December 2004 Archives

if you're seeing this entry, i've moved!

This entry is an indication that I've successfully migrated mamamusings to a new host. (From WebIntellects to Total Choice, in case you're wondering.)

If you find anything behaving in an untoward way, let me know...

getting a deskjet printer to work with an airport express

The title doesn't sound like it would be hard, does it? <sigh> But it was. And I want to document what I ended up doing here--both for others who have the same problem, and for myself the next time I have to set up a computer at home to print to the shared printer.

We bought an HP Deskjet 3740 a couple of weeks ago--the price was right ($39), and our old Lexmark was on its last legs. It worked fine connected directly to our powerbooks, and even when used as a shared printer. So when Gerald got me the Airport Express for Christmas, it seemed as though we ought to be able to just plug the printer into the USB port and go. But it didn't work. The Airport Express could see the printer, and the powerbooks could tell that there was a printer, but there was no convincing the powerbooks that they had the right driver. Apparently HP uses a proprietary driver approach, rather than creating nice little PPD files.

There wasn't much online to help with this. I finally found a site called iFelix, which had an excellent page entitled "HP Printers not on compatibility list and Airport Extreme Printing." It had some useful instructions, but they involved having a PPD file again, which I didn't have. But they also pointed me to the HPIJS for Mac OS X site, which provides a "Foomatic" interface for HP printers. (According to the website, "Foomatic is a database-driven system for integrating free software printer drivers with common spoolers under Unix."). Unfortunately, after installing the two packages from that page (the Ghostscript package and the HPJIS package, both of which had nice package installers to make it easy, there was still no sign of a driver for the 3740.

I'd invested too much time at this point to give up, so I tried doing a Google search on "deskjet 3740 foomatic," and found that the same site that had the Foomatic software ( also had a tool to let you generate a PPD for the 3740. I put the resulting file into my /Library/Printers/PPDs folder, and was finally able to use the instructions on the iFelix site to add the printer. I was also able to successfully print two test pages--one from BBEdit, and one from a browser.

It's not perfect--the printer status doesn't always reflect the current job properly--but we can print, and that's the important part.

I do have to say that I'm very disappointed with Apple's support site, which had no information whatsoever (that I could find, anyhow...) explaining the potential problems with printing over the Airport Express.

have you donated to the red cross yet?

A 2-year-old girl who lost her home and her father is held by her mother.

As of 10:30 this morning, only about 70,000 people had made donations on Amazon's site. While the total amount donated is heartening, it could be so much more if everyone who shops at Amazon made a donation of some kind.

My kids each donated $10 of their holiday money--and watched as the donation counter went up after we submitted the payment.

If you've got an Amazon account, there's no excuse for you not to use it to donate today. Look around at the relative riches you have. Can you really say that you don't have $5, or $10, or more, to help?

Skip today's latté, or the movie you were going to see, or fancy dinner you were going to treat yourself to. Use that money to help kids like the ones in these photos--who've lost their parents, who've lost their homes, who are at grave risk of death from diseases that will soon strike these devastated areas.

A young swedish boy holds a sign that says &quot;Missing Parents and 2 Brothers&quot;

you can help

child.jpgMuch of the main page of today is occupied by a button that lets you donate to the Internationa Red Cross relief efforts in Southeast Asia.

Over 80,000 people have died, many of them children.

Tens of thousands more are at grave risk of death by disease.

Please give what you can to support the relief efforts.

For more information on how you can help, go to The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami weblog.

(The photo, taken from Reuters, was captioned "An Indian child tsunami survivor holds on to a shirt donated by a volunteer organisation in Cuddalore, about 180 km (112 miles) south of the Indian city of Madras, 29 Dec 04.")

Update: If you reload the amazon page with the donation amount, you can watch it go up by thousands in a few minutes. They're at over 1 million dollars now, but so much more will be needed to help children like the one in the picture.

new personal website

After more hours of tweaking CSS and MT than I'm willing to admit, I've got a new personal website up and running on my RIT account. It's based on MT as a content management system--the navigation menu is generated from the catgory list, and the content pages are made up of entries in those categories. All comments and trackbacks are off, and I'm using only category archives.

