Friday, May 30, 2008

Learn the Difference Between Lay and Lie

I thought this was a gentle exposition of the difference between "lay" and "lie". Basically,

The main difference between the two words is that lay is a transitive verb, while lie is an intransitive verb.


VerbInfinitivePast TensePast Participle

The summary is the best part, emphasizing the lesson.

So here's the drill:

You need to lie down today, yesterday you lay down, in the past you have lain down.

Today, you lay the book on the table. Yesterday, you laid the book on the table. In the past, you have laid the book on the table.

Update: Of course there's an XKCD for that: Fashion Police and Grammar Police. This comic describes my grandparents: one set sold clothing, the other set were sticklers for the proper use of the English language.

Time to Geek

I know this is geeky, but I like it. You can aggregate all of your blogs, twitter, flickr, Pandora, YouTube, or anything else with an RSS feed into a very attractive timeline at Dipity (it's even free!). This may sound sad that I needed a timeline tool to show me this (I was sleep-deprived at the time!), but having Dipity correlate my twitter posts with my blog posts made it obvious to me that the benefit of following my baby's routine was that he started sleeping all night!

If you'd rather have your timeline on your own computer, I also like the SIMILE Timeline a lot. Lifehacker has a Quick and Dirty Event-XML-O-Matic to power SIMILE Timeline, just to make it easy on you!

Geek toys to make timeline pictures ... and you know a picture is worth a thousand words!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sprains and Strains

I always forget which one is which between sprains and strains. A sprain is an injured ligament connecting bones while a strain is an injured tendon connecting muscles. I've successfully treated all of my sprains (such a distinctive pain! once you know it) with Advil and time, but there are herbal approaches too. My guess is that Daddy has (yet another) sprain right now, since it's the bony area of his right wrist and now his left ankle.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What Worked

I've been fighting with my embroidery machine (again) in my small scraps of what is laughably called free time. The two things that worked this time were to add stabilizer backing, and to reseat the bobbin.

I thought this heavier mid-weight woven fabric was heavy enough without stabilizer, but the difference in the test results indicate otherwise. So lesson one: use stabilizer. I get the feeling that this lesson is universal to machine embroidery. To make testing easier, I stitched the stabilizer to the fabric. If I were to do this not-for-testing, I think the stabilizer border stitching would be a perfect place to use one of the fancy stitches on my new sewing machine.

Once I added stabilizer, I still had undesirable results. The stabilizer side looked tidy now, but the so-called right side was all wrong. I only saw top thread on the back, while the front showed somewhat loose bobbin thread. That looked to me like there was zero bobbin tension. Pulling on the bobbin thread end felt like zero tension as well. So I switched out the bobbin and was very careful how I seated the new bobbin.

I was so happy to see it work well after those two changes, stabilizer and reseated bobbin, that I kept running more tests, just to watch it work, just to wash away some of the previous frustration of seeing it not work and not having time to diagnose and fix it then. Ahh ,,,

And just in time too. I wanted to embroider a present for a friend, and my mother requested her chop on the jacket that she sometimes leaves at work (and would like to see again thank you). So I'm ready to help out embroidering now.


Right after I turned 21, I discovered I had insomnia while snowed in playing Trivial Pursuits with friends before exams. The question for me was, How long does the average American take to fall asleep? The answer was multiple choice, all of the choices were under 20 minutes, and IIRC the correct answer was 7 minutes. My answer for me at that time was 2 hours, pretty consistently, for as long as I could recall. Years of grad school, especially later with the time demands of grad school and a full-time job, trimmed that down to 30 minutes. Nowadays, even that would be a long time to fall asleep for me. How did I do it?Like everyone, I started with the standard suggestions for insomnia, also called good sleep hygiene. For further research, Wikipedia is a good place to start.

What works for me from the standard suggestions are a sleep mask / eye shield to block light and white noise from a fan. If there's any ambient light, I can't sleep without covering my eyes. I first starting sleeping with a fan on when I was an undergrad living in a dorm that was noisy all night. I used the fan to block the distracting sounds. In addition to insomnia, I'm also a light sleeper. Not the best combination! Back then, if I woke up, even just to pee, I needed yet another 2 hours to fall asleep again. Now I'm conditioned: fan on means fall asleep, using the bathroom in the dark means fall asleep as soon as I'm back to my pillow. If I'm not falling asleep now, going to the bathroom in the dark can help. What a change from when that was a guarantee to wake me up!

