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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Science News

I really should retitle yesterday's post as "Perfume Rant" rather than science news, because that's how that turned out. Such is the way of it sometimes. I was actually mildly surprised by how many people agreed with me for such a big breadth of reasons. Today, rantiness generates from more science article sources!

First, the raw food nuts of the world can do it their way. I'm not buying it and the science doesn't back them up. Raw food isn't always inherently better. This is awesome, because stewed tomatoes are yummy. I eat a lot of veg, but I'm just not that big of a fan of raw veg. The occasional salad is lovely, but really, I'll cheerfully eat steamed broccoli, roasted zucchini, tomato-corn-onion-zucchini stew, or sauteed spinach any day of the week. The raw food thing just leaves me cold.

So then I wasn't going to post about this interesting little article on autism and a correlation to vinyl flooring. I just forwarded it to Justin since he works for a company that provides therapy for autistic children. He wrote back a little rant about diagnosis for autism going up and diagnosis for mental retardation going down, which got me to thinking about how people would react differently to being told their child is retarded versus autistic. It's an interesting social puzzle. Autistic currently has a big "not our fault" potential component to it that may make it easier for parents to hear. I figure that has a lot to do with folks overpushing the autism/vaccine fallacy. Beyond that, autism sounds somehow more manageable or fixable than mental retardation, though I know that's just weird perception in my head that has everything to do with social conditioning rather than actual reality. Interesting tic though. Anyway, so Justin IMs me and we're chatting and he says "And gmail is offering me ads on discount vinyl flooring. Relevant ad fail?" To which I say the ever so witty, "Heh. Awesome." And he follows with, "Now it's DIY vinyl flooring - would you feel worse about it if you installed your own autism maker?"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Science News!

Okay, my one simple wish for the world that is totally doable and wouldn't be much trouble at all would be that perfumes would be removed from products. There's a different perfume in my laundry detergent, my fabric softener, my dryer sheet, my soap, my shampoo, my conditioner, my facial cleanser, my face lotion, my hair gel, my hairspray. Heck, even some lipsticks are perfumed. Then, you can opt to put on a perfume of your choice.

I propose that we take away all except for that last one: if you want a perfume, then wear it. Otherwise, leave it out.

For myself, I'm conscientious about buying unscented laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, facial lotion, hairspray, and kitty litter, but some things are very challenging to find in an unscented variety.

But then there's this news nibble today. Turns out, "a fragrance used in many shampoos is a common allergen that may even cause eczema." And when they say "many," it's in 80% of shampoo. That's just not okay! I don't want it; I don't need it; just get it out of my stuff. But finding unscented shampoo is anything but easy and severely limits your options. So now I'm wondering if the stupid eczema that attacks my feet from time to time is a result of my shampoo, so I'll probably go on the hunt for fragrance-free shampoo, but it just annoys me that I have to go hunting, because those who don't want everything to smell like flowers or baby powder or anything else are clearly freaks who the normal world doesn't want to be bothered to accommodate. But really, it's not that I'm even allergic to all that much. I just don't want to smell April Fresh (TM). I like the smell of freshly scrubbed me, thankyouverymuch. And above all, if I'm going to be scented, I'd like to pick one for myself and have just that scent versus a competing cacophony of various perfumes in my daily life.

Not that I have an opinion on that subject or anything...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Baby Brigade!

There's a baby boom amongst my friends! Congratulations to Josh & Magenta, Monica, and Kat & Jordan, who have all welcomed newborns last 30 days.

74 Degrees and Sunny

There are few things about a very long week that cannot be improved by a beautiful day where you leave the office to join a friend for a nice lunch with fresh green foods. If all that is still insufficient, add gelato and it'll all be better. It's impossible not to appreciate the amazing beauty of where you live when you're getting showered with flower petals from blooming trees while the sun shines on your back on a gorgeous March afternoon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

After a month of nearly relentless rain and the past couple of days of chilly winds, the 10-day forecast says it's gorgeous 70 degree days for the next week. I headed out for a trip around the Clark Center stairwells and decided to retrace my steps for a little extra trip. The trees near Beckman are blooming with purple flowers. I reckon I'll be back tomorrow.

