Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Feature

I really like that I can link to a specific slide on Slideshare with the dead-simple approach of adding "slash-slidenumber" to the URL. Thanks folks, that's doing it right!

So if I happen, quite hypothetically you know, to want to send someone with a short attention to a slide show, I know he's not going to click through to the slide I want him to see. But since I can send a link to the exact slide, I can hope to capture just enough attention to get somewhere. For instance, I like this summary of teacher gift ideas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stencil Cutting: Fiskars Ultra ShapeXpress vs. Xacto

Cale lost his beloved "cheep cheep" (a yellow bird he made at the art museum's craft activity) last month, so I needed two circles of yellow construction paper right away to make a replacement! I found cheep cheep between the couch cushions before we actually had to make another, but I was on the circle-cutting goal right away. And of course once I found cheep-cheep, Cale was over it. Kids!

For my first round of circle-cutting, I started with my old Fiskars Ultra ShapeXpress that hasn't seen much action. I didn't have a circle stencil, so I had to improvise right away. I cut the large 4-inch (body) circle by moving the Ultra ShapeXpress around a toothpick. The circle was very nicely circular, but pretty large for my needs.

However, for the 1.5-inch bird head, I either needed a stencil that I didn't have, or another idea. (Using a positive template instead of a negative stencil would be A Bad Idea at that size, since I wouldn't be able to hold on to the template and move the shape cutter too -- its buffer zone is too big for that!) So for my next act, I used a medicine cup for my template and cut around it with a craft scalpel with a retractable blade (I need at least token safety to use it around my small kids who want to watch everything we do!).

I found the directness of the Xacto-style scalpel to be much more natural than the ShapeXpress. If you're really worried about your fingers, or your children's fingers, you might prefer the ShapeXpress. But I think mine is going back to gather dust.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Easy Robin (of Batman) Costume

Speaking of easy costumes, the one I pulled off last week was also easy. Karston went as Batman for Halloween, so I made a Robin costume for Daddy.

  • matching green sweatshirt and sweatpants (I already had an oversized set)
  • solid red teeshirt or muscle tank ($2.50 at craft store)
  • adhesive-backed craft felt in yellow and in black (under $2 at craft store)
  • for more authenticity, add a black eye mask (or those not-too-over-the-top bat glasses I saw in a costume flyer), and a black or yellow cape [we didn't]

Then I made the "R" logo for Robin. I traced a coffee mug on the black felt to cut out a black circle. Then I cut out a yellow R to fit inside the black circle. First the black circle went on the red tee, then the yellow R went on top of that. Voilà, one Robin logo! The "work" was cutting the sticky-back felt, since it's rather stiff. Other than that, this was thoroughly easy!

Yeah, Right

Not that I complain about unexpected checks in the mail, but I just got a refund check (OK, it was issued 10/20/2010 and I didn't check my snail mail for a while) from the local tertiary care hospital for an invoice dated 3/19/2009! If I were that slow paying my bills, I would be in arrears! That hospital is broken. (I base that statement on other events too, like receiving yet another bill for Karston's delivery just over a year after he was born! Too slow!) Sheesh.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Easy Mickey Mouse Costume

My kindergartener was so good on Saturday (we didn't go anywhere, he spent the day with his Legos, and we think he needed the time to decompress because he was especially angelic) that I prepared a special present for him: a Mickey Mouse costume! It was surprisingly simple, once I thought about it.

  • hat with Mickey ears (we already had this, $15 souvenir from the Magic Kingdom)
  • white child gloves ($2.50 from Oriental Trading Company); you may add those three lines with a permanent marker
  • black long-sleeved shirt ($3.50 Garanimals)
  • red pants ($3.50 Garanimals)
  • yellow felt (under $1 per sheet at craft stores that sell by the sheet, and some are adhesive-backed already; I used Quilt Basting Spray to make my scrap piece of yellow felt be sticky)

Only the Mickey Mouse hat and the white gloves were "special" purchases; we had the other items. And the hat was a souvenir, not a special purchase for this costume.

You can also find puffy yellow Mickey slippers for "shoes" at the theme parks (and some costume stores) to be thorough, but my kids didn’t complain. The theme parks also have white puffy gloves with the classic three metacarpal stripes, but that also seemed overkill for my kids who prefer dexterity to authenticity.

I used this template:

Directions: Cut out two ovals (about 1.5” by 1.1”) of yellow felt. Attach to the front of the red pants, centered to either side below the waistband. Voilà, Mickey pants! Now dress your small child in Mickey hat, black shirt, white gloves, and these red pants.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


On The Simpsons, Homer uses the neologism crisitunity. I spent so much prep time gathering kid-friendly crafts for our trip to Atlantic Beach that I see craftitunity at every turn. The kids got "leaf buddies" last week, just colorful maple leaves with happy faces drawn on. Cale carried his around (for a couple days), and needed me to repair the stem with a little tape. The rest of that day was all Mommy fix my leaf buddy. With tape! I think the tape was very exciting.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Secret Life Of Machines

Yes, yes! I found a tip that you can now download episodes of The Secret Life Of Machines! That's one of my favorite shows ever, but I never see re-runs on TV anymore. The Exploratorium archive has streaming QuickTime, but I found the easier format (can download, doesn't stutter) to be Flash video at; I'm not a fan of Flash to put it mildly (check out the boss phrase generator while you're there), so when I prefer Flash to QuickTime, you know it's a genuine statement.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Insomnia!!!

A wonderful thing happened last night: no insomnia!!! Most nights of my life, I've experienced insomnia. I did kick it for a short while during the second trimester with Karston, after morning sickness but before getting huge. I felt like I learned enough then to kick it. Last night, I would get first-order comfy (you know, this will do to start, but I'm sure I'll need to find at least one more position before I fall asleep), and each time I was asleep in under a minute! I've never done that after getting up to fetch juice from the frig at 3 am!

What did I do right? (I would really like to know!) Lunch was gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free spaghetti and meatballs. I was still hungry, but I kept my afternoon snacking mostly under control: dried fruit, one chocolate crispy wafer bar. I was starved for an early dinner, so I ate a gigantic salad while watching TV. Then I had reduced fat cheezits while fixing black beans with rice and chorizo. I was still, yes, still!, hungry, so I ate 1/4 of a leftover pita and prunes. We all went outside to weed the garden. It got dark, so we came inside. Cale was being so good and so helpful, I rewarded him with his first pair of safety scissors whereupon we spent the rest of the evening, me holding scrap paper, Cale cutting with two hands. He sat down on the floor right away, so the mess wasn't widespread. Then Daddy read bedtime stories while I cleaned up, Cale nursed to sleep, then I went to my own bed to sleep instantly and soundly until the 3 am juice call. After juice, I curled up next to him, head on his stuffed gorilla (just a cuddle before trying to fall asleep you know), and then it was 4 am with crick in my neck. Got comfy, 5 am cuddle call. Couldn't fall asleep, but on 7.5 hours of the best sleep ever, I don't care. Falling asleep in one to two minutes instead of one to two hours is indescribably beautiful! I've never done it before but I'd like to repeat it. Often.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Custom Printed Fabric

I knew about Spoonflower already, but I was impressed when I looked at the options to print fabric on demand.

