Thursday, December 29, 2005

Icons in the Gimp

I've been trying to create an icon in the gimp. Basically, you create an image, size it to 32X32 pixels, then save it as a .ico file. I could never get my icons to come out right, they always looked messed up.

The solution? give up trying to paste in a cool image and just draw it from scratch. That worked beautifully. I think the problem has something to do with palates, but I don't care enough about it to research it now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Classics that won't leave you Depressed

I remember from my high school days that most of the literary classics they made us read were really depressing. Here's a few classics that are happy / not totally depressing. (No guarantees anything is spelled correctly)
  • A Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare
  • A Mid Summer's Night Dream, Shakespeare
  • The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare
  • (Basically any comedy by Shakespeare)
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • O Pioneers, Willa Cather
  • Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyesky
  • The Inferno, Dante
  • Cantebury Tales, Chaucer
  • Silas Marner, George Elliot
As you can see, the list is short. If you have any to recommend, let me know.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lessons Learned from Indian Corn

I tried growing some Indian Corn that my dad gave me this year. Here are some things I've learned:
  • End of July is way too late to plant corn in Utah
  • Indian corn grows two ears per plant
  • I got about 1/4 corn flour per plant (probably would have gotten more if the ears were mature)
  • Don't dry corn ears on the stalks if you've picked the stalks.
  • Corn ears take forever to dry (about 2-3 weeks).
  • Corn dries faster if it isn't on the cob.
  • Grinding corn that isn't all the way dry is an exercise in futility.
  • Grinding corn that is dry is easy, much easier than grinding wheat.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cancel that

This is more of a rant, but this is really bugging me.

Last Tuesday, I ordered a Furby from A little while later, I though I found a better price else where, so I canceled the order (time elapsed about 5 min.). Wal-mart did warn that if the item was packed for shipping, they might not be able to cancel it. I later wished I hadn't canceled the order because the better price I thought I saw was exactly the same. Now, since I wasn't sure if the order had canceled, I waited a few days. Since I didn't see any change in the order status, I figured the order was canceling. Then I ordered it from Toys R Then I got a warning from Wal-mart saying my item's shipment was delayed because it was out of stock and I could cancel if I wanted. Then on Sunday it shipped.

This drove me up the wall. Now I have two Furbies coming. What bothered me was that I canceled a few minutes after the order; they didn't have furbies in stock for at least two days, so it isn't like they had it packaged. They were just too lazy to cancel it. At least with Wal-mart I can return it to the store. (Which is what they so helpfully said in the email. Oh well, I go to Wal-mart a lot so no big deal.) did the same thing to me last year. I pre-ordered a book I wanted. On the day it was supposed to be released, had it out of stock and they wouldn't let me cancel. It isn't like Amazon had it in a box ready to go, they didn't have any at all. It took them a week to ship it. I think when an item is out of stock, you should let your customers cancel the order.

I suppose from the retailers' point of view it makes good business sense. If they won't let me cancel then they will get my money. They are probably banking that I'll just wait for it and keep the item rather than return it. And they are probably right (except for the Furby, nobody needs two furbies). But they reduce future sales. I now know that Wal-mart's cancel button is just for show. And I will never pre-order a book on Amazon again unless it is something like Harry Potter where they swear up and down you will get it on the release day.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My Future Gardening Software II

Well, I think my gardening game is about half to three-quarters of the way done with the real coding. I can load and save a garden (inelegantly, but it works), take pictures of the garden, plant flowers in the garden, and various native wildlife will come and visit the garden. I think it's cool. I ended up using GameMaker, some free software for quick and lazy game development. It's a great program and can do as much as you need it to. I ended up registering it because it was so useful.

I still need to come up with a clever name for the program, put together all the acknowledgements for the images and sounds I used, create some more flowers, and basically polish it.

I have great fun making little gardens with it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My future virtual gardening software

Warning: this is a thinking out loud post, so it probably won't make much sense

I'm thinking about writing a virtual gardening program, mostly to keep up on my programming skills. (I've been neglecting them woefully.) I'm still trying to figure out what I want.
  • I want to be able to plant plants, see them grow over time, maybe see the seasons change.
  • I want to see birds, bees, and butterflies arrive.
  • I want to be able to water my plants, but I don't want to HAVE to water the plants.
  • I think a 3-d program would be cool, but I don't want to have to support all the modeling, maybe I'll stick with 2-d, kind of cartoony appearance. What would be cool is if I could export to a format that one of the on-line 3D gardens programs use (like, then I could walk around it if I wanted to.
  • Grow vegies, maybe be able to pick the fruit and the flowers.
  • I'd like the option to let the plants seed down, maybe with lame models of how they do that.
  • I'd also like the option to speed up or slow down time. Basically from "one day is one day" to "one day = one second". Maybe a pause on this day.
  • I'd like to be able to save the garden and load the garden.
  • Also maybe take screen shots
  • put in rocks, fountains, maybe a bench (the disadvantage is I have to draw all these things, ack!)
  • It'd be cool if the plants would sway in the breeze, but I don't know if I'm that dedicated to the graphics.
  • maybe some nice peaceful nature sounds (birds, crickets, bees, wind).
  • I actually really like that I can grow plants in Dogz 4. That's my favorite part of the program. I'll probably end up doing something like that.
I think actually doing all that would take forever. I think I'll start with putting a few plants on the screen and watching them "grow".

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Recipe: Chocolate Crazy Cake

I thought I'd post this recipe because it is a good cake recipe that is milk-free for the lactose intolerant and also egg-free (great if you're allergic or if you're out of eggs). The texture is moist, sort of like a bunt cake. I got this recipe out of a cookbook my ward put out.

Chocolate Crazy Cake

3 c flour
2 c sugar
6 T cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 T vinegar
2 c. cold water

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, soda. Place in ungreased 9X13 pan. Make 3 wells in dry ingredients. Pour equally in each well oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Pour water over everything. Mix all the ingredients well with a fork. Bake at 350 for 30 to 50 minutes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Easy Chocolate Mint Cookies Recipe

1 chocolate cake mix
2 eggs
3/4 cup shortening
6 oz chocolate chips (half a bag)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Mix together. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 - 12 minutes, until cookies look slightly under done. Then let finish baking on cookie sheet. These cookies will be slightly crunchy. If you prefer soft cookies, after the cookies have cooled, put them in a plastic bag with a slice of bread overnight, and they will get nice and soft.

Note: if you use a cookie scoop, you will want to break the dough balls in half so they won't take too long to cook. Also, cookies baked with Crisco seem to take longer than cookies using a generic brand.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cold Remedies 2 - Hot Lemon Lime drink

When ever I feel a sore throat coming on, I drink this drink. I think it tastes great and does a good job cutting through the gunk at the back of my throat. The steam from the cup feels good and it warms me up.

1 c. hot water
2 T. Lemon juice
1 T. Lime juice
2 T. sugar

Mix together and drink.

If you like honey, you can try substituting honey for the sugar. (I don't like honey, so I don't).

My other cold remedy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pictures of Scamps my Playful Pup

Here are some pictures I took of Scamps My Playful Pup.

Scamps - what comes in the package.

Scamps - Side view

side view

Scamps - back view

side view

Scamps - bottom view

side view

Scamps - at attention

Here is a movie I made of me giving Scamps some commands. (File is about 600kb). I was about a foot and a half away. I just pointed the camera and gave the commands. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it did.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Review: Fur Real Scamps my playful pup

Yesterday my husband opened Scamps for me to test him out before Christmas and make sure he works. In the 5 minutes I played with Scamps, I had a good impression. My husband wasn't quite as impressed, but it isn't his Christmas present :)

Scamps responded to my commands about half the time (same as most real dogs). It seems to go through moods, where for a while it will obey commands then it decides it wants to play or beg for a treat. A quiet room really is important. It really didn't respond well when my husband tried to give commands and my daughter repeated everything he said. There is a definite mechanical sound when Scamps moves, but I didn't expect anything else. The dog responded to sit, down, drop it, good dog, hey puppy, wanna treat, and go to sleep.

Touch-wise, Scamps is fun to pet, but not really a dog to cuddle. The fur sheds pretty bad too, so I'll brush it after I get it.

My daughter and son both loved it. Although, my 15 month old wanted to carry him around by the ear. (Good thing Scamps is fake.) He did seem to respond well to my daughter's voice. I suspect the voice chip they used is skewed towards a child's voice. My son also really liked the fake bone that came with Scamp. He sat outside the door and screamed for several minutes after we put Scamps away.

I can't wait for Christmas :)

Pictures of Scamp, including a movie are here.

My comparision with other fake dogs is here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Chocolate Mint Brownie Cookies

(This recipe is based on this one:

I tried this recipe out yesterday. It tasted great, the cookies were moist and chewy like a brownie and had a great mint flavor. I ended up using 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract because the dough wasn't minty enough for me. Taste the dough after the 1/4 teaspoon and see if you think it needs more.

1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (to taste)
2 eggs
3/4 chopped nuts (optional)
36 cookies Change size or US/metric

35 minutes 25 mins prep

1. Place 3/4 c. chips in clean, dry microwavable bowl. Heat on high for 1 minute then in 30 second increments until chips begin to melt. (It took me 1 minute.)
2. When chips begin to melt stir until smooth.
3. Cool to room temperature.
4. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
5. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, peppermint, and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy.
6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
7. Beat in melted chocolate.
8. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
9. Stir in remaining chips and if desired, nuts.
10. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons on to ungreased baking sheets.
11. Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven for 8 to 12 minutes or until sides are set but centers are still soft. (It took me 9 minutes in my oven)
12. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely.