The advantage of this is that i didn't have to design and implement my own database and coding scheme to store and output the content. Now that it's running well, I can just use MT to add or edit entries in any of the categories, or to add and delete categories.

The site is valid CSS and XHTML, with the exception of one javascript instruction on the main page that I've still got to figure out how to make xhtml-valid. (I had to change "onClick" to "onclick".) And it's graphics-free, with the exception of the picture of me in the corner. It degrades gracefully without CSS, as well.

(I figured if I was going to demand all this of my students, I really ought to do it myself, too...)

Oh, and many thanks to bopuc (Boris) for his help in squashing a couple of odd CSS bugs I encountered late last night!

christmas ups and downs

weezxmas.jpgWe had a lovely time last night at Weez's house--watching the Grinch, eating lots of Weez's wonderful food, admiring her brother's dreads (I tried to get him to do Lane's hair like that, but Lane wasn't going for it), and telling raunchy jokes in an attempt to get Katie to give out one of her trademark screeches.

When we got home the kids crashed, and Gerald and I wrapped the gifts--we got Lane an M-Audio Keystation 49/e keyboard so that he can make full use of GarageBand...he seems pretty pleased with it. For Alex, we got a Donkey Konga game, complete with extra bongos so that we could play with him.

Look out!Before we crashed, we also set up a model train to run around the tree. We've had the train for nearly ten years, but the kids weren't really old enough to appreciate it before. This year we decided it would be just right as an addition to the christmas mood, so we set it up (not an easy task) and got it running before going to be around midnight.

Now, I know I'm not the only parent who was awakened at 5am this morning. But I'm probably one of the few who was awakened by a child saying "Mommmmmmmmm....I just threw up!" <sigh> Poor Alex. Not his best Christmas morning, that's for sure. Only now, six hours later, is he keeping food down and showing some signs of interest in his presents.

Gerald got me two presents--the first one was in an Airport Express box, so I got really excited--but inside it turned out to be a "tan 'til Easter" package at a local tanning salon (an attempt to get me to go to the gym more often by making me feel less like a bleached and beached whale...). "Do you know how hard it is to find an empty Airport Express box?" he asked. Then I opened my second present, which was wrapped in a box from a local store. Inside was the actual Airport Express--yay! I've been wishing for one since they came out. We've already got it set up in the family room, connected to the Bose CD player. Now I can sit on the couch in front of the fireplace, and stream any of my music to the Bose. And we can move the family inkjet printer down there, too, since it can be connected directly to the AirportExpress rather than a computer. Nice.

(What did I get him, you ask? Well, I foolishly bought into the "let's not get each other Christmas gifts this year" ruse. Again. Will have to come up with some way to express my appreciation...)

vacation, all i ever needed

There are precious few times when I'm able to sit alone, quietly, in my own house. But this week is different. I'm out of school for the break, and the kids are in school through tomorrow. Every day I've watched them leave for school at 7:30am, followed soon after by Gerald leaving for the gym and the day's errands. And then I've settled myself into my corner of the couch, diet vanilla coke at hand and powerbook on lap. I've had time to read, to think, to write (three posts in a row from me at Many-to-Many, no less--I've never managed that before ), to play.

I'm more relaxed right now than I've been in a long time. No big trips planned for a month or two, no major holiday shopping to do (we're trying very hard to simplify the holidays). Some baking that I need to do in the morning and deliver to the women who work in our department office, a few gifts for the boys that need to be wrapped.

Amazingly, I'm almost caught up on blog reading, having plowed through hundreds of accumulated blog posts, not to mention Flickr photos from my friends. And I've even had time to follow interesting links! Tonight Ross posted a Flickr image of a new toy from Ambient Devices, makers of interesting objects that monitor information and present it to you in an environmental form--globes that glow different colors based on the stock market, cubes that reflect outside temperatures based on their hue. This new one, though, is the first one that I've found myself really lusting after. It's called the Executive Dashboard, and it uses a retro analog needle approach to show you any three of a number of possible information flows in real-time--from number of email messages in your inbox to traffic congestion in your area to whether or not a "special someone" on your buddy list. Too cool.

Some of my technolust of the season has already been satisfied, however. Gerald (who's constitutionally incapable of buying a gift and not giving it to the recipient immediately, and thus usually shops on Christmas eve) got me the Bluetooth headset I've been wanting. And it rocks! Works like a charm, and might even help protect me from all that nasty DNA damage I've been reading about...

