Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hurray for the Holidays

I'm excited for Christmas. Right now, I've got all my Christmas shopping done. I got my husband the most random, cool gift, of course I can't say what it is. I'm just excited for Christmas not only for the family and traditions, but also because I get to play with my children's new toys.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Crying Wolf

So with in the past few months, there was a news story about how some US Forest Service employees called to be evacuated after hearing wolves. Most of the story then goes on to ridicule their fear. Basically the consensus among experts is: "Wolves don't kill people." I don't believe them. Experts also said that mountain lions don't eat people. Until they ate several people in Colorado. Hmm... let's list top predators, cougars kill people, bears kill people, dogs kill people (not exactly a top predator, but similar to a wolf) but wolves just don't? It doesn't make sense to me.

The issue is that aren't enough wolves yet. Once the population gets big enough, younger wolves will get pushed into areas where there are people. Already the rather small population of wolves gets press for killing ranchers' stock. This means wolves are in contact with people. Fortunately (in terms of wolves eating people), this type of contact tends to be fatal for the wolf which means wolves retain their fear of people. The problem comes in when the wolves are protected and loose their fear of humans. Of course a wolf would prefer a nice fat deer, but if deer are in short supply, why not start scavaging people's garbage? And what if deer are in high supply, but in the suburbs where there are lots of people who don't hurt the wolves? Any animal will attack if it feels cornered. All it takes is a wolf stuck in a back yard or some hiker coming too close to some pups, and people will get hurt.

Now, I'm not saying kill all the wolves, but people killed the wolves in history for a reason, mostly that they didn't want to compete with them. Once there gets to be enough wolves, the problems will resurface. Of course, I think the forest service employees might have overreacted. Wolves far from people making a kill are well fed and probably still fearful of people, so not a real danger. But then, I wouldn't have waited around to find out either.

(More wolves might solve the cougar problem. Historical evidence suggests cougars and wolves don't get a long well, so they'd probably keep each other in check.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

FoodThinger is feature complete

I have finished up the last of the obvious code for FoodThinger. Now I have to go inventory my food storage and see how it works. Then I get to write documentation and create an installer. Fun times to be had by all.

note(added 6/2008): FoodThinger is now released. Go to

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Spinach artichoke dip

I found a great recipe for cheese spinach artichoke dip. It's great, and I didn't have to go to restaurant. My two kids loved it.

Lesson learned: canned artichokes are expensive.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

FoodThinger is almost code complete

FoodThinger, my free food storage tracking/management software is almost code complete. (For non-programmers, that means I'm almost done writing it.) I'm sure I'll still have plenty of bugs to work out, but the bulk of the coding and database creation is almost done. Currently it runs on windows xp/2000, but should run on Linux since it's written in java on top of sqlite.

In case anyone is interested, I will need alpha/beta testers to try out the software and give suggestions. If you are interested, go to and send me an email from the contact page. (Sorry to make that a little complicated, but I've been having spam trouble lately.)

I would welcome help coding, although there isn't much left to do at least before alpha. I could use help designing a component to display a series of bar graphs, and if anyone really understands swing, I have a few questions there too... I hope to get this up on source forge after alpha, so collaboration should be easy at that point.

Current Features:
  • add the foods you bought for your food storage
  • automatically knows expiration dates for common food storage items
  • automatically knows how much is in a #10 can for common food storage items (weight)
  • creates a food storage plan based on your family
  • Reports: what is expiring in the next N months, how close you are to meeting your food storage goals, how much of each food you have left to buy
  • add new foods to the database
  • Export to file what you have in your food storage (this way if someone decides a spreadsheet is more to his or her liking he can "get his information back out")
Features still to come before alpha:
  • printing- print reports mentioned above, print list of where various foods are stored
  • bar graph- visually showing how far you have to go before you reach the goal. A graph lets me have a better idea of how well I'm doing than seeing that I have 24% of my grains. (If I can't get this working reasonably soon, I might just start testing without it.)
  • Installer - I'm sure most people do not want to be messing with jar files themselves
  • Documentation - I'd like to think my program is intuitive and it is, to me :)

The database creation was the biggest pain, so if someone just wants the database, I'm glad to share it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blessings and pyracantha

My neighbors have a pyracantha. I have always disliked that tree. It is right by the property line, so half of the tree is always hanging into my yard dropping the orange (inedible and possibly poisonous) berries where my kids can reach them. Today I have reason to bless that tree. Because I thought its berries were poisonous, I've taught my kids not to eat them. We call them bird berries and I tell them they are for the birds.

A few months ago in my front yard I had a volunteer vine start to grow. It was very pretty, with purple flowers with yellow centers and bright red berries (bird berries I told my kids). I decided to prune it back and try and identify it. Well, I found it here. Yes, you guessed it, bittersweet nightshade. The berries don't taste bad, so kids might keep eating them and they can be deadly. (On a side note, I kept thinking to myself, I'd better identify that plant in case it turns out to be something like nightshade.) So I put on gloves and went and pulled it out.

Now I'm grateful for that pyracantha tree that forced me to teach my kids that not everything in our yard is edible. (Especially my son who still insists on putting everything in his mouth.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mythtv .20

Yesterday I upgraded to MythTv .20 on my fedora core 5 machine. It has one feature I really want, the ability to seamlessly burn DVDs from the shows I've recorded. The installation went reasonably well considering I had a bunch of library conflicts between livna and atrpms. I had to reinstall Xine due to the problem. I like .20 so far. It actually seemed to crash less while watching live tv. My only gripe right now is that the DVDs it burns have broken menus. It doesn't highlight when I try to make a menu selection. (discussions here and here.) Also, pushing the menu button doesn't return to the menu. The first problem seems to be caused by the version the mjpg library available on atrpms. I guess the version from freshrpms works better. I haven't been brave enough to try it though. I'll give it a few days and if no other solution comes up, I'll try it out.

Update (10/14/2006): got the menus working. I went to the mjpg homepage, downloaded the source, made it, but did NOT install it. Then I changed all the mythtv commands to use these local versions. Worked like a charm. (Why didn't I just get the lib from somewhere else? I had a bunch of programs dependent on the version I had that I didn't feel like reinstalling.)

The not returning to the root menu problem was my misunderstanding. Most DVD remotes have 2 menu buttons: a title menu button and a root menu button. I only had my ati wonder remote set up to do the root menu. One I fixed that, it's worked great ever since. (Thanks to all the folks at myth-users who explained that in great detail.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A post post

So my new bike had a problem. Besides the rust (it came off) and the flat tire with a presta valve (my husband replaced the tube), it had a stuck seatpost. This was something that never occurred me or my husband to check. (Note to readers: check that your seatpost is not rusted to the frame.) Apparently water can get in between the seatpost and bike frame causing it to rust together. In the case of an aluminum seat post, it can actually make a chemical weld so that the only way to get it out again is to physically cut the seatpost off and saw it out with a hacksaw.

I took my bike to a bike shop who had the opinion it wasn't worth fixing. Since the bike only cost $25, and the parts and labor would be around $70 (that assumed the post was cut out). There didn't seem to be something that could just be stuck on top of the seatpost to get a couple more inches. Then my husband took a big wrench, put it around the seatpost, laid the bike down, and pushed really hard from side to side (Note: this can warp the seatpost and or your frame). The post moved. He managed to get it out. The bike was fine. I was very happy. I scrubbed all the rust off the post, now I just need to find some grease to put inside the frame to keep it from happening again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My New not-quite-so-ugly bike

I discussed my new bike here. Now that I (and my daughter) have cleaned off most of the rust, touched up the paint with nail polish, and my husband has fixed the rear tire and greased the chain, it seems like a nice bike. Here's a picture:

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My new ugly bike

I bought a bike today at a garage sale. I've never biked much. Growing up in San Diego, we mostly walked rather than biked; the street we lived on was fairly busy and very unfriendly to bikes (no real shoulder). Recently, my husband and I bought a bike trailer at Shop-ko so that my husband could pull my kids behind him on a bike ride. We had also purchased a bike carrier for my car. The possibility of all of us riding bikes together was too much for me to resist. I decided I wanted a bike, but not just any bike: the cheapest decent bike I could get.

