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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Windows Explorer

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

I have Windows 7, and I’m guessing I got an update recently that reset some settings or something. Anyway, my Windows Explorer was coming up almost completely blank, with only Libraries in the left hand navigation pane. I store everything on C or D, so I really wanted those to show up, at least. I know I can just type it in the navigation bar at the top, but I’m too lazy to type sometimes and I’d rather just click through. It’s a hard problem to search, but I did finally come up with an answer:

http://www.askvg.com/windows-explorer-always-opens-in-libraries-view-in-windows-7-how-to-change-target-folder/

I’ve got it targeted at “”, and it works great!

Navigating Shutterfly

Friday, October 1st, 2010

My family recently had a reunion, and wanted to make an album from all of the pictures from various cameras.  We decided to use one of these online album generators that prints your album in book form.  We settled on Shutterfly because I had read good reviews and because we used them once before to print thank you cards with a wedding photo.

Tip #1 THE MOST IMPORTANT:  Do not crop your photos before uploading.  Shutterfly forces your photos to fit predefined templates in some irregular sizes.  It is best if you do your cropping in Shutterfly.  As far as I know, there is no way to plunk down photos on a page, freeform – you must choose one of their templates.  If you crop out unwanted stuff first, you may find that the template forces you to a size that crops out something important.

Tip #2:  Do your color/light balancing beforehand.  Brian owns Lightroom, which we found very handy for lightening pictures and doing minor white balancing and things.

Tip #3:  Use the storyboard.  The storyboard is there to let you group your photos.  We had photos from numerous days showing numerous activities that we wanted grouped together:  4 with a rocking horse, 3 carving a watermelon basket, 2 riding a train in a park, etc.  Shutterfly has options to take your storyboard and automatically make an album for you, but you can also go back and tinker with the pages individually and choose other layouts.

Tip #4:  For the most photos for one price, choose a photo cover option which lets you put photos on the front and back covers.  You can also choose to add extra pages.  We found that about 60 photos fit well in the 20 page book.

What I didn’t like:

We wanted 2-4 photos per page mostly, with very little text.  Maybe a few minor captions and mostly just lists of who is who in the photos.  Most of the options for 3+ photos use about 2/3 of the page, with a lot of extra room in the borders.  In my opinion, for this album, all that does is waste space.  You want your photos as big as you can get them on the page, especially for group shots.  It would be nice (although probably complicated) if it would allow you to resize things on the page and drag/create text boxes that can be moved.  This could save a lot of space.  I did not like being forced to use their templates, but in the end it all looks pretty good.

I found it hard to get an idea of the details of the book from the preview and editing screens.  We chose a drop shadow for the photos, but on the screen it’s impossible to see it.  The font sizes are also sort of arbitrarily limited by the size of the text box on the template, and it does not give you any guidelines for size, it’s just trial and error to see when you’ll go over the edge and choose a font that is too big.  There is a lot of empty space that could be filled by text on the spine as well as the pages, but there does not seem to be any way to do that using their templates.

If you are into the more “scrap-booky” look, they have a lot of backgrounds, text styles, and colors to choose from.  We kept it pretty simple, with a front and back cover that have the same bright, floral background, the rest of the book is neutral, and the title page tries to tie it all together.

Overall, my family seems very pleased with the album.  I have not seen it in person yet, but they were the ones I was worried about pleasing.

Surrounded by yellow school buses

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

School started for some of the younger kids today, and I once again encountered a school bus sitting on the street outside my house. Maybe it’s because the kids are young, or maybe there are just so many of them, but our neighborhood school bus stays in one spot for quite a while. One of its stops is at a T intersection, and it likes to sit there with its yellow flashers on for a few minutes. Every time I pass it I wonder if I’m breaking the law.

Well, the WI DOT had a relevant question of the month last year that more or less answers my question:   http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/news/law/previous-laws.htm#september2009

I grew up out in the country without sidewalks, so when buses stopped, they always used their red top lights – and there is no doubt in my mind that that means stop (even when the bus is on an exit from a major highway like another bus I usually encounter on my way to work).  Likewise, if the stop sign is out, I know I have to stop.  The red lights and the stop sign only don’t mean stop if there’s a median.  But when the bus is just sitting there, sometimes picking up or dropping off kids, but sometimes killing time with its yellow flashers on, what do I do?  Apparently, pass with caution.  The only thing I can’t do is turn right in front of it.  That shouldn’t be a problem.

I’m relieved, especially since so many of my neighbors were out video taping junior’s first trip to school this morning.  If I had done something wrong, they’d all have it on video!

Pine Mouth – is it on the rise?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Since I originally posted about my experience last summer of eating a pizza covered in pine nuts and suffering from a persistent bitter taste when eating anything afterwards, I’ve run across more mentions of Pine Mouth on food blogs. It seems like it is happening to more and more people. Everyone seems to point the finger at Chinese pine nuts, but no one can say why it happens. Some people speculate that the problem nuts are rancid, but in my case the pine nuts tasted just fine when I ate them. Some people speculate that the problem won’t happen if you toast the pine nuts first. I can’t recall if the pine nuts on the pizza were toasted. I don’t remember them rolling all over the place, so they must have at least been exposed to heat for 90 seconds or however long it took to wood-fire the pizza.

It’s puzzling. I’ve gotten a lot of comments from fellow sufferers on my post from last July. In case you are all in search of other information, here’s a collection of online posts I’ve run across recently:

The Kitchn: “Strange But True: Bitter Aftertaste from Pine Nuts?””
David Lebowitz: “Pine Nut Syndrome”
Epicurious: “Got Pine Mouth?”
Epicurious: “Pine Mouth Revisited”
Serious Eats: “Have You Ever Experienced Pine Mouth?”