Updated 12/3/05
Andes Mint variation
This variation makes the cookies look frosted
Follow recipe above, but omit peppermint extract and chocolate chips. Right as the cookies come out of the oven, place an Andes Mint on top. Wait a few seconds, then swirl the melted mint around with a spoon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Comparative Review of Fake Dogs

For Christmas, I got myself Hasbro's Fur Real Scamps my playful pup. It seems like a fun idea, a voice activated dog. When my husband saw it, he asked if it was for me or my daughter. For me of course, although I'll share. My daughter is really too young for it. Ideally, I wanted a fake dog to hold in my lap and pet, that would be happy when I petted it and "hear" when I talked to it oh, and would be soft and fluffy. Basically, that toy doesn't exist, so I got Scamps.

Anyway, in deciding which fake dog I wanted there were a couple of choices: One of the Fur Real dogs, Cold Nose Kisses Amazing Puppies, and Rescue Pets. Here's what I discovered. This is based on what I could glean from looking at them in the store and from websites. I don't actually own any of them except for Scamps, and I've only played with Scamps for about 5 minutes to make sure he works. If you know more and I'm wrong let me know and I'll correct it. (Most of the manufacturers' websites have the commercials so you can see what the dogs are supposed to do. Also check out for user reviews.)

Fur Real's newborn pup ($12)
What they do: Basically you pet them and they whimper, blink at you, and go back to sleep.
Body: fake fur over hard plastic
Manufacturer website:
Size: These pups are tiny. Approximately the size of beanie babies.
Impressions: If they were softer, I might be more tempted. You can also get a box with 2 puppies in it for $20.

Fur Real's Smoochie ($20)
What they do: Basically you touch it's nose and it's tongue moves and kisses you
Body: fake fur over hard plastic
Manufacturer website:
Size: small, about the size of a 5 lb dog.
Impressions: very cute. I didn't see any mention that the dog responds when you pet it, which was a big point with me. This model appears to be discontinued. Might find it on clearance though.

Fur Real's Scamps: my playful pup ($40)
What they do: Voice activated. As you play with it more you can "teach" it tricks, basically you say the name of the trick three times and it learns it. You can't teach it a trick that wasn't pre-programmed. It does respond to petting. It barks and can sit, and mouth its toy rope and bone. (It doesn't walk)
Manufacturer website:
Voice recognition manufacturer:
Size: about the size of a real larger breed puppy
Impressions: very cute, very expensive. Originally I wanted the black and white border collie looking one. I got the samoyd looking one. (I like "perky" ears, so the golden was out.) Look at them closely in the box to make sure the face is put together well and looks cute. Under the fur you can see the body line where the legs join. This is true on the 2 models I looked at closely, especially bad on the border collie one. (I suspect this depends on the dog, so look through them if you have a choice). I've read some of the dogs don't learn, so I'm tempted to try out my dog early and see if it does because I have a suspicion it might be a defect of the specific dog. Read the instruction manual first. I haven't been this excited for Christmas since I was about 12.
Updated (11/15/05): See my short review based on actually playing with it here.
Pictures of Scamps, including a movie are here.

Cold Nose Friends ($25)
What they do: Basically you squeeze it's paw and it turns on. As you pet it, it barks more and its nose gets cold. It also wags its tail and moves its head.
Body: plush fur. I'm not sure if the body itself is soft since the package was completely enclosed, so I couldn't touch it.
Manufacturer website:
Size: small, the size you'd expect a non moving stuffed dog to be.
Impressions: very cute. Different breeds. These seem to be sold out online, but they are still available at stores (as of 11/07/05). In all honesty, this was my runner up choice. The main thing that held me back was that I couldn't touch the dog through the packaging to see what it was like.

Rescue Pets ($20)
What they do: They whimper and wag their tails. Motion sensitive, so they can tell when you are petting them.
Body: plush, soft bodies.
Manufacturer website:
Size: small, about the size you'd expect a stuffed dog to be
Impressions: I couldn't decide if the big eyes were cute or really disturbing. When my pre-school age daughter heard it whimpering, she wanted to cuddle it and make it happy. As far as I can tell, it only whimpers and doesn't make any happy sounds. Go to the website and listen to the sounds the dogs make, because they are identical to the ones the toy makes. I'd prefer if it whimpered then made happy sounds as you petted it. Also, I'm not sure if there is an off switch. If you are shopping for a young child, this is probably your best bet.

Other kinds
Pound Puppies Here Puppy Puppy - size of a pound puppy. I wanted a more realistic looking dog, so these didn't interest me. It comes when you clap and follows its red leash so you can "walk" it. Be aware that almost all dogs that "walk" have wheels on the bottom. Web site:

Pound Puppies Pick Me Up - size of a pound puppy, whimpers, barks and moves its head. I wasn't too interested. See above.

(If you don't need a dog just an animated animal, the Luv Cubs are on sale for about $15 at Toys R Us, that's really good)

Vote for Who? Why local elections are annoying

Today is election day and up for election here in Orem, UT is the mayor's seat and three city council seats. Here's my beef with local elections: it is almost impossible to find out anything about the candidates. In theory, local elections are very important because you are choosing the people who will most directly affect your life, what parks get built, where streetlights go in, etc. But it is hard to find out anything about them without directly contacting the candidates. Being an introvert, I'm very unlikely to do that even in the name of doing my duty. They did have a total of 3 meet the candidate nights, but it is hard to find out when those are going on. The newspaper runs a short article about the candidates, so I found out their occupations and a 2 sentence quote and that is what I based my decision on.

Now in the current race, one of the mayoral candidates and one of the city council members had websites. It was enough for me to decide I didn't like the current mayor due to some of the things he listed as accomplishments and I considered unfortunate events. It was also enough to decide that I did like the city council member.

In this day and age of blogs and low cost web hosting, It would be nice if candidates created a free blog, post a few of his or her views, and let the city/county election commission know where it is. It seems like the candidates are wasting a great chance to let people know what they stand for.

Why I don't C.A.R.E.

Today is election day. One of the big items on the ballot (ok, one of the few items on the ballot) here in Orem, is a request to enact the ZAP tax. To my understanding, the ZAP tax was approved by the state legislature to allow cities to enact a sales tax to support zoos, museums, parks, and the arts. So Orem wants to enact the tax, it's a .01% increase. It was originally packaged as RAP and now as CARE.

I'm opposed. Here's the reason. If the money were going for parks, bike trails, and a children's museum, I'd be much more likely to vote for it. However, there is the looming specter of a new cultural arts center, theater groups, and ballet.

The cultural arts is just one area where I have no interest. I will attend a play or concert basically only if a friend invites me or if someone I know is in it. From what I've seen on the news in other cities (this is just my impression and not based on any facts), cultural arts centers are a major money sink. Construction projects like to go over budget and then what are we going to do with the thing? The fact is there are many theaters with in an hour's drive of Orem, and even some theaters in Orem. Why we need more I don't know. There are plenty of concerts available for free and for fee in Salt Lake City and at BYU.

Of course, some people will argue that all the arguments I just made would equally apply to parks and museums. Honestly, the main difference is that I would use parks and museums and enjoy having them close by. I've been wanting a low cost museum in Orem for quite a while, somewhere to take the kids (besides the mall) that is warm and dry in the winter. Plays/dances/concerts only start at certain times and usually would prefer you leave your kids at home. Hmm... if they built a children's museum with an attached theater, they might get me :)

The other reason I oppose the tax is there is a good possibility there will be an upcoming tax to support road improvements which are obviously needed. I'm not sure how many taxes I want to deal with.

Update: CARE passed. Oh well, maybe we'll get some good bike trails and a children's museum out of it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Review: Mr Clean Magic Eraser

Product: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
What it is: a sponge that erases dirt and crayon
Where can I get it: I got it at Wal-mart and my friend got hers at Home Depot
Cost: around $2.00 for 2
Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of five, tentative)

My friend told me about the magic eraser and said it was the only product she knew of that got crayon off walls. She wetted one down, gave it to her 3 year olds and had them clean up their own mess. I don't have much crayon on my walls, but it did get marker off my cheap wooden table. It also got scuff marks off my walls and doors, and cleaned the outside of my refrigerator easily (I have one of those textured fridges, so stuff gets caught in the cracks). The local news station's customer protection guy tried it out and said it worked as advertised.

The one thing it doesn't seem to do well is grease. I get these grease spots on my wall, and it did nothing for them, but neither does anything else I've tried, so I'm not too upset. It also doesn't do well if the dirt is thick (thick as in, I really should scrape this off).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Who's that in that Picture

I received an email today in a mailing list I subscribe to talking about riya. It is a service that automatically identifies who is in pictures on your hard drive. It also appears to do some text recognition of words in pictures. This would be so cool, especially with family history photos. Imagine identifying who you know then having the program find them in other family history pictures that aren't labeled, or pictures held by other relatives.

