Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

It's 59 degrees Fahrenheit outside (at the end of December!), and it seems really nice despite the mist that's almost up to drizzle. Somehow that strange warmth makes me really optimistic for 2007! Happy New Year, everyone! Best!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Daddy bought an embroidery machine for me as a mom present while we were at the mall the day before my water broke the day before Karston was born. It is a Brother PE-180D, I knew it was well-liked, and it was an incredible price (1/4 the best price on Froogle, and 1/8 the best price I had ever seen in person) because it was the display unit. However, I've had to solve a number of open box problems. The first was that I didn't have the manual. Luckily the on-screen help covers almost everything. Then I found a link to the manual at SewForLess. (I couldn't find the manual with Google, and Brother's web find only wanted to sell me a printed copy. The kicker is that the link goes to Brother's web site!) The second problem was that I had the wrong hoop. Yes, the dangers of open box: not only are some components like the manual missing, others could be just plain wrong! After careful analysis of how the hoop went on the arm (don't forget, we're a two-engineer household!), we knew they didn't go together. There was no way to latch the hoop securely that also held the fabric flush with the bed so that it wasn't a hazard. (I broke two needles proving this before the careful analysis. The first needle break launched one shard just below my left eye, and now I always wear safety glasses when embroidering. I bet you didn't think safety glasses belong in a sewing room! but they do in mine.) I ordered the hoop from SewForLess since they supplied the manual link. But I still had a serious problem with a large snarl of thread on the underside of the fabric that eventually would break the upper thread. First I had to discover the name of this problem: birdsnesting. Once I knew that, I could troubleshoot with Google. At the sewing machine fault finder, I learned that birdsnesting is usually caused by improper upper threading. At first I scoffed, since I have a lot of machine threading experience. But I re-threaded it very carefully and slowly, following the on-screen directions, and the bird's nest disappeared. In this case I think my sewing and serging experience was part of the problem: I was sure I could just whip that upper thread through its path, no need to read the directions or to be careful! Now I know that I need to be very careful, and that following the on-screen directions helps. I still feel that I can thread the needle faster by hand than with the F.A.S.T. system, so I do let my experience over-ride that part of the directions. But slowing down vastly improved the results! Then my final problem, on my second test embroidery, the upper thread broke. When I grabbed the thread end, it was obvious: the large embroidery thread cone, 6 inches tall, wasn't unwinding freely. I was using my serger's stand and thread arm and reaching over to the embroidery machine, but it wasn't a good kluge. So Daddy installed the thread cone stand from my mom, the thread flowed easily, and the embroidery just worked. Ahh... since embroidery was part of our Christmas gift plans, the last two solutions were just in time!

I can now embroider when I want (OK, a year and a half later). The only remaining problem is that sometimes the bobbin thread pulls through to the front for a while. To keep it from showing up, I just wind a bobbin in the same color. Having equal weight upper and lower thread usually helps sewing anyway, and Singer Type 66 bobbins are easy to find. I might solve that problem in time, but for now I'm happy that I can now embroider what I want when I want.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Treo Tips: Gmail

Now if this isn't just the fastest way to join Gmail: SMS Signup for a Gmail Account. I'm teetering on that edge ... do I want to see email on my Treo or not? If it's good, I'll never be unplugged ever again, and I'm not sure that's good. (Then again, my cute kid can always convince me to play with him, so I do have that reality check. And I sure do enjoy relaxing with my fantastic hubby, so maybe I would remember the world outside of my Treo.)

(I don't need to point out that you can Gmail for the Treo, do I? I'd still install Google Maps first, though.)

Treo Tips: Froogle for Mobile

Ah, finally! One of the ways I use my Treo is to search Froogle while I'm in the store. It curbs regrettable impulse buys when I can check prices and reviews on the stop. However, Froogle isn't the easiest site to read on a Treo. So when I saw Froogle for Mobile, I had to take a look. Sure enough, is what I want to use instead! Nice.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

'klet and kaboodle

I noticed why I like the Kaboodle service ... the bookmarklet. It makes seeing something (on the web) and filing it away (on the web) seamless. That's the leading half of why I use too. Plus I like storing web information on the web so I can use any browser from any location (say, from my Treo), and the similarity serendipity. The other half is that the combination of tags and search makes it easy for me to find links again; Kaboodle looks to have that promise too, but time will tell. If I'm still using Kaboodle after the holiday season then it's a keeper!

Friday, December 1, 2006

Today's Observation

You know you're driving too slow when ... a diesel passes you on the right and never makes it up to the speed limit. And I was driving an old diesel with power issues until the turbo waste gate hose gets replaced! At least it doesn't smoke.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Recycle Plastic Bags

Between reusing plastic bags for used diapers or stinky whatnot, and crocheting them into other objects, I thought I had recycling plastic bags figured out. Then I ran across The Plastic Bag Pages and saw how wrong I was! Check it out if you'd like a few hundred suggestions to reuse plastic bags.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Oh Wow

It's a pretty day this afternoon, and we won't have many more pretty days before we have to push through several months of unmitigated winter. So we ate lunch outside on the deck! Lunch was a bit late, which makes me gassy. Today it made me really gassy. But you know, I was outside, so I decided to be comfortable. After three impressively loud farts in a row, my 16-month-old toddler with very few words in his repertoire looked at me and said Oh wow. Needless to say, we cracked up! Yeah, he's probably right.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Treo Recovery

Karston played with my Treo after dinner today, and then I couldn't find it. I went through the whole house carefully, at toddler height. I checked the box where he had unpacked the box, dropped in my office keys, and then put everything back. Finally I went back to the stand-by, Where did you definitely see it last? Daddy had seen it (for sure) later than I was sure I had seen it, so I started there. He saw Karston grab it from the coffee table. So I walked all around the living room on my knees, and looked under the couch. No phone. We called my phone, but Karston's learned to turn off the phone function, and yes, my phone was off the air. So finally I lifted couch cushions, and found it under the second one I checked. Whew! I didn't even know Karston hid things there!

The new trick I learned by accident on my Treo is that you can dim the screen for a session by pressing OPTION (the black blob) and MENU. Press that combination again, and the screen goes back to normal brightness. I use this when I want to enter some tasks at night (so I can clear my brain and then fall asleep), when the screen seems so bright at the lowest setting. This extra-dim setting is also good for playing solitaire (Klondike in Patience) during a midnight nursing. (I then use it as my very expensive flashlight so I can get back in bed without tripping on something otherwise unseen.)


A study on sleep/wake patterns of breast-fed infants in the first 2 years of life indicates Karston should sleep less than his non-breast-fed counterparts and not sleep through the night. Oh well! I think he already knows that, and I'm the one coming to grips with it. I would daydream about the time I get to sleep on my own schedule again, but I'm too close to zombie to daydream. Still, some day I am sure I will be allowed to have a regular sleep schedule of my own. And I think all those times when I thought we were "almost there" were cases of wishful thinking. Come on, I've been thinking Karston was close to sleeping through the night without us since he was six months old, and here he is about to pass sixteen months of age without a full week of full sleep. I just need to accept that I have a happy, healthy child who doesn't need as much sleep as I'd like. The important phrase is "happy, healthy child," and I'll just deal with the rest. Now if he would give up what he did way too early Wednesday morning (cry from 1:30 AM to 5:30 AM), that would be great!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

dead keyboard

Well, one thing about mobile toddlers is more accidents. This time the accident was tipping my almost-empty water onto my laptop's keyboard. I shut down as fast as I could, let it dry a couple days ... but the keyboard didn't survive. I can't use seven keys on the right-hand side, including the letter 'i' and the '-' hyphen symbol (and shifted versions) as well as well as the ever-useful space bar and return key. I couldn't figure out how to log in at first, but then I remembered that I could (duh) use an external USB keyboard. No space and no return really slows down typing.

So this evening, I ordered a new keyboard from iFixIt since they have the right keyboard in stock, a reputation for good service, and detailed take-apart directions. Here's hoping!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Easy Thunderbird Growl

I'm trying to like Apple's on my work laptop, but I still use good ol' Thunderbird at home. I do like the Growl integration with, so I had to find a way to add Thunderbird to Growl. Turns out, it's very easy with Growl New Message Notification. I followed the directions (download it, open extensions manager, and tell the extensions manager to use the download) and, well, it works. It's hardly exciting, although it does spare me a trip to my email client for less-urgent messages. I guess I'm mentioning it because it's so much easier than other Growl and Thunderbird tips I've seen. Plus transparent notification means that my email is much less disruptive to my time while still being central to my work. That's cool!

Unresponsive Script

I finally got tired of seeing "Warning: unresponsive script" while running d3 TiddlyWiki for GTD in Camino. So I looked up a fix, and it's easy. You point your Gecko browser to about:config, you search for dom.max_script_run_time, and you bump that up to 20 or so. I won't miss that dialog box!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

authPriv fails, authNoPriv works

I've been fighting an intermittent problem with one of our network management applications (it started in June), where authPriv stops working. But at least authNoPriv works then, so I can always get out of the woods. Sometimes it went away after a reboot, but not since last month's application upgrade. So. Annoying. But then I saw a post about another SNMP application with the same problem, and that made me look for other ideas. If there's a common base, it's net-snmp, so what if it has a bug with authPriv?

