Saturday, December 22, 2007

Trans Fats

When I was pregnant with Karston, I spent (too much) time in the waiting room for prenatal appointments. One of the articles I read while waiting, I think in Reader's Digest, said that a 2% reduction in dietary trans fat intake on a small sample of nurses correlated to a 54% reduction in heart disease risk! I was shocked, but ready to stop eating trans fats.

Note that trans fats are unsaturated. You know a product has trans fat if the ingredients list includes the word hydrogenated (partially or not). Hydrogenation increases shelf life, so it's popular. Unsaturated fat is easier to digest because enzymes can more easily get in to break the bonds where the fat molecule has a kink. What makes saturated fat saturated is that it has as many hydrogen atoms attached as possible (so it is saturated with hydrogen). That makes the saturated fat molecule fairly straight since the hydrogens on the outside repel each other slightly. So saturated fat is harder to break down in digestion since it doesn't have any kinks for enzymes to attack.

Anyway, it does seem odd that an unsaturated fat would be so bad. However, the trans configuration will be straighter than the cis configuration, so trans fats could be similar to saturated fats in digestion difficulty. Then I ran across Fear of margarine: The trans fat myth. This JunkScience site attacks scientific studies with poor statistics, but sometimes leaves out the important fact that the statistically-unsound study's conclusion was borne out by other studies with sound scientific methods and statistics. IOW, the identification of junk science is sound, but the targets are not always weak (just some of the studies). Now I'm unsure about trans fats ... I'll have to look for a study that was not done by the authors cited.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I have this rant fairly often so I thought I'd post my reasons that I will never buy an SUV. (Note that this doesn't apply to mini-vans, but personally I'm quite happy with my station wagon ... at least once it comes back from the body shop.)

  1. Safety: an SUV only has to pass truck safety standards. Those safety standards were designed for farm trucks that didn't drive on the interstate. IIRC, you don't have to survive a crash over 35 mph to pass SUV and farm truck safety standards. So those folks who think they are safer in an SUV, probably the ones who fly past me on the interstate, I bet they don't know that. A false sense of safety is very dangerous.
  2. Comfort: most SUVs use leaf springs. That's 1970's technology! Suspension has improved a lot since then. (But hey, leaf springs are cheap, and farm trucks still use them.) I consider a comfortable ride to be very important. I bought my first Mercedes (old even then, a 1983 300D) when I was 25, and after one week, the back pain I had had since I was 17 went away. I used to wake up at 7 am every morning with excruciating back pain. One night before exams in college, we all had a lot to drink, and I think I crawled on the couch about 4 am. When I woke up at 7 am in pain, the room was still spinning and everyone else was still asleep. I walked around patting the cat until my back eased up and I could go back to sleep. And wake up at noon with everyone else. So when I say that I always woke up in pain at 7 am, I really mean it. It was rotten. But after one week in a comfortable car, I've rarely had that level of back pain again. I've never even had a long commute, maybe 20 minutes each way tops, but I never thought I did enough driving for my car to be related to my back pain. But the timing sure was suspicious ... and my back hurts again if I drive a rental for more than a week ... Perhaps comfort is more important to me than to most people.
  3. Fuel Economy: there's just no technical reason that SUVs have to have such terrible fuel economy. Have you seen the bumper sticker, Osama loves your SUV? My 1987 diesel station wagon got 36 mpg on the interstate when I drove it home. My 2002 gas station wagon got 32 mpg on the interstate driving back from my grandmother's house while fully loaded (roof carrier even! worst case!). Both wagons are considered "full sized" and have a large amount of cargo capacity. I sure don't need an SUV for hauling stuff when I have all that open area in the back and a roof carrier. And I don't need an SUV to carry lots of people when my station wagon has seat belts for 7. So I can haul lots of stuff, seat many people, and have good fuel economy. Makes more sense than an SUV for me!
  4. Cost: even though SUV prices have dropped, they still have a healthier profit margin for the auto manufacturers than I feel like paying for something that is less safe, less comfortable, and terribly inefficient. I sure wouldn't pay premium prices for an SUV with poor safety, cheap old leaf springs, and bad fuel economy. SUVs have a huge profit margin, and I just don't see what's in it for me.

When I was in graduate school, one of the foreign grad students told me that he wanted to buy an SUV so that he would be safer. I don't know what he bought, but I did set him straight on safety. My Mercedes station wagon is heavier than smaller SUVs, and more survivable too.

Old cars have personality, and one time my 1983 300D showed that by not starting at the gas station. (It had a bad alternator that hadn't been charging the battery. I learned that the hard way at this gas station!) So I went inside and asked someone to give me a jump start. A good old boy (those guys are great when you have car trouble!) said "I'll help you little lady," and walked out to his SUV. Well, diesels have a very high compression ratio by virtue of being diesels, and he couldn't jump start me without revving his engine to get his alternator to kick out a lot more current. So that big tough SUV ... was really pretty wimpy and just barely sufficient for what I needed. (A car would have been the same, but without the attitude that the big SUV can take care of this little old sedan.)

I'm just not tempted.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Weight Loss and Refined Carbs

If you dig behind this HealthDay article, the bottom line is that insulin-resistant people lose more weight on a diet that's low in refined carbohydrates (no white flour and sugar!) than on a diet that's low in fat. It's not just about calories in and calories burned, but about eating the right food! Complex carbohydrates (whole grains) are still important. During the weight loss phase, complex carbohydrates provide fiber for that full feeling, and afterwards healthy carbohydrates are a major part of long-term weight maintenance (not regaining weight after loss).

This points to a low glycemic diet (not sure between glycemic index and glycemic load), but I suspect it really boils down to the usual answer to use common sense.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm Fine

I'm really and truly completely fine, but I was in a car accident on the way home. No airbags deployed, and I didn't even hit the steering wheel. I couldn't quite stop in time (but tantalizingly close! argh), and the other driver really should have stayed at the stop sign. So tomorrow afternoon, I will need to arrange to transfer my car from the lot where banged-up-after-hours cars go to the dealer for body work and repairs. I'd much rather be at work!

For as much damage as was done to my station wagon, I can't believe I didn't feel more impact. My headlight clipped her bumper, and since there's not much directly behind a headlight or in a trunk, it was squishy as car accidents go. I'm just hoping the insurance company doesn't decide to declare my car totaled (definition of totaled: cost to repair = value of car) because it was hard to find a wagon that new, in that good condition, with that low miles, and even in a pretty color. I haven't even had it 7 months. I want to keep it longer than that! I don't want it to be totaled! OK, I'm glad we're fine most of all, but I'd like to keep my nice station wagon too.

The body damage is really going to add up. The quarter panel with the headlight (and the whole headlight assembly isn't cheap), the bumper (pressed into the tire making pulling off the road tricky), the hood (just the corner by the headlight), and the driver's door (so I couldn't get out on my side, and I'm baby-big enough that climbing over the console was awkward). Before I turned off the car, the dashboard display told me first that I had a headlight out, and then that I had a steering fluid leak that needed to go to the shop right away. So there are more repairs than just the body work. Since my absolute favorite mechanic doesn't do body work, I guess my wagon goes to the dealer. By the time I pulled off the road, I could really smell the burning rubber from my brakes. I tried really hard to stop in time, to avoid this accident. Stinky!

Of course I had my seat belt on, and this big baby belly made sure that it was low over my hips just as recommended. Since I didn't even hit the steering wheel, the baby is fine. Nothing hit me or him, just the car. I don't even think I'll have any neck pain or any whiplash! No scratches, bumps, or bruises.
And I'm glad it happened by the railroad tracks at Blackwood Station. I'd been going a little faster several miles back when I got on the highway because the truck behind me was blinding me with those $%@#! high beams, but I slowed down in the curvy area (and that truck had to slow down a lot more), and I was even just coasting up to the train tracks for the bump ... and then there was the thought is that car going to pull out in front me? so my foot was hovering over the brakes. I slammed on the brakes, surprisingly did not tee-bone her, but still my headlight bumped the corner of her trunk. No one hurt, just rattled nerves. Slow: good speed for an accident.

Just one of those "a freaky thing happened on my way home" things.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Diaper Review, size 3

We started using size 3 diapers last year on April 27th, and we've gone through thousands. (Really! At least 3,000. Mind boggling!) I thought Karston might wear size 3 until he potty trained! After all, size 3 diapers run from 16 to 28 pounds; he gains weight so slowly that I could imagine him being 3 years old and under 28 pounds. But he won't be wearing size 3 next year after all.

Of the several kinds we tried, we were happiest with Pampers Cruisers. Although we had two bags of Pampers that didn't have enough filling in the front (we had some night-time diaper leaks until we started checking how high the front filling went for night changes), overall the Pampers were the ones that didn't have overnight problems.