There are two things I would worry about with it 1) keeping my information private. Yes I have information about myself posted on blogs, websites, and other internet venues, but I am careful to be vague about my location. The problem comes in with photos. Suppose I appear in someone else's photos. They don't know who I am. This program, because a friend identifies me by name, identifies me. Potentially a stalker could track me down that way. 2) keeping my children's info private. Someone else who isn't as picky, posts pictures of their kids with my kid identified (say from a school party). Now other pictures where my child appears would be identified perhaps with enough surroundings to identify where my child goes to school.

Now granted, these are only issues assuming someone is willing to spend a lot of time looking for my child in specific, but there are people who deal with issues like that.

I would feel OK using this service if I could control who could see the people I have identified. I wouldn't have a problem releasing pictures of people long dead and for family history I think that would be cool. I think I'll sign up and see if my security concerns are addressed.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cold Remedies

In honor of my first major cold of autumn, here is my dad's nose drop recipe. This is a super-powered version of the saline spray you get at the drug store. It works great to stop a runny nose. My mother and father both swear that if you start with the drops several times a day as soon as you notice symptoms, the cold will be a lot milder and a lot shorter. Another remedy here.

Nose drops:
1/2 c boiled water
1/8 tsp. salt
2 drops regular chlorine bleach (not the super concentrated kind or the scented kind, just regular old bleach)

mix ingredients together and put into saline nosedrop bottle you can get from the store. Solution will smell like a swimming pool.

  • To get the top off the saline drop bottle, I use needle nose pliers, rock the dropper part back and forth, and pull really hard.
  • optimally, each member of the family should have their own bottle, don't share!
  • To use, tilt your head back and put drops down each side of your nose. Try and get the solution into all four sinuses. Some will run down your throat, this is normal.
  • If your head hurts worse after using these, you might want to use it again. What happens is the gunk in your sinuses gets loosened and moves around. Using it again will help wash it out.
  • Right before bed, put drops in twice. Put in the drops, blow your nose, and wait 5 minutes. Then put the drops in again and let them sit there as long as you can. (This is really good for stopping the flow of gunk long enough to fall asleep.) I like to put vicks on my nose after the second set of nose drops, it helps keep me breathing well for most of the night.
  • Warning: I am not a doctor. Consult with your doctor. Be careful with bleach, it stains and only use a little bit because bleach can be a poison. Just use common sense.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Baby's 12 days of Christmas ... Work in Progress

(to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas)

On the first day of Christmas my baby gave to me a slimy baby binky.
On the second day of Christmas my baby gave to me 2 spit-up spots,
On the third day of Christmas my baby gave to me 3 sleepless nights,
On the fourth day of Christmas my baby gave to me 4 blown out diapers,
On the fifth day of Christmas my baby gave to me 5 far flung fries
On the sixth day of Christmas my baby gave to me 6 shattering shrieks,
On the seventh day of Christmas my baby gave to me 7 smashed up O's,
On the eight day of Christmas my baby gave to me 8 dripping bottles,
On the ninth day of Christmas my baby gave to me 9 dirty socks,
On the tenth day of Christmas my baby gave to me 10 toes to tickle,
On the eleventh day of Christmas my baby gave to me 11 minutes to myself,

On the twelfth day of Christmas my baby gave to me 12 toothless grins ... oh come here, you're so're Mommy's little angel.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Are you related to Calvin Coolidge?

My husband and I went to the Brigham Young University Computer Alumni Association Dinner last week. Dr. Sederberg (one of my favorite professors) gave a talk about some of the cool family history projects he had worked on.

One project allows you to print out a pedigree chart on a 3'X4' piece of paper. This is cool because on a normal chart, for each individual you need 2 spaces for his or her parents. This means very quickly the chart gets huge. But most people have a lot of ancestral lines that end fairly quickly and only a few that go back really far, so the program uses the space from the lines that end sooner to fit lines that go longer. (I'm not sure if that made sense, here's an example). They'll print it out for you too for $20.

The other project allows you to see if you are related to famous historical people. I found out I'm distantly related to Calvin Coolidge, FDR, William Taft (my GGM is his 6 cousin 3 times removed, who knew?) , Brigham Young, Dr. Livingston (I presume), and my husband is fairly closely related to the President of BYU (Hubby's FMMFF = Pres. Samuelson's FMMF) To use it you need an AFN number for your ancestors. You can get by finding your ancestors on . (I had to use my great-grandparents because my grandparents, parents, and I are still living, so I couldn't find the AFN number.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What PDA / Handheld should I buy for reading ebooks?

Well, like anything else, it depends on what you want. My primary purpose in buying a PDA was to read ebooks, so I wanted good screen resolution, good battery life, a memory card slot, and low price. If this is you, I'd suggest the Sony Clie SJ-20 or the Dell Axim x30 312 mhz and wifi.

Things to Consider:
  1. What operating system do you want? Palm OS or Windows Mobile. If you are going with Windows Mobile, I'd go with Windows Mobile 2003 SE or newer. If you are used to Windows on your laptop or desktop machine, Palm OS takes a little getting used to, but isn't too bad.
  2. Do you want to use your PDA for anything besides reading ebooks? I use mine to check my email and read ebooks. Some people want to play games or use it as an organizer. I used my clie to keep packing lists and shopping lists.
  3. Do you really need a color screen? Color screens drain the battery faster. If you are mostly reading, black and white is just fine.
  4. Do you want Wifi /802.11? Wifi / 802.11 allows your PDA or handheld to communicate wirelessly with email and the internet (assuming you have a wireless router). I use wifi to check my email around the house (no need to boot up the desktop) and to check my RSS feeds. Be aware many websites are not Pocket PC friendly. You can view them on a Pocket PC, but it isn't fun. Some PDAs advertise wireless, but they are actually talking about bluetooth (see below).
  5. Do you want Bluetooth? I have yet to see a need for bluetooth, but some people might want it to connect a wireless keyboard or their cell phone.
  6. What kind of ebooks do you want to read? If you want to read recent releases, check the specifications for the software you want to use and make sure it will run on the PDA you want to buy. The sj20 might be too old and not have enough memory, it depends. I mostly read books in the public domain, so I use Plucker on the Clie and Vade Meecum on the Axim mostly because they are free and open source. Plucker will convert webpages or text files into something the PDA can read. If you want to read the Scriptures, there are additional choices.

The Sony Clie SJ-20

  • My choice if you don't need wifi
  • Runs Palm OS
  • Has a black and white screen
  • Pros: great battery life (I recharged once a week), great screen resolution, plenty of free programs
  • Cons: must use graffiti to enter text, can only support the original Memory Stick and only supports up to 32M additional memory (don't quote me on that, check the manual), Screen is easily scratched
  • Many reviews note that the screen is easily cracked, but this seems to happen in the first 6 months or so. If you buy a used one older than that, it probably won't crack.
  • Cost: $60 - $100 used (on ebay)

Dell Axim x30 (312 mhz and Wifi)

  • My choice if you want Wifi
  • Runs Windows Mobile 2003 SE
  • Has a color screen
  • Check and double check the ebay add to make sure it has WiFi.
  • Pros: battery life (I recharge overnight, you can get away with less if you don't use WiFi much), good screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, MP3 Player,
  • Cons: stylus is lousy, battery life
  • Cost: $200 - $250 used on ebay.
  • Remember: the faster the processor, the faster it will eat your battery

Accessories you will need/want:
  1. Carrying case. It will protect your PDA if you drop it.
  2. Screen protector (I've scratched my screen several times on both PDAs before I wised up)
  3. Memory card (some PDAs have limits on how big a card they can accept, so check the manual) . The internal memory fills up fast. I have a 64 Meg card for my Axim which is enough for me to store about 20 pictures of my kids, my (limited) MP3 collection, and about 35 ebooks.
A Note on Prices and Ebay
As with anything, be careful when buying. Watch the eBay auctions for awhile so you can tell what price is fair. Read the auction carefully to make sure you are getting all the manuals, CDs, and wires you need. Also, the prices on used PDAs may appear to be the same as new. This is sometimes true. In that case, buy the new. In other cases, the used PDA is coming with a case, memory card, and screen protectors and is a better deal since you don't have to buy these items yourself.

Don't take my word for anything, research this out yourself :) I like and for researching. Good luck.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Umm... You realize we can't sing Happy Birthday

In this NY Times article (registration required) it talks about how hard it is to make a legal documentary. One example from the article, your cell phone rings with a ring tone from a popular band. Is it legal to use it in the film? Iffy. The lable owns the copyright and to get permission can cost a lot of money (like $5000 for 6 seconds of a song). Or you want to include a clip from a movie (costs money again, anything after Mickey Mouse's Steam Boat Willie is still under copyright courtesy of Disney). Or you want to include scenes from a birthday party (happy birthday is still under copyright).

The whole extended copyright thing bugs me. Basically, anything copyrighted is copyrighted forever. This creates orphan works, works no one can use because the copyright owner is unknown.

Do I think copyrights and patents are bad? No. It is fair that when someone puts work into something, they should see the benefits from it. But it shouldn't last more than 20 years past the life of the inventor/author.