I found a net-snmp bug that sounds like it might be relevant. And even better, the patch may already exist (read whole thread)! We'll find out, but I felt like I was on top of the world, or at least on top of the problem. Ahh. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Recycle Baby Food Jars

I think the end is in sight for baby food from jars. Karston is much more interested in what we're eating, and so far he hasn't refused any food when he's in the mood to eat. So some day soon, no more baby food jars. That's nice (much better than when he would barf back anything not from a jar!), but I've still got a ton of small jars that might be headed for the recycling bin. Still, reduce and reuse are key components to recycling, so I've been looking for other ideas. Here goes!

You can use them to hold beads or buttons. I store the jars upside down for this, so I can see what's in the jar through the clear bottom instead of the opaque lid. I arrange them by color. You can also store screws or other small parts with similar groups that fit in one jar, and arrange by size. has a page on this type of Baby Food Jar Organizer.

My friend Cheryl is good at decoupage (tissue paper and glue on a clear stratum for a nifty stained glass effect), and I think she could make cool votive holders with tea light candles. Turns out that's not a new idea either, because also has a page on How to Use Baby Food Jars for Decorative Votive Candles.

While there, I noticed that has a page on How to Use Baby Food Jars to Make Gifts, and another on How to Make Gel Air Freshener that you could put in clean, empty baby food jars.

Next I turned to Google to dredge up ideas. I turned up a list of uses for Excess Baby Food Jars, and some entries under Crafts from Recycled Stuff. And finally there's Eileen's Favorite Camp Crafts and Other Fun Things from Baby Food Jars. That covers a whole bunch of uses for these baby food jars. I think my favorite (after convincing my crafty friends to take them! that even worked for the first several months) is to donate the jars to a local school or a Girl Scout troop for their arts and crafts!

Update 11/24/2006: And (duh) there's always using them as jars in the kitchen! I stored leftover chocolate chips in one recently.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006


Despite the chilly, overcast, drizzly weather, we went out to vote after work this evening. Google Maps got to the right location out in the sticks, just leaving us the questions of who to pick. That's where you should look at Project Vote Smart if you haven't seen it before. Local newspapers can be helpful if biased, but for those of us who get our news from Jon Stewart (who said, You know this isn't a news show, right?), it's the Internet and PVS instead.

Karston especially liked the "I voted!" stickers.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ooh, the nerve!

This afternoon, we noticed that a large patch of monkey grass (liriope) was mashed down in our yard, between our front door and my garden. It looks like a deer snoozed in our yard last night! Ooh, the nerve of those deer! I don't want them in my yard, no not at all! White-tailed deer are very destructive to their environment (ripping grass out of the ground so it can't grow back, ripping bark off trees when trees are most vulnerable) and they're a dangerous disease vector for people (Lyme's disease anyone?). I don't want those germs in the same yard where my son plays! Plus I'm sure snoozing in the yard means munching on my garden, and I don't approve of that either. Bah humbug.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Well, today it's officially (according to me) fall in my neighborhood. When I drove to work this morning, most of the trees were turning colors, and dropping yellow leaves on the road. Most of those leaves were still attached yesterday after work. I know the calendar said it turned fall last month, but I wait until the trees tell me it's fall. Based on my drive to work this morning, my neighborhood hit fall a little sooner. At least it's a colorful season this year!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hidden iMovie Installer

I need to spend some quality time with iMovie HD, to import footage of The Kid before there's too much footage to touch! (It doesn't help my motivation that there's 40 minutes of footage where Daddy got "record" and "pause" confused -- so what if Record shows a red dot? and Pause parallel green bars? Not all red means stop! So I'll get to throw away some boring stuff.) After reading this post, I wanted to be sure I could install iMovie HD without re-installing my whole system. However, I don't have a System Restore CD, just the Mac OS X Install CD, and it doesn't have a .images directory. What to do? A little work with the find command, and the answer is to look in the System/Installation/Packages/.packages directory instead! Easy cheesy!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Acrobat Toolbar

It's funny that so many people want to get rid of the Acrobat toolbar in Microsoft Office, because I've been looking for it! I want a hyperlinked version of my dissertation without having to create all of those links manually, and Acrobat Professional just won't convert a Word document to any kind of PDF for me. I don't want to make all those useful hyperlinks in the Table of Contents by myself! I also have another issue, that Print To PDF makes 4 documents instead of one, but there's a fix for that.

Of course, I think the final answer is that I can't do it on a Mac because the folks at TidBITs can't either (see the third-from-last paragraph here). No wonder I had that feeling of swimming uphill.

Friday, October 6, 2006


I was having a normal day, and then I found out that a friend of mine didn't know she was pregnant, went to the emergency room with a placental abruption, and had a baby girl six weeks premature. They barely survived the experience. (I was six weeks premature, so I think that part doesn't matter. The doctors said all the same doom-and-gloom about me too. Although, at 4 pounds, I did weigh a little more than Violet.) I had nine months to get used to the idea of me being a mother with a baby in our house, and I think I needed that time. Despite some less-than-ideal circumstances, Linda's very positive and wants the best for her daughter, so I'm sure she'll make it work out. That's where it gets really simple. Linda fiercely wants Violet, and Violet definitely wants Linda (all babies want mother, I've seen it). That's the hopeful part.

So that was my surprise of the month. I'll go back to having normal days, but one of my friends won't. Wow. What do I say?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Treo 700p Saga

So I finally ordered a new phone at work, a Treo 700p to replace my Motorola StarTac ST7860W with the battery of 30 seconds of talk-time. At Telecomm, they were joking that this was such a large step, I wouldn't know what to do.

On the Palm side, I'll retire (maybe) my Tungsten T3. With the slider expanded, the T3 has more pixels (320 x 480) than the 700p (320 x 320), although the Treo has a finer dot pitch. A finer dot pitch is bad news for squinting, but with the really bright screen, it just looks smoother to me (and I don't squint).

The SK6688 keyboard driver IrDA is really bad: when it's installed (not active, mind you), I can only use left 1/4 of touchscreen in any app!

I can't run TimeCopy (I've been running it for a while, and it comes with The Missing Sync), which makes sense since the Treo syncs time from the cellular network. My Treo went into a reset loop when I sync'd with it installed. That's added to my blacklist, but not to my badlist unlike the SK6688 driver.

Last night I decided it was time for The Sync, to move my data from the T3 to the 700p. I don't know if this was the fault of The Missing Sync or of some old software, but when the sync was "done," so was my Treo! It was on an endless cycle of reboots, and when I got it out of that (by a system reset; soft reset didn't do it), it didn't know how to be a phone. Great! That's its job. The Palm software is just a bonus for me.

However, a hard reset AND erasing all data got it back to phone status, thank goodness. Now to put my data back ... It's probably cleaner this way, putting apps back one at a time, and testing Calendar, Contacts, Phone, and the new app for functionality. But it does take longer.

These are the apps that I installed right away:

Graffiti Anywhere and Graffiti ShortCuts.prc from my T3 (no way to change shortcuts on Treo, I guess I must keep T3 for that)

Blazer Bookmarks.pdb from before the hard reset

NoteTaker aka MacNoteTaker

HandyShopper and HS2*.pdb from T3

Patience (solitaire)

Toast Timer

NFP and Unicycle (each is better at different aspects of fertility awareness)

The Core Pocket Media Player - TCPMP

FileZ (and maybe later IdeaPad that I think has a Mac conduit and desktop app but that might be a different Idea Pad?)

Plucker (hasn't been updated in a while ... wondering if I need to switch offline viewers, but I'm not going back to AvantGo)

Yahdice (yahtzee)

Cribbage (in color on T3, now B/W even with fresh download)

The Missing Sync for Palm OS

I don't think The Missing Sync is worth as much as its price tag, but it does let me use iCal without having all of my Palm calendars lumped into one iCal calendar as a one-way trip. Too bad I decided that iCal was part of my GTD plan! I decided to justify The Missing Sync's cost to myself by counting up the Palm software I didn't need to buy for Mac-Palm GTD. Most of all, I wish The Missing Sync would show me the HotSync error number -- and let me know there was a HotSync error! I did a reset on my T3 shortly after I bought The Missing Sync, the IrDA driver is enabled by default after a reset, and all of my (missing) syncs failed without errors until I reverted back to Palm Desktop sync, saw the error number, and recognized what it meant. That's just not good software programming! I took that course, and it's better to fail all over the place with error messages than to fail silently, because subtle errors are the hardest to find. (Plus you should check both input and output data for validity, and always try to give good error messages. How hard are those concepts?)

If the reset-loop problems had persisted, I would have used ResetEmu to find the culprit. However, that's for the "what should I remove" approach, and given that I get a new Palm maybe every three years, I prefer the "add what I still use" approach as a way to get rid of the cruft that otherwise builds up.