After some research on the Internet, I realized that my idea of a $50 Wal-mart bike might not be a good one. Apparently cheaper bikes are more of a pain to ride and thus people stop riding them. Ignoring the fact that people who buy cheap bikes might not be that interested in biking in the first place and thus quit not because the bike stunk but because they lost interest, that left me with Deseret Industries and garage sales. My husband looked at the bikes at DI and said they weren't that great. Today I saw a garage sale with a bike. I went there and looked at it. It had the kind of peddles my husband said to look for, the kind of breaks he said to look for and more or less it was the right size for me. It was $25. It had two problems: 1) the back tire used a presta thingie (don't ask me I don't know terminology) so the lady selling it couldn't pump it up, she didn't have the right kind of pump (neither do I by the way) 2) the bike has been sitting out all summer, thus the chain and gear thingies are kind of rusted. My husband said that ignoring rust, the bike was comparable to his.

Monday I'll go out and try and see if it cleans up with some WD-40. My wonderful husband said he'd change the tube on the back tire so it has a regular thingie. I still need to get a helmet, but then hopefully I'll be ready to ride around the church parking lot then on to the Provo River Trail.

My current project, free food storage software: FoodThinger

Now that I have my PVR/Tivo/that stupid computer that took way too long to set up working, I'm back to some of my older projects that I've left to languish. Currently I'm working on free food storage tracking software. It would help me keep track of what I bought, when it expires, and what I have left to buy to reach my year's supply. I plan on making it open source after I'm done (and after I clean up the code enough that I'm not ashamed of it.)

Why: I want to know what food I have, what food I need to get, and when it expires. I wasn't able to find a free program that did this (there is a $40 program that is pretty cool, if I wasn't so cheap and really want to make something free available I'd use it). Plus, while I'm writing it I don't have to actually organize my food storage :)

Platforms: Windows 2000/XP, probably Linux

Current status: has a list of foods and how much of them I'd need as per providentliving from the LDS church. I can add foods. I can export my foods to a csv file (this is in case I decide my program isn't what I want and decide to just move to a spread sheet).

Currently working on: being able to add custom foods (finished 9/11/2006)

Still to come: reports showing what is expiring in the next n number of months. Reports showing how close I am to a year's supply.

Still to come in a few years when I'm not sick of this project anymore: Meal planning, recipes, and the ability to know what recipes you can make based on what is in your storage.
ETA: probably a month or two assuming I don't get distracted again. I'll probably put it up on SourceForge, unless I get lazy then I'll just post it to along with all my other programs.

note(added 6/2008): FoodThinger is now released. Go to

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why I love Linux/ Fedora Core 5

(For the other half of the story see why I hate Linux.)
Here's what I love about Linux:
  1. My kids can't do any serious damage to my computer since they don't have the right permissions
  2. Somewhere on google is the answer to my question.
  3. All the software I'm using is free.
  4. Mythtv is so cool.
  5. Once I figured out what I was doing, I realized almost everything worked right "out of the box"
  6. PPracer / Tuxracer - help Tux the penguin race down a snowy slope, what could be better than that?
  7. Don't have to reboot after installing new software
  8. Yumex (graphical interface for yum, very nice since it lists all the packages you have or might ever want.
  9. The Gimp actually works. (I used it a lot under windows and it just never was completely stable.)
  10. man
  11. The thought that now I can get a "Chicks dig Linux" t-shirt from

Why I hate Linux / Fedora Core 5

(Note: before flaming me check out Why I love Linux.)
This is a bunch of generalizations on why Linux / Fedora Core 5 64 bit sucks. If you are considering switching to Linux, don't let this scare you off.
  1. I have to compile everything my own dang self. (OK, not really, but I've had to ./configure, make, make install more than my fair share of stuff)
  2. Anything that I really want to run will not compile without downloading at least one other dependency, plus the header files.
  3. If you want a program to do a specific task, there are at least 5 of them in source forge and they all are in pre alpha or abandoned or both.
  4. Queries in Google on how to fix a specific problem returns a bunch of results, problem is they are all for either a) a version of Linux I don't have or b) written about 5 years ago and are no longer relevant.
  5. One word: Permissions

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts

My other problem with my mythtv box (running fedora core 5) is that using component on tv-out, it likes to a weird green blob on my sanyo tv. It doesn't always do it, just when the screen is sitting still. The blob slowly fades in. Moving windows around will make it lighter and watching tv (from my computer) will make it go away too, at least for a while. I have no idea what is causing this behavior. I'm leaning towards the tv being somehow at fault as my brother-in-law's laptop does the same thing to it. Although, my husband's laptop does not have the problem. (If anyone knows a solution, let me know.)

Update: the dvd player does the same thing, so it must be the tv's fault

The sound of silence

As part of my on-going mythtv saga, I've been having an intermittent problem with my integrated sound card. It doesn't always get detected. I'm not quite sure where the problem is coming from. Basically, the sound card doesn't always get created under linux, sometimes it decides that my tv capture card is a much better sound card. I'm not quite sure what is to blame. Last time it failed, I tried running "MAKEDEV sound", which did load a bunch of drivers, but did not add the card under the /dev directory. So today I loaded the newest ALSA drivers. We'll see if they help at all.
Update: 9/3/2006: Updating the newest alsa drivers seems to have helped.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

tv on tv

I got mythtv working on my crt (monitor) and on my tv. I can't have both my tv and monitor on because the K8ngm2 won't support it, but I can have one at a time, which is all I want. If you want to know how to get both your tv and monitor working, here's the best guide: So now I just turn on my computer, run my script, hit ctrl-alt-f8 and mythtv is on tv.

(See this thread
comment #39 if you have this motherboard and a digital monitor, there's a complete xorg.conf file).

(I know this sounds boring, but it has taken me several days to figure this out.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fedora Core 5 and K3b compilation error (qt-mb) solution

checking for Qt... configure: error: Qt (>= Qt 3.2 and < 4.0) (headers and libraries) not found. Please check your installation!
For more details about this problem, look at the end of config.log.

Anyway to fix this problem, I looked at /usr/lib/qt-3.3/lib and having read in a few news groups that bad links were sometimes the problem, I went through use ls -l and looked at all the links. The problem seemed to be in, the permissions wouldn't allow me to read it as my user. Maybe I should have been running as root, who knows, anyway, I cheated and chmod 777 and got the stupid thing to configure past that point.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Configuring MythTV

So, I finally have MythTv in a mostly working state under Fedore Core 5 (Linux). I haven't tried to get it to display on a TV yet, mostly because that requires moving either the TV or the computer. But I do I have my ATI HDTV Wonder card recording HDTV, I can watch live TV most of the time (if the signal is good, if the signal is bad I get segfaults), I can watch DVDs, and I can rip DVDs (ones of my family of course).

Setup (just the relevant parts):
Motherboard: MSI K8NGM2
Capture Card: ATI HDTV Wonder
Remote: ATI Remote Wonder
Video: NVidia GForce (integrated)
Audio: NVidia NForce (integrated)
OS: Fedora Core 5 x64
Media Center: MythTv

MSI K8NGM2 - seems to work OK. I've had some weird problems with sound. For some reason Fedora detects the capture card as the audio chip sometimes. I haven't quite figured out why. I recommend flashing the bios (do so at your own risk) before installing Fedora since apparently this might fix the problem. I did flash my bios and after going into the bios settings twice, it seemed to work. But then I haven't really rebooted since I got the sound working again. (Linux is nice that way). (Updated 8//20/06 - bios flash did not solve the problem.) (Updated 9/3/2006: installing the newest version of alsa seems to have helped)

ATI HDTV Wonder - works fine under mythtv. Picture is great (assuming decent signal strength). I've seen some complaints about the enclosed antenna. It works fine for me if I point it the right way, but my house gets UHF channels pretty well anyway. Worked "out of the box" with the Fedora drivers. In mythTV, set it up as a DVB device. The analogue tuner apparently doesn't work under Linux. (As a note, ATSC is the digital standard in the US.)

ATI Remote Wonder (5000023600)- worked right away with LIRC. It's a RF remote, so I can sit in the couch in the basement and change channels with the computer in the next room. Finding the right lircd.conf and lircrc files was a bit of a pain since I didn't want to sit there and push every single button. I finally found one and hacked together a few lines for Xine.

Video - My husband was nice enough to install the NVidia linux drivers for me.