Buffalo Pal

In this article from the NY Times critics are complaining about a buffalo hunt to take place in Montana. In short:
  1. Buffalo live in Yellow Stone, but, as the song implies, "where the buffalo roam", they don't stay put. Also, Yellow Stone can only support so many buffalo before there isn't enough food.
  2. Buffalo carry a diseas that cattle can catch. Montana could loose it's disease-free status if there is a chance of contagion.
  3. To control the buffalo population, Montana is allowing a hunt and trying to make the hunt fair.
  4. These buffalo aren't afraid of people, thus a hunt isn't really a hunt because the buffalo won't hide (where would something like that hide anyway) and won't run away.
Stupid question, but how are they going to learn to avoid people if they aren't hunted?

Having a one ton wild animal that isn't afraid of people seems to be asking for trouble. (Although, it isn't as big a problem as a preditor that isn't afraid of people.) Unless the buffalos' fear leads them to charge unsuspecting tourists, I don't see why there is an issue with making the hunt fair. As far as I can tell, the hunters aren't going to leave rotting carcases about; they are going to eat their kill. Why is this any more of an issue than buying a buffalo steak at the supermarket? I don't know what an alternate would be other than having game wardens shoot the buffalo humanely (and then have a barbeque).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bean there...

So I was worried about what to do with my pinto beans that are still on the plants. I've just left them outside to mature. They seem to be doing OK so far. Some of the plants are starting to die their natural deaths and their beans are yellowing. Hurray!

Updated (11/15/05): About 3 weeks ago I pulled off all the beans. (Most of the beans were at least yellow at this point.) Then I let them dry in a paper bag then shelled them. I don't have much hope that they will be any good as seed, but they look like normal beans. In the next few weeks I plan to eat them, so I'll find out how they taste.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Moon with flash

Moon with flash
Originally uploaded by rcstanley.

This is a picture my husband took with the flash accidentially on. I think it looks really cool.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Review: Costa Vida restaurant

Name: Costa Vida
Location: 1621 N. State St., Orem, UT
Phone: (801) 226-8432
Type of restaurant: big burrito
Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)
Cost: around $6.50 a plate, smothered burritos extra
Review: My husband and I have been looking for a good big burrito restaurant since the Durrangos on 800 N closed. Costa Vida seems to fit the bill. The restaurant has this cool wall of water and is sort of beach themed.

I had 2 sweet pork enchiladas with mild tomatillo sauce. My husband had a burrito with sweet pork and the hot sauce. Both were excellent. I think pricewise, the big burritos are the best deal. The tomatillo sauce was good (although not as good as the stuff I make). The sauce my husband ordered went really well with the sweet pork. For our kids, we paid $.99 for a quesadilla, be warned it is only one tortilla folded over with cheese. They helped us eat the burritos and enchiladas, too. Portion-wise, I ate about 2 bites too many.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Frosted Beans

Fall has descended once again and my pinto beans still aren't mature (I planted them late). Here in Utah we've been having frosts. The question I've been researching is, should I leave them on the plant to finish maturing or harvest them and dry them inside?

For soybeans, (from umn extension)
Frost at the R6 growth stage and earlier, assuming that the plants did not completely freeze at this time, will result in a yield reduction and damaged beans with greenish color and wrinkled seed coats. Protein content should not be affected by frost; however oil content will generally be reduced if frost occurs before R6 (full seed). Fields should not be harvested until pods have a mature color, even if a killing frost occurred when the pods were green or yellow. Studies have shown that beans on frost-damaged plants will mature and change color at least as early and perhaps earlier than undamaged soybeans, however, the frosted, dead leaves will remain on the plant, and some beans may retain their green color.
This seems to imply it is better to leave the immature beans out on the plants until they turn yellow. I have some hope for my plants because, while the gourd and corn got nipped, the beans appear to be untouched by the frost.

I also want to know if there is any chance that the seed from the frost damaged beans will grow next year if I plant it, or if I should just eat them all.

Update here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Initial Review - Ozark Trail 12' x 10' 5-Person, 2-Room Domed Tent

This is an initial review of the Ozark Trail 12' x 10' 5-Person, 2-Room Domed Tent from Wal-mart because I haven't actually camped in it. We set it up and took it down again, mostly to make sure we didn't hate it. I was going to water proof the seams, but didn't realize the sealant needed to dry over night and since it was going to rain the next day... You get the picture.

Overall: I like it. It seems to do well for $50. My children loved playing in it.

Set up: Easy but takes 2 people. It took us 40 minutes to get the tent up, but since this was the first time we'd done it and I've never set up a tent before, I didn't think it was too bad. It has the usual poles that you put together and pop the tent up. We didn't stake down the tent since we were just trying it out. Tip: when attaching the plastic clips to the poles, start at the top and work your way down.

Tent itself: Much bigger inside than I had realized. I could stand up just fine as could my husband. The room divider is a joke, just a thin piece of cloth that hooks across, but that isn't a big deal to me since we don't plan on dividing the tent. We didn't have any gear to put inside, so I can't comment on how well everything fits. The gear loft is a little black mesh piece that fits across the top of the tent. It isn't very big. There are pockets under the windows.

Fly: The rain fly fit well. It has 2 poles that help it "pop out" for ventilation. I don't think this tent would do well if it was raining and the wind was gusting. If the wind was at the right angle, I think rain would come under the fly, and since the top of the tent is mesh for ventilation, it would come right in. I think you could tighten down the fly if you needed to though.

Taking it down: Easy / hard, Getting the tent down was easy. We still haven't succeeded in getting the tent back in the carry bag. Tip: bring rubberbands to hold the poles together or there is no way you will get them back into the carrying bag.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Happy Tomatillo

Happy Tomatillo 2
Originally uploaded by rcstanley.

I was browning some tomatillos for a sauce when I noticed this happy little guy. I should have saved him; I could have made a fortune on ebay. Oh well, he made a fantastic sauce.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Utah Senate Race 2006

I know I should be worrying about who to vote for for city council in October, but worrying about the senate race is much more fun.

I don't think I'll vote for Senator Orrin Hatch (R) again. He's sponsored some bills I really don't agree with, like the DMCA (it's been used several times in lawsuits, but never to support a just cause) and has voted to extend the length of copyrights. He has seniority, but that is only a good thing if he is representing Utah well. To be fair, I need to do some more research on what Hatch has done to see if "Intellectual Property" is the only thing I disagree with him on.

So the other choices:
Stever Urquhart - (R) From what I've seen on his site, he is even more conservative than I am. (In Utah, I'm a moderate.) He basically wants the federal government to keep it's nose out of state business. He also doesn't like judicial activism (congress should make the laws not the supreme court) A good point, but not hot button issues for me. He also thinks the DMCA goes too far as does copyright law. Update (11/14/05) - dropped out of the race.

* Paul Ashdown * - (D) founder of Xmission (my ISP). From what I've seen, I like him the best. I agree with his ideas of patents, copyrights, and most other things. I hope he has a chance. The problem is, it's hard to run as a democrat in Utah.

Jim Matheson - (D) His name keeps getting thrown around. If Hatch retires, he might run. I don't remember liking him particularly, but I haven't researched his positions either.

Roger I. Price - (Personal Choice) Enough said. Way too conservative for me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sticking to it

I've discovered a fun, random program Pivot Stick Figure animator. It allows you to create stick figure animations. It is easy to use and fun. It's located at:

I tried animating one of the stories I made up that my daughter likes.

The basic plot is that Sagwa the cat (named after the PBS cat) goes out in the river and gets trapped. Sagwa blows her whistle for help. My daughter comes, finds a stick, and rescues the cat. (Unfortunately, being a toddler, she's decided she likes Sagwa and Snake better than this one I animated. )

Friday, September 09, 2005

My take on Katrina

I had a couple of thoughts about the hurricane. (Warning: Ranting below and I didn't check my facts very well either. Believe what I have to say at your own risk.)

First, it is a great tragedy, but I have seen some stories that have made me feel confused. First this quote from here:
Hip-hop hitmaker Timbaland said that he is renting trucks, buying clothes and toys and heading "to the trenches" — first stop, the Houston Astrodome. He challenged peers who splurge on jewelry and cars to do the same, because "these people in the dome listen to our music."

"Don't give to no Red Cross, that's the easy way. Not to say anything bad about the Red Cross, but who knows where that money's going," the producer said. "Take your money and do your own thing."
I think the sentiments he express are great. Everyone should do more and share with those who have lost so much. I also agree it is better to give time then to throw money at something then forget about it. However, I don't agree with "do your own thing". If the newscasts are to be believed, not being organized caused this tragedy to be greater than it needed to be. Yes, you can "do your own thing" especially if you are rich and famous and get some good PR, but the people who do this professionally probably have a better idea of what is needed. (I'm hoping he talked to people down there to see what they really need.)

The remark he made about the American Red Cross made me a little upset because I see them doing so much good in so many places. I'm not sure if he meant that the Red Cross wasembezzlingg or if he meant that the money you donated might go somewhere other than thehurricanen victims. If he meant the second, so what? There are other disasters going on right now. If the people from New Orleans are being assisted sufficiently, why not let them use the money to help others whose tragedies are not as newsworthy?

My second comment is about an article (can't find it again). When disasters hit, animals get forgotten and neglected. I feel horrible thinking this, but that is how it should be. I don't mean it is OK for animals to be mistreated and to suffer, but if it a choice between a dog suffering and a person, I'll pick the dog. People are more important. Once people are cared for, then is the time to start worrying about the animals.