And now I suppose I should actually go to sleep, since the boys will be waking me up tomorrow at 7:15 to say goodbye. Of course, I can just go back to sleep after more day of true vacation bliss. Yum.

my online life in 26 25 links and audioscrobbler

I started to write about how I've discovered the joys of Profile Radio over on, but it drifted into musings about definition of social software, so I put it over on Many-to-Many instead.

40 questions about 2004: an end-of-the-year meme

Just in time for the holiday break, a new time-consuming, tell-all meme (via Molly) Only 40 questions (instead of 200 things), but it requires a bit of thought. Still, it seemed worthwhile to work through them and think about the wild ride this year has been. Peaks and valleys higher and lower than any I've had before. I don't regret any of it, though there are parts I wouldn't want to experience again.

More after the fold...

lab for social computing at rit

Over on Many-to-Many I've made an announcement about a new Lab for Social Computing here at RIT.

urban ennui?

It's not uncommon to see urbanites complaining about the relentless boredom of the suburbs, comparing it to the life and energy of the cities in which they live.

But I was struck today when reading Alex Wright's description of a meditation retreat he took this fall. I found his post via Molly, who pulled out this quote:

...But when you sit there for two weeks of staring into the void, doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, what slowly dawns on you is this: that we spend our whole lives looking for a result that never comes. We try to improve ourselves, get noticed, get rich, get a better house, a better relationship. Most of our lives are spent trying to change the situation, or to change ourselves. And none of those strategies ever seem to work. Most of us walk around in a perpetual state of mild disappointment. This is also known as samsara.

In my experience (limited though it may be), this sense of constant unfulfilled pursuit is much more common in the city dwellers I know than it is in my fellow suburbanites. Me, I'm no longer looking for a result that never comes--I have the things I most want all around me. Two beautiful, healthy, wonderful kids. A husband who loves me. A job that's challenging and fulfilling. Friends who make me laugh and keep me sane.

This is not to say I don't want to continue to improve myself...but it's not a search, it's not a desire for a result. It's simply part of who I am, of my process of living.

I don't have to travel 22 hours to get away from the kind of perpetual searching and reinvention that Alex describes. Today I can sit quietly in my simple suburban house, looking at my very unsophisticated christmas tree, and know that the lovely lunch of chicken soup and brisket that I had with my family at my mother's house today is about as good as it gets. And I find in myself no disappointment at that realization--only gratitude.


ps I should add that I very much enjoyed the description that Alex gave of his retreat, and can certainly see and appreciate the value of such an experience. I was only responding to the perception of widespread dissatisfacation in everyday life.

i need a haircut

I really do. So I'm looking for Rochester-area stylist recommendations.

I've been getting my hair cut by the same person since I moved to Rochester, and while I like him (and his cuts) a lot, he's pretty expensive ($60/cut).

It feels like time for a change, so that I can get out of my current hair rut, but also reduce the cost (so that I can get it cut more often and not let it get all unruly like it is now).

Any recommendations? It would be nice if they're good with thin, fine hair like mine...there's not a lot to work with, really, which requires a certain kind of skill.


family latke recipe

I've had a few requests for our family latke recipe (we pronounce it as "laht-kuh," Jack, but I've definitely heard "lot-key" used as well). This recipe comes from my father's side of the family--his mother made them for him when he was a child in Germany, and he in turn made them for me and my sister every winter when we were growing up. When I left home, he gave me the recipe, and I'm now the official latke-cooker in my house.

Here's it is, as I learned it. This is not a Joy of Cooking recipe with exact'll have to use the rule of thumb guidelines provided.


  • lots of large potatoes ("about the size of a man's fist," dad says; I generally use Idaho baking potatoes)
  • 1 egg per potato
  • 1 "baseball-sized" white or yellow onion per ~4 potatoes (to taste, really)
  • 1 tbsp salt per 6 potatoes (again, this is to taste)


Peel and grate the potatoes (to a "mush" consistency, using the fine tooth side of the grater; not the side that makes shreds). Grate the onions the same way, and mix into the potato mixture. Use a ladle or large spoon to remove excess moisture...we put a heavy metal ladle onto the mixture, and the liquid drains into the ladle over the edges. Keep this up for as long as you have the patience for it; removing the water helps the pancakes stay together better when cooking.