Speaking of diaper leaks, that's how I knew it was time to look at size 4 diapers! I read online that an increase in diaper leaks means that it's time to consider the next size. We had two weeks of frequent nighttime diaper leaks, so I bought a pack of size 4 because if it worked, it was an easy solution ... and it turns out that size 4 diapers start at 22 pounds! Karston finally crossed that mark, so it really is time to move up to the next size. In fact, we started some diaper sizes two pounds early. However, we're still going to finish that case of size 3 over the next many days while wearing size 4 at night.

So it's the end of a 20-month era, winding down for size 3 diapers and the calendar year.


I read this article on caffeine and I'm glad that I stopped drinking tea several years ago. I don't need a stress amplifier that raises blood pressure and increases insulin resistance! I was at the worldwide Spectrum users conference in New Hampshire September 2003, and they didn't have my then-favorite drink of iced tea at the breaks, but they did have water bottles. Hot tea takes too long to drink (have to wait for it to cool before sipping!), cola is too sweet and causes burps, and I just don't like to drink milk. So that leaves water, and I started to enjoy it. Since water's good for you, I decided to stick with it. I sometimes drink green tea now, but it's decaf ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

CIOs and Parents

I just read this quote,

CIOs make lousy parents because they are never home; they make great grandparents because they can afford to retire early

, and it sounds painful but true. I'm glad I'm not farther up the manager chain since my family is more important to me! Maybe once the kids are in grade school ...

The Case Against DRM

Scott Bradner is one of those Internet people I respect. I don't even know where to start on why ... I'll let his Postel Award speak for itself, and just say that's why. I was catching up on Scott Bradner's column in Network World because I enjoy his succinct opinions. This one on DRM’s future on the Internet got off to a good start, and turning to an Andrew Odlyzko paper [Digital rights management: Desirable, inevitable, and almost irrelevant] just sealed the deal since I respect Andrew Odlyzko's ability to counter popular positions with strong arguments backed up with solid data and analysis. Put the two of those in the same article against DRM, and I suffer a terrible case of the Me too opinion!

The only point I would add is one made by Professor Gary Bishop: the whole recording industry (music and movies) wouldn't exist without the very technology that they're fighting with DRM. How's that for biting the hand that feeds and created you? Probably not too smart.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Preparations

I was up 1.5 hours last night, after everyone else went to bed. I was working on all of the food preparation that I could do in advance: I mixed the dry ingredients, I set out measuring cups for the wet ingredients, I printed the recipes in order of decreasing bake time leaving out the steps I had already done, and I used a highlighter on the steps that Kurtis usually does.

Organizing by decreasing bake time, having the printed just-what-to-do-to-finish steps, and using the highlighter so I didn't have to answer questions on what to do next was a great idea! Luckily Kurtis thought it was funny (and not bossy ... I was worried he might take it the wrong way) that I had marked his contributions with highlighter. I don't think he read anything else on that page.

I only needed one hour this morning to make tropical fruit crumble, cranberry-raisin muffins, buttermilk biscuits (the egg wash turned out quite golden, but next time I won't put it on so thick), turkey gravy, cinnamon cream cheese icing for the existing banana cinnamon snacking cake (for our niece's birthday), and a veggie platter.

Usually I'm not that organized with night-before prep and a printed checklist, so (a) I don't use his skills or my time as well, then (b) I'm running late, so as a consequence (c) I'm stressed. Yuck!

One of my famous sayings is Never rush to have fun! and I definitely think I've discovered a new way to accomplish that. I've got to remember this approach for Christmas, and for the baking season next year!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sippy Cups

Now that I have some experience, here's the report on sippy cups.

You do not want the Nuby valve-free sippy cups while breastfeeding! To open the silicone valve, the child bites the valve. Yeah, I don't think I need to say more. After some chewing on the valve, it's no longer drip-free. I discovered this all over my lap while driving out.

You do not want any sippy with a snap-on lid (ours is also Nuby). You want a lid that screws down so the lid doesn't pop off when the child drops it.

Speaking of dropping, you want a sippy valve that's hard to install because you do not want the valve falling out when the cup is dropped. It's a bonus if the valve's easy to replace (you can buy more).

What we like best are the Circo sippy cups from Target that are never in stock around here. For night-time drinking, Karston prefers the Circo sippy with two handles (the model for younger children). Second place, at least if you already have Avent bottles, is an Avent bottle with the Avent Non-Spill Soft Spout. Karston likes the soft spout better than the hard one, and that seems fair to me. You'll also want the handles to go with the spouts. The Avent dome lid should help if it wants to leak during travel. One nice feature of the Avent spouts is that you can separate the valve into two parts to clean it out. (I finally learned why people buy pulp-free orange juice, a product I thought had no redeeming features: it's so that you don't have to clean pulp out of the sippy valve!)

We'll try the Nalgene sippy bottle soon.

After 12 to 18 months, sippy cups are a convenience to prevent messes; Karston can drink from a cup, and sometimes prefers that. On the other hand, he also pours what's in a cup other places, too. (He only gets water in a cup.)

Sunbeam Mixmaster 12c

Last night, I scrubbed for a long time. My maternal grandmother's Sunbeam Mixmaster (model 12c) had accumulated crust. I brought it home after her funeral, but I didn't want to use it without a good cleaning. I don't have the manual, but I have the chrome stand mixer, two glass bowls, and a pair of beaters. Apparently this is considered the last of the classic Sunbeam Mixmasters, introduced in 1957.

Now I'm inspired to bake something using it ... too bad I already have tea cake, cupcakes, bread, and casserole in the house! Well, Thanksgiving is coming soon, and that means cooking season.

I had been eyeing the Cooks 5-quart stand mixer, but now I'll see how the Mixmaster works for me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cashbox after Quicken import

As I noted before, I figured out how to get a clean export from Quicken 2002 that imports into Cashbox. I only exported 2007 data, nothing earlier. Of course, the next thing I noticed was that I didn't have a balance forward from 2006, so the totals were wrong. So I entered the balance forward amounts manually only to discover the frustration: the 12/31/2006 entry sorted to the most recent position, after all of the 2007 entries. Yarg, well I'm tough, so I went to the raw data (the plist files in ~/Library/Application\ Support/Cashbox/Accounts/) and started editing. First I moved the 2006 entry to the top from the bottom. No dice. Then I paid attention to the 2007 entries imported from Quicken ... the year field of the date was 0007 instead of 2007! Since I wanted to change as few entries by hand as possible, I changed 12/31/2006 to 12/31/0006 in the plist files, and now everything looks right in Cashbox. (I suspect Quicken 2002 used YY instead of YYYY, so this is probably more of a Quicken feature than a Cashbox bug.)

Flu Shot

I had a flu shot Wednesday morning about 9 AM because I've spent too much time being sick over the past two months, and my left shoulder is still sore! (This was my first flu shot. I so rarely get sick, maybe once every five years, that it's not worth my time.) At least I feel fine, which is a relief when the kid had a small green spitup before breakfast this morning, but that was some shot for me still to feel it 2.5 days later! On the other hand, I did get stuck twice. I was concentrating on not flinching for the injection, but apparently I clenched my shoulder muscle at the wrong time and the needle jumped out the first time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mac Sleep Issues

For years, I've seen a problem with sleep on desktop Macs running OS X (both mine and my mother's). What's odd is that I never saw this problem with laptops going to sleep. I decided that the problem was probably caused by having multiple hard drives in my Mac towers. Although I have a home network, my mother did not have one when her Mac crash-on-wake-from-sleep problem started. The work-around is to (remember to) select Sleep from the Apple menu instead of letting it go to sleep on its own.

Things I tried:

I tried unplugging all USB peripherals except mouse and keyboard (pain in the rear) before sleep.

Remove the SCSI card. (There's a G4 Firmware Update for that problem. On a side note, I got rid of a random kernel panic when I removed the CompUSA USB card, so don't discount removing cards.)

Use different time values for sleep, monitor sleep, and hard drive sleep.

On laptop, make sure that a/c and battery settings are the same in Energy Saver if having wake from sleep problems when changing a/c status.

Delete /var/db/SystemConfiguration/ as often as needed.

Reset PMU. (How to do this depends on your hardware. Search Apple.)

Of course those didn't work.

