Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'notes'

: The Joy of Fountain Pens

Sure, fountain pens are a bit fiddlier than your average ballpoint. But they do have their advantages.

  1. The colors you can write in is not a direct function of the manufacturer of the pen. Like the look of one pen and the ink colors offered by someone else? You can do that.
  2. More ink colors. For those of us with acute color discrimination, this can be really useful.
  3. Washable ink. For those unhappy accidents. Sure, some ink colors do stain.
  4. …which brings me to: waterproof and forgery-proof inks. Sure, there are ballpoints (Uniball Signo) that do that as well, but not in as many colors as are currently available for fountain pens. Note that these are not washable from clothing, so you can go to both extremes. Here are some torture test results.

I’ve seen fountain pens from $1 all the way up to “Oh my God!” levels, where that was seven figure to the left of the decimal point. Most expensive I’ve held in my hands was five figures. All of them can use the same inks.

: Idiot Bicyclist

My mother and I were driving into downtown Menlo Park today, stopped at a stop sign. A woman with a wheelchair was crossing the street, so I decided to wait. Just then, a bicyclist plows through the stop sign, across the intersection, and nearly hits the woman in the wheelchair.

At the next intersection, he didn’t even slow down for the stop sign, just plowed through.

I never thought I’d consider it justifiable homicide if a bicyclist got hit, but this dude changed my mind on that point, because he has such utter disregard for rules and safety.

: Washing Wool

A friend asked the other day what to use on wool, knowing my dislike of Woolite.

Simple answer: wool is hair. Use shampoo. Might as well use the same shampoo you use on your own hair: one fewer bottle to have hanging around the house.

I use a sulfate-free shampoo that’s designed for dyed hair, as I figure that’s about as ideal as one can get, but any shampoo that makes your hair look nice will work fine.

More complicated answer: sometimes wool garments say to dry clean because of sizing or dye. Most dyes these days are colorfast, but it’s worth trying a small handwash somewhere inconspicuous before dunking the whole thing in water. Garments lined in acetate are likely dry clean only due to the lining (or interfacings) rather than the wool per se.

Wash wool in warm water (about the same temp you’d shower in) and do not agitate it (because if you do, you’ll create felt and it’ll shrink).

Lay flat to dry.

Not so hard, really.

: Migrations, Migrations

Or, “Migrating a blog is always more painful than you think.”

I hope you can see this. If all goes well, this blog has been migrated from WordPress to Typo, running Ruby on Rails over Lighttpd. I’ve seen a few feed hits coming through, but I’ll check when I wake up (yes, it’s almost 7 a.m. and I haven’t been to sleep yet…)

I’ve broken a lot of links, and I’m starting to go through them, so if there’s something you don’t see, realize that I am putting everything back together and it’ll take just a tidge of time, especially to get the redirects for the old permalinks up.

I’m changing the categories to be broader and instead going with more of a tag approach, as I think that offers finer granularity with less long-term hassle.

: Press 1 for English

This is a pent-up rant that’s been waiting for a while, but bear with me.

Last time I had to contact our state government’s Employment Development Department by phone, I had to “Press 1 for English.”

Now, really, does that make any sense at all? Shouldn’t English be the default? Especially when there’s separate phone numbers for other languages?

I mean, it might be A Clue that if you don’t happen to speak English and you call the English phone line, maybe you should press 1 and get some message like, “Well, maybe if you learned English (or one of the other supported languages), you might not be unemployed.”

Your tax dollars at work, making the UI harder for everyone.

I’m reminded, as an aside, of Nick Moffitt’s response when being panhandled, “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak a word of English.” Still makes me laugh.

: Getting Ready for Boggs Class

Going to be going to Northwest Woodworking School for a week for a class. I’m really looking forward to studying for a week with Brian Boggs. Traditional chairmaking is still very much in vogue, and I’ll be interested to see How Things Are Done.

: Patriotic Gestures, Real and Imagined

I’m writing about my annual thought-experiment, so that some of you can play. I’m posting early so that the Canadians can also play on Canada Day.

Given the recent near-pass on the anti-flag-burning law, I’d like to propose the following: if you happen to see anyone wearing a flag or “USA” or anything like that over the next few days — ask them where said garment or accessory was made. (In my experience, they don’t know. I’ve never seen one actually worn that was made in the US, fwiw.)

Personally, I’m far more tired of people wearing “patriotic” gear made in some sweatshop in a third world country than I ever could be of people burning the flag. It’s faux national pride, and I think it’s time we called attention to it.

: Thread of the Week

Well, Woodworking Online is a blog about Woodworking, and the WoodNet forum thread of the week happens to be the one I started about issues with the wooden plane I made.

: Day with Topfunky

Yesterday, I went up to the city to spend time at Geoffrey Grosenbach’s Rails workshop, offered by Carson Workshops. While I was already better-versed in Rails than most anyone there, there’s always things you pick up from other people, and it was an excellent recharger for the mental batteries.

I highly recommend anyone new to Rails go to the workshop when possible.

: I Habe a Code in My Node

Been fighting one off for nearly a week. Need more sleep.

: Maple Hard, Finger Soft

I was working on a shaker oval box this weekend when the work slipped, and the knife I was using to define the swallowtails turned, cutting a 3/4″ gash on my left index finger.

I’m very fortunate: one of the guys drove me to the ER (thanks Tom), and I’ll be able to finish my boxes another day (thanks John). Surgeon says I only cut the skin and nothing critical, so five stitches later, I was ready to go home.

I’ve got a splint until Tuesday, which has halved my typing speed, but the splint will keep the wound from opening back up (the injury’s pretty close to a joint).

I blame it all on still being exhausted from the move and less aware than I could have been. I thought I was safe, but I was wrong.

: A Few Moving Tips

1) Colored packing tape to color-code various rooms. Way easier to see than reading some scribble that may not be legible. Obviously, this may be less useful if you have color blindness.

2) If you have a lot of books, actually buy some boxes of the same size. They will pack much tighter until you unpack them.

3) A suitcase with essentials for a day or two is a wonderful thing. Even though you know where your underwear is, it may not be accessible.

4) Don’t expect to keep track of anything. If it’s important, pack it in a given place and move it first (then don’t put anything in front of that place).

5) Exhaustion is a fact of life, so plan for some post-move downtime. Every one of us has been physically stretched to our endurance limits. I managed to wrench my good hip.

: Moving Sucks

Not that this will surprise anyone, but moving sucks.

The one good thing about moving is the re-evaluation of what one has vs. what one really wants.

The one bad thing about moving is the time and energy for the re-evaluation of what one has vs. what one really wants.

We should be finished by Monday. I’ll be SO happy when it’s Tuesday.

: SDForum's Ruby Conference

If you’re going to have a technical conference that’s one or two full days, I have two key concepts for you:

1) Power available to everyone.
2) A place for everyone to put their laptop that makes notetaking convenient.

There were these devices invented many thousands of years ago, though it seems novel to this group: tables. Sure, you can’t pack as many people into the room, but people will actually learn more if they’re not fussing about looking for power.

While the chairs are wonderfully comfy, I’d rather have tables and power.

Should you be planning an event, the standard parlance is “classroom seating” rather than “theater seating.” This will cut the capacity of the room approximately in half, but everyone will be a lot happier.

: Now the h2 of Deirdres

When search engines first came about, I was typically the top ranked Deirdre. However, other Deirdres have become active on the net, so as recently as a few months ago, I was the #4-ranked Deirdre.

I’m currently the #2 rank on Google for Deirdre.

Even though Saoirse is fairly commonly seen without the word Deirdre, nearly all the ranks for both terms together are me (except for some people in Ireland named Deirdre associated with the the newspaper (Saoirse) from Sinn Féin.

: Nasty Little Bugses

So, it happened that I was doing a rails project where I needed joins in paginate and I wound up discovering something unexpected: came through as the id for one of the join tables.

The way around that is to find_by_sql instead, and to avoid a similar problem, something like:

def self.find_my_foos(for_which_bar)
  find_by_sql("select foos.* from foos, bars where foos.bar_id = and = #{for_which_bar} order by foos.position")

This does have a side effect of not pre-loading the joins correctly, so that may not be the best solution for your case, but it does fix the larger issue.

: Rails, moving stuff from one db to another

Sometimes, you want ActiveRecord to do all the heavy lifting of data conversion. Plus, then you can use all the stuff you want during the conversion.


Copies stuff from old mysql db to new postgres db, including changing of icky

old int fields to shiny booleans.

require ‘rubygems’
require_gem ‘activerecord’

require ‘../app/models/survey.rb’
require ‘../app/models/topic.rb’

Read database config via YAML

@dbs = YAML::load(“../config/database.yml”)).result)

connect to old db.

curr_db = @dbs[‘production-mysql’]
ActiveRecord::Base.establishconnection(:adapter => currdb[“adapter”],
:database => curr_db[“database”],
:host => curr_db[“host”],
:username => curr_db[“username”],
:password => curr_db[“password”])

read in all the records

@surveys = Survey.find(:all)

close the db


change to postgres db.

curr_db = @dbs[‘production’]
ActiveRecord::Base.establishconnection(:adapter => currdb[“adapter”],
:database => curr_db[“database”],
:host => curr_db[“host”],
:username => curr_db[“username”],
:password => curr_db[“password”])

for survey in @surveys
s = survey.clone

close the db


: A Multi-Prong Approach

Lately, I’ve been taking a yoga class twice a week (though I may take it a third day so I don’t stiffen up quite so much over the weekend).

I first took yoga as a teenager, back when hatha yoga was hatha yoga, and the pronunciations seemed to come from Hindi speakers rather than Tamil speakers.

This quarter, I decided to enroll in a yoga class at foothill. Not only were the poses named with the English (rather than Sanskrit) names, the pronunciation of Sanskrit (even for words like savasana) threw me off.

So, it turns out I’m taking Iyengar, and, while I wasn’t paying attention, it took over as the dominant form of yoga in the U.S. There’s reasons this is a Good Thing, mostly having to do with each of the postures being designed to strengthen and/or flex certain things and precision helping in that regard.

However, right now, Just Doing Anything is quite difficult for me. I’m in even more chronic pain than usual. Yoga teacher will chide me, “You could go deeper.” I respond, “Well, it took me prescription muscle relaxants and pain medication to get even this far, so that’s where I’m going for now.”

The other day, when I was in tears of frustration because there was so much I couldn’t do, one of the instructor’s assistants said that I could go do Child’s Pose if I wanted. I pointed out that I can’t even do that without a supporting bolster (which, since this class isn’t in a yoga studio, I didn’t have access to). Fortunately, I’m now starting a restorative class in a yoga studio. Yay.

I’ve discovered that my weak spots weren’t the ones that I’d thought were weak — sure those were too, but they weren’t the primary problem areas.

The harder part, though, is that I hurt more (on average) than I did before — and expect to do so for some time. That’s the nasty part about working through chronic pain (and fibromyalgia in particular). In fact, that’s why I’m up writing this at 4:45 a.m. — I haven’t been able to sleep yet.

Anyhow, one of my problem areas has turned out to be weakness in the muscles on the top of the feet, which frequently hurt after yoga.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that a friend of a friend runs a site called, and he has mentioned help achieved with the detox foot pads.

Well, I’ve discovered something: these also work particularly well for sore shoulders and sore tops of feet. There’s a few other places they work well, mostly where the ache is very close to the skin’s surface. For example, I’ve found them helpful when my knuckles hurt, or when my mousing hand gets a knot in my forearm. I use gold for the bottoms of my feet and blue for everywhere else.

To put this in perspective, when my primary pain is in one of these places, using the pads can cut the quantity of analgesics I need by 1/3 to 1/2 plus make me feel just a bit better overall. At first, I wondered if this were simply placebo effect, but that would have worn off in three months, and I’ve been using the pads for six.

Unfortunately, today I’m out, so my shoulders hurt and my feet hurt.

I should have more in a couple days, though….

: T. Sue, Thought Two

One of the things that surprised me about Sue was that she had only two fingers, not the three I remember T. Rex having. In part, this is due to finding more complete skeletons over the years.

But to see an animal that large, with arms literally the size of human arms (yes, really), and two long claws at the end of the hands. Just two.

And, so help me, maybe it’s where I had a side trip in 2002 when I visited South Dakota, but all I could think of was corn forks.

T. Rex arms aren’t really long enough (especially given the head size and angle) to hold something to eat, so the only other thing I could think of was sort of impaling something edible onto a tree so one could eat the part above the point of impalement.

: Chicago, Saturday: T. Sue

By the time I woke up, Strata had caught her flight back home.

I got up, ate a Luna bar, then headed to the Field Museum for two things: to see Sue and to see the Pompeii exhibit.

When I first walked in the building, I’d started to pass one of the dinosaurs before I looked up, realizing what an incredibly long neck it had. How long? I was unable to get the neck completely in my camera’s view (I didn’t think to try from the upper level, darn it).

Even though I’d arrived just in time for my Pompeii exhibit, I decided that Sue was a bigger priority. I went over to see her, stunned both by how large (and how small) she was. Her pelvis bone was much larger than I’d expected — it had also suffered some damage, including a missing tip. One of the museum staff was there answering questions about Sue, and generally joking.

“We’ve been going out for seven years,” he said. “I like older women.”

When I asked him about the pubic bone, he said that the leading theory about why the bone a) was so large and b) had suffered so much wear and tear was likely due to the fact that a T. Rex, like a chicken, slept in a squatting position, resting on the pubic bone.

The image that went through my head went something like: Chicken Run, only with T. Rexes. Hrm.

I was also surprised at how much characteristics one could see in the bone, including breaks and mends, as well as some of the attachment points. In all, Sue is an extremely well-preserved (and prepared) skeleton.

After visiting with Sue, I went to have my morning coffee and some soup, then headed over to the Pompeii exhibit, where I had to wait in line. Frankly, it was a much bigger exhibit than I was expecting. While there was the usual jewelry, and so on, I was quite stunned to see entire frescoed walls (three walls of one room, actually) and the variety of goods displayed.

I also felt quite humbled to see a statue believed to be from Julius Caesar’s father-in-law’s place in Herculaneum. Quite amazing.

There were precious few places to sit; the place was also quite packed. By the end, my feet were quite sore, but I managed. After that, I bought a t-shirt (for Rick) and an Octopus plate for myself.

I rested for a bit, then re-visited Sue again before going upstairs to see Sue’s real head (the real head is too heavy for the model of the body, thus it’s upstairs with a replica on Sue’s skeleton).

I wandered around through several other exhibits, including one about Tibet and another about the Southwest Pacific before heading back to my hotel.

: Chicago, Friday

Friday was the 37 Signals “Getting Real” workshop, which was a lot of fun. There were ways the company approached getting projects done that (quite frankly) hadn’t occurred to me, in part because I hadn’t worked with that sort of team before.

I still haven’t decompressed, so I haven’t really thought about what I learned. What I can say, though, is that my fingers were really arthritic afterwards from all the typing. A few good yoga stretches (and a nap) helped with that, though.

: Chicago, Thursday

I arrived in Chicago for the 37 Signals “Getting Real” workshop Thursday night. Boss lady Strata Chalup and I decided to go out for Brazilian food, where they bring slabs o’ meat to your table. We’d both been feeling a bit protein-starved, and I’d never had Brazilian cuisine before.

OMG, it was fabulous. They kept bringing by pieces of meat prepared different ways to the table. While I’m not usually a beef person, I liked their rump roast the best, though absolutely none of it was bad. They also brought side dishes of fried bananas (yumm!), mashed potatoes and fried polenta in french fry shapes.

As Strata put it, “This is the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of meat on a stick.”

If you’re ever in Chicago, highly recommended.

: Anyone Know of a Good Replacement for Chartsmith?

I’m frustrated.

I haven’t been able to create (and save) new charts in Chartsmith for months. Blacksmith’s tech support wasn’t helpful.

Now, another of my old charts won’t open, and I really relied on that one. Yes, I have backups, but that’s not the point, really.