MythTv - Getting MythTv to work was a bit of a pain, mostly because I had my capture card set up as the wrong type of card. Once I set it up as a DVB, everything worked great. On the MythTV page, gives a bunch of stuff to compile into the kernel. I didn't do anything like that, it just worked. I followed Jared's guide to setting up MythTv on Fedora Core 4. It's mostly the same for fedora core 5. One note: when you set up your zap2it account, make sure you only check channels you want. Deleting unwanted channels out of mythtv is a pain and I have yet to attempt it. Instead I have a nice paper list of what channels do and do not work. Of course, I couldn't do that when I set it up since none of my other TVs can pick up HDTV, so I had no idea what channels I could get. Today I got my first reward from having mythTv set up since I could let my daughter watch her favorite PBS show when she wanted to without her complaining it was blurry and me having to go adjust the rabbit ears.

Xine - (media player) I don't remember this being hard to set up at all, other than getting the correct codes for my remote. I use this instead of mplayer since it can handle dvd menus.

Wine - got wine (acts like windows) working pretty quickly. Actually a lot easier than I expected. One of my windows programs wouldn't work with it, but not a big deal. I've heard some directX programs have issues with wine and this apparently was on of those programs.

FireFox - I installed the 32-bit version of Firefox so I could run Flash. Here's how or here

So basically, it's taken me about a week and a half to get this point (including time to build the system and install Fedora Core 5). I really didn't know much about linux when I started either although now I know more than I ever wanted to :)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Forgotten Myth

So I haven't fallen off the earth, I've just been really busy and not posting. Anyway I've been working on two projects, a software program to track food storage and a mythtv box. Since the mythtv box will probably be finished first, I'll talk about that.

I've been wanting a Tivo or something similar for some time now. While I don't watch much tv, the few shows I do want to watch seem to be on when I need to put my kids to bed. A VCR would work, but I wanted to be able to say "record all of antiques roadshow" without knowing exactly when it would be on. (Utah has 2 PBS channels) So I decided to build a computer that could record TV. Unfortunately the VHF reception my house is bad, so I decided to opt for DTV (digital TV) because it tends to run in the UHF frequency which I can get pretty well. (Did you know all broadcast signals are supposed to be digital by 2009? Did you know most tvs for sale today can't handle it?) I decided to run Fedora Core 5 (Linux) with mythTv to handle the media center side of things. MythTv is supposed to be really great, but it takes forever to set up.

Anyway for under $500 I'll have my computerized home entertainment center and a great PC.

Monday, July 10, 2006

CleanFlix ruling

How could I not comment...

So the big news is that so far CleanFlix has lost it's case. (I'm sure they'll appeal.) As a quick recap , CleanFlix sells edited versions of various movies. They were sued by various directors.

"Their objective ... is to stop the infringement because of its irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies," the judge wrote. "There is a public interest in providing such protection."
Having read various debates at slashdot (warning: slashdot is slashdot) and millenial star there's a couple of different issues at play.
  1. Copyright law - copyright law allows the creator control over derivative works, so yes CleanFlix et al was in violation. Of course, since the length of copyrights has been extended pretty much indefinitely, there will be no derivative works (without permission). Yes, TV and airplanes have edited versions, but those are done with permission (and the payment of lots of money). An interesting question is whether most directors actually hold the copyright to the movies they direct. I'd be surprised if they did, it is much more likely the studios hold them. I suppose it looks better to have the directors bring the suit. There's an article at slate that makes this point.
  2. Should I really be watching this movie even if it is edited - as members of the LDS church, we've been counseled to avoid 'R' rated and many PG-13 movies since the content is less than desirable. So should you buy a copy of the 'R' rated version to satisfy moral and monetary obligation to the artist then have it edited or not buy it at all (as in don't watch the movie). Even cute movies, like "While You Were Sleeping" have a scenes my family always fastforwarded through. I'd love to have a version that did that for me. I'm still undecided on this issue.
  3. Artistic Integrity (quoting out of context) - the copyright holders feel they have a right to make sure the film is viewed how they want it viewed. I could see a scenario where someone made an edited copy of a film that changed the film's message. (The scenario I could see for this is maybe a racist group changing some film to portray a minority group as evil.) Perhaps cutting out a redemption scene leaving the viewer feeling that the hero deserved to die. This is similar to quoting out of context. By wanting the viewer to see the whole movie, they want the whole message to be seen.
  4. Artistic Integrity is secondary to money - unless the movie was an indie film or made by a very famous director, the studio had a lot of say in the film. The studio's goal is making money. Thus things are added or taken away based on how the studio thinks the public will react to them. Thus, if someone changes a movie in a way that will make it appeal to a wider demographic, I don't see why they care all that much as long as they get paid. If the studio was planning "clean" releases, I could see them being upset because this is destroying their market. But I don't think they are.
  5. Movies are a two way street - no copyright holder can guarantee that his movie will affect any one person a specific way. Take the movie "Napoleon Dynamite". Some people love it, some people think it is the dumbest movie ever. Or say Al Gore's movie An inconvenient Truth (haven't seen it, but I can sure mention it) , some people feel it is a life changing movie and other people feel it is a load of bad science. The fact is, I have control over what I watch. I go the bathroom during the scary parts of movie. Different people see different themes in the same movie. Most people, after having seen it once, will edit the movie anyway to support those themes. For example, I watched "The two towers" and I always skip through Frodo and Sam (LOTR lovers, please don't flame me) and most of the battle scenes. (It's great, I can take a 4 hour movie and watch it in an hour and a half). Then it becomes a great story of a king coming to his own and the friendships that support it. The director, unless he or she is also the screenwriter, has already adapted someone else's work by deciding how the characters should look and what parts should be changed. Why are they so offended when someone else disagrees with their views?
  6. Hollywood is Evil - separate from the copyright debate, but just under the surface is this interesting question: If a movie can be edited for swearing and sex (I'm leaving violence out because that's a different issue) and still be a good movie, why are they in there in the first place? I think directors and studios want to argue that they are vital or that they reflect society. I'm not so sure. I wonder if they worry that people won't go to see a movie because there is no swearing in it. Of reasons that people won't go to see movies, that usually isn't one of them, a poor plot is much more common. I wonder if they fear a PG rating that adults somehow associate a G or PG movie with kids movies. I think people get locked into this view that since I'm an adult, I can watch swearing, sex and violence and not be affected.
I don't have any real conclusions to offer, but that case did make for a nice long blog entry.

Monday, June 26, 2006

My Favorite Cleaning Supplies

This is random (surprise), but currently my two favorite cleaning supplies are Cascade Complete Dishwasher detergent and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

The Cascade Complete just gets my dishes cleaner. (I know, I sound like an add, but it's true.) I am lazy (um, efficient) , so I don't like to pre-rinse my dishes execpt when they are really bad. The Cascade lets me get away with that.

I also love the Magic Erasers. I have gotten so many crayon and marker stains off my kitchen table due to it's ability to get weird stuff off surfaces.

Early Morning Ant-ics

This morning, as I was getting dressed, I felt strongly I should wear my sandals. I did, and it was a good thing.

After a hectic morning of getting my children ready for the day, I was delighted to send them outside in the backyard to play and pick raspberries while I finished my breakfast. I was just finishing my bowl of cereal when I heard my daughter yelling. Since it was early in the morning and I didn't want to wake the neighbors, I went running out. I saw my son near her as if he had been hitting her, so I thought they were fighting. When I got closer, she started complaining about ouchies. I looked at her more closely and saw she was covered in angry ants. I tried to brush them off, but soon gave up and took her clothes off and shook them out. Her socks were especially full of ants. (I eventually had to change her clothes completely.)

I went back inside and came out with a can of ant spray and had my daughter show me where she had been. I looked, but didn't see any ants. So I decided to pick some raspberries for my children. I started picking a few, then looked down and found my feet covered in biting ants. Fortunately, since I was in sandals, I could just take them off and easily brush them off my feet. Since I had found the ant hill, I went ahead and sprayed it.

But I'm glad God is willing to look after us by helping us with the small things.