Here's the twist, support coming from an unusual direction. My boss' boss also uses a Mac, and often asks me support questions. Yesterday, however, I learned a trick from him. John said he'd been having trouble with sleep until he changed the order of his hard drives. Apparently if OS X is installed on the second drive (and I'll have to think about what that means when I don't have a SCSI ID; maybe he means IDE slave instead of IDE master), he has sleep problems. He figured that out when Leopard wouldn't install on the blank second drive he uses for backups. (With cable select, you can just pull the master.) I think I need to open cases and take a peek to see if I can explain the problems we've had for years!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I've been looking at Cashbox as a Quicken alternative for OS X. I want an application with a nice Mac user interface (preferably Aqua), that shows balances for multiple accounts (preferably with transfers), and has a good reconcile. I know Cashbox doesn't support investments, but it has import and export options to lure me in.

Except I couldn't import the QIF file I just exported from Quicken 2002 Deluxe. Show stopper. Too much to re-enter by hand!

Since it was easy, I decided to try the suggestion to change the line endings (even though the application wasn't Cashbox, maybe some tips are generally applicable; especially since I saw ^M everywhere). In Terminal, I ran the command

cat JustExportedFromQuicken.qif | tr '\r' '\n' > ImportThis.qif

and the updated file imported just fine into Cashbox! Woo-hoo!

I do like the Bill Scheduling in Quicken to remind me when bills are due (but iCal can remind me too), and I figured out how to get around Quicken moving my account windows (if I close all account windows before I quit Quicken, when I re-launch and re-open, the account windows will show up where I put them before), but the company's support in general and of Mac OS X in specific is miserable. So I'd rather not support Intuit!

Monday, November 12, 2007


When we were in Wisconsin, I saw Windows Media Center in action. Mind you, I'm not tempted by Windows, and I don't have the hardware to hook my TV to my Mac. (Actually, I may, if a certain creative idea works.) But if I were to feel tempted, lifehacker mentioned iTheater, and it looks very similar, only it's free software that runs on a Mac. I can't wait to see the plugins! (I'll need to compare it to CenterStage, though.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

GCal in Thunderbird

Like everyone else, I ran across bfish's post on putting GCal in Thunderbird. I don't always have my calendar (pick iCal, iGoogle, or GCal) up, but I always have Thunderbird running. So I had to try it. It works as advertised!

Two comments. You can use the ICAL link for your Google Calendar, not just the XML link as noted in these directions; I used ICAL. The first calendar I created had the correct Google account filled in automagically, but the subsequent calendars did not (as noted in the comments).

And don't forget GCALDaemon if all you want is two-way synchronization between iCal (Sunbird, Lightning, Rainlendar, Evolution) and Google Calendar. It works for me, it gets new features all the time, and it is the best-documented version 1.0 F/OSS I've ever seen. And it worries my geek side a whole lot less than using Plaxo (with its spam history), also suggested.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Embarrassing Jump Start

I got a phone call for a jump start, and said Argh, I can do that if you've got the cables. I used to carry jumper cables, but I haven't needed them in so long that I'd rather have the storage space! I try to avoid the macho behavior of thinking I can do everything myself, but I've had a lot of experience with jump starting: my husband had a 1983 Ferrari Mondial for several years.

Now we get to the first embarrassing part. I've only had this station wagon for a few months, and I didn't see the hood release inside the cab. I pulled out the owners manual to discover that the release handle was exactly where I thought it was (same place as the older wagon), but more recessed so the handle was hidden. What, hood release handles are unattractive? So I popped the hood.

Then I discovered the second, far more embarrassing fact. Where's the battery? (On the Ferrari, you had to remove the front right tire to replace the battery! Creative.) So I went back to the manual and discovered the section on jump starting. There's a positive post under a flap that I'm supposed to use! I still don't know where the battery is, but at least I now know how to jump start in this station wagon.

I'm just embarrassed that I had to read my car owners manual to learn how to jump start!

The most important jump start advice I can give is to remember that negative can never hurt you (sticks and stones ...). First of all, keep the four ends from touching because you don't want to see the sparks from that short circuit! For negative/ground, you can also use any clean metal connection to the engine because the metal parts of the engine should all be at the same potential. [BEFORE] When connecting two cars, hook up the boosting car first because it has power but without a complete circuit, it can't hurt you. Then hook up the other car, positive first, because negative can never hurt and when you make the fourth and final connection, you have a complete circuit that could hurt you. [DURING] If the jump start is just barely but not quite working, depress the accelerator pedal in the boosting car to rev up the alternator to supply more current. [AFTER] Disconnect the two cars in the reverse of the hook-up. Remove the negative connection on the car you just jumped first because negative can never hurt you. Then, keeping the ends separate, disconnect its positive terminal, and move on to the boosting car for the negative then positive disconnections.

Honestly, I thought I knew how to jump start without using the manual ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

GmailFS and OS X

So I decided to take the plunge to GmailFS today. I'm following these directions, but I downloaded the latest versions of all software (not the linked versions).

The easy way around some of those steps was to use MacPorts. After installing the latest MacPorts package, add /opt/local/bin to your PATH and run sudo port install pkgconfig to install pkg-config. Likewise, sudo port install fuse-bindings-python for the Python FUSE bindings.

(At which point, if you're going FUSE-crazy, don't forget SpotlightFS and the ever-popular NTFS-3g or ntfsprogs.)

Now if sudo port upgrade all would just finish ...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tomcat on RHEL4

(Assume the commands sudo up2date httpd and sudo up2date httpd-devel have already been run.) The key to Tomcat on RHEL4 turns out to be subscribing to additional RHN channels. For instance, I added "Red Hat Developer Suite v. 3" aka rhel-4-as-i386-rhds-3 and then sudo up2date tomcat5 worked. Next, thanks to, I found mod_jk.

Now to configure the darn thing ...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Help for Morning Emesis

The problem with morning sickness, particularly the all-day variety I get, is that it puts me in such a fog that I have a hard time thinking of a way to get out of the sickly haze. However, I did find one more effective trick for my morning emesis other than avoiding sucralose (and sugar, to a lesser extent). After breakfast, I brush my teeth. Depending on the morning, if I haven't yet (probably because I was cuddling our toddler earlier), I also wash my face. What do those have in common? Bending over the bathroom sink! That seems to be a trigger for my throat to want to reverse gears, but I found a way to head it off. If I blow my nose before brushing my teeth, I'm much better off. The other aspect, of course, is to spend as much brushing and washing time standing upright, and not bending over the sink. But blowing my nose before brushing my teeth while not as obvious seems to be very effective.

Speaking of brushing teeth and morning sickness, most toothpaste (read the labels on Crest and Colgate!) contains saccharin. When I have morning sickness, I can't handle any amount of saccharin, even when I'm not eating it. Luckily I still have the tube of Tom's of Maine mint flouride toothpaste from the first pregnancy, so I can still brush my teeth with toothpaste (although using no toothpaste is better than not brushing at all!). I prefer plain baking soda right now, though. The less sweetness in my mouth in the morning, the better.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

This was a very difficult article for me to read because I know his wife personally, but it's also beautiful. So read about Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, and if you like 3D computer graphics, check out Alice 3D.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fixing the Linux VNC oddity

This morning's annoyance was that old Linux VNC problem I had a while ago, and I finally solved it. I found a hint that TightVNC (a fork used by Apple for Apple Remote Desktop, known for good behavior on slow links) compression is incompatible with RealVNC (the main code base). I bet unknown message type 242 means I don't understand TightVNC encoding when you get down to it.

If I use Vine Server based on RealVNC, my Linux can control my Mac and my Solaris still can too! Don't forget to set a strong password and to open your VNC ports in the firewall.

I'm sure the reverse is also true: I could probably install TightVNC from DAG on my Linux, and then view Apple Remote Desktop (which is easier since it would open the firewall for me).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Double Ick!

So I was just walking across the living room to pick up my Treo when I saw a huge palmetto bug! Ick! Normally I would jump, squeak, and send the hubby after it. Only he's out of town. So I settled for jump, and get a sneaker to squash it. There was a bug already hiding on the bottom of my shoe! Double ick! I killed both of them, though.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I don't know if Karston caught Daddy's cold, or if he has allergies. His nose drips are clear, and he has multiple sneezes at a time, all of which are more characteristic of allergies. So I looked it up, and right now the main allergens are Ragweed, Chenopods, and Grass at a High-Medium (7.9/10) pollen level. I've been sneaking decongestant into his juice, and he seems to feel better or sleep better (doesn't cough himself awake) when I do. I guess time will tell cold from allergies, but in either case, a decongestant should do the trick.

Pregnant Twitter

I have a friend who was pregnant, and at work we were all watching her IM status since she was updating it with baby messages. No updates in several days (she's offline), so I assume that she's in the hospital and that everything is fine. And it made me think, as a blogging mother, is there some other technology, other than IM status, to use to update all of your friends on your status instead? That answer seems obvious: Twitter! To reduce duplication, there's a script to update Twitter with your iChat status message. For a nice Mac application to read and post, there's Twitterrific. But using a Treo is the best way to send an update when you're in the car driving to the hospital, so there's TreoTwit (en). Or web toTwitter2Go for a small-screen-friendly site.