I’m really peeved.

Thing is, I’ve never found anything I like as much, but maybe something’s come out that I didn’t know about.


: The End of the Northern Lights

Today we got an emergency call from mom, who told us that aanother of our favorite stores in Menlo Park was closing: Northern Lights, purveyors of fine Scandinavian goods. Worse, they were closing for good in an hour. Rick donned his lutefisk t-shirt, and we went in Getaway Car 2.0 to downtown Menlo Park.

Rick looked at a Dale of Norway cardigan, then went over to find a pullover. By the time he decided he wanted a cardigan, it was gone. The only other cardigan in his size was in pastels with a white background, so he passed on that one.

However, later, we were in luck, because the lady who was coveting it thought it might be the wrong size, so she gave it to Rick. He bought both a cardigan and a pullover (the pullover was one of the Salt Lake City Olympic sweaters). We also got a three-candle candelabra, some candles, some flatbread, and a beautiful serving set, all at an extremely reasonable price.

Except, of course, when one loses a local store, the cost is too much.

: Retailer 2.0

It’s that time of year to whine about that bit of shopping we desperately need to have — but don’t.

I’ve been asking retailers for years to be able to enter an item, then find which of the stores near me happens to have that item in stock.

Is it really so hard?

: The Year in Brief

Trips taken: 7
Seattle, Calgary, Glasgow, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Diego.

Airlines flown: 5
United, Air Canada, British Airways, American, Southwest

Traveler’s Century Club countries visited: 4
United States (Continental), Canada, England, Scotland (none new)

Conventions where I was a speaker: 3
Further Confusion, BayCon, Loscon (I had to cancel Conjecture, alas, because I was coming to San Diego the following week for RubyConf)

Conventions/Conferences where I was a volunteer (either for that convention or representing another): 7
Further Confusion, San Francisco Writer’s Conference, Norwescon, BayCon, Westercon, Loscon, LISA.

Obsure music found and acquired: 3
Boney M (German import), Florian Zabach (old vinyl, yeah), Blancmange (UK import)

Artists whose tunes I bought off iTunes: 76
Backstreet Boys, Guided by Voices, Marcy Playground, White Stripes, Daft Punk, Caesars, Tears for Fears, Dorothy Hall, Faith No More, Gary Hoey, The Gypsy Hombres, Mojo Nixon, Marie Osmond, The Stranglers, Erasure, Beck, 4 to the Bar, Yaz, Thurle Ravenscroft, Dublin City Ramblers, Toni Basil, Devo, The Nylons, M, Boney M, Lenny Kravitz, The Rubinoos, Duffy, Rockpile, The Monkees, Billy Connolly, The Real McKenzies, The Presidents of the USA, U2, David Lee Roth, Buggles, Scritti Politti, Sparks, Weezer, Jack Costanzo, Jack Johnson, The J. Geils Band, Miriam Makeba, Die Lollipops, No Doubt, Harry Belafonte, Cake, Enya, Daler Mehndi, Donny and Marie Osmond, Puffy AmiYumi, REM, Split Enz, The Wallflowers, American Bread, Bay City Rollers, Bowling for Soup, Martin Mull, Mocedades, The Dandy Warhols, Osibisa, El General, David, Wes Montgomery, Thalia, Madness, Jonathan Butler, ABC, Jean Knight, Tom Jones, Wild Cherry, Asleep at the Wheel, Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, The Weavers

Favorite Guilty Pleasure bought off iTunes:
Die Lollipops, Pata Pata (Safari-Song)

Movies seen in theatre: 1
Serenity, which I loved.

Programming Languages Learned: 1
Ruby, of course. You knew that.

Ruby on Rails projects shipped: 3

Rails projects in progress: 5, maybe 6 as of later today….

: Microsoft Announces the Abandonment

I do love it when software companies stop shipping software, y’know?

Additionally, as of January 31st, 2006, Internet Explorer for the Mac will no longer be available for download from Mactopia. It is recommended that Macintosh users migrate to more recent web browsing technologies such as Apple’s Safari.

: In the Airport Again

Enroute to San Diego for the third time in two months.

: Hotel Rooms

This is a first for me. I’m sitting in my hotel room, listening to a rather rhythmic sound, when I realize it’s not as perfectly synchronized as I first thought. It’s a tap group, upstairs. How many times have you had tap dancers upstairs? They’ve obviously practiced the piece, but as it gets harder, there’s some loss of synchronization. At least five people, perhaps as many as 15, are tapping the night away. I can barely hear the music.

Kind of makes me miss tap class, actually. I had a very demented tap teacher once upon a time. She’d do things like choreograph waltzes (Blue Danube). There are some pieces I still can’t see without seeing (and hearing) a room full of people doing a bunch of tap moves.

: The Clearing of the Decks

I realized I haven’t been writing too much about Ruby on Rails lately, but there’s been a grand flurry of activity.

At one point, I had nine Ruby on Rails projects in the air, which was driving me crazy because I can’t wrap my brain around that many projects (four really is about my limit).

Recently, two were finished, one is in a limited deployment until I get the next feature set going, one was deemed irrelevant, and two others were combined into a single application.

Currently, I’ve got six, including the one in limited deployment, including a new small job from a client.

So, if you haven’t heard from me and think I don’t love you, that’s not it. I’m just slammed.

: Scruffums

The other day, someone pointed out that they’d never seen a picture of Scruffy. Well, I have to admit that he generally posts them on his own weblog, so I typically don’t bother posting them here.

For those of you who haven’t seen him, here’s the Scruffmeister guarding his catnip:

Scruffy the Cat

: Loscon, the Rest

Saturday night, I decided to don my corset and hit the party floor. After all, there was the Baen Sidhe Toga Party, and while I was neither a banshee nor sporting a toga, I was published by Baen, the sponsor of the party — and I had the book to prove it.

One guy in the party was already way too drunk, running into people, whapping balloons into people. Every time one landed in my direction, I’d dunk it into the corner. At one point, his too-drunk cohort asked, “Who invited you?”

“My publisher,” I replied. It felt good, I admit it.

After some more time talking to people, I left for parties further afield, winding up in the Westercon 60 party. At that point, I managed to talk with a potential client about his site, for which I finalized the deal the following day.

Sunday, I got to see the final panel with Tim Powers, with Steven Brust crashing the party. David Gerrold was in fine form, and everyone talked about rejection and writers. I have to admit, it was a great panel to end with because it really did give people hope. I’ll have to remember that when scheduling writing panels in the future.

: Commit Message Contest

Sometimes, it’s not enough to have a cool project. You just want to go that extra mile. TextDrive did with their StrongSpace project, where they had a contest for the best commit messages.

Way better than my last svn commit message, which happened to be: “Trying to get the frelling convention name in the right frelling place.”

: Thanksgiving Dinner

So, dear readers: a challenge. Your most awkward Thanksgiving dinner ever. I just told Rick about this one, which I rarely discuss for reasons that will become obvious.

There was a guy I dated on and off for more than a decade. Whenever we weren’t otherwise engaged, we’d go out. These days, I’d probably call it “friends with benefits,” but at the time it didn’t seem like that. We’d met at the ice rink — he had a pairs partner, and I ice danced with him. I wish I could say that we had the sort of intimacy that would come naturally by being held aloft bowling-ball style from the crotch, but it just wouldn’t be honest. There really is no ice-dancing equivalent except, perhaps, a torrid tango.

He had two kids by a prior marriage, plus, I later discovered, a third that he’d raised in the early years but who didn’t live with him. When he married his wife, she was pregnant by someone else. When they divorced, she got custody of the eldest son; he got custody of the younger two.

A few years after we started dating, his ex-wife was killed in an auto accident. However, his ex-wife’s family had invited him over for the holidays so that “the children” could all be together. Awww.

A complication, however: one of his ex-wife’s sisters wanted him. Badly. And it was not reciprocated. Her family was for this, because it would bring the children “together again.”

Could I please (he asked rather desperately) come play a serious girlfriend?

One of the things that annoys me about women is the way play the “I know so much about this person, therefore I must be more intimate with him than you” game as a competition sport — frequently seen as played by the outgoing ex-girlfriend or wife to the incoming — in part to compensate for insecurities they have about their relationship. However, in this case, I was being asked by said gentleman to use that power for good.

At first, the entire situation was quite awkward, because everyone was wondering who I was and how they could wrest me from my date, so I was peppered with questions, some innocuous, some not. Plus, of course, there were the usual quasi-intimacy claims, because they really had known my date longer than I, though not as well as they may have hoped.

I answered some questions, deflected some, and just stared at the questioner for some (dumbstruck that someone would ask me something like that). However, as time went by, they began to realize that a) I was smart; b) my date respected me; c) we’d obviously been going out a long time. At some point, I could see a look of resignation from proposed wife, at which point my date relaxed considerably.

All in all, it turned out okay, but it sure seemed odd at the time. I remember the oddest details: the place we parked our car (and how desolate that seemed), the trepidation at the doorstep, the look from his mother-in-law when she saw me, some of the knick knacks sitting atop the side table. It was a plain house, one that seemed to me to be entirely without joy.

: TextParty and Ouch

I woke up this morning feeling completely wiped, hung over (I had a single glass of hard cider, which isn’t enough to do that), and I ache weirdly all over. I took a nap, but still felt fuzzy-brained.

All of this was the evening after a small TextDrive gathering in San Francisco. We hung out at Lucky 13 until the patio closed, at which point all but Adam headed off to Dean’s hotel, ordered cheeseburgers, and gabbed until three something in the morning.

: The Power of Grief

It’s an interesting thing, grief. Bodies don’t forget, even when people do. Tuesday (the 15th) was the 9th anniversary of my first husband’s death. A lot of people thought I “should be over it” 18 months after his death.

If only.

It’s just not that simple. Every year, I get sideswiped by some day: wedding anniversary, his birthday, anniversary of his death, etc., wandering around feeling fuzzy in the head, sometimes ill, but not quite sure why — until I remember what day it is (or almost is). I still remember having to excuse myself from a meeting several years after his death when it suddenly hit me that it was Valentine’s day — and that Richard died soon enough after we were married that we were never married on V-day. During the time of that meeting, I had been re-married a few months, approximately the same amount of time Richard and I were married before his sudden death.

I still remember what Richard looked like, what he sounded like, and, most unfortunately, the feeling of abject terror when I realized he was having a stroke and one brain function after another shut down while I watched, helpless. I sincerely hope that will be the scariest thing I ever see (or feel).

This time, I’ve been in a fog for a week.

The good news is, the fog has lifted. It’s nice to have a functioning brain again.

: Galleys

Yesterday, I got galleys for the paperback edition of Turn the Other Chick, so that should be out some time in the not-too-horribly distant future. Meanwhile, I’ve picked up another batch of hardcovers to take to Loscon.

: IRS Threatens Church's Status

Not just any church, the church where my parents were married and where I went as a child. For an anti-war sermon. I suppose “thou shalt not kill” is right out for sermon material as well.

: Super Happy Dev House 5

Well, it was a blast. Had I known that our host would want us to take off our shoes, I would have worn wool socks, because it was pretty cold.

I got to meet a couple of people, including Andrew, who said that he’d come because I posted about the event on my blog. ::waves at Andrew::

Andy Smith did an apparently funny presentation on getting chicks with python. While I missed it, it sounded rather reminiscent of Don Marti’s essay on, except told from a man’s point of view vs. advice to a woman. Presentations happened outdoors on a huge screen.

I wound up showing off some hacking to Bill Lazar, though we didn’t get to do any pair programming as the setup space was already rather crowded.

I must say that David Weekly was an excellent host, as well as kind and generous.

: Internet Quizzes

I generally avoid them like the plague, but was in an odd mood today.

You scored as Paganism. Your beliefs are most closely aligned with those of paganism, Wicca, or a similar earth-based religion. You may also follow a Native American religion.

Shocker, that. Not.

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with

: Where I'll be Nov 5

Be there or be fourier transformed.

: Women: the Technology Bell(e)wether

When I first arrived at RubyConf, one of the first people I met said, “Wow. I think you’re the first woman ever at a RubyConf.”

Since there were six women at RubyConf, I can’t say as I’m the first, since we all arrived at the same time, really.

But, as I put it, “women are the technology bell(e)wether.” If you start seeing women adopting a new technology, it’s really about to take off.

So, bellewethers are us.

: Getting in the Zone

I’ve been working to re-discover what music gets me into the right zone for certain deep-concentration work (including programming).

My iPod shuffle just reminded me of a sort I’d quite overlooked: slack key guitar, particularly the Hawai’ian Slack Key Guitar Masters CDs.

For those of you who know about my obsession for things Hawai’ian, you aren’t surprised, are you?

Personal favorite? Ledward Ka’apana, Radio Hula.

: Deirdre's Gluten-Free Flour Mix

As many of you know, I can’t eat wheat, rye, barley, or, in most cases, oats.

This morning, Rick was going to make crepes, but the container of gluten-free flour I had was empty, so I had to mix some more.

Bette Hagman, in her book The Gluten-Free Gourmet proposed a 9:3:1 mixture of White Rice Flour, Potato Starch (not potato flour, which is gross), and Tapioca Starch.

However, this mix is extremely caloric and low in protein, so I’ve been substituting for the last few years. Here’s what I used today:

1 cup soy flour
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch

If you can’t tolerate soy, then up the chickpea and white rice flour by 1/2 cup each and omit the soy.

Because of the higher protein, my mixture rises better than the original Hagman recipe. It can be substituted directly for any quickbread (e.g. banana bread) recipe, though I still usually use an extra egg. The recipes for yeast breads are still quirky, though.

: SubEthaEdit and Conference Notes

One of the features commented upon at RubyConf was the high percentage of people using Macs: approximately 80%. Really!

So, being enterprising folks, some people started conference notes for each session in SubEthaEdit, then sharing them for others to edit via Bonjour. Since many people had Bonjour and SubEthaEdit open, several people jumped in to add their own tidbits to the notes, creating a richer experience than if any one person had written them.

I got to co-write session notes with Martin Fowler (whose preferred color was green, fyi). I think that’s pretty freakin’ cool.

: Rails 1.0 Session

David Heinemeier Hansson spoke about new features in Rails 1.0. Here are my notes on that talk in PDF form.

: RubyConf

So, here I am, at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. Couldn’t get to sleep, so I got up for an hour, then tried to go to bed.

I hear one of those sounds one should not hear — wet, gurgling, splashing sounds. Yep, toilet overflowing.

So, naturally, this means I needed to get up again, get fully dressed, call the lobby, then wait. They didn’t have a plumber on-site, so that means that I get to throw a pile o’ towels onto the floor of the bathroom and hope that the water doesn’t land in the room below and ruin their night as well.

Fortunately for me, I have two bathrooms.

Last night, I had finally managed to get deeply asleep when the smoke alarm goes off. At 4:42 a.m. I bolted out of bed landing in a standing position (rather like a penguin shooting up out of the water). I’m not actually certain that it was my smoke alarm, but that’s what it sounded like. The noise stopped before I could figure out exactly where it was.

Having been in an office building that had a fire once, I naturally couldn’t get back to sleep, so I was tired all day Saturday.

Oh, and did I mention that this is my second room? Yes, it is!

You see, I was booked into a suite. I’ve worked in the hotel industry, and I’ve got to say, I’ve never heard of a second-floor walkup suite outside of, say, Santorini.

So, they sort of drew an arrow toward the back of the property when I checked in, so I trundled my luggage down there, looking wistfully at the stairs. I decided to take my handbag up first, checking to make sure I knew where the room was before lugging my baggage up the stairs.

That was a great idea, as it turns out because when I went to swipe my card in the gate, I only saw a red light. Tried the other card. Same deal. Naturally, I’d left the hotel info at the bottom of the stairs (in the top pocket of one of my bags), so I went back down the stairs to call the hotel from my cell. They sent a guy to help me. His keys wouldn’t open the gate either, so he went around the other way. Yes, the shorter way no one had mentioned earlier.

