here for nearly 12 years....the longest I've lived in any city since I graduated high school and left for college!

Having moved from California where if something better can be built, the old is torn down and to make room to build the new, I really noted and enjoyed the oldness of the area. I've absorbed the history here. The historical homes (even taught Chemistry in the basement of one), the horse drawn carriages, the ghost tours, plantation tours, sweet grass basket makers (I do love my basket!)....I could go on.

Then there is the natural history of the area (a personal favorite), Bulls Island with its nearly untouched nature; Dewees Island with the coolness of its sustainability; the dolphins I have seen frolicking about in the rivers, harbor, and along the coast; pluff mud (I could probably get by without the marsh fart though....); Francis Beidler Forest and the untouched bald cypress tress; the Angel Oak (oldest living organism this side of the Mississippi) your aura.....I love being enveloped in it; all your majestic live oak trees (even the two in our yard dropping acorns all spring)....I could go on.

Then there are your bridges....bridges, bridges everywhere. The kiddo's would ask me how long to get to ______, I'd reply we have to go over # bridges.....made the drive a little more fun... Who can forget the OLD Cooper River wonder Charleston is called the holy had to say a prayer that you would make it over every time!

Oh, dear Charleston, your food. First class. While I am still not one to indulge in sweet tea and boiled peanuts, I do enjoy the locally grown fruits and vegetables....I will miss you CSA. I fell in love with your pimento cheese (seems it is not a proper luncheon without you!). EVO, Sesame, EVO, Mustard Seed, EVO.....I may just miss you the most! While I am not a big beer drinker, the hubby will miss your local brews and growler fills....Coast you just might be missed the most by him.

Speaking of the hubby......I met my hubby here, in this city by the sea. As well as welcomed my two babies into the world here. The world is calling my name. It is waiting to be Charleston, I bid thee farewell. I wish you the best. I will come back to visit you, so this is not so much as a good bye but a see you later.


Photo by Teresa Rogers, Charleston Portrait Photography

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vacancy Announcement

If you are interested in spending quite a bit of times sitting on a plane and racking up frequent flyer points, the State Department is now hiring for a Diplomatic Courier.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Warning: Geeky Post Ahead

Soon after Deb and I got married, I found out about a real cool product by Microsoft called Windows Home Server. This was a servery operating system (based on Server 2003) that was targeted towards home users. It came with preset shared folders (Music, Pictures, Software, etc) as well as "personal" folders for each user that you set up on the server. Plus (and this was the two big selling points to me) it had an application you could "push" to Windows machines in your home environment that would "back up" those machines daily as well had a feature called "drive extender" that took all of the hard drives you installed on the server and "pooled" them together to make one "big" drive (it copied data among all the drives and if you lost one drive, your data was still protected).

You could purchase the software for $99 and I set it up on an old Dell desktop I had. We then began a process of going "all digital", ie any paper we had we scanned it to files. Time consuming, but it saved a lot of space.

Well, in typical Microsoft fashion they released a new version of Home Server and then decided to cancel the program all together. Our old server was still churning along so I kept well enough alone. That is until I got offered my position in the State Department. Our server was pushing 10 years old, and while it was working fine there was always some concern in the back of my mind on what happens if a piece of hardware dies on the server. Since it was a Dell workstation, and it had some proprietary parts, would I be able to replace them? I started searching for a new solution.

My first thought was just to buy the biggest portable USB drive I could get and dump all of our data to it. It would be small (small enough to fit in a backpack if we had to get out of town quick), and fairly inexpensive. The downside was speed (USB, even at 3.0 isn't that fast), sharing between multiple computers and what happens if the drive dies. Most of those portable drives you cannot service yourself, and if it dies you could loose all of your data.

Option 2 was build another server. I was thinking about purchasing an HP Proliant and running something like FreeNAS on it. I had used FreeNAS on a previous project as a proof of concept to set up clustering/shared storage in the lab. This would give me the opportunity to have some redundancy (multiple discs in the server) and the ability to upgrade. The downside is I would have to devote time to setting it up and configuring it. With our upcoming move, time was something I really didn't' have. Plus, it was getting on the big side, and it wouldn't be something we could quickly take with us.

A few weeks ago, I got a daily alert from every computer geeks favorite store, NewEgg. They had as a daily deal a Drobo 5N on sale for $150 off of retail price. I had been looking at Drobos for a while. It had everything I wanted (multiple drive bays, easy to set up, small/portable and had a network interface). Usually the price was out of my ballpark. However this was too good of a price to pass up. I placed the order along with an order for a Western Digital Red 2TB hard drive which was also on sale. The WD Red series are designed for NAS (Network Attached Storage), ie they are designed to be "on" 24x7x365 and have a high MTBF. In our old server I had 2 x 1TB Western Digital Green drives. the WD Green series are designed for low power consumption. I had read some reviews where people who used them in NAS devices had issues with them Green drives dropping out of the drive pool when they go in to their power save mode. I never had any problems. I decided to recycle those drives in the Drobo, so I would have a total of 3 drives (with two spare drive bays for expansion).

I got the Drobo as well as the drive in. Hooked it up and within 20 minutes it was up and running. I did the initial configurations and created shares just like we had on the Windows server. I made a copy of all our data to a USB drive we purchased, just in case something bad happened. Then I xcopied all of the files from the Windows server to the new Drobo. Within a few hours, all of our data was copied over and everything was working perfectly. All of our computers could see the Drobo and shares (we have Windows and Mac). I decommissioned the old server, re-installed XP and donated the computer to Goodwill.

So far everything is working fine with the Drobo. We have it set up in our temporary housing (ie my parents house). We will take it to DC with us for training and then it will travel with us overseas. I just ordered another 2TB WD Red drive (got in onsale from Newegg) so we will increase our storage capacity.

My next task is to try and see if a cloud storage provider will allow backups "from" the Drobo. That way we will have an offsite copy of all our data.