Of course, she's already done (I think), but it's amazing what you find!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

First Kick

I felt the first kick, a good solid kick followed a few seconds later by a second kick, this afternoon while showing Karston how to take a nap!

We're just into Week 13, second trimester, too. This is early for the first kick, but it was such a solid kick that there's no doubt.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Heat Wave

OK, so it really was hot last month! According to the weather forecast, this is the first day in twenty days in a row that has a chance not to be over 90 degrees Fahrenheit! Whew. Usually we only get two weeks of beastly, but this year it's three. Plus if we have any more days over 90, and that's highly likely, this year will set the record for number of days over 90.

Slow down, drink more water, and it'll cool off. Today, in fact.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

SIP softphones

Everyone's heard of Skype. Personally, I'm not comfortable with their terms of use. These are the same developers as Kazaa; I'd prefer to keep my day job, and that means I should steer clear of the more shady peer-to-peer.

What I prefer for software-based phones is Gizmo: it's F/OSS, it's standards-based (SIP), and it's just as pretty.

The next step is security paranoia, and that's answered with Zfone, which works with Gizmo and is quite secure.

SIP softphones are really coming of age!

filesystem tricks

So there's FUSE, MacFUSE, and MacFusion (the GUI for MacFUSE) with modules for SSH and FTP. Pretty cool! You can even read and write to NTFS (Windows) volumes. Actually, that's really good, and I should start using it more. I especially like the more interesting extensions (meaning non-traditional file systems) like GMailFS and Tagsistent.

What I'm looking at today is libferris, though. Doesn't look like it's coming to OS X ever, but it's in the same vein of using filesystems for everything because they're easy. It's the part where you could use libferris to convert from XML to a database (easily and transparently) that makes my head spin. That's some library!

Spotlight and Alepin with Highlight

So I thought I had beat the Spotlight+Alepin choices into the ground, but then I ran across Highlight. Guess what? There's another way to do it!

I ran a Spotlight search for a unique phrase, and got 6 results (none were good matches, but whatever). Then I added that phrase to a new page in an Alepin notebook. After quitting Alepin, I dropped the notebook on Highlight's "Add to Spotlight Index" panel. Guess what the same Spotlight search turned up for that phrase? Yes, the top match was the rtfd file inside Alepin!

I'll do some checking to see if any of my previous changes were necessary (probably adding Alepin to the Rich Text Importer), but Highlight is certainly the easiest way to add something to Spotlight's index!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Morning Sickness Again

I really don't do pregnant well. I feel crummy all the time (except when I just get out of bed) with morning sickness. This time it didn't start until the classic 6 week mark; before that, I kept saying, I don't feel pregnant. However, this time it's also worse. Last time, I was queasy all the time. This time I have three warring symptoms: queasy, heartburn, and sickly small doses of emesis. Ick. Many of the food-related items that ease my queasiness, namely citrus, are heartburn triggers! So not only am I dragging, not only do I feel terrible, but fixing one symptom makes another worse. The queasiness starts about 30 minutes after I wake up and lasts until after I fall asleep. The heartburn generally starts after dinner, although sometimes it starts after lunch, and lasts most of the night. The emesis usually happens when I'm brushing my teeth after breakfast, so at least I'm already in the bathroom.

So I looked for another guide to manage morning sickness this time. Possible underlying causes are dehydration or excess saliva. I can't argue with either theory since water (and other beverages) taste nasty right now. One suggestion (Book of Home Remedies, Rodale Press) is to munch on almonds. That tastes good, and might ease it a little, but it doesn't help much and it doesn't help with thirst. One thing that has helped is switching what I eat for breakfast. Recently my favorite cereal was Fiber One Honey Clusters; it's low sugar but tastes enjoyably sweet thanks to sucralose. Well, when I switched to grits with no sweetening at all, I skipped the emesis. That still leaves me with the contradictory pair of queasy and heartburn, but it's a start on relief. I wonder what the anti-morning-sickness diet looks like? Probably bland and unsweetened.

So I looked for that as well, and found a dietary suggestion for morning sickness. Following it, I asked myself which of the following flavors sounded appealing, on a +/./- scale for yes yummy / whatever / no nasty. It's not encouraging!

salty .

sour -

bitter -

sweet -

crunchy .

fizzy -

mushy .

wet .

dry .

hot .

cold .

bland .

tangy .

spicy -

fruity .

earthy -

That's right, nothing at all sounds appealing. I thought I was just too worn out to have a tasty idea, but given a list, I still can't find anything I want to eat. This is going to be tough.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Medical Geek

I think I'm a medical geek, in the enthusiast sense. Last week, I had a nurse interview me about Karston's delivery. I explained that my water broke first (this only happens about 10% of the time), but I probably should have expected it since this happens in Karston's family. My mother was one for one, my father's mother was four for seven, and Grammy (my mother-in-law) was one for two. So a quick poll indicates that that 10% does not apply to Karston's family! The nurse was interested, but had never considered that it would run in families. A couple days later, one of the clerks at the Post Office asked me what I knew about kidney stones since her son was in the hospital for that right then. Of course I rattled off oxalate and avoid spinach and chocolate ... and then I just had to ask her, why ask me? She knew I would know something about it. I did some research, and printed some information (especially this site) for her that I gave to her this week.

Those two incidents coming close together made me realize that I am a medical geek. I read the health news headlines, and filter out the drek unconsciously. And I just remember those topics for some reason. No substitute for a doctor, but I'm not in the dark either. And this has, oddly enough, nothing to do with taking classes from, and graduating from, the School of Medicine. The interesting topics that are more likely to come up in conversation generally did not come from class.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


So the cool tool of the day is WebShell (ssh for iPhone), but we couldn't get it working yesterday when we installed it.

The answer wasn't RTFM, but on the forum indirectly. Like most people, I run ssh on a non-standard port. You need to change to look like this (replacing 22 with whatever you use instead of the default port 22):

[nethope@server WebShell-0.9.5]$ grep ssh

cmd = 'ssh -p 22'

help = "set shell command (default: ssh localhost)")

The original line is just cmd = 'ssh', and that's where you make the change.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Linux VNC oddity

I turned on Apple Remote Desktop on my MacBook Pro, but I couldn't VNC into it from my Linux box. However, I could VNC into it from my Solaris 9 box, and from my Mac at home (the one that mattered) with Chicken of the VNC 2.0b2. All Macs running 10.4.10. Linux gave me an unknown message type 242.

Here's what I saw on Linux ( RHEL4AS):


VNC viewer for X version 4.0 - built Jan 10 2007 07:48:23

Copyright (C) 2002-2004 RealVNC Ltd.

See for information on VNC.

Fri Jul 6 17:30:58 2007

CConn: connected to host port 5900

CConnection: Server supports RFB protocol version 3.889

CConnection: Using RFB protocol version 3.8

Fri Jul 6 17:31:02 2007

TXImage: Using default colormap and visual, TrueColor, depth 24.

CConn: Using pixel format depth 6 (8bpp) rgb222

CConn: Using ZRLE encoding

CConn: Throughput 20069 kbit/s - changing to hextile encoding

CConn: Throughput 20069 kbit/s - changing to full colour

CConn: Using pixel format depth 24 (32bpp) little-endian rgb888

CConn: Using hextile encoding

unknown message type 242

main: unknown message type

On the other hand, here's what I saw on Solaris 9:


VNC server supports protocol version 3.889 (viewer 3.3)


VNC authentication succeeded

Desktop name "a.b.c.d"

Connected to VNC server, using protocol version 3.3

VNC server default format:

32 bits per pixel.

Least significant byte first in each pixel.

True colour: max red 255 green 255 blue 255, shift red 16 green 8 blue 0

Using default colormap which is TrueColor. Pixel format:

32 bits per pixel.

Most significant byte first in each pixel.

True colour: max red 255 green 255 blue 255, shift red 0 green 8 blue 16

So if I can use something other than Linux, my VNC viewer to Apple Remote Desktop works. I wonder if Linux is just using a newer version (RFB remote frame buffer protocol version 3.8 instead of 3.3) ... but (intelligent!) backwards compatibility would be nice! I really didn't troubleshoot any further than this because it was Friday evening, and I could go home if I had reasonable confidence that I could VNC in to my MacBook Pro. Since Solaris worked, I didn't much care why Linux failed. Sure enough, my Mac at home also worked, so I went about finishing that long task, and enjoying my precious weekend.