Turns out the battery had fallen out (!) of the card reader “a few minutes ago.” Hrm.

Much to my disappointment, the room wasn’t really anything like a suite. It was a double hotel room with two large beds. In other words, no sitting area, which is pretty much what defines the word “suite” for me. Naturally, they were sold out, so there wasn’t any place to move me that night. However, they did say that they’d move me the next day. So, when I left for RubyConf’s Friday morning session, I made sure that everything was back in the suitcase for the move.

When I got out of the day’s session, I found that they had moved me to another room that was really a suite. It even had elevator access. And, for a brief moment, I was happy.

There were, however, elevator issues. At the end of the day, the elevator didn’t ascend. Apparently people hadn’t been very careful about the maximum capacity of four people and had overcrowded the elevator, causing it to sulk and fail to respond to commands. This isn’t unusual for elevators, and is one of the reasons that science fiction conventions (the smart ones, anyway) have “elevator party hosts” to prevent overcrowding and unhappy elevators.

They went to reset the breaker for the elevator and it happily carried me onto my destination.

Anyhow, all this is a very long-winded (45 minutes for me) way of saying that if I look ragged and tired tomorrow, I have good reason.

I just hope I’m able to get an actual night’s sleep tomorrow night, you know?

: Don't Go All 37Signals On Me

I just realized that I had three 37Signals application windows open (out of three browser windows):

  1. A client’s Basecamp
  2. My own Backpack with my flight info and so on for RubyConf
  3. My Tadalist! account that has my packing list.


I remember reading a rant recently about frou-frou titles in small organizations. Does it really matter if you’re the CEO in a firm of three? Nah.

Given the plethora of C-star-O titles, I’ve personally been tempted to just put EIEIO as my title on a business card. Simple, cryptic, and no more meaningless. Of course, it might get people humming Old McDonald Had a Farm every now and again, but that would be a Good Thing (to associate that song with silly titles generally, not myself in particular).

Octopod asked tonight what EIEIO would stand for, were it a job title. Best I could come up with on the spot (never for a moment having even thought of the question before) was (since we’re talking a farmer, after all): Endocrine Inspection and Eatability Insurance Officer. Yes, I know, it should be Assurance, but, well, it was late and that was the best my brain could do given sleepy synapses.

Octopod said the cyborg name decoder came up with Electronic Intelligent Efficient Infiltration Organism.

I’m sure there’s a better decryption of the letters out there. Suggestions?

I’m feeling that lark that suggests I might actually Do This someday, and it’d be nice to have some title to roll glibly off the tongue should someone ask.

: Kepler's Reopening

I helped out at the Kepler’s re-opening today, checking supplies at the registers before opening and working info desk after. I can’t even remember how many special orders I took. Initially, they were going to have me help at the membership table, but there were few volunteers who’d worked in the store, and I liked working info desk when I worked there, so it seemed a natural. There were only a couple of things I needed to ask help with, but then it was smooth sailing.

: Mint Results, Month 1

I’ve been running Mint for a month now, and have the following to report (top 3 only in each case):


  1. Firefox: 47%
  2. Internet Explorer: 24%
  3. Safari: 23%

Interesting, huh? Most of the Mac users are using Safari, but most of the Windows users are using Firefox.


  1. Windows: 61%
  2. Macintosh: 33%
  3. Linux: 6%


  1. 1024 x 768: 40%
  2. 1280 x 1024: 22%
  3. 1280 x 854: 8%

Granted, if I did .NET development or something other than Unix-y Mac-y things, I’d have different demographics.

: New AJAX Beta Book

The good fellows over at the Pragmatic Programmers have found yet another way to extract money from me, in this case a brand new beta book on AJAX techniques, using several languages for the examples. So, while I’ve checked rails off as a category for this entry, it’s not just about RoR.

As Dave Thomas noted in his blog entry, the book’s only about 2/3 finished, so the part you most want may not be there yet.

Too bad I found out about it at 1:30 in the morning. I’m going to be good and not stay up all night reading it.

: Kepler's Reopening

Kepler’s has announced their reopening on October 8. I know I plan to be there, I hope you do too.

: I Love Programmers Sometimes

“Expect an order confirmation from the seller within zero to five days.”

: A Week of Migration Woes

I was a big sluggish out of the gate this week. Eight days ago, I bought a new Powerbook. I used mostly Apple’s migration to get everything to my new computer.

However, there were a fair number of migration issues, mostly permissions-related. For example, it didn’t copy any of my stuff in /usr/local (but why would it expect anything there for the average Mac user?). I found that it copied my postgres user (because of how I created it), but not mysql.

Fortunately, I’d rsynced everything to another hard drive. Unfortunately, rysnc -aEv has some issues, including some rather nasty crashes.

I think I’m now done. Everything works, except for one app which mysteriously won’t create new documents (but has no issue editing existing ones). Weird.

: OmniGraffle and EOModeler

Well, I’d been using OmniGraffle Pro (3.x) to look at relationships within an EOModeler file. Having a larger project, I decided to look at the 4.0 to see what it did. On a small sample, it imported Just Fine, including all attributes.

However, when I was trying to import a larger EOModel, OG claimed that the file was read-only, meaning that I couldn’t rearrange the elements.

Later, I realized it was my own fault: I hadn’t entered the license for OG4 Pro and was working on a demo version. I didn’t get any error messages, though, so I wasted time on the issue. Ugh.

: Conjecture

I notice that several people have been looking at my page from the page of speakers for the upcoming convention, even after I have told the programming committee that I could not attend. While I had originally planned to go down for Conjecture and then come back after RubyConf, it’s just not going to happen. I will still be at RubyConf, though not as a speaker.

Therefore, if you’re looking for me to be at Conjecture, alas, work commitments prevent me from attending.


I really did love Conjecture the first two years and hope to be back next year.

: Ugly UI Experience

If you want to see an ugly UI experience on Tiger (yes, the latest version), put your dock on the left and turn magnification and hiding on. Scroll through your list and see what happens to the arrows.

redraw bug

: Sig line of the Day

Support your local medical examiner — die strangely.

: WOW Web Design and Project Management Conference

Over the weekend, I attended the WOW design conference. My head is still threatening to explode from being overpacked with information.

When I signed up for the conference, I recognized the names, but (being somewhat bad with names) didn’t realize how cool the instructors would really be. I haven’t even begun to finish transcribing all my notes.

One thing I realized, I’d fallen back into a bad habit of using occasional presentational css class names. I won’t do that again. Really.

I’d also had a site that vexed me, but, with a deadline, I used a single table to work around a browser rendering issue. Or, better description, what seemed at the time to be a browser rendering issue.

When I heard Andy Clarke talk about floats, I realized what I’d probably done wrong. I opened up my project, edited two files, and voila, the entire site was fixed in all the browsers I had on that machine, including the quirky old IE 5.2.3 Mac.

I’m working on some other tests before uploading the changed site, but that was a huge success.

I don’t want to leave Molly or Aaron out, I’m just quite literally inarticulate right now. When I find the brain unpacking device, I’ll post more. I hope.

::stumbles about::

It’s around here somewhere, isn’t it?

In the meantime, Craig Cook has posted a more complete review.

: Lost Wins

As a fan of the show Lost, I’m glad it won an Emmy for best drama.

Alas, it’s up against Veronica Mars, also a household favorite, starting this next week. 🙁

: Our Not-so-Secret Project

Now that Jake , Mad Robby, and Atmos have talked about it, I suppose I can mention part of what I’ve been working on for the last few days.

I’ve learned a lot. Specifically:

  1. Mac users can do pair programming remotely with SubEthaEdit. Very, very cool, even if another developer did ask me to unhighlight some text because I’d turned his entire window “Hello Kitty pink.” Each coder, and there can be more than two, has their own color. I just went with the default, which happened to be pink. So, selecting all the text shows up to all other users, and brighter than any changes you’ve made.
  2. Subversion is even cooler than I thought.
  3. ‘rake migrate’ is your friend, even during development. Later, you can get the stable version of the db, remove the migrations-specific table, and remove all the migrations. Until then, it’s really spiff to be able to have an entire team add and drop columns and tables in the comfort of their development environment.
  4. Test-Driven development is great stuff, but one should ensure that tests run before typing ‘svn commit.’ Really. Rails has a fine framework for unit and functional testing. While I’d understood the unit testing, this project gave me some better insight into writing functional tests.
  5. BaseCamp (initially, we used Backpack) is great for managing what still needs to be done on a project.

: BarCamp People in NO

If you find CSI or CSI:NY too icky, please skip this post. Really. If you’re eating, please close the window and come back later.

Tonight, I read a very disturbing report (not for the squeamish) from one of the people I met at BarCamp. In this case, the analogy to conditions in Iraq wasn’t pulled out of thin air — he’d been there for some time quite recently.

There’s several things that concern me about this. While I can certainly understand, from a pragmatic perspective, putting emphasis on getting bodies out of water (as they’d continue to pollute the water supply), it is just unconscionable to leave the dead this long.

On a cheerier note, there have also been reports of the Red Cross and FEMA seizing medical equipment brought in by volunteers — equipment and supplies actually being transported FOR the Red Cross.

If that doesn’t indicate absolute zero coordination or communication, I’m not sure what does.

So much for trying to help, huh?

In an attempt to make up for some of the harsh subjects in this post, I bring you a non-icky set of photos: Jacob’s photos of the people in the Astrodome. There’s some great photos in there, but I think this is my favorite.

: A Better Insight

This is the best I’ve read about the Katrina aftermath (though admittedly I’ve been quite busy this week and have only had a couple of minutes for reading anything), especially when you consider it’s coming from someone who happened to be in New Orleans to attend a paramedic convention. Teresa Nielsen Hayden adds some brilliant annotations and corroborations.

: An Insight into the Non-Evacuees

For those people who could have evacuated but chose not to, I found something very illuminating today: evacuees were forced to either choose not to be evacuated, or to leave their animals behind to starve to death.

Personally, I want to live in a world where the people who are evacuated are the people who would not choose to leave an animal behind.

Scruffy is my only living link to my late husband; I simply cannot imagine ever leaving the little guy behind, nor can I imagine euthanizing him because it was more convenient for some bureaucrat.

: A Couple Rays of Hope

After a truly awful week last week, it seems that there are some rays of hope. First of all, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is finally starting to be addressed.

Second, it looks as though there may be some chances to Save Kepler’s. After filing for Chapter 7, it looks as though there may be some other possible investors.

I truly hope that there is some way out of this.

I emailed Clark Kepler after the store closed and received a reply the following day, thanking me for my kind words.

I hope I can soon buy more books there.

: Saturday in Marin

Today, we decided to go get away from the stressors of the week and drive up to Marin to visit one of our favorite haunts, Sweden House in Tiburon. We sat out on the back deck and had lingonberry pancakes and other yummies.

I looked out over the water and saw a bird swimming. “A duck,” I said (despite the glare and despite the fact that my reading glasses don’t focus at that distance). When going to a restaurant, I wear my reading glasses for the simple reason that I get queasy if my food’s out of focus. Weird but true.

Rick looked at me. “No, that’s a seagull.” I squinted, then saw that it was.

Well, there’s always the Ruby concept of Duck Typing, which I explained. You see, it was acting like a duck….

After that, we went to the Marin French Cheese company and had a small picnic. As we were approaching the picnic area, I saw a group of birds sitting under one of the tree.

“Ducks,” I said.

My mother (the Canadian) said, “No, those are geese.” I looked more closely and saw that they were Rather Large and that I’d been deceived by the brown bodies and dark heads — the majority of geese I’ve seen have been white. I mumbled something about duck typing. Again.

Really, I do know what ducks look like. Honest.

We had some cheese and shared a bit of bread with the birds, including redwing blackbirds. They are so gorgeous in flight.

Some little bright turquose dragonflies darted about, though none were still enough for a photo.

Then, finally, we left for home.

: Katrina, Some Photos

For those of you not into Flickr, you might have missed some of the great photos amateurs have taken. The ones that have most appealed to me are some of those taken by slight clutter, a Red Cross volunteer. My personal favorite happens to be this bit of serendipity.

May many others find the help they need.

: Katrina

I really only have one word: wow.

I know some people weren’t able to evacuate because of health or poverty, but I have some thoughts about those who were too stubborn to evacuate.

If you’ve been a city person all your life — as I had been up until I moved to Vermont — you quite literally have no idea How Certain Things Work. And, especially, how bad things can get without infrastructure. I’ve never been stuck in flooding, but I have been snowed in for a week. It’s an analogy, though a flawed one. I had water up to my thighs, but at least it didn’t have bacteria multiplying in it.


I think the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity are going to need extra help.

Updated to add: Shut up and give makes some great points.

: Kepler's, RIP

I was just getting down to my evening (yes, I know it’s after midnight, but hey) reading of blogs when I read over on that Kepler’s closed today for good.

I’m extremely sad, but I had noticed some of the signs. The other day, mom and I went to Kepler’s, where they were having a “buy three books, get one free” sale. I bought two books on software engineering (from their very lean computer section), mom bought an art book of funky Japanese schoolgirl clothes, and we got Rick the latest from Lois McMaster Bujold.

I started working at Kepler’s on 9/10/01, which means my second day there was 9/11. I can’t think of a more surreal day to work in a bookstore — people came in just wanting to Do Something, to share the fact that they were utterly and completely in shock. Ira Sandperl came and talked to people about peace, as Ira was wont to do. I don’t know if he’s still alive; he was quite old and frail last I saw him.

Clark Kepler is an extremely cool person. In the rush of Christmas season, he’d be in the store, helping everyone. When I had a long register line, he was right there helping with gift-wrapping. He’s another person I’d work for again in a heartbeat (in addition to Marie). I can’t imagine what a heartbreak this is for him and his staff.

Few people, even the locals, realize how influential Kepler’s was and how much change one small bookstore helped cultivate. Ira taught and influenced many people, Joan Baez among them, about peace. If you really looked hard, he and Roy Kepler were the foundation of a great deal of the anti-Vietnam protests that took place in the sixties.

Also, back when the Grateful Dead lived in Menlo Park (about two blocks from where I now reside), they rehearsed at Keplers, though Roy thought they were a bit too noisy. And, of course, even though he will always be thought of as an Oregon writer, Ken Kesey was living in Menlo Park — and frequenting places such as Kepler’s — when his landmark work, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written, and for good reason: his experience at the local veteran’s hospital was pivotal to the development of the work.

One thing I can say about Kepler’s: it was the only place I’ve ever worked where everything, absolutely everything, I was interested in was useful. Everywhere else I’ve worked, no matter how cool, there were always things that weren’t “relevant” to the job.

May everyone involved land on their feet. I sure know that Clark has some of the best booksellers in the business.

: Last Day at Quova

Today was my last day at Quova. I really think the company is doing some interesting and important work, it’s just that where I needed to be was going one direction, and what they needed was going another.

It all kind of crystallized when I went to BarCamp and realized I was missing a lot of that je ne sais quoi that caused me to move up to the bay area in 1999. It’s not that Quova’s not that kind of place for other people, though.

And so I left what a coworker jokingly called “the cube of infinite sorrow,” (it wasn’t personal, it was a 4-person cube) off for a new and uncharted land. I’ll miss the inflatable T-Rex mascot (named Fluffy).

I thought I’d mention a few things about Quova. What they do: network geography, specifically, where IP networks are located in the world. While that might seem simple, there’s an awful lot of interesting wrinkles.

Of all the CEOs I’ve ever worked for, none have I respected more than Marie Alexander. She’s got that insight into the tech industry, plus a southern charm that I admire.

And where else have you worked where the HR director baked brownies? Every week? And made oatmeal? Thank you Lynda for all those extra details that keeps the place humming.

Mood: Mostly townsville (which will mean something to those of you who’ve seen the defcon scale).

: Moved!

Tonight, the kick-ass admins at TextDrive completed their server move, so is now in its new home in sunny San Diego.