I was trying to decide between buying printable silk scarf fabric to print my own (includes the headache of figuring out how to print a "page" much longer than 11 inches), and to send out that print job. I was a little disappointed that Zazzle doesn't do silk scarves. I've got a gorgeous sunset photo we took in Key West that I think would be beautiful repeated along a silk scarf! (I also love the look of old-timey silk scarf maps, and I know where to find old maps online.) I still haven't decided how to do it yet. Then again, I haven't stitched together the long version of that sunset photo either. After I do that, I suppose the next test is to print to a 14-inch legal sheet of paper to see if that works as a custom paper size. If it's easy, I'll DIY; if it's a headache, I'll send it out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The dairy-wheat connection

Often a problem with dairy masks an underlying problem with wheat, so any time someone mentions a problem with one of those to me, I suggest monitoring the other as well. Thanks to Wikipedia on lactose intolerance, I've now got a coherent explanation.

Pathological lactose intolerance can be caused by coeliac disease, which damages the villi in the small intestine that produce lactase. This lactose intolerance is temporary. Lactose intolerance associated with coeliac disease ceases after the patient has been on a gluten-free diet long enough for the villi to recover (BMJ Textbook of Gastroenterology, Chapter 11, Celiac Disease, Dr. Jamie Gregor & Dr. Diamond Sherin Alidina).

So a problem digesting wheat (as well as other digestive problems) can damage intestinal villi, and the villi tips are where lactase is produced (or would be, if they weren't damaged).

Too bad I'm now thinking I have a problem with casein not lactose. Food allergies are most often to proteins like casein, and are outnumbered 99-to-1 by food intolerances that are most often to sugars like lactose. Strictly speaking, an allergy is an immune system reaction to what should be a benign substance, and an intolerance covers any other reaction. Your immune system is normally trying to protect you from, for example, an invading virus by making an antibody to the proteins in the virus shell. That's why most immune reactions (allergies) are to proteins -- that's what your immune system is designed to detect and to react against.

Silk Tie Ideas

I did a quick 'net search for silk tie refashion ideas.

  • The tie belt looks spiffy, and reminds me that two ties could make suspenders (attach suspender clips, and cross the ties in the back; my mom says she did that when she was pregnant with me). I wouldn't trust glue to have belt-worthy strength, but I don't mind using my sewing machine for belts and suspenders. Not that I've wanted suspenders since I was pregnant either! tie-belt
  • This sunglasses case looks good (again, I would sew instead of glue, and I would also use a slippery fabric lining), and could easily become a phone case, an iPod case with a belt loop, or a skinny purse. If you open up the tie to scavenge the material, you can make this small purse too. sunglasses-case small-purse Following this theme, you can also make a zip pouch.
  • The necktie place mats and napkin rings look very formal and manly. And they would easily adapt to be a picnic roll-up (a placemat with flatware and napkin pockets that you roll up and tie shut for the journey to your picnic destination, even Martha's done it)! necktie-placemats-and-napkin-rings
  • If you have a lot of ties and patience, try the neck tie school bag. necktie-school-bag
  • And finally, a scarf. necktie-scarf
  • A late 2014 addition, a coffee cup cozy. necktie-coffee-cup-cozy

Yep, more potential projects than I have time! I do love the whole refashion and upcycle idea, though.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Full-Bust Adjustment

Now that I've done a full-bust adjustment on a tank-top pattern my mother drafted, and researched how to do it for princess seams, it strikes me that the infamous FBA can be summarized this way:


You add that shape to the pattern piece that covers the side, either princess or darted. You modify that shape to fit your shape. You also make the patterns pieces that connect to this one longer to match. It's always that general shape, and now I wonder why it took me so long to try it. What's the point to sewing clothes for myself if they don't fit better than RTW? No wonder my last big projects have been for the boys. Well, I'm getting better (or just more confident) at this, so who knows!

Lactose Intolerance

I've always thought I had hereditary lactose intolerance because my aunt the medical doctor who collected the family history said so. She's even more sensitive to small amounts of dairy than I am, but we both get the bloating with painful cramps and borborygmi sound effects before we race to the nearest bathroom. I can usually eat cheese and yogurt, but milk is tough. Now I'm not so sure it's lactose intolerance.

The last three times I ate 1/2 cup of greek yogurt (that I strained myself) as a snack, it was some of the worst doubled-up-with-cramps I've ever had. Either greek yogurt concentrates lactose while draining the beneficial enzymes out with the whey (my first theory), or (since most of my Google results say Greek yogurt is lower lactose with the same enzymes and bacteria) this isn't lactose intolerance.

The rule of thumb is that food intolerance is to sugars (like lactose or fructose), and food allergy to protein (like casein or gluten). The two protein sources in yogurt are whey and casein; greek yogurt is yogurt with most of the whey (and tangy taste) drained off. So it's higher in casein, and now I wonder if I have a casein allergy instead. Guess I'll ask my doctor -- not my aunt, she's already made her diagnosis.

But for now, greek yogurt is off my snack list. It hurts!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Full Bust Adjustment

I was inspired by this post on her first Full Bust Adjustment, so I decided I should finally try it. I started with (a copy of) the tank top pattern that my mom drafted, but I didn't feel like making a muslin that didn't fit, so I just pinned up my copy and put it on my dressmaker's dummy. This was my first time using that dressmaker's form I got from my grandmother two years ago, and it works really well!

In fact, pinning and adjusting right on the dressmakers form was easy enough that I made all of the adjustments ... so much for beautiful directions (as these are) with inspiration, because I just winged it. I have a newfound appreciation for my dressmaker's form: that's the easy way to adjust fit!

I did spend a moment wondering how to lower the bust point on my dressmaker's form, though. Then I realized that I could effectively raise the shoulders by using gaffer's tape to attach thin 3" x 5" pieces of foam we had sitting around for another project that expired before we started. So now the form is even more accurate than when I started!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Halter Tank Top

I'm a sucker for patterns that match my measurements, and I’m always on the lookout for tank top patterns that use minimal fabric. If this one is made with a contrasting border (an opportunity both to slit the side seams and to use less main fabric) and even a contrasting back, it won’t use much of the main fabric at all. The contrasting border reduces the chance that the wrong side of the fabric will be seen, and the shelf bra does extra duty as a front facing and modesty lining. But rather than wing it entirely, I notice that it's similar to Belle Epoch Whimsy's tie tank top tutorial (I too would make it with buttonhole in front to tie there not at shoulders) which has excellent directions for a measure-then-draft pattern. The difference is that this has a lower back that's elasticized and sewn to (elasticized) shelf bra in front.