Update: solved 10/02/2007!

Macintosh, Troubleshooting, Unix

DIY leave-in conditioner

I don't have the patience to put "product" in my hair. Getting my hair to behave is a losing battle anyway, so I'm sure it would take too much time if I ever did find something that works. The one product to come around that fits my patience level and has a positive effect on my hair is spray leave-in hair conditioner.

My hair stylist suggested making my own. Kelly, who was very cool even back when we were in high school together, said to fill a spray bottle with water and then to add my favorite conditioner. Well, I don't have a favorite conditioner. But I do have some conditioning products gathering dust that are thick goop that I don't use because they go on too thick when I do it. Kelly can make these work well in a jiffy, but I don't have her touch. And even with a simple recipe like that, I didn't follow it (no surprise).

I boiled two cups of water, and let two chamomile tea bags steep overnight because I was tired. I filled a 12-ounce spray bottle nearly to the top with this tea, and then I added two Tbs of Sunsilk De-Frizz 24/7 Creme. (I poured the excess chamomile tea on some plants since I'm not a fan of drinking chamomile tea.) I do need to shake it before each use, but it works so much better than the straight goop ever did! It smooths frizzy hair, and it's easy to apply! It even has a slight bit of holding power! Talk about easy. I like the combination much better than the parts, since I don't drink chamomile tea and I couldn't use the thick goop effectively.

UPDATE 03/31/2011: Consider adding up to 1 Tbs of sunscreen as well, to protect your hair from ultraviolet damage.

Monday, July 9, 2007

DIY moisturizer

I don't know why it took me so long to try this, but I mixed my own. I've got a number of moisturizers that aren't quite right on their own. I like the coverage of Neutrogena Skin Clearing makeup in blushing ivory since I'm pale, but towards the end of the day, my face is shiny. It's difficult to apply a thin layer, but Neutrogena Pore Refining Mattifier really controls shine. I've tried several moisturizers with sunscreen, and so far they all go on greasy. However, if I mix equal parts moisturizer with makeup and add a small dose of mattifier, it works out well! The sum of the parts is better than the parts ... and no, I don't want to take the time to put on three separate layers when I can mix it together in advance.

I had some eye moisturizer that was too thick, so I mixed in a little witch hazel (for your eye skin, make sure the witch hazel isn't cut with alcohol that would dry your skin out), and it became much fluffier and easier to spread. For daytime eye moisturizer, I added some tint as well, and that adds a nice subtle glint.

I think it's easier to get exactly the features I want in a moisturizer by mixing several to get sunscreen, tint, matte coverage, and vitamins! So don't be shy, give it a try!

Friday, June 22, 2007


Holy foldy, batman! I'm usually pretty handy at paper folding, but I had to watch the video for PocketMod four times before I could do it! Yowzah!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cumulate Draw, Part 1

I've been trying to install Cumulate Draw for a while. The directions seemed deceptively simple. And, wouldn't you know, the problem was before the first step. In fact, before step 0! I noticed that I had a draw.war file while the examples were directories. Interesting! So I ran file draw.war and learned Zip archive data, at least v2.0 to extract. D'oh! Rename to, unzip, and things look a lot more promising now! I'm still not there, but I have climbed the mountain that I didn't know was there.

The next step is to install Tomcat or some other Java Servlet Container.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Starting off with sqlite

I am crawling up to speed on SQLite. Luckily it's easy!

The really easy on-a-Mac-way to create a SQLite database is to use SqliteQuery (freeware). It uses sqlite3 already installed on a Mac, and it gives you a window to enter SQL commands. However, I quickly noticed that SqliteQuery converts everything to lowercase. So, in order to maintain case-sensitivity, I recreated my test database from the command line.

The command sqlite3 is in /usr/bin. That was in my path, so I just needed to give it the SQLite file.

sqlite3 ~/Documents/SQLite/Birthdays.sqlite

To see the table names,

sqlite> .tables ''

To see the existing structure,

sqlite> .schema birthdays

That gives me the SQL code to create the table. The data are

sqlite> .dump birthdays

I ran some awk reality checks, and converted between SQL dump and CSV with sed.

The key concept to sqlite3 today is that the commands that start with a dot (like .help and .quit) are sqlite-specific, while the rest is just SQL (commands that don't start with a dot and that must end with a semi-colon).

Other than creating tables and inserting values (you can see this SQL code when you use .dump table-name), the other useful SQL command is select * from table-name; to see what's in the table.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Alepin with Spotlight

Aha! It's liberating to know I don't have to write a Spotlight importer for Alepin. But being told something is impossible doesn't stop me from trying; I just don't get frustrated when it doesn't work.

This is a really easy two-step process.

  1. Add Alepin to the Rich Text mdimporter.
    1. Following this hint, I ran the mdimport -n -d1 command on an Alepin file to learn that it's type 'com.macchampion.alepin.alpn'.
    2. Run this command: open /System/Library/Spotlight/RichText.mdimporter/Contents/Info.plist to open the plist file with the Property List Editor. (It's a Developer application, so you will need to have installed the Developer Tools.)
    3. In Property List Editor, expand the only triangle (Root) and then the first triangles under that (CFBundleDocumentTypes, 0, LSItemContentTypes). Select the last item (mine was and hit the New Sibling button. That will fill in the next number and the same String class, and all you need to do is to enter com.macchampion.alepin.alpn, the type from the first step. Save. Quit.
  2. Force Spotlight to import Alepin notebooks.
    1. find ~/Documents -name "*.alpn" -exec mdimport -f {} \;
    2. That command runs finds anything within your Documents folder that ends with the file extension alpn. The mdimport command is Spotlight indexing, -f forces indexing even of what it would normally skip (and regular Spotlight indexing does skip my Alepin notebooks), and {} means on the results of the find command. Oh, and \; just signals the end of what find should execute on the results.

Now you won't get Spotlight indexing of RTFD attachments like pictures in your Alepin notebooks yet, but I'm sure you could do a forced import of those as well. You can list them with a command like find ~/Documents -name "*.alpn" -exec ls -R {} \; | grep -v "alpn\|DocumentInfo\|rtfd\|TXT.rtf\|^$" and then move on to the next idea based on those results.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Mr. Wood

I didn't think Karston would learn that Mr. Wood was trouble until he was teenager or older. He woke up crying twice last night (yawn), so we changed his diaper to avoid a diaper leak since that's what crying usually means now. Both times I noticed that Mr. Wood had visited him recently, so he was pointing up (high chance of a leak) instead of down (only overflow leaks). So I think Karston knows Mr. Wood causes diaper leaks, and he knows he's too old for malfunctions like that, so he let us know.

Alepin mdimporter Quest

I haven't used Alepin as much since I started using Spotlight more. Off and on, I've been frustrating myself by trying to write a Spotlight importer for it. It's just a package of RTFD files! What could be easier? I thought perhaps I could piggyback on this hint and make the RichText importer do it, but that idea failed. Well, in the case of Spotlight Metadata importer vs file package of rtfd files, the user loses. The bundle is opaque to Spotlight indexing!

I do have an idea to try to get around this anyway because I'm that stubborn, but it'll need to be scripted not manual. In that case, while I'm at it, I should script adding tags to Alepin. That will make everything Spotlight happy. Or I might switch to Journler, but then everything (work and personal, two things I try to separate) have to go in the same folder. But it has Spotlight and tags, two things Alepin needs. And it's free for personal use, so I can dabble with it.

However, at least I know I have to resort to a hack instead of pounding my head against the "write your own mdimporter" wall. That should bring the frustration down on this project. And I think I hack this hack, so that cheers me up!

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Classic Slinky TV Commercial

For years, I've been searching for a classic Slinky TV commercial. I feel like the Internet has finally grown up, because this time, I found it!!! In fact, what's even more amazing, I found several versions in several places! Of course there's YouTube, but there's even the Slinky company itself!