: Ruby Geek BBQ

Normally, Rick and I are away over Labor Day weekend, but not this year. So, since we like to have geeky barbecue events (such as the twice-monthly Linux Cabal gathering / installfest), we thought we’d hold such an event NEXT weekend too.

Time: 3 p.m.
Date: Sunday, 4 September
Place: Our house.
Bring: something you’d like to eat. Some Ruby project you’d like to talk about (or would like help with).

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, we’ll have to find a way of grilling stuff for you. Please let us know.

We’d like to keep this to no more than 20 people, though — our house is fairly small, though we do have a nicely-sized back yard for a small place.

: Too. Much. Time.

I’m probably the last person to see this so…

ascii star wars.


: Spoiled by Backpack

I signed up for Bloglines as an experiment — and found their means of trying to sort one’s feeds unusable. Specifically, it’s unusable enough that I probably won’t bother at all.

I’m just spoiled by Backpack, which has become something I use far more than I ever expected to.

: Mail Update

So, in googling on other people who’d had the same Mail problem, it became evident that disk space wasn’t an issue. The only solution is moving the Mail directory and creating a new one, importing every single mailbox in turn.


I never had that kind of issue with pine or mutt, y’know?

: A Tiger Showstopper


Mail cannot update your mailboxes because your home directory is full.

You must free up space in your home folder before using Mail. Delete unneeded documents or move documents to another volume.

This is one of the least informative messages I’ve seen for several reasons.

  1. My hard drive less full than it was yesterday when Mail worked.
  2. The error doesn’t tell you why Mail needs all this space all of a sudden.
  3. The dialog doesn’t tell me how much space to clear. 10 megs? 1 gig?

If you should be so unlucky as to need an fsck on Tiger, the other least helpful error message is that you can’t log in — but it doesn’t tell you to remain calm or what it’s doing.

I’m an adept *nix person, but geez, even I was ruffled by the dialog.

: Leave the Catapult at Home

British Airways has an interesting policy:

The following items are strictly forbidden to be carried on board the cabin of any BA aircraft:
Toy or replica guns, household cutlery, catapults,[… ]

Given the 6kg carryon limit, is that even a limitation?

Inquiring minds.

: Prepping for Glasgow

We’re on a mad rush to get all the stuff we need done before our trip to Glasgow.

: Comments

It seems that I’ve been getting some comments that were quietly marked as spam by one of my over-zealous plugins. Nothing personal was meant by it; it even marked one of my own trackbacks to my own blog as spam. (How rude!)

While it’s better than it was (especially since moving to TextDrive, which has its own magic), I’m going to have to keep an eye on the database a bit better.

: Tired, tired, tired

I had a long day planning for the next version of BayCon’s registration software. Yesterday, had a meeting with the database team.

My head is about to explode from all the info. Sometimes, when I’ve had one of those days, all my body wants to do is fall over asleep so it has time to index.

I have managed to get postgres installed on my machine (no thanks to fink) and working; now I just need a php that works with it for phppgadmin. Gosh, I haven’t compiled php since I was using Linux as my desktop OS. Alternatively, I could just use another tool, but there’s darn few for the Mac.

I’ve been working on my Javascript homework, but I’m just too tired to see the error in what I’m doing.

So I guess that means I’m going to sleep….

: A Bit on David Allen

Some women are in a bit of a tizzy about David Allen being appointed to the women’s studies department chair for UW. I’m not.

I’m opposed to women automatically getting jobs on the basis of their sex, just as I’m opposed to men automatically getting jobs. Pick the best candidate.

Earlier in his career, Allen was a nurse — a female-dominated profession — and became interested in feminism as a result. While that doesn’t mean that he’ll “get” everything that women go through, as an administrator, does he really have to?

I feel like he’s sort of my inverse: I’ve worked in a very male-dominated field, frequently as the only woman in my workgroup. We see the same kinds of issues, just from different sides.

In all, though, I think Priti Ramamurthy said it best:

“It marks changes in the field of women’s studies. The idea that women’s studies is only for and about women is no longer the case,” she said. “It’s moved to a focus on social construction, not just of women but also of masculinity, and the changing relationships between men and women, women and women, and men and men.”

: UI Problem

I called the phone company to make some account changes today, navigating through what seemed like the correct options. The automated phone system transferred me to a number that had been disconnected.

: Tiger, at last!

So, I decided to install Tiger yesterday when I read a blog entry about a Backpack Dashboard widget. One of my problems had been backups: I keep my home directory on a UFS partition so that I can use rsync for it. However, I’d never figured out a way to effectively back up my / partition, which is HFS+.

Having recently signed up for del.icious, I discovered the answer through searching through “backup” tags. In short, the answer is rsyncx.

Voila, by 4 a.m., everything was backed up. I woke up at 10:30 and began my install. What with having the DVD installed slightly wonky the first time (and the install failing as a result), then having my Mac not want to start up again for a bit (it got cranky), things weren’t as smooth as I’d have hoped — but I did finally get it all installed.

By the time I got all the developer tools installed, the system updates installed, and so on, it was 4 p.m. So, for a fairly complex install, it took me 5-1/2 hours, not 1/2 hour. With an OC-3, a faster hard drive, a faster cpu, and a few gigs of ram, it probably would have gone faster. I just have a wee little iBook G4, though.

I’ve updated my ruby so that I can run rails directly from Tiger’s install of the language (in Panther, you had to do an install into /usr/local/bin and shadow the 1.6 install in /usr/bin).

Well, I’m off to play.

: Skateboarding the Wall

As a native Californian, I can’t help but feel weirdly proud of Danny Way’s quest to jump the Great Wall of China — on a skateboard. He succeeded, too.

: Risk Management Associates files for Bankruptcy

I haven’t mentioned much about the credit industry in my blog. I can’t pass up this opportunity, though.

A few years ago, my husband and I both paid the same bill, though our payments were only credited once. When the company refused to correct their payment crediting error, I cancelled their services, only to find out that they sent me to a collection agency even though they owed me $ (yes, I’d gone through all the written disputes promptly, meeting all the legal requirements for disputing bills).

Well, it was worse than that — they didn’t send the debt to be collected, they sold it to a third party.

Recently, there’s been a spree of junk debt buyers who have been doing the IPO thing. It’s been touted as “the next big thing,” but it suffers from all the downside (and then some) that junk bonds suffered from. Frankly, the risk quality overall is way way worse than junk bonds — while some of the debt is legitimate, a significant percentage is simple billing errors that weren’t sorted out.

Anyhow, knowing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, I wrote the company, asking for validation of the debt as well as the address, etc. I received back a letter that said, not kidding, “our client says that you owe this.” That’s verbatim.

Now, the law requires the following (emphasis added):

(b) If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.

In short, they didn’t obtain nothing, but they did dun me at the bottom of the letter and insert an item onto my credit reports after receiving my letter — both in blatant violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (and the Fair Credit Reporting Act).

Certain that I did not in fact owe the amount in question, I wrote their general counsel a snarky note. The account was closed and the items removed from my credit report pretty promptly.

Really, think about it — they figured that ALL the FTC and private lawsuit settlements was worth the business risk of not even trying to compete with the law. Such arrogance! It also says to me that the FTC is perceived as having no teeth at all when it comes to matters of consumer credit and debt collection. It’s pretty obscene how bad the situation has to be before the FTC steps in.

Others, however, were not so lucky — I know several people who’ve had to sue RMA. Given their business practices, I’m delighted to hear that they filed for bankruptcy and are being bought by one of their competitors.

So, given that RMA’s revenue in 2002 was $295 million, I’m finding it highly amusing that they were just sold for 119 million. How the mighty have fallen.

: Postgres, ugh

I’m fairly tolerant of things that have fiddly bits for setting stuff up. However, I’d had a postgres install that had previously not been All There ™, so it was more fiddly than it had to be.

Anyhow, I’m tired of arguing with it. I don’t need it that much more than mysql, cool stuff or no cool stuff.


: London pic

The picture I best felt summed up London today:

London Newsstand

: Westercon in Brief

  1. Too many panels, but all of them good. Three more tomorrow. Whee!
  2. Westercon 60 will be in San Jose. Page by moi, though I’m not done yet and I’ve changed part of the color scheme.
  3. Calgary is a neat city.
  4. Westin Calgary is a nice hotel except for one thing: no easy non-stair access to most of the function space for the knee-impaired. There are wheelchair lifts, but they don’t solve the problem for many.
  5. Flying home on Monday. Independence day in two countries in one weekend. Whee!
  6. I had one of those Great Panel Moments in a budding author’s life. Thanks to Connie Willis!
  7. I met Sherry, a writer based in Calgary, who is a lot of fun.
  8. Why would a hotel close their restaurant on Sundays? ::sigh:: I had a great dinner there on Thursday and wanted to go Back. Rick arrived so late on Friday that the restaurant would have been closed (had it not been Canada Day and the restaurant was closed for that anyway). Saturday was the Locus banquet. Sunday the restaurant is closed. Monday, I’m leaving before dinner.
  9. I wonder about the relevance of a Locus Banquet when almost zero of the winners were present.

: Eye Ouch

I noticed that my eye was dry and scratchy last night. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this wasn’t just another case of “add eye drops,” but rather a rather I’d scratched my cornea. This time, it wasn’t the eye prone to minor scratches I can deal with. No, I’ve got the full light sensitivity, watery eye, and much pain.

I’d never had a corneal scratch until I moved to the bay area, either. Since moving here in 1999, I’ve been to specialists four times for major scratches.

Why do I get them? Allergies.

: Midsommar, 43 Things

The flowers at the top of my blog were from last year’s Midsommar festival. We’re going to <a http:=”“>Midsommar</a> again in the morning. Yay.

I finally signed up with 43 Things the other day. Link to my items are on the sidebar.

: Hang Your Bird Feeder High

From my father comes this sage advice: always hang your bird feeder high.

![Bear with Bird Feeder](/wp-content/extra_content/images/BirdfeederHigh.jpg)

: A Point of Clarification

I received a slightly snarky but well-intentioned email about my last blog entry. To clarify, the vast majority of men in the Linux community are fine. As I’ve pointed out before, men are overwhelmingly the early adopters in technology. Therefore, I don’t find it any great surprise that there’s only 4 female Debian developers out of 1503, especially since being a Debian developer is all about packaging the early adoption of technology for other early adopters.

Most frequently, women feel excluded due to thoughtlessness (such as the example I cited about BayLinuxChix). Much more rarely, it’s deliberate (as in the example of a former boss). Granted, that one incident could easily have been a prank; it was not, however, isolated.

Most of the teams I’ve worked on have been predominantly male. The most so was the 38-person Product Portfolio group at Northern Telecom, where I was the only female software engineer. Nevertheless, there weren’t issues relating to my being female — at least none that I ever knew about.

My reduced participation in the Linux community stems from a change of focus in my own life; it’s certainly not related to anyone’s behavior.

The catch is: a lot of people dismissed the dude posting to the Debian list as a troll. Regardless of the poster’s intent, that sort of behavior does make (some) women feel unwelcome — even when they’re not.

: Sexism and the Linux Community

Anarchogeek makes some good points about sexism in the Linux community. Well, I’ve occasionally written about sexism in the Linux community since starting with Linux in 1998. Elise Shapiro and I co-founded BayLinuxChix, which worked pretty well as a group until the CoffeeNet went away. 🙁

Even then, one of the weird things about those meetings was the guys (many of whom wouldn’t otherwise bother with Linux events) who would show up for meetings and step all over the conversation, not letting the women speak. Hello!

Unfortunately, I’ve seen some stuff — especially since moving to Northern California — that has just really grated. Like the boss who used to stand behind women when they were on the phone and plug and unplug the phone to ridicule the poor gal. He and his cronies had developed a high-tech sounding set of buzzwords that would masquerade the fact that they were in fact describing women’s body parts — talking about them right in front of them. I only wish I were kidding. The only reason I happen to know that is that a male coworker happened to be “let in” on the little secret at some point.

Way back in 1975, when I was first interviewing for a programming position, I was then explicitly offered a lesser position specifically because I was female. I was horrified enough that I didn’t accept it. Fortunately, the company is no longer in business. Also fortunately, I’ve worked for more enlightened companies since.

But not always for more enlightened individuals, alas. Almost always, though.

Okay, I’m gonna stop or this is going to be about twenty pages… except to add this one point: I was raised by my father, so in general I’m more “guy-like” in some of my communication patterns. I don’t often notice much of this stuff unless it’s blatant.

: Typography humor

One of my favorite all-time “corporate answers” from the way-back machine.

Subject:   Medu Neter
From:       Anne Ogborn
Sent on:    Thursday, July 18, 1996 23:35:38

And one last question, I understand that Apple can handle scripts that go left to right or right to left. The Tameran Medu Neter traditionally follow a general flow of the main passage going from the center outward at the top of the page (left to right and right to left), with supporting passages usually being arranged in verticle columns. Also, the arrangement of the characters within a single word is involves changes in all four directions (left to right, right to left, down to up, and up to down) as well as leaps to the end of the word and a return to the previous location (all characters that are also deity names are placed in a position of honor at the end of a word as a sign of respect, regardless of where that corresponding sound falls in the word). Does Apple support languages that act in this manner?

It is true that Mac API’s support both right to left and vertical text.

Apple does not currently sell a script system for Medu Neter, and I know of no plans to create one. Under Quickdraw GX it should be possible to create such a script system, however the mixed direction page layout would require it’s own specialized page layout code above the API level. It would be a nontrivial task to implement such a system.

If you should decide to implement such a system you should place it in the smKlingon space, as we do not currently reserve a space in the script numbering system for Medu Neter. Obviously this will cause problems for Macintosh users who wish to compose mixed Klingon/Medu Neter documents, but hopefully this will be rare.

Engineering Support Engineer
World Ready Software Group
Apple Computer

: Restless

Today, I could NOT sit still at work. Had a great day, work zipped by. I think a lot of it is being happy about having finally seen to The Dreaded Site Migration, despite some of the issues with rewrite tools.

I’ve discovered a lot of web archivers coming and asking for content I haven’t had up in a while. Since I do have backups of everything, I’m thinking of putting much of it up (except that which is hopelessly outdated) with a redirect to be nice to those archiving the Web of the Past. The largest request has been for my fairly-recent stylesheet, which disappeared when I moved my blog to the top of my site. Returning my current stylesheet wouldn’t be the right answer; I may put up my old stylesheet so the archived content renders properly, though.

Sorry, though, my list of Vermont yarn stores from 1995-1997 is going to remain in the dustbin.

: Caught with my Ribbons

Hah, I was just Technorati surfing the BayCon tags and found a photo of me on Sunday with my entirely too-long set of badge ribbons.

I am amused.

: Seton Hill

This is a mini survival guide for the MA in Writing Popular Fiction at
Seton Hill. Updated December
2002 to reflect changes in the process.


During your time in Seton Hill’s program, you’ll have five residencies.
The first four start off new semesters; the last finishes your

Each residency consists of some lectures specific to where you are in the program plus:

  1. Writers’ workshops — an instructor-led small group.
  2. Modules — classes you attend. Each residency has 4 modules. There
    are five residencies and eight “core” (aka required) modules. Of the remaining twelve modules, you need to complete several in your genre; the rest are electives. While initially people were teaching
    modules, this was changed: now graduates give an hour-long lecture
    during a critique workshop time.
  3. Guest speaker — a famous writer in residence.
  4. Faculty Meetings
    — where you work with your advisor formulating a study plan for the
    semester. Prior guest speakers included Octavia Butler, Christopher Curtis, and Donald Maass.