After I installed Palm applications, I moved on to productivity applications for networked Palms. Top of the list, secure shell (version 2)! The first one I tried,pssh works with my servers, so that's good enough. I could imagine using a VNC viewer as well, like these: palmVNC 2.0 GPL, PalmVNC 2.0 (didn't work on first try; $10 registration requested), PalmVNC 1.40 (free, but might be a bit old since it's for PalmOS 3.1), ╬╝VNC for Palm for $19.95. I don't need VNC (yet) so I haven't gone through them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Treo 700p: First Impressions

I couldn't believe that my new Treo 700p didn't allow me to write Graffiti all over the touch screen (like my Tungsten T3). Thanks to Mr. Google, Graffiti Anywhere came to the rescue! That's on my short list of must-have Treo applications. I'm much happier now that I can use graffiti again. (All this does is enable the Graffiti that's in the ROM already. It's not some nasty hack that could do terrible things to your Treo's memory.)

The built-in keyboard isn't as bad as I expected, but I'm better at Graffiti or on full-sized keyboards. Not surprisingly given its history [1] [2], the SK6688 keyboard driver kills my Treo. Even when that IrDA driver (latest 2.30 version) is not active, I can't use the right 75% of my touchscreen. Quickly deleted and placed on my black list! In theory, my Treo 700p is supported, but I'd like to talk the QA person who said that! I started with a Treo 700p that didn't have any custom installs, and I had problems. I could see that being the only test case, and the only case that works, but when it's a case that doesn't work, the QA group is asleep at the wheel. (Note: this is not a complaint about the Treo 700p, but a diatribe about a bad driver for an external keyboard.)

The whole Treo is smaller than I expected, but it has a certain heft. It does weigh 50% more than my StarTac it replaces as a phone. I don't think it's heavier than my Palm on a scale, but because it's smaller, it's denser, and I notice that heft. The 320 x 320 screen, physically smaller than the Tungsten T3 screen in 320 x 320 compact mode, obviously has a finer dot pitch. However, the screen is very bright, so I'm not squinting at the screen. In fact, I like the smoother appearance of this screen, even though I expected not to like the smaller screen.

I appreciate the hot sync button on the sync cable. My Tungsten T3 only had a hot sync button on the cradle, so when I brought the smaller hot sync cable on a road trip, I had a laborious process to get Hot Sync-ing. It's a nice touch.

The Verizon belt clip case for it is obnoxious: I don't need a case that holds my phone an inch away from my body! Egad, what were they thinking? I'm used to clipping equipment to my belt or to my pocket. I've found that clipping those items farther from my body just gives them a chance to build up momentum when they do whack into me, and I'd prefer to keep them snug. Less chance of knocking them off when I dart through a small area (like between racks in the data center when I'm working on my servers). (Again, this is not a complaint about the Treo 700p itself!)

Overall, I like this gadget so far.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Make a Windows-bootable CD on a Mac

Guess what? I actually can make a Windows-bootable CD on my PPC Mac! It's not easy, it requires X11, and you probably don't want to do this, but it's possible! The application is X-CD-Roast (the 10.3 version works on 10.4 for me), and I winged the process from the directions in the X-CD-Roast Tutorial and in this TACKtech article.

While X-CD-Roast was running, I couldn't launch any applications, so you really need to heed the warnings about it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

MySQL index lesson

There's a lot to be said for shortcuts. When it comes to making a quick database for my own use with a web interface, I like the Knebel.Net Form Builder. You fill in the form, and it gives you the PHP code to display the MySQL -- and it even gives you the SQL code to create the table! The problem is that the SQL always returns an error, #1067 - Invalid default value for 'id'.

The first line of SQL reads


and it happens that you can't have both a default value and auto-increment. So you need to take out the default part.

The first SQL line becomes


and the rest works! Back to simple shortcuts.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Easy Diaper Stacker

We've been using a Reebok shoebox as a diaper stacker, pretty much ever since Karston came home. It sits on the dresser corner with its flip lid, very convenient. It's been a great diaper stacker, especially before he started wearing size 3 diapers. I thought about using something else for size 3 diapers, but the shoebox is so easy. And cheap. Size 3 diapers have to go in the shoebox on a diagonal, but so what? We're still using it.

gnuplot and DarwinPorts

Software: DarwinPorts 1.3.2 with gnuplot Portfile v1.17 2006/04/30 05:51:36

Problem: I tried to install gnuplot with DarwinPorts, and I got checksum errors instead. Google shows that I'm not the only one with this problem, but I didn't see any answers out there.

Solution: Some of the checksums are missing, so you'll need to add them to the Portfile in math/gnuplot under dports (wherever you installed DarwinPorts). I followed the "make your own Portfile" directions (specifically, running sudo port -d -v checksum in the same directory as the gnuplot Portfile) to get through the checksum stage. The lines you need to add are in red below.

checksums ${distname}.tar.gz md5 66258443d9f93cc4f46b147dac33e63a \

${name}.tar.gz sha1 a862bc311724c263aa1ef1c646291d73dc37c978 \

${name}.tar.gz rmd160 7b1fc84c161c132c776269b6e9a49abd29251a18 \

${name}.pdf.gz md5 51c6d737bf76c18db844c96bc27e22c6 \

${name}.pdf.gz sha1 1063e3769b80d04aaf437fae7ac3bdd95f62e333 \

${name}.pdf.gz rmd160 f04fbdf2b596acf65fdfce503c0456c120d07138 \

gpcard.pdf md5 3042331d0801c31bf423428d9be66924 \

gpcard.pdf sha1 85a1de6c589f2f9dbcad7dad3480d9bfad4372d1 \

gpcard.pdf rmd160 9d38d9f96f9d3a127188772cb3bda1d20a80270f \

datastrings_4.0.patch md5 7d2c4015f15f96e3a0f8063c2199ab6f \

datastrings_4.0.patch sha1 2120db8d3c3ca9f084b46a573e944e06556c855a \

datastrings_4.0.patch rmd160 600f404d6a46bab736db44b1f99d93443896b0c3 \

histograms_4.0.patch md5 ba87f28e4aed68637e7b5160e7151919 \

histograms_4.0.patch sha1 f75be94691af021e9d5eeeaaf707a09eb1d19ae6 \

histograms_4.0.patch rmd160 ae51ca48deda330953fdb521835601b9e68c544a

All but the last line end with \, so if you don't see that, you'll need a wider frame; it was cropped for me too until I removed most of the leading spaces I had copied in from the Portfile.

After that, the install just works. Back on track!

(BTW, the octave install takes forever! Like hours. I know this is only a PowerBook G4, but it's not that old and slow.)

Monday, September 4, 2006

Banana Split Pie

It's important to start with all ingredients refrigerated or soft frozen! Room temperature ingredients cause the pie to melt more than you'd like.

1 crumb pie crust, graham or shortbread

1 quart vanilla ice cream or fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt

2 bananas, refrigerated

1 pint strawberries, refrigerated

dribbles of chocolate syrup

dribbles of caramel syrup

Slice the bananas into 3/8" coins, and layer on pie crust.

With a large spoon, take shallow scoops out of the vanilla ice cream. (Sometimes ice cream is too hard to scoop easily, and that's when frozen yogurt shines! It's always a bit softer, so you can more easily make your own banana split pie or blizzard.) Place a layer of ice cream covering the banana slices.

Slice and layer the strawberries on the pie.

Cover the strawberries with another thin layer of ice cream.

Drizzle chocolate syrup and caramel syrup on top.

Place in the freezer for 15 minutes or more if you started with refrigerated ingredients. Otherwise this pie will need to freeze overnight, and then the strawberries will be frozen solid little bricks. (Strawberries don't take freezing as well as bananas!)

Simple and tasty!

Friday, August 18, 2006

One Hit Wonder

This was actually faster to make than I thought! I made a minimalist diaper bag that we call the One Hit Wonder. It holds one diaper and one travel-size package of wipes; no more. It zips, and has an attachment loop. We grab it when we go to the store; we don't expect to need a diaper, but if we do, the One Hit Wonder has enough (one) to get home again without screams for a diaper changing.

The cotton quilting print I used had brightly-colored fish swimming on it. I didn't want the fish to be upside-down on one side of the bag, so I cut two pieces of fabric 5" x 9" for the side panels. (Karston still wears size 3 diapers and still weighs just above 18 pounds. You might need a larger size for a larger child.) I ironed interfacing on the back before cutting to give the bag some shape, to keep it from being floppy. It's often easier to work with interfaced fabric because it doesn't stretch while you're stitching.

For the zipper, I cut two 1.5" strips about 30" long, no interfacing. Using a very long, very loose stitches for machine basting, I sewed down the middle of the two long strips with right sides together. Next I ironed the strip so that only the right side of the fabric was showing, folding at the stitching. From my zipper spool, I cut off about 18" (for 15" of zipper use). I stitched the sides of the zipper face down onto the long strip, and then removed the machine basting stitches. Voila, perfect zipper casing! Next I sewed back and forth to bar-tack both ends of the zipper. Finally I stitched the long loose ends together where I had removed the basting but had no zipper, and bar tacked farther down the zipper for the little discrepancy area where I couldn't replace the basting but didn't need an opening for the zipper.