There was a story about a boy who had his dog Snowball taken away from him as he boarded the bus to go somewhere else. The news story mentioned that they thought the dog had been found. I'm glad they found the dog. I understand that for that boy it was probably doubly traumatic, to loose everything then have the dog taken away. It would be easy to blame the police officer for it. The problem is, the dog couldn't go. I don't think the dog should have been able to go. I'd assume it is bad enough with upset people not to add upset dogs (probably uncontained). Also, what about people with dog allergies? What about if the dog got scared and bit someone? The other side of it is, if Snowball got to go, why not someone's fighting pitbull. Should the food for people go to feed these dogs? When trying to keep large numbers of people safe, individuals get shafted.

Now the Humane Society has set up shelters for the displaced animals and I am glad for it. (Especially because packs of large, hungry dogs roaming the streets cannot be good for anyone.)

I don't think this post makes much sense. I'm still trying to make sense of it myself. But there you go.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Smothered burritos

I made the best dinner yesterday. It took awhile, but boy was it worth it.
I made smothered burritos. To make them you need:

2 c black beans cooked (I started from dry beans, but canned would be a lot less trouble)
tomatillo sauce (this sauce is a little hot, you might want to put in 1 jalapenjo instead of 2)
lime rice
cooked shredded chicken (I just threw a few chicken strips on the George foreman grill)
6 tortillas

Make burritos by putting in a scoop of beans, rice, chicken and tomatillo sauce. Fold up burrito and place in a pan, fold side down. After filling burritos, spoon more tomatillo sauce over them and sprinkle cheese on top. Place in oven at 400 until cheese melts and burritos are warmed through (5-10 minutes).

I still had plenty of leftovers for the next day.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Review: Sam Hawk Korean Restaurant

Name: Sam Hawk Korean restaurant
Location: 660 N Freedom Blvd, Provo, UT
Phone: (801) 377-776
Rating: four stars
What I get: Spicy Beef and a Sprite
Cost per plate: around $8
What else you get: included with the meal are various appetizer including pot stickers, kimche, a potato dish, something with shrimp, bean sprouts, and some really good spiced beef.

I love the spicy pork here. They are not kidding about it being spicy (clears the sinuses). You put the spicy pork in a lettuce leaf with some rice and eat it like a taco. I've also had the clear noodles which are good. I also had the Jop Chea, which is fried clear noodles. It is good for those who don't want something spicey. There are some other things we've had there, but they aren't as good.

Note: this is a very small restaurant and it is slow for that reason. If you know when you will be there, call ahead then they will have your meal ready for you.

Review - Provident Pantry Freeze-Dried Sliced Peaches

Name: Freeze-Dried Sliced Peaches
What: Freeze-Dried Peaches, 1/2 c peaches to 1 c warm water to rehydrate
How much: it cost around $19 for a #10 can and should make 12 c of peaches.
Rating: 2 stars (out of five)
Verdict: I'm sticking with apples

I'm not a peach fan, but I do like the freeze dried peaches that come in cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats). I thought I'd try out freeze dried peaches. I did not like them. They have an odd taste to them. I tried rehydrating them, but they still had that weird taste. Since these are the first freeze dried food I've bought, my suspicion is that all freeze dried foods have that taste. My kids love them dry, however. And they make a quick snack for them.

Review - Provident Pantry Blueberry Pancake Mix

Name: Blueberry Pancake Mix
What: Pancake mix, just add water and cook. Add eggs and you can use it for waffles.
How much: it cost $5.79 for a #10 can and should make 54 five inch pancakes.
Rating: 4 stars (out of five)
Verdict: I'm buying more for my food storage.

I usually don't like pancakes from a mix, so I was pleasantly surprised by these ones. The "blueberries" gave it a nice taste. Without syrup, regular pancakes can be a little dry. I could probably eat these "blueberry' ones just as they are (which I think is an important consideration).

For me, 2 cups of the mix yielded around 11 pancakes.

I haven't done a comparison to see how much it would be to buy a comparable "instant" pancake mix from the grocery store. I'll look next time I'm there.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My dwarf african frogs are still alive. I got them 4 1/2 months ago. I think this is a new record for me in aquatic husbandry.

Axim report - Web Browsing, RSS, and Ebooks

I'm enjoying my Dell Axim x30. I've ended up using primarily as an ebook reader, email reader, and web browser. Before I bought my Axim, I had tried to browse the web on an older ipaq. There is no contest. If you want to use the web, you need Windows Mobile 2003 second edition. Pocket Internet Explorer has some really nice wireless features, like you can tell it to put all of a web page's content in one column, very nice (although this does mess up some sites' style sheets).

Since most of the sites I check frequently are blogs, or blog-like, I love RSS on my Axim. RSS allows me to find out when there is new content, instead of me having to wait forever for the entire page to load, then find out nothing is new. The program I use is called qmail (this is a free Japanese program), but there is an how-to in English. It's a pain to set up, but once it is set up, it's great.

The ebook reader I use is Vade Mecum. It's an open source Plucker clone for the Pocket PC. I like Vade Mecum because I had a bunch of ebooks in plucker format from my Clie days. It also supports highlighting and annotating. It can be a little slow though. Fine for just reading, but a pain if you are trying to keep up in a larger document in a class and have to jump around in the document a lot.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I've got no strings

I've recently purchased a used Dell Axim x30 with wifi off of ebay.
Basically, this means I can check my email and RSS feeds from anywhere
around my house. I like it. My only gripe is battery life(about a day),
but I can't expect the same as I got with my Sony Clie sj20(about a week).

Friday, August 12, 2005

How to automatically turn off Bluetooth on a Dell Axim x30

The wireless button on the Dell Axim x30 turns on Bluetooth and wifi. It is such a pain to turn off Bluetooth manually every time.

To disable Bluetooth (bt) on a Dell Axim x30, use this program called WifiPower. The only thing about the download is that pocket ie, mozilla, and firebird will open .cab file in the browser window (useless), but Internet Explorer 6 allowed me to save it. I copied it to my pda (make sure wireless is turned off), ran the program. Then I set the wireless button to use the new program (settings -> personal ->buttons). Seems to work so far.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Unwanted Advice - Dogs

As a part of my continuing "unwanted advice" series, here's my opinions on getting a dog. (Disclosure - I do not currently have a dog, my husband does not like them. However, I have trained several dogs and had one growing up.) In a nutshell - make sure the dog you are getting is what you really want.
  • Don't get a dog from a pound / humane society unless you really know what you are doing and are willing to put the time into it. I know this may offend some people. There are many people doing great work rescuing unwanted animals from shelters. I hate to say it, but the dog is there for a reason. Sometimes the dog got lost and picked up and is a wonderful animal, or was scared of thunder and ran away, or the family was moving and couldn't find it a home. But just as likely, the dog barked, dug up the yard, wouldn't be house broken or started threatening other dogs / children. These problems are almost all trainable, but you have to be committed.
  • Beware of dogs 6 months - 1 year Like people, dogs go through a teenage stage. They rebel, run away, and try to assert themselves. If you have a puppy, be ready to ride this one out. After they reach about a year, they will settle down as a doggie adult. Until then, you get to lay down the law. A lot of dogs, especially ones who haven't been trained as puppies, end up in the shelter or in the classifieds at this point.
  • Make sure the dog you are getting will fit your lifestyle. Many purebred dogs were bred for a specific reason. Thus, beagles are loud and stubborn, what you want in a hunting dog. It might not be what you want in your back yard. Terriers like to dig because they were bred to kill vermin. Some dog breeds are very active, a border collie in a small apartment is a recipe for disaster. (Yes, you can make any dog work, but YOU have to be willing to put in the time and effort. Why not make it easier on both of you and pick a dog that is what you want in the first place.)
  • If you get a stubborn dog, you had better be more stubborn. Dogs like to have someone in charge. If you won't do it, they will. Some dogs are more likely to want to be boss. One quick way to check puppies is to hold the puppy on its back. This is a position of submission. A dominate puppy will struggle and fight to get free. A more laid back dog will struggle for a little while, then relax. Be especially careful if you have younger children. A dominate dog will think it is higher up than them. This can lead to confrontations.
  • Train your dog. Nothing causes the neighbors to hate you like a barking dog. You need to teach your dog how to behave around other dogs, people, and your house. You won't enjoy having your dog around if it doesn't behave like you expect, so teach it how. Basic obedience training is a good idea, come, sit, and stay are infinitely useful.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Review - Harry Podder - Dude Where's My Wand?

Title: Harry Podder - Dude Where's My Wand?
Location: Desert Star Playhouse, $11 for a matinee, includes free popcorn
Synopsis: Harry Podder discovers he's a wizard and going to Warthog's, the best school for wizards on the Wasatch front. He runs into Ron and Hermione and stop the evil Voldie from finding a certain item.
What I thought: It was pretty good. One important thing I didn't realize until half-way through was that the play opened before the next Harry Potter Book came out, thus the search for a copy of the next Harry Potter book became a lot more funny. There were a lot of funny references, but no great lines that I can remember. Although, they did slam Salt Lake's soccer team pretty hard. I enjoyed the way they changed the words to well known show tunes to fit Harry Potter. Overall the play moved well and was a nice afternoon diversion. If you are a Harry Potter fan, it is worth seeing; I'm just not sure it's worth $11, more like $7.50.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Pictures on flickr

I have pictures posted on

I've decided I like flickr. I can upload pictures for free. I can mark pictures as public, private, or visible to friends and family. I like this option because I can post pictures of my children and only friends or family can see them. (If you fall into one of these categories, e-mail me you flicker id and I'll add you so you can see the photos.) I can subscribe to RSS feeds of people whose pictures you like. This means I can be notified when there are new pictures instead of having to check.