Core modules are offered once each year apparently. The list includes:

Showing, Telling and Style Lecture and brief
workshop on the necessity of concrete detail. Survey of examples from
various written sources and student workshop on writing with more
impact, avoiding having to “tell” of action and making the
reader “see” it instead: the difference between “he
stood up with a sense of great excitement” and “he exploded
from the chair.
Characterization and Dialogue Since
character is at the heart of all fiction, including popular fiction,
writers must improve their characterization skills, creating original
characters who still fit within the realm of popular fiction. The role
dialogue plays in character development will be covered too, via
lecture, literary examples, and in class writing exercises.
Novel Structuring and Synopsis Writing
Recommended for first-semester students, who will need to have a
synopsis by the beginning of their second term.
Conflict and Plot Without conflict there can
be no fiction. Conflict is the generating engine of the plot. How have
successful writers of the past and present used it? How can it be
developed and polished to a fine art? Discussion and in-class writing
will focus on this fundamental principle of fiction.
Point of View An examination, in both theory
and practice, of why an author prefers first or third person narrators
in certain settings or with particular characters. The class will
discuss why and how authors achieve special atmosphere by using an
unusual point of view. Students will experiment in class with changing
point of view and the choice of narrator.
Using Personal Experience/Setting Where does
your story take place, and how can you bring it to life? Whether your
setting is a street in your hometown or an alien planet, the key to
vivid setting is personal, sensory experience. Students will learn to
pay closer attention to their own experience and their senses in this
experiential workshop on creating vivid settings.
Research for Writing A survey of the most relevant and important texts and sources for the details of background that come up in writing. How to use libraries, the Internet, how to interview authorities, how to research “on location,” how to keep up-to-date — and how to keep track of all
this data.
The Business of Writing Knowing your market, knowing the editors, knowing which publishers want what. Query letters, cover letters, rejection notices. Preparing, packaging, and sending the manuscript. Legal considerations, agents (are they necessary?) and how to get them, handling rejection, what to do when you’re accepted, keeping track of your rights, the IRS. The nitty-gritty of what
occurs after you’ve finished the manuscript and want to submit it.

The Fifth Residency

The fifth residency has some special quirks worthy of mention:

  1. You must produce a “thesis” and present it as your defense.
    Your thesis consists of one or more book-length manuscripts (depending
    on your genre — the requirements for children’s writers differ). The
    defense consists of an hour-long presentation to students, faculty and
    select onlookers (loved ones, etc.).
  2. Because your novel needs a second reader, it is due one month earlier so that there’s sufficient time for critique and revision.
  3. You must teach during your final residency. Fortunately,
    this is only an hour-long lesson. You and your advisor should work on ideas; naturally, you’ll have the ability to watch other people’s presentations.

At Home

After you get home, the bulk your semester’s work begins. The
following are notes from fellow student Ron:

As first-term students, we will be required to send in two manuscripts.
After that, we will only need to submit one per term. In the final
residency, we have the option to submit or not. Once the first –
fourth residencies are over, and we return home, we can do the rest of
the course work on-line.
This work consists of doing a book journal, submitting a certain number
of pages to our mentors and critique partners each month, critiquing
our partners’ works while they and our mentors critique ours, visiting
the threaded discussion board, and participating in the monthly on-line
chat room discussions.
Now a little about each requirement. We will be assigned a mentor
sometime during the residency. The two of you will sit down and decide
on a term contract–things that you will need to complete before the
end of the term in order to pass. This includes reading and writing.
You will probably get a reading list from your mentor. This list will
contain a selection of books dealing with the craft of writing (called
“how-to” books at SHC), as well as a number of books from your chosen
genre. You decide the books that you want to read, and then keep a
journal of them.
In the journal, you talk about what you liked about the book, what you
didn’t like, things you learned, how you might apply what you learned,
or not, to your own writing, and so on. The journal gets submitted to
your mentor before the end of the term.
You will also be assigned to a critique group at the beginning of the
term. This is a group of two or three other students with whom you will
correspond during the term. You will share your manuscript writings
with them, and they will share theirs with you. You look at each
others’ work and offer comments and advice about the writings. The
manuscript pages that you send to your critique partners also get sent
to your mentor for critique. A word of warning–save the critiques of
your partner’s work. These critiques need to be sent to your mentor by
the end of the term to show that you have been providing feedback to
your partners.
Students are required to visit the page and provide regular postings on
the message board (on the website). Every month the college has a
one-hour on-line chat. Students are required to attend the chats. There
is a room for each genre, and one for just general discussion. The
college says that you have about 20-30 hours of work each week. This
time consists of reading, writing your drafts, and corresponding with
students and faculty.
If you don’t understand something, ask. Ask your mentor, the faculty,
other students, anybody, but ask. Everyone is very helpful and willing
to share any information that they may have. Your thesis is your
By the end of the fourth term, you are to have a publishable manuscript
completed. It doesn’t have to be published, as going through the
submission process could take some time, but it does have to be in
publishable form. That is, all the revisions need to be done, and it
has to be in the proper format, ready to be sent out.

Getting There

The nearest major airport is Pittsburgh (PIT), though there are shuttle
flights to Latrobe (LBE). The formal name for Latrobe’s airport is
“Arnold Palmer Regional Airport” and the airport’s web page can be
found here. You may get a
better fare booking through to Latrobe; you can also book the
connecting flight separately. US Air
is the only commercial carrier currently flying there.

From either airport, you can use a shuttle service to get to the school
or you can rent a car. Pittsburgh offers cars from most major services;
Latrobe offers Hertz, Budget and National.

Special note that, if you fly into Latrobe, you should not book the
early morning flight out unless you rent a car. Yellow Cab of
Greensburg opens at 7 a.m., too late to guarantee arrival at the
airport on time. also, they charge $20 from Greensburg to the LBE,
where Majesty (the van service) charges $36 to Pittsburgh. Ya might as
well go to Pittsburgh unless you have a compelling reason to fly out of

Staying There

Unless you’d like to freeze to death, you’ll have to stay somewhere. At
times, the campus may be available, but for the January residency, the
school has selected St. Joseph’s Center. However, you’re free to stay
elsewhere and a listing of nearby motels and hotels is provided.

: Mod Rewrite and WP

I’ve spent the day migrating old bits of my site (gah, some of it dates from 1995, which is extra-scary) into WordPress’s structure.

I didn’t really grok how WP did Pages, but basically it does it by adding a bunch of rewrite rules to .htaccess — a few for EACH page. Gah. I migrated my about page to WP — not that it does anything yet, but I kinda wanted to see how it was structured.

I’ll be migrating more of my site over, but I’ve mucked through three weeks of logs to find out what people are actually trying to find — and migrating that first.

Frankly, I’m amazed what people have been looking for: six-year-old Compaq laptop XF86Config files, ssh build info for betas of MacOS X, plus some stuff I haven’t actually had on my site in four years. No accounting for taste. 😉

Note to self: don’t rsync over the auto-generated .htaccess again, m’kay?

Updated to add another note to self: don’t forget to check the links of files you included in posts to make sure they didn’t break. ::sigh::

: Small Universe

So I’m having trouble with Rails, so I log into #rubyonrails, where a guy I haven’t met (but who seems to know his way around Ruby fairly well) is working with me to figure out what’s up.

Anyhow, after web sites are mentioned, he asks if I’m related to Rick Moen. I get asked this from time to time, frequently in some odd context and once upon a time, in an awkward moment in a job interview — I can’t easily say “he’s my husband” without bringing the issue of marital status — a verboten interview question — to the table.

So said IRC dude says that Rick gave him a Linuxmafia ribbon at BayCon, meaning it’s not just some random “knows of” Rick on a mailing list, it’s someone who’s met him. Recently.

It further turns out that said IRC denizen was planning on being at the BayCon picnic the following day (Saturday, which is yesterday as I write this). So we did sort out my problem, which turned out to be fighting the naming scheme of ActiveRecord. Solution: don’t do that then.

It’s funny how the universe can be incredibly small sometimes. That’s basically how I wound up in the bay area in the first place.

: Mom's Comment About Geeks

“They’re so busy focusing on zeros and ones that they completely miss two through nine.”

: Ahh, Torment

It used to be that I never got any endorphin kick from exercise. Apparently, some time in the last couple of years, that’s changed. Of course, I wasn’t doing a lot of working out, so I didn’t notice.

The gym I’m currently going to has machines I’ve never seen before, though I’ve worked on their free weight counterparts in the past. So, it’s my new resolution to try out one new torture device machine each trip.

: Submissions Migration: Day Two Point Five

I’ve gotten all of an hour and a half to work on my Rails project since June 9th. I belatedly realized that I’d started at the hard end of the application: that part that connects all the pieces and has a bunch of joins. While I got that working for the list view, I have a lot more work to do before the rest of the CRUD functions work.

I’m taking a brief hiatus from that.

So instead, I’m working on the CRUD functions for the lookup tables right now, which I should be able to bang out fairly quickly.

One thing I wanted to comment on: I really like some aspects of the Rails design. For example, there’s an application.rhtml that’s the template for the site as a whole, but it can be overridden for any controller by creating a layout for it (e.g. for the controller submissions.rb, you’d create submissions.rhtml to override the application’s defaults).

It’s making me rethink how I was going to implement one feature….

: Intel Instead

Last week, when I heard that Macs would be moving to Intel processors, I really only had one visual that came to mind.

When I worked for Be, one cube held a bunch of miscellaneous hardware. At the entrance of the cube was an inflatable Muench’s Scream wearing a grey “Intel Inside” t-shirt that had been patched to read “Intel Instead.”

So, with that in my hindbrain, what else could I see, really? As others have said, I don’t personally care what hardware a Mac runs on as long as I still get the user experience.

: Mysql's back

Well, I hope I don’t need to do that again.

Because I installed different packages, and in a different order, than my last Debian system, I wound up with the problem of some users having been created in a different order, thus creating some knotty permissions problems. I fixed these in /var/log/mysql, /var/run/mysql, and for the new stuff in /var/lib/mysql. This solved the reported problem:

Can’t connect to local MySQL server through socket ‘/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock’ (111)

Fine, on to the next problem. Because I rsynced over my old databases, including my root db password, I’d nuked the grant for the debian sysadmin script. I should note that I hadn’t had this problem before because the last time, I’d also rsynced most of /etc as well. After a brief hunt through google, I found that the location for the password is in /etc/mysql/debian.cnf, so I just granted the privileges to ‘debian-sys-maint@localhost’.

After stopping and restarting mysql, I verified that it was all happy again. Blogs for everyone.

: Rails and Stylesheet Links

RoR has quite a nice little stylesheet link helper, stylesheetlinktag, which generates a stylesheet link if invoked like so:

&lt;%= stylesheet_link_tag ‘style’ %&gt;

I just checked out the rails trunk and, sure enough it’s only a choice of screen or all, rather a problem for those of us who also like to generate print stylesheets (traditionally, I haven’t bothered, but it’s become one of my grumpy points lately). It also really annoys a friend of mine who uses a braille reader.

So I made a little print media thingy for my site (stuck it in helpers/application_helper.rb), and it works, but what I’d rather do is figure out what I need to do in order to submit a patch to rails so that other types can be supported by the framework. This will mean understanding unit testing in rails, which I haven’t quite gotten to yet.

Catch is, there is no canonical list, so it’s not like you can have a unit test double-check against a specific list of types; someone can go and define a media type of “beelzebub” and you’ve gotta be able to generate that.

I’ll probably be able to do this tomorrow.

: More About FM

There’s a lot of misinformation about fibromyalgia, in part because it’s more a collection of symptoms than a disease per se.

However, largely, there seem to be three things I think are worth noting:

  1. Most people with fibromyalgia get too little stage 3 and stage 4 (restorative) sleep. Fixing this lessens symptoms. In my case, 5-HTP (a form of L-tryptophan) helps immensely. A lot of people with FM may also have undiagnosed apnea.
  2. There’s a generalized misperception of pain. Things that shouldn’t hurt, do. There’s no easy fix for this one, except to keep track of one’s pain and do what one can to lessen it. High-quality sleep helps. There are some drugs, including some antidepressants, that help fix the perception of pain for some people.
  3. Pain signals act as a priority interrupt, so managing pain is essential to mental acuity.

Most people I know with fibromyalgia have it far worse than I do, so I feel fortunate that it only really bites me every once in a while. My current long-term plan is to get on a better exercise program.

One of the better articles I’ve read about FM can be found here. Personally, I’ve never been able to bring myself to acupuncture, but I find acupressure quite helpful.

As for something that starts the entire FM process, I’ve been suspicious about zonulin ever since I read about it.

: Fibromyalgia

You know what it’s like when one dog in the neighborhood starts barking, then all the dogs bark and you can’t get any peace?

That’s what having fibromyalgia’s like. You have some specific ache, then every other part of you that hurts (and there’s several) starts aching, and it goes into some feedback loop from hell.

It doesn’t happen to me very often, but I lost a lot of Thursday to it. Woke up feeling like I was going to toss my cookies (had I eaten any, which I hadn’t). All because I strained my back a bit over the weekend and it had started hurting. So I came home from work early, took a bath with some epsom salts, then went to bed.

Finally woke up, woozy, about 10 p.m. I did have some really excellent dreams about trekking in Greenland, though. I have no idea what that was all about, other than I’m probably not going to actually get to go there this summer.

Later, about 1 a.m., got the tiniest bit of work done on Submissions, but I’ll save the info on that until my next post, because there’s something I want to check out.

: Rails Day

On Friday night, I decided to finally drop in on #rubyonrails on It turns out that I couldn’t have arrived at a better time, chronologically, as Ruby on Rails day was about to start. The room (yeah, I know it’s technically a “channel,” get over it) was full of enthusiasm about the impending start.

People started getting their emails for their Subversion repositories and their mysql databases.

A few pointers for people doing this next year (there will be a next year, right?):

  1. Make sure you’ve set up rails on your home box (this goes for each of the developers on your team, of course).
  2. Make sure you’ve set up subversion and mysql, too.
  3. Have some idea of what you want to accomplish and how you’ll go about it.
  4. If you’ve never used Subversion before, take it for a spin. It can throw you for a loop if you’re not used to source control.
  5. Pick a project that’s smaller than you think you can do in 24 hours. Each person has to learn (unfortunately, the hard way) what their “guesstimates” are off by, but the rule of thumb that works for me is: Everything takes twice as long as you think, including thinking. In other words, multiply your /dev/ass estimate by four. The project I thought would take an hour, more if I added an extra feature, actually took 3:45 today (with the extra feature) — so, for me, 4x is a good estimate. Of course, I’d quoted 4 hours to management, because I’ve learned my “number” over the years. Your number will differ.

I haven’t seen all the railsday projects, but there’s two I thought stood out: Tally by Technoweenie, dpiddy and caseygollan; the other was Clockwork from Maylo. Clockwork had some really beautiful design on the front page.

More railsday apps are out there, of course, but those were the two that struck me as particularly nifty one-day apps.

: Socks

So one of my frustrations the last few months has been the discovery that my previous favorite line of socks has been discontinued.

See, when I buy socks, I buy an entire drawer full in the same color. That way, I never have to worry about whether or not they match. Pull two socks out, voila.

My preference in socks is fairly simple: crew length (though not the super-tall crew length currently in favor in men’s socks), navy, thin (dress-sock weight), mostly cotton with some spandex content. Anything else makes my feet sweat, and that makes me unhappy.

My prior batch of socks, well, their spandex has completely lost its mojo. However, I’ve been searching for a couple of months and have found nothing that makes me happy.

Most “girl” socks are “trouser socks,” which is a euphemism for “these won’t last and the nylon content will annoy you.” Ugh.

And why must casual socks be available invariably in black or white? What’s up with that? I think white socks look stupid unless one is wearing all white — and black isn’t a color I choose to wear.

I’ve searched in stores and I’ve searched online. There is simply nothing that fits into that category that fits my feet. I even went to a wide shoe store today, bought their socks — well, they fit my feet, but I have to fold them because they don’t fit above the ankle. Did I mention that they are supposedly non-binding at the top? Yeah, right.

Still, as they met all my other criteria, I bought ten pairs.

Rick says that pockets are a feminist issue. I think he’s going to have to add socks to the list.

: Still Tired, But Moved

Virtually the only thing I’ve accomplished this week is migrating to, which offers a bunch of cool things including Ruby on Rails hosting.