I carefully pinned the zipper track to one bag panel (wrong sides out, right sides facing), and stitched it so that one long side zipped open with equal amounts of zipper on the two short sides. Then I stitched the other panel to the other side of the zipper track to make a short rectangle.

And that's my One Hit Wonder, a single-use diaper bag for those short trips from home!

Then a few days later, I took some skinny fabric left over from cutting the zipper track, made a loop, and stitched (bar tacked) both sides of the loop down near the zipper slide (when closed). The attachment point is a lot like a belt loop (also called a carrier). Now when we're clipping toys to the car seat or the shopping cart cover, we can also clip the One Hit Wonder on the menagerie.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I wanted to upload a short movie of Karston, taken with a camera not a camcorder. I also wanted to trim off the first second of camera wobble, and maybe even add an explanatory caption. iMovie seemed the easiest way to do all of that, but it wouldn't import the AVI movie, so I needed to convert AVI to QuickTime MOV. Quick answer: install 3ivx and DivX Doctor II. Works like a charm!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Allergy

I used to think that I caught a cold about once every five years, and that when the doctor said allergies it was code for he didn't know.

I did some research on allergies after unexplained hives (my only known allergy is hives in reaction to cigarette smoke), and boy was I wrong! What I caught Tuesday night ten days ago (and I'm just now starting to shake it off) in Wisconsin is probably an allergy because my nose is running very thin and perfectly clear, and I don't have even the slightest fever. While I was fighting off the nasal drip cough, I thought, This is the same cold I always get that's so hard to shake. So the bad news is that I've had more allergies than I thought, although infrequently. But the good news, I suppose, is that I get colds less than one every five years.

After the nasal drip, I got another side effect that's probably more allergy: a rash on the side of my nose that looks like poison ivy. However, since I thought it was allergy this time, I just treated it like poison ivy, and this rash has never dried up so quickly!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making diff work

This came up at work twice recently: sometimes diff fails badly. I tinkered with it for a while years ago, and found the answer: if the first lines in the two files fed to diff are not the same, diff says the files are completely different, even if the first line has the only change. So diff gets it right in all cases except a mis-match on the first lines. Keep that in mind if you think diff has gone crazy. (Try adding a blank line at the top.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Python from cron

Problem: I was getting fatal errors from my cron script (Solaris bash) that calls a Python pexpect/telnet script, all about python: fatal: open failed. Of course there's no GUI with this shell script, so X11 doesn't seem necessary.

The shell script already exported PYTHONPATH pointing to pexpect's directory, all paths were absolute, and ldd python didn't show any missing libraries. Very frustrating, because of course the scripts work when I run them from the command line.

Solution: If it works when you launch it from the command line, but it doesn't work from cron, that means cron's minimal environment is (part of) the problem! The environment variables you get in cron are HOME, LOGNAME, PATH=/usr/bin:/usr/sbin, and SHELL=/usr/bin/sh. This fix was to export LD_LIBRARY_PATH in the shell script called by cron, pointing to the directory with the python library of the fatal error, as quickly seen with ldd python. After all those conniptions, such a simple fix!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Morning Orange

The Madison Concourse Hotel has orange-scented and -colored soap and shampoo. I've decided that waking up to orange scent works for me. It's like having orange juice, without the acid that doesn't sit well on my stomach first thing. Of course, since this is Wisconsin, Kurtis peeled the soap and exclaimed, This is cheese soap!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mmm, Salty Water

Ever since the Worldwide Spectrum Users Group Conference in charming Portsmouth, NH (fall 2003), I've been a water drinker. So I'm drinking water now at the Joint Techs conference in Madison, WI. Right on the bottle, it says "Source: Salineville, OH" -- mmm, salty water! It's regular bottled water (probably including that it's municipal water like most bottled water), but Salineville just doesn't sound like the place for your bottled water unless you like it salty.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What A Trip 2

Kurtis called both American and United when we woke up this morning, but no answer.

After breakfast, he called American, but no one there could locate our bags. So he called United (since they have a computerized system with barcode scanners), even though our bags were supposed to be handled by American since we flew them for the last leg. United said our bags were at the Madison airport, but no one there could reach American to have them to deliver our bags.

Kurtis, being wonderful, packed Karston in the car, went to the airport, and picked up our luggage! I'm glad I walked back to the hotel at lunch time for good news! I've never been so glad to see clean underwear before. So it all ended well, and we never crossed from delayed bags to lost bags, but only because Kurtis worked so hard. Whew!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What A Trip!

Oh my, what a trip!

First we got off the park-and-ride bus at the terminal. A couple steps later, I noticed we didn't have the car seat, and the bus had already left. Since we didn't have "spare" time, I went to check-in while Kurtis followed the information desk directions (ask the next park-and-ride bus radio ahead) to get the car seat. While standing in the motionless United check-in line, one clerk pulled everyone on our flight out for expedited check-in. I had to shuttle all of our bags to the desk while holding Karston, who had gotten tired of his stroller. As a result, my check-in conversation was short. Last name? Number of seats? Number of checked bags? ID? OK, here are your boarding passes.

Since I hadn't seen Kurtis, I went back to the information desk where we had first stopped, to let that clerk know to send Kurtis to meet me outside Security.

And Security is where he was waiting for me. I gave him his id and rushed through, but he got hit with 3 strikes. First time through, whoops, wallet and change in pocket. Whoops, cell phone in pocket. Whoops, metal belt buckle. Three strikes, so he's pulled aside for wanding. I'm holding Karston while trying to catch all of our stuff, I have all boarding passes, and we get paged on the intercom. Argh! I leaned over with his boarding pass, and he said he'd get the car seat. I threw all of the loose stuff in the stroller pocket, threw my carry-on in the stroller, and headed to the gate. I couldn't run with Karston (too much jolting for him), so Kurtis passed me. We did make our flight, just barely.

I was told to find any open seat, and took the first one I found: next-to-the-last row, next to a heavily tattooed man (I liked the PacMan, power pellet, and ghosts tattoos on his fingers); Kurtis sat right behind us. Karston was pretty good for this flight, once I took away the safety brochure because he was waving it wildly and was trying to whap the napping guy next to me. Takeoff nursing. Play through naptime despite more nursing. Nurse for descent, and THEN he feel asleep! He actually slept through landing, and the next half an hour on the O'Hare tarmack waiting for an open gate to disembark. So although we landed early, we obviously didn't have much time to spare inside the O'Hare terminals.

On this flight, Kurtis asked me a critical question that made me sick to my stomach. Where's my wallet? Well, I threw all small pocket items in the stroller pocket. So keys, belt, wallet, sunglasses, all went in the pocket. But did I remember to empty that pocket before we gate-checked the stroller? No, I was too busy trying to catch up to Kurtis and not jostle our child too badly. So his wallet, importantly containing his ID, was floating loose in the cargo hold. Ugh. I felt really bad. Plus I didn't want to fly back alone. Luckily the stroller folds up so tightly that everything stayed in the pocket.

The flight attendant had announced connecting gate information, so we knew we should catch the shuttle bus over to Terminal C. In 10 minutes, I found and went to the bathroom while my boys stayed in the exact same place in line for the shuttle bus. I found an idle gate agent and got walking directions to Terminal C. Since Karston was spaced out in his stroller, I could run this time; Kurtis couldn't run with the car seat but he hussled well. In fact, we played tag: Kurtis went faster on escalators, I went faster on level ground.

We raced to the next gate, only to get the bad news. That flight was oversold, and the rushed check-in at home meant that we did not get boarding passes or seat assignments for the second and final leg of our trip to Madison. So showing up later because we were stuck on the tarmack meant we were the first ticketed passengers who were turned away.

I wanted to get to Madison in time to check in so that I could use conference wireless to ask my mother to freeze the breast milk in our frig that will spoil before we get home. I explained to the gate agent that I wanted to make it my conference in Madison by 4 PM before registration closed, and that I wasn't happy that I got turned away with such expensive non-standby tickets. Note to all: be nice to your gate agent, no matter how steamed you feel! She let me turn down a bus trip to Madison (3 hours on a bus with a one-year-old who hasn't napped?), and found 2 seats to Madison on American. She was an angel!

Of course, the American flight was back in the terminal we had just left, so we had to hoof it all the way back. In a hurry again. Running made me feel weak and light-headed because I hadn't eaten in over six stressful hours. We checked in for the last two non-exit-row seats (no children in exit row), bought sandwiches while that flight boarded, walked on, and switched seats to be together.

So finally at 2 PM (eastern time, the time our stomachs were on, not counting that breakfast was a bit early), we got to eat our sandwiches. Usually a delayed meal makes both of us quite grouchy. But we both knew we were doing our best today, so we weren't snapping at each other.