After removing the water, add in the eggs and salt.

Heat ~1" of oil (preferably peanut oil, but vegetable or canola oil will work) in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) until water "pops" when dropped into oil. Pour some of the mixture in with a ladle. If it falls apart, it means that either the oil is too hot, or the mixture is too watery and needs more egg. Experiment with temperature first, because it's easier to undo than adding eggs.

Latkes should float above the bottom of the pan, not stick to the bottom. Use a slotted metal spatula (not plastic!) to dislodge them if they stick. When edges start to brown, flip them over (gently, so as not to spatter yourself with hot oil).

When latkes are crispy around edges and golden brown on both sides, remove from oil and place on paper towels. We rip up a full roll of paper towels, and just layer the latkes and paper towels; 2 paper towels, 3-4 latkes, then 2 more paper towels over that, more latkes, etc. Keep the plate with latkes and paper towels in a slightly warm oven while you're making more, so that you can bring out a lot at a time, reducing family warfare over who gets them. :-)

fleeting moments of fame

Apparently I'm mentioned in today's Wall Street Journal (US and Asian editions). It's part of the front page story in the Technology section (called "The Journal Report"); I'm featured in question #18 of the "20 Questions" story:

18. How do I start blogging? Like a growing number of citizens of the Net, Elizabeth Lawley, an associate professor of information technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has a blog -- a personal Web site where she posts a running diary chronicling everything from her Greek vacation to trips to conferences. While Dr. Lawley used blog software from Six Apart Ltd. called MovableType that is geared toward more sophisticated users, she recommends that first-time bloggers try services such as Six Apart's TypePad or Google's Blogger.

Many thanks to Ed Vielmetti for giving me a heads-up about the mention--I'd be interviewed by the reporter some time ago, and had completely forgotten about it.

reasons to be happy

  1. My web design class this quarter has a critical mass of interesting, engaged, talented students--which, in turn, makes me want to engage with them, which gets a wonderful cycle going. I'll be looking forward to seeing their post-break projects.
  2. There's a little bit of blue sky outside my window right now--a rarity at this time of year.
  3. I have full-spectrum lights in my office, which compensates for the usual lack of sun.
  4. Party Shuffle on iTunes.
  5. The family latke recipe. If you're nice, I might even share it here. You would be so lucky if I did.
  6. Weez and I made it to the gym this morning, and managed a serious workout between giggles.
  7. An exciting announcement about social computing at RIT is forthcoming later this week.

There's more, but I'm off to run errands and light candles. Ho, ho, ho.

more free wifi @ panera

I showed up this afternoon at Panera Bread to do some more grading, sat down at my favorite table near the fireplace, and fired up my laptop. Much to my surprise, there were two access points--the regular "Panera" SSID, and a brand new "SurfThing" SSID to accompany it.

Out of curiousity I selected the second, and was able to get online instantly--no login necessary (Panera requires a login, which is free but annoying, every two hours). Even better, there's no SonicWall filtering, which means I can even occasionally check blogs like Dooce and, both of which are blocked by SonicWall.

I'm somewhat baffled by the appearance of the SurfThing access point, since there are no other locations in this plaza that would be likely to offer access, and seems to indicate that they're a midwestern (minn/wisc) provider. (Their shockwave-based site won't work in Firefox, it seems...I had to load it in Safari.) But I'm certainly not complaining!

first trip to the middle east!

It looks like I'm going to be taking my first trip to the Middle East next year. In early March, I'll be traveling to Dubai to speak at the 7th Woibex Women in Business Conference.

I've waited to say anything about this until I was relatively sure it was going to happen; now that they've put my photo and bio up on the site, however, I think it's safe.

The conference is being held at the spectacular Burj Al Arab hotel--I haven't gotten details yet, but I'm hoping that's where they'll be putting me up while I'm there.