Favorite Quote of the Day

The day is still young, but I think I found my favorite quote of the day from a NYTimes article here. It talks about a lawsuit against myspace, then goes on to talk about a suit against KFC:

I recognize that there's a certain part of the population who don't know a steady fried chicken diet is bad for them. I feel bad for these people," Mr. Chan wrote. "However, these are probably the same people who don't put on their seatbelts and who suck down endless coffee during the day and Coors at night. So let's be honest with ourselves here. You're not going to save these people. You're just screwing up the chicken for the rest of us.[empahsis added]
I guess that can be my new comeback: Yeah, you're just screwing up the chicken for the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Restaurant Review: Carrabbas

Name: Carrabbas
Address:683 E. University Parkway, Orem, UT 84097
Phone: (801) 765-1222
Type: Expensive Italian
Cost: $12-15 a plate, kids meal for $5, meals are large enough to split
What we had: Chicken Parmesan, chicken fingers, Chicken Rosa Maria
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) Would probably be 5 stars if it wasn't so dang expensive
Kid friendly: moderate, provided crayons and could color on menu

After discovering the wait was an hour at PF Changs, we went to this restaurant with my sisters. It has a gluten free, vegetarian menu, a rarity in Orem. Anyway my husband and I split the Chicken Parmesan. I thought it was OK, although the garlic potato sides were very good. The Chicken Rosa Maria was amazing. (My sister was kind of enough to share.) If you go, order that. My sister also shared the fried zuccini which was excellent in the dipping sauce they provided.

The waitress was polite. The restaurant was clean and the restrooms passable.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Initial Review: Durabrand 7" Portable DVD Player (DUR-7)

Background: I bought the 7" Durabrand Portable DVD Player from Wal-mart at the end of May 2006 since I was planning on going on a trip with my children and wanted to have a little peace and quiet occasionally. I bought this unit from the store since I wanted to have time to return it for another one if I needed to. (Note: I don't know what the reliability of these units is, I just know many cheap portable dvd players have quality issues.) I will add more to this review after I've used it more.


First Impressions: It looks like a dvd player. It seems cheaply made. It is wide screen. The speaker volume at max is LOUD (at least to me), I turned it down to about half way. The screen seems bright and clear to me. My husband said the screen quality is passable, but I don't really notice things like that. To put a DVD in, you lift the cover and snap the DVD in place.

  • Plays DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RW, CDs (both regular and mp3), and picture disks (jpg). (It might do more, this is what I tested)
  • It has component video out (no video in). It also has a switch to switch between widescreen and normal format.
  • The buttons on the player are: volume (up/down), play, pause, stop, skip (forward/back). There is also a brightness knob.
  • I can do everything with this portable player that I can with my full-sized dvd player, skip, repeat, memory.
  • Hacks (haven't tried them personally): Region free and also one to let you play VCDs
  • Car adaptor
  • You can't control the volume or brightness from the remote.
  • This is more related to the case I bought to hook it up in my car, but the remote sensor is hidden under the edge of case so I can't use the remote. Putting a cd case under the player so that it sat higher seemed to fix the problem
  • You can't select from a DVD's menu with the buttons on the player, so don't loose the remote. You can hit play and most DVDs will play.
  • Battery won't charge unless player is turned off.
  • Max of 254 pictures/songs in a folder on a cd.
Still to Test
  • Battery life
  • Playing a full length movie
  • Screen brightness in a car
  • Longevity
Rating so Far
This player is exactly what I expected. It's a good price and seems to do everything I want it to. Assuming it holds up, I would recommend it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Re: Why are Some Mormons Afraid of an LDS Presidential Candidate?

I occasionally read the blog Reach Upward , since I enjoy the political commentary. Today he asked "Why are some Mormons Afraid of an LDS President?" (Note: below I'm speaking hypothetically, I'm not implying anything about Mitt Romney.)

I'm not worried about what the news outlets might say about the LDS church during the campaign. The church is in the spotlight a lot and I don't think this will do any lasting harm. I'm just a little worried that after a campaign where religion ends up playing a big part, the candidate will be accused of something illegal (bribery, improper use of funds....) or obviously against the teaching of the church (has an affair with an aide...) and that this will reflect poorly on the church. Or that people might confuse the candidate's political stances with the stances of the church.

I'm all for good, honest people running for office and hope that if a member of the church runs, he or she falls into that category.

Review: Alpine Roofing Specialists

Company: Alpine Roofing Specialists
Phone: (801) 361-2301
Job: Reroof my house
Rating: Good (provisionally since I haven't had my roof very long)

We recently got our roof replaced. At first we considered doing it ourselves, but since we have a second story, being near the edge of the roof there held no appeal for either of us.

After the events described here, we finally found a roofer. We just wanted to go over the existing layer of shingles since they were still in good condition. I got estimates from a few companies I found in the phone book and also Home Depot. (Home Depot, by the way, was $2000 more than any other bid.) Then I called a roofing supply company that advertised that they did referrals and they referred Alpine Roofing Specialists. Jared gave me a bid that included redoing the flashing on the roof, installing flashing around the swamp cooler, installing vents, and moving the swamp cooler to roof around it (and installing the shingles of course). I also got a release of lien and saw the proof of insurance.

I found out they had done my neighbor's roof, so I called and she said she hadn't had any leaks.

Now I can't give a full review since I've only had my roof for a week, but I can say they did a good job. They arrived when they said they would. They worked quickly and cleaned up after themselves. The roof looks really good. The city inspector found no problems with what they were doing. They also worked longer than I expected since rain was expected the next day and they wanted the roof covered. My swamp cooler was hard to move, but they worked on it until it was done.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Nielsens grove park

Yesterday we took our kids to Nielsen's grove park. It is on Sandhill Road out past the Wal-mart in Orem. It is one really cool park. There is a huge field area perfect for flying kites or launching rockets (that's what the boy scouts were doing.) They have a pond and a fountain. Plus a really nice garden of tulips.

The coolest thing is a merry-go-round-style set of swings. The swings go around in a big circle (I've seen similar things at amusement parks), but it is human powered. I wanted to swing on it so bad, but there were too many children wanting a turn. But sometime soon I'm going there in the morning so I can have fun.

There is also a playground, but it is small and for ages 5-12. I hope they are planning on adding a play area for smaller children because the smaller children play on that playset and get pushed over by older children.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Raising the Roof

We are looking to redo our roof. It is driving me up the wall. Do we do it ourselves or hire someone? (I'm leaning towards hiring someone since I don't want to be up on the second story nailing shingles.) But who to hire? At first I called some people in the yellow pages. I got quotes.

(In case you're interested our roof will take 18 squares of shingles and the estimates are in the $3500 range for a full tear off.)

Then I called Home Depot since they will install a roof for you (for $2,000 more than any other contractor.) They had a very nice salesman. I love listening to salesmen spin the truth. The problem with the salesman is that he isn't the installer, so really I know no more about how Home Depot will do than I did before. I was leaning towards them even with the higher price tag since it'd have the Home Depot name and a 10 year warranty and inspection, but then I read on line some bad experiences people have had with them (not here in Utah though). Basically, although Home Depot can't disappear with my money like a smaller contractor can, they can give me the run around for months since no one seems to be ultimately responsible.

My main problem was I knew nothing about these people. So I finally found 2 more contractors that people in the neighborhood had used and liked or at least their roofs hadn't leaked. I got one bid today.

The City of Orem requires an over-the-counter permit for putting on a roof. They told me it would cost about $50 and an inspector would come out and look at the roof as it's being put on to make sure it was OK.

Anyway, that's where things stand now.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Children's story: Sir Duck and his Noble Companions

Once upon a time, a duck was flying over a forest when he was shot by a hunter. The duck managed to fly to a castle where the princess nursed him back to health.
"I wish there was something I could do to help you," said the duck.
"There is," said the princess, "A magic spell prevents me from leaving the castle. The only way to break the spell is for someone to plant the magic flower outside the castle gate."
"I'll do it," said the duck.
"It will be very dangerous and you cannot yet fly."
"I can walk and swim," said the duck.
"Then take this map, it will show you the way to the magic flower. You will know it because it smells like lemons."