From Belle Epoch pattern drafting (except cut 1 for the front, not 2; use b-w-d-line trapezoid as pattern for the back and a-c-b-curve curved-side trapezoid as the shelf bra facing pattern -- BUT add seam allowance to back (upward) and facing (downward) on the 'b' edge so you may need to make three pattern pieces if you don't want to wing it too much), first measure yourself (in inches).

x = high bust

y = full bust

z = vertical distance between x and y

w = vertical distance between y and where you'd like the tank top to end

v = your (horizontal) body width at measurement point w

Then do some simple math:

a = THE SMALLER OF ( (x ÷ 4) + 1.5 ) AND ( b - 1 )

b = (y ÷ 4) + 3

c = z + 2

d = (v ÷ 4) + 4

Look at the pattern drafting directions from Belle Epoch for pattern drafting pictures -- a picture is worth a thousand words (or more in this case!).

Now armed with a pattern, make a strap (you can cut a skinny rectangle without a pattern, right? or use ribbon) and continue sewing from the Sewing Dork directions.

The pattern has IIRC 4 inches of ease, so it will be loose. But it's also a fitted-to-you pattern!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sad Roomba

Our white-and-silver single-button Roomba, from the pictures I believe a Roomba 530, has been doing the circle dance for a while, and the house is starting to show that we have two running kids and one non-running Roomba, not to mention a black cat and white carpet. Yeah. Time to get serious!

Last night while looking for answers online, I watched the circle dance carefully to match it to the manufacturer videos. I watched our Roomba patiently, unlike usual, for several minutes, and was rewarded with an error code! 9 beeps! Well, that's easy: 9 beeps means the bumper sensor is stuck. You can always start with Roomba's support and go directly to Error 9, or peruse Owner's Guides.

From the RobotReviews post I also learned that diagnostics mode isn't as easy as multi-button presses on this (our second) Roomba. You must have the SCI cable, interface documented, although you can make your own cable if you can get the control software.

Then again, for not much more than the cable costs and from the same source as the needed bumper sensor parts, you can also get repair service. It seems like a pretty good deal so I can get back to playing with my kids and ignoring mundane vacuuming because Roomba does that, although the repair service lacks the DIY goodness of making my own cable. It's been a while since I've done that ...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Geek Love at First Sight

For me, it was a case of geek love at first sight: Dido is the best of the lightweight database world (faceted views, filters) and the best of Web 2.0 (edit the document while you view it in your browser). It integrates with Google Maps and Timeline ... oh my!

Now to figure out how I should it. That's always the challenge with the Haystack tools. I love them, but ... eventually I use them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

In Search Of ...

It's the solstice, we're in Key West, and it's raining. *sigh* I have been searching for the perfect Cuban sandwich now that Chicharrones has closed, without much luck.

UPDATE 6/26/2010: although I didn't try this one until we were packed up, leaving Key West, and grabbing food for the road, and despite me not asking to have our sandwich made without mayo (ick, and not Cuban either), I have found the (otherwise) perfect Cuban sandwich at the Cuban Coffee Queen! So it's fresh fish from Eaton Street Seafood Market, and Cuban sandwiches from the Cuban Coffee Queen as our two best new discoveries on this trip to Key West.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poor Sleep

Let me tell you why I didn't get enough sleep the night before our trip. I was asleep, in our bed for once (instead of next to Cale). I was partly awake, idly noticing how shallowly I breathe when I'm (mostly) asleep. I heard a deep sigh, so after a moment I woke up enough to roll over to pat Daddy's shoulder. Nope, no Daddy. OK, who was breathing heavily in my bedroom? That's freaky, so I was suddenly awake.

What's the first thing a mom will do in that case? Check on her babies. So my next discovery was that Cale was not in his bed! I was now wide awake. Really, really, really wide awake.

Hoping for the best, with my eyes better adjusted to the dark now, I went back to our bedroom to look for Cale. I found him in our bedroom asleep on boppy next to the rocking chair. Apparently he woke up at night, came in our bedroom (looking for me?), and decided to sleep on the floor instead of waking me up. I had trouble falling back to sleep after that much worry, though.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Travel Toys

I just printed one of the cars at to try my hand at the assembly. If it's not too bad, I think this is probably a great way to bring toy cars on a trip! (Like we're about to take, so we're packing toys that are fun, but not so precious that there will be tears if any one is left behind.) Just think about, first a kid colors the car, then (older kids than mine, or parent) cuts it out and assembles, and then plays with the car! I'm glad you can find anything on the web nowadays.

The Elliptical Problem

Last week when I was on the elliptical to do a little cardio exercise after the kids went to bed (and I remembered again last night), I realized why I don't love it the way I expected. Keep in mind that I've had osteoarthritis in my knees for the past 24 years! The person who assured me that an elliptical trainer is easy on the knees (granted it doesn't have the impact of running) is almost 10 years younger. After a minute on the elliptical even at low resistance, my knees are burning, but I haven't broken a sweat. I do not love my elliptical because it's a workout for my knees long before it's a workout for my lungs. I don't like feeling my knees burn; it can lead to a bout of tendonitis. Most non-machine cardiovascular exercise is limited by my lungs. I do like getting in a quick blast of cardio, but the treadmill is so boring. My natural running pattern is to run a little faster when I can breathe, and to run a little slower when I want to catch my breath. Treadmills are best for longer patterns of uniform speeds than how I run. So nothing cardio beats lacing up my sneakers and heading out the door for a run. Which I would do, but it's 94 stinking degrees with humidity ...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I always love it when my crazy ideas end up being easy to implement. I'm using version 3.1.3 beta of mGSD (a custom TiddlyWiki for GSD), and I don't actually know Javascript. I like the provided dashboards, but most of my work (this reflects my actual job) is a bunch of actions that are rarely bundled into projects so many of the consolidated views hide, not highlight, what I need to do.

I started with the "Projects Dashboard" tiddler but I wanted to order actions by Area (since my tasks do fall into general areas, just not projects). Basically I changed:

  • Project to Action
  • Active to Next
  • Someday/Maybe to [[Waiting For]]

Then I added a copy of Someday/Maybe, but changed to Future. I called it "Action Dashboard by Area" and ta-da! it's exactly what I wanted. That's how I think about what I need to do. Yes, my job really is that all-over-the-place, it is not easily categorized, and it is not well-organized except by me for me.