When I was first contacted by the organizers, I was a little concerned about traveling to the Middle East, but from what I've read since then about Dubai, it's a remarkably progressive and technologically forward-looking country. Wired Magazine did a feature article on Dubai in July, and it really piqued my interest in the country--not just in its commitment to technology and business development, but also in the status of women there:

Dubai also stands in contrast to the Saudi kingdom in another Arab-world indicator, the role of women. Where Saudi women are still waiting for the right to drive, Dubai women play a pivotal role in society. "My success means success for other women here," says Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi, the CEO of Tejari, an Internet business-to-business procurement firm, noting that women form 65 percent of Internet City's workforce.

The fact that they're running a conference on women in business is a pretty strong indication of the importance and value of women in their culture and economy, and I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to talk with from the area about their experiences and their uses of technology.

painfully slow powerbook

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my 17" Powerbook was starting to slow down significantly. I was also seeing more unexpected application quits than usual--mostly with iChat, Mail, and Firefox (the three applications I use most often).

While I was in DC last week, I stopped in to the Clarendon Apple Store, and chatted with the "geniuses" there. They didn't strike as particularly knowledgeable, alas, and only suggested running Norton Disk Doctor and Speed Disk, which I did that night. NDD found a number of "major errors," which it fixed, and SD said the disk was severely fragmented, and spent 8 hours repairing that. When it was done, the computer seemed to run well again--for about four hours. Then it slowed back down.

After scouring the net for suggestions, I ran Disk Utility (it found no problems), updated the prebinding (which gave a number of "unable to prebind" errors for iPhoto, GarageBand, and other apps), ran all the periodic maintenance tasks, and used Preferential Treatment to check all the .plist files (no problems there). I'm running the most recent version of OS X (10.3.6) with all software updates installed, and Virex running. Running top in the Terminal doesn't seem to show any problematic processes eating up cycles.

But still no significant improvements.

So, I'm thinking the next step is to reinstall OS X. Are there other options I should try first? And if I do reinstall, what's the best way to go about it? I hate the idea of having to totally reinstall all my applications (there are a lot of them), but I'm concerned that if I just back them up, I may end up with the same problems when I copy them back.

Help! I want my reliable, responsive computer back!


Update: Thanks to jeremy hunsinger and Randall Kelly's suggestions, the problem is solved. It was Virex 7.5.1 that was the culprit. When I launched Activity Monitor and sorted processes by CPU usage, the Virex processes were clearly hogging cycles. I downloaded the Virex package from RIT again, and ran the uninstaller. Already everything's moving along at a snappy pace. Hallelujah!

"there's something big happening"

I'm taking a break from grading my students' web pages to read David Weinberger's ongoing coverage of the Harvard "Votes, Bits, and Bytes" conference. Wish I'd been at the session he wrote about this morning, organized by Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon.

Ethan says that we're here today to talk about blogs as bridges, borrowing Hoder's metaphor from yesterday (blogs as windows that give you insight into someone's world, blogs as cafes where people can talk together, and blogs as bridges). There's something big happening, Ethan says.

Indeed there is.

Omar from Iraq talks about the importance of blogging as a way of routing around propaganda. Then he talks about how the open comments from around the world on his blog helped his nephew "If I visited America a year and a half ago, I would have felt llike a stranger. This time I feel like I'm with friends, and that is the greatest gift I can think of."

This is how I feel, as well. From Norway to Australia, France to Japan, Brazil to South Africa...I have friends around the world now that I would never have had without this blog to facilitate connections. I can say without a flicker of doubt that my blog is the one technological tool that has most fundamentally changed my professional life.

making it look easy

Google's new "Suggest" interface is deceptively simple--hiding a significant amount of heavy lifting behind the scenes. Fascinating approach to search.

great site-building advice from 43 folders

Today's post on 43 Folders is targeted at sites for bands and musicians, but the advice is useful for a far wider range of sites. Given that this quarter I'm teaching a web design class to students who are likely to want to use Flash for everything, this snippet from the post is particularly relevant:

Use Flash like you would cilantro—sparingly and for a single high-impact effect. Nobody wants to eat a whole bowl of cilantro, and nobody wants an animated death march when they have a "passionate task" to complete. Also, build your pages to make it super-easy to link to anything. Use sub-page anchors, and clearly identify why they're there.

teaching my class about trackbacks

Today in class I'm showing my students how to use trackbacks to the class web site...

exorcise yourself

One of the nice things about being on the quarter system is that right now, when all my friends at semester schools are tearing their hair out with end-of-term stresses, I'm cruising through the first two weeks of a new quarter. That means I've got time to do catch up on some reading--and some blog wandering, which is always fun. Dori Smith pointed me to 43 Folders, a blog on time management and productivity that I'd heard good things about. They, in turn, sent me to Bloodletters - Hack Yourself, which is an excellent motivational essay. Here's an excerpt:

Find the demon.