My husband and I are deciding if we want to get a pay account ($25 a year). That would allow us to post full resolution pictures and have a higher bandwidth quota.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Freezers on Ice

I've about decided that having an ice maker in the freezer is almost useless. I use ice maybe once a month. The ice maker is taking up room that could be filled by other items. Mostly the ice tray sits full of other groceries. Plus, if the freezer is full, something inevitably pushes against the switch and turns on the ice maker, and I get to rearrange the freezer to turn it off again.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The secret to authentic refried beans

One of my husband's co-workers told him the secret to authentic (and good) refried beans was cumin. I bought some at the store the other day and my husband made burritos. Delicious.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Family History Projects, Any Ideas?

I've been trying to come up with a worthwhile programming project. I wanted to do something related to family history. (If anyone has any ideas, feel free to post in the comments below.) I haven't done much research to see what already exists. That will be the next step I guess.

Here's some things I've thought of:
  1. Problem: You have scanned in letters / wills / obituaries/ photos of headstones, etc and want to transcribe them. Solution: A program that would do an initial OCR of images looking for text. It would create a file of what text it was able to extract. Ideally, it would know when it was doing a bad job and allow you to make corrections.
  2. Problem: You have a bunch of family history documents on your computer and a GEDCOM file. You want to know which people are mentioned in which files. This would allow you to site sources (esp. if you've forgotten to do it or the GEDCOM your grandpa gave you didn't have them) and to see if you already have some of the information you are looking for. Solution: a program that looks for names from your GEDCOM file in specified folders on your hard drive. It would create an index of names and files they appear in. If you were missing date information, it might flag some documents saying this document has a name similar to your ancestors with a date nearby. Maybe also it could add links to the documents in your GEDCOM file if you asked it to. (This idea is based on my one family history experience where a distant cousin called up and asked for the source of a specific date for an ancestor. I text searched a book my dad had put together and found the source. She had the source, but hadn't realized the information was there.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Going Bananas

I had a few over ripe bananas today. Since throwing them away would be wasteful, it was time for the traditional making of the banana bread. There are two problems with this 1) I don't like banana bread all that much except for one recipe and 2) I forgot what recipe that was. So I turned to my handy dandy cookbook. I could make muffins or banana chocolate chip cookie bars(I got excited at this point) . Of course I opted for the option with chocolate in it. The cookie bars are really good. Now I can look forward to overripe bananas. (I'll post the recipe later if I get around to it)

Monday, July 25, 2005

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

My pillow is flat. Recently I've noticed it is getting flatter. I bought it about a year ago, two for $10. Not a bad price, but I'm wondering about investing in a slightly nicer pillow, one that will remain soft and fluffy for many years to come. I haven't had a good experience with down pillows. I'd wake up with my head on the mattress and all the down piled around my head, not useful. Here's JC Penny's take on the perfect pillow. I don't think I'd be willing to spend more than $20 on one though, unless I knew for sure it would be amazing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Pear of Tattoos

I saw this article in the NY Times about tattooing fruit with a laser instead of putting those little stickers on. On the one hand, I'd be glad not to have to peel those little stickers off any more. On the other hand, my toddler saw getting the sticker as a big treat. Maybe she'd view getting the slice with the tattoo on it the same way.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (spoilers)

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. I enjoyed it.

Here's my questions and speculations from the book (warning: spoilers):

1) Why did Voldemort give Harry's mother the chance to live? I've had this question since book 1. My friend thinks he wanted her on his side, but did he really think she would join him after killing her husband and son? But then again, he never really understood love and thought death was the worst fate, so maybe he was that dumb.

2) Who was RAB? I was wondering about Sirius brother. His name started with an 'R' and we know the Dark Lord killed him, although I don't remember why.

3) Are there any of horecruxs left? We know of at least 2 in existence, the snake and Voldemort himself, but has the mysterious RAB managed to find and destroy the other ones like he did the locket? Or did RAB think Voldemort only had 1.

4) Is Snape really evil? He did kill Dumbledore, which would imply he is, but then, maybe it was necessary from some greater plot from Dumbledore. Dumbledore always trusted Snape, but then D. also said since he was clever, his mistakes tended to be larger. Also, by killing Dumbledore, Snape fulfilled his vow and probably usurped the Malfoy's place of favor (must have been rather pleasant for half blood to beat out the old wizarding families).

5) Does Malfoy have some redeeming qualities? At the end of the book, he was unable to commit the murder he planned. He also seemed to realize the cost of joining with Voldemort: failure is fatal to you and your family, and power is not all it is cracked up to be. I wonder if he realizes the stories his parents probably told him of the golden days with Voldemort aren't quite as rosy as they seemed now that he is back.


My daughter and I were standing on my great-grandmother-in-law's back porch which has a beautiful view of Provo. Here's how our conversation went.
Me: "Do you see the temple"
Sarah: "Yes, it's far far away."
Me: "Do you know what temple that is?"
Sarah:"It's the temple where Mommy got her donuts."
Me: "Endowments. Mommy got her endowments there."
Sarah:"in donuts"
Me: "En-dow-ments"
Sarah:"endowments. Some temples have donuts."
(Me: thinks about temple cafeterias) I suppose.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Can my computer match my dishwasher?

I noticed something interesting the other day while wandering around Circuit City. The newer computer cases seem to be in the same style as appliances -- the slick black, the stainless steel gray. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What do you wear to a funeral

My husband's grandfather passed away Sunday morning. We were both saddened, but expecting it. Besides the grief (or perhaps to ignore the grief) we started wondering about the funeral. Neither of us have been to very many.

The first question was, what do you wear to an LDS (Mormon) funeral? My husband has it easy, he just wears his black suit. I know from watching TV that black is the expected color, but LDS funerals, since we believe death isn't the end, tend to be more lenient. Seeking the source of all wisdom, I called my mom. She plays the organ and so is asked to play at many funerals. She said usually people wear dark, conservative clothes although she's seen all different colors. (In LDS circles, conservative means, for women, skirts should be approximately knee length or lower and tops should have sleeves. For men, a dark suit with a white shirt and unobtrusive tie.)

Second question, what do you wear to a viewing? I asked my mom this question too. She said, wear what you would wear to church (i.e. dresses for women, suits for men), you don't need to wear black or dark colors like you would to a funeral although it should probably be conservative.

So now I know.

(Updated 11/7/05)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Identity Infringement

I've read some of the recent stories about how companies have stored personal information such as social security numbers unnecessarily. Then a hacker or employee steals the data and sells it, putting millions of people at risk for identity fraud. (I've written about a similar topic here.) This is what I think should happen to the offending companies:

1) Any company that keeps personal information not central to it's core business is held to higher standard
  • You must be informed of what information the company is storing and how long they will store the information. For example, some companies like to run credit checks. I believe this requires a social security number (ssn). If the company holds on to the number after the check is done, they must inform you of it and become liable for it.
  • If for any reason your ssn is breached, the company must 1) notify you within 10 days 2) pay you $100 for your troubles and 3) pay to provide you with full credit reports from all 3 credit bureaus for the next 3 years.
  • If your credit card number pin is stolen the company must pay you $50. (I don't think the company should be storing this at all) but in theory, it's a lot easier to close down a credit card then recover your ssn.
  • These conditions also apply to government agencies like schools who foolishly use a ssn as a personal identification number.
2) Any company that keeps personal information central to it's business (i.e. banks have your ssn because they have to report taxes) must
  • Notify you within 10 days if they suspect your information has been breached
  • If investigation determines the company has been negligent (data not encrypted or casually shipped via ups) all the conditions for #1 apply.
I recognize that given a determined hacker, almost any computer system is vulnerable, but these companies have no incentive (other than bad publicity) to ensure your information is protected. Let's give them some.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ashes to Ashes

Warning, lame pun ahead:

I was talking to my dad yesterday about the fires burning in southern Utah. "It's too bad" he said, "It probably burned down the last trees in southern Utah."
"Well," I said, "They're still there they've just turned into ashes"

(OK, this is funny if you realize there is a kind of tree called an ash.)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Potty training song

STOP do not read below if you are not a parent! (Contains frank language about using the bathroom and really bad rhymes.)

I'm thinking about potty training my daughter. She has other ideas however. She's decided that diapers are the way to go. I made up this song in an attempt to convince her wearing panties will be great. (She, being a bright child, changed the words around to support diapers)

Bye bye diapers.
Hello panties.
When I was a little girl
I wore diapers all the time.
Now that I'm a bigger girl
Panties I'm so glad your mine.

I wear my panties on my bum,
I pull them down with my thumb,
I put them down near my feet,
Then I take a potty seat.


My tinkle likes to come right out
When I'm done I give a shout
I flush it down, down below
where the other tinkles go.