Here's the new tiddler I'm using:



<<mgtdList title:'Next Actions' startTag:Action tags:'Next && !Complete' view:Action mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Next Action'




<<mgtdList title:'Pending Actions' startTag:Action tags:'[[Waiting For]] && !Complete' view:Action mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Waiting For Action'


<<mgtdList title:'Future Actions' startTag:Action tags:'Future && !Complete' view:Action mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Future Action'



<<mgtdList title:'Completed Actions' startTag:Action tags:'Complete' view:ActionComplete mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Action Active Complete'





I also really like that I can use Realms to hide what isn't relevant in mGSD. I use three Realms, Work, Home, and School, and I prefer to hide the ones that aren't what I should be doing right now.

I just love it when a useful change that could be a bear (what with not knowing Javascript) ends up being easy!

UPDATE 06/11/2010: I just created a "Tickler Dashboard by Area" by copying the "Tickler Dashboard by Contact" tiddler to that name (using same tags) and changed the two lines that said group:Contact into group:Area. I liked that so much, I added it (just the <<mgtdList ... >> parts) to this "Action Dashboard by Area" so I have one view of everything as long as my tasks don't overflow my screen!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cherry Jam and Fruit Pectin

At some point while I was cooking for (around) Cale's food allergies, I crossed a threshold to another level of kitchen skills. Call it kitchinvincible. I had never before considered making my own crackers, but now that I've made some a couple of times, I know crackers are both easy to make and mindless munchingly good! The latest notch is jam and preserves.

I have a pin cherry tree in my back yard, leaning over the deck. I tend to avoid highly specialized tools, like a cherry pitter, except when those tools could get a lot of use. Having a cherry tree has been a good reason to have a cherry pitter. The first or second summer we lived here, I made two cherry pies from the output. The cherry pies tasted great, but I have to admit that my homemade cherry pie filling tasted just like commercial cans of cherry pie filling, at least as best as I can remember. The other six years, the squirrels or the birds have eaten the cherries before they were ripe enough for us to pick them. This year, I said squirrels in the tree should be shot on sight with the BB gun (which just hurts). It worked! I've already picked as many cherries this year as all previous years combined, and the tree needs more picking even just on the branches I can reach without a ladder. However, pin cherries aren't sweet ... or tart ... they're sour! So I needed a recipe with enough added sugar to make pin cherries palatable. Like jam.

I started with Ball Freezer Fruit Pectin. This pectin was, by far, the easiest to use. 4 cups of cherry purée, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 package of Ball Freezer Fruit Pectin. Mix the purée with the sugar, let stand 5 minutes. Mix the pectin in that for 3 minutes. Pour into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headroom, then pop in the freezer. So easy! The taste is fantastic! I wouldn't mess with such a good thing, except I had other pectin on the shelf already, and a lot more cherries.

The next one I tried was Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin. It did have a freezer recipe, but I didn't want to follow it because it called for 3/4 cup added boiling water (likely to crystallize in the freezer) and significantly more sugar. In fact, it called for 2 cups of sour cherries to 4 cups of sugar! Ouch! I could have a sugar crash just thinking about that. Since I knew what proportions tasted good, I ignored the recipe, even knowing that sugar is necessary for pectin to gel. Since I didn't want to dissolve the pectin in boiling water (didn't want to add water), I had to wing it. Let's be honest: I didn't follow the recipe at all, since I ignored the ingredients and the major ratios. I added the pectin to really hot sugared cherry purée. There was no reason for this recipe to work; although it was very slow to gel, it did set overnight in the refrigerator, and it tastes just as good! So I was able to ignore the recipe that came with this pectin, and just squeak by.

The last one I tried was Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin. The included freezer recipe called for dissolving the pectin in 1 3/4 cups hot apple juice before combining with 3 cups of cherry purée. Yeah, I followed the first recipe instead. (Now I'm out of sugar. I don't use it often, but then I go on a run like this cherry spree.) Again I mixed the pectin with hot, sugared purée. I could tell right away that it would set, probably because pectin does like sugar. Same good taste! (Sugar also maintains the bright color of fresh fruit.)

The final analysis on the different varieties of fruit pectin is that I had more flexibility in recipe selection than any of the included directions led me to believe (thankfully!). I prefer the taste of the lowest-sugar (but not sugar-free) recipe, so I made it with all three pectins. The Freezer Pectin was the easiest to use since I didn't have to heat the jam, so it also didn't froth up like the other two. The No Sugar pectin was the next easiest. The regular Fruit Pectin did work just fine, although I did worry about having to reprocess the jam to get it to set, and it did froth up the most. I could tell during the preparation that all three responded differently, but in the end, they all worked too. As expected, I can't taste a difference in pectin brands when pectin is the smallest ingredient. I'll have to make sure all of these are fully set before I decide if I can tell a difference in the final cherry jam textures.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Zoo

We went to the North Carolina Zoo today. What I learned at the zoo today: I'm glad we got the double stroller instead of the double Radio Flyer wagon (facing seats, more kid juice and snack holders, nifty accessories) because our double stroller has BRAKES. All of a sudden, there's no question which one is better because we use the brakes ALL the time.

I packed just right. We went in the zoo with two kids in the double stroller, camera, small insulated bag with two juice sippies and snack crackers, small diaper change kit (but next time, have more than one wipe!), one bottle of sunscreen, and a water bottle filled with extra ice. We left more snacks, juice, diapers, and toys in the car. A pair of binoculars would have been nice, though!

Since I'm fair-skinned, you can tell where I used SPF 30 by the touch of color, where I used SPF 15 by the pink, and where I needed to re-apply (or apply any) sunscreen by the red color. Yeah, that's what happens when I'm outside, even in partial shade, from 10 AM to 5 PM.

We went to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World about two and a half years ago, and I have to say, the NC Zoo compares very favorably. It's not quite the same, but the production value of both is so high ... if you're there to see animals, not the rides, I'd say go to this zoo. It's that good. (Nothing beats a good day at the Magic Kingdom or at EPCOT, though,)

We walked everywhere (tired feet!), we all had a great time. The kids liked the play areas best, no surprise. Karston said he liked the zebra best of the animals, possibly because we saw it last. Soft serve ice cream after lunch was a terrific cool-down. I think we need to go back to the zoo! Fun day!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Use EXIF timestamp

I had just a few pictures exported from iPhoto (2 out of 100) that had a different datestamp than the photo, so I couldn't sort by date to see them in chronological order. Rats! So I looked for a way to fix it, found preserve photo timestamp when exporting from iPhoto at Mac OS X Hints, and discovered that it's just the jhead -ft command. No fancy tricks needed -- someone already noticed that annoyance and solved it! Sweet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Saga, and some recovery

Earlier this year, I noticed I had gained 16 pounds in 8 months. I try to eat healthy food and not to worry about my weight, but obviously I was on a bad trajectory. Luckily I log my weight most mornings, so I could see that it was actually 3 weeks of gaining a pound a week, followed by a week of losing a pound. Travel and holidays tacked on extra weight, but the following week I worked to maintain. Not pretty. Of course the 3+1 pattern is obvious. Two children with bad tummies cause me enough sleepless nights! So oral contraceptives.