Eating Habits

And after my little beef binge of the past week, I'm going right back to cutting it out of my daily diet. Today's little news blip about "people who eat the most red meat daily (about four ounces) are about a third more likely to die over a given decade than those who eat the least (about 19 grams)." Four ounces? That's a quarter of a pound. When I sit down to actually eat something beefy, it's usually more than that, so we'll just go right back to skipping the big dead cow, m'kay? Yeah. Lunch today is a lovely pasta bake with spinach and broccoli made with the awesomeness that is Barilla Plus. This stuff has reinvented pasta for me from a high carb, low nutritive junk food into something that has the protein and fiber I need that just tastes like the junk food I love.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kevin is My Hero

Everyone who has to deal with Apple products should have their own personal Apple lifeline - an expert who has always used a Mac and knows the weird crap that they do and the bizarre tricks to get it to play nice. For me, that person is Kevin.

I call Kevin a couple of weeks ago and tell him the DVD player on my Mac doesn't believe there's a disk, but I know one is in there, so since there's no eject button on the thing and no pinhole to force eject, what do I do? Now, don't get me started on why there's no eject button. Let's just not go there okay? (The answer is clearly that Macs are just easier and just work. Gah!!!) Luckily, rather than defenestrating the computer, I call Kev. He says, "Hmm. Try this. That didn't work? Weird. Okay, try this. That worked? Okay, awesome. Bye!"

On Tuesday, my iPhone was stuck in shuffle mode for the music. I selected a playlist, and there's a Shuffle icon at the top. Clicking it only reshuffles the music again, and does not turn it on or off. This also isn't under the More section. It isn't in the iPhone settings either. I call Kevin, the last act of a desperate woman who is envisioning chaos as the dancers get shuffled out of the Gaelic Storm reel off to a jig without so much as a by your leave. Kevin says, "Okay, so go into the screen for a single song. Okay, there should be a shuffle icon on the right under the bullet list looking thing. There's not? Okay, tap the center of the screen once. It's there? Cool. Okay, bye!"

Now, I know, in theory, this is the job of the Apple Geniuses at the store, but they only work during business hours. Also since 880 isn't cool enough for an Apple store the entire length of the freeway, that's tricky. I'm unbelievably grateful for Kevin, but I'm still wondering how the heck Apple got a reputation for being so much easier. Tap the center of the screen to reveal more options? That's supposed to be intuitive? Really? Only if you're a longtime Apple user and know that they do these things. (On the flipside, I know a lot of really weird tricks for getting around in Windows. It's all in what you're used to.)

Now if I could just remember how to do that eject trick. It's doing it again and it's so intuitive I can't figure it out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


It's been a weird day. Someone I know was convicted of murder. I'm losing my faith in our justice system. The dead girl's father works for the DA's office and managed to create a case where none existed. The dead girl killed herself, and when it happened, that didn't surprise anyone, save for her parents who put her on Prozac for depression when she was 12. The dead girl was the first person I ever knew whose face really did "freeze that way," specifically in the frown that never left her. Her husband has spent the past two years in jail awaiting a "speedy trial" for a crime he didn't commit. Now he's going to spend the rest of his life in prison. I'm shaken to my core. I thought certain that this would all go away the minute it hit trial, but it didn't. They managed to paint him as a freak akin to Scott Peterson.

I shared my 21st birthday party with the dead girl. It wasn't an awesome party, and it was a weird window into her world. Later, her want of a cigarette caused a car crash that ended up sending four of my friends to the emergency room and left one with metal pins in her arm for life. I never forgave her for that. I was sad to hear a few years ago that she'd had kids, because if she could never find happiness, what misery would her children encounter? Now those kids are being raised by the same parents who screwed her up so badly. It all just makes me ill.

And now I'm trying to edit a document that has been revised and edited so many times since it was created November 2007. Once again, it's time to think about how to communicate about the migration off of our current calendar system. And I just can't quite do it justice tonight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day


I learned today that I have the power to say, "Hey, let's go do this thing," and a dozen people will follow me, even when I suggest lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant on St. Patrick's Day. Weird.

What I said was for people to be at Oakland City Center at noon for dancing. Dancing happened. I even got a surprise cameo hug from Flonk. The band enjoyed the dancers. The dancers enjoyed the band.