You can probably guess what happened next. We got to Madison uneventfully, but our luggage didn't. We took our United baggage claim stubs to the United baggage office, filled out the form, and at the very end, Oh, you came in on American on your last leg, they have to track down your bags. Great! Of course, at first American tried to send us back to United with our United baggage claim stubs. American said to call at 6 PM if we didn't have our bags, and to say Representative to the system.

No issues renting a car, driving to the hotel, or checking in. I requested a mini-frig to store baby food, and we were early enough to get one. We were starting to smile and relax.

We didn't have bags by 6 PM, but only one other flight came in from O'Hare, so it seemed too hopeful to us. Kurtis called, and no one knew. We bought toothbrush and toothpaste, but with hope, no more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Potato Flakes

I used to think a box of instant mashed potato flakes had no place in my kitchen because it wasn't "real food" since it is highly processed and I know how to cook. I can make my own mashed potatoes! However, I got a box in my kitchen when I got married.

I did a good job of ignoring that box until he brought home some bluefin tuna he caught with the boys. That's a tasty fish, so I pulled up all sorts of recipes. Tuna is fairly greasy, so I quickly leaned toward recipes where the fat could drop off and away from the meal. One broiled recipe called for coating the tuna with potato flakes and spices, very much like a baked version of fried chicken but with potato flakes instead of corn flakes. In fact, this was so tasty that I have purchased potato flakes twice since then. So much for that misplaced cooking pride! There's taking pride in my cooking, and there's just plain tasty. I'll actually take tasty when I have to choose between the two.

I do feel better calling it potato flakes instead of instant mashed potatoes. It never becomes mashed potatoes around here anyway (gross!).

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Pork Roast Verde

1-4 pounds pork roast

1-2 pounds tomatillos

1 onion

salt and pepper to taste

instant mashed potato flakes


crockpot with removable liner

Remove strings if the pork roast came wrapped. Trim visible fat. Put the pork roast in the crockpot.

Remove husks from the tomatillos, and wash them. Cut them in quarters or eighths, removing the stem. Toss them in the crockpot.

Chop the onion and toss it in the crockpot.

Add a tiny amount of salt (1/4 tsp) and freshly ground pepper (several grinds).

Add water to the crockpot until it just barely covers the pork roast. Let it cook on low 8 hours or more.

Put the crockpot liner in the frig for several hours until the fat congeals on top. Skim the fat, and put the liner back in the crockpot without the lid to cook again. (Some people skip this step. Not me!) Cook the pork roast until it falls apart easily.

Now that the pork roast is hot again, it's time to reduce the water. (Some people let it cook with the lid off, watching to make sure it doesn't burn. I prefer to the faster method.) Add some potato flakes to thicken it as much as you like. Serve it up!

My friend Dan suggested this recipe off the top of his head when I asked him on the phone what to make with tomatillos. I suspect I've mangled his original recipe, but this does taste good!

Monday, July 3, 2006

Baby Books

My peripatetic friend Jen loves the American Academy of Pediatrics' Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: from Birth to Age 5, and refers to it often. She got it as part of the Publix Baby Club (no Publix in my area).

I just picked up What to Expect The Toddler Years, and we'll see how that one rates.

Twelfth Month

Has it been a year already? I remember feeling like I would always have the smallest baby around ... he was so tiny, and his hair was dark (before sunshine hit it)! 29330344_d8c132b9c4_m-2006-07-3-05-16.jpg I saw a small red baby (premature?) at the doctor's office ten days ago, and other than the redness, I recognized the newborn fist shaking and the yawn with shut eyes. I know Karston's so much bigger, stronger, and more active now, but I just don't remember how we had ever made it past that stage. But hey, twelve months is one year, and here we are! My resolution is call him a toddler now, and not a baby. Got to let him grow up!


C . R . U . I . S . I . N . G .

Nothing could be better than cruising. Prepare to hand over your fingers and cramp your back, because this child needs to cruise! He babbles more, and he definitely understands a lot of what we're saying.

Karston waves to people now, and sometimes claps his hands. He also learned to turn around with his butt, just like the Bill Cosby routine about butt walking away from the dentist (we saw Bill Cosby on a Mommy-and-Daddy-only date last month, and he was fabulous!).


He's still 18 pounds, so he still wears the same onesies. However, we did get a set of 12 month onesies for 18-24 pounds for the trip!


Last month, he didn't eat much. This month, he started making up for that! All that cruising requires calories! He also started eating baby food meat, which he wouldn't do before. He really likes sweet potatoes and turkey (and sweet potatoes, but why not nudge up the calories and protein?). He's also very serious about nursing, so he's an eating machine in all ways. But with all the cruising, he's not gaining much weight. He has a distinctive cry when he's hungry, and a distinctive laugh when he sees me and he wants to nurse.


What sleep? He likes to cuddle, so on the rough nights, I kick the covers down and wrap both arms around him, and we go to sleep like that. He likes that. In fact, he's been known to send a little hand out looking for the top arm if it's not already wrapped around him.


We love the Gerry baby backpack, and we're still using the Graco Comfort Sport convertible (not infant!) car seat. No changes there. We did get a Sit-n-Secure for a travel high chair, and that worked well. Does a piece of fabric with velcro count as furniture? We also picked up an umbrella stroller from CVS in Key West, and it is much nicer than we expected (although the stroller handles are a bit short, and we're short). The best feature was the sun shade to cover his head from the merciless midday Florida sun.


We went to Key West for a week just before his birthday! Everyone except "I get a darker tan" Daddy got a sunburn, which is not what I wanted for my sweet little almost-one-year-old, but it happens. Karston didn't complain much, and the aloe helped when he did. Now we know that Karston gets his skin tone from his Daddy, because he has a nice dark tan now. I go from burn back to pale fairly quickly, and rarely spend much time in-between at the tan stage.


I'd like to sleep more and exercise more, but this is a wonderful time! I really enjoyed taking a nap with Karston every day in Key West. Yesterday, for the first time in fifteen months, I felt well rested! Of course that means I had trouble falling asleep last night because I'm not used to being in bed when I'm not exhausted. I think I've forgotten how to fall asleep!

Total weight change: still down 10 pounds.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Unix dates

I've been working on a project where I need to know all of the changes made in the past day to a closed database. Luckily, two of the fields are mdl_create_time and mdl_modify_time so I have a place to start. One of the values was 1140056407. Hmm, looks like epoch time. I asked the database's GUI, and it told me Thu 16 Feb 2006 02:20:07 GMT, so I verified the language. Now I need a way to bring that into a shell script. There's always the reference in Sys Admin magazine, but that seemed like more work than I should need.

Here's the simplest answer so far: to convert from a long number to a human-readable date, use date -r 1140056407. To generate that long number, use date +%s. (And of course, to see the current date in human-readable form, use date.)

Off to see if I can finish the job in shell!

Zip Tip

Problem: You might wonder why the zip and unzip commands aren't symmetric. After all, you can run unzip to extract a file, so why doesn't zip file compress it?

laptop:~ hope$ zip file

zip warning: missing end signature--probably not a zip file (did you

zip warning: remember to use binary mode when you transferred it?)

zip error: Zip file structure invalid (file)

Solution: The reason why is because zip wants a file name for the compressed file.

laptop:~ hope$ zip file

adding: file (deflated 71%)

Aside: What will really mess you up is that gzip-gunzip and bzip2-bunzip2 don't have the hysteresis of zip-unzip. You can run gzip file and gunzip file.gz all day long!

laptop:~ hope$ gzip file

laptop:~ hope$ gunzip file.gz

laptop:~ hope$ bzip2 file

laptop:~ hope$ bunzip2 file.bz2

Happy compressing!

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Eleventh Month

Yep, this baby goes to eleven! He looks more like a person (less like a baby) all the time. He saw balloons for the first time this month, and he was overcome with joy! He gasped, his knees went weak, he trembled, and he reached for those balloons. He didn't care if he were holding a balloon or not, he just wanted to see them. Wonderful things, you know! He really enjoys playing with balls, especially those that fit in his hands, so maybe balloons remind him of balls.

He has new sounds, one of which I call the dying woolly mammoth. So that means his high-pitched scream is now the squeaky mammoth. He also babbles, says Da da, Mom mom, and ish in addition to the woolly and squeaky mammoths.


He started cruising this month, sometimes going six feet away from where you set him down. He seems really determined to start walking soon. He'll let go of your hand, and reach down for a toy or balance or take three steps without help. When he gets excited, he starts jumping, either while walking or when in his jumperoo. He got much more serious about cruising and walking starting Memorial Day weekend, doing much more of it. That's when he started to complain that he can't see his feet while in jumperoo.


Since he's barely 18 pounds, he still wears all of his 6-9 month onesies. In fact, he still wears his Carter's 3-6 month onesies because those top out at 18 pounds. I buy his clothes by the weight range, not by the age range.