Then I thought about why, and I noticed that I had been ignoring nausea. Actually, it was a lot like morning sickness all over again, but milder. Day-long nausea that felt better while I was eating, with heartburn if I ate a full meal. Yeah, I'd rather not have morning sickness again, especially without a bundle of joy to make it worthwhile, and to know it will end. So I was eating too much to mask the nausea. Another confounding symptom was that exercise made me feel worn out, worn down, and just plain tired. Usually I expect exercise to wear me out, but with a side effect of feeling powerful and strong, just let me catch my breath.

Next I did my research to link nausea with ocp. Yes, it's a common side effect, so I made an appointment with my doctor and kept digging. I finally found an explanation that gave me an attack vector. Since nausea as a side effect is an androgenic effect, I could switch to an ocp with less androgenic activity (but also low estrogen since Cale still likes to nurse). Armed with what to reduce, I found what I needed to take to my doctor. As a side note, another reference pointed out that androgenic weight gain was caused by interference with carbohydrate metabolism. As someone with diabetes in the family, I don't want to take any medication that damages my carbohydrate metabolism!

That month (the ninth), I noticed that my biggest day-to-day weight gain was after a spaghetti dinner, a high carbohydrate meal. So I resisted carbs, but it was ever so tough!

First month on the new stuff ... first week or two! ... I noticed that resisting carbs was suddenly easy. The change was sudden and dramatic. I realized that I used to be able to resist temptation, but since I don't usually worry about my weight, I hadn't noticed. Realizing my own blindness made me empathize with people with addictive behaviors. It's hard to do what you know you should when there's that compulsion. I'm glad my bout was from an external cause I can control (once I noticed). Much less nausea, less heartburn, better control of what I ate, in one month. Compared to the previous month, when I knew but I had to fight the androgenic demon inside ... on the right track!

Last night's dinner was another example: I was still hungry after dinner of salad and meatloaf. On the previous regime, I would have been craving sweet carbs, probably chocolate too. A chocolate cake craving, in short. Instead, as I tried to figure out what I wanted to eat after dinner last night, I knew I didn't want sweets, and I wasn't in the mood for carbs or chocolate. I didn't want more meat(loaf). I was so sure I didn't want sweets that I didn't even want fruit! If it's not sweets or carbs, not fruits, and not proteins, that just leaves vegetables. Yes, I was in the mood for more veggies! I ate apple with the rest of my family instead of making another salad just for myself, but I would have been just as happy with a salad. There's a huge difference between the food craving that I used to have, and the milder food wanting I sometimes have now. I've been using the verb 'to crave' incorrectly most of my life. At least I'm more sympathetic to people who do have cravings now, because those are brutal.

The weight loss, not trying too hard, is about a pound a month. Exercise is no longer a chore, but back to being empowering and exhilarating. But the best part: I had spaghetti for dinner a couple nights ago, and it didn't spike my weight! So in 3 months, my damaged carbohydrate metabolism appears to be repaired! I was worried, what with my diabetic family history, that I might not be able to reverse the damage. But I could, I did, and I think I'm on the right track!

My main androgenic complaint (nausea) is gone, along with a host of other possibly-related problems like utter exhaustion from exercise, food cravings, and a damaged carbohydrate metabolism. Still unanswered is if my hair experienced androgenic alopecia or something else, but hair growth takes at least six months to see any changes, so it's too soon to tell. I'm unsure about the heartburn, since I think my heartburn correlates more to my weight (so it goes away as my weight drops back to healthy levels) than to any actual androgenic effect. On the flip side, I am experiencing more headaches, many at the migraine level. I need to be sure I'm well-hydrated (I haven't been as good about drinking lots of water lately for stupid reasons like 'busy') before I know if this is a new side effect. It's certainly easier to tolerate the occasional headache than continuous nausea, so I'm not complaining. I'm curious to know if my cholesterol and my blood pressure have also improved.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First Jog

I just went for my first jog in ... well, I can't recall. This might be the first jog since I had kids (so over 5 years since I didn't jog while pregnant-large either)! I know these running shoes are B.C. (before children), and I don't keep running shoes for very many miles. I retire my running shoes to walking shoes quickly, and move on to the next new pair of running shoes. I never walk around in my running shoes, except for cool-down.

I'm in bad, bad shape. I didn't make it far, and (as usual) my lungs were the limiting factor. I made it farther than my minimum goal, but I turned around when I tasted blood (wimpy, wimpy lungs). At least it's really humid this afternoon, so that protected my lungs as much as the outdoor environment could. I liked that. After that, I lifted some weights.

I hope I make a habit of running (again). I'd feel good about that. That's why I just went for a run as soon as I got home, because that's the only way to start a habit. I started, and I'll keep doing it. Regularly would be best.

Here are the three things I look for in a running shoe. First, toe flexion. If I push inward, one hand on heel and one hand on toe, the shoe should bend easily at the toe where your foot bends easily. Second, a sturdy heel cup. If I squeeze mid-top heel, the shoe shouldn't budge. And third, torsion control. If I twist the heel one way and the toe the other way, the shoe shouldn't budge. On top of that, I look for the shoe that fits my running style (ask the Shoe Dog at Road Runner Sports): I need a motion control shoe, but with the most cushioning since I have a very heavy gait.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hungry Tired

Being sleepy always makes me hungry! Sounds like it's not just me.

Losing sleep may increase appetite and, as a result, weight.

from Lack of Sleep Increases Weight -

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tummy Hurting

Now that Karston appears to be outgrowing the abdominal pain that caused four years of colic, I've found a great little chart to help figure out Long-Term Abdominal Pain. Here's hoping you don't need that resource!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stay Home

You know how some days you wish you had stayed in bed? Well, I wish I had stayed home today instead of coming in to work!

Early this morning, there was a power blink that affected my office building.

I got to my office and heard a siren. A quick check of stepping back into the hall confirmed that the siren was inside my office, and not for the building. I had trouble locating the source of the high frequency sound, so I started shutting things down in that corner, starting with the easiest. After warning the Nagios keeper, I powered off my old Solaris workstation, but all that turned off were the fans. I warned everyone watching the various network monitoring applications, and pulled the power on my switch, but again only fans turned off. So it turns out that the APC UPS (hissssss) under my desk, the one I had turned off more than two years ago because it started beeping intermittently to tell me it had no battery capacity anymore, was the siren. No lights on, but what a squeal! I had plugged it into a hard-to-reach location behind my desk five years ago, and never unplugged it because it was so hard to reach.