I wash my hands when I'm done
Pottying is so much fun.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Credit Card Security Codes

The latest thing to prevent credit card fraud is to ask you to enter the three digit security code on the back of the card. According to this NY Times article, only 56% of merchants use it. I'm all for whatever cuts down on fraud. However, I wonder how long this will remain useful. It will stop people who get your number off a receipt or something. It will not stop people who 1) steal your credit card 2) steal your credit card number and security code from merchants who request the security code. The only way this will work is if the merchants who require the security code do not store it anywhere. If they do store the number, in effect, all this security code does is make your credit card number longer.

I suspect it will be effective for a little while, but only while it isn't widely adopted.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Recipes for left over pot roast

Here are some ideas of things to do with left over pot roast:
  • soup
  • pasties (cut up the meat, potatoes, carrots and put them inside biscuit dough and bake)
  • meat pie
  • stroganoff (I tried this the other day and it was very good)
  • sandwiches

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Save PBS

I just read an article talking about a House bill that would cut all public money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with in 2 years. Government money currently makes up about 15% of the money. A lot of the money comes from endowments and from "viewers like you".

This article talks about how loosing government money would be a good thing for PBS, allowing it freedom to broadcast more controversial programs. It suggests allowing the public stations to sell part of the bandwidth that they control to make up the money.

I love PBS. I watch it regularly. My daughter loves Arthur and Cyberchase. I let her watch them because I trust PBS. They teach good concepts and show characters working out problems. I love NOVA and Antiques Roadshow (and the lack of commercials). I like that it shows educational programs that the other network stations don't.

If the government pulls out, where would the missing money come from? I have my doubts that the PBS stations would be allowed to sell or lease bandwidth, and I am sure there are plenty of stations whose bandwidth is nearly worthless. The easiest way to make up the 15% is through advertising. A lot of PBS stations already use this method, but they would probably make it more blatant. Another option is longer telethons where they try to raise money (no!!!!!!!). The final option is to just not make as many new shows.

I don't know if the government pulling out is such a good idea. The Slate article talks about how it will allow more freedom, but I like PBS conservative (at least during children's programming). The government funding keeps it in line with what the current administration likes. In theory, the current administration reflects the feelings of those in America (since we are a democratic republic and all). Having that money tie helps keep PBS more with the public. There was an episode of Post Cards From Buster that was pulled and I was glad it was. Some people will say it is up to the parents to monitor what their children are watching, and it is. But I prefer to avoid major tantrums, and when a show becomes untrustworthy, we don't watch it any more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My advice for cooking reality shows

Here's my advice to contestants after watching a few of these cooking reality shows:
  1. Do not cook lamb unless asked explicitly to do so. Out of about 5 tries on four shows, only one person got it right.
  2. Do what the host asks - if you are given time to cook, cook. If you are somewhere famous, use local ingredients.
I'll add more as I think of them.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hollywood's Boogeyman

I read this article in the NYTimes. Basically it said that 50% more users had video files of over 150 megs and they had 16 or more, an increase from 8 from last year. So apparently the studios are concerned. My question is, why are they assuming these files are illegal?

I have a lot of video files on my hard drive, but none of them are illegal. We have a digital camcorder and make DVDs. We record shows off of TV (still legal last time I checked). We back up some of the VHS tapes we have. All these create big video files.

I have deep-seated miss trust of the Hollywood studios. I don't doubt they will do their best to overplay the pirating problem to try and justify some new laws to take away fair use customs.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


The weather in Utah here has been a little odd. It is June; why is it cold enough that I still have to run my furnace?

Friday, June 03, 2005

One thing I hate about homework...

I read an article on about how assigning more homework doesn't necessarily improve grades (sorry link is down). I got to thinking about all the homework I had to do growing up. I'm one of those people who always did all the homework and reading. Do I think I got a better education than those that skated by? I hope so.

One thing that bothered me about math homework is that the teacher would assign some problems that were very hard. Now making me think isn't a bad thing, but I want it done fairly, so there is some hope of me being able to figure it out on my own. Many times, none of the examples showed anything similar or if they did, they didn't go far enough so I could extrapolate how to proceed.

In college it got worse. I had one computer science teacher (great guy by the way) who assigned problems he thought looked "interesting" before trying to do them himself. These problems tended to be ones that originally were people's master thesis or even their PhD work. How I'm supposed to recreate overnight (literally) a proof that someone else probably spent months on is beyond me.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My (Useless) Pregnancy Advice

I've had 2 children. While this hardly qualifies me as an expert, here's my advice:
  1. It doesn't matter if the hospital you choose has jetted tubs, you won't get to use them. I was so excited to be able to use the jetted tubs during labor at the hospital, however I couldn't because the first time, I was on internal monitors and the second time I was on internal monitors and the hospital was so full I gave birth in the admittance room.
  2. Your baby will choose to come at the same time as every one else's. (see above)
  3. Feed your baby whenever he/she wants (especially if this is your first baby). Some people say, put your baby on schedule. Unless you are exceptionally lucky, your baby won't care about the advice and will just cry until fed. After a few months your baby will settle into a pattern. My daughter was exceptionally bad and ate every hour and a half until she was six months old (this means I had an hour between the the end of one feeding and beginning of the next.) She was born underweight and trying to catch up.
  4. Babies aren't any fun for the first 3 months. Newborns are unattractive (don't worry, you'll think your baby is the exception), don't smile, and mostly cry, wet their diapers, and eat. If you can survive the first three months, things get better from there.
  5. Take your baby on walks if weather permits. Most babies love the outdoors and will stop crying.
  6. A front pack is a great thing, especially if you have a toddler too.
  7. If you like to read, a handheld / PDA is a good investment. I bought a Sony Clie SJ-20 for about $50 on ebay. It was some of the best money I've spent. With a memory stick, I can fit about 30+ books on it. While my baby is eating in the middle of the night I can read, and since the screen is backlit I can keep the room dark. The battery life was great too, I recharge it about once a week.
  8. Get a comfortable recliner. I recommend La-Z-boy. I've slept in the recliner with my babies for the first few months. My babies slept longer on me than they would otherwise and when they were hungry, I was right there to feed them and didn't have to get up. I also didn't have to worry about them getting used to sleeping in my bed. After a certain point, it stops being comfortable, but by then the baby should was used to sleeping his own bed courtesy of day time naps. (This only works if you are a relative light sleeper and don't move around much)
  9. You will probably crave Arby's beef and cheddar sandwiches. They were the greatest thing in the world when I was pregnant. The red ranch sauce is amazing.
  10. If you want, go for a natural child birth, but be ready to take the drugs. I've tried twice and had an epidural twice. If your labor stalls, get the epidural. For me, as soon as I didn't feel any pain, the baby was born with in an hour.
  11. Average labor lasts 12 hours.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Honey Bean Cookies

To continue my never-ending experimentation with chocolate chip cookies, here's the latest iteration. Take this recipe and
replace the 1 c shortening with 3/4 c shortening and 1/4 c ground small white beans.
Replace 3/4 c white sugar with 1/4 c white sugar and 1/4 c honey.
Replace 2 c flour with 1-1/4 c white flour and 3/4 whole wheat flour.

Result - OK. The taste is actually kind of weird, but I've eaten 8, so they aren't too bad. The texture is just fine. I suspect the honey is the taste a little weird.

Next time I won't try two experiments at once (honey and dry ground beans). The nice thing about using honey and beans is that the dough came out to the correct consistency without me having to do anything. I also suspect I should have replaced the brown sugar with honey, not the white. In all honesty, I only like honey on biscuits, so it could be someone else would like these just fine.

In theory, the beans added to the cookies should make a complete protein, so these cookies should have some nutritional value.

How did I get bean flour? I threw them in the wheat grinder.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Playing Chicken

I've been thinking about adding to my food storage. Food storage is extra food I have around the house (wheat, flour, sugar, etc.) so if a disaster strikes my family will have food. I currently have enough food to last us for about a month.

I was looking at for some ideas of things to add. I'm thinking of adding chicken textured soy and beef textured soy. I don't have much meat stored because it is so expensive canned, fake meat reconstituted with bullion might be an acceptable substitute.

I think I'll try the textured soy, that works out to
40 ounces * 3 ounces per 1 ounce dry = 7.5 lbs of "meat"
7.5 / $9 = $.83 a pound, not bad

I also noticed they had Mountain House freeze-dried chicken in a #10 can. It is currently on sale for $30.00. How much is this per pound? I did some math.
3/4 cup freeze dried chicken = 3/4 cup regular chicken
1 serving = 3/4 cup
14 servings per can
1 lb raw boneless chicken = 3 cups cooked chicken
so doing a bunch of math
3/4 chicken per serving * 14 servings = 10.5 cups per can
10.5 cups * 1 lb per 3 cups = around 3 lbs of meat

So there is the equivalent of 3 lbs of meat per can. At $30 per can that's $10 per pound. I guess it might be worth it though, if you were eating food storage and wanted real meat.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


My husband and I recently made a trip to San Diego with our daughter and son. It went a lot better than planned. They were angels in the car.
What we did: drove 700 miles in our car with a (almost) 3 year-old and a 9 month old
what we won't do again: drive straight through. It is good to know our kids can last all day, but we adults can't.
what we would do:
  • stop every two hours. A lot of small Utah towns have really nice public parks, they are usually located somewhere along the main street in town.
  • Bring a cd your kids like. We put some of my daughter's favorite videos onto cd so she could listen to them (didn't end up having to use them though) Just knowing you have a back up can really help.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spencer's Camera Repair Service

This is just a quick accolade for Spencer's Camera Repair Service (Alpine, UT). My poor digital camcorder had taken a dive off an entertainment center. As a result, it only worked when plugged into the adaptor.