Anyhow, the main reason I moved from was simply capacity — my prior account only offered 2mb of space. Since I was looking at upgrading, I thought I’d look for a host that had better features.

I’ll be migrating the non-blog pieces of the site over slowly, so if there’s a page you haven’t found, that’s why. In the meantime, it’s probably mirrored at

Next up on the list: rewrite rules for the old blog ( to redirect to the new one (

: Feeds Fixed

About the time I’d noted that my feed was broken, it was announced that this was a bug with WordPress 1.5.1. I’ve now had a time to apply the changes, so it’s now fixed.

: Alias season closer

This season, Alias seemed like it had jumped the shark — or, if not actually jumped, had practiced a few leaps.

The season closer, though, shows that the form is back — the pacing was more J. J. Adams than it has been all year. Of course, he’s been rather busy with another household favorite, Lost.

The kicker was the final scene, with Sydney and Vaughn. As Rick said (and he’s not especially an Alias fan), “That was worth staying up for.”

: Gmail outages

I’ve been getting gmail “oops” alerts constantly tonight — like 90% of the time I’m trying to do something. Naturally, my BayCon email box is on gmail, which only means that mission-critical stuff that I need to do isn’t getting done.

I knew there was a reason I ran my own mail server.


: Feed's broken

Berry reported same. Will fix after BayCon. Apparently, this is yet another thing that broke in the upgrade. ::sigh::

At least I figured out what broke validation in my three-minute time slice.

Now, back to java — I have 142 emails to send tonight and a bug I need to fix before that happens….

: That Music Baton

Several bloggers have posted about the music meme, so I’m doing the same. Since no one explicitly passed the meme onto me, I’m not passing it on to anyone else. Of those who listed their favorites, Jeffrey Zeldman’s came closest to my personal preferences.

Total Music: 14.6 gb. I haven’t even put everything on yet — I’m too low on disk space.

The Last Album I Bought Was: Weezer by Weezer.

Five Songs I listen to a Lot:

  1. “Ancient Walls of Flowers” by Marcy Playground. I just love the acoustic sounds on this. It really needs headphones.
  2. “Hey Bulldog” by the Beatles. I like a lot of Beatles stuff, but this has been my favorite since Fanny did a cover of it ages ago.
  3. “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” by Cake. I love Cake, but this song’s my current favorite.
  4. “Chicken and Rice” by Jack “Mr. Bongo” Costanzo. I like a lot of latin jazz and a lot of Jack’s music. This is one of my favorites, though I also listen to his version of “Pata Pata” a lot.
  5. “We Used to be Friends” by the Dandy Warhols, aka the theme song for Veronica Mars, currently the household favorite. I need to pick up more of their stuff.

: Books in their Natural Environment

I was in Borders last night (because Kepler’s didn’t have a copy) looking for a better FileMaker book than what I had. I looked it up on their kiosk, then wandered over to the computer section. A hyper-helpful sales dude came over to show me the exact shelf. Excellent!

He mentioned that he maintained the science fiction section before wandering off to help someone else. So I trundled over there, only to find a copy of Turn the Other Chick in its natural environment: on a bookshelf. So, naturally, I had to show him, which meant waiting for him after he helped someone else. He agreed that it was really cool that they had a copy of a book with one of my stories in it. ::beams::

Speaking of books, today’s mail brought two XSLT books, Programming Ruby, and Art of Java Web Development, which I was hoping would give an overview of similarities and differences between various Java web technologies.

: Photoshop

I’d gotten a bit rusty on Photoshop, so I spent an evening playing around, manipulating images and so on. I changed around my blog stylesheet (and have an even cooler one in progress), but it’ll be after BayCon before that’s all done.

I also need to make a real site Colophon.

I’ve been considering ways of migrating my existing site into one single blog, but that’ll take even longer. There’s a lot more pieces than you might think:

~/Sites deirdre$ ls -lR | wc -l

Yeah, that’ll take a day or two.

: Some Random Thoughts on Zonulin

About a week ago, some of the research into zonulin came into my field of view [1]. I hadn’t been keeping up on celiac research, so the five-year-old news that they’d discovered a protein that regulates intestinal permeability [2] had quite escaped me.

In short, high levels of zonulin make the intestine more permeable, allowing stuff that shouldn’t get into the body to get there. The study points out that there are high levels of zonulin in people with four autoimmune diseases: celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and insulin-dependent diabetes. (One side effect of this research is that celiac seems to have been promoted to a genuine autoimmune disease rather than a quasi-autoimmune disease, but I digress.)

It’s also possible that said stuff is mis-recognized by the immune system and triggers the auto-immune diseases in the first place, rather than just making them worse. Which, of course, leads to the question about how the zonulin levels got elevated so that the entire mess occurred in the first place.

I tried to read some recent papers on zonulin (having Medline access), but unfortunately immunology papers are simply beyond my ken for the most part — they’re not really written in English.

I was pondering what the role of zonulin was — clearly, the most obvious advantage to being able to change intestinal permeability is avoidance of starvation. At some short-term (and possibly critical) gain, one may cause long-term effects. No great shocker there.

So, my brain then went on to the issue of dieting (being obese and all). It’s fairly well-known that excess dieting may make it much more difficult to lose weight. So what if that’s one of the things that triggers high zonulin levels? I always felt like shit when I dieted, what if that’s literally true?

Let’s look for a minute into some of the known epidemiology of multiple sclerosis. Two to three times as many women as men get MS [3]. While not mentioned on said page, a fairly common trigger for women is pregnancy, though that’s certainly not the only trigger. Worldwide, one is far more likely to contract MS if one is raised further from the equator, which generally correlates to colder states. In colder climates, the body’s composition changes somewhat between summer and winter — which may trigger some kind of “starvation” signal, especially in women. My armchair hypothesis is that this is related to the increased zonulin levels found in MS patients.

On a different tack, one of the other things that occurred to me: what if some of the increases in obesity of Americans were coming from dietary changes that increased zonulin levels?

So, what does the recent research mean? They’ve found something that can inhibit excess intestinal permeability by finding a zonulin inhibitor. This is HUGE. Even if it doesn’t fully prevent the damage of the four aforementioned autoimmune diseases, consider the possibilities in obesity control: no longer will people feel compelled to remove part of the intestine to control digestion in obese patients.

I suspect that the number of obese patients who have genuine metabolic disorders, if one considers intestinal permeability a metabolic disorder (which it should be), is much higher than previously suspected. This research opens the door to an answer.

To me, anything that could help reduce the effects of several autoimmune diseases and obesity, well, that sounds like the kind of Grand Unified Theory that could win a Nobel prize.




: Mac Mini Bag

Since the Mini was announced, I’ve been coveting one.

Recently, Tom Bihn announced a bag for the Mini. Like their other bags, made in the USA, which I also appreciate.

From the product description, “Makes a sporty, albeit expensive, Bento Box as well.” Uh huh.

Pity they don’t have it in Plum.

: Waterfield bags

After getting a case of bag envy last week seeing someone else’s Waterfield case, I again realized that my own computer bag — the second from same manufacturer — was falling apart. Grr.

So I went rummaging through the Waterfield site, looking for what I could afford. These are locally-made bags, but extremely well-made ones. Buying locally, especially in this day of outsourcing, is important to me. I like my neighbors to have jobs.

Eventually, I decided on a notebook sleeve, in part because I also had a working messenger bag that I could use to contain it. I opted for the flap. The decription doesn’t say it, but the flap is padded. I figured if I dropped it on that side, I’d appreciate any extra help the bag could offer.

I also opted for one of their iPod Gear Pouches in blue.

When I got the Gear Pouch and looked at it, I was amazed. There’s about as many pieces to it as to the typical jacket pattern, but it’s extremely well-made. The outside zip pocket also has two compartments, just exactly the size for my small (paper) notebooks. Inside, there’s enough room for my iPod, charger, my rather large cell phone (Nokia 3660), and my Plantronics Bluetooth headset. In fact, if I wanted to just take off for the day without a bunch of stuff, I could easily put my wallet in it and use it instead of a purse. Just me, my iPod, my phone, and proof that I exist.

I also haven’t yet mentioned the great emails letting me know that my order was on the way and asking me how I’d heard about them. And, you know, Gary answered. At 10:30 at night.

So, they’ve got my vote, but I’d rather the bags had less black. So far, that’s my only complaint, mitigated by the other color on the bags. But if they ever do a limited run in red or blue or something, I’ll buy everything all over again.

Review of the Cargo bag I’d like to have.

Review of the sleeve I bought.

: Have a Heart!

I’m happy to hear that one of my friends, placed on the heart transplant waiting list in October, now has her heart transplant and is home from the hospital.

: Chugging along

I haven’t been posting a lot, in part because I’ve been working on several gruelling tasks. The largest one is now about half done.

: Catch-22

For once, I’m on the right side of a Catch-22.

: Wishing the best for Jack and Family

Steven Chalker’s blog talks about what it’s like to be family of someone critically ill. In this case, noted writer Jack Chalker, one of the best sf/f writers in the business, as blogged by his son Steven.

Wish some good thoughts over to the Chalkers; the family (especially Jack) could all use them.

Steven, if it helps, I know several people who’ve been through congestive heart failure — all have gotten out of the hospital and kept going with their lives.

: Sleep, finally!

Today’s the first day I’ve felt relaxed in I don’t know how long. At least since World Fantasy.

My brain’s in the mood to write a quirky little piece, but I’ve got another piece due.

Since my brain hasn’t been in the mood to write fiction for a while, I’m going to reward it by giving it an hour. Then off to finish the writing we must turn in.

: As the week wears on….

I’ve gotten more and more behind on sleep. 🙁

This weekend is the first weekend I’ve had uncommitted since early November. I’m going to enjoy that.

: What a week!

I had a trip up to San Francisco on Thursday, lasting far longer than it should have.

Saturday, I went to my writing group, but we only critiqued one article. Everyone’s been incredibly busy.

Today, the annual BayCon Holiday party, which included a meeting afterward. Rick got a bunch of ripe persimmons, so I’m making gluten-free persimmon bread.

: Ads

I love seeing different ads when I visit cities. While most of us remain unaware of the regional differences in advertising, they can be considerable.

Back in 1999, when Palm did some blitz advertising, they had a series of ads featuring nude women holding a Palm. Mostly, these were billboards, but at least one of them was a bus stop poster. When you looked at what was on the Palm device, it was a ToDo list. The first item read, “Buy Clothes.”

When I landed in Washington D.C. on Friday, I saw an ad I thought was similarly amusing, but intended for an entirely different audience.

Paraphrased, it said, “When our telecom laws were written, a blackberry was just a fruit.” It featured a photo of a bowl of cereal with a Blackberry PIM in the middle. On the Blackberry’s screen was a single word: “Yum!”

: Incredibly busy

Some great things are beginning to bust loose. I rather feel like I’m about to have some really fabulous things happen.

I’m busy, though. That said, I only have 14 irons in the fire at the moment; in August, I had 19.

: Quiet week

The cat’s lying curled up at my knee. I finally got a chance to really sleep as late as I’d wanted.

I’m feeling strangely tense, though.

: Jeanne

My friend Jeanne is in the hospital dying from liver failure. She’s been in a coma for two weeks, partly because her oxygen levels are so low. I don’t know if she made it through the night, but given how much she’s suffered, I hope she doesn’t suffer much longer.

She was on the liver transplant list for some time, but her heart had weakened so much that they took her off the list.

: Airports, again

Stuck in San Francisco this morning enroute to the World Fantasy Convention.

It’ll really be great to go to Phoenix when the weather sucks less than it did in July.

Never been to WFC before, so I’m looking forward to it.

Oh, and I should finally get to see (and hopefully sign) some copies of Turn the Other Chick.

More news when I arrive.

Man, I’m tired.

Cat update:
Scruffy ate a small bit of dry food this morning, the first non-forced food in days. He also seems a bit perkier, though still quite sluggish. Those antibiotics are working, even though it took 23 tries (not an exaggeration) to keep the pill down last night.

Best luck to Mom on pilling the cat today….

: Work weird

There’s something harder than average about returning to work after a week-long writer’s workshop. My mind is still thinking about ancient Egypt, robot monsters, the future of aliens in San Francisco, and Jax’s rendition of Henry V with a Texas accent (it worked!).

It’s very odd to have to suddenly focus on where in the world Tlalnepantla is and whether Mexico City is the best approximation of Tlalnepantla’s location.

: Restaurant Gar

It’s tiring having to tell people all the time, “No, I can’t have that, it’s probably got wheat in it.” Bread they understand, pasta they sometimes do, but items such as Rice Dream (a rice milk), they’re less likely to. Nor do most people have any clue that soy sauce almost invariably contains wheat.

Friday night, I went to a restaurant and, after looking at the menu, asked if I could have lobster scampi served on potatoes. He said they only had french fries. I asked them if they cooked the fries separately from the fish and seafood they also served — they did. What else did they cook in that fryer? Only fries.

Fine, I said, I’ll take the scampi over fries.

“The chef said it wouldn’t be very good,” the waiter offered. “We could put it over pasta.”

“Look,” I said, “eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines. I’ll take it over fries.”

Waiter said OK, then went on to take the rest of the table’s order.

A few minutes later, he comes out, apologetic. Chef has refused to make said order because it “wouldn’t be any good.” Waiter says there’s a lot of other seafood they serve with fries, I could have some of that.

“It’s all battered in wheat. Eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines.” Repetition is sometimes necessary.

“Well, you could have steak tips.”

Right, at a seafood place. Not. (I’m glad I didn’t, it looked incredibly dull)

Instead, I had a shrimp appetizer after verifying that it wouldn’t contain any flour of any kind. I also ordered potato skins.

Despite the chef’s assertion about “it wouldn’t be any good,” the two of us who ordered potato skins found ours to be BLACK they were burned so badly.


But it took three go-arounds and about 5 minutes of interaction with the waitroid to even get that far. I’ve literally been brought to tears because I’ve been so frustrated about food (and so embarrassed by the problems food causes me).

If someone says they can’t have wheat: believe them. It doesn’t matter if they’re imagining it, chances are they’re not.

: Ah, political humor

![bush card](

: Grr…

Corporate default food is either sandwiches or pizza.

Today, it was sandwiches from Togo’s. The salad had croutons on it already, and not just on the top, but mixed in. So, I couldn’t eat that. I had a small amount of potato salad and some potato chips.

Some days, being celiac really bites.

: Stuck in SJC

Well, isn’t that special? I arrived (early) for an 8:48 a.m. flight to LAX and the flight is delayed until 10:00 a.m.

Remind me, why did I hurry this morning?

: Feeling pissy

Yes, I thought you, gentle reader, should know this.

I’ll spare you the angst of the details, though.

Let’s just say that I’m not a happy Klingon today.

: FACT Act Comments Due 9-17

If you want to comment on it, here’s the link.

Here’s my comments:

There are some definite issues not addressed in the Fair Credit Reporting Act or the FACT Act.

1) Hard vs. Soft Credit Pulls

There is no distinction made in law between a “hard” credit pull and a “soft” credit pull. The former are customarily used when applying for new credit; the latter are customarily used when reviewing accounts, promotional inquiries (including pre-approved credit card offers), or the consumer’s own inquiries.

Some banks, such as MBNA, pull two (or more) hard pulls per credit application. Since each hard pull can affect one’s FICO score, and since inquiries make up 10% of one’s FICO score, that second inquiry can make thousands of dollars of difference on a mortgage.

As consumers, we need protection from this practice.

a) Places we apply to should be permitted only one hard pull per application for credit, even if the consumer requests a re-consideration for a decline

b) Collection agencies should never be permitted hard pulls

2) Penalization for Payment of Debts

Under the current system, consumers are penalized for paying off old past-due accounts, and not just for statute of limitation re-setting reasons. Paying the debt re-sets the date of last activity and therefore is counted just the same, FICO-score-wise, as if the debt had just gone delinquent. Risk-wise, is the person who just paid a 3-year-old utility bill gone astray the same risk as the person who just defaulted on a credit card? No.