The next morning, the duck swam across the moat with the map tucked under his wing and some rope around his neck. He followed the map and soon found himself following a path in a dark, enchanted wood. After he had gone a few miles, he heard a strange sound, "Awooo, Awoo" and the sound was coming closer. At first, the duck wanted to run away, but then stopped himself. "Help comes from unlikely places," he said to himself, "I'll wait and see what is making that noise." The duck quickly climbed up a tree and waited. He looked down and saw a large dog howling in the most pitiful manner. "The princess has always been so good to me. I'll never find the magic flower to save her. What ever can I do?" The duck, thinking quickly, jumped down from his branch.
"Ahh!" shrieked the dog, "Who are you?"
"I, too, am seeking the magic flower. But I have a map to show the way. Would you like to join me?"
The dog agreed and two continued down the path.

After they had gone a few miles, they heard a strange sound, "Meow, Meow" and the sound was coming closer. "It's a monster," said the dog. "Perhaps," said the duck, "but let us wait and see what it is. Help comes from unlikely sources." The duck and dog quickly climbed up a tree to see what it was. They looked down and saw a cat howling in the most pitiful manner. "I want rescue the princess and now I am lost. I'll never find the magic flower. What ever can I do?" The duck, thinking quickly, jumped down from his branch.
"Ahh!" shrieked the cat, "Who are you?"
"I, too, am seeking the magic flower. But I have a map to show the way. Would you like to join us?" The cat agreed and three set off.

In the same way the duck was joined by a sheep, an ox, and a pig.

The duck looked at his map. "The map says to be careful because a band of thieves roams in this area."
"Ah," said the dog, "Thieves are nothing. Leave them to me."
They traveled on. Suddenly, the dog began to bark and growl ferociously. The animals heard sounds of running as the robbers ran away. "That takes care of that," said the dog.

It grew dark, and the animals were tired and hungry. The duck looked at his map. "Ahead there is a barn full of food for any traveler who needs it." They entered the barn ready to eat, but it was full of rats and mice selfishly feasting on all the food that hissed at them as they approached. "Ah", said the cat,"Leave them to me." With a loud meow, the cat jumped among the rats. The rodents fled, leaving plenty of food for the other animals.

Well fed, they laid down to sleep. As the night drew on, it became colder and colder. The animals began to shiver. "There are no blankets here," said the duck. "Ah, " said the sheep, "Leave this to me. I am made of wool. If you will all cuddle close to me, I can keep you warm." Warm and content, the animals slept.

The next morning they continued their journey. The path ended at a swift river. Duck knew he could swim across, but the water was too swift for the other animals. "Ah," said the duck, "Leave this to me." He swam across the river and tied his rope around a tall tree. Then he swam back. "Now hold onto the rope and we can cross." But even with the rope, the river was still too swift.

"Ah," said the ox, "Leave this to me." He began to pull and strain on the rope. With a loud crack, the tree fell over making a fine bridge. The animals all crossed and found themselves in a field full of magic flowers.

There were thousands of flowers and they all looked the same. "Ah," said the pig, "leave this to me." She began to sniff the air. "This way," she called as she ran. The other animals followed her lead. Suddenly, she stopped. "Here is the flower." They all smelled it and agreed it was the one. The dog carefully dug it up, and they began their trip home.

Soon they were at the castle. They planted the flower and the spell was broken. The grateful princess came out of the castle. "In return for you bravery," she said, "I dub all of you knights and grant you one wish."

"We wish to have a farm where we can all live together and help each other."

So the princess put them in charge of the royal farm and everyone lived happily ever after.

(c) 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Restaurant Review: Tucanos

restaurant Name: Tucanos
Location: 4801 North University Ave Provo, Utah (Riverwoods shopping)
Type: Brazilian with lots of meat
Average Meal: $11 lunch ($17 dinner)
What we ate: churrasco, Brazilian lemonade
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Kid friendly: Mostly, children eat free
Review: I love Tucanos, but due to its cost, we only eat lunch there. It is a Brazilian style resturant. There is a central salad bar with lots of different types of salad. Then you sit at your table and the waiters bring skewers of grilled meat, vegatables and fruit to your table. If you want some, you get some. You can eat as much as you want. My favorites are the garlic sirloin, the grilled pineapple, and the grilled pineapple. My husband really likes the brisket. The lemonade is pretty good, but I wouldn't buy it (I had a coupon). This restaurant gets busy so come early. (On a random note, they play Brazilian music in the bathroom. It's great.)

Restaurant Review: Shoots

restaurant Name: Shoots
Location: 4801 North University Ave #820 Provo, Utah (Riverwoods shopping)
Phone: 801.225.0445
Type: Chinese
Average Meal: $8-10 per person (Sat. lunch)
What we ate: pot stickers, broccoli with spicy garlic sauce and beef, kung pao chicken (meals also included egg drop soup and egg rolls)
Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars
Kid friendly: Mostly, no children's menu, but willing to accommodate (let us use plastic cups and a take out box for our 19 mo. old that likes to throw things)
Review: This is a great restaurant. We'll be coming back. The service was excellent and waitress very willing to help us. We enjoyed almost all the food. The egg drop soup was really good. The egg rolls were also good. The only thing we didn't like were the pot stickers we had gotten for our kids. The pot stickers were very heavy on ginger. No one in our family liked them. But the kung pao chicken was great. The first bite wasn't quite what I expected, but was still good. The broccoli with spicy garlic sauce and beef was excellent. It was a little spicy, on the spicy end of mild. The beef was excellent, very tender and the sauce delicious.

One word of caution, if you are using Riverwoods gift certificates there, they will give you your change in a gift certificate for Shoots. That annoyed my husband and I since now we have to go back, but other than that, we loved it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Diamond in the Rough

The other day at Wal-mart, I saw some SkyDiamond kites for $1. I bought some on impulse. It was one of the best decisions I've made recently.

These kites are the traditional diamond shape, but they really fly. It was trivial to get them up in the air (unlike many of the other kites I've tried.) My almost-four-year-old daughter could get and keep hers up with a little help.

In the interest of full disclosure, these kites have two quirks. First, their tail is really long, like ten feet. Second, when you put the kite together, their is a black piece that can flip around and be backwards, so if your kite isn't wants to fly upside down, flip that piece around.

We went back to Wal-mart yesterday and got some more :)

Here's the kite.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Review: Bride and Prejudice

About 2 weeks ago, I saw the movie "Bride and Prejudice", a musical set in India based on the plot of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". I liked the movie, but I recommend watching it late at night with friends after eating lots of sugar. I enjoyed the songs, especially "No Life Without Wife". It was fun to watch, very colorful. If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, definately see this one. I don't think I'll buy it, but I'd definately be willing to watch it again.

As an aside, I didn't realize the movie was a musical until I saw a bunch of men in turbans and beards break into song and dance.

My making new purse

I've been wanting a new purse. As the mother of two small children I needed to stuff in more stuff than my current purse of about 6 years could handle. I found a back pack style purse at Wal-mart for $5, too good to pass up. The problem was I couldn't organize all my stuff. So I decided to make my own purse. It turned out to be a good experience (mostly because of the kind intervention of my mother-in-law. She fixed all my sewing mistakes.)

The purse measures about 8 1/2 X 11 inches. I based my design on this free pattern I found on the web, but I have a dreadful sewing secret: I cannot sew a straight line. I'm getting better at it, but the pattern I had found had a bunch of curves. I wasn't quite ready to tackle that yet, so I decided to stick with squares. I also wanted a purse bigger than the one in the pattern.

I found a denim remnant and a cute cotton pattern remnant at Wal-mart to use for the purse. (Note: using denim is a pain because you have to zigzag stitch around all the seams to keep it from unraveling, but I was used to it since I had recently done a jean quilt.)

I learned how to install a zipper, why it is important to be careful with a seam ripper, and how to sew a corner. I also learned that having pockets go to the edge of the panels isn't the greatest idea since it meant I was trying to sew through five layers of fabric.

Anyway, my purse has a small outside pocket for cell phone, keys, and chapstick. On the back of the purse is a large pocket for holding papers.
Purse back
purse front

Inside is the main pocket, great for diapers and stuff. There are two inside pockets. The one is for little items I don't want floating around in the purse proper. The other pocket I sewed to make a pen holder, checkbook holder, and PDA holder.

Here's the inside of the purse before it was sewn:

I attached the strap with two D-rings.

I am happy with how my purse turned out, but for a while it did bear a striking resemblance to a scripture case. I also hope the cloth will hold up.