He was not interested in food this month. For the entire month, he ate as much food as he did in the last two weeks of last month! We thought he might want to start solid food, but he sure doesn't eat much of it. Sometimes he has as many as 5 AlphaBits. He did eat some of my chicken sandwich this weekend, though!


He still doesn't sleep through the night. The definition of a good night is when he only wakes up once, he nurses, and he falls asleep again. Daddy was out of town for three nights in the middle of the month (ugh!), and Karston didn't want to sleep at all, so I had to find something. I put him on a contoured changing pad in our bed, and he loves it! So we're co-sleeping now, and we seem to have more good nights. With two new teeth coming in at the same time this month, we had more good nights with co-sleeping than I expected. I think the cozy shape of the contoured changing pad makes him happy, and he adores seeing us so close. Of course we stopped swaddling him to sleep a while ago.


We borrowed a Kelty Kids backpack to compare to our Gerry backpack. I've heard that you should buy child-carrying backpacks from a backpack manufacturer for best ergonomics, so I expected to love the Kelty. The Gerry weighs 1.5 pounds and he sits very close to me (which he loves). The Kelty weighs 5 pounds and holds him away from my back (making quite the lever arm). It also hits my short torso even lower than the Gerry. Can you guess that I don't like the Kelty? The automatic kickstand means that you need a second adult to put it on, the air gap between baby and back means that his kicks can put me off-balance easier, and the added weight is significant. We're sticking with the Gerry even though it isn't as safe (no baby harness to hold him in, and he does try to jump out) because falling over with the Kelty isn't safe either.


We went to the beach, and learned that he likes to sleep in a cozy nest. We didn't bring the contoured changing pad, and we had to improvise one out of rolled towels so we could sleep through (most of) the night.


I'd love to sleep, but at least co-sleeping has more good nights than not. No time to exercise, but toting a kid seems to be enough exercise to keep my knees and back in reasonable condition.

Total weight change: holding at 10 pounds below.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I took a swing at liking Here's my short list of what it needs: keyboard navigation (I don't use the message preview view), to check my mail for real (I thought it was quiet afternoon, until I launched Thunderbird), a junk filter that works (and moves junk from inbox), and not to download and index all of my sub-folders (I know how to search existing folders! it's been sorted!).

And then I went back to Thunderbird, all of my new mail showed up, all of my junk mail vanished, and the navigation was easy. *happy sigh* Sure, is prettier, but basic functionality trumps that.

Sleeping and Eating

Well, studies say sleeping peaks at 6 months and drops again by 9 months, especially in the breastfed ... and I think we're living (and not sleeping) proof. I thought we were on our way to sleeping through the night a while ago, almost sleeping through the night, but somewhere along the way, we took a scenic detour. I hope we get back on the main road soon! I don't think Karston has seen the sleep chart that suggests he should be sleeping more at night.

My theory is that sleeping through the night might have more to do with weight than age. Karston's skinny, he wakes up in the middle of the night saying he's hungry, and then he eats like he's starving. Hmm, that's not too hard to figure out! I wish we could get him to eat more during the day. I've seen recommendations that he should be eating six small meals during the day, and we're lucky if we can get him to take five in one day (four is more common). (Sometimes it's listed as three meals and three snacks.) If he would eat more, he could weigh more, and (according to my theory that could be pure hogwash) then he could sleep through more of the night. Such a vicious circle! Just eat! Just sleep!


Friday, May 26, 2006

Still Not Mine

When I was pregnant, I made sure everything that went in my body was good for the baby, and I exercised faithfully (and morning sickness reminded me). At the time, I thought I would get my body back for my use, at least mostly, after delivery. Last night set me straight: my body is still not mine. I had a perfectly normal, pretty nice dinner last night. However, later in the evening I had an upset stomach. Since it was late and I didn't want to take the time to sort out why, I took two Advil, to handle anything on the muscle side, and a bicarb, to settle my stomach. Actually, I did that Tuesday night too, for the same kind of stomach ache. Anyway, when I went to bed at 11 PM after a couple of hours of trying and failing to get the baby to bed on his own, I noticed my neck itched at the hairline. I didn't think anything of it, and I scratched. And I went to sleep.

I woke up this morning at 3 AM when Karston made his first squeak for food. I went to the bathroom first, and I noticed I itched, well, everywhere. Sure enough, hives everywhere! I have no idea what triggered an allergic reaction since the only thing I know that gives me hives is cigarette smoke. (Actually, that's what concerns me. I don't know what triggered it, so I don't know when it will happen again.) Karston fell asleep again, and I stayed up to research what antihistamines are compatible with breast feeding. It's not a long list. There are scientific reviews at Kelly Mom and at Mothering Magazine. Based on what I had in the house and no specific contraindications (unlike my other already-in-the-house choices) here, I took two chlorpheniramine. I was headed for my breast pump since it would take about 20 minutes to take effect, but then Karston woke up so I let him nurse for 20 minutes instead. Unfortunately the pediatrician's office said to pump-and-dump after that antihistamine, but I needed it to get through the rest of the night. I was getting mighty uncomfortable, and those two pills brought it down to bearable.

But my body is still not mine when I have to worry about how to treat a fluke like an outrageous case of hives! And the itchies are kicking in again ... *sigh*

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Network Setup Tricks

I picked up a refurbished D-Link DWL-G710 wireless range extender because our wireless signal gets weak on the far side of the house from the router. (The middle of our house is a 12-inch thick solid wall that's not kind to wireless signals.) Setting it up was easy (OK, I do work in Networking). I read the Amazon review by Ken in MO, and winged it. I plugged the provided Ethernet cable into my laptop, and into the DWL-G710. I set my IP address to with netmask and gateway (doesn't actually matter) I went to in my web browser, and answered the Wizard questions. Then I clicked on Network and set a static IP address that actually worked, and set my laptop back to regular DHCP. I made sure I could ping the new address, I unplugged it, and I moved it to its final location. Seems to work with very little effort! Yay!

Last month, I set up a Belkin Wireless 802.11g Router for my hubby's office. There were two tricks (or pitfalls!) that I learned. The first is that I can't set up a new Belkin router downstream of our existing Belkin router at home. This seems like a stupid design addition, but if the new router were not connected to the cable modem, if the new router were getting an RFC 1918 private IP address, it wouldn't save any of my configuration changes!!! Why should it care that it's getting a private IP address from DHCP? It could reach the Internet! And why would you ever have a mode where no changes can be saved? I had about given up setting up that router in advance when I learned that it needed to have a routable (not private) IP address. The second is that while WPA2 works for Mac OS X (my platform), I had to back down to regular WPA for Windows XP (hubby's platform).

Last year, I bought a GigaFast EE171-PR USB print server because it was pretty cheap and also supported SNMP. Since I use SNMP all the time at work, I was very curious about that aspect! (It came in handy one day when my cable modem went out, and I was writing an SNMP script for work. I switched to the print server as my test SNMP target, and kept right on working.) If I were starting over from scratch, since mine actually came with the IP interface enabled, I would see if I could manage it through the web interface. I would set my IP address to with a netmask of and a gateway (doesn't exist so it doesn't matter) of I would see if or answered a ping. Whichever one answered (I forget which one I used on my laptop, and which one was on the print server!), I would go there in my web browser and see if I could do the setup. As it was, since I had read the IP interface was disabled by default, I used Windows (ugh!) and a manual install of PS_Admin. In PS_Admin, I could discover and configure the print server; I skipped the configuration options that weren't IP. Initially I had it set to pure DHCP, but that meant the printer might get a new IP address after a power failure, so I finally set it to a static address for my home network.

Dekor Fixed!

I was bummed about our dead Diaper Dekor, and I was thinking about a Diaper Champ instead. But just in case, I went to the manufacturer, Regal Lager and sent email ("the flap died with less than a year of use"). They shipped me a replacement part immediately, it showed up much sooner than I would have expected, and the bedroom smells so much better now. Whew! So now I'm happy with our Dekor again: it works, it's easy, refills last a long time, and it will be functional even after diapering days are over. again

Software: 2.0.7

Well, I have made it longer than 24 hours (a first!) with, but it still has some serious shortcomings! First, I can't stand not having a keyboard way to move from one message to the next unread message. I like 'n' in Thunderbird! All good mail clients can do this! Productivity software can't be click-happy or else it slows you down, and that's not very productive. And second, it's just not doing the right thing with Junk Mail. It marks it as Junk, but about half the time, it doesn't move it to the Junk folder. That means I have to see the junk, and that makes me want to run back to Thunderbird. Plus I finally have Thunderbird's Address Book set up perfectly now.

On the other hand, I love the iPhoto integration that I just saw on a photo my mother sent me. I love the Smart Mailbox I made for Unread Messages so I can clear the distractions out of my screen.

I guess it boils down to this trichotomy. I feel like I'm using a Mac (in a good way!) when I use Apple's Mail. I feel like my mail client is doing right by me and my productivity when I use Thunderbird (although some of Mail's Rules are nicer!). And I feel like I'm using a full-featured email client when I use Mulberry. Since Thunderbird gets the most time on my screen, I guess you can tell what I care about the most: less time on email, more time for me!

