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