I always knew the weatherman was a democrat

I was reading this article on Slate (, where it was talking about bias in the news. Then came this great quote:

The authors predict more bias in stories where the outcomes aren't realized for some time (foreign war reporting, for example) and less bias where the outcomes are immediately apparent (a weather forecast or a sports score). Indeed, almost nobody accuses the New York Times or Fox News Channel of slanting their weather reports.

I'm sorry, I just couldn't stop laughing at the idea of accusing a newspaper of slanting the weather report.

Hmm... I wonder if news sources who favor the current party in power tend to predict more sunny days to make people feel happier. Sort of the "is the sky half cloudy or half sunny" debate. Although it would explain why the long range weather report is really hit and miss :)

Monday, March 27, 2006

My saga with WaMu

Here is a complaint letter I tried to write to Washington Mutual. I got a CD with them because of their great interest rate here, 4.4% on a 6 month CD. That's the best I've seen in a while. The staff there was very friendly. Anyway, they have on line banking and here begins my story. I tried to set up an online banking account. I called in twice before, but it turns out I was trying to create the account too soon after it was opened. So I waited a week. Then I tried again. Here's the email I was going to send them:

I am writing to let you know of some problems I had signing up with online banking. I am using Mozilla 1.7.2 on windows XP.

The first issue was that I could not associate my CD with my user name. I only have a CD with WaMu, so I do not have a pin number. I clicked on the link that said "Access your account with other information." I filled in my other information, then it gave me an error saying my account number had to be 10 or 11 digits long. My account number is 15 digits long. This meant I had to call customer support. The customer service representative was very helpful, but I was annoyed that I had to 1) change my user name since she created a new account for me and 2) call in in the first place.

The second problem I had was after I was mailed my new user name and password, I had to agree to various user agreements. On the second agreement (I believe it was the online bill pay one), I accepted it and I got a "file not found on server" for page I was able to get around that by changing the url in the browser to, but I suspect this isn't how you want the agreement accepted.

My account works fine now.

I understand that providing an error free web application is difficult, but as a new customer hitting two such errors makes me have second thoughts about the reliability of WaMu. I hope you can address these concerns so that other customers will have a better initial experience than I have had.

Thank you for your time.

Now I did not send them this letter. Why you may ask? Because they only have an email form to submit email. (Can you see where this is going?) I tried to submit it and got an error saying they couldn't submit my email and to call customer support. So I did. And the nice man on the other end typed it up for me and sent it. He also told me if I got rid of a few of the zeros in my account number that it would be the correct length. Now I had tried that, I just hadn't gotten rid of enough of the zeros. But it still remains that there was no way for me to know that about the account number.

Anyway it is all over now and my banking works, so I'm happy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Recipe: Chocolate Mint York Peppermint Patties

This recipe is based on this one over at recipezaar. I changed it because I didn't have enough peppermint and I loved how they came out.

Chocolate Mint York Peppermint Patties
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
6 c powdered sugar
1/2 to 1 Tbsp peppermint extract (to taste)
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa (or more to taste)
1 tsp vanilla
24 oz chocolate chips
4 T shortening

  1. Mix milk, peppermint, cocoa, and vanilla together. If you have a stand up mixer, use it.
  2. Mix in sugar until it forms a stiff, (mostly) non-sticky dough. (If you are not using a mixer, mix in what sugar you can, then kneed in the rest.)
  3. Roll dough into mint sized balls (about 1 inch) and place on waxed paper. (These are sweet and rich, so bite sized is better.)
  4. Let dry for 2 hours on each side (total of 4 hours). If you live in a dry climate like Utah, let dry 1 hour on each side.
  5. Melt chocolate chips and shortening in microwave according to bag instructions. Or melt for 1 minute on high, stir, and melt in 30 second increments until the chips are melted. Use 1 Tbsp shortening to 6 oz chips. (I melted half a bag at a time. This let me use it up before the chips hardened.)
  6. Put the balls in the chocolate and roll around until coated then remove with a fork. Set on wax paper to harden
  7. Enjoy

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We're all related

I was reading this article on Slate. Basically it was talking about how in the controversial Davinci Code, people are literal descendants of Jesus. If this were true (who knows), then pretty much anyone alive today would be related to him. The idea presented is that as you go back in time, there are fewer people, so after a few 1000 years everyone has the same set of ancestors from that time no matter where they live.

I've seen something similar to this in my family's own genealogy. From lines that go back far enough, they're all related. (Of course, my sample is skewed because there are very few lineages that go back very far because there are so few records. )

And, of course, we're all related through Adam and Noah :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Last week, I read on Matt Astle's blog about the Endurance, a ship that was destroyed in the Antartic. Ernest Shackleton was in charge of an expedition, a daring attempt to cross the South Pole. Unfortunately, the ship was destroyed in the ice. The 26 people were faced with the daunting task of getting home. They first camped on the ice, then managed to sail in life rafts to uninhabited Elephant Island. Then Shackleton and five others got in the life raft and sailed an additional 600 miles across open ocean to South Georgia Island, a whaling station. When they made it to South Georgia, they landed on the uninhabited side of the island. Shackleton and two others crossed the unexplored, glacier covered interior of the island to get help. All 26 people survived.

It is that last part, that all survived, that really gets me. So many polar expeditions ended in death. For the men to have all survived and actually been in fairly good spirits through out is a testament to human determination and the hand of providence.

I read South written by Shackleton since it available for free on Project Gutenberg. I later checked out Endurance, by Caroline Alexander from the library. I loved Alexander's book because of the pictures taken by Hurley during the expedition and subsequent adventure. I also liked the bigger picture she was able to present since she was able to draw from many different sources.

One thing South brings out that Alexander doesn't is what happened to the other ship in the expedition. The idea behind the expedition was to cross the South Pole, to do that, they needed someone to cache provisions for them since it was impossible for them to carry all they needed themselves. The second ship, the Ross, broke loose from its anchor and stranded a large number of people. It took months for help to come. The party from that ship wasn't so lucky, losing three members, including the captain, before rescue.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Not too Taxing

As of this morning, my taxes are done (and there was great rejoicing.) My husband was nice enough to do them for us. He's saving up to buy a bigger telescope, so I told him that if he would do the taxes, he could have 25% of the return for his personal spending money. It was amazing how fast the taxes were done and ready to go :)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Slipping up

My basement couch needed some help. It was given to us for free several years ago from a neighbor, who got it from her parents. It was her mother's first nice couch. Anyway, it is a comfortable couch, great for napping. My kids loved to play with all 6 cushions that went with it. However, it was starting to show its age. The cushion covers were ripped. First, I thought I'd make slip covers for it. Didn't end up working out, I hate cutting things to size and I have great difficulty telling if something is straight. I didn't like the look of commercial slip covers and they were so expensive. I considered a new couch, but my husband didn't see the point.

But at last I was saved, Wal-mart had Hometrends Microsuede sofa slipcovers on clearance ($50). So I got a brown one (only kind they had). I like it so far. It has a one cover for the cushions and one for the rest of the sofa. It looks pretty good and even sort-of resembles suede. Even better, it doesn't look like I threw a sheet over the couch. Hurray!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

Last Tuesday I went out and rented the new Pride and Prejudice. I didn't get the chance to see it in theaters, so I was waiting for it to come out on DVD. First question: Why didn't they release it for Valentines / Singles Awareness Day? Of course, no guy would buy that movie for his significant other because then he'd have to watch it :) So after my children went to bed, I watched it. I liked it OK. I'd definitely watch it again and if it was given to me as a gift I'd keep it, but I don't think I'd buy it myself. Of course, my view is tainted by the A&E version.

I liked Darcy in this one. At first I thought he was unattractive, but by the end of the movie he had grown on me. I liked Lizzie. Just the right amount of spunk. I thought Jane looked weird and didn't seem as nice as she was supposed to be.

I thought the father looked a little odd. The dad from the A&E version was much better. I did like how they made the father kinder than he was in the book.

I really didn't like Mr. Bingly. What a twit, and what an insane hair style. I also didn't find Wickham particularly attractive.

I also didn't like some of the liberties they took with the story, especially the ending after they were married. I might have liked it more were I watching it with a group of friends. Also, the letters were greatly abridged, but I can't fault them much with that because it is hard to deal with letters in a movie.

Issues with movies in general:
1) Jane is supposed to be the prettiest of the sisters. Why is the actor they choose to play Jane always less attractive than Lizzie? (Answer: Lizzie is the protagonist, but still...)