Next we headed to Le Cheval for the traditional post-dancing lunch. Someone asked, "So how did this become a St. Patrick's Day tradition." I said, "Um, well, this one time, Cynthia and I went to lunch here after the dancing, and it was yummy, so I suggested it the next year, and after that it was tradition." My traditions need not be lofty, especially if they involve yummy Singapore noodles.

Next we headed to Mills and danced like maniacs and taught Haymakers, Sweets of May, Fairy Reel, and Galway Reel. It was well received. I had a grand time. Many thanks to Rachel for setting this up.

Then out to Pacifica to dance the night away. I loved the dynamic. There was really good food, and we were hungry. But there was also good dance music. A song would come on and folks would look up. If there was enough eye contact, forks and spoons would drop and their would be dancing, and the other diners would be a little taken aback. Joreth was awesome and his corned beef was OMGAmazingly yummy. For those of you keeping track, yes, that's two beef dishes in a week. My colon may not be speaking to me tomorrow. We'll see. Anyhoo, dinner, yummy. Blackberry pie to die for! Oh that man is a danger to my waistline. But dancing - lots of dancing and burning calories to offset the yumminess.

Turns out, evidence of our madness was on Facebook before dessert:

Ceili dancing at its finest!

Monday, March 16, 2009

300+ Miles

I had a truly awesome weekend. There's a little bit of environmental guilt associated with it, but I'm just going to deal. I have a Prius for a reason, and it's not because I don't drive much. I know, I know, they say the number one thing you can personally do for the environment is to drive less. That is not the story of this weekend.

This weekend started Friday night, picking up Sherman and heading to the city to partake of the Tonga Room. After some hunting of parking, we arrived a little before 6pm to find a line stretching down the hall and around the corner, and a staff member saying, "This line is over an hour. If you're here for Happy Hour, you are not going to make it in in time. Right. So, a set of frantic phone calls and an email message later (hooray for the iPhone!!!), I had successfully managed to abort the mission and redirected all parties to Forbidden Island, which, well, Melissa took good care of us and we enjoyed our four hours there far more than we could've at the Tonga Room. The official mission of ensuring that Arielle had a truly fabulous time was well achieved. Jeff has magic fingers that are indefatigable. Melissa's new drink, the Limey, is awesome - vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, and champagne. It's light and refreshing. I finally managed to connect Paul and Wendy, who by all rights should've known one another years ago, but managed to stay 2 degrees apart through some bizarre quirk of fate.

Stayed the night with Auntie and Sherman and kept Arielle for good measure. We opted to be carpool ninjas and get her home and showered and changed and head to Little India for the Browncoat lunch (with her roomie Gayle in tow). Yummy Indian food and good company was had. Arielle and I left and headed to Dublin for Molly's Revenge. They were awesome once again and dancing was good once we had enough dancers.

Back to the car to head to Davis where a Cute Boy was making me a steak dinner. I don't really eat beef. I gave it up back in the 90's for environmental and health reasons, but about once a year I treat myself to a really good steak. This was that day, and it was a Really Good Steak, with broccoli. Skiing and dancing led to opting to crash early rather than going out.

Up in the morning for chocolate croissants and super yummy bacon before heading to Berkeley for In the Next Room. Good things had been said of the show on several occasions and Gabe and Pfieffer said that one of the actresses reminded them of me, so I figured, what the heck; let's go!

After that, down to San Jose for dinner and a change of clothes before heading to the Lavendrome for the oddest themed party I've been to in ages: Rubik's Cube. You come dressed in many colors of the cube, and try to get solved by swapping clothes. I had been in the house less than five minutes before I'd been stripped out of my blue shirt and green sweater and dressed in a red sweater, red scarf, red hat, and sent on my merry way. Before the end of the night I managed to try an orange outfit (to much acclaim), a green outfit (which was good for dancing), a blue dress (that looked fabulous on nearly everyone), and a yellow outfit (with a lovely yellow dress Anne wore on a cruise). Dancing and merriment rounded out the weekend, in a cube-shaped way.