After watching, I had to ask myself why I had been searching. Sometimes I forget why I'm climbing that mountain. However, this time I remembered why. I used to watch Ren & Stimpy with my friend Dan. That show was a real trailblazer in cartoon grossness! When we first watched the Tooth Beaver episode, Dan went to the bathroom to retch because it was just that gross. I was pretty disgusted too, but I was too busy laughing at him retching to have stomach problems of my own. Anyway, one day Dan called me out of the blue to ask if I knew where The Log Song came from. I said, Duh, Ren & Stimpy. I was told the correct answer was that The Log Song was ripping off The Slinky Song. We didn't have a TV most of the time that I was growing up, so I grew up on books. And Dan's guess was correct: I had never seen the Slinky commercial on TV, and I had never heard the jingle. The closest Dan could find for me years ago was another Slinky knock-off (R rated, though); it was pretty funny, but I wanted to see the original. And now, finally, I have!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Road Trip

Well, the new station wagon has been on its first road trip, got its first fill-up from me, and it was great! We piled in three adults and three kids yesterday (only one unused seatbelt), put our stuff in the Yakima roof carrier, and drove to the coast. We had a very smooth ride. Since it was fully loaded with a roof carrier, I didn't expect good fuel economy, but I was pleasantly surprised to get 26.8 mpg on the trip down. We only went 24 miles in the first hour of driving down because of traffic on the under-construction interstate! Then we took the scenic tour through several small towns to see an art gallery and an aquarium. The wagon only got 25.5 mpg on the drive back, but the weather was so windy that I was steering to correct for the wind pushing us around. It's rated for 20 mpg in town and 26 mpg highway, so I think it's doing really well. Once we get a trailer hitch installed, the old wagon can go!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Car Quest: Done!

Oh thank goodness! Car shopping is over, and we like the end result. The initial car shopping was painful: new cars just aren't worth that price tag.

Yesterday afternoon, we bought a 2002 Mercedes E320 station wagon from a private seller, and this morning we took care of the DMV side of the house. Patty and Selma Bouvier had nothing on the hour-long line or the inconsiderate service, but that DMV trip is done thankfully. The ride is exquisite. The driver's seat may be the most comfortable yet! The features are appreciated (like center console window controls, modern Mercedes computer dashboard, sunroof, and quiet engine). The extra leg room for the second row of seats was a great improvement. This wagon has the third row seat that looks so fun for kids! So we have seat belts for seven in this wagon. (The 20-year-old wagon being replaced only has seat belts for five since it doesn't have the third-row seat.) Karston likes playing in it, too. We'll need to get a trailer hitch for this wagon as well, but we know where to have that done now. We do have more than one choice of trailer hitch brand this time, but we plan to stick with Da'Lan for the quality. Same champagne color as the old wagon, but tan interior instead of burgundy (burgundy is pretty, but tan makes it look more spacious), gas instead of diesel (diesel wagon wasn't imported then). Basically the same wagon, 15 years newer.

I'm relieved that the wagon search is over. Whew.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I just handed in grades, so I'm thinking about, well, grades. I only had eight students this semester, and I decided that I was OK giving only A's and B's (good group of students!). I noticed an interesting pattern when I converted their grades into the final form. I'm not allowed to assign an A+ or a D-. I did want to distinguish the top score from the other grades, but without an A+, that's tough. However, graduate students here are on a different scale, H-P-L-F for High, Pass, Low, and Fail. The H is supposed to be harder to get than an A; the P is the broad side of a barn; and the L should be rare (and bad) but at least you didn't Fail. Well, the top student this semester is a graduate student, and I was very happy to assign an H.

The pattern that struck me was that all of my B's were the other graduate students in this class! Since the H is harder to get than an A, I think there's a dis-incentive to put in the extra work to get a regular A (that translates to a P) and any form of B (that also translates to a P). So I had one graduate student who aimed for the stars and earned an H, a handful of undergraduates who worked hard and earned A's and A-'s, and a handful of graduate students who worked and learned and earned all flavors of B's that became P's.

So the piece of paper I just turned in looks much more boring than the actual grade distribution. This, in turn, makes me wonder why I worked so hard on assignments and grading. I've been teaching long enough that I know how to get a reasonable spread on grades from the questions I ask. I did that this time around, but on that last piece of paper, the only one that matters, it didn't show up. If this happens again, I wonder what sort of teacher dis-incentive it will generate?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ThinkPad T42 Oddity

I have a ThinkPad T42 at work. Usually it runs Linux (RHEL 4 AS), but once every 3 months I boot to Windows (XP SP2) to change my domain password (and to run Windows Update). If I knew a way to use SAMBA from Mac OS X or Linux to change my AD domain password, I might not boot to Windows as often as once a year! That would be nice, but unfortunately password changing isn't that easy.

I have an external monitor, a Dell 2405FPW, connected to it. Usually the monitor works fine. However, after I've booted to Windows, once I boot back to Linux, the monitor shakes. The scanlines don't line up anymore, and it looks for all the world like a hardware problem. However, if I unplug power to this monitor for two days (I haven't tested a shorter time period yet), it goes back to working. So Windows is doing something evil to my monitor that only shows up for Linux! Once the monitor has the shakes, it doesn't matter if I remove the BlackBox KVM or the Dock from the cabling.

I use the DVI connector to this monitor with my Mac OS X, and I use the VGA connector for the KVM and Dock (VGA KVMs are significantly cheaper!).

I'm still working on a theory to explain this, but at least I have a workaround, to leave it unplugged over the weekend.

UPDATE: a co-worker suggested that Windows detects the monitor, that also has card slot readers, and downloads new software (it would have to ask permission, and burn, new firmware, so I don't think it's technically firmware) to the monitor. Then when I go back to Linux, the new monitor software and Linux don't get along. It's a theory, but since I have a work-around (don't use Windows, or use a different external monitor with Windows, or leave it unplugged over the weekend), I'm not going to worry about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thunderbird: Bounce and Growl

The beauty of an application with a plug-in architecture is that you can add features that you want. Mail redirect (or bounce) can be added to Thunderbird with the Mail Redirect add-on. Cool! Read the comments for a URL to a version that works with Thunderbird 2, or for the way to fix it yourself (it works, but you have to tell the maxVersion check). Now I have an easy way to bounce messages to Gmail for search archiving.

So that just leaves Growl telling me about new messages in Thunderbird. I found three ways to do that. The first, yamb +, is what I've been using since I started using Thunderbird 2.0b1 (I was an early adopter because I love IMAP mail tags). I don't like it because Thunderbird is always bouncing in my dock to tell me that a folder (who knows which one) is being processed and can't be accessed right now. I don't care, but the bounces are distracting, so while Growl fits GTD, the extraneous bounces don't. The good news is that what I was using before, Growl New Message Notification, now works with Thunderbird 2! This is the best route in my mind. It's one add-on (not an add-on and a shell script) (although you do need to install growlnotify, one of the optional Growl Extras installs), it's very configurable (so are shell scripts, but not as easily), and it doesn't give me the error messages that YAMB does. However, if you want another choice, there's also Growl Notifications for Firefox (completed downloads) and Thunderbird (new messages) in the sandbox. I prefer the extension not in the sandbox because it has options, but they both work.

Tags are good. Plug-ins are good.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Send Mail to Gmail

No offense to Gmail Loader (it's free and cool), but I didn't want to take the time to install extra Python widgets just to shuttle some old mail to Gmail for storage. So I used Mulberry. Mulberry is a lot like pine and presumably alpine in that they get no respect. Most of the time I want a pretty interface; sometimes I want to be able to use any possible IMAP feature (and don't get me started on why I like IMAP better than POP -- I'm mobile, OK?), and that's where Mulberry shines as does pine. You use the redirect feature in Mulberry (bounce in pine) to bounce your old mail to another address. The "Date" and "From" fields are not modified, so this is a reasonable way to transfer mail between accounts.

Less Salt

Ever since morning sickness, I've had to eat a lot less sodium; if I get too much, I feel like my heart is being squeezed. So I can believe that you can "Cut Heart Risk by Eating Less Salt" because it sure feels that way to me!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Cool! There's a command-line way (in OS X 10.4) to look at what's going on with your Airport connection: /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/A/Resources/airport. The useful flags are -h for help, -s or --scan for a scan, and -I or --getinfo for current status.

We've had some cases at work where I would really like to have a graph of signal strength (so I can prove that the latest LWAPP firmware upgrade was disastrous for Mac users), so a list of numbers to chart would be ideal. There are some nice graphical tools out there, but the charts aren't persistent, so my documentation is ephemeral. I could easily write a script with airport for my list of numbers to chart, though!

Supporting No DRM

Symbolic gesture, done.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hurrah for EMI!

I'm really surprised that a major label dropped DRM, but good for EMI! I'm ready to go out and buy something (like The Verve or The Vines) just to help make the point. At full price too!

When the RIAA shut down Napster, I quit buying music that wasn't from an independent artist (like Cyril Lance at CD Baby) or used (from Phil at Back Door CDs). So there! I don't believe that the recording industry, built on electronics, was significantly harmed by electronic downloads. In fact, Janis Ian can back that up: she hasn't recorded since the 60s, she owns the copyright on her songs (rare!), and her sales go up every time she releases a song as a free MP3. There's no reason other than a song's free release for her sales to go up since she hasn't recorded in years! So the RIAA is just afraid of change. Well, change happens!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Thunderbird and Growl

I love the tags in Thunderbird 2.0, but I miss the Growl New Message Notification. That add-on really streamlined my workflow, keeping email in the background unless it's important.

