Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sick of Snow

I'm sick of snow. It was pretty when it fell on Saturday. The toddler had a great time sledding with Daddy on Sunday. I was happy to see some melting on Monday. But now it's Tuesday, and I still see snow (with a fresh layer of freezing rain on top). I mean, it was only one inch of snow, and snow in Central NC always melts after a day unless we really got a blizzard. This dinky stuff ... and still here ... well, I'm sick of this layer of snow.

The freezing rain this morning doesn't help how I feel about the ground cover either. When I headed out for work, the first car I saw was an SUV driving very slowly, and it looked very unusual since the SUVs I see on the road don't drive like that. The brakes felt really funny when I slowed down for the first turn without a stop sign (a grab-slip cycle that I'm hoping was the anti-lock kicking in, except that the yellow warning triangle on my dashboard didn't turn on ... so I started to worry that my brakes weren't perfect post-accident). The second and third cars I saw were on the shoulders because they had crashed into each other. I took the very next wide turn around to come home. I saw the yellow warning triangle on my dashboard for about 1/3 of the return trip, so the roads must've been worse than I was picking up through my wagon's road feel. NHM: No Heroic Measures for getting to work on time.

Keyboard Problems Again

My laptop keyboard's been out most of the past month. It was never right after it got doused in water, even though I replaced. There's a fuzz connector under the T, G, and Y keys that connects the keyboard to the motherboard. Ever since I replaced the keyboard, I've occasionally had to press down on those three keys very firmly in order to regain keyboard and trackpad. Well, one day last month that trick stopped working. (Luckily I have an external USB keyboard and mouse so I can keep working.)

The ambient light sensor for the backlit keyboard always works, so there's power to the keyboard. However, none of the keys work (not even the CAPS LOCK light).

This failure is different, though. I have keyboard right after the laptop boots, but after a while, it goes out (and no amount of pressing on TGY brings it back). For instance, one time I lost keyboard in the middle of typing 11 minutes after a reboot (I was on AC). The next time I was on battery, and it took two hours to go out. That would indicate a heat problem, and fuzz connectors aren't the most solid connection under the best circumstances. However, I think it's load-related (keyboard goes away when I see the CPU head up) more than power-related. So still a heat issue, but more about CPU than AC versus battery.

However, I collected a list of suggestions from the Internet on what to try for PowerBook G4 keyboard problems.

  1. Disk Utility's Repair Permissions
  2. Zap RPAM by pressing COMMAND-OPTION-P-R immediately after the startup chime. (This was tough, until I let the laptop cool off for a couple hours so that the internal keyboard worked because the external keyboard isn't loaded in time.) I also tried the Open Firmware zap by pressing COMMAND-OPTION-O-F immediately after the startup chime and then running these commands: reset-NVRAM, set-defaults, and reset-all which made it reboot normally.
  3. Reset PMU by pressing and holding the power button for 5 seconds when the laptop has no AC and no battery.
  4. Try safe boot by pressing the SHIFT key after the startup chime.
  5. sudo rm ~/Library/Preferences/ /Library/Preferences/
  6. Reapply last combo update.

Yes, these are predominantly software fixes for what appears to be a hardware problem, but it doesn't cost anything to try. It does make the new MacBook Air very tempting, but I don't want onboard Intel graphics.

  1. Update 1/19/2008: Repair Permissions didn't fix the keyboard.
  2. Update 1/21/2008: Neither form of zapping the PRAM fixed it.
  3. Update 1/27/2008: No luck resetting the PMU. Twice.
  4. Update 1/29/2008: Safe boot didn't fix it.
  5. Update 1/31/2008: Removing BezelServices didn't change anything keyboard.
  6. Update 2/12/2008: Combo updater was not the ticket either.

So it looked like a hardware problem, and sure enough, I think this proves it. The fuzz connector between keyboard and motherboard can only be reset so few times, and I went over the limit. This laptop will just have to stay docked ...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nighttime Heartburn

Certain foods can cause nighttime heartburn, including: soda pop or beverages with caffeine (which you shouldn't be drinking before bed anyway!), alcohol, garlic, chocolate (sorry!), citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato-based products.

Guess why I'm awake? I had a tasty Penne Julia italian dinner with a clementine (citrus) for dessert tonight. I like the banana-a-day approach, though; I could see eating that most days.