In addition, I have some of my own tricks, most learned when I was pregnant the first time. First of all, I need enough pillows to be perfectly comfortable in a neutral position. I can't fall asleep on my back, and I sure was not going to pick up tummy sleeping while pregnant! I have bursitis in my right hip, so I sleep on my left side. [The thought of bursitis in my left hip terrifies me!] I have a contoured pillow supporting my head and neck so that my upper spine is straight. When I'm not pregnant and I have a figure, I have a pillow under my waist to keep my lower spine straight and aligned. I have another pillow between my knees to keep my legs parallel to prevent strain on my hips. I sometimes put a long body pillow between my knees to hug so that my left shoulder moves forward instead of getting compressed. The waist pillow is only the second-best tip in this pile of pillows; the best tip is the neutral position. Once I learned how to feel when my hips were aligned, with the right hip neither higher (closer to my head) nor farther forward than the left hip, most of my sleep issues vanished. I didn't think I was in (that much) pain, but a non-twisted well-aligned sleeping position has made an enormous difference.

Another gem that is nearly impossible to follow now that I have kids but has made a huge difference is to go to sleep the very first time I feel sleepy. The little voice that says I'm tired is very, very quiet in me. However, if I listen closely and go to bed then, I fall asleep quickly and sleep very well. If I ignore that voice, I get a strong second wind and have trouble falling asleep. If I'm watching TV, I tape it; the sports game or the show is more fun to watch when I'm well rested. If I'm working on a project, I'll be happier to pick it up in the morning when I feel happy about being well rested. Really, everything will still be there in the morning after a good night's sleep!

I do have to tell my brain to shut up most nights (unless I heeded that little voice about bedtime). I clear my mind and refuse to think; that helps. GTD helps in general, as does keeping a PDA next to the bed so I can write down whatever is on my mind and go back to the blank mind with a clear conscience, knowing that I will remember to pick up that thought when I check my PDA in the morning. I don't think I'm anxious, but I understand that not being able to fall asleep because the brain is too busy tends to a sign of anxiety. Since GTD helps, I can't really argue otherwise except to say I don't think I feel anxious.

I can't fall asleep if I have cold feet. Once I learned that tip from my mother, I was amazed how effective it was! The first time, I could actually feel myself falling asleep just as my head touched the pillow, while I could feel waves of warmth from my slippers. I have some trouble falling asleep if my feet are hot, but cold feet make it almost impossible to fall asleep. Either one of those can be an indication of needing more exercise, to get the blood flowing properly so those extremities are not too hot or too cold.

Contrary to the established suggestions, I find exercise right before bed does help; in fact, if I can't sleep, I get up to do my evening exercise routine. However, I'm not doing heart-pumping cardiovascular fitness, or even sweat-inducing strength training. All the way at the other end of the exercise spectrum, I'm doing static stretching for flexibility. It gets the blood moving freely, lungs open, head cleared, with body relaxed and aligned. I usually work from Brill's The Core Program, and add in some of my stand-by static stretches. That routine relaxes me so much that I'm ready to fall asleep; as a bonus, it makes it easier for me to find that neutrally-aligned position in my nest of pillows.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Include External Files

I use certain "boilerplate" text in all of my scripts for work. I use the same toolsets with the same setup in different combinations with different filtering, but getting started is always the same. So far, I've been happiest with Idea Knot, but I've always wanted to that flexibility in a format I could easily share with others.

So yesterday I started looking for a JavaScript, XML, or PHP way to display external files selectively. I did not find an easy PHP approach with Google. I found an XML merge that I thought would be easiest to configure although a little harder for others to use, but it didn't work for me. I probably didn't configure my input XML files properly, although they passed xmllint. I have ideas on what to tweak to get it to work, but I decided instead to maximize my time and move on to what would be easier for everyone (myself included!) to use: JavaScript. I found an excellent tutorial on including other files on a web page, with an example. There's another example that converts the other file before displaying it. Very cool! So I whipped up a quick variant using my files, and what do you know?: it worked! Since I have no experience with JavaScript, I'm allowed to be surprised that it was easy. I even understand what the code does! Very nice.

On the first pass, I found how to do this with JavaScript with all of the boilerplate contained in JavaScript variables, but that made the monolithic web page so very large. Also, I do update my boilerplate as I learn new tricks and add new toolsets, and updating a monolithic page is tedious to say the least. So that's when I started looking for a way move from inline variables to external files to store my code building blocks. I feel good about using good code that I understand, and storing my information in multiple external files that will be easy to maintain.

