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.