Additionally, since the contracts with credit reporting agencies do not permit collection agencies to make pay-for-delete arrangements, paying a collection agency is, score-wise, always a bad move.

Needless to say, this has unfortunate consequences for debt collection, especially debt that is outside the statute of limitations for filing suit, but within the statute of limitations for credit reporting.

3) Accurate reporting of credit limits and the counting thereof

Suppose you have three credit cards, two of which have $10,000 limits and one of which is an American Express card. You have $3,000 on one, $2,000 on another, and $5,000 on your American Express green card, which you pay off each month. By FICO rules, your utilization isn’t the 25% you’d expect (the national average), but 50% because no limit is reported for the American Express Green, but the balance is counted against your total balances. 50% puts you in a higher risk category (with the 16% of the riskiest debtors) and costs boatloads of FICO points.

4) Misreporting that’s not currently expressly prohibited by law

Some Junk Debt Buyers (JDBs), so called because they purchase debt that’s outside the statute of limitations for lawsuit, but not outside the statute of limitations for reporting, like to report their accounts as revolving accounts.

Why? Because the balance is always higher than the credit limit, thus tanking the consumer’s credit utilization.

Also, once a debt is charged off, it should be reported with a zero balance. It’s also not expressly written in the law that an item discharged in bankruptcy must be reported as a zero balance, thus various creditors and collection agencies get cagey on the issue. The credit reporting agencies wash their hands of the matter, claiming any dispute of an item already (allegedly) “investigated,” leaving the previous debtor with a lawsuit as their only means of recourse. And lawsuits are not known for being quick resolution.

5) Non-investigation

Others have reported problems with getting credit reporting agencies to investigate disputes. In my case, they claimed to have verified an item with a bank seized by the FDIC two years ago. My question is: is a seance a legally permissible investigation technique?

6) The Zombie debt

Despite the practice having been made illegal, some junk debt buyers do re-age debt. The investigative practices for same aren’t even up to the seance level. I’ve been fighting the result of a misunderstanding (after returning a cell phone at the end of a lease, the return paperwork wasn’t processed properly by the lessor) for 17 years. It is, once again, after fighting it two years ago, again on my credit report — from two different collection agencies.

7) Phantom names and addresses

One of my credit reports has 23 variants of my name and more than 20 variants of addresses. Six of them are for a single location! While these don’t directly affect my FICO score, they do make me look like a flake just because some data entry clerks cannot spell. Yet it has been hell getting these off my report because the credit reporting agencies won’t delete something that’s associated with an inquiry or trade line. In order to find out which alias is associated with whom, you need to reach a human, which takes time out of one’s work day.

Off the top of my head, those are my concerns, written between 2:41 a.m. and 3:01 a.m.

: Deutsche Welle Goes Klingon

I love Reuters Oddly Enough. How could I not?

One of today’s stories is how Deutsche Welle is going to be having a Klingon portion of their web site.

Consider this: people are now being paid to write in Klingon.

: Dooney

An exchange with Dooney customer service.

Dear Mr. Dooney,
I have a complaint that I want to bring to your attention. It concerns the quality at Dooney & Bourke, Inc., and I hope someone can resolve this.
Here’s the problem: It used to be that Dooney & Bourke proudly listed the country of manufacture — because your goods were made solely in the USA. So core was this concept that Dooney adopted the red, white, and blue label that is used to this day — with one important difference from today’s labels: Made in USA.
Then, other lines were added made in other countries.
Now, however, it seems that most, if not all, of Dooney’s products are made in Asia, making it impossible to tell a counterfeit from the genuine article.
It doesn’t help that I also don’t care for the smaller bags that seem impractical. Personally, I’d prefer to be able to purchase a briefcase from you in an interesting color again, provided it was made in the USA.
Last, when I emailed, more than once, to Dooney customer service to inquire about the country of manufacture of various product lines and which I could order that were made in the USA, I’ve only received stone silence.
I should add that I have 18 pieces by Dooney — all of them made in the USA. I have also bought and resold several other pieces. It seems I’m going to have to be hanging on to my pieces, since I won’t be able to buy new products from you that fit my ethical obligations to American jobs.
In the future, I probably won’t do business with your company. Also, I likely won’t recommend your company to others.
Here’s how you can help me: Please, put the information in your catalog, on your web site, and more prominently in your products. When I went to inspect one at Nordstrom, I was only able to determine it was made overseas by the inspection paper written in Chinese.
Please respect those of us who have been tired of having our and our loved one’s jobs shipped overseas by callous profiteers.
Which, alas, it seems Dooney & Bourke has become.
Thanks for listening to my complaint. I hope it is addressed.

Dooney customer service responded:

We are producing select products in other countries. Because of the high demand for our product that is in excess of our manufacturing capability in the U.S., we are relying on select high quality manufacturers with specialized skills in various countries to produce products to our specifications and satisfy the high level of demand. These countries include Italy, England and China and Costa Rica among others.
Wherever our products are produced, we are directly supplying each manufacturing facility with D&B’s finest quality leather, hardware and other materials that are used consistently around the world.

I replied again:

But which of your lines are specifically made in the US? My question still hasn’t been answered. At the moment, there’s nothing I can order from you without talking to a human or trying to find the item in a store — and you don’t have Dooney stores in California.
Not only have the items I preferred typically not been in stores [such as Nordstrom and Macy’s], they are almost never made in the USA.
So, how can I find out which items are made in the USA prior to ordering without having to call customer service? Your web site no longer says. Your catalog no longer says.
I’m still very, very miffed.

In an amazing non-answer:

If you need to ask where they are made the only way to do that is to pick a style and call our cust.svc.line . I’m sorry you feel the way you do but we do not concider ourselves callous profiteers.

Note, however, that they wanted production quantity, thus shipped the projects overseas. How is that not callous profiteering?

And in the “If three people do it….” category of responses:

You’ve made it incredibly difficult to be patriotic and do business with you.
I have been buying Dooneys ONLY for years, but there are other lines that make it easier for me to shop with them.
I feel very strongly that, for items available from a manufacturer’s web site, the country of origin should be a part of the product listing. I’ll be writing to the FTC and to my legislators to encourage that to happen. Should that pass, perhaps we’ll do business again.
Until then, I’m not going to pick up a phone and call a human every time I want to buy a purse. Though, if a whole lot of us who felt that way did so, perhaps you’d manage to get the info up on your web site without a law being passed.

So, if you’re considering buying a Dooney, I highly recommend chewing up some of their 800 number minutes and some of their human time.

Frankly, I feel betrayed by what used to be an American icon.

: You Might Be a Writer if ….

… you include an SASE with all correspondence — even letters to your mother.

… you can’t resist pointing out grammatical errors in restaurant menus.

… your wife says she’ll kill you if you whisper, “That was the end of the first act” during a movie one more time.

… you can recite return postage rates for London, New York, Los Angeles and Guam.

… in a house fire, you’d save your copy of Writer’s Market, then your grandmother’s jewelry.

… during church sermons, you find yourself thinking, This could be tighter.

… you couldn’t balance a checkbook if your life depended on it, but your submission log is cross-referenced three different ways and goes back to 1986.

… you decide four sentences into any novel that the author is inept.

… you fall in love based on proper use of syntax.

… when your family suggests a Disney World vacation, you say, “How about stopping on the way to see the farmhouse where Walt Whitman was born?”

… you feel sex ranks a distant second to the sensation of holding a felt-tip pen in your hand.

… your answering machine says, “Hi, I’m not here right now. Please leave a query and the synopsis of your proposed message, and I’ll let you know whether to call back.”

… when you nail a sentence, you’re pretty sure you know how Moses felt parting the Red Sea.


: A Comment from Debra Winger

I was watching her on Inside the Actor’s Studio and she stated that her muses were Fear and Desperation. I think I know how she feels.

: Ahh, Breakfast!

So two people recommended Mövenpick (aka Marché) for breakfast, so Michael and I tried it (Rick having been hungry and gone off earlier than we were ready).

Nice format (many little stations), reasonable prices, and, as with any cafeteria-style format, quick service.

: In Boston for Worldcon

A friend saw Terry Pratchett wearing a t-shirt that went something like this:

Tolkein is Dead
J.K. Rowling said No

Hi, I’m Terry Pratchett

Melanie Miller Fletcher offered a better transcription:

Terry Pratchett (the Guest of Honor this year) ambled by wearing
a t-shirt that will go down in fan history. It read, in decreasing font
Tolkien’s dead.
J.K. Rowling said no.
Phillip Pullman couldn’t make it.
Hi, I’m Terry Pratchett.

: Alphasmart Neo

AlphaSmart makes great gadgets. If you attend any writer’s conference, especially romance writers, you’ll find a bunch of them using AlphaSmarts. They’ve finally come out with the Neo, which is a successor to their 3000 rather than their more powerful PalmOS Dana.

Some serious production writers use AlphaSmarts in lieu of computers because:

  1. Fewer distractions.
  2. Longer battery life. An AlphaSmart 3000 can have up to 700 hours.
  3. Rugged. Pretty polycarbonate.

Once upon a time, I interviewed with AlphaSmart, who then sent me for a final interview in Salt Lake City. I didn’t get job, but the interview occurred during the Olympics. I was scheduled on flights that allowed me to catch one Olympic event (women’s hockey) before catching my flight home. And for that, I’ll always think they’re a great company.

: The Continuing Saga of Bluetooth

I hadn’t really read the manual carefully, so I’ll need a different kind of Bluetooth adaptor for my Canon i80. Not surprised, really, but it doesn’t matter — the extra adaptor and gender changer will come in handy anyhow.

: Bikes Against Bush

Occasionally, I’m amazed at the attempt for a technological solution to solve a social problem. Today, this is the source of my amazement.

Thinking back, I can’t say I’ve been so tickled by a display of geek bravado since, well, Flo Control, which was, admittedly, a very long time ago.

Normally, I’m very anti-graffiti in any form, but the amazement is that someone bothered to think the whole thing through and do it.

: Public Service Announcement

Laura Branigan died the same way my late husband did — of a sudden brain aneurysm. Like him, she also had headaches she’d been complaining about.

If you have headaches, especially if the level of them increases, please make an appointment to get a cat scan or an MRI. It could save your life.

: Six Million Bucks for Violating Rights

I’m sure this one will probably get kicked up to the Supremes, but in the meantime, a federal appeals court has restored a $6 million award for violating a couple’s rights under bankruptcy and debt collection laws.

: Not at Fry's, Either

Well, I went out to look for the wonky USB adaptor I have. I didn’t find it at Fry’s, so I almost came to the conclusion it doesn’t exist.

I found it on eBay in 2 minutes flat. Cost less than the gas to get to Fry’s, too.

: Lizard's Movie Reviews

I haven’t seen much of Lizard since shortly after he met his wife, but I really do miss his movie reviews. At least he’s got them online now.

: McMurdo Slang

Found a great reference on McMurdo slang.

Ski-equipped C-130, huh? Now that I’d like to see.

: Felt Pretty Good Today

Got a headache late at night, but that was only after a day where I felt darn peppy. Didn’t get any writing per se done, but got a lot of cruft-clearing done.

I have two packages to send off and spent a fair amount of time looking for the contents of them — I only found the stuff for one package. There’s a third package that’s really easy to put together, so that’ll go out. But there’s that one other one that’s really bugging me. I know I saw the stuff recently, too. Normally, that’s some of my best-organized stuff.


: Blah Day

‘Nuff said. Lazed about.

: Unfortunate Associations

It seems that the company Seren Innovations is unfamiliar with the serin gas episodes in the Japanese subway a few years back. Talk about your unfortunate associations, especially when the word “innovations” is added. Dr. Dave pointed out that the two words were spelled differently, but pronounced the same.

: Beautiful Parody

… of cell phone plans.

: Decapitalization Commences

One of the style guide wars in our house occurs over the capitalization of words like web and internet. Guess which side I’m on?

It turns out Wired is having the same issues.

: 64MB…Mouse?

Apparently, someone finally put two and two together. USB Mouse good. USB flash drive also good.

And this is the Child of Frankenstein.

I’m hoping their dimension measurements are in centimeters, not inches.

: Ahh, Sentence Syntax

From, this Irish-American learns a lot more about the humble potato.

However, at the population level asparatme is very safe, and there are dozens of studies to support this. More people are allergic to potato and bee stings than to aspartame just to put this in perspective.

Who knew?

: Suzy on Clarion

Suzy McKee Charnas has a very interesting article about Clarion, specificially this year’s Clarion workshop. I went in 2002.

I can’t imagine life at Clarion without really being a part of the Van Hoosen Hall, but I guess they did this year. I guess relations with MSU were more strained than we’d realized.

: What Maroons!

So, a month after my birthday, I get a “happy birthday” email from GNC. With a coupon.

What’s wrong with this picture?

![silly coupon](/images/coupon.jpg)

: 20 Political Points

I found out about this survey here, so thought I’d take a stab at it.

1. I have never voted for a Democrat in my life.
False. Then again, I’ve voted Republican, Libertarian, Green Party, Independent, etc.

2. I think my taxes are too high.

3. I supported Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
True, but not for the same reasons as other people. I’ve seen the damage that sexual harassment, even the kind that’s apparently voluntary, can do. I support the AAUP standards of no involvement between people in the same chain of command. And, sorry, a President is always in the chain of command.

4. I voted for President Bush in 2000.
False. I did, however, vote.

5. I am a gun owner.
Not at present, though I am a lifetime NRA member.

6. I support school voucher programs.
I waffle on this one.

7. I oppose condom distribution in public schools.
False. Public health concerns are important. We have a bunch of kids who have fatal or life-long diseases (yes, genital herpes counts there, because it’s dormant for life) because they were not told about proper precautions.

8. I oppose bilingual education.
I don’t believe people whose native language isn’t English should be mainstreamed out of English-speaking classrooms. I do support people learning a second language, which is the other possible (but not commonly used) meaning of the term.

9. I oppose gay marriage.
False. I strongly support gay marriage.

10. I want Social Security privatized.
True, though not the way some people mean it. I’d rather the money was paid into one’s fund and that family members could share funds. Upon death, any remaining funds would be released to heirs. This is how Singapore managed their medical system.

11. I believe racial profiling at airports is common sense.
False. Not all people allied with terrorists are Arab. And, more to the point, very few Arabs (or, while we’re at it Muslims, who are mostly not Arab) are terrorists. Same issues with drug smuggling, etc.

12. I shop at Wal-Mart.
False. I’m one of those people who prefers to shop at non-chains.

13. I enjoy talk radio.
I go through phases, but I haven’t been in a talk radio phase for several years. I hate to say it, but when I’m feeling really down, I sometimes enjoy Doctor Laura. She makes me realize that I’m not nearly as much of an idiot as many of her callers.

14. I am annoyed when news editors substitute the phrase “undocumented person” for “illegal alien.”
True. It makes them sound like they’re not carrying papers around rather than the fact that a) they’re in the country illegally and b) they are in fact alien.

15. I do not believe the phrase “a chink in the armor” is offensive.
This term has been in the English language since before the English knew the Chinese existed. Taking offense at the word is like taking offense at the word denigrate because it might refer to someone who is black (which isn’t necessarily someone who is African-American).

16. I eat meat.
In fact, I prefer it.

17. I believe O.J. Simpson was guilty.
At the time, I wasn’t certain, but when I read all the books with the forensic detail I’d not watched during the trial, I felt certain that he was guilty, especially given some of the stuff that came out during the civil trial.

18. I cheered when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been captured.
I was happy that he was captured, but I don’t think it justifies the actions before or since. We simply didn’t prepare for the post-war problems. At all.

19. I cry when I hear “Proud to be an American” (God Bless the USA) by Lee Greenwood.
Ghods, no.

20. I don’t believe the New York Times.
I’m allergic to newsprint as well as to papers that require registration to read articles. Thus, I simply don’t read it.

: It's Linux Picnic Day!