The Un-Quicken Checklist

I was annoyed that I still used Quicken. (Intuit has a poor track record for Mac support, a bad reputation for customer support in general that just bit my husband using QuickBooks for his small business, and charges a lot for annual program updates that don't add a lot.) So I made a list of all the financial programs I could find that didn't look like abandonware that would run on my Mac that cost less than $50. Because, let's get real, Quicken was working for me so there's no point to spending more than a Quicken upgrade.

I keep checking for an update from Musings from Mars on Alternative Personal Finance Apps for Mac OS X but none so far. I also don't care about some of his requirements, so we might go different directions. In fact, other than data entry, mainly what I do with Quicken is reconcile what I've entered against my monthly statements.

As it turns out, there are at least four approaches to reconciliation (not counting "don't do it" as an approach since I'm not willing to use that approach). You can have the Quicken-style two-level (cleared and reconciled) reconcile process, a single-level (reconciled only) process with a running total, cleared and reconciled checkboxes but no reconcile screens or process, or just a reconciled checkbox (hopefully with a running total!).

  1. 2-stage process: MoneyWell, Moneydance, iBank, Jumsoft Money
  2. 1-stage process: Cashbox, Economix, CheckBook, Accounts
  3. C/R: SpendThrift, Buddi, Registry
  4. R: iCompta, mini$, iFinance, Personal Finance, Fortora Fresh Finance, Budget, iCash, Cha-Ching

Balancing application price (extra points for free) with how well I liked it in testing, I came up with this short list that support enough reconcile for me:

  1. Cashbox
  2. SpendThrift
  3. Buddi
  4. Economix
  5. Moneydance
  6. iBank

Then I made a list of the features I use in Quicken:

  • runs on my OS X 10.4 Mac, prefer Aqua and Cocoa to Java, prefer to avoid X11
  • prefer document-based (I like knowing which file to backup)
  • different accounts in one file
  • most important: a "reconcile" process that makes it easy to check against my statement (like Quicken)
  • important: proper double entry to transfer between accounts (doesn't require *me* entering the transaction twice)
  • QIF import (to get me out of Quicken-land; tested with a QIF file downloaded from my credit union) would help
  • export (no Intuit-style data format lock-in!)
  • prefer bill scheduling, but I could use iCal instead
  • applications that over $50 or that haven't been updated since 2005 (3 years) not considered; last update in 2006 only considered if it's popular or free

Putting those short-listed applications through their paces:

  1. Cashbox 0.50 ($0) reconcile process just shows final balance, not starting balance (maybe I really want a two-level reconcile like Quicken?), weak I/O
  2. Spendthrift 3.0 1031c ($0) the bad news: reconcile is just a checkbox, and you don't get a reconciled total. Other than that, it's a nice Aqua, Spotlight integration (mentioned not tested), QIF import works very well, multiple accounts, and bill schedule.
  3. Buddi ($0) good news: check boxes for cleared and for reconcile; bad news: utterly no reconcile process (although you can look at cleared and reconciled totals, so if you're never off, it's ok), Java not Aqua
  4. Economix 2.6.1 ($0) reconcile is a checkbox (but it will total just the checked items so you can check with bank ... but no process with start and end balance to catch errors per-month)
  5. Moneydance 2007R5 ($30) (4 stars in 31 reviews) Hey this works!!! It didn't let me set the starting balance in testing, but it did have it as a box to fill in, so I'm hopeful ... also has two-stage (cleared and reconciled) that I prefer; also Java not Aqua but reasonable fake
  6. iBank 2.3.11 ($50) (4 stars in 62 reviews) has the right sort of reconcile and bill scheduling, and I like having Automator actions, but it's the top end of my price range (although to a local company that has gotten good support reviews).

The not-entering-twice for transfer between accounts turned out to be a real kicker; it kicked out SpendThrift, MoneyDance (ideal reconcile, QIF import works), and iBank. The QIF import was the next challenge; Economix couldn't do it, and Cashbox required "massaging" the QIF before import (changing the line endings and I can't remember if I had to change the date format). Cashbox also lacked export, although its plist format wasn't opaque.

So the really short list to take on Quicken is Buddi (but it's Java) and Cashbox (no export, no scheduling).

I really wanted to pick an Aqua application; I was trying to avoid Java. But I couldn't miss that Buddi met my actual needs with double entry, import, and export. That's the heartless thing about a feature checklist, especially when I make the checklist before I start evaluating: it doesn't always pick the prettiest one. So here's to Buddi! Let's see how I like now that I'm going to start using it ...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Baby Sign Language

I hope we'll be better at sign language the second time around, instead of so intermittent.

