Sunday, December 23, 2007

review of the nokia n800

I'm typing this review from my Nokia n800's thumb pad and so far it isn't too bad. Far better reviews than mine have been written, so I'm going to list the pros and cons. I am running os 2008.

- screen is nice
- handles flash reasonably well-I can watch Chuck previews
- much more stable than my Dell Axim- couldn't run that pda without it running out of memory
- on-screen thumbpad so I don't have to type with the sylus
- runs blogger, mostly
- plays flash games on PBSKids (actually, this is probably a con since my children think it is cooler to play on mom's n800)
- battery life is reasonable
- can use autocomplete as a spell checker
- charger is a cell phone-like plug-in charger (much better than dell's weird plug)
- can run a bunch of Palm software with its emulator

- my thumbs must be small because it doesn't autodetect I'm using my thumbs. (but I can push the button in the center of the dpad to make it come up)
- video has to be re-encoded to play well on it
- no equivalent of jawbreaker available for it yet (Update 12/31/07: found one that runs on Garnet VM)
- lots of cool software, but a lot of it is in beta (but then in linux you come to expect that
- no always visible clock/time/date
- a little too big. This was the trade-off for a larger screen. In its case (see hint below), it doesn't fit in my purse, although I expect it will some day when I don't have to keep a diaper and a pull-up in there.

Wal-mart has a case for the Nintendo ds lite that fits the n800. It cost me $7. Take your n800 with you since not all ds lite cases will fit.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nokia n800 links

This seems to be the easiest way to keep track of random things I want to remember about the nokia n800:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

this is a test from my nokia n800

I bought a nokia n800 and really like it so far. The thumb keyboard is ok for short messages, but I wouldn't want to write “War and Peace” on it

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Circuit City ships fast

I've been pleasantly surprised at the speed of circuit city's free shipping. I bought a christmas present for my husband and it was here in three or four days. I ordered a present for me on black Saturday and it is here by Wednesday. That means it got here in 5 days with a weekend in there. To me that is really good.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Upgrade my PDA? on finding a portable wifi media device

I'm considering upgrading from my Dell Axim x30. I like it. But it has been flaking out recently. (Note: since I've started looking at other devices it suddenly decided it had 2 more megs of memory and has stopped crashing so much.) I really do like my Axim. It does everything I want it to, at least most of the time. Since it is older it has started having trouble with flash-based webpages (ebay crashes it almost every time). With Christmas and my birthday coming up, I decided to take a look around and see if there were any devices worth upgrading to. First thing I learned was that Dell has stopped making Axims. Oh well.

The devices I came across that mostly fit my needs were the nokia n800, the iPod touch, the Asus 626, the archos 605, and the Sony mylo.

I've noticed I really don't use the PDA functions of my Axim much. It might be because text entry is such a pain in the fanny. The hand writing recognition just doesn't work for me, so I'm typing on the little key board with the stylus. This means I use it for reading email, but not responding.

Features I want:
  1. can read ebooks
  2. Wi-fi
  3. email
  4. rss
  5. general web browsing
  6. flash support
  7. resonable text entry
  8. decent battery life
  9. internet videos (like and
  10. music and movies
  11. can add on programs
Here's the devices I've found so far that might work. They all fall in the $200-300 range and have WiFi:
  1. Nokia n800 (internet access device)
  2. iPod touch (media player)
  3. Asus mypal a626 (PDA)
  4. Archos 605 (media player)
  5. Sony Mylo
Note: please be aware that except for the Axim x30 I do not own any of the above mentioned products. I'm basing my reviews on my needs and the reviews of others.

Products in depth:

Product Name: Dell Axim x30
Size: 3 in x 0.6 in x 4.8 in
Screen Size: 3.2, 240 X 320
Weight: 4.9 oz
Battery life: 4 hrs. 30 min, or 2.5 hrs according to mobile review
opperating system: Windows Mobile 2003 2nd Edition
memory: 64 MB, 64 mb ram
memory expansion type: SD
browser: Pocket Internet Explorer
flash: sort of
formats supported: mp3, wma, .txt,
text entry: stylus
websites: cnet