The side effects of that are still on-going -- and that's what I've done for work today! Bah.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Grandstream and Belkin

Our telephone service has been so awful (usually we have a lot of static on the line, and it goes out completely once or twice a year) and the price for basic service keeps going up, so I finally relented on my "different connectivity modality for redundancy" stance and picked a VoIP service. We're trying to get it to work right now. I hit a problem that's obvious to me as a network engineer, one that's probably tough to diagnose otherwise.

We have a Motorola Surfboard SB5100 Cable Modem that has its moments of showing its age. When it takes a nose-dive, it uses as its WAN IP address; since that address is not routable (RFC1918), we lose Internet connectivity. However, it randomly comes back to life on its own, so Time-Warner doesn't want to replace my cable modem. The lesson here is that when I log in to the SOHO router and see as the WAN IP address, I assume the cable modem is ill.

Following the directions, the next item we hooked up to the cable modem is the Grandstream HT502 VoIP box. On one side, it connects to the cable modem, so it gets the cable modem's WAN IP on its WAN interface. On the other side towards our home LAN, the default IP address is In order to make almost all network configurations plug-and-play, it also serves DHCP out that interface for your home network. It uses the range to for DHCP by default.

To troubleshoot this, I plugged in my MacBook Pro to the LAN interface of the HT502. I checked my ARP table among many other things, and I saw the MAC address of my default router change. That's when I knew the problem.

But the desired operation is to plug in our SOHO router next. We have a Belkin F5D7230-4 that has some pretty sweet advanced features with a simple interface. Yeah, it's also old and needs an upgrade since it has that Flash bug. Belkin hasn't released firmware to fix a router this old, so I have to reboot it when I can read email but not browse the web. I've had several Belkin routers (I love some of the unique features), and they all use the default IP address Where have we seen that before? Yeah, you can't have two systems with the same IP address on the same network because IP addresses must be unique in order to address unique machines naturally.

Of course, the initial red herring was that I logged in to the Belkin router, and saw that its WAN IP address was because the Grandstream HT500 series, like every DHCP server I've ever seen, starts handing out IP addresses from the bottom of its range. I was sure our cable modem had indigestion, but not so sure that I didn't follow proper troubleshooting data collection first.

Anyway, the fix was easy. Hook up cable modem to VoIP converter to laptop, then use my laptop to browse to and go in to the settings to change the default IP address to another permissible RFC1918 private IP address; I picked and changed the first two octets of the DHCP range as well ( to as well. Update, reboot, renew my laptop's DHCP lease ( as expected). So then I put the Belkin router on the LAN interface of the Grandstream, and put my laptop on one of the LAN ports of the Belkin router, and network connectivity was back to normal!

We'll have to overlook, for now, that the Grandstream only once gave a dial tone, and I wasn't here to hear it! That will need to be fixed, but for now, I've climbed enough troubleshooting mountains for one evening.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Recycled into a Child's Shirt

Kid's shirts can be so inexpensive as to make this not-as-useful, but I made Karston a long-sleeved shirt from one of my old tee-shirts and a "rag" tee-shirt. He really liked the unique print on the front of my old tee-shirt that I didn't wear anymore, so this project was worth my time. I finished it in a week, just working on it a few minutes most days.

  1. trace an existing long-sleeved shirt that fits well onto large-enough paper (like a paper grocery bag sliced open)
  2. cut pattern
  3. cut pieces from inside-out shirt
  4. pin shoulders
  5. thread serger
  6. serge shoulders
  7. serge neckline
  8. pin sleeves to shoulders, matching sleeve top to new shoulder seam
  9. serge sleeves to shoulders, but leave sides open
  10. pin sleeves and sides
  11. start at cuff, and serge from sleeve to side
  12. serge bottom of shirt
  13. pin hem
  14. iron hem in place
  15. switch from serger to sewing machine, thread sewing machine
  16. stitch hem using a stitch with some stretch (zig-zag typically, but I used a wave to go with the shells)
  17. pin fold-over elastic around neckline
  18. stitch foe at neck with zig-zag
  19. using a small crochet hook, catch all serger ends underneath closest serged seam

Voilà, one long-sleeved kid's shirt, made an adult's shirt! Easier to do than I expected too -- sergers really are fast!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The RSI of Email

Email is an essential part of my day job; it's how I get most of my work-related information. If I don't have email at work, I feel adrift (before seizing the uninterrupted moment to get some actual work done!). So me liking my email client is essential, too. If I'm frustrated at email, it spills over to work. If my email feels seamless, I'm less stressed and I feel on top of "things" at work.

Today I had the unmitigated pleasure (yes, I'm being sarcastic) of blowing away all of the settings for my Thunderbird email client and starting over, so I once again did a quick status check on available mail clients. Once again, they all-but-one suck on the same point: how much they want me to use the mouse. I'd like to see a lot of messages at once so I can follow long threads, and I'd like to see a lot of the message I'm reading at once so maybe I don't have to scroll down. This means, unlike the rest of the world from what I can tell, I prefer more windows, and I despise panes within a single email window. (This is a preference setting in Mulberry. I like Mulberry.) Once I open a message in its own window, when I press the delete key on my keyboard, I want that message to be moved to the Trash (no longer taking up space in the long list of messages) and I want the next message to show up. No mouse, one keypress, two actions (delete, open next). If I have to use the mouse, it will take me more time and could contribute to a repetitive stress injury.

However, since I was deep in the settings, I did figure out today how to get Thunderbird 3 to pass my non-RSI email client filter! So not only did I blow away my Thunderbird profile (after saving my address books!), I even upgraded from Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbird 3! I thought I was going to be the TB2 curmudgeon forever!

The settings I wanted are:

Thunderbird > Preferences

Advanced > Reading & Display

>> Open messages in: (*) An existing message window

>> [ ] Close message window on delete

For me at least, Thunderbird is the best fit on two points: less mouse RSI / more keyboard speed, and IMAP tags. Of course, I just got migrated to the Exchange server that doesn't support IMAP tags, but I'm still hooked on tagging.

So I do want messages to open in the existing message window, and I do not want to close that window when I delete a message. Whew! I'm upgraded, I finally got all of my accounts added in just so, and work may now resume. Oh, whoops, the day is almost done!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A sense of humor!

Ooooh, I just noticed that the latest 3.4.10 release of ControlTier was released (U.S. date style) on 3/4/2010! That's worth waiting a few days ...

Which one?

I often end up trying to pick one software package from a selection of choices. The best approach is for me to make a list of the features I need before I start looking (so I'm not biased), and to check off how each choice stacks up for me. I'm often surprised by the end result. Sometimes, however, a wishlist isn't enough to narrow down where to start. And that's where my latest trick is hiprank. The bad news is that the results are heavily slanted towards zealots and new software, but the comments (if any) are useful as is taking it (like so much in life!) with a grain of salt.

Monday, March 29, 2010

that's what's missing!