Some online ASL resources where you can see the signs: Signing Baby Dictionary, 100 Basic ASL Signs, and the ASL Dictionary.

But I think the real winner is the Born 2 Sign cheat sheet to put on your frig. If we see a reminder all the time ...


Ah, I finally figured out why I couldn't close windows (just tabs) in Safari! I still had the Taboo 0.3 bundle loaded. Remove it (Safari now warns you when you're quitting with multiple tabs or windows open), and I can close Safari windows again. Whew. It's pretty annoying when you can't close Safari windows!

Sad Day for Roomba

Our Roomba Discovery hasn't been right for a couple months. First there was the lightning storm, and Kurtis decided that Roomba needed another battery after that (wasn't charging). So I got a new battery for it. Now it runs in small backward circles for a minute or two, stops for a minute to beep, and then repeats the cycle until we turn it off.

So I thought we should look at Roomba Diagnostics. Other sites also cover the Roomba Diagnostic mode. Most of it comes down to a serious cleaning.

The result of the diagnostics is that the right wheel motors has a problem. Not sure what we'll do next, but the kitchen is getting crunchy, and the toddler is saying "Robot broken."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wagon Back Soon!

Lisa from Performance just called. She says she just got the pick-it-up call from Mercedes, that they checked out the steering (Performance was worried about getting it just right), checked fluids, checked alignment, and reset the airbag light. She is going to send a driver out to fetch it. She also needs to total up the final bill ($7865.79, less than we had expected), and then get confirmation that insurance is going to pay it. As soon as those steps are done, she'll call me to pick it up!!! Yay! Of course, we don't want to inspect a paint job on a rainy, overcast day like today, but tomorrow will be soon enough! ... As long as there's nothing screwy with insurance. Can't wait to get rid of the gangsta rental car!

UPDATE 2:52 PM: My wagon's ready to come home! I'll pick it up tomorrow. Happy, happy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wagon on the downhill

Lisa from Performance called me this morning about my wagon. The body shop is done, but they're waiting on a washer fluid cap and transmission fluid (it's not standard ATF but Dexron Mercron III). As soon as it's drive-able, they'll drive to the Mercedes dealership (hmm, I should have asked which one; Leith in Raleigh has never impressed me with service) to take care of the alignment and of turning off the airbag warning light (as a result of replacing the door). Lisa said Mercedes is pretty good about a one-day turn-around (for them!), so she'll probably call tomorrow ... either to give me an update, or to schedule a pick-up! Hurrah!!! So that was very nice to hear: my wagon is on the finishing up stage and I might see it soon. It has been over a month now, and that Dodge Magnum is not an impressive replacement (in comparison to my Mercedes, this Magnum has poor suspension, a loud engine, bald tires, and cigarette stink that's getting stronger and older with time; only those last two are cure-able relative to what I'm used to driving).

Prenatal Appointment

I had yet-another prenatal appointment this morning. (Prenatal visits are strongly correlated with healthier babies, so I know it's important. On the other hand, I've also seen a research study that you don't need nearly as many prenatal visits as are standard for that benefit as long as there's a nurse to call with any questions between appointments. So I'm not kicking about prenatal visits in general, but every other week seems frequent especially since I know we don't need that many visits.) I took the 1-hour glucose challenge first thing in the morning for the last appointment, and my reading landed in the gray zone. Given morning cortisol levels, a very early glucose challenge is the most challenging. The doctor wanted to do the 3-hour challenge, but going without breakfast until lunchtime would trigger a migraine for me. So instead I came in for a fasting glucose draw, and took the 1-hour glucose challenge in the afternoon. I did not feel right for the morning glucose challenge; I felt as fine for the afternoon glucose challenge as you can after drinking something that's way too sweet when you normally drink water.

Ironically (since the point was to avoid how long I went without breakfast), I sat in the waiting room for half an hour this morning before my appointment, so I was pretty hungry when I saw the nurse for that blood draw. The nurse started with the usual routine of taking my weight. The rule of thumb is that I should gain a pound a week in the third trimester, so she started with, "You're down half a pound since two weeks ago." I gave her a withering look (sorry, but I was hungry, cranky, and bored from sitting for half an hour) and said, "I'm here for a fasting glucose draw, and I'm starved." Bless her, she skipped the rest of the routine and sent me straight to the blood draw.