Spencer's gave me a free estimate of how much it would cost. They even managed to have it fixed by my sister-in-law's wedding at no extra charge. They charged reasonable rates (we checked the cost of the part on line). They were very nice on the phone and responded quickly to e-mails. I'm glad I went to them and would again.

(Note: I am not affiliated with them in anyway. They just did a good job and thought I'd mention it on line.)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Best Mother's Day Present

My husband gave me the most wonderful gift for Mother's Day, a card full of coupons. For example:
  • One Stinky diaper change
  • One Really Stinky Diaper Change
  • one Failed diaper containment cleanup (including change of clothes and bath)
  • one hour watching the kids so Mommy can read a book
  • honey do_____,
  • put the kids to bed (teeth, stories, diapers, the works).
  • Ice cream trip
  • Go on a walk
  • Get the kidlet(s) out of bed (midnight feeding or morning routine, your choice)

He also had some terms and conditions:
1) When presented with a coupon, Daddy can't postpone or refuse to act on it, barring extenuating circumstances (such as if he is on fire)
2) If Daddy grumbles or dawdles, Mommy gets to keep the coupon for future use.
3) the presence of a coupon granting a specific action does not mean Daddy won't do said action without one.
4) Void where prohibited.

This post doesn't do justice to the coupons, he had the best choice of font and the whole gift just made me laugh.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Review: National Treasure

My husband and I watched National Treasure last night. I liked it. I wouldn't buy it, but if someone I knew hadn't seen it, I wouldn't mind watching it with them. I also suspect many junior high history classes will be watching this movie when their teacher is sick.

The basic plot is there is a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence and the hero has follow a bunch of clues from the founding fathers to find the treasure and avoid being killed by the bad guy.

The thing I liked about it was it was suspenseful , lots of action, very little swearing (maybe twice) and no scenes where I had to cover my eyes (or my husband's). It's a cute movie, probably not what the directors were going for, but I thought it was cute if although a little unrealistic. How many times can the hero be shot at and not get hit? The answer is "a lot".

My husband thought it was a little preachy and I agree, but I would rather have a movie that is preachy for something I agree with and I agree with almost everything. I wouldn't show it to my toddler, way too intense (and a PG rating), but an older 'tween would probably like it.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Video Editing

I wonder if iMovie is as good as it is supposed to be. I am currently using Nero to do my video editing and getting tired of all its bugs. I wonder if iMovie has fewer bugs, or at least less annoying ones. I've looked at the bug reports for iMovie and there are a few that seem really annoying. I just wonder how often you'd run into them. I want to do 2 things, old family movies from vhs to dvd and create a multimedia personal history. Time for more googling.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Square foot gardening

I found this interesting article on square foot gardening. The basic idea is that you don't plant your vegetables in rows, but in 4' X 4' squares. The idea seems interesting. I'm trying a limited test this year. I didn't use the special soil they call for, just the dirt in my garden since I found out about it after I had already prepared my garden for the year.

One of the questions is "Why do you plant crops in rows?" Basically the answer was "Because that is the way we've always done it." That is why I planted in rows too. It doesn't make sense though for smaller gardens like most people plant today.

But how did it get started? I have a few ideas: 1) irrigation. It is easier to irrigate down straight rows, so if you are irrigating it make sense. 2) Plowing, straight lines would be more efficient.

Why plant more then thin? My guess is that if you are depending on the food to feed your family, you'd rather have too many plants than too few. Also, you don't know how good the seed is, so you'd rather overplant in case a lot of it doesn't come up.

fortunately for me, not sprouting doesn't seem to be a problem for me. My giant sunflowers seeded down last year and now I have 20 baby sunflowers growing. I'm going to have to start pulling them up soon. This is in addition to the lettuce and cillantro that seeded down.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bankruptcies in Utah

I was reading this blog post here, talking about bankruptcies in Utah. I wonder if part of it might be from people having more children and giving away more money and still trying to live like everyone else who doesn't have those responsibilities. I also wonder if having larger families increases the chances someone in the family will have a large medical expense, since unexpected expenses are one of the reasons for bankruptcies.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Don't let the rain come in

Wednesday my roof started leaking. The roof had leaked before we bought the house, but the previous owner thought she had fixed it (not true). In her defense, the past few years we've been in a drought, so maybe the roof acted like it was fixed.

Apparently the wood was so badly rotted that it wouldn't hold a nail. My husband took a day off work and his dad and grandpa ripped off shingles and replaced a four foot wide section of the roof. They replaced it with new shingles and instead of tar paper used this really expensive stuff called weatherguard that should keep the water out. Saturday my husband will be putting the finishing touches on the roof and we should know if it worked by Sunday since another storm is coming.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Restaurant Review: Goodwood Barbecue Company

Restaurant Name: Goodwood Barbecue Company

Location: 777 E University Pkwy, Orem, UT 84097 - 7771

Average Price: nothing over $20. Large selection of sandwiches for around $7.50

Experience: Pretty good. Definitely get an appetizer here, they are VERY slow in bringing out your food. We got a chicken quesadilla, it was amazing. We ordered a pulled pork sandwich, the pitboss burger, and a beef brisquet(sp?) sandwich. All were very good. The pitboss burger was great and the pulled pork sandwich was amazingly tender. The brisquet was also good, but I've run out of adjectives.

Experience with kids: They had crayons and a kid's menu that my daughter could color on. The kid's meal cost $3.50 or so. They made a mistake in my daughter's order, bringing out a grilled cheese sandwich instead of a cheese burger, but they let us keep the mistaken meal and brought out a hamburger 6 minutes later (too late, my toddler was full of fries).

Verdict: Go, if you have time. I'd go again, but on a date with just my husband.

Mac attack

Are Macs really that cool?

I've been editing some video recently using Nero (not the best experience in the world). From what I've read, the best video editing software comes with a mac. I've been looking at the Mac Mini, priced at $500, although really it would cost around $750 since I'd want a DVD burner and a gig of RAM and a firewire harddrive enclosure for my spare harddrive. The real question is, is it worth it?

I'd have to learn a new interface. I've never had very good experience with Macs. The whole throwing a disk away to get it to eject is not intuitive. The last Mac I used had a power button right where the disk eject button would be on a PC; needless to say someone lost some work. I looked at a Mac at MacSomething and the interface drove me nuts, too many distracting animations, although that is all configurable. It reminded me of driving someone else's car, you assume the lights and windshield wipers will turn on somehow, but where is the stupid button?

I like the Mac Mini's design, size, and power consumption. The question is, it is hefty enough to do some light video editing (nothing over 2 hours long).

Since I won't start really looking until after April 26 when Tiger comes out, I guess I have plenty of time to figure it all out.

Sausage quesadilla

I made a really good, weird food combo:
shredded colby jack cheese
Bar-S smoked sausages

Put cheese on tortilla and cook in microwave until cheese is melted. Put sausage and salsa in middle of tortilla. Roll up and eat.

Warning: the sausage and salsa will tend to fall out, so don't hold it over your lap :)

My husband tried it and likes it too, so I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Haven't croaked yet

I have finally decided what to put in my aquarium, African dwarf frogs. I have 2 small frogs. I've had them since Saturday. I got them from Wal-mart because they were inexpensive there and walmart has a 90 day warranty on their fish. I am feeding them freeze-dried bloodworms.

My daughter has named them Coqui and Coco. She got the name Coqui from a Dora the Explorer episode where Dora has to save a frog. I named the other one Coco because it's the co-coqui. (As a side note, I didn't know that a coqui was a real frog.) She was much more excited about a frog than a fish.

They are a little different from what I had expected. With fish, you see them swimming around a lot. With the frogs, they stay in one place, either floating on top of the water or sitting on the heater. They also blend in pretty well. I get to play the "where are the frogs" game every time I walk by the tank. Since I've read they are escape artists, I get a little worried sometimes when I can't find both of them. They also have the advantage that if they die I can make all kinds of bad jokes about them "croaking".

Not all its cracked up to be

I recently had my shareware network monitoring tool, PingerThinger, posted on It is getting more downloads than I had expected. I have 3 "versions" of PingerThinger, a free one that monitors up to 10 IPs, and two that cost money that monitor 100 IPs and an unlimited number of IPs.

I was watching the log for my website and noticed something interesting, a people were being referred to my site through sites I had never heard of. I took a look at a several of these sites and noticed a few things: 1) they were all in Chinese and 2) most of them were posting cracked versions of my software. Slate had a related article here. I felt slightly flattered because someone thought my software was worth cracking (although I suspect all the software on is cracked at these sites).

Mostly, however, I felt annoyed. I figure I'm not really loosing any money from it directly. I'd assume most people who would go to the crack sites wouldn't pay anyway, but it bothers me because I'm loosing bandwidth to people who are doing something unethical.

I guess I can be foolishly optimistic and hope they are using the cracked version to see if PingerThinger really can handle the number of IPs they have (it can, don't worry) and then they'll license it. Or maybe I'll say my software is leading network monitoring tool in China :)