So I went back to Neil's World on Growl and Thunderbird, and used that approach instead. The good news is that it works with Thunderbird 2.0 (although it isn't as simple as the one-step add-on). If you want tags and Growl, go the YAMB route.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


For years, I've said that I get a cold about once every five years. That seems like a pretty good record, so I'm not complaining. I would sometimes go to the doctor only to hear allergies, and I always thought it meant you look fine to me. Well, I was wrong. Last time I "caught a cold," I remember thinking Oh no, not again when it went to my throat. So I started searching the web: If there is no fever, if the mucous secretions are clear and if sneezes occur in rapid, multiple sequence, an allergy is almost certainly involved. OK, that describes "my typical cold" to a tee! I sneeze in threes, the nose runs clear, and I'm otherwise fine. (Here's another symptom list.)

So it's allergies, and I could have prevented most of the "colds" I've had! That's annoying. So this time I'm taking decongestants when I think the post-nasal drip wants to give me a sore throat. The problem is that chlorpheniramine makes my head stuffy, so I can't take it consistently, but it's the most effective. I tried montelukast (Singulair) but it's not as strong as my runny nose. I couldn't even tell that loratadine (Claritin) did anything! So I'm limping along, taking chlorpheniramine when I can't stand it anymore. My desperate plan, if the nose gets worse, is to try promethazine (Phenergan), but I really don't like the warnings, and I can't believe a drug prescribed for morning sickness has that many warnings!

According to, the major irritants right now are oak, birch, and cedar / juniper. We don't have any of those in the yard, although we do have pollen bombs (those strands of pollen grains) everywhere. Apparently pine is copious, but not as allergenic. The ragweed hasn't kicked in yet, and I think I'll scour the yard before it flowers! At least this is a record pollen year with almost double the usual amount of pollen, and that probably explains why I average once every five years for these bad bouts.

So I've learned that my traditional three-sneezes-in-a-row with clear nasal drainage means allergies (and I never listened), and I haven't found the right decongestant yet to clear my nose without clogging my head.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


At least I know there's a reason why the pollen got to my nose this year. It started almost two weeks ago, I felt a fire in the back of my nose Friday morning. And I've been sniffling ever since, unfortunately. I'm trying to balance between a clear head and not having so much nasal drainage that I get a sore throat.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Bookmarklet to Download Video Clips

I ran across a site to Download YouTube & Google Video clips via bookmarklets, and the YouTube (only) bookmarklet worked like a charm for me! As you may remember, I think bookmarklets are super-convenient, and I prefer the shorter time to download, the privacy, and of course skipping an intermediate server (just adds unnecessary complexity, even if it is free). Shucks, even this post comes in thanks to a bookmarklet!

Friday, March 23, 2007


To script telnet or ssh or ftp, I use pexpect; but for system administration of similar machines, I'm trying out tentakel (on OS X and Linux) and its ssh module.

Here's where I am so far:

  • Download tentakel
  • Expand it
  • Go into that directory
  • make
  • sudo make install
  • cd
  • mkdir .tentakel
  • cd .tentakel
  • cp /usr/local/share/doc/tentakel/tentakel.conf.example ~/. tentakel/tentakel.conf

If you get an error message, set PYTHONPATH to your site-packages directory.

$ tentakel

Traceback (most recent call last):

File "/usr/local/bin/tentakel", line 42, in ?

import lekatnet.error as error

ImportError: No module named lekatnet.error

$ export PYTHONPATH=/usr/local/lib/python2.3/site-packages

$ tentakel

interactive mode

tentakel(default)> quit


Next stop, password-less ssh! It slows down the utility of tentakel running the same command on multiple machines when I have to enter my password serially.

GCalDaemon: beta 7

So far, I've used these versions:,,,, and now For a one-developer show, this is pretty impressive! I reported the semi-colon bug in the first version and hardly had time to blink before beta 2 fixed it. However, then I had a problem with all-day events created in iCal getting moved ahead a day after sync. (All-day events created in Google Calendar didn't change days.) But wait, there's beta 3! The day bug vanquished! I asked if it were possible to sync multiple calendars. Feature added! However, the day bug came back in beta 5, so now it's time to try beta 7.

As part of my upgrade to beta 7, I went through the configuration file (instead of over-writing it with my beta 5 config file), and I'm impressed by the sheer number of new features (and they look useful too, not just frilly). Bugs are fixed quickly and more features are added all the time. Oh, did I mention that the documentation is beautiful? From one person. Wow.


  1. I installed GCALDaemon in the new /usr/local/sbin, more standard location,
  2. I stopped my net.sf.gcaldaemon agent in Lingon,
  3. I copied over the work directory and old config files (cp -R /bin/GCALDaemon/work /usr/local/sbin/GCALDaemon; cp /bin/GCALDaemon/conf/gcal-daemon.cfg /usr/local/sbin/GCALDaemon/conf/gcal-daemon.older; cp /bin/GCALDaemon/conf/logger-config.cfg /usr/local/sbin/GCALDaemon/conf/logger-config.older; if you didn't set group write permission for yourself already, you'll need sudo in front of those commands, and since I didn't customize logger-config.older I didn't keep it)
  4. I removed GCALDaemon from the old location (sudo rm -rf /bin/GCALDaemon), and
  5. I updated my agent in Lingon and restarted it.

It doesn't take as long as that sounds!

Now, to see how it works!

My Kitchen Timesaver List

I read Cookware for the Weary Cook, and they missed most of the items on my Kitchen Timesaver List.

  • microwave
  • microwave rice cooker
  • food processor
  • crockpot
  • bread machine

A mixer can be really useful too, but I'm not sure it's on my timesaver list. (Then you open the list to refrigerator, stove, oven, and so on.)

I think the microwave is an obvious timesaver. My microwave rice cooker (also called a microwave pressure cooker or a vegetable steamer) is wonderful! You can get it in this size, or a conveniently smaller 6-cup size (I have both). It makes perfect rice easily, and I get excellent results micro-steaming frozen veggies for two to four minutes.

When I do a lot of cooking, it often starts with a lot of chopping. That's when the food processor, especially in two-second bursts so that I don't end up with too fine of a grind, really saves time.

The crockpot isn't fast, but since most dishes can cook for eight to ten hours while I go to work, it means dinner is ready in record time once I get home again! So it is a timesaver overall.

I used to make bread by hand, and I didn't want a bread machine because I was sure it couldn't be authentic enough. Good bread is the result of knowing the right texture while kneading, so I didn't think the process could be automated. I'm glad I decided to try one anyway! I think I get better results based on my hand-made bread experience, but I don't have to watch the clock over three hours for kneading, rising, punching, shaping, rising, and baking. I know to check the texture after 10 minutes of bread machine kneading, and I know how to adjust the water (teaspoon at a time) and the flour (tablespoon at a time). Bread is very fussy, and you have to plan your whole day around making it by hand. Or you can get a bread machine, check that the initial mixing has the right texture from the correct ratio of wet and dry, and walk away until it beeps. Yeah!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fugu: Software - Network - sftp

I use cli scp most of the time because I know what I want, and from where, and I'm already using my command line, but I really like Fugu as my sftp client when I'm not as sure of what I want. It works, and it really has the Mac aesthetic: what more could I want? Oh yeah, it's free.

Sometimes I use Cyberduck for ftp, but I've had to be careful with the version. For a while, only the 2.5 version worked for me. (I think I rolled back to 2.5.5 after trying 2.6.1?) When possible, I prefer Fugu and secure transfer.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Alepin: Software - Notebook

Alepin isn't free like some notebook software, but it also isn't expensive at $10. It doesn't have some of the extra gadgets of the expensive ones, but it supports Services and it works well as a notebook application that's easy to learn. It has quick find (this page) and search (this document), an interesting time-saving distinction. Alepin supports a hierarchy of notes (but no tags), import of text or RTFD, export to RTFD, and multiple files. All of those are necessary features to get on my good software list.

At this point, you're wondering why I like Alepin the best for notebook software since none of those good points are that distinctive. It has the easiest recovery! Of all of the notebook software I've looked at, Alepin was the only one where I could open the data file package and easily recover most of the information I had entered by hand. All of your notebook pages are saved as RTFD inside the alpn document package ... and the filename is the page name! In the worst case, you would lose your folder hierarchy, but you would have all of your data and the search button. All of the other applications used package component file names that would need translation during recovery, putting you one step farther away from reassembly, depending on what data were corrupted.