This doctor is herself 14 weeks pregnant, and I heard her from down the hall saying, "What? Get that girl some food!" So I started eating the cereal bar I made last night just for this morning. Don't know if it were hunger or just that good, but that bar tasted great! The doctor apologized for her cold hands when she started to measure me. At first she was worried that Thumper was very big, but he was just getting as far under my ribs as he could for some reason. Thumper ran away from the cold touch, and then I measured normal (32 inches at almost 32 weeks, and the rule of thumb in third trimester is to measure in inches where you are in weeks). The heart rate monitor was also cold, so he kept kicking it and trying to get away from it, so the monitor never got a lock on his heart rate. However, it sounded like 150 bpm to both of us, and what with moving all around, he sure seemed healthy, so that was good enough.

Yeah, that prenatal visit got a lot better once I got some food. So let's stop the fasting tests!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Snoring and sleep apnea

I ran across the comment, if you snore, get tested for sleep apnea. Now. My sweetie, who is not in the least overweight, snores quite a bit, and has been getting louder over the years. He doesn't have many apnea risk factors (in fact, just [1] one family member, his nephew, who has had apnea surgery and [2] the worried wife), but his chest moves in odd, possibly not breathing, ways before really loud snores. Add in my insomnia (and inso-mom-nia: waking whenever I hear my child make a nighttime peep), and I do not look forward to bedtime when my nightly struggle to sleep begins.


I thought I was going to go batty trying to get a reasonable blank version of Lewcid's presentation in TiddlyWiki because I could not download a version that I could edit! Yes, I tried the #author:true URL, but nothing changed. Well, when your browser fights you, use something else!

curl -O

Anyway, now to see if I think slides in TiddlyWiki are easier than slides in S5. I'm using OmniOutliner to organize my talks, saving as OPML, and using an XSL to convert to S5. I have two problems with this approach: my notes aren't converted from OPML to the handout (print, not slides) section, and the XSL is cruel to links and images. So before I run the XSL, I mangle the URLs with sed, XSLT, de-mangle with the reverse sed. That's a little annoying, so I was wondering if there were something simpler. Since I use TiddlyWiki all the time ...

I'll see how it goes, but at least I crossed the first hurdle, getting a TiddlySlides file that I can edit.

UPDATE 1/11/08: the trick wasn't actually curl; it was to quit and relaunch my browser (Firefox). Something must have been cached that prevented the #author:true from working.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Hurrah! When I got home, the answering machine told me that my wagon has gone to get painted. It's been in the body shop for almost a month, but this is the home stretch. The remaining steps are: paint, final body shop check, and then dealership for adjustments the body shop can't do. A Mercedes E320 station wagon really is a lot more comfortable (comfy seats, better suspension, quieter engine) than a Dodge Magnum. Not to complain, mind you; I'm glad the accident was minor. But it'll be nice to have the right wagon home again.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Name Frequencies

I knew I had found a very good site for name frequencies just after Karston was born, and I finally found it again. In 1999, Karston and more common homophones were ranked 896 in popularity; there were 15 Karstons in 1999.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

iCal filtering

I wanted to pull out just the 2008 entries from a calendar in iCal (ics) format, and import those into a calendar of my own.

At first, I went looking for an IcsToCsv converter (click on Attachments to see the Python code; there's Ruby code for ics2csv too). My plan was to use grep to match the 2008 lines after the CSV format put the entire entry on one line. Next I realized that it was much easier to use Smultron for the CSV conversion since all the event entries were uniform.

Then I noticed I could go straight to the end game, without CSV, with judicious use of grep to include context before and after the match ...

grep -B 1 -A 4 "DTSTART:2008" Exported.ics

So the Sample file I wanted to import could be created this way:

sed -n '/^BEGIN:VCALENDAR/,/^BEGIN:VEVENT/p' Exported.ics | sed '$d' > Sample.ics

grep -B 1 -A 4 "^DTSTART:2008" Exported.ics | grep -v -- "--" >> Sample.ics

tail -5 Exported.ics | sed -n '/^END:VEVENT/,/^END:VCALENDAR/p' | sed '1d' >> Sample.ics

The middle command is the good one; the first and last commands are safer to do visually because they assume that all of the iCal events are formatted just like the ones I scanned ... and it can be dangerous to assume that much!