Do you know what I'm talking about? It's the little voice in the back of your head that's always whispering, "You can't." You know the demon. You may think you hate the demon, but you don't. You love it. You let it own you. You do everything it says. Everytime there's something you want, you consult the demon first, to see if it will say, "You can't have that."

What you don't realize is that your demon doesn't know anything. It's an idiot. It's nothing but a parrot, repeating back to you anything negative that it's ever heard, anything that makes you hurt, makes you squirm. If a teacher once told you "You'll never accomplish anything," it was listening; it hoards words like that and repeats them back to you to watch you jump. It doesn't know what it's saying. It doesn't care.

Exorcise yourself.

The whole essay is great--and it's right on target for those of us in recovery for co-dependence. ("Stop assigning blame. This is the first step. Stop assigning blame and leave the past behind you.")

So, today? Today I'm working on exorcising myself. Seems like a good way to spend the day.

stupid mommy tricks

For those of you who are always so impressed by how well I manage all my various roles, here's some evidence that I don't always manage them all that well.

On Friday, Lane was diagnosed with a case of walking pneumonia, and the doctor prescribed a five-day course of antibiotics for him. He started them Friday, and today after brunch he needed to take his third dose. Gerald was out, the boys were fighting, and I'd just sent Lane upstairs after scolding him for whacking Alex with a plastic sword. I decided to take the pill upstairs rather than calling him back down, so I popped it out of the pack, grabbed a drink, and started to go up. But then Alex distracted me because he wanted ice for his foot, and somehow in the confusion I took the damn pill rather than carrying it upstairs. I realized mid-swallow what I was doing, but it was too late.

So now we're one pill short, and I'm going to have an upset stomach all afternoon (my digestive system doesn't take well to Zithromycin). And tomorrow I'm going to have to call the doctor's office, admit to my stupidity, and see if it's possible to get a prescription for just one pill (I have no idea if they even sell them singly, since this was a packaged set.)

I hope that makes those of you who envy my multitasking abilities feel a little better. :)


Update, Monday morning: I stopped by the pediatrician's office on the way into work and told them my tale of woe. After they stopped giggling, they gave me this. Problem solved.

holiday traditions

When I was a child, our family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas--and with both, it was the cultural rather than the religious aspects that we focused on. Now that I'm the grownup, I've instituted the same tradition in our home, and each year we have a christmas tree and a menorah, latkes and sugar cookies, holiday lights and holographic hanukkah glasses to view them.

We don't do it for the presents--each year we've given fewer and fewer. We do it for the sense of tradition, the warmth it brings to the house during a cold season, and the many enjoyable trappings that accompany both holidays.

I'm particularly fond of holiday music, and every December I dig out my extensive collection (it used to involved finding the CDs and/or it's just reloading the archived mp3s), and start playing it at home and in the office. I've got a pretty eclectic selection of tunes, and I'm particularly fond of the Starbucks holiday mixes. My absolute favorite is a 1998 mix called "Hi-Fidelity Holiday," which starts with a fabulous, barely-recognizable version of Jingle Bells by Esquivel. I've now hooked Weez on it, as well. Feliz Navidad, baby!)

Last night when I got home from a lovely dinner at Weez's house, Gerald was watching a PBS special featuring a holiday concert by the Blind Boys of Alabama. They were doing a rendition of Little Drummer Boy with one of their guests, Michael Franti. I can't remember the last time I was so moved by song, and I immediately purchased it on iTunes, and may also buy their fabulous rendition of Go Tell It On the Mountain featuring Tom Waits, and O Come All Ye Faithful with Me'Shell Ndegéocello. If you get a chance to see the special, I highly recommend it. Far better with the visuals.