I've had my new sewing machine, a Brother CS-6000i, for over two years now, and I just figured out what feature my old (and much cheaper) sewing machine had that this one doesn't. It doesn't do free-arm sewing, although it claims that feature. I'm not positive I could finish a sleeve's cuff on this machine because the free arm area is still fairly large. On the other hand, it has all those fancy stitches, and accessories, and quilting features, and it's taken me over two years to notice this. I use the one-step buttonhole attachment more often than the free-arm.

I finished today's sewing project by hand in about the same time anyway.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Agave Nectar

The most balanced (if you can all it that) article about agave nectar from Food Renegade ultimately gives agave nectar the thumbs down -- and I have to agree on the basis of too much fructose since it's at least as high in fructose as HFCS. I'm leery of the Weston A. Price Foundation as an information source (and QuackWatch agrees), so I'm taking that portion of the otherwise-good Food Renegade research with a grain of salt. Farther along the spectrum towards alarm is Liquid Death by Calvin Sun, although it's not the most excoriating either. Oh well, another foodstuff down. Soy's not on the good list either, if it's not fermented, although that's not surprising to me after my youngest was allergic to it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Here's today's rhetorical question about the last hour, wasted.

Why, when we send a list of product requirements to a vendor, do they schedule a meeting with us anyway even though their product does not meet our minimum requirements?

Do they really think that pretty screens (it was attractive) that are completely customizable (nice touch) will make us ignore the fact that it doesn't meet our needs? Do you think I'm that dumb??? If we go to the trouble of writing down our requirements and then sharing that list with potential candidates, the software vendor's representative should go to the trouble of reading the list and answering it honestly. That worthless meeting just makes me all the less likely to work with that company ever, even if I later work somewhere else small enough that their "enterprise" solution would work: I don't trust them now. Shucks, I specifically would not recommend them to anyone else, even if I thought that software might be a good match, because of that customer service failure. Good service is really important.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Little Math Makes It Better

I was a little discouraged recently when I couldn't find many choices for low-estrogen Pill with less-androgenic progestins. Since

progestins with less androgenic activity tend to have little to no effect on carbohydrate metabolism

(ref), I wanted my less androgenic choice (8 months on Loestrin Fe 1/20 added 16 pounds! 1 pound per week on active pills, then I could actually control my own weight and lose 1 pound the Fe week; the iron pills are a nice touch, and I think they made me feel better that week). As I was falling asleep after that post, I realized I could determine the least androgenic choice with a little math. Yes, better living with math!

First, copy this chart into a spreadsheet (no, I didn't use Excel). So I could sort by these columns later, I added a column for progestin formula (which progestin), making sure to separate out the norethindrones from the norethindrone acetates. Then I added a column for androgenic activity from this reference (the second table, not the first). Add another column for the androgenic potency that is the product of the "Progestin (mg)" column and the newly added androgenic activity column. Since Loestrin Fe 1/20 has a product of 1.6 (1 mg norethindrone acetate * 1.6 androgenic activity), I didn't consider anything with a higher value. And once you control for the few with mestranol instead of ethinyl estradiol (mestranol has 2/3 the estrogen activity), you can sort by either value.

Spreadsheets just make this easy. I could delete the rows with multiphasic drugs since those can increase headaches, and I had a doozie last week. I could delete the rows with more than 30mcg of ethinyl estradiol since Cale and I like breastfeeding. Sort by androgenic potency, and there's a list of candidates.

So that's how a little math, just a small dose of multiplication that my computer did for me, cheered me up. Alternatives exist, and I can try them.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Today's Futile Research

Today, after researching that nausea as a side effect of The Pill is an androgenic effect, I went looking for the perfect pill. It should have low androgenic activity so as not to cause nausea, and also low estrogen to be compatible with breastfeeding. I didn't find one, and I suspect I know why: it's probably not very effective either. This may even be a contributing reason why extended breastfeeding isn't common ... but Cale is enjoying it so much right now! I adore our evening cuddles too, and wish I had more milk for him. He's that sweet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

a little extra for ginger cookies

Yum, I hadn't thought of it before, but I bet ginger cookies would be good if you

add a little Gosling's Black Seal® Rum to the mix.

Might have to try that soon.

Friday, February 5, 2010


After reading about chickweed, I had to wonder if that were the weed growing everywhere, especially in the garden. I sure didn't want to buy weed seeds to find out, though. With a little searching, I found two references, and yes, that's definitely chickweed growing all over everywhere. Pretty invasive ... but now I'm tempted to nibble. Now if only I had some watercress weeds!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Drying Extra Cilantro

So I tried these directions for drying extra cilantro, and I'm not impressed. I think 30 minutes at 250 °F is too long. The oven drying didn't retain those tasty essential oils ... maybe cilantro ice cubes next time.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Stroller Bag

Not that stroller bags are expensive or hard to find, but I made one. In the scraps, I had a loudly-patterned tunic with a fringed hem. The tunic was a bit tight in the arms for me, and not very fitted (some curves but no darts).

I turned the tunic inside out, cut across between the underarms, and then marked straight vertical lines on the sides (one vertical line on one side, the other on the flip side -- explained later). I kept the fringes safe with masking tape (no fringes getting caught in the side seams!). I decided I might want attachment points on this bag, so I pinned D-rings where the side seams would go. At first I tried nylon webbing, but it was more than my serger wants to cut doubled over, so I used some sturdy grosgrain ribbon to attach one D-ring to each side. I threaded my serger up in matching colors, and serged each side from bottom to top so I could make sure that the bottom fringes were perfectly aligned. To see the straight lines while serging, I needed the marks to be drawn on the right side with the fabric facing up, so that's why the side seams were marked on opposite sides: so I could serge bottom to top for both sides. After the side seams, I went around the top with the serger finishing the edges for me. End of Day 1 (as much break as the children allowed me).

Now I turned this bag right-side out. Next I measured the right length of zipper tape and pinned it in place. I switched to my sewing machine with the zipper foot and stitched down the zipper. The serged edge is a nice accent without bulk, and it's less loud than the pattern (yikes!). Then I stitched straight across the bottom with a straight stitch. To finish it off, I used small sections of the ribbon to prevent the zipper pull from going too far by covering the two ends. Some of this I had to sew by hand, but it makes the zipper less likely to fail! End of Day 2 (I finished the hand sewing after they went to bed!), and almost done!

I added two ribbon straps, one left and one right, with a box stitch just below the zipper on one face. The boys loved the next step: I put two buttonholes on each ribbon, one close to the bag for a small loop that just fit around the handle, and one near the end of the ribbon for a larger loop (to allow me to hook on various places on our double stroller). My sewing machine has an automatic buttonholer (I don't like making buttonholes, so I looked for this feature!), so I let the boys push the 'start' button to make the buttonholes! Such fun! I stitched down two ribbon "pads" on the matching face to strengthen the buttons. Then the kids joined me on the couch, and I sewed on two buttons, one on each pad. Initially I stopped here, three days to a stroller bag with kids helping me serge and sew.