I'm still going to try a little longer with Apple's Mail. I guess it's time to look at plugins to get it to behave for me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

UMAX Astra 1220S

Hardware: UMAX Astra 1220S, PowerMac G4 tower with Apple's SCSI card

Software: OS X 10.3.9, Image Capture (part of OS X)

My mother has my old scanner, a UMAX Astra 1220S (I don't plan on buying another UMAX given their non-support of OS X, and I'm happy with my HP ScanJet 5470C). I wanted her scanner to work in OS X so she doesn't have to boot to OS 9 anymore. (For a while, she said scans were working under Classic, but now they're not. It's not a problem I want to troubleshoot. Plus she'd rather use OS X exclusively too!)

My first attempt was dig around until I found a copy of MagicScan 5.1 for OS X. It's not supposed to work with low-end scanners (although the pre-X version does!), and it's not supposed to work with anything newer than OS X 10.2.6. Well, I thought I'd try anyway, but it failed because I didn't have a supported scanner (well, not officially, but I used to use MagicScan!). So I used HexEdit to change "PowerLook 2100XL" to "Astra 1220S" just in case, but then it said

Application Launch Failure

The application "MagicScan" could not be launched because of a shared library error: "<magicscan><><><>"

so that trick didn't work either. On to the second attempt!

I went to Mac OS X Hints and found a tip that worked! I downloaded OS X TWAIN SANE software. I installed the binary packages for libusb 0.1.12, SANE backend 1.0.17-cvs 2006-02-07, TWAIN SANE interface 1.7, and SANE Preference Pane 0.4 in that order. Then I rebooted because this SCSI scanner has to be on when the computer boots, or it's not seen.

I opened SANE in System Preferences after the reboot to configure it. I disabled all of the drivers except umax because that driver supports my scanner, and then I hit the Configure button. I made the UMAX configuration look like this:

# Options for the umax backend

# define scsi queueing depth

option scsi-maxqueue 2

# define scsi buffer size in bytes

option scsi-buffer-size-min 65536

option scsi-buffer-size-max 262144

# define scan lines that shall be read in one block

option scan-lines 100

option preview-lines 20

# define how to handle bad sense codes

# 0 = handle as device busy

# 1 = handle as ok

# 2 = handle as i/o error

# 3 = ignore bad error code - continue sense handler,

option handle-bad-sense-error 0

# define if a request sense command shall be executed

option execute-request-sense 0

# define if the preview bit shall be set when scanning in rgb mode

#option force-preview-bit-rgb 0

# define if slow speed flag shall be set


# -1 = automatically set by driver - if known

# 0 = disabled

# 1 = enabled

#option slow-speed 0

# define if care-about-smeraring flag shall be set


# -1 = automatically set by driver - if known

# 0 = disabled

# 1 = enabled

#option care-about-smearing 0

# define if the calibration shall be done for selected scanarea or for each ccd pixel

# -1 = automatically set by driver - if known

# 0 = disabled

# 1 = enabled

#option calibration-full-ccd 1

# define if an offset of the calculate calibration with has to be used

# -99999 = auto

#option calibration-width-offset -99999

# define the number of pixels that is used for calibration

# -1 = disabled

# 0 = not set

# 1 = 1 byte/pixel,

# 2 = 2 bytes/pixel

#option calibration-bytes-pixel -1

# define if scanner uses the same exposure times for red, green and blue

# -1 = automatically set by driver - if known

# 0 = disabled (own selection for red, green and blue)

# 1 = enabled (same values for red, green and blue)

#options exposure-time-rgb-bind 0

# define if shading data shall be inverted befor sending it back to the scanner

# -1 = automatically set by driver - if known

# 0 = disabled

# 1 = enabled

#option invert-shading-data 0

# define if the scanner supports lamp control commands

# 0 = automatically set by driver - if known

# 1 = enabled

#option lamp-control-available 0

# define how 16 bit gamma data is padded

# -1 = automatically set by driver - if known

# 0 = gamma data is msb padded

# 1 = gamma data is lsb padded

#option gamma-lsb-padded 0

# define connection type of following devices

# 1 = scsi

# 2 = usb

option connection-type 1

# linux device identification:

#scsi vendor model type bus channel id lun

scsi UMAX * Scanner * * 4 1

#scsi UMAX * Scanner

#scsi LinoHell JADE

#scsi LinoHell Office

#scsi LinoHell Office2

#scsi LinoHell SAPHIR2

#scsi LinoHell SAPHIR3

#scsi Linotype SAPHIR4

#scsi LinoHell OPAL2

#scsi HDM LS4H1S

#scsi Nikon AX-110

#scsi Nikon AX-210

#scsi KYE ColorPage-HR5

#scsi EPSON Perfection600

#scsi ESCORT "Galleria 600S"

#scsi TriGem PowerScanII

# Umax Astra 2200 via USB:

# usb vendor product

#usb 0x1606 0x0230

# scsi device list

option connection-type 1


# usb device list

#option connection-type 2


I uncommented lines that seemed to apply, and I commented out the USB lines that don't apply to a SCSI scanner.

I have this scanner set to SCSI ID 4 using the dial on the back by the power plug. In Apple System Profiler, it shows up at 4 on every possible LUN! I vaguely remember from SCSIprobe in pre-OS-X days that the external bus on this card was LUN 1, so that's why I added the line scsi UMAX * Scanner * * 4 1 so the SANE software wouldn't get confused. Do the right thing for your SCSI!

Then, following the directions, I ran sane-find-scanner that saw the Astra on 8 LUNs and my sleeping ScanJet. Next I tried scanimage -L and saw more about the Astra.

So finally it was time to launch Image Capture and scan a page. Hey! It works!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Dead Dekor

Well, that explains the smell! The last time we had a bad smell from the Diaper Dekor Plus, a diaper had snuck inside the pail but outside the bag. This time, one of the inner door flaps stays down. Whoops! The mechanical engineer hubby took it apart, pronounced it quite dead (hidden spring and all), and we're thinking about a replacement.

Friday, May 5, 2006

The Return of Peanut Butter

I couldn't eat peanuts or peanut products while pregnant (I wasn't alone). However, I still couldn't eat peanuts after delivery, so I decided that I probably couldn't eat foods that weren't good for my breast-fed baby because he's not supposed to eat peanuts yet. (That theory about not eating what's not good for Baby may still hold.) The problem is that I do like peanut butter. Every once in a while, I'll try a peanut butter sandwich, and remember why I don't do this as often.

Anyway, I saw Smucker's Reduced Fat Natural Peanut Butter at the store, and I wanted to try it. It will separate, and it does need refrigeration. Most peanut butter has a remarkable amount of sugar and chemical stabilizers in it, especially compared to ground peanuts. If you grew up on peanut butter with added sugar and other things, I'm sure this Smucker's tastes odd and a little bland, but I thought it tasted pretty good. Best of all, it didn't upset my stomach! I can eat peanut butter again! Hurrah! This doesn't entirely shoot down my don't-eat-what-Baby-can't-eat theory, because regular peanut butter has a lot more in it than just peanuts, most of which doesn't sound the healthiest.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Tenth Month


He worked on cruising this month! He takes about 3 steps along furniture. He loves to stand, usually with support (both from adult supervision and from his hand grabbing something), but sometimes he'll stand without any support for up to 20 seconds. He'll stand at LeapFrog and cruise from end to end, and he'll also turn around. Karston even learned to steady himself (while jumping silly) in Jumperoo! He has a couple of common phrases now. He says Hey Dada when he's happy (Daddy should be proud! even though he's said it while nursing too), Momomomom when he's getting fussy (hey!), and Ish when he's exerting himself.


We moved on to size 3 diapers this month now that he's solidly above 17 pounds. We tried size 3 diapers back at 16 pounds since previous diaper sizes were best at the low end of the range, but size 3 were too big then. He still wears 9-12 month onesies and rompers. Clothing that doesn't go on over his head is easier ... setting him down to dress works best.


He's back to nursing more, I think for comfort not for calories. He ate more food at the start and end of this month, with a big dip in appetite in the middle. His sharp new teeth can make that ... umm ... less than pleasant for me. In fact, I have scabs for the first time since the first month (not nearly as bad as then, though).


Well, he got two new teeth this month. That means he wants comfort, he wants to cuddle, but he doesn't want to sleep. However, if he cries himself to sleep in 10 minutes, he usually doesn't wake up as often at night which makes the crying much easier to take. If he really gets to crying though, he'll never sleep, and then we'll never sleep (for up three hours, ugh). Plus he can really fight off the afternoon nap sometimes. We don't swaddle him anymore because he fights it.


Passing 16 pounds meant the end of Baby Bjorn: it was a wonderful baby carrier while it lasted, but he's awfully heavy to hang off the front like that. The baby backpack has been wonderful, but when he stands on tiptoes, he's really close to falling out. He got a Jumperoo that's been great for burning off extra energy. The Intellitainer back in business if he stands around it, not trapped in the bucket. Also, we used the bigger baby bathtub for over a month. So he's really bigger now.