On the way to work this morning, I realized that I was down to two pips on the gas tank, and I'd filled up on Saturday morning. There was a lot of driving this weekend, but not a single leg of it wasn't worth it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

See's Candy

I was in a meeting earlier this week where we were talking to another university that implemented our voice messaging product three years before us. They've written a script to automatically update the 400+ individual web pages in the system that are in no way content managed and don't even have a cascading style sheet. We asked if there was any way we could get a copy of it, as in could we buy that from you? The answer was basically, "Um, let me double check with my boss, but I think I can just share that with you." The topic of chocolate as payment came up and we discussed See's Candy and how you can't really get it east of the Mississippi. By the end of the phone call, we were ready to ship a truckload of See's Candy to Minnesota, because their lessons learned are going to short-circuit our learning curve by like... three years.

I've had other candy makers over the years, but I have to say, See's is still my favorite. Maybe it's just nostalgia. Maybe it's just what I'm used to. But I'll take See's over Godiva any day of the year.

I got a copy of the guide to all See's Candy. My official favorite one is the Dark (vanilla) Buttercream. Sure, the Dark Bordeaux is fabulous, and I'll never turn down a Scotchmallow, but my very favorite of the moment is that glorious blend of dark chocolate and vanilla cream. Yum.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

iPhone Killer App

Okay, so the iPhone has been great. In general, about the only thing that bugs me about it on a day-to-day basis is its short battery life, but I've taken to charging it during the day at the office and that works into my daily routine pretty successfully. Overall, I'm happy with it.

But then, recently, I utterly fell in love with it. I've got a lot of apps downloaded on my phone, but nothing has been so utterly fabulous as the Public Radio Tuner.

I don't know about you, but getting radio signal in my house has never been easy. The other day, I was cooking in the kitchen, listening to KQED on my iPhone speaker. No reception problems there! I went to Target a week or so ago, and on the way there I was listening to Says You!. Before getting out of the car, I switched to the Public Radio Tuner on my iPhone and wandered through Target with my headphones and didn't miss a question in the game. Tonight at my desk, I had a bit of mind-numbing sorting through email to do to find a couple of messages I should've filed better when I got them. The whole thing is far less painful when you're listening to Marketplace while you do it.

So yeah, the Traffic Info app is cool. Aurora Feint is fun when you're bored. Gas Bag has found me a lot of cheap gas. But the Public Radio Tuner? This is love.

Monday, March 09, 2009

DST: 1, Ammy: 0

No ceili for me tonight. I have this fantasy about going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sting Swing

The PEERS ball on Saturday was a hoot. Lee is a showman, in the tradition of Barnum. The Nails were awesome. And The Sting stuff actually worked. We had a great time.

Cathleen had originally asked me to play Loretta, but she's not actually in any of the scenes we were doing. In fact, there's the Eileen Brennan character, and pretty much no other women at all. Well, except in a bunch of the stills, there's a cigarette girl.

So I reckon she's pretty much one of the only women in on the con. And heck, I just happened to recently get a dress remarkably like that one. Add a Cigarette and Candy box and voila - instant costume.

photo by David Bedno

Edit: Anthony also caught a cute photo

So yeah, I carried that around for a bit, and two folks absolutely insisted on buying candy from me, which wasn't really the plan, but sure, what else am I going to do with it? So, I cheerfully sold it for cost. After a bit, I stowed it in the kitchen so I could do more dancing. Wheeeeeee!

This American Life - LIVE

Rarely do I read a blurb for something that taps into so many of my geek streaks at once. This American Life is doing a live show and broadcasting to movie theaters around the country. Many of the usual suspects from TAL - Ira Glass, Starlee Kine, and David Rakoff, but also Dan Savage and Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon!!!

Anyone want to join me? I'm buying tickets for the show at AMC Cupertino Square at 8pm and thinking dinner beforehand, probably at Fresh Choice there in the mall.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Nag Nag Nag...

Getting others to read your review copy is always a challenge. Today, I hadn’t heard back from anyone on the 17 seconds of text (when read aloud) that I sent regarding the voicemail cutover. Turns out, dropping that message into people voice mailbox will be tricky for the 350 mailboxes in the pilot group, but no one mentioned that in the 3 days that elapsed since I sent the initial message and today’s meeting. So then they asked me to do an email instead and asked when I could have it ready to send. That’s when I scolded them. I can easily have review copy out to you before I leave today, I says, but folks have to give me feedback and either bless it or suggest revisions before I can go forward, so it’s up to you guys. Then I realized what I’d just said. D’oh.