But then we went to Disney World, on and off the bus with that folding stroller, and the bag going on and off. So when I came home, I grabbed a sleeve (originally I was going to use the sleeves for the button straps, but the linen-like fabric wasn't as sturdy as the grosgrain ribbon) and cut out a five-inch section that I squared up. I had a section of thin batting left over from another project that I stuffed inside this pocket. I made two thin straps, one for each end, and with those in place, I made the sleeve section square. (This will make more sense in a minute, I hope.) The final result was a rectangular pad (in fabric matching the stroller bag) with two straps across parallel edges. I sewed two buttons in the middle of the pad. What I can do now is put each long ribbon from the stroller bag under a pad strap and button it in the middle. Now the original stroller bag converts to a shoulder bag with a padded strap! Just one more day of sewing, and I expect this padded addition to make hopping on and off a bus with a folded stroller and two children somewhat easier. The fewer things I have to hold with my hands at those times, the better.

This stroller bag wasn't hard to make, but I didn't know where I would end up when I started. I'm pleased with the final result, though. And, as a result of the loud print, our stroller is easy to pick out in a crowd.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DNS notify

We've had entirely too much fun at work recently, trying to get dns-notify to work. It only worked on one server, where the firewall had silently crashed, so we followed that red herring for a little while.

And then, suddenly, the well, duh obvious breakthrough.

options {

//other stuff removed

// Send zone change notify

notify yes;

also-notify { server1; server0; server3; server6; server4; server5; server7; };

}; // End of options section

After our thrashing, each zone declaration (around a thousand of them!) had notify yes turned on, but it still didn't help.

zone zone-name {


        notify yes;


Even though I would have expected notify yes to work when I didn't use explicit, it didn't; but listing them in also-notify as though explicit were on did work.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

iMovie '09 on a PowerBook G4

I started with this Google result to install iMovie '09 on a PowerBook G4, but I had a few problems as written and came up with a similar way that worked for me. I copied iMovie.pkg to my hard drive, then "Show Package Contents" to get to Distribution.dist that I edited with TextEdit. Near the top, under Installer logic, I made this function replacement:

function installationCheck()


return true;


The original function is longer, but it keeps me from installing iMovie directly, which is all I wanted to do. Then I went back to the original hint and ran defaults write NSGlobalDomain allowG4Launch -bool YES to finish the job. An awful lot of bounces in the Dock (old, old laptop), but it launches!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Mini Re-Test Against (Quicken and) Buddi

It's been two years, and it feels like time to look at alternatives to Quicken for personal finance. I've been using Buddi happily for 2 years. It's updated regularly. It's portable (cross-platform and no funny stuff in the data files). Java isn't as slow as I expected, and Buddi even accepts dropped text. It has a stable of plugins. However, some of export plugins don't work as well as I'd like. The unmaintained QIF Export has no option to export each account separately which is needed for most of the personal financial software I've tested, and, much worse, the starting balance in the QIF file was off by about two orders of magnitude! Since only the starting balances were wrong, I edited those lines by hand in TextEdit, but it makes me not trust the QIF Export plugin -- not fun for all of your financial data. [I suspect the safer route is to use CSV export and then use a CSV-to-QIF tool written in awk, perl, python, or ruby; the other direction is Javascript that you can even download to your own computer.] And Buddi isn't Aqua, or integrated with anything else on my Mac. Buddi is a very reliable program that I could use for many more years, but I don't mind looking at the alternatives either.

So, to review from last time, my needs are:

  • reconcile that I can use
  • proper double entry for transfers
  • import/export
  • would like multiple accounts in one document
  • would like bill scheduling, although I have reminders in iCal now

A quick check for what was updated since 2008 and had tempting screenshot(s) led me to Stash (new yummy open-source Aqua!), mini$, and MoneyWell. Although I looked at those last two before, they had major version updates so I thought I'd look again.

The quick one: mini$ had a big update since I last tested it, but it wouldn't launch on my Intel MacBook Pro, so that test is done already. The error was "java.lang.UnsupportedClassVersionError: Bad version number in .class file" so I think my Java is too new for it (it needs 1.4.2+ and I have the standard 32-bit 1.5.0_22 version in). I need the newer Java for work applications, so I don't want to mess around with older versions of Java.

So here's the report on Stash and MoneyWell.

Stash is very new, so I'm reviewing a moving target. Reconcile is just a check, but I can use that (no check for cleared, though). I like that Stash can re-order transactions so that I can match Stash's balance with my bank statement (which is the order in which the transaction cleared, not when it occurred); this makes reconciliation easier. As of version 0.6, it has double entry transfers, although if I delete one half of a transfer, the other half is still there (although that shouldn't be common). Stash can import and export QIF, and it has multiple accounts per document, with transaction scheduling. It hits my necessary points, and it has bonus points for Aqua and a responsive developer. It's worth a look. Plus there's just something pretty about it that makes me want to like it!

MoneyWell does a lot. It has states for open, pending, cleared, and reconciled transactions (although I can't click on the icon to cycle between open, cleared, and reconciled). It transfers. It imports many formats including CSV, QIF, and OFX, although it only exports to QIF. It has multiple accounts in one document, and it does bill scheduling although it filled in the current variable amount for the future transactions as well. (Quicken asked me if the amount were the same or if it varied.)

I think I should use the MoneyWell Bucket construct for what are Categories in Quicken and Stash, and Budget Categories in Buddi. Watch your left-hand pane when using MoneyWell: your view is filtered to whatever Accounts and Buckets you have selected! So if you think you're missing an entry, select ALL Accounts and the "All Transactions" smart bucket! Although I don't plan to use this feature, MoneyWell can link an account in your MoneyWell document to an online account in order to download transactions. There even appears to be a way to manage similar and duplicate transactions (I'm sure that's useful)!

I really can't explain why I'm not sucked in by MoneyWell with all of its features, but yet I find Stash attractive despite a shorter feature list. I guess it's because MoneyWell doesn't have the user interface convenience I expect when I click on the open-cleared-reconciled checkbox. I want utter simplicity, and MoneyWell has a flurry of ways to filter my view. Stash, on the other hand, is very much like a checkbook register. It's simple, and it does what I expect when I click on the reconciled check. I don't need the very simple budgeting in MoneyWell, and the graphs in Stash supply eye candy if I want it. Stash has a simple, uncluttered, unconfusing user interface.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Useless Factoid

According to the calendar in my office, today is Trivia Day; that amuses me because it's such a trivial little fact to know. I think yesterday and Wednesday are better though: yesterday was the Festival of Sleep, and Wednesday is even better! Cuddle Up Day!