He says a street fair so fun, and stairs are so funny. We have plane tickets for June, so more travel coming.


I'd like to sleep. Some days it's tough to go in to work, and I'm glad I like what I do enough that it energizes me so that I can usually overcome it. Today I fell asleep for 20 minutes while trying to get him down for his afternoon nap. I was zonked out!

Total weight loss: down 10 pounds (from conception weight) and still holding.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Diaper Review, size 2

Size 2 diapers are rated for 12 to 18 pounds, and there's still a 2 pound overlap, so size 3 starts at 16 pounds. Unlike before, being on the low end wasn't a good time to start the next size, so we used size 2 diapers until he was just about to hit 18 pounds. We used 714 Pampers Swaddlers, 144 Pampers Baby Dry, and 96 Huggies, putting on the first one at 1:00 AM on November 21st, and taking off the last one this morning on April 27th. Again, we liked the Swaddlers best.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Prius Irony

I read an entry by a Prius owner explaining the seductive game of getting the highest fuel economy possible, competing with other Prius owners. At the time I thought, Yeah, regenerative braking is pretty cool. I remembered that recently with a sardonic twist.

I do care about efficiency (I compost! I recycle!), and I carpool to work when possible even though I sometimes have to shuffle my schedule. My own version of the Prius game is to try to beat the published EPA ratings. Our newest car, which is actually his and not mine, but I drive it often, can display the instantaneous fuel economy on the electronic dashboard display. I usually leave it on that setting because it makes bursts of acceleration less tempting (unless traffic conditions warrant it, and then I'm glad I'm not driving my diesel).

I was driving to work behind a Prius last week, and I noticed the driver used the brakes for half a mile before one turn. Seriously, it's only 45 mph through there, it's slightly uphill, and you don't have to stop for this turn, so it seemed premature ... unless you're trying to up the economy of your hybrid. You can coast to this turn, no brake and no accelerator, and get it about right. However, we were crawling to the turn, so of course I had time to watch my dashboard. I drive to work pretty often, and I always glance at the fuel economy as I straighten out from this turn. Braking, braking, braking, and I'm watching my fuel economy drop, drop, drop because we're going uphill and I needed to give the car a little gas to make it up at that speed. I lost badly at my fuel economy game that morning.

Which brings me to The Prius Irony: what the Prius driver does to increase Prius fuel economy just shoots my fuel economy all the way down. Yeah, that helps!

(When I notice another diesel on the road, I try to accommodate that too. Diesels are most efficient maintaining speed, so you avoid braking to improve economy. The Ford Reflex concept car, an electric-diesel hybrid, could be very cool by removing that penalty. And a well-tuned diesel isn't a terrible polluter. However, a gas engine needs a tune-up to keep the timing within 4 degrees, while a diesel can run albeit poorly and smokily with the timing off 20 degrees. So well tuned is critical, but then the efficiency is good. Plus bio-diesel is coming to my neck of the corn field.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Ninth Month


He picks up new routines quickly, sometimes on the second repetition! He is still sitting well, and he's almost standing. He pulls himself up by grabbing our shirts.


He's outgrowing some outfits again. All of his 3-6 month clothes are done, and some of the 6-9 month outfits are too small. We got a new batch of onesies, and pulled some 9-12 month rompers from the attic into production.


He's nursing a lot less, and eating food a lot more. He nurses at night, with super suction still, but he wants a spoon during the day. I pump 1-3 times/day, depending on how much he nurses during the day. Sometimes he regresses from his daytime-is-for-spoons-only position and is quite interested in nursing (usually with a big smile and excited hand pedaling).


Why do I even tease myself with this category? I set him down drowsy at the same time each night after a bedtime routine he loves, he puts himself to sleep ... and he wakes up to nurse or to cuddle. I know which fussing cries I can ignore, but if he's hungry or lonely, he won't settle down without attention (and he will cry until he vomits, so "crying it out" is pretty harsh when it=vomit).


He got a Jumperoo this month, and he would have used it a little sooner! The Jumperoo requires more head, neck, and trunk stability than his other toys, at least for the way he jumps himself silly.

The baby backpack has been great for hikes! He also needs good neck control for it. The general advice for baby backpacks is to buy from a backpack manufacturer, not a baby manufacturer. I'll let you know what we think next month, after we have had a chance to try both.


We didn't go far, but we learned that he thinks tractors are cool, especially when someone drives them inside the store.


Who needs sleep? I've got to start exercising more though.

Total weight loss: down 10 pounds and holding.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Quicksilver: Software - Utility - Launcher

So utilitarian, I don't think about it anymore! That is, until I use a Mac without Quicksilver beta 48, and then it feels so slow and antiquated to look for applications to launch.

I'm not even scratching the surface of what Quicksilver can do when I use it. For applications, it can launch another copy, or open bookmarks, or whatever else I don't do with it.

If you'd rather organize, use Butler. If you'd like to try a different fast search, try Launchbar. If you want a menu item launcher, use Rocket Launcher (I used to). But for fast searches without thinking, I'll stick with Quicksilver.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

S5: Software - Office - Presentation

For years, I've looked for a PowerPoint replacement (possibly as part of a software suite), and I've always felt that HTML had a lot of promise for simple and platform-independent presentations. S5 1.1 has reached that point of simplicity! I used S5, in the public domain, at the very last minute last week, and I think it was faster than Keynote! S5 is not really software and is not platform-specific. (Cross-platform but not slow or ugly is a real bonus for me. My desk at work has Mac, Linux, Solaris, Windows, and a KVM.) S5 is a bundle of web pages containing one HTML file for you to edit, and some intelligently modular CSS files with other supporting files (JavaScript and images) for the appearance themes all hiding in a directory that you can ignore. S5 is so easy to use that I think it's easiest to write the HTML yourself! I store the minimal code for a new slide in iClip, and I can write a presentation very naturally. I start every presentation with an outline for organization. That text transfers easily to S5. I'm tempted to write an OmniOutliner-to-S5 translator, but I think that might make the process harder than necessary! If you do want to add a layer of redirection that's probably not as simple, look at adding docutils and reST; however, that's what convinced me that an OmniOutliner-to-S5 would be harder than S5 on its own. If you looked at S5 1.0, look again: JavaScript has made S5 significantly easier to use. All browsers should support this framework (although MSIE might be ugly, ha ha). Now that I've seen S5, it seems obvious to use CSS to separate the content from the display. Such a logical use of CSS! So it's not surprising that Eric Mayer of O'Reilly CSS fame wrote S5.

Since PDF is another tempting target after web, I might check some other projects like Prosper and PythonPoint in ReportLab periodically, but S5 was the first to cross my simplicity threshold.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Eighth Month


He started the month off sitting more and much better, yay! This skill is useful because we can set him down near us, and he stays there.


Same, onesies and rompers in 6-9 month size.


He eats even more food now. That also means he can vomit more than I would have thought possible.


Yeah, on his schedule. On a good night, he's only up once or usually twice to nurse.


The Baby Bjorn, which was so necessary before, is not as handy as his baby backpack now. From what we can tell, this happens at the 16-18 pound mark, and lumbar support on the new Bjorns doesn't help enough.


He met his great-grandmother in the mountains near the end of this month! We finally had a weekend that wasn't too wintery to drive to the mountains (don't forget, we're sleep-deprived!). We brought along his booster seat instead of a high chair, and although it was big for him, it worked well.


I got an unexpected promotion, so I'm at work more (I aim for four days a week). I miss my little man fiercely but I also enjoy what I do, too. I can usually get away with pumping just before and just after work.

Total weight loss: down 10 pounds. I think my weight is stable here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

iSnip: Software - Utility - Clipboard

The more I use it, the more I appreciate iSnip! I never worry about forgetting to paste that important bit of information before copying the next one because it has a clipboard history. I still can not remember the phone number in my new office, but I can paste that snippet any time I need it. It lives in my menu bar with a small icon, and I use it every day.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Seventh Month


All along I've been impressed how strong he is. He tries to sit up when he's reclined in car seat, which shows off his hard abs. I'm impressed with his muscle tone -- as a baby! I never expected that.


Still wearing onesies under footed rompers. He still wears 3-6 month for some items, but has moved on to 6-9 month for a few others.


He eats more food now (more volume, and more variety of fruits and vegetables). He decided that he prefers spoon this month. One day he woke up, he didn't want to nurse (a big change!), and he didn't want a bottle (normal), so we finally offered him cereal with a spoon, and that was it. Spoons used to be weird for food delivery, and then he woke up one day and spoons were it. Just like that.


He still doesn't sleep through the night, but sometimes he's up only once to feed, and I can usually set down awake. Then he had a growth spurt. sigh


The Intelli-tainer is an important tool to (allow us to) fix dinner, while his high chair is important for meal times (both his and ours).


Total weight loss: down 10 pounds.