As long as I'm on the topic, I do have to recommend These Three Remain by Pamela Aidan. It covers from when Lizzie goes to visit Mrs. Collins until the end of the book from Mr. Darcy's perspective. It is the third book in a trilogy, but I have no desire to read the other two books since this one covers my favorite part of Pride and Prejudice. (Note: I had to order it online since none of the bookstores around me carried it.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Galaxy Quest

I have always lived in moderate to large sized cities, so imagine my surprise when my husband told me that the Andromeda Galaxy is bigger than the moon (see here for a picture that illustrates it). Now I know that placed side-by-side, a galaxy is bigger than the moon, but I thought that all galaxies look like little blurry stars and of course the moon is the largest object in the sky. This is true, if you live in a city or suburb. In a dark sky, like in the mountains or the country, Andromeda is bigger than the moon, but it is dimmer so that city lights wash it out to a barely identifiable smear. I felt slightly cheated. Next time I go out away from the city lights, I am definitely going to look up.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cell Phones Only

(Warning: Incoherent rambling below)

My husband was mentioning to me yesterday about how one of his coworkers had dropped their land line and was now using Vonage (an IP phone) exclusively. Some of my other friends have dropped their land line and only use their cell phones. I personally will never do this. I see the land line as insurance.

Insurance is why I got my cell phone in the first place. I wanted a phone to take with me (or to send with my husband) so that if something happened, I could call for help. But, I wouldn't trust my cell phone as my primary line. First, I have on occasion mislaid my cell phone, so I call it to find out where it is. I guess I'd be more careful or email my husband to call. Second, the battery life. My cell's batteries last about 2 days at best. I'd hate to need to make an emergency call and have to find the charger first. Finally, what about the babysitter? Do you leave your cell with him or her or what?

With VoIP, I'd worry about emergency situations and the internet service being down. My internet service is fairly good. It hasn't been down much at all in the several years we've had it, but I'd hate to have to trust it for a 911 call. The second issue is power. What if the power is out? In my (limited) experience with power outages, the power is more likely to be out than the phone (this of course assumes a phone that gets its power from the phone line).

I think 911 is the main sticking point. With a land line, 911 can tell where I am and send an ambulance even if I can't talk or had my 3 year old daughter dial it because I was unable to. The same can't be said for cell phones or VoIP.

Yes, there are ways around all the difficulties I've just mentioned. I'd just rather keep my land line (plus, I get free local calls :) ).

Monday, February 13, 2006

My greatest discoveries of 2005

Here's some of the things I discovered in 2005 that I loved:

  1. Welch's fruit snacks - nice and chewy with a great flavor and real fruit (or so they claim)
  2. Homemade Tomatillo sauce - this is the mild, green sauce you get at burrito places like Cafe Rio/Costa Vida. (The recipe)
  3. Costa Vida - a great burrito restaurant, plus it is less than a mile from my house
  4. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - Gets all kinds of weird stuff off my wall including crayon
I'll add more as I think of them...

Monday, February 06, 2006

New Treat

Saturday at the store, I discovered Reese's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. They are amazingly good, much better than their regular ones. I hope they keep them around for a while because my bag of them is almost gone.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Fakes on EBay

There's an article on the NYTimes here (subscription required) about how people are selling fake Weiss jewelry as authentic on eBay. The people in the article are mad because
  1. they got ripped off (money eventually refunded)
  2. this ruins the price of authentic jewelry
  3. EBay won't do anything to stop it.
I guess I'm bad, but I don't see why eBay should be responsible, anymore than the classifieds in the local newspaper. (How do you know that those "purebred" puppies really are.) They can't determine if what people sell is real or not.

eBay has a lot of listings go up everyday. It is up to the buyer to beware. My personal philosophy is don't buy anything on EBay unless you are willing to have it be different from advertised. (Note: I have been perfectly happy with all my purchases from EBay, but I don't buy anything that anybody would want to fake.) If it will make you upset to find out it is a fake, don't buy on eBay, buy from a dealer where you can actually look at it and have it authenticated.
If eBay wants to address this problem, I think the simplest solution , for areas high in fraud or when the trademark holder asks, is to not allow anything to be sold as real, i.e. everything must be labeled Weiss-style. Another possibility is for the trademark holder to have some sort of authentication system, so trusted sellers could post that their items are authentic with a link to the trademark holder's website showing it to be true.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Recipe: Crockpot Sweet Pork / Carnitas

Here's my lame, um I mean easy, recipe for sweet pork similar to what you might find at Costa Vida/ Cafe Rio or any of those big burritto places. It is loosely based on this "real" recipe.

1 pork roast or pork chops , about 4 lbs. (I suppose the cut of meat matters, but I haven't had enough experience)
1 t. powdered onion
1 t. powered garlic
1 can chicken broth
1/4 c fresh cilantro chopped up
2 T soy sauce
1 can of Sprite or other lemon/lime drink

Brown roast in a frying pan. Mix garlic, onion, and cilantro. Pour part of the chicken broth into the crock pot. Put roast into pot and pour rest of chicken broth and soy sauce over it. Pour a little of the sprite over it (about 1/4 c, just give it a quick glurg). Sprinkle onion/garlic/cilantro over top and or rub it in if desired. Cook on low for about 8 hrs or until pork pulls apart easily. (Or do like me and cook on high for about 2 hrs and on low for about 4).

Phido the Fearless Phone

My 3D animated short is now live on google video. See it here. Watch Phido learn the value of kindness as he tries to return to his charger.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

My new word: Gormishes

I've invented a new word: gormishes (yes, I know it is also a last name)
gormishes - noun decorative bumps or buttons
use: frobs, doodads, and gormishes

My husband says that his telescope has many frobs and doodads, but I thought it needed one more descriptive word, so I added gormishes.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Aluminum siding and porch lights

Today my husband was trying to install some new porch lights. He has just gone back to the store for our third set of lights. The first set didn't hang straight (manufacturing issue). The second set just wouldn't fit with our aluminum siding.

Here is what I learned, if you have aluminum siding, beware. The siding might affect which lights you can buy. Depending on how the electrical box is in relation to the edge of the siding, you might not be able to install fixtures with large "bases" (for lack of a better word). The edge of our siding juts out, so it pushes the bottom of the fixture forward. To have the fixture hang straight, you would have to leave a half an inch gap at the top. See how big the base of your current lights are and how they fit. (If the edge of the siding will hit the middle of the fixture, no problem)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

So You Want to Buy a Telescope, a Wife's Guide

My husband recently bought his first telescope. I've decided to share what little I've learned (mostly from my husband) to help other women out there. (I suppose it could also apply to a man whose wife wants one.)
  1. Do not buy him one. Let him pick his own, but set a budget.
  2. If you choose to ignore #1, do not buy a telescope from Wal-mart or a department store. These have several problems 1) they are too small to see anything really interesting 2) the mounts are unsteady. This means that the scope will shake in the slightest breeze making it impossible to see anything. This is the quickest way to kill interest in a hobby. OK, maybe that's a good thing. But if he is seriously interested, he will probably return it. (My husband did buy the cheap scope, "just to see". Decent optics, horrible mount. Can't recommend it.) Plus, if he can use it, he'll just want a nicer scope.
  3. The cheapest you can get a decent scope is around $250.
  4. Encourage a smaller telescope. My husband got a fairly small one and it is still bulky. The easier it is to get out, the more he will use it. Also, make sure it will fit in the back of your car. Also, make sure he has somewhere to store it.
  5. There are many different kinds of telescopes. The two main kinds are reflecting and refracting. Reflectors use mirrors and refractors use lenses. Reflectors are less expensive because it is cheaper to make nice mirrors than nice lenses.
  6. Have him decide if he want to use it for terrestial viewing. That is, does he (or you) want to use it to look at the mountains in the distance? Telescopes made for astronomy show the image to you upside down (invert the image). Fine for stars, not so fine for scenic views.
  7. Terminology: lenses are inside the telescope. What you look through is an eye piece.
  8. Eye pieces are very expensive. If you buy a scope, your husband will probably want a Barlow lense next.
  9. What the telescope sits on is called a mount. (It looks a tripod). There are two main kinds of mounts, altazimuth and equatorial. If your husband wants to take long exposure pictures, he will want an equatorial mount (so he can attach a motor). Otherwise, get a azimuth, it is more intuitive to a beginner or better yet, get a dobsonian mount. Sure you can't attach a motor to a dob and get pictures, but you can't attach a motor to a cheap equatorial either.
  10. Telescope motors are expensive. The cheap telescope motor from Orion is not a good choice. The expensive one from Orion is not steady enough to work with a cheap equatorial mount.
  11. and are not the same thing. They both sell telescopes.
  12. A good resource is
  13. Another good resource is Sky and Telescope magazine. Their November issue usually features a buyer's guide.
  14. Saturn and the moon are cool through a telescope. Most everything else in the sky looks like fuzzy blobs, unless you use a long exposure camera and/or know what you are looking at.
  15. Most of the pictures you saw in your science textbook were false color/long exposure photographs. (Long == several minutes up to several hours) Most things are white to you looking through the telescope. (So, white, fuzzy blobs sometimes with hints of color.)
  16. It is cold outside, at night, in the winter when the sky is clear. Your husband won't care. You might.
  17. If you are in a city, it will be hard to see nebulas and distant stars due to light pollution. But you can see more stars with a telescope than you can with your naked eye.
  18. There is a new telescope curse. Once your husband's scope arrives it will be cloudy for the next month. (My husband managed to beat this one with his scope, but not with his motor.)
  19. You can take pictures through a scope, but it takes lots and lots of patience.