Building the code generation page and moving from Idea Know to external files will take me a while, but at least now I have all of the components needed. This will be a useful tool to share at work!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nursing Tops

Since I'm back in the breastfeeding trenches again, it was time to switch the wardrobe back to compatible shirts. Although I tend to call this apparel a nursing top, the search-friendly phrase is breastfeeding top. This difference is particularly apparent from eBay searches. Either way, I need more.

For fit and not looking like a nursing top, I really like Nursing Mamas; all of their tops feature hidden zippers. If you prefer woven to knit, you'll want to start here. I like the fitted silhouette (although it's a bit large on me), that the zippers don't show, and that the quality of the garment construction and fabric is excellent. I paid for it, too.

So on the less-expensive side, there's the weekly special at Motherwear. These are mostly knit tops. The fit is also a bit large, but that ease might be needed for those openings.What I have from Motherwear seems like it would be easier if I were smaller-chested. The Motherwear camisole with princess seams that I thought I would like the best is difficult to use because I'm not small. My all-time favorite nursing top was a camisole with princess openings came from Motherhood, but they don't carry it anymore. The other entry in this category is Stylin' Mom.

For quality, there's also Expressiva. And that's how to leave the house dressed for breastfeeding.


I used Crisco as the classic example of hydrogenation and trans fats to a friend, and she was corrected when she passed that factoid on. What? So I had to look into it, and I don't even care about Crisco; I've never bought the solid stuff.

Crisco was the great-grandaddy of hydrogenation, so I wasn't making that up. [I especially like that picture of cis versus trans at Wikipedia. You can see that trans is electrically favorable, and straight like saturated fats.]

But I found an article that yeah, it's true (now) that Crisco has no trans fats. Or at least sort of true ... I checked at the grocery store, and Crisco is not reporting that last little 0.5 gram per serving of trans fat.

And don't forget that trans fats might not be as bad as advertised since the statistical analysis was poor according to JunkScience: the conclusions do not follow from the statistical analysis of the study, so it could be right or wrong.

My approach to dietary fat goes like this:

  • vegetable source, no problem (like olive oil or any EFA source)
  • animal source, try to limit (for less cholesterol and saturated fat)
  • try to reduce overall fat intake
  • trans fat: if it's tasty, I'm not afraid of it; like most fats, I try to reduce intake

But what a world, when Crisco is no longer hydrogenated with (many) trans fats ...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Diapers (this time)

Cale is advancing through diaper sizes more quickly than Karston did, that's for sure! Just this week I traded in a case of diapers for the next larger size because he's not using nearly as many of the smaller sizes as Karston did. Cale's gaining weight at a normal rate, but that's a slightly faster rate than Karston followed, plus Cale started out weighing more.

We started with Huggies size N because we like the umbilical cut-out, and used 80. That's when he kicked out his cord stump (and cried about it). Size N was just getting too small by then, both by fit and by the "up to 10 pounds" rating.

Next we went through 88 Pampers Swaddlers size 1 (8 to 14 pounds). Just as I remember, 12 pounds was a good time to go to the next size. We've had better luck on the low side of the weight ratings. As a side note, the Pampers size 1 seems a little larger than the Huggies size 1.

Cale's not even 13 pounds now, but we started a case of Pampers Swaddlers size 1-2 rated for up to 15 pounds. When we got to the bottom of that case, that size was getting too small for a comfortable fit. We used many more size 1-2 on Karston!

So now we're using a mini-case of 96 size 2 (12 to 18 pounds) diapers, and I expect we'll want the elbow room of moving on to Pampers Swaddlers size 2-3 by the time it's empty. They didn't make size 2-3 when Karston would have worn them, and I remember the jump from size 2 to size 3 was larger than I would have liked. So I wouldn't be surprised if we only buy size 2 once, like all of the preceding sizes except N. Remarkably enough, Karston was wearing size 3 not that long ago ...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rubber Bands

Rubber bands are great (as long as they're nowhere near a child's mouth!!!).

We used rubber bands for early child-proofing to keep Karston out of cabinets, and they worked well. Of course, now he puts the rubber bands back on if you leave them loose, but he also no longer tries to get into everything. The rubber bands worked until he learned what not to do. Now that he's older, he knows his toys and they're more fun anyway.