1. Product Name: Nokia n800 Internet Tablet PC
Size: 5.7 x 2.95 x 0.5 inches (WxHxD)
Screen Size: 4.1 inch (800 X400 pixel)
weight: 7.27 oz
Battery life: 3 hours
opperating system: Maemo
memory: 256 MB flash, 128 MB RAM
memory expansion type: SD (2 slots, 2 gig limit)
browser: Opera
flash: flash 7
formats supported: AAC, AMR, MP2, MP3, WAV, WMA, Real Audio
text entry: stylus, touch screen keyboard
quirks: video play back issues, lots of free programs available, video camera
websites: cnet, amazon

2. Product Name: Apple ipod Touch
Size: 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.31
Screen Size: 3.5 inch,
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Battery life: 6 hours
opperating system: apple
memory: 8 gig
memory expansion type: None (no extra slots)
browser: safari
flash: no
formats supported: AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible 2, Audible 3, Audible 4, Apple Lossless, WAV, AIFF, mpeg-4
text entry: touch screen
quirks: can't paste text, you tube player which means safari can't handle youtube
websites: cnet, amazon

3. Product Name: Asus mypal a626
Size: 2.8 x 0.6 x 4.6 inches
Screen Size: 3.5-inch TFT LCD touchscreen with 65k colors, 240 x 320-pixel resolution (QVGA)
Weight: 5.57 ounces
Battery life: 4.5 hrs
opperating system: Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0
memory: 128 MB Flash ROM and 64 MB SDRAM
memory expansion type: SD
browser: Pocket IE
formats supported: MP3, WMA
text entry: Stylus
websites: zdnet, mobile review, amazon

4. Product Name: Archos 605
Size: 5.1 x 3 x 0.65 inches (W x H x D)
Screen Size: 4.3 in, 480 x 272
Weight: 9.5 oz
Battery life: 4.7 hours
opperating system:
memory: 4 gig
memory expansion type: SD
browser: Opera (extra $30)
flash: yes
formats supported: MP3, WAV, WMA, protected WMA, JPEG, BMP, PNG, MEGP-4, and WMV
text entry: touch screen
quirks: have to pay for other features, doesn't appear to do email
websites: cnet, amazon

5. Product Name: Sonly Mylo
Size: 4.8 in x 0.9 in x 2.5 in Screen Size: 2.4-inch LCD display (320 x 240 resolution),
Weight: 5.3 oz
Battery life:
opperating system: linux (closed source)
memory: 1 Gig
memory expansion type: memory stick pro duo
browser: opera
flash: no
formats supported: MP3, WMA, ATRAC3
text entry: keyboard
quirks: for college students, doesn't seem like it will do ebooks
websites: cnet, decent review

if I upgrade, it would probably be to a Nokia n800 or the asus mypal 626

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Birthday list 2007

OK, it's November, here's my birthday list (it's much shorter thanks to all the early birthday presents):
I can dream (aka really expensive):

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Utah School Vouchers

This is an unorganized post of me trying to think my way through the whole school voucher debate. Currently I'm undecided, so I should be relatively neutral. (Although if they keep running those stupid anti-voucher adds all the time I'm going to vote FOR the vouchers) here's my areas of research:

Why would vouchers hurt schools?
The voucher money isn't coming from the general education fund.(1)
How do schools get money in the first place?

What happens now if a child goes to a private school? If a child is home schooled?

How does this change with the vouchers?

If vouchers pass:
If, as a blog post I've seen seem to imply, that vouchers don't really help the poor, does that matter?
Yes, the voucher doesn't pay the full amount of tuition. It does pay part which means that people that were close to being able to pay can now pay.
How many children are currently enrolled in private schools? (I will assume that all of these will apply for vouchers.)
How many children go to private schools for a while (less than 5 years), then come back to public schools? or conversely, how many children go to private schools for their entire education? See, after five years, the public schools loose the extra money from the vouchers. If a child returns during that time, the school gets the full amount of money.
Will more people put their children in a private school now with the vouchers? Will home schoolers switch to private schools?
If they make vouchers and no one "new" switches to private schools then does it matter if the bill passes?
Is it constitutional that public money can go to religious schools?
The ACLU thinks this is wrong, but then, as the anti-voucher supports point out, a voucher won't cover the full cost of tuition. Does this mean that the public money can go to the public part of the education and the parent's money can be seen as paying for the religious part of the education? :)
If no one uses vouchers, is it better to have them to let people have a choice or is it better not to have them and reduce bureaucracy and cost to the state?