On the plus side, I’ve already had five responses to my newsletter article and two responses to my draft email message. I only sent the draft email out 20 minutes ago. I feel bad about the smack down, but man, the results are awesome!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Done - We Have a Cult!

Really, just sitting here seething about the dork who went an added a bunch of poorly worded, hyper-bulleted slides to my otherwise lovely Cisco VOIP presentation that I thought was done, but now I get to wait for it to print out so that I can do a side-by-side comparison to figure out everywhere he touched my stuff so that I can fix it, because that's just awesome at 6:30. So while I'm waiting for the printer to warm up, I flip over to LJ and catch this post about The Cult of Done from my BoingBoing feed.
1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.

You have no idea how much I love done. Well, okay, a few people do. But not many. I LOVE done. And this guy messed with my done and is keeping me late at work because of it. So yeah, I'm going to go compare the two documents, make edits, and reprint. And then, oh yes, I'll be done. And I'll know I have a people. People who also like done. Not like the jackass who sent me a revision after 5pm for something I'm teaching tomorrow. He can go to hell.


And then things bubbled to the surface, like a timer in a turkey popping up in the oven.

We were supposed to move from our Oracle Calendar system to the Zimbra Calendar last summer. Some critical fixes and enhancements prevented this. We went forward and converted email anyway, and held our breath. It's amazing that the campus held its breath for this long, but from 3 different angles in the past hour, I've gotten blasted by the exhale. And all I can say is, "Wait. Patience. Just 2 weeks until we have the release we need. Just 1 month until we've tested that. Thirty days from now. Just hold your breath for another 30 days. Please. I know its hard." But I can't do that really. I suspect work is about to get... interesting.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Hit and Miss Weekend

Hit: Made tacos for dinner for Alex and Sherman and Erik on Friday night. They came out yummy, just like mom used to make. It was so nice to have some homemade tacos without tons of leftovers. Making them for one is not convenient, so it's been... months... since there were tacos at home.

Hit: Auntie found a super-cute cherry shirt for me. It screamed my name at her in the store. Good of it to do that, because it's totally adorable.

Miss: Tried to go to Forbidden Island to lounge about and sip a tiki drink, but it was so busy there that there was no room to sit and not really any room to stand. So, we headed back for plan B.

Hit: After weighing several options, plan B became "go to bed early." This was an awesome plan.

Hit: Breakfast at Julie's with Alex's Mom and Yo. We sent left Alex to go bridal shopping with the moms while Sherman, Erik, and I headed to Wondercon.

Miss: West Oakland BART had no parking. We gave up and drove into the city.

Hit: Buying tickets in advance to Wondercon is the Right Answer. No lines, no fuss. Just walk in and get a badge and a bag and start the tour.

Miss: Wondercon was very crowded. We missed getting to meet Felicia Day at noon because the line was too long. On the plus side, found the Browncoats and *saw* Felicia Day. She is totally cuter in person.

Hit: Saw the Alien Trespass panel. This looks totally fun. Saw the Star Trek panel. This looks like an epic summer blockbuster. Saw the panel on Up. This looks adorable.

Hit: Stopped at Chevy's for an early dinner. There was only a 10 minute wait for a table.

Miss: Sadly, it took 30 minutes to get a glass of water. Service improved a bit after that, but still wasn't stellar. Food was tasty though.

Hit: Headed to the Gaskell Ball in my lovely new dress. Oh yeah it was a hit. Greg caught a good photo.

Hit: Went for dim sum with Alex, Sherman, Mike and Beth. It was crazy yummy.

Miss: Didn't reach Cyn so I assumed she was busy with her Moms group and couldn't sew today. Turns out she just didn't get my message. D'oh.

Hit: I'd done some comparison shopping on mattress toppers last week and decided the one at Target was the one I wanted, but wanted to wait for a coupon. Got a coupon in my mail and swung by and found it on sale for 20% off. Now my slightly too firm bed is just perfect. The cats concur.

Hit: The last of my Port Salut cheese was just starting to have a hint of mold so I was forced to have yummy mac and cheese with broccoli for dinner. Also finished making soup and baked pasta for the week.

Net result: It was an awfully nice weekend. I'm going to go sleep in my cushy bed now.