Just Splenda-ed, Wal-Mart's Great Value Unsweetened Apple Sauce

I have a gripe with Great Value Unsweetened Apple Sauce I bought from Wal-mart. It IS sweetened, with Splenda (which in my mind is worse than sugar). Now in its defense, it does say on the label, in large letters, "Sweetened with Splenda", but I didn't read that far. I was looking for the all natural kind, and was a little ticked that unsweetened just means unsweetened with sugar. You can sweeten it with some weird chemical and it counts as unsweetened. But, my kids ate it anyway, they don't share my qualms :) I just will be more careful next time.

(OK, yes I do have a thing against artificial sweeteners. Mostly, it's because I'm a little sensitive to them. They taste weird to me.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Heat loss through windows

Here's the really good link for figuring out how much money your windows are costing you:

The story behind this:
We had a visit from a windows salseman. Now, I'd been thinking about replacing my windows with new ones since the windows had their seals broken and looked really bad. One point the man mentioned was how great these windows were at stopping heat loss. He had a demonstration involving a heat lamp and how you could feel the heat through a regular window, but not one of the really cool windows. Then he quoted us a price around $6,000 which was a lot more than I was willing to pay.

He also said that maybe the windows could knock $45 off our heating bill, cutting it in half. Now, I admit that would be nice. But I was skeptical. We already had double payned windows. So I used the info in the link above to calculate my savings if I replaced the six windows in the house that really needed it. This is just to give me an estimate if new windows would be worth it.

Here's my set up:
6 windows, 3 that are 3x4 and 3 that are 4X4 for a total of 84 square feet
we keep our house at 68 degrees F, so it is about 30 degrees F difference between outside and in
Gas costs about 1.096 per therm (as per our house bill)
I assumed my furnace had an efficency of 80%, since that is what it is supposed to have.

The results:
Assuming we have just plain double glazed windows, we are loosing $15 a month through those 6 windows.

With new and improved double glazed windows with energy coating and argon gas the energy loss would be $10.70 a month. A savings of $4.40, or about 29%.

The verdict:
Umm... $4 a month is not anywhere close to $45 dollars a month. If we had single glazed windows, the savings would be much larger. This just agrees with what I've read elsewhere, new energy efficient windows will not pay for themselves any time soon. (Hmm... it would take 125 years for these windows to pay for themselves.) You upgrade windows because you like the way new windows look, or your old windows are ugly, or you want your house to heat up less from the afternoon sun. Now one thing this doesn't take into account is that new windows might be better caulked and fit better, so there would be less heat loss around the window, so maybe there would be more savings that way.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Extracting audio files from dvds

I wanted to get the soundtrack off a DVD my sister made (i.e. she produced it, not ripped it). Any way here's a good tutorial:
Basically the programs used were Smart Ripper (to rip the audio from the dvd) and HeadaAC3he to convert the file to wav (you need HeadAC3he, Libmmd DLL, Azid DLL, SSRC DLL). Then I pulled it into Nero SoundWave and chopped it up appropriately. Nero Sound wave won't handle the AC3 files Smart Ripper produces directly, I tried.

(I'm putting this here in case I ever need to do this again, I won't have to google it.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Scamps my playful pup vs Furby

This Christmas, my family came into the possession of a Furby and Scamps. Let me admit right now, I am more partial towards Scamps. I bought Scamps for myself and Furby for my 3 year old daughter. Here's a comparison of Scamps and Furby.

Batteries3 C (not included)3 AA (I think), included
Accessoriestoy, bonespoon
Abilitiesbarks, sits up, lies down, sits normal, waves paw, barksear/eye expressions, talks, moves feet up and down
Cuteness4 out of 53 out of 5 (maybe other color combos are cuter, but ours looks a little odd)
Command ExamplesSit, down, wanna treat, good dogHey furby... show me a dance, tell me a story, how are you
Min. Age to use semi-effectively(based on limited experience)4 years (my 3 year old just doesn't talk clearly enough for Scamps and doesn't understand the need to wait, but her 4 year old friend does just fine making Scamps sit and lie down)5 years (every command must be prefaced by "Hey Furby" then waiting for furby to respond, then the commands (which are long), a little tricky for 4 and younger)
FailuresUsually chalked up to being a stubborn/playful dogSince Furby can talk, it is obvious he doesn't understand, main misunderstanding is between "sing me a song" and "play a game"
Turning off (I can't really get sleep mode to work with either of them)Switch on bottom, when turned off forgets all training Switch on bottom, doesn't seem to forget, but since there isn't any training it is hard to tell
Length of play (how long my kids will play with it)10 min10 min

Personally, I like Scamps better. Scamps has the advantage of looking like a dog, so I expect it to act like one, and it does a reasonable job. Also, as a toddler entertainer, most kids know what to do with a dog, they aren't quite sure what Furby should be able to do.

Furby has a slightly higher standard held to it because it "talks" back to you. Furby's consistent misunderstanding of singing vs playing its game is hard because my daughter loves the song (weird version of Twinkle, Twinkle, little star) but not the game so much. The only way I've found to get it out of game mode is to turn it upside down.

My earlier Scamps review.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Review: California Pizza Kitchen

Name: California Pizza Kitchen
Location: University Mall, (approx. State St. and University Pkwy), Orem, UT
What we had: Spinach Artichoke dip ($8) and a California Club Pizza ($10.96)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (It was good, if someone else wanted to go, I'd go but we probably won't go there again any time soon)
Kid-friendly: provides crayons and special menu. Also drinks in plastic cups with lids.
Review: California Pizza Kitchen was pretty good. I'd been wanting to go there for awhile because of all they hype when it opened. Service was reasonably fast. I really liked the spinach artichoke dip. It was nice and cheesy with a garlic flavor. It was served with corn chips. It was a good thing we got an appetizer because there is no way one pizza would feed a family of four (even if 2 of the members were toddlers). The California Club pizza was 10" and cut into 6 slices. The chicken and bacon pieces on it were really good, although it had a lot more lettuce then I was expecting. Sort of a salad on a crust effect. Also, the avocado slices were a bit much (I don't like avocado much, though). I liked the pizza, there just wasn't much of it. The meal left us barely satisfied. (This might be a good choice if you want to get desert afterwards, because I was far from stuffed.)

Monday, January 02, 2006

FlowerThinger v1.1 Beta Release

I've mostly finished my free gardening software game, FlowerThinger. You can read more about it at

Grow a flower garden. This game isn't based on any point system. Plant what flowers you want when you want and enjoy watching them grow.

  • "Green thumb" or "brown thumb", these flowers will grow for anyone
  • Grow up to 11 different kinds of flowers
  • Enjoy watching your flowers gradually grow or have them instantly burst into bloom
  • Watch as butterflies, bunnies, and birds visit your garden
  • Take pictures of your garden to share with friends
  • Water your garden to have your flowers grow faster
  • Optional weeds