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Friday, April 23, 2010

Cool Stuff

Folks at MIT have engineered a virus to split water. The freed hydrogen can be used for fuel cells or to make liquid fuels for cars.

Mary Coffey, 94 years old, has less than a year to live. Her husband of 58 years proposed to her on the dance floor and took her waltzing every week. Her husband died 15 years ago, and she hasn't waltzed since, and she wants to have one more Tennessee Waltz before she goes, so the volunteers at her care center made it happen.

Adam Savage is awesome. You know him from Mythbusters, but he's also a way cool dad, and a humanist. His speech at Harvard is inspiring. I hope that someday, other folks do a little more to put their time on earth to good use rather than telling others how to live to be better after death. (See also: Not Cool)

The worlds most bedraggled, sodden kitten gets a good home, and a photo blog.

Cartoons save lives! A 7th grader saved her friend from choking on gum because she saw the Heimlich Maneuver on Sponge Bob Squarepants.

Also, Heinrich M. Jaeger explains the age old questions, "Why does shaking a can of coffee cause the larger grains to move to the surface?"

Not Cool

I do not understand how anyone continues to believe that the Catholic Church has all the answers. The record on pedophilia continues to get more horrifying. If the basic human drive is to have sex for reproduction, how can an entire religion preach that the only people who have the answers are the ones who deny basic human biology? Why why why do people continue to believe and give them money? Stop the insanity! Save your children!

DDT and other persistent organic pollutants were banned years ago, but their legacy carries on. In 23 of the 31 foods tested in a recent study, DDT (or DDE, the DDT metabolite) were present. That's not good. Your best bet to avoid them is to eat low-fat vegetarian foods, since DDT is lipophilic. On the other end of the spectrum, eating farmed salmon is like eating a toxic waste dump. Bleh!

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupting their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes." according to a senior Muslim cleric. Seriously? Argh!!! (On the upside, there's a Facebook campaign to test this theory, because why not flaunt your cleavage on some random Monday and see if we can cause a major earthquake? It will be amusing if, after months of earthquake news, Monday passes with no major events. Here's hoping.)

R.I.P Alicia Parlette

I was one of the readers who shared Alicia Parlette's journey into the world of cancer. I read the first column on a whim, and found myself glued to the journey. When I saw her photo on the cover of the Chronicle this morning, I knew the news couldn't be good. After living with cancer for five years, she passed away yesterday.

Years ago, she said,
"If I get through this, this story will help me remember the important moments along the way, the details, the dizzying emotions. And, in the worst of all circumstances, if I go through this life-changing ordeal and my body just wears out and I die, I will die a writer. The one thing I've always wanted to be."

May the Writer rest in peace.

Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz!!!

One of the tell-tale symptoms that I'm sick is that I don't crave coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Turns out, my allergies this week were not merely bad, but actually a cold. I didn't notice at first, but the net result was no coffee Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. This morning I felt much better and wanted coffee. My morning cuppa was made in its normal way, but after three days, the effect is significantly different and I'm Just So PERKY! Wheeeeeee!!!

I'm going to go teach a class now. Boingy boingy boingy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gaelic Storm is Coming!

Gaelic Storm always puts on a good show. There motto is, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." With songs that make you dance and songs that make you laugh, these guys are nonstop Irish goodness. I'm always up for a Gaelic Storm show, and they're coming back! I'm planning to fax in a ticket order tomorrow. Can't wait!

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Does My Garden Grow?

I've wanted my yard tamed for a very long time, but I just can't do it alone. Enter Erik. He really wants a veggie garden and a nice yard for a barbecue. So this past month has ended up being about tearing up the old yard, planting new things, and having fun doing it, even in the rain. What seems like drudgery and toil when you have to do it alone becomes fun when you've got a partner.

So, we bought and planted two fruit trees, a Fuji Apple and a Double Delight Nectarine.
Then we decided to turn over the back corner of the yard and plant veggies. So in goes an artichoke, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini.
veggie garden
Then we followed that up with an herb garden of basil, oregano, sage, and mint, plus a Serrano chili pepper. Finally, we finished the space between the fruit tress with three different varieties of blueberries, which will hopefully grow into beautiful blueberry bushes. On the other side of the yard, I planted a bunch of sunflowers with the fond hope they'll grow into happy little flowers to greet me when I pull in at night.

The yard looks downright civilized, and it's all set to produce fruits and veggies for this year and the future. Next up, we tidy up the leftover PVC pipe trash from a sprinkler system that never worked well and broke ages ago. Then we figure out how to fix the spigot next to the house so that it doesn't leak so much. Then we set up the new patio furniture and have a nice barbecue.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dreams Come True

With some adventures in cat integration in the early morning hours, I found myself cheerfully sleeping through the alarm this morning. This generally means dreams illustrated by the morning NPR stories. I found myself in a hallway, looking at photos of friends and family. When the photo was missing the person I was looking to see, it would sort of pan around until I found them. Soon I was in the photos, hugging and crying and cheering for the new Patient's Rights memorandum that Obama signed. Then I realized, wait, I can't be here. I have to go to work. Oh crap! I'm not awake!