If you have problems importing, check the line endings. On my Mac, I ended up with ^M (as seen with the vis command, or with cat -etv). You can remove those with this command:

cat Sample.ics | tr -s '\r' '\n' > Clean.ics

(If you want to preserve blank lines, don't use -s.) My import went fine. I love my command line text manipulation tools!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Strokes and Women

My grandmother died a few months ago from a stroke, so I take it seriously. (Did you know that one-quarter of women who have a stroke are under 65?) I also know that women's stroke symptoms differ from men's, and often aren't 'traditional' signs. And that leads to the big question, what are the signs of a stroke, and what are the signs of a woman's stroke? (Keep in mind that most people only mention a few of these symptoms!)

The short answer with graphic is a good start, and the long answer only adds a few more points. I'll summarize.

The classic symptoms of a stroke are:

  • sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis of face, arm, or leg (usually on one side of the body)
  • sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes (blurry, double, or decreased vision)
  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or loss of coordination
  • sudden confusion, trouble talking, or understanding speech
  • sudden problems with memory, spatial orientation, or perception
  • sudden severe or unusual headache with no known cause, possibly accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between your eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness

Women may also report these stroke symptoms:

  • sudden face, chest, arm, or leg pain
  • seizure
  • sudden hiccups
  • sudden nausea (feeling sick to your stomach)
  • sudden tiredness
  • loss of consciousness or fainting
  • sudden shortness of breath (feeling like you can’t get enough air)
  • sudden pounding or racing heartbeat
  • falls or accidents

So the next question is, What should you do? The answer is, Act F.A.S.T.



Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?



Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?



Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred (if repeated correctly at all)?



Call 911 for these symptoms (yes answers above) because immediate treatment makes a huge difference!

Greater Trochanter Bursitis

My right hip (aka "greater trochanter") bursitis has been waking me up at night, hardly what I need while pregnant. I've had this bursitis pain constantly for the past 7 years. Around the one-year mark, I went to a doctor who knows me well, and had four corticosteroid injections. The injections hurt, the swelling from the injections lasted about two weeks and hurt the whole time, and then the regular bursitis pain came back. So we tried again, tweaking the injection formula for me, and it never helped. We also tried large doses of NSAIDs with the same lack of luck. I figure I must be doing something regularly, for seven years, to keep it so irritated. *sigh*

So it's time to look for other ideas.

Here's an overview of trochanteric bursitis treatment. The good information here is to stretch tight iliotibial bands (ITB) as well as tensor fascia lata (TFL). I've had the corticosteroid injections and I wear my orthotics. I haven't used deep heating, but it feels a lot better when it's warm/hot than when it's cold! So maybe I should try ITB and TFL stretches, and use a heating pad.

The most helpful "cure" for me tends to be physical therapy. Previous research turned up that hip bursitis is often a tight piriformis muscle, and sure enough, my right piriformis is significantly tighter than the left. I was surprised because I'm used to my benign hypermobility, and here I am with a very tight piriformis. So not only does PT work on me in general, I've got the lack of range of motion to back up this specific case too. Here's a description of, with link to pictures of, trochanteric bursitis rehabilitation exercises. It targets piriformis and iliotibial, the main culprits. (However, when my ITB is tight, I get a characteristic pain in my knee that feels like I twisted my kneecap. The pain is on the edge of my patella, from the bottom to the outer side. I haven't had that in a while. ITB stretches are good, but I think piriformis stretching is best for my right hip bursitis.)

Heading to the fringe, there's also a list of herbs for bursitis and tendinitis (the number of leaves represents the confidence level). Willow is just aspirin, and I've tried that route, so I'm not interested. Ginger might have promise, and possibly magnesium (Mg also helps glucose tolerance / insulin resistance).

So I think I'll stretch my right piriformis muscle right now, and maybe put a heating pad on it tonight.

Flaxseed Oil Experiment

I ran out of the flax oil pills that I take with my multivitamin every morning about three weeks ago. I was out for about a week, and my bursitis really flared up that week. (A co-worker said Omega-3 had really helped her bursitis, which is why I started taking it years ago.) So it could have been the cold weather, or it could have been the (lack of) flax, but I decided to start taking two pills every morning to see if I could tell a difference.

So far, the experimental result (on a sample size of one, me; not statistically sound) is that the tendinitis in my wrists is much better. That's good, but my wrists don't wake me up at night. If anything else changes, I'll update you, but so far it's not what I had hoped.

iMovie 08 crashing

Resetting preferences is always a good one, and this tip for iMovie 08 crashing at launch seems pretty useful. Hopefully I'll remember it when I need it ... I've been using an older version of iMovie on purpose just so I can keep using the pass-through feature on my camcorder.