Most obnoxious claims
  • Vouchers will help reduce the burdon on public schools -- this bugs me. Since we have decided public schools are a good thing, it is up to the legislature to make sure all children can be educated and not push it off on private schools.
  • More than half of utah counties do not have access to private schools (2) - yes, but the majority of Utah's population is only in a few counties. Assuming that the counties that don't have private schools are also the least populus, those counties have a population of less than 15,000. Also, anti-vouchers shouldn't point this out because this means the arguement of "parents can already send their kids to private schools if they want" doesn't hold true in half of Utah's counties. Thus, vouchers wouldn't change anything in those counties, except maybe encourage a private school to start.


Useful facts:
The bill is HB 148
The ammendment is HB 174
  1. KSL's analysis of annoying adds.
  2. daily herald

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No-sew Felt Pea costume

I've been wanting to make my baby daughter a pea costume, but I didn't want to buy one. Here's what I came up with:On Halloween she'll be wearing a green onesie or blanket sleepers. Here's it again without the baby (the hat isn't attached to the body of the costume, it is just sitting on top):

Here's basically how I did it:
  • 3 pieces dark green felt
  • 2 pieces light green felt
  • 2 foam balls
  • small pieces of Velcro
  • hot glue gun
for the hat:
I measured my baby's head height and circumference. On the felt I drew a half circle that high and half the circumference long. I cut out both halves of the hat at once so they would match. For the stem, I cut out a small rectangle of dark green felt and folded and glued it in half. I put the stem inside the hat and glued the two halves of the hat (wrong side out) and the stem together. I turned the hat right-side out. I cut four, slightly curved triangles out of light green felt and glued them around the hat.

For the Pod:
I took a piece of dark green felt and folded it in half lengthwise. Then I cut out a curved shape. When unfolded, it makes the pod shape. I cut out two rectangular pieces of felt and glued them at the top of the pod to form straps to go around the baby's neck. I glued on a piece of Velcro to attach the straps behind the baby.

For the Peas:
I took some foam balls I got on clearance from wal-mart and wrapped a piece of light green felt around each one. Once I was happy with how the "pea" looked, I cut off the excess felt and glued the felt directly to the ball. (I only covered the top and sides of the ball since the bottom wouldn't be showing.) Then I glued the "pea" to the pod.

total cost: $3

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Shark Steam Mop review

So yesterday I bought a Shark Steam mop. I had seen the infomercial and I too wanted to clean my floors without toxic chemicals. Also, my current (non-steam) mop has been on the way out for about a month and I needed to replace it. Why not replace it with something that costs ten times as much? What a great a idea I thought. I dragged my children down to Sears and purchased the coveted item.

This morning I got to try the shark steam mop out. (I did read reviews found here before I bought it.) It was easy to assemble. I washed the microfiber pads as directed. Then I mopped my floor. Mopping with steam is fun. I wasn't sure if I would like the "steam as you push forward" feature, but I actually do like it. I just need to remember to pull back hard. In my usual mopping I do most of the cleaning pushing forward, but that doesn't work as well on this mop. I also need to buy some distilled water for it since the water here is very hard. I have a small kitchen, dining room, and two small bathrooms that I mopped. I used both pads and had to refill once. I saw some spots afterwards that I went at with my regular mop and it couldn't get them up either, so it did an OK job. As one of the reviews said, this will clean about as well as a regular mop, although I like it better since it picks up all the dirty water instead of the water staying on the floor like it did with my old mop.

The pads need to be washed separately from other laundry. I tried wrapping them in a pillow case and washing them with everything else, and they still came out covered in weird little things the microfibers picked up from the other laundry.

  • Floor is dry almost instantly because the steam evaporates quickly.
  • Relaxing hissing sound from the steam
  • Arm workout since I am pushing forward and back more than I usually do. (This is good since most of my mopping consists of "the floor is wet, that must mean it is clean".)
  • Cord is long.
  • You can refill the reservoir without waiting for the mop to cool.
  • Works well on my wood floors.
  • Got a big glob of dried yogurt up off the floor. (I had to go over it a few times, but at least I didn't have to get out my putty knife like I usually do.)
  • Mop stays more sanitary since I will clean the microfiber pads every week.
  • Does not work well on my upstairs bathroom vinyl flooring. I'm not exactly sure what the deal is since the shark mop works fine in the kitchen and other bathroom, both of which have vinyl flooring. I think the texture might be giving it problems. My regular mop doesn't like that bathroom much either.
  • It can sanitize, but I'd have to mop very slowly.
  • It would be nice if the handle could turn, then I could store it against a wall.
I'll add more later after I've used it a few more times.