I'm using a rubber band on my wrist to keep track of which side is next for breastfeeding. I'm faster on the setup when I don't have to think, test, or remember which side Cale gets. Very handy, especially at night! I sometimes wear a pretty stretchy bracelet during the day, but at night the lowly rubber band is much more comfortable for sleep.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Biscuit/Pancake Mix is Fat-Free

I don't like the aftertaste of Biscuik, but I do like the convenience. So I looked at the Buttermilk Pancake recipe (I usually add 2 Tbs wheat germ, and replace some of the white flour with wheat) on the can of Saco buttermilk mix, quadrupled it, left out of the moist ingredients, and put it in a jar. Here's my mix:

1 cup SACO Buttermilk Blend

3 cups unbleached enriched flour

1 cup white wheat flour

2 Tbs wheat germ

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Everything I've made with this mix has turned out to my liking, but I avoid fussy recipes. Other than making pancakes with this mix, I don't add the missing shortening or oil of other pre-made biscuit mix recipes. So it seems very easy to me to make fat-free buttermilk bisquik; maybe I'm just picking the right recipes. I'll post some of them!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eating Before Exercise

In high school, on the cross country team, I was the one eating food right before running. Everyone else thought I was asking to barf. On the other hand, I was one of two who gained weight (7 pounds, in fact), so I maintained that I didn't have any weight to lose back then.

I just ran across this article, What to Eat Before You Work Out, and identified with this quote.

Some people do have a hard time exercising without eating first, especially if it’s been a long time since their last meal or snack. These individuals often are more sensitive to changes in their blood sugar levels, which fall during the first 15-20 minutes of workout.

Yep, that sounds like me! If I go too long between meals, I get all hypoglycemic with low blood pressure and need a nap to bounce back. Food good, exercise good, no need to separate them too far. Eating before a hard run never upset my stomach!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Catch Seaonal Allergies 22

Argh! I've got seasonal allergies, and there's nothing I can do.

Nasal decongestants would dry out my nose, but also Cale's breastmilk. Plus Cale would be exposed to it. So I really shouldn't take anything unless I feel a lot worse.

Cale startles every time I blow my nose, so I can only wipe away the drips when, like now, I'm trying to get him back to sleep. Coughing from post-nasal drip is out too.

I guess the lesson here is not to get sick (or allergies) when you have a baby. Not that I had much choice.

Baby Clothes

The most useful clothing for a newborn is an infant teeshirt, the kind that snaps in front. Does a non-stretch swaddling blanket, if you need warmer, count as clothing? Teeshirts are handy for newborns while the cord stump is attached.

After the cord stump, I prefer sacks. My favorite sacks snap down the front and have pockets on the sleeves to fold over the hands. Since newborns can't help you dress them, snap-front clothes that you can open, set child inside, and snap up are most convenient. The paw pockets on the sleeve ends keep everyone from scratches until you get a quiet calm moment to do something about those sharp, fast-growing nails.

Now that Cale likes to practice standing and wants to learn co-ordination, I prefer rompers, those one-piece outfits with long sleeves and built-in footies. Karston still loves those, but on toddlers, we call them jammies. Until Cale stands on his own, the best onesies unsnap completely so I can set him down to dress him. The pullover (pull on over his head) onesies require more hands to dress him.

For all of these stages so far, we have a hat on Cale, usually a thin knit one. Cale will sleep longer if he has a hat on to keep his head warm.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

tabs and sed

I need to remember how to do this trick, using sed on literal tabs, which you can usually get by typing ^v. Control-V, Tab allows sed to operate on tab characters. Yes.


One of my students this semester (the term that just ended) is on the VoiceThread team. What they say about it on their website sounds pretty cool, but I have to admit that it didn't suck me in as much as seeing Monte annotate a Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon ... while it was playing! The video doodling is remarkable technology.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tomatoes in the Garden

This site, Echters Specialty Tomato Varieties, is very helpful to compare tomato varieties. Although it doesn't mention some of my favorites like Carolina Gold for yellow tomatoes and Sweet Millions for cherry tomatoes. I especially like the determinate/indeterminate comparison: do you want a managable plant shape, or fruit all season?

This year's garden is an outer row of Supersteak tomatoes, a row of Big Bertha bell peppers, a row of Celebrity tomatoes, and a row of bush cucumber (Straight Slice are my favorite, but they're hard to find). Oh, and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes on the end.

Remember The Milk in Thunderbird

I guess Thunderbird is getting closer to the center of everything. And it's true, even when I don't have a web browser running, I still usually have an email client running. Lately that's been Thunderbird, so the Remember The Milk Extension for Thunderbird caught my eye. Now to see if I use it there, or stick to Fousa on my iPod touch.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Since Cale tries to sleep through the night, he doesn't get diaper changes around the clock. (Yeah, like I'm going to wake the baby who wants to sleep through the night already!) I set out 30 diapers Monday morning to see how long they would last, and the answer is just over four days; fewer than Karston used at this age (what with the colic). That's 7 or 8 diapers per day, not the classic 10 a day of infants.