This afternoon, we'll head out to Stokoe Farms, which is where we've been getting our trees since we moved to Rochester in 1997. There's a ritual associated with that, too, of course. We have to wander through the rows and rows of trees (usually the Fraser firs, but this year I'm thinking about maybe a Concolor) until one speaks to me. (You can roll your eyes at that...the kids certainly do!) Then Gerald cuts it down, the workers haul it back to the main barn and run it through the needle shaker and baling machines. While Gerald ties it onto the van, the boys and I enjoy the free hot chocolate and cookies, and they climb around in the straw-bale fort. Then it's back home to set up and decorate the tree, enjoy some hot chocolate and a fire at home, and maybe do a little early baking. (My favorite holiday recipe, from Gourmet Magazine, is for these absolutely amazing double chocolate walnut biscotti. They make wonderful gifts--if you can keep yourself from eating them before they're wrapped and given away!)

There's a lot to be said for holiday traditions, and even more to be said for focusing on holiday activities you do together as a family rather than the frantic gift acquisition and exchange process.

Happy holidays!

new resolve

For months now I've been avoiding scales, since I could tell by the growing pile of clothes that no longer fit me that I'd been putting on weight. Yesterday at the gym I braved the scale at last, and the news was every bit as bad as I feared. I've done a good job of taking care of my emotional and intellectual needs over the past year, but I've not been so good about the physical side.

So, I've got a pre-New Year's resolution--cardio every day, weights every other day, healthier food, and smaller portions. I really want to take the extra pounds off, if only to protect my wallet from the need for a new set of clothes.

I don't like diets, and I don't stick with them, so please don't tell me how South Beach or Atkins or some other diet plan is all I really need. What I really need is to be as in-shape and healthy as I was when I was working out regularly. It boosts my mood and my energy--diets don't do that. And I love food much too much to deprive myself of carbs, or butter, or any of the other things that make the world go round. (I can, and will, start being better about portion sizes, though.)

By my birthday in 2005 I would like to be at the same weight that I was at on my 40th birthday in 2002. The proof of that will be that I will once again be able to fit into the leather body suit from Northbound Leather that so entertained the denizens of #joiito. (Oh, calm down...they only saw the Northbound photo! I do have some modesty, y'know!)

word of the day: mondegreens

Ah, the fun of following a trail of links.

Anil had an interesting comment thread--he asked people to share what was in their Google search box (assuming that they had either the Google toolbar or Firefox running). One of his commenters ("hitormiss") wrote "'bathroom on the right' - I was trying to figure out if the concept of misheard lyrics had a specific name."

I was pretty sure that there was a word misheard lyrics, but I didn't know what it was. So I typed "misheard lyrics" into Google, and followed one of the first links to, which collects many misheard lyrics. They, in turn, had an FAQ that linked to an SFGate column by Jon Carroll entitled "Mondegreens Ripped My Flesh." It's wonderful. Highly recommend for laugh-out-loud reading (in other words, don't read this during class, or a staff meeting, or anywhere else where muffled giggles might get you in trouble).

new phone!

v551.jpgSo, after my phone was stolen, I found myself in a need of a new one. I went to the Cingular store, where I discovered that they no longer sell the v400 that I'd been using. However, the phone that they offered in its place, the v551, turns out to be so much better for me than the v400, so it all worked out for the best.

The two major advantages of the v551 over the v400 are Bluetooth and AIM--both of which I really wished for on the v400. It also seems to take better quality photos, as evidenced by the sunset shot I got out my office window today. And it even has video! Haven't tried it yet, but it might be fun to use occasionally.

The downsides? Not too many. The v400 came with Bejeweled and Prince of Persia, but the v551 has only the demo version of Bejeweled. My kids really liked Prince of Persia, so that's disappointing.

More importantly, I seem to be having some trouble with battery life--it drains much more quickly than the v400, with comparable usage. (Yes, I have Bluetooth turned off most of the time. No, I don't spend a lot of time talking on it. No, I haven't spent hours on IM.) With usage almost identical to what I had with the v400, I'm getting only a fraction of the battery life. It only takes about 24 hours before it's dangerously low, and that's with maybe 20 minutes at most of talking, one or two photos taken and sent via MMS, and a few minutes of AIM. I went by the store today and they put in a new battery...although now that I've done a little more reading, it may just be that I need to condition the battery I've got through a few power cycles before it will work to its full capacity.

Anybody had similar battery problems?

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