I wouldn't mind if Alepin supported tags and Spotlight, or if it maintained the document folders within the package for even easier recovery, but it is a great notebook application. Just think, you could collect all of your text notes, text clippings, picture clippings, and other assorted notes into one searchable Alepin notebook!

Monday, March 5, 2007


Finally, my forsythia is in bloom! I checked on it last week, and it had two petals, but not even one complete blossom. Two weeks ago, I saw the first purple crocus, and this week the crocuses are in full swing. (The yellow crocuses came in earlier, but they don't show up as well between the daffodils that bloomed in mid-January.)

This spring has been completely out of order, because it should be forsythia, crocus, then daffodil. But this year, it was exactly backwards, with daffodils in January, crocuses in February, and forsythia starting in March.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Idea Knot: Software - Note Pad and RAD

I have a hard time describing Idea Knot in words. So I'll try to talk through how I show people how I use it because that does click. I think a comment on this page best describes how I use it to "re-use relevant ideas in different combinations."

Idea Knot has groups (think tags), ideas (think note title), and notes. An idea can belong to more than one group, so it's not a strict hierarchical note application like so many others; this is very free-form.

The manual has an example of using Idea Knot for boilerplate text for form letters. That got me started! I dis-assembled a large number of my shell scripts for work for Idea Knot. For instance, I have a group called Basics, with the ideas "skeleton - header," "skeleton - variables," "skeleton - parameters," "basic flags - parameters," "basic flags - pre-body," "skeleton - main," "read from file," and "skeleton - footer." I have other groups for the major types of scripts I write. So when I want a Spectrum script to collect a list of Cisco serial numbers (this is not hypothetical), I create a new group for it. Then I flip through the other groups, like Basics and Spectrum, and drag ideas to the new group. When I go back to the new group, I can re-order the ideas, hit the button for the Combined View, and voilĂ ! I have 90% of a new Spectrum shell script already done. This has saved me hours at work, no kidding. (Now if I had a tool that would read metadata to determine the order, like all variables go in one block, all parameters in the next and so on, I wouldn't even have to re-order the ideas in the new group. Or at least not as much.)

So form letters, code skeletons, and notes that need to be in multiple "folders" (aka tags not hierarchy), that's Idea Knot. If it still doesn't make sense, try reading the manual in the download since it's probably more clear than I am.

Car Quest, Part 3

I think we've finished the test drive phase of this wagon car quest! The short list was Audi A6 or allroad from last time, Volkswagon Passat GLX, or Mercedes E-class. Today we drove the 2007 "Package 2" (no longer called GLX) Passat wagon, and a 1999 Mercedes E320 wagon. It's hard to fit in two test drives before Karston's naptime, but we did it in large part because we don't have as many questions about Mercedes since we've had so many over the years. I have two, my mother had one, Daddy has had two (one current), and his parents have had two (one current). We've seen a number of Mercedes, we know what to expect, so we had a short test drive just before Karston passed out for his nap.

What's funny about my short list (Audi, Passat, Mercedes) is that it's the same short list a friend of mine had shopping for a small sporty luxury car. (Well, and the list is all German.) The Mercedes won that toss, too. So we're leaning towards Mercedes for familiarity as well as its ability to be the finalist for everyone else too. I know Mercedes no longer has their legendary reliability going for them so those cars won't hold their value as well, but if I know that when I buy it, I won't be disappointed either.

The Passat had a harder ride than I expected; I wanted the air shocks right away. However, I didn't get car sick in the second row, so it's not that bad either. Reliability, safety, comfort, all check. Fuel economy 26/31 is quite nice on the 4-cylinder, although I would also want to try a 6-cylinder (without AWD). The price of a new Passat isn't bad when you remember it's on a list with Audi and Mercedes (that I would buy used).

The Mercedes was just what I expected. This particular car was missing the second-row head rests and appeared to have some electrical issues (I couldn't get the seat back to recline at first although I'm very familiar with the controls, and Daddy couldn't get the sunroof to open even though he's very familiar with that button as well). I was surprised that the ride on a 4Matic was so similar to a RWD Mercedes, but that was the only (pleasant!) surprise. The only detail that was not exactly as I expected is that the gear shifter felt flimsier than I expect, the shifting didn't feel solid. However, it was so familiar ... mmm ... and a nice upgrade from the same model but 20 years old that I already have! So any wagon on the short list will do, but I'm leaning towards replacing a Mercedes wagon with, no surprise, a Mercedes wagon.

Friday, March 2, 2007

5 Tags

After reading this post on email management, I changed the five default tags in Thunderbird 1. I use Do It (sub-5-minute tasks after the email sprint), Delegate It, Follow Thread (so my email archives aren't cluttered, I prefer the smallest spanning set of messages from any thread), Defer It (longer tasks), and Delete It Later (like shipping information, I'll delete it after the package arrives safely).

I'm loving the unlimited number of tags and more powerful and more flexible search folders in Thunderbird 2 beta! I had to restore the original five tags back to what I use (now you know why it's on my mind), but I am ready to throw tags everywhere!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Growl: Software - Utility - Notification

I didn't know that I needed Growl. When I read the description, I had no idea how it would help. In fact, I'm still not sure why I bothered to download and install it. I guess I wanted to try a popular gadget. Now it's one of the first applications I install. The best example of how I use it is mail. I use on one laptop, and Thunderbird on another, but I have both of them show sender and subject via a Growl bezel. It's great for GTD! If I'm working in another application, I can see at a glance if the email that just beeped in is worth checking. I used to be so annoyed that I had stopped by train of thought for spam or other non-critical email, but also when I had kept working on a project when I needed to act on something in email. This way the train stays on track (GTD!) unless I need to change gears. It's really useful!

Car Quest, Part 2

After a discouraging start, we found a car we liked! We took a 2001 Audi quattro allroad for a test drive. It has great handling! We were surprised that an all-wheel-drive car would be that smooth, but Audi did start that a long time ago (early 80s? late 70s?) and apparently they got it right. The power, while not necessary, was very smooth and impressive. Comfort, check. Safety, check. Reliability (my favorite mechanic recommended an Audi wagon to me, and he drives one himself), check. Very encouraging!

The down side is the fuel economy. Economy drops for AWD, but also for the ride height (I hope the EPA measured at the highest height so that I could get better mileage by dropping the car). But we found a newer wagon we like!

We also managed to knock some other contenders off the short list. Volvo is off the list based on reliability and service. My friend Heather bought a brand new Volvo, and she was driving down the highway on a pretty day with the sun roof open a short time (3 to 6 months?) later when the sun roof shattered. Luckily she had the sun roof open so she didn't get badly pelted, but that's not cool. She was right next to a Volvo dealership, so she pulled in for service. New car, it's under warranty, even if she bought it at a dealership 45 miles away (she was visiting, and about that far from home; I am assuming she bought it closer to home though). The Volvo dealership gave her so much trouble, assuming that she did something to break it ("It was open, and I was driving; how am I going to break the sun roof when I'm nowhere near it?) that she traded it in for a Mercedes as soon as she got it back from that repair. And she's been happy with the Benz ever since. We had thought a Saturn wagon might be a contender, but they don't make wagons right now, and the older ones have an appalling safety rating, so Saturn is off the list based on safety. The list shrinks! But has one serious contender!

Friday, February 23, 2007


I'm teaching a class this semester (Protocols and Network Management), and it seems like a class about networking should use the network, at least a little bit. So I teach from online class notes. Although it takes a long time to prepare for each class, I've got a routine that makes turning my notes into a presentation relatively easy.

First I organize my notes in OmniOutliner, and save as OPML. Once the notes are ready, I'm almost done! OmniOutliner doesn't handle URLs well, so I mangle text like http:// by running the clipboard through a sed filter. I store the Terminal commands to do this in iSnip, of course.

Next I launch TestXSLT. For the XML, I drag-and-drop the OPML file; for the XSL, I use either my own version of opml2s5.xsl (from decafbad with my change to use relative paths) for each class, or beigeopml2web.xsl from Buzz for the syllabus. (I never got Buzz working on my Mac, but you can download it just for the well-done XSL files.) Then I click on Process and save the HTML output. XML transformations are so powerful!

Then I have an S5 presentation. I un-mangle poorly-auto-recogonized text with the reverse sed filter also in iSnip. Then I have a file that I upload before I dash off to teach class! It's a snap!

Of course, it's not always that easy. My guest speaker taught from an (Impress) presentation. Icky as it sounds, save as PowerPoint. Then register for a free account so you can use the cool PowerPoint to OPML conversion tool at Intelligent Teams / OPML Workstation. After the conversion, you can look at the browser version at you picked/ or the raw OPML at you picked/. Cinch!

But I can go from outline notes to S5 HTML in a very short time, so easily! Ah!