Update (11-17-07): So I have mopped with it a few more times. A few more things I've noticed. One of the pads seems to mop better than the other one. I'm not sure what the difference is. Also, I think my mop is slightly broken, but I think the problem is easily fixable (my best guess is a little part at the base popped out). I just need my husband to look at it to confirm my suspicions and help me pop it back in. I'm waiting for the mop to cool down. Also, if there is water in the mop and you lay it down or turn it upside down, it will leak water.
Update (12-04-07): I don't think the mop is broken. Still mopping away with it.
Update (12-17-07): Still mopping away. My final verdict is I'm not sure it is better than a regular mop, but mopping with steam is cool. I'd feel bad if I had spent budget money on it, but since I used my own spending money I like it just fine. I've also found a way around the upstairs vinyl problem...I just mop that with a rag under the steam mop instead of one of its mircofiber pads. Seems to work just fine. I'm wondering if my pads have shrunk (I did run them through the dryer once.) I'll have to remember to check my mom's and see if hers are slightly larger.
Update (10-17-10): my steam mop died several months ago.  It no longer heats the water.  I'm back using a regular mop.  I miss the quick drying time, but I don't miss it enough yet to go back and buy another one.  (Unlike my roomba.  When it died, I replaced it with in a month.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

My dream house

Your home is a

Magic Coder's Manor

Your study has every language reference book ever written, including now-useless titles like Learn Javascript 2.0! and C++ Programming for Windows 95. (Why are you keeping those?)

Below is a snippet of the blueprints:

Build YOUR Dream Home!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I like "Chuck"

The other night I caught the season premier of "Chuck" on NBC. (Disclaimer: I majored in computer science.) What a great show. I thought it was funny, action packed, and sweet. Who doesn't like a nerd going out with a hot CIA killer who wears poisoned hair chopsticks (sorry don't know what those are really called) and a bomb being defused by a downloaded computer virus? I hope the writers can sustain it because the first episode was a blast.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

lunar eclipse -- totality

lunar eclipse -- totality
Originally uploaded by rcstanley
My husband is really into astronomy and photography. I decided to take a picture of the lunar eclipse through his telescope.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I finally tried out febreeze. I kept seeing comercials for it and finally had a coupon. Anyway, it seems to do a good job of elimating odors. I sprayed it on one of my jackets that I'm not sure will wash well and it seemed to do OK. Of course, now that I have it I can't think of anything that really stinks to try it out on. But the smell (I have like spring flowers) is just fine. I'm pretty smell sensitive and get sick of smells quickly, but I think this smells nice.

As Time Goes By

OK, if this show is on where you live you have to watch it. "As Time Goes By" is a british comedy on PBS that I stay up late for, or rather if I'm up and start watching it I stay up even later. Basic plot is (I missed the first few shows so not exactly how it starts) but an older, successful business woman meets her old wartime sweetheart and they rekindle their romance, get married, etc. It is very funny and sweet. Unfortunately it isn't on digital tv yet, so I can't record it on my computer. The tragedy!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I've now seen more movies in the past 3 days than I've seen in the past I don't know, about a year. Since my sister was in town, I celebrated by going to see "Evan Almighty" and um... Pixar's rat movie..

Evan Almighty was OK, fairly clean, but not worth full movie price. It was interesting from the perspective of "What could it have been like for Noah?" See this review for a good description of what to expect.

Pixar's rat movie was pretty good. Sarah and Josh thought it was too scary. Considering I don't like rats or France, the movie exceeded my expectations. I wouldn't mind seeing it again, but I wouldn't pay for it. Philosophically, I don't think I could eat food a rat cooked, even if it was good.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Summer Movies

There are rarely any movies I want to go see. Now that I have a little baby and can't really go, there's a whole summer full of movies that look interesting. Guess I'll have to wait until they come out on video.

Here's my list:
Shrek the third
Nancy Drew (June 15)
Evan Almighty (June 22)
Pixar's Rat Movie (maybe, I like most of Pixar, but I don't like France, or rats)
Harry Potter (July 11)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I'm a professional photographer

Today my husband pointed out to me that one of the pictures I've taken is in wikipedia (and I didn't put it there :) ). See

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's a girl

Very early Monday morning, my little daughter was born. She weighed 6lbs 1 oz and was 19 inches long, not bad for being only 35 weeks. We're both doing well.

After some initial concern about her blood sugar levels, she was able to maintain it and came home Tuesday evening.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My new stamp sets

My friend and I placed a big order for stamps this past week, so now I have a bunch of new stamps. I think I actually have enough that I can convince myself not to buy any more for a long time. I have the coolest snow flake set (Provo Craft), a flower set (watercolor minis), the most beautiful tree set which will work for Christmas and for doing scenes (lovely as a tree), a set that has a frog, a goldfish and a flower (all wrapped up) which is great for kids birthdays, and a cute bear set (favorite teddy bear) that will work for birthdays/Christmas/Mother's day.

I've slowly been trying out my new sets. I only have favorite teddy bear left to try out.

Tonight I was making Christmas cards. I've been trying to come up with one that will work for the ones I will send out this year and one that will work as a present. My plan is to give out sets of handmade cards for Christmas. I made 3 different cards, 2 of which I really like. I need to remember though to keep my fingers out of the versimark when I am embossing or I end up with a bunch of embossed fingerprints. At least people can tell they are hand made :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ug Doug

I have come up with a lame poem based on various expressions my husband uses (and some he doesn't use). My children think it is funny and recite it when he uses the expressions.

Ug, ug, my name is Doug.
When folks say hi, I just shrug.

Ack, Ack my name is Jack.
When folks say hi, I smile back.

Oh no, my name is Joe.
When folks say hi, I say Hello.

How does all natural soap taste?

My husband showed me this great article (Warning, some harsh language) about this man who tried various all-natural products like soap, deodorant, etc. I haven't laughed so hard in quite a while.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dang it, Intellectual Property Strikes Again

So I have my new hobby of making cards which I have enjoyed quite a bit. I go to this site called splitcoaststampers where they have various forums. Today I came across a post talking about CASEing (basically copying someone else's idea) and where the line was, when was it now your idea and when did you need to attribute. Honestly, it had never occurred to me that someone might post to a public forum like that and not want their work duplicated and/or be very touchy about attribution.

I don't knowingly make an exact duplicate of someone else's card for a few reasons:
  1. I think it is almost impossible for me to exactly duplicate another card. Stamps stamp differently, I don't have the right color paper, I dislike the colors they chose, etc.
  2. Half the fun is playing around with layout and design elements. My cards almost never turn out the way I envisioned them.
But I can understand the distinction. It is one thing for me to copy someone else's card (let's say exactly for the sake of argument) to give to my friend and another thing to sell the card or teach it to others for money or enter it in a contest. Once money and prestige gets involved people get very touchy.

I think the only way around this is for people to say what they want done with their ideas, something along the lines of the creative commons license. That way people like me can say "do whatever you want with it" and people who are professionals and want reimbursement can say that. I expect the whole thing would be on the honor system since there really isn't any way to know someone copied your idea or if they came up with it independently.

If someone copied one of my cards I would be flattered. If they actually charged money for one of my cards I would be shocked (and maybe open an eBay account and do the same). But one of the things that attracted me to stamping was what I perceived as a more laid back, willing to share attitude among hobbyists, and I would be saddened to find that untrue.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Catastrophic consequences

Here's my new favorite news story:
An Idaho man who was driving a truck full of explosives when it overturned and blew a crater in a canyon road pleaded guilty to causing a catastrophe, a misdemeanor.
I just laughed to see that causing a catastrophe is a misdemeanor. I'll keep that in mind if one the holes my son likes to dig causes a volcano.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My new hobby

I've started a new hobby, stamping and making cards. A friend invited me to a Stampin' up party then to stamp at her house the next day and I was hooked. I don't like scrapbooking, but I do like making cards. Here's a link to some of the cards I've made:

It's been fun, plus my kids like to play with my stamps too, so we have fun making cards together.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Baby #3

Here's an ultra sound of the latest addition to our family due at the end of May. Posted by Picasa

Tantrums on a Plane

I saw this news article yesterday about a family that was kicked off an airplane because their 3-year-old daughter was having a tantrum and would not stay in her seat thus delaying departure time. The airline refunded their money and also offered them free travel vouchers.

I have a toddler and a preschooler, so I am very familiar with tantrums. Take a three-year-old, maybe missed her nap, and put Mom and Dad in a high stress situation and a tantrum tends to ensue. The plane was delayed for 15 minutes trying to get the girl to stay in her seat. I feel for the airline because this is going to look bad for them, but in all fairness what could they do? FAA regulations require 3-year-olds to have their own seats and be seatbelted. Some preschoolers can have 2 hour tantrums especially if they have an audience. I don't think it would be fair to ask the other passengers to wait it out. No one thinks very clearly when a child is screaming bloody murder. What I don't understand is why the mom and dad didn't put the daughter between them in a middle seat, belt her in, and physically hold her down. (I haven't tried this personally on a plane, maybe they tried and it didn't work, but I know I can get my kids in full tantrum into their car seats eventually(defined as under 15 minutes).) Yes, she would scream, but that wouldn't prevent the plane from taking off (although it might earn you the undying hatred of all other passengers.) On most flights you only need to have your seat belt on until the plane reaches cruising altitude the girl could go sit on Mom's lap like I assume she wanted to.

I feel bad for the family because they were forced to take a later flight, become a national news item for something embarrassing, and have clueless bloggers like me comment on them.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'll be Sienna tomorrow

My husband and I recently bought a seven passenger 2007 Toyota Sienna CE. It wasn't intentional. We meant to buy a 2006 Sienna since they were pretty much on clearance and also had a cash back offer. We wanted the CE with Option Package #1 (basically includes cruise control). The dealership we went to had the perfect van: good color, right price, seven seats (my husband didn't want the eight passenger). Got ready to deal and found to our surprise (and the salesman's) that it was a 2007 which meant no cash back. (What, we have 2007s?) Eventually, the salesman made us a deal we couldn't refuse. My husband was the best negotiator, he just looked like he wanted to leave and forget the whole thing and the dealer would drop the price again.

So here's my review/thoughts of the 2007 Toyota Sienna CE:

  • Looks- I like the way it looks. My husband thinks it looks ugly. I wonder if Toyota styled it to appeal more to women since it seems to me women would be more likely to be pushing the purchase of a minivan.
  • Big engine - the engine is bigger than the 2006. I like the power it has (at least compared to my 2000 Honda Civic).
  • I like the lay down seats in the back, although I haven't yet had occasion to use them.
  • The gear shift (don't know what else to call it) is on the dash and in a funny pattern. I used to think it is weird, but now I like it. My civic lets you pull straight down to shift gears and occasionally I would end up in Neutral or 4 instead of regular drive. Since each of the gears is in a different place on the Sienna, this doesn't happen
  • The doors lock when the car is taken out of park and unlock when it is put into park. I can think of situations where I wouldn't want this behavior, but right now I'm finding it really convenient.
  • Day time running lights - The Sienna CE doesn't come with this option by default, but with some simple work, my husband made them work.
  • Cruise Control - I found the cruise control a little weird to work, but I got used to it and like having it.
  • Air bags everywhere. Have to be careful that people don't rest their heads against the side of the car while riding since the side air bags will deploy and could hurt them if they do.
  • Door lights that come on to light the door way.
  • Front seats are very comfortable.
  • Plenty of cupholders and storage areas. Couldn't find a good place to put my maps though. Toyota probably assumes everyone uses one of those GPS based systems these days.
  • The thing is a boat. It is huge. It drives well and is very maneuverable, but still... My one advantage is that I have no clue how big a car really is. This means that entire time I was driving my Civic, I thought it was as wide as a minivan, so driving an actual minivan isn't that much of a change :) I think it stems from having a Chevy Impala as my first car as a teenager.
  • Visibility - it is a little hard to see out the back window when backing up. I've come to depend a lot more on the side view mirrors. Maybe this is the same in all minivans, I don't know.
  • Gas mileage - coming from a Honda Civic (got 30-something), getting 22 mi/gal isn't that great. It is good for a minivan though.
  • My 2-year-old can't get into his carseat by himself when the seat is in the middle row. I have to lift him in. He could manage the back row OK I think, but I don't want to have to get back there to buckle him in.
  • The one door makes a dragging sound when it is closed. I need to look at it and see if something is dragging that shouldn't be.
  • The breaks have seemed to grind a few times, I'll keep an eye on this, but I'm not too concerned.
All in all, I like the minivan. I think it is fun to drive and I like being able to invite friends to go places with me now.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Chocolate Dipping

The other day I took it into my head to try and make some of those chocolate orange sticks. I've made gummy things before using jell-o and a lot of gelatin, so I figured I'd use orange jell-o then dip it in chocolate. Worked pretty well and tasted great. I still had plenty of melted chocolate, so my sisters, kids, and I dipped plenty of other things.

Other Things I dipped
  • pretzels
  • strawberries (actually at a pretty good price right now considering it is February)
  • tangerine (clementines)- these were surprisingly good. Chocolately goodness with a burst of citrus juice
  • bananas - ok, but I'm not a big banana fan

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Panasonic DMC-FX01 - initial review

Yesterday I got my Panasonic FX01 digital camera. It seems to be everything I want (or at least would settle for) in a camera: small size, image stabilized, decent pictures, good movies, low cost, and a starry sky mode for my husband. I have taken some excellent, sharp pictures with it along with a bunch of mediocre to terrible pictures. Now I just need to learn how to increase my number of good pictures.
Panasonic DMC-FX01
First Impressions
The camera is small. I keep accidentally putting my finger in front of lens when turning it on. I find the interface intuitive (or at least not too bad after reading the manual). My husband thinks the interface is laid out well, but he gets thrown by needing to use the arrow keys to go "deeper" into menus instead of selecting set. That part of it doesn't bother me. As a lot of other reviews have said, the pictures can be noisy although this is mostly in low light situations. I got the white camera, which looks fine to me. It was the cheapest of the color choices. Here are some pictures I have taken:
pancake pile

First mountain shot with FX01
I did take plenty of pictures of my kids and family, but I don't usually post those publicly. I'll see if I can get a few pictures of myself that I don't mind posting.

The movies are great. They look really good to me, very smooth and clear. The sound sounds OK to me as well. No zoom during movies though.

Starry Night mode (long exposures 15, 30, or 60 s) seems to work OK. My husband tried it out last night on 15 seconds. It looks pretty good.

Here's the moon taken by my husband through his telescope (astrophotography) exactly as it came out of the camera. There's some chromatic aberation, but all in all it looks pretty good. (click on the picture to see the full sized image):

  • Set PICT ADJ to natural or change iso sensitivity (otherwise your pictures will be noisier than they should be)
  • If your pictures are coming out darker than you see on the LCD, check the exposure compensation and also change the Slow Shutter setting to be longer. By default it is at 1/8 s but you can change it up to 1 s. (If it picks a longer exposure, you'll need a tripod or table to stabilize the camera)
  • Use Mode 2 for image stabilization
  • If you want to take movies, get a 1 GB or 2 GB card. (FX01 can't handle any bigger than 2GB.) I have a 512 MB card right now and I can fill the thing up in a couple of hours if my kids are being cute.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Reining in

I bought my husband a leash this week or rather a cell phone, he calls it a leash. I've had a cell phone for a while now and it's been great to be able to call when ever I want. He's never wanted one and has actively resisted getting him one. I was planning on getting my husband a prepaid phone in a month or two when it was close to the time for the baby to be born. His work doesn't have individual phones since all the developers have cell phones. I wanted to be able to reach him if I went into labor while he was at work. I am not driving myself to the hospital.

Tuesday night my husband went out to take pictures at night and his car broke down. Fortunately, he I had given him the cell phone before he left, so he was able to call for help. That made me speed up my phone purchasing schedule.

I bought him a Virgin Mobile Oystr. I don't think we'll use that phone much, so the higher per minute rates won't affect us as much. Virgin Mobil uses the Sprint network (the same as my "real" cell phone) so we knew it would work everywhere we needed it to. The phone looks like a storm trooper and has no decent ringtones, but I think it will do the job.

Hurray for frilly dresses*

My husband and I are expecting our third child at the end of May. Yesterday we went and had an ultrasound done. Everything looks great: brain, spine, heart, kidneys... and we found out the baby's gender. It's a girl. This means I can start shopping for something cute and extremely useless for the baby to wear. (Not that I don't still have a huge amount of clothes from when Sarah was a baby, but I want this one to have a few new things.)

* Not that I wouldn't have been just as thrilled had it been a boy.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for a busy, cheap mom

I've been wanting a little camera to take places with me. My husband has a great camera that takes very nice pictures, but it is larger than I want to deal with. Here is my feature set:
  • Small -When I'm out with my kids with my purse and a diaperbag I don't want to have to haul a third bag for the camera. I want something that will fit in my purse or pocket and not add a lot of weight.
  • Decent movie mode - I want something that takes at least 30 fps at 640 X480 (this is TV resolution so it will look good (instead of blurry and shaky) on the family DVDs I make). Our camcorder uses minDv and it is a pain to capture the video to the computer. Basically it takes as long to capture as it does to play and I have to babysit the capture program to make sure it doesn't suddenly start not capturing. With a digital camera, the movies are copied much faster.
  • Image stabilized - I blur photos in low-light situations because I can't hold the camera still. Also, this is great for movies so they aren't bouncing. Unfortunately, this requirement threw out a majority of small cameras. The choices were Canon and Panasonic. (I think Sony had one too, but cost way too much.)
  • Not way expensive - I know this is relative, but I have kids and I will be sticking this camera in my pocket. I don't want something that costs so much that I'm scared to take it with me or totally depressed if it gets scratched.
  • Fast - I want to have it up and running quickly to catch my kids being cute.

The contenders
  • Panasonic dcs-fx01 - price $200 , ultra compact
  • Canon SD700 - price $300, cute elph
  • Canon a710 - not compact, but good movies and zoom, $320, compact, about the size of a regular point 'n shoot
  • Canon S2 - this thing is the size of my camcorder, but it kicks butt in taking cool pictures and good movies. It also has a 10x zoom. (most regular cameras have a 3x zoom.) Cost $270. A lot of people who have a dSLR get this camera so they have something more portable, but the thing weighs over a pound. It does zoom during movies, unlike most other digital cameras.
I ended up choosing the Panasonic fx01. It had the features I was looking for and the price was what I was willing to pay. I wish the S2 was smaller, because that is a cool camera, but I really didn't want to lug a large camera bag around.

So here are the pros and cons of the FX01:
  • price
  • image stabilized
  • good movies
  • small
  • will do long exposures (up to 1 min) (This is a feature my husband would like)
  • Image quality (some lowlight pictures just look noisy. Check out some of the reviews to see if this bothers you.) To me, it seems this would only become a problem if I wanted to print an 8X10 of a picture, which I don't usually do. I print 4X6s or watch them on TV.
  • Movie sound is mono, it will not sound as good as a camcorder, although I didn't think it sounded bad.
  • Movies are stored in QuickTime (.mov) format. This means that Windows Movie Maker will NOT handle these files. I own Nero 6 which will grudgingly handle .mov , so I'm OK.
  • proprietary battery - (all ultra compacts do) this means if your batteries die while you are out, tough luck. The battery from Panasonic costs around $35, but I can get ones on eBay for $20 if I need to.
So the camera is now on order and should ship today. I'll review it after I get it.

If I didn't care about the image stabilization, I would have probably gotten either a canon SD600 or one of the Casio Exillims. (Exillims are very cute cameras.) If I didn't care about size, S2. If I didn't care about price, SD700.


A Philosophical dilemma

I love shopping on the Internet. I can get great deals, check out features, read the user's manual in advance, etc. Here's where my dilemma comes in. One day I ordered something from an e-tailer on Saturday and they packaged and shipped it on Sunday. Now, because of my religious convictions, I believe in keeping the Sabbath day holy and that includes not shopping on Sunday. I don't want to do anything that would encourage companies to make their employees work on Sunday, so I've tried to avoid ordering anything late Saturday.

Here is where the dilemma comes in: I ordered from a store that said they ship Mon, Tues, Wed, Thur, Fri, Sun. They don't ship Saturday which implies someone is perhaps Jewish and is keeping their Sabbath holy by not working. So the issue is, if I order from them and they fulfill the order on Sunday, but had Saturday off, have I broken the spirit of the Sabbath?

(This isn't really a huge deal to me, but it is interesting to think about.)

(Another thing about this store is that they take 24-72 hours to process the order, so even if I order on Thursday there is no guarantee it won't go out Sunday. Prices are great though.)