For the last few years, there’s been an annual Linux Picnic, which is always a lot of fun. I might even bring my new camera.

: Worldcon: It's Almost Time!

I skipped TorCon last year, so I’m really glad I’ll make it to Noreascon 4 this year.

Here’s some really good tips about enjoying a fan-run convention like Worldcon. There are a few omissions.

At BayCon, we call it the 6-2-1 rule: 6 hours of sleep, 2 meals a day, and 1 bath or shower.

Another thing to remember if you’re a newbie writer: you may not remember every single person you see, but if you do something incredibly stupid or say something horrifically insulting, odds are you did it in front of the person you shouldn’t have. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t express opinions. Just get the lay of the land first.

People get overwhelmed by large events. Not everyone in the SF community is super-social. I start showing my “I want to be alone, but I also want to hang out with this person” mode about halfway through day one.

One of the great things that happens at cons is the ability to make an off-the-wall comment (especially about science or technology) and have someone come up with another, similar cool wrinkle. It’s like jazz, only with science. You never know when you might bump into a researcher in your field — no matter what your field is.

Fandom can be exceedingly cool.

: r.a.sf.c pins

I just ordered two of the pins for rec.arts.sf.composition, which are to indicate that someone is a member of the tribe while at Worldcon or some other gathering.

The pin refers to a common writing-avoidance activity known as “cat vacuuming,” a term coined in 1999. The initial reference, to cat waxing, came from Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

Writer’s Displacement Activity? Is that the term? We call it “waxing the cat”. As in, you’re supposed to be writing, but first you have to wash the dishes. And sweep the floor. And then the dust on that shelf really gets to bothering you. And while you’re at it, you could wipe the grime off the switchplates and the door moldings.
Next thing you know, you’re eyeing Fluffy and saying “Gosh, how long has it been since I got around to waxing the cat?”

Without further ado, here’s the pin:


: Instavase for Travel

I think that this is just the coolest idea: folding-flat vases. My dad’s one of those peculiar people who like to bring plants when he goes snow camping (then hangs them from the tent until they freeze solid).

This kind of thing is just made for peculiar people like him.

![pic of vases](

: Argh!

I have a headache bad enough to make writing difficult. Ibuprofen has only made a dent. Bad day #5, but I’m starting to feel better.

: Feeling Snarky

It’s day #4 of being in a total and complete bad mood. Grr.

It’s not what happened, it’s that it happened six weeks too late.


: A Bit More About Roz

I’d mentioned that she’d died, of course, but I was a bit fuzzy on how long she’d been fighting cancer. My initial recollection was that it was 3-1/2 years, but I came to doubt that number, especially given the super-invasive form of brain cancer she had (glioblastoma multiforme).

Due to the PayPal settlement, I had cause to go searching through old email for some information. It turns out that my memory was off by almost exactly a year. I’d remembered that it was right after a holiday. Turns out it was right after New Year’s, 2002.

I remembered that her illness is what motivated me, in part, to apply to Clarion. Better now than later, I said. And, when it seemed that I might get a job offer that would mean I couldn’t go, I chose to attend Clarion. I was half-relieved when I didn’t get the job. 🙂

I also applied for, and went to, Viable Paradise that same year.

Somewhere in the midst of grad school, I lost some momentum. Alas.

But I’m picking back up now.

: Groggy

Just took a four-hour nap and feel icky and groggy. I definitely needed the extra sleep — I’d been getting too little sleep during the week and hadn’t had a chance to catch up. But four hours? I think I overslept.

: The Lord's Prayer in the (Original) Klingon

There’s a lot of Klingons out there. This cafepress shop may help them with their prayers.

: Found My Clarion Notebooks

I’ve started transcribing them. It’s amazing how much of it I already remembered, but there are some gems that didn’t make it onto the t-shirt. Ah, I love this stuff.

: Cocoa

I went through a fairly long dry spell for a couple of years where I did very little development. I seem to be on a roll now, with eight projects up my sleeve.

For me, Cocoa has been a technology in search of a problem: quite literally, every problem I seemed to have needed another kind of solution, in part because I’m a database person and there wasn’t really a good, free, database wrapper solution. Well, I think I finally found the correct hammer and nail. So, I’ll be reworking my WO app (mssTracker) to Cocoa. Yay. I’ll also be releasing the WO application into the wild.

One my pending projects was to update the code for BALE, which previously had a doctype of HTML 2.0 (!). A couple of years ago, I changed it over from a hand-maintained HTML to a LAMP application. I’m not sure if anyone had ever run it through a validator, but when I first changed its doctype to 4.01 transitional, I got 261 validation errors. And then the fun began. It now has minimal CSS (yes, I know it needs more, stop already). And it validates. So I’ve ticked a couple items off the ToDo list, but have several more for bale. But it’s certainly not the only project in the works.

: The True Cost of Garden Gnomes

I couldn’t read this article on BoingBoing without seeing the incredibly funny job interview scene in The Full Monty.

I think I’m going to watch that one again in the next couple of days.

: Issues of Death

So it turns out that if you die at home and aren’t on a priority for an autopsy, it can take 2-6 months (!) to get the lab results for your cause of death.

Why does this matter? Because insurance won’t pay out until a cause of death is determined. At least, in the case of one of the people I know who died recently, this is the issue. It doesn’t even matter if it’s “heart attack or stroke,” insurance companies need to know specifics.

I can’t really blame them, but then the point becomes: should you drop dead suddenly, have some way of supporting your family in the meantime that doesn’t rely on insurance or probate, both of which can be quite slow.

Now, for my late husband, who died in a hospital (and had organ donations pending on being declared properly dead), I was able to pick up his death certificate within two weeks. Had he had insurance, it would have paid out very quickly thereafter. But, I find out, that’s not necessarily the norm.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

: Storage for those Manuscripts

Yeah, sure, of course you can just store the files, but it’s never a bad idea to keep a paper copy of a book. Right?

In fact, due to various file format conversion issues plus the problems of way too many moves, my old paper copy of my very first novel (circa 1988) is the only copy I still have.

So, I’ve been looking for good (and reasonably affordable) storage for a novel. Now, I *do* recommend that you put in a copy of a CD with the electronic text on it, in whatever format you like plus one other (like RTF).

Today’s email offered sale info from The Container Store, which has some really spiff solutions. Here they are:

  1. Budget price leader: Plastic snap-top boxes in four colors. 3-1/4″ high, but probably useful depth is less, so probably good for 1 ream (125,000 words). $4.99 each.
  2. Need a deeper one? Plastic snap-top boxes in four colors. 5-1/2″ high, but probably useful depth is less, so probably good for 1-1/2 ream (180,000 words). Might also work for filing a flipping lot of short stories. $5.99 each.
  3. Personal favorite bang-for-bucks: Translucent Storage Boxes, rather a simple, translucent (white) box. Currently $5.99 each, normally $7.99.
  4. Storage boxes in white, grey, black, or natural. White and Grey are 2-3/4″ deep, natural and black are 3-3/4″ deep. Each are $6.99.
  5. Boxes in four bright colors, which I rather like. Each is 3-1/2″ high, good for about 145,000 words, and runs $6.99.
  6. For those wanting something more upscale, there’s two other options. First is the Shantung box in four colors, 3-3/4″ high, good for about 155,000 words, and run (eep!) $14.99 each. Collect the whole set? Hrm.
  7. This leather-texture box is almost twice as expensive, though, at $29.99 each, in four subtler colors, including my everlasting favorite, navy. ::sigh::
  8. Even Levenger’s Document storage isn’t that pricey.

: The Martha Stewart Thing

PNH’s catchup post reminds me that I haven’t commented on Martha Stewart’s sentence. Sorry, I think she should have been fined a lot more and had more jail time. My first quip was 3 mil and three years, though, in retrospect, 3 mil and 1 year sounds more appropriate, given our tendency to just throw people in jail.

Frankly, I know of people who weren’t stockbrokers before who were slapped much harder, relatively speaking. There needed to be more of a message sent. Then again, this is a republican administration that hasn’t exactly had the highest moral ground on such issues. ::sigh::

: Old Infocom Games

Here is a place you can play ’em all online via a java applet, complete with a link to the sourceforge project.

: Damn Spiff Blog

For those terminal addicts. Makes me miss Zork.

: The Politics of Color

Well, suddenly I find the reason that I haven’t seen my favorite colors in stores in a while is simple: we’re in an economic downturn. Gosh, having my favorite color available to purchase would have made me feel better about being destitute. Honest.

In fashion terms, I’m boring: I like navy and bright teal. I also like bright mid-tones. I hate black, brown (neither of which I’ll wear without lots of good reasons, like it being on a Clarion T-shirt).

I’ll suffer with red, if I must, as in my briefcase:

![red briefcase](

But I’m not a happy camper without my bright cool colors.

: Another Debian Convert!

Kevin recently made the switch to Debian. Like him, I also had reservations about old packages at first. has been running Debian for three years now and I couldn’t be happier!

: Speaking of Beer

Genetically engineered beer is now upon us.

: Sad Songs

smykes continues a challenge for favorite sad songs. The first song that popped into my head isn’t really sad in the traditional sense, but hey, it’s a song about the loss of beer and it’s in a minor key, therefore it’s a sad song, right?

So I’ll vote for The Ballad of Transport 18, as sung on the Folk Songs for Solar Sailors album. There is another recording, done in someone’s living room in the wrong octave. Thus, it’s a really bad recording compared to the studio one. Nevertheless, if you must, there is an MP3 of that one on the web. However, it is Not Recommended. Ugh.

We were 38 crewman on Transport 18
The hour was late and the talk was obscene.

: Word Count Politics

I realize that word counts are more problematic than one might think, but I finally have a good example of machine word counts that differ significantly.

$ wc paper.xml
171 2212 15400 paper.xml

So, 15,400 characters and 2212 words.

BBEdit, however, reports 15,400 characters, 2509 words, and 351 lines. The last is pointedly wrong, since it shows 171 that wc does.

But why a difference of almost 300 words (> 10%) in the word count proper? Granted, I’m using an ancient version of BBEdit, but hey, it should still work.

Peculiarly, the new version of BBEdit shows 2409 words. Hmm.

: Tix for Phish

Well, I read this article and had to chuckle.

It’s not that the tickets are going for such a high price. I think it’s regrettable, but hey.

It’s that there’s an AP article coming from Coventry, VT.

Here’s a pic:

Coventry village

Yep, that’s it. Pretty much all of it.

Now, Vermont has a really interesting law against billboards and the like: you can put one on your own land, but nowhere else. There was a guy who posted a billboard advertising his unfinished furniture, but not on his land. The governor & a procession of cops showed up to get him to take the sign down, but the people who did own the land sold it to the guy so he wouldn’t have to take the sign down.

And so it was solved.

When I moved to Vermont, the guy had already died, but the sign was still there.

I love that stubborn streak in Vermonters.

Here’s an article about the history of Coventry. Which, for what it’s worth, is pronounced more like “Kahv-entry” with the a as in sat.

: Four Die after Rabies-Infected Transplants


Here is the bizarre story. Rabies is uncommon enough that I understand why they don’t test for it. But, speaking as someone who has signed on the dotted line for donating organs (my late husband’s), ouch!

: Women of CSS

Molly brings up a good point about where the women of CSS are. As a technical woman (twenty-five years as a software engineer), I offer the following observations:

  1. Women tend not to be early adopters of technology and CSS is still in that early adopter phase.
  2. Even where there’s a lot of people who know a subject, there’s not a lot of people who are capable of writing about it.
  3. For some peculiar reason, women seem to be quite absent in the technical books community. It’s not that there aren’t books by women (there are), it’s that there’s fewer of them as a percentage than there are women in any given community. I suspect this is related to the early adopter problem.
  4. The same kind of problem exists in the Linux community, only more so.


Worked on the submission tracker, this time in JSP. You know, it wasn’t that hard. That said, I really need to buckle down and work on some other stuff this week, like finishing the academic paper.

: Last to see him

I realized yesterday that, even though I wasn’t certain which coworker it was precisely, if it was the one I thought it was, I was the last to talk to him.

Until this week, there were two of us with PT Cruisers in the parking lot. Mine’s that red grape color; his is navy.

We both worked late Friday evening and had the two remaining cars in the lot, talking about the coolness and angst (since both of our cars had been vandalized) of owning a car in common.


: Knitter's Geek Code

Ah, the Knitter’s Geek Code.


: The Phrase of Absolute Power

Well, many have talked about their favorite phrases of power, some of them supposedly magical.

Quite by accident, I discovered one in late 1999, when someone threatened to sue me. Fortunately, I knew that I was in the right. I replied, coolly, “Well, discovery should prove interesting.”

It was pretty amazing how quickly the other party backpedaled.

And so, lo, my mother needed use of this Phrase of Power this morning, when her former employer had raked her over the coals and she needed a letter from them. They refused. Knowing they were protecting someone who was an HR nightmare, she hauled it out.

Now, magically, she has the letter. Isn’t that great?

Use it wisely.

: What I don't appreciate…

Oh, my DME (that’s durable medical equipment provider, for all of you healthy people) has repeatedly refused to get a clue, despite a few after-hours phone calls, that I still have medical coverage to cover my CPAP machine (for sleep apnea). There was a gap that was covered retroactively due to my change in jobs, but they just haven’t gotten their pointy little brains around that. So, they show up. To my house. To get something that they’re owed, oh, about $100 for. Remind me never to give them ANY business again.

: Testing Frequency

I don’t really know how well this is going to work, but it’d be cool to have some off-line way of working on my blog.

: 32 Statements About Poetry by Marvin Bell

  1. Every poet is an experimentalist.
  2. Learning to write is a simple process: read something, then write something; read something else, then write something else. And show in your writing what you have read.
  3. There is no one way to write and no right way to write.
  4. The good stuff and the bad stuff are all part of the stuff. No good stuff without bad stuff.
  5. Learn the rules, break the rules, make up new rules, break the new rules.
  6. You do not learn from work like yours as much as you learn from work unlike yours.
  7. Originality is a new amalgam of influences.
  8. Try to write poems at least one person in the room will hate.
  9. The I in the poem is not you but someone who knows a lot about you.
  10. Autobiography rots.
  11. A poem listens to itself as it goes.
  12. It’s not what one begins with that matters; it’s the quality of attention paid to it thereafter.
  13. Language is subjective and relative, but it also overlaps; get on with it.
  14. Every free verse writer must reinvent free verse.
  15. Prose is prose because of what it includes; poetry is poetry because of what it leaves out.
  16. A short poem need not be small.
  17. Rhyme and meter, too, can be experimental.
  18. Poetry has content but is not strictly about its contents. A poem containing a tree may not be about a tree.
  19. You need nothing more to write poems than bits of string and thread and some dust from under the bed.
  20. At heart, poetic beauty is tautological: it defines its terms and exhausts them.
  21. The penalty for education is self-consciousness. But it is too late for ignorance.
  22. What they say “there are no words for”–that’s what poetry is for. Poetry uses words to go beyond words.
  23. One does not learn by having a teacher do the work.
  24. The dictionary is beautiful; for some poets, it’s enough.
  25. Writing poetry is its own reward and needs no certification. Poetry, like water, seeks its own level.
  26. A finished poem is also the draft of a later poem.
  27. A poet sees the differences between his or her poems but a reader sees the similarities.
  28. Poetry is a manifestation of more important things. On the one hand, it’s poetry! On the other, it’s just poetry.
  29. Viewed in perspective, Parnassus is a very short mountain.
  30. A good workshop continually signals that we are all in this together, teacher too.
  31. This Depression Era jingle could be about writing poetry: Use it up / wear it out / make it do / or do without.
  32. Art is a way of life, not a career.

: No Jury Duty

Up to 31 pages on the novel. Am going out to breakfast in a few minutes as a reward for progress. Yay.
It’s not me struggling either — I have genuinely built up more steam and enthusiasm now that I’m 75k into the work.
I woke up this morning, believing I had jury duty, but I’d checked the information for the wrong courthouse. So I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go.