And I woke up, but the memorandum is real. Situations like the Lisa Pond story should never happen again. Thank you Mr. Obama. It means so much.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I have two screen capture tools for the Mac - Grab and SnapNDrag. Neither are remotely close to the ease of use I get with SnagIt on Windows. To take a screen shot of something while I'm clicking on something in the target window, I could use the keyboard command: Command+Shift+W. It's the same in both Grab and SnapNDrag. Unfortunately, it's also the key command Firefox uses to Close Window. Y'know, like the window I'm trying to take a shot of? Yeah. Can I customize the keyboard shortcut like I can in SnagIt? Nope. Can I do a Timed screen shot? Sure, as long as I want everything to show rather than the single application I'm trying to shoot, and then I can crop that down to suit my needs.

Or I can just log into VMWare and do this in Windows where it will take half the time because there's an adequate tool for the task. Yeah, let's do that. I'll just delete the screen shots I already took, because even taking time out to write this post, it's still faster!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend Recap

It's been one seriously busy, totally awesome weekend. Worked late on Friday, but still made it to FNW for a bit. Saturday got up and did a load of laundry before heading to the annual Browncoat meetup at Little India in Redwood City. Lots of yummy food was consumed and saw some old friends. On our way home, we stopped at Summer Winds Nursery to contemplate a vegetable garden. As the temperature dropped, we piled a cart full of veggies and herbs and planting soil and fertilizer.

We ran home to drop it off, and then headed to Karen & Crystal's place for the Around the World in 80 Days dinner. With stops in England, France, Italy, India, South Asia, America, and back to England, and fabulous conversation around the table with nine good friends for five hours. It was fantastic. There are few things I enjoy more than Karen & Crystal's dinner parties. Something magical happens and there's just so much good food, good wine, and good laughter. Thank you ladies both once again for such a lovely meal.

Sunday, we slept to a leisurely hour, then rose to tackle the garden. So it was raining a bit, big deal. What's a little water? Well, okay, then it rained a lot. Erik turned all the soil in the back and I went through and pulled the weeds. In my rain slicker and cherry galoshes (thank you Elizabeth!), I was doing pretty well, but Erik was soaked. We got to the point where all the weeds were picked, then I suggested that maybe we should see how far our planting soil went so that we'd know how much more to buy. Herbs and one row of corn planted, Erik was soaked and freezing. It had started to turn our freshly turned soil into mud soup. So we went out to the hose and washed away the mud, then headed back in the house. We threw everything in the washer and headed to the shower to thaw out. About ten minutes later, there's me, flying out of the shower, stopping the washer. I was thinking in the shower that we should've taken a photo to post to Facebook of our soggy garden. Then I thought, I could've since my iPhone was in my slicker pocket... which is now in the WASHER!!!

I got my phone out of the pocket, sprung it from it's case, dried it off, then powered down. I turned the heat up to comfy and put the phone on the heater vent to dry the rest of the way. A couple hours later, I powered up the now warm and toasty phone and it worked. Whew! (With two months left on my AT&T contract, this was NOT the time to kill the iPhone.)

We wrapped up the weekend with dinner with my realtor celebrating Tim's new house at Pampas in Palo Alto. I've never been to Brazilian food before, but it can be summed up as "meat on swords." Lots and lots of meat. Even Erik is talking about going vegetarian for a week or so. Pork loin, lamb chop, leg of lamb, filet mignon, top sirloin, skirt steak, turkey wrapped in bacon, handmade linguica, chicken and (oddly) roasted pineapple. Oh lordy. There's a little card on the table to let them know when to please stop asking you if you'd like more meat. It's a very important card.

At the end of the evening, we find ourselves on the sofa, digesting and catching up on Supernatural and Flash Forward. Good weekend. Love my Cute Boy. Diligence is sexy.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Taming the Toyota Tempest

My Prius is the safest, most reliable car I've ever owned. The reports of "sudden acceleration" have been alternately disconcerting, yet not especially believable. Toyota has taken a lot of heat, culminating in the Jim Sikes San Diego runaway Prius scenario. For better or worse, the basic absurdity of that situation seems to have cooled the hysteria surrounding the Toyota recalls a bit.

But when you pause to look at the data surrounding the original reports, you find that most of the incidents are related to starting from a complete stop (e.g. pulling out of a parking spot, at a stop light or stop sign) and involved older drivers. So while there's wailing about, "Toyota should have Done Something sooner!!!" I suspect that like so many things, it's really just not quite that simple. Even if there is something wrong that goes beyond driver error, I don't think Toyota could've done much to jump on it sooner.

And also, if something goes wonky and your car won't slow down via normal means, put it in neutral.

And finally, my last tank of gas cost me $26 and took me over 400 miles. 48 miles to the gallon baby! Safe, reliable, and efficient.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Westboro Baptist Meets Gunn High School

When the Westboro Baptist Church came to town, I don't think they got the reception they expected. Fred Phelps leads a group that protests at funerals and waves signs saying "God Hates Fags." This is the group that tries my belief in freedom of speech. But better than forcing them to shut down is making them look the fools that they are. For some unclear reason, they decided to go make a protest at Gunn High School in Palo Alto. While a small group of haters showed up at Gunn, the school and the community turned out to celebrate the beauty and diversity and tolerance available here, that is available so few places on on earth. Here's how it was: