Thursday August 4, 2016

Time to SOAR

I presented a two-hour workshop on Temperament and Communication for SOAR for Youth in July.

"SOAR for Youth offers an intensive and innovative program to serve some of the most vulnerable members of our community: foster youth. In community partnership with UC Berkeley and with support from many volunteers, partners, and donors, SOAR fosters the inspiration, confidence, and independence that are often missing from the lives of these young people."
"Through a three-year summer residential pre-collegiate program and additional years of academic support, SOAR teaches, coaches, and counsels our young people (grades 6 -12) in academics, life skills, leadership, emotional intelligence, and career development."

These third-year students had attended a "True Colors" temperament workshop last year. The program director wanted a deeper look, this year, into how knowledge of temperament can be applied to communication.

I've been working with Mary Miscisin's Personality Lingo system (based on True Colors and enhanced in several ways). A fellow BAAPT member, who has worked with SOAR, contacted me about teaching this workshop.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk to the students.

       Continue reading "Time to SOAR"

Time to SOAR - posted at Thu, 04 Aug, 13:53 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday August 30, 2015

Personal Weather Stations


I'm not a weather geek like some people, but I do like to know what's going on. We get a lot of wind in our neighborhood, and we've had a wireless thermometer / anemometer running for quite a few years now. But I wanted more.


So, two years ago, when I read about the Netatmo weather station, we bought one. I like it a lot. ...
       Continue reading "Personal Weather Stations"

Personal Weather Stations - posted at Sun, 30 Aug, 23:48 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday July 23, 2015

Solar Home

We have been thinking about adding solar collectors for a long time, dithering over technologies, worrying about installation and maintenance, etc. When the public school in our neighborhood put in an 8190 sq. ft. array (6 rows of 91 3'x5' panels), we knew we should try to get on board. However, it's always been too expensive. Until now.

Rich ran across a mention of SolarCity in January of this year. He started looking into what they offer; he talked to a representative. They sent us a proposal; discussions went back and forth. Eventually, we signed up, hooked up, and became reasonably happy campers.

Note: If, after reading this post, you decide to buy from SolarCity, please let them know that you learned about them from us. You'll get a month of free power and we'll get a tasty referral bonus!

Continued... in our wiki.

See also: Solar Alliance for additional information on Solar Energy.

Solar Home - posted at Thu, 23 Jul, 16:49 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday March 6, 2015

Fair Use?

PSA: Avoid

I thought use of a cartoon, with full attribution on an unpublicized personal page constituted "fair use".

Cartoon Stock disagrees.

Fair enough.

But without first offering me a chance to take the cartoon down or pay for a license, they sent a threatening letter insisting on a "settlement penalty". My attempt to settle amicably (by suggesting that I pay the licensing fee for past use and/or immediately take down the cartoon) was met first with silence, then with a form letter after I tried again to contact them. My response to the form letter received the identical form letter again. I guess no one is home.

Apparently, Cartoon Stock's "License Compliance Services" employees have nothing better to do than to go after private individuals on backwater unpublicized pages. They're certainly not spending their time answering their email.

I'll pay their penalty fee, but it comes with a cost to them: this post.


By my reading of the 7 U.S. Code ยง 107 - Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use, this blog post itself would definitely count as fair use, being for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting..., however, I do not trust the robots at, so I will link to their 'toon rather than uploading it.

       Continue reading "Fair Use?"

Fair Use? - posted at Fri, 06 Mar, 14:34 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday November 20, 2014

Mac Cannot Connect to Messages

Following a communications SNAFU the other day (I was not logged into Skype), I decided to set up Messages on Spouse's Macbook Air, so we'd have a guaranteed way to communicate Mac to Mac. His Macbook is running 10.9; how hard could it be?

Answer: surprisingly difficult. Although he regularly connects to iTunes (no issues with his Apple password), I kept getting "cannot connect" from Messages. It suggested I check my Network connectivity (no issues).

So, I did what I always do... I searched. This seems to be a relatively common problem. A lot of people proposed possible solutions. Delete plist files. (Tried.) Delete keychain files. (Tried.) Reset the clock(?). (Sure, why not.) Check the Console messages.

Check the Console messages.

Screenshot console log

Odd. (Note: the only reason I even saw these lines was because I had the console open while I tried to connect with Messages. It's not something I would have looked for.

       Continue reading "Mac Cannot Connect to Messages"

Mac Cannot Connect to Messages - posted at Thu, 20 Nov, 16:09 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday August 28, 2014

In Mavericks, iTunes plays only audio, gray screen, no video

I recently upgraded our Mac Mini to Mac OS X 10.9 (aka Mavericks). This Mac Mini is connected to our television screen; we use it primarily for movies and tv shows played via Amazon or iTunes.

Imagine my surprise when I tried to play a purchased tv series episode and saw this:

Screen Shot ...
       Continue reading "In Mavericks, iTunes plays only audio, gray screen, no video"

Thursday January 30, 2014

Today's Word: Thixotropy

thixotropy: Reversible behaviour of certain gels that liquefy when they are shaken, stirred, or otherwise disturbed and reset after being allowed to stand. --

Scene: The local diner.
Two men are sitting at the counter. Man One reaches for a ketchup bottle.

       Continue reading "Today's Word: Thixotropy"

Today's Word: Thixotropy - posted at Thu, 30 Jan, 09:46 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday September 8, 2013

Casio Wave Ceptor 2556 Battery Replacement - Not For the Mechanically Challenged


I have a Casio Wave Ceptor 2556 LCD watch. It's a great watch and, if I don't use the backlight or alarm often, runs for years before needing a battery change. In fact, yesterday was the first time the battery died since I've had the watch. I assumed that replacement would be a fairly simple process. It wasn't.

For anyone with a similar watch who might be searching (as I did, futilely) for aid and assistance, here are some notes and pictures. ...
       Continue reading "Casio Wave Ceptor 2556 Battery Replacement - Not For the Mechanically Challenged"

Tuesday July 16, 2013

E:signature verification failed

Updating an Android OS Manually (With Hiccups)

I recently upgraded my Android mobile device from a Motorola Droid Bionic to a Samsung Galaxy S III. I love the new Galaxy, but the Bionic still works as a "hand-held computer". After all, it has WiFi, telnet, shell access... I decided to check to see if it was possible to update the OS.

  • Good news: yes, there are updates.
  • Bad news: it should not be this difficult to install an update!

The first thing I did was try Verizon's recommended approach.

Settings > About phone > System Updates

There was an update available. I selected Download. Then I waited...
      and waited...
              and waited...

while the Bionic claimed

Download suspended. Will resume shortly...

for several days.

That's right. Days.

There had to be a better way. ...
       Continue reading "E:signature verification failed"

E:signature verification failed - posted at Tue, 16 Jul, 20:11 Pacific | Comments (0)

Monday February 11, 2013

Lamp Tweaking

A few years ago, we found an interesting 5-head floor lamp at a garage sale. We're quite pleased with it. Each of the five "heads" has an adjustable goose neck, to better position the light where we want it. The switch provides several options: light upwards, downwards, all on, or all off.

When we recently decided to get a new lamp for the other end of the couch, we hoped to find something similar.

       Continue reading "Lamp Tweaking"

Lamp Tweaking - posted at Mon, 11 Feb, 12:04 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday February 10, 2013

Emotional Intelligence and Type

Yesterday, I attended a workshop entitled "Linking Type and Emotional Intelligence for Effectiveness". The workshop was presented by Roger Pearman for BAAPT (the Bay Area Association for Psychological Type). (Flyer)

In the morning, we learned the basics of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

"The role of emotions in cognition is pervasive and ubiquitous. Perception and judgement in all its forms are affected by emotional tonalities and reactions.

Psychological type plays an essential role in understanding the emotional triggers for each individual as well as the strategies for self-management."

       Continue reading "Emotional Intelligence and Type"

Emotional Intelligence and Type - posted at Sun, 10 Feb, 20:29 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday January 10, 2012

Ultimate Sack

Many years ago, we had a poof (pouf) - a giant bean bag stuffed with foam instead of "beans". It wore out, we recovered it, the new covering didn't work. It's gone now.

Today we got a new one from Ultimate Sack. The cats already approve.

DSCN1235 DSCN1241 ...
       Continue reading "Ultimate Sack"

Ultimate Sack - posted at Tue, 10 Jan, 21:58 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday April 28, 2010

Swirly Brickwork

We recently encountered this building on a downtown corner in Walnut Creek, CA (1700 N. Main St.). The building, which currently houses a Realty office, was converted from a drive-in bank. The small building in back is apparently used for storage.

The architecture (and brickwork!) are really interesting: ...
       Continue reading "Swirly Brickwork"

Swirly Brickwork - posted at Wed, 28 Apr, 08:25 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday December 19, 2009



Four days ago, I traded in my aged Palm OS 4-based Kyocera smart phone for a new Motorola DROID (through Verizon.) I really like it so far.

It's more net-savvy and connected than my Palm phone was. I don’t have to “turn on the phone” to use an Internetworked app. It’s always on, always connected (although I can turn it completely off if I wish).

It’s got a modern web browser, far better email capability and a MUCH nicer screen. Plus, its actually going to be cheaper to operate. I’ll save $15/month on my data plan with Verizon. That was a nice surprise! ...
       Continue reading "DROID"

DROID - posted at Sat, 19 Dec, 13:22 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday July 25, 2009

Budget Calendar

I just discovered a great little piece of software: Budget Calendar from MiShell Software Systems. It's available for Mac, Linux, and Windows. It's inexpensive but not cheap!

Rich and I have been talking about tracking our expenses more closely. I already make notes in a notebook. We were thinking of adding a spreadsheet to calculate types and totals.

I decided to look for a simple calendar application that I could mark with the days we go out for meals, to get an overview of what we do and how often. I found a couple of options (see Mom's Calendar for Mac OS if you want something like that.) But I also found Budget Calendar. It turns out this is what I was really looking for; I just didn't know it! ...
       Continue reading "Budget Calendar"

Budget Calendar - posted at Sat, 25 Jul, 17:25 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday July 5, 2009

Yacker Tracker

My new cubicle at the Job is in a noisy area. How noisy? Yacker Tracker can tell me.

We were looking for just this thing. And we found it. ...
       Continue reading "Yacker Tracker"

Yacker Tracker - posted at Sun, 05 Jul, 23:03 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday December 9, 2008

A Signal Accomplishment

Harry Homeowner Does 'Lectric

We have a rather decrepit electric stovetop (four spiral burners, circa early-60's) with one small red "signal" lamp to let us know that a burner is on. Unfortunately, said lamp isn't all that noticeable.

It's dim, small, and hidden by a ridge of metal that surrounds the controls, protecting them from spills, etc. So, under the best of circumstances, it's only visible to someone standing immediately in front of the stovetop.

If something gets put on top of the lamp and/or the cook is rushed or distracted, the dim glow may not be noticed until MUCH later. As a result, we've left burners on (albeit at very low settings) for hours after we were done cooking. This is not good; it's dangerous, wastes power, etc.

We knew that we really needed to solve this problem, so we discussed some possible solutions. First, Rich and I would brainstorm. Then Rich would talk the idea through with assorted friends and relatives who (conveniently enough) are electrical engineers. Rinse, repeat... ...
       Continue reading "A Signal Accomplishment"

A Signal Accomplishment - posted at Tue, 09 Dec, 23:00 Pacific | Comments (0)

Monday July 7, 2008

Building a Twitter Reader

One of the features of Twitter is that it runs 24/7/365. (Un)fortunately, I don't. So, I miss things. I especially miss tweets from people in the "other" hemispheres! I didn't want to miss things, so I looked for a solution.

Being a programmer myself, I wanted a solution I could control and tweak if necessary. However, I didn't want to write something from scratch if I didn't have to!

Twitter has a popular, published API, so I figured someone would have written what I wanted. Someone did. I found pyTwerp (written in Python). ...
       Continue reading "Building a Twitter Reader"

Building a Twitter Reader - posted at Mon, 07 Jul, 18:34 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday July 6, 2008

Sorting Lists in TWiki

Where I work, we have started a TWiki page for "new people" in the department. People are added to the page as they join the group. Each person has a section for a mini-bio and other information. There is a table of contents (TOC) at the top.

The problem: as the page gets larger, it's more difficult to find the entry for a given person. The TOC is ordered by when the person joined. It would be convenient to be able to sort the TOC alphabetically (it's just a list, after all)

I started looking for ways to sort a list in TWiki. As long as I was at it, I figured I might as well look for a generalizable solution that can sort any bullet list. ...
       Continue reading "Sorting Lists in TWiki"

Sorting Lists in TWiki - posted at Sun, 06 Jul, 11:07 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday June 19, 2008

What Did You Want To Do When You Grew Up?

Recently, Crystal Clayton asked this question in her blog: "What Did You Want To Do When You Grew Up?". This is my response. What's yours? ...
       Continue reading "What Did You Want To Do When You Grew Up?"

What Did You Want To Do When You Grew Up? - posted at Thu, 19 Jun, 23:19 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday May 14, 2008

Artichoke Nails

I cook artichokes in a pressure cooker. It takes about 15 minutes for the 6" diameter ones. But even then, the outer leaves may be a bit waterlogged while the heart is still a bit, shall we say, crunchy.

Recently, we had an idea. What if we jammed an aluminum potato nail up through the stem before cooking? ...
       Continue reading "Artichoke Nails"

Artichoke Nails - posted at Wed, 14 May, 21:11 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday May 6, 2008

Now Using Twitterific

I have started following Twitter using Twitterific from The Icon Factory (Mac OS X only). I'm not 100% in love with Twitterific, but I like it well enough to pay the (optional) registration fee. I figure registering gives me a better chance of success when filing feature requests. :-) (Registration also makes the ads disappear.) ...
       Continue reading "Now Using Twitterific"

Now Using Twitterific - posted at Tue, 06 May, 12:44 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday April 20, 2008



I knew about GIANTmicrobes (plushy replicas of the "bugs" that cause flu, the "common" cold, strep throat, and the like). They're available from ThinkGeek and a previous co-worker had a few in his cubicle. What I hadn't realized is how many there are now! ...
       Continue reading "GIANTmicrobes"

GIANTmicrobes - posted at Sun, 20 Apr, 10:18 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday April 10, 2008

White Pelicans

I didn't even know about white pelicans!

This afternoon, I was talking to a co-worker who had stopped by my cubicle. Over her shoulder, out the window, I saw a small flock of birds high up in the air. Gulls? No... larger than gulls and somehow more streamlined. My co-worker said "White Pelicans" .

Wow. Like the Blue Angels but birds. ...
       Continue reading "White Pelicans"

White Pelicans - posted at Thu, 10 Apr, 19:47 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday March 14, 2008

My Annual Paean to TurboTax

TurboTax is even more awesome this year. I think it took me two hours, maybe less, to put my tax return together. (Of course, I still put off starting but once I start, it's just so easy.)

If you're still doing your taxes by hand, get a copy of TurboTax. You'll wonder why you waited so long!

Update (Feb 2011: Now called TurboTax Free Efile

My Annual Paean to TurboTax - posted at Fri, 14 Mar, 20:10 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday December 27, 2007

XO Connected

Rich and I had our monthly "Beer and Scripting" dinner last night - our monthly occasion to get out of the house, eat good food, and chat with fellow Bay Area techies. Last night, we took our new XO laptop along.

One of the other attendees had just picked his XO up at the Post Office that very day, so there were two at the table. ...
       Continue reading "XO Connected"

XO Connected - posted at Thu, 27 Dec, 09:27 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday December 23, 2007

XO Laptop - First Impressions

Educational. Fun. Technically Cool. Charitable. Deductible. What's not to like?

My XO Laptop arrived on Thursday. I ordered through the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) "Give One, Get One" program. (Hurry! Current program ends Dec 31).

We opened the box when we got home on Thursday evening, popped in the battery, and fired it up. Here are my early impressions. ...
       Continue reading "XO Laptop - First Impressions"

XO Laptop - First Impressions - posted at Sun, 23 Dec, 12:20 Pacific | Comments (3)

Thursday December 13, 2007

Take Your Pleo to Work

My Pleo went with me to Work on Wednesday and Thursday. He met several of my co-workers — including one who is impatiently awaiting his own Pleo's arrival ("First-hatch" Pleos, like the one I have, arrived in their homes first. The next batch should be shipped starting next week.) ...
       Continue reading "Take Your Pleo to Work"

Take Your Pleo to Work - posted at Thu, 13 Dec, 21:58 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday December 11, 2007

Pleo: Out of the Box

I am now the proud owner of one of the first Pleos - the little robotic dinosaur from Ugobe. I first learned of Pleo nearly a year ago when I read an article by Clive Thompson in Wired magazine.

Say hello to Pleo. From the guy who brought you Furby, it's a snuffling, stretching, oddly convincing robotic dinosaur. You are so going to want one.

Clive was right; I wanted one. As soon as it was possible, I pre-ordered my Pleo. Then I waited while Ugobe changed the schedule, each time making improvements and adjustments. More sensors. An externally rechargeable (and replaceable) battery. And finally, in mid-November. the announcement I had been waiting for.

       Continue reading "Pleo: Out of the Box"

Pleo: Out of the Box - posted at Tue, 11 Dec, 18:24 Pacific | Comments (1)

Wednesday October 17, 2007

BLT: 1, 2, 3

What's better than a fresh, crispy, juicy, BLT on toast?? A BLT without the fuss.

Enter Hormel Microwave Ready Bacon. 16 strips in a package. 4 strips in each sealed, ready-to-cook plastic "baggie'. ...
       Continue reading "BLT: 1, 2, 3"

BLT: 1, 2, 3 - posted at Wed, 17 Oct, 20:50 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday September 2, 2007

Triple Antibiotic Ointment

We keep a tube of triple antibiotic ointment on hand for minor cuts and scratches. I find it works very well. We usually use Longs Drugs' house-brand Triple Antibiotic Ointment.

One day, when we were out of ointment, I was in another store. I bought a tube of Neosporin. As it happened, I had a sore spot in my nose at the time. I applied the Neosporin and ... ICK (nose to throat to tongue to blech!.) What's in this stuff?

I carefully read the label. Then I drove to Longs and bought a tube of Triple Antibiotic Ointment. ...
       Continue reading "Triple Antibiotic Ointment"

Triple Antibiotic Ointment - posted at Sun, 02 Sep, 22:06 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday March 31, 2007

Now If They Could Only Handle the Paperwork

It's time for my annual paean to Turbo Tax.

Like many people (not you, of course, surely not you) I put off doing my taxes. I don't wait until the last minute anymore; now I do them sometime between March 15 and April 5. But still, it's not like I'm anxious to get to this annual chore.

For whatever reasons — some books I've read recently suggest the primary reason is "fear" — I procrastinate. I find other, higher priority tasks to do instead. I have to wash my hair... do the laundry... read a book... feed the cats. Something, (anything!) else. ...
       Continue reading "Now If They Could Only Handle the Paperwork"

Now If They Could Only Handle the Paperwork - posted at Sat, 31 Mar, 15:27 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday March 13, 2007

No Outfit is Complete...

While it's true that no outfit is complete without pet hair, a little goes a long way (especially on brushed cotton slacks...)

If tape, tape rollers, and lint brushes aren't quite up to the task, try the "Pet Hair Pic-Up Mitt" from Evercare.

No-Outfit shirt
       Continue reading "No Outfit is Complete..."

No Outfit is Complete... - posted at Tue, 13 Mar, 21:23 Pacific | Comments (0)

Monday February 26, 2007

Failing the "Output" Test

Dear Pounce

I have a complaint about your New! and Improved! Caribbean Catch (tartar control) kitty treats. In changing the recipe, you substantially increased the amount of blue dye. There is now a lot of yellow and blue and not much red.

Normally, I probably wouldn't notice... or care... ...
       Continue reading "Failing the "Output" Test"

Failing the "Output" Test - posted at Mon, 26 Feb, 18:40 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday February 3, 2007

Styli with Style, Service with Panache

Nearly ten years ago, I purchased my first Palm-OS-based PDA. Almost immediately, I searched for a new and better stylus. I found what I sought at PDA Panache and I've been a loyal, repeat customer ever since. ...
       Continue reading "Styli with Style, Service with Panache"

Styli with Style, Service with Panache - posted at Sat, 03 Feb, 09:47 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday January 31, 2007

Hello, I'm a Mac...

We don't watch television (we don't even subscribe to cable; gasp!) But we have seen all of the Apple "Get a Mac" ads. We watch them on the web.

Did you know that there are ads targeted for the UKand Japan as well? It's fun to see the differences, especially in the Japanese versions. I especially like "Trust" (aka "Security") in which PC is concerned about Spyware. ...
       Continue reading "Hello, I'm a Mac..."

Hello, I'm a Mac... - posted at Wed, 31 Jan, 18:20 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday January 27, 2007

It's an Inside Joke

I enjoy "sight gags" and inside jokes.. Examples may be subtle and you can miss the joke entirely if you're not paying attention, or don't have the right context. Some excellent examples can be found in in comic strips and books.

The Foxtrot strip includes frequent sight gags (watch closely!) as well as references to cartoons and cartoonist. ...
       Continue reading "It's an Inside Joke"

It's an Inside Joke - posted at Sat, 27 Jan, 14:52 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday January 25, 2007

It Pays to Read the Label

We stopped into Walgreens for Chlorpheniramine Maleate, an antihistamine. Walgreens stocks their own house-brand (Wal-Finate) as well as the Brand Name Version, Chlor-Trimeton. The latter is available in blister packs; the 24-pill box costs $6.99.

In contrast, a 50-pill bottle of Wal-Finate costs $4.99. That was a pretty good reason to buy the house brand, but there were other considerations. I like to compare the ingredients as well. In this case, the medication is for a kitty. I pay even more attention to what I give the kitties than for myself. ...
       Continue reading "It Pays to Read the Label"

It Pays to Read the Label - posted at Thu, 25 Jan, 20:45 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday January 17, 2007

I Just Love This Font

My current favorite font is called ChinaCat. It meets my requirements for a handwritten look, with the lower case a and g similar to the way I write them myself. ...
       Continue reading "I Just Love This Font"

I Just Love This Font - posted at Wed, 17 Jan, 21:50 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday November 8, 2006

Clipboard Sharing

I have two users on my Mac: my "regular" personality and my "Work" personality. I often want to share files, URLs, and more between the two.

Sharing files is relatively easy. Sharing URLs isn't too bad — I just drag the URL into a .webloc file. Sharing clipboard contents, however, was difficult.

Then I discovered ClipboardSharing ...
       Continue reading "Clipboard Sharing"

Clipboard Sharing - posted at Wed, 08 Nov, 19:08 Pacific | Comments (1)

Friday October 6, 2006

Almost Birch Beer

We recently tried Henry Weinhard Draught-style Root Beer and Oh My, is it Good! Unless you grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch county like I did, you probably won't understand what I'm talking about, but I was pleased and surprised to discover that the taste is reminiscent, (to me, anyway), of Birch Beer!

Enjoy a truly great American Root Beer recipe, originally crafted by our master brewers during prohibition. This gourmet elixir, brewed with sassafras, vanilla and honey, proved to be a popular alternative for our beer-drinking loyalists both during, and after, the "great dry spell." Our tradition of providing only the highest quality beverages continues today in each bottle that bears our founder's name, Brewmaster Henry Weinhard.
       Continue reading "Almost Birch Beer"

Almost Birch Beer - posted at Fri, 06 Oct, 19:57 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday July 25, 2006

Opening Pill Bottles

Do you have trouble opening foil-sealed pill bottles? I used to try to unpeel it, try to pierce it with the thumb nail, grab a knife or scissors. Then a friend of ours shared a trick that really works.

  1. Unscrew and remove the bottle cap.
  2. Holding the bottle firmly in one hand, smack the foil-covered opening into the corner of the nearest cabinet, poking a good-sized hole in the foil covering.
  3. Remove the rest of the foil with your fingers.

    You're most likely in the bathroom or kitchen when you're opening a bottle of this sort, surrounded by cabinets with nice, square, pointed metal or wood corners.Pick one and use it.

    Opening Pill Bottles - posted at Tue, 25 Jul, 15:05 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday July 21, 2006


Rich and I really like freshly-ground black pepper. We have quite a few pepper grinders, including a very small one that fits in a purse or beltpack!

Recently, we found (and bought) a nifty new pepper grinder design. It's called a Pepperball.

The Pepperball has a pair of vertical handles you squeeze together to grind the pepper. It also adjusts to 5 different degrees of coarseness.

You can buy either a large or small size Pepperball. There's a Saltball too if salt is your thing.

We got ours at Target.

Pepperball - posted at Fri, 21 Jul, 22:02 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday May 26, 2006


Candybar Doll Maker

I tripped over this cute web toy on Laume's weblog. You can build and save your own "e-paper doll" for your website.

Choose background details, body (standing, sitting, ...), clothing, hair color and style, face... Add accessories such as scarves, jewelry, glasses, and pets.

       Continue reading "Avatar"

Avatar - posted at Fri, 26 May, 00:05 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday March 12, 2006

Sweeter Than Wine

Rich brought home a bottle of Firestone Vineyard 2004 Late Harvest Riesling. Mmmmmmm.

It's a desert wine (residual sugars, 15.5 g/100ml; alcohol 11% by volume). It's very nice. We're neither of us big wine drinkers, me even less so than Rich. I find most reds to be musty and most whites to be sour. But I do like many desert wines - Muscats, Rieslings, and Japanese plum wine top my list.

This one is absolutely delightful, like a light liqueur. It wasn't cheap (but we won't go through it very fast). If you happen to be in the Santa Ynez Valley, CA, Firestone Vineyard is outside of Los Olivos, north of Santa Barbara.

04 Lh Riesling
Sweeter Than Wine - posted at Sun, 12 Mar, 08:00 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday March 2, 2006

Tastes Like... Maple Syrup

I've been using Walden Farms carb-free sugar-free pancake syrup. It tastes like... maple syrup. Slightly thin, to be honest, but not watery. No chemical aftertaste that I could detect. Quite nice actually.

If you're used to pure Vermont 100% maple syrup, this isn't it. But it's better than the "other" carb-free brand I tried, and as good or better than most store brands. ...
       Continue reading "Tastes Like... Maple Syrup"

Tastes Like... Maple Syrup - posted at Thu, 02 Mar, 08:00 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday February 28, 2006

Shower Soothers

Mentholated Steam

Sudacare Shower Soothers

Have you tried SudaCare Shower Soothers? They look like a giant AlkaSeltzer (or maybe a Ty-D-Bowl pellet. :-) The idea is that you drop it on the floor of the shower, run hot water over it, and breathe in the mentholated steam. Results vary based on who tries them, but it's an interesting idea.

I could smell the menthol when it first started to fizz. I didn't notice any particular decongestant sensation; the effect was more of an aromatherapy kind of thing. Still, kinda nice, if slightly odd when mixed with the aroma of my green tea and lime shampoo. :-) Strangely enough, the menthol scent came back when I ran the blow dryer after stepping out of the shower.

Look for them in your drugstore's cough & cold products aisle.

Shower Soothers - posted at Tue, 28 Feb, 11:19 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday February 25, 2006

Big Mouth Jar


We've been buying another brand of mayonnaise, but we may switch to Kraft for the convenience of the Big Mouth jar.**

We love this new packaging. It's easy to hold, lightweight, and easy to use. Kraft even put a flat spot inside the opening for scraping extra mayo off the knife when you're ready to close up. Ingenious!

** We could keep buying the other brand, then wash and fill the nifty jar. The taste difference is negligible. I expect we'll balance price vs. convenience.
Big Mouth Jar - posted at Sat, 25 Feb, 20:01 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday February 24, 2006

Tools for Harry Homeowner

Have you ever stopped to consider the wonderful additions we have been able to add to our household toolboxes? ...
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Tools for Harry Homeowner - posted at Fri, 24 Feb, 01:02 Pacific

Thursday February 16, 2006

May We Recommend...

We have a few kitchen appliances and gadgets that really improve our domestic lives. We thought we'd share. ...
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May We Recommend... - posted at Thu, 16 Feb, 00:10 Pacific | Comments (1)

Wednesday January 25, 2006

Curiously Ginger

I'm not a fan of Altoids Peppermint candies (they're too strong, if you ask me!). But I really like their ginger flavor. You may have to look around some to find these; they aren't available in every store that carries Altoids. If you like ginger, however, they're worth hunting for! If you can't find them, you can buy them online (mmmm, licorice too!)

If you're a ginger fan, you might also want to try St Claire's Organic Ginger Snaps. They're made with all natural ingredients, including organic molasses granules for that true ginger snap taste. Sweet and spicy, like a tiny bite of cookie.

Curiously Ginger - posted at Wed, 25 Jan, 17:53 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday December 29, 2005

Wild Pepper

We had dinner last night at Wild Pepper in San Francisco. Wild Pepper is the new and improved incarnation of the "Long Island Chinese Restaurant" (formerly near 29th on Church) — same owners, different name and location.

The food is still tasty, the service is still pleasant and efficient, and the prices are still economical. However, the menu is larger, the venue is larger and prettier, and parking is quite a bit easier. What's not to like? ...
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Wild Pepper - posted at Thu, 29 Dec, 11:31 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday October 30, 2005

Scharffen Berger

There were no Oompa Loompas, but...

Our friend Quinn decided that it would be fun to celebrate his birthday (today) by inviting a group of friends to join him for a tour of the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory in Berkeley. The "tour" is actually nearly an hour of talk (history of chocolate and history of Scharffen Berger), touching, smelling, and looking at cocoa beans in various states, and chocolate tasting. This is followed by a quick visit to the factory floor to see the machines.

The factory is house in a 27,000 sq. foot, not-quite-100-year-old brick building (retrofitted for earthquake safety) with arched ceilings and handsome architecture. The company moved to the present site in May, 2001. The entire building — gift shop, restrooms, tour presentation room — smells like chocolate. Wow. (I can still smell chocolate :-) ...
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Scharffen Berger - posted at Sun, 30 Oct, 19:41 Pacific | Comments (1)

Tuesday September 6, 2005


We have become converts to the Power of Saran™ Wrap.

Back in January, we went to a talk by Harold McGee, entitled "Three Centuries of Science in the Kitchen". McGee tests "well-known" kitchen lore, separating fact from wiverglava (old wives' tales). One of the myths he debunked was the one that states that putting the pit into the guacamole will keep it green. (It's true, actually, but only under the pit. The reason is that avocado turns brown on contact with oxygen in the air.)

McGee's tests not only showed the real reason that the pit keeps the avocado green (so did a light bulb. ;-) His experiments also showed that Saran™ Wrap has the lowest oxygen permeation of all the various plastic wraps.

We've been using Saran™ Wrap when we store cut fruit in the fridge. It really does work to keep the fruit from browning quickly. Be sure to stretch it tight and taut; Saran™ Wrap isn't very "sticky".

For ordinary wrapping and covering, however, we still use the giant economy sized box of generic Plastic Food Wrap from Smart & Final. 1000 feet of plastic wrap is at least a 5-year supply!

Airtight - posted at Tue, 06 Sep, 20:00 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday July 7, 2005

Laura's Wholesome Junk Food


My favorite monster would approve. These are Good Cookies!

I discovered Laura's Wholesome Junk Food cookies at a Whole Foods grocery store (a delight in itself!). I bought a package of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bite-lettes.

A bite-lette is a funny shape for a cookie — not quite round, sort of a squat cylinder, like three checkers piled on top of each other — a flattened ball.

Ingredients: Rolled oats, chocolate chips, date paste, Canola oil, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice, unbleached enriched flour, unsweetened soy milk, unsweetened coconut, ...
Cookie Monster-4


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Laura's Wholesome Junk Food - posted at Thu, 07 Jul, 19:35 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday January 11, 2005

Three Centuries of Science in the Kitchen

We went to a talk yesterday by Harold McGee, Author of The Curious Cook and the recently revised and updated, On Food and Cooking

The kitchen is a laboratory of applied science. Food preparation has played a role in the development of science, and scientists have influenced everyday cooking for better and for worse, from the invention of the pressure cooker to modern-day "molecular gastronomy." Harold McGee will recount some of this little-known history, and report on his own research into such questions as: Why do French cooks insist on whipping egg whites in copper bowls? How many liters of mayonnaise can you make with one egg yolk? Can thermocouples and computers help you cook a better hamburger? And why does the spatter from a frying pan end up on the inside of a cook's eyeglasses?
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Three Centuries of Science in the Kitchen - posted at Tue, 11 Jan, 18:25 Pacific

Tuesday November 30, 2004

Surprisingly Tasty

They're frozen meals without the usual portion of starch — no potato, pasta, or rice. They're also surprisingly tasty and filling.

I recently discovered Life Choice Frozen Meals, a relatively new line from ConAgra Foods, one of North America's largest packaged food companies. ConAgra brands include Armour, Banquet, Brown 'N Serve, Butterball, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Libby's, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, Swiss Miss, Wesson, and a whole lot more. They're obviously not new to the food business.

"Based on consumer needs, we've created a distinctive brand -- not merely an extension of an existing brand with some ingredient changes or reduced portion sizes -- to bring consumers the food they love to eat. The new Life Choice meals are devoted to meeting the needs of the carb-conscious consumer, without any compromises." (Robert Hopton, VP of marketing, ConAgra Foods Frozen Foods Group)
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Surprisingly Tasty - posted at Tue, 30 Nov, 18:23 Pacific

Thursday March 4, 2004

Victorian House Coffee

Speaking of Victorian House Coffee, I've been enjoying this product for a while now. I had tried VH before, but didn't really start drinking it regularly until last fall. ...
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Victorian House Coffee - posted at Thu, 04 Mar, 12:05 Pacific

Friday July 25, 2003

Great Grains, Great Cereal

p_ggr.jpg We just tried Post Selects "Great Grains" cereal and it's yummy. We got the one with dried dates, raisins, and pecans. It also contains toasted oats, bran(?) flakes, and tasty unidentifiable crunchy lumps of goodness. Stays fairly crunchy in milk, not too sweet, went well with banana.

Five varieties to choose from. We're going to try Blueberry Morning next.

Great Grains, Great Cereal - posted at Fri, 25 Jul, 11:00 Pacific