Sufferers describe a bitter, soapy, or metallic taste after eating pine nuts. It can start immediately or it can take a couple of days to kick in (in my case it took about 36 hrs for the bitterness to kick in after I ate the pine nuts). The time delay can make it particularly hard to connect the bitter taste with the pine nuts. It can cause other foods and drinks to taste bitter while you eat them or just give them a bitter aftertaste. In my case the bitterness varied depending on the food or drink, but I only had a week to experiment and I wasn’t very rigorous about it.

I have had a few pine nuts on a salad and I’ve had a lot of pesto since my bout with pine mouth, and I haven’t had it happen again. Just to be safe, I may choose to make pesto with walnuts if I manage to get a good crop of basil going this year.

I hope scientists are paying attention. This is like the opposite of the “miracle fruit” that makes everything taste sweet (I’ve never had the opportunity to try it). Miracle fruit’s effect is very short compared to this pine nut effect. Miracle fruit apparently has a protein called miraculin that binds to our sweet receptors to make sour things taste sweet. I wonder if pine mouth is also related to a protein binding to taste receptors (shall we call it “bitterin”?). It must be different somehow, since the taste persists for so much longer.

If it ever happens to me again I’ll have to try some experiments. I’m not going to seek out pine nuts, though. I’m not that eager to suffer in the name of science.

Today’s score:

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

+1 Taught a fellow knitter about life lines
+1 Used physics at work
-1 Bruised self on door blinds at work again

So far +1. I’ll take it.

Not sure what’s going on…

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec were all pretty miserable for me. I felt like I was always sick, and finally figured out I’m allergic to something. I went to the doc and started taking allergy meds every day in January, and since then I’ve felt almost 100% better. I still can’t breathe through my nose at night, but I no longer feel sick. Up until I got back from my trip to San Francisco, I hardly ever sneezed. I’m starting to sneeze again, but only a couple of times per day, which I would have considered normal before the later half of 2009. I almost never feel like I need to go to bed at 7:00 p.m. anymore either. Before January I used to spend most of my weekends miserable, in bed, trying not to sneeze. I’d sneeze so hard and so often that it was hard to breathe, my eyes would water, and my nose would run constantly.

So, what am I allergic to? It could be Dragon. Although, taking trips away from Dragon never made my reaction go away. I don’t seem to get worse after playing with him like Brian. It might just be dust. Whatever it is, it’s at home, at work, and wherever I travel. It got worse on the weekends (probably from cleaning). I really really hope that I can stop taking medication daily. I really hope that my system was just pissed off by something and now that it has had time to rest while on medication it will not react so strongly to whatever it is that pissed it off. Maybe this really is just wishing.

I also wonder if all of this misery was worse because of the winter, and now that the days are getting longer that’s contributing to me feeling less like a walking zombie. I don’t know, but the timing is suspicious.

I haven’t been sick since January, and I wonder how many of my “colds” over the last couple of years were really out of control allergic reactions. I know it never seemed like oc cold medicine actually did anything. Out of desperation, I tried oc allergy medicine a few times, but it might be too late to take it when I was already miserable.

Whatever – this current scheme is a lot better. I wish I knew what was going on, but maybe I’ll never know.

Dragon’s Quest

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Yesterday when I got home from work I found the tall kitchen cabinet open. I thought maybe Brian had left it open in the morning because sometimes Dragon hides in there and it would be a pain to get him out in a hurry. There was also a bag of 4 potatoes sitting about a foot away from the cabinet on the floor. This is… oh, about 6 lbs. The plastic was torn, but the potatoes looked ok. I assumed the cat went after the plastic and put them away. Later, when Brian got home, I asked him if he’d left the cabinet open. He said no, but… well… I didn’t believe him. Or maybe I left it open the night before. Who knows.

Then while we were making dinner Dragon started opening the cabinet with his paw. He couldn’t quite get it all the way open, so it would close again with a thud. Over and over and over. I guess we know how that cabinet wound up open… I assume he got it open enough to slip in, and maybe it closed behind him and he shoved it open getting out. Either that or he did figure out how to open it all the way.

It’s not even near where we keep the cat food, but it is where we keep the chips and crackers and other things he likes to eat occasionally if we don’t catch him fast enough.

Brian and I were impressed. As Brian said, when we first got him he used to learn a new naughty trick every day. It has been a while since he did anything novel and naughty. I’m also impressed that he moved my 6lb bag of potatoes. That’s 3/8 of his body weight!

Simplifying the Gmail Snarl

Monday, January 25th, 2010

I have a Gmail account for myself. Maybe a year ago, the school where I got my undergrad degree converted their alumni email to Gmail. In the very near future, the school where I got my grad degree is converting to Gmail for their alumni email. I do not want more email accounts to log into, so I set up forwarding.

If you’re in this situation, you just might find this article useful: How to Use Gmail’s Multiple Inboxes for Extra Gmail Accounts.

It’s just a way of setting up the multiple inboxes “Lab” with filters and forwarding (or slurping) so you only have to log in once to view all your Gmail accounts. I also set it up so I can reply from my other email addresses using my “master” Gmail account.

Nervous shedder

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Not only did we find out that Dragon is 16lbs 5oz at the vet, we found out he sheds like MAD when he’s anxious. His first and only previous trip to the vet went just fine. This time I think they left us waiting in the room too long. He switched between pacing the perimeter and trying to open the doors and hiding in his carrier. Poor kitty.

Capitol Tree 2009

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

On Monday Brian and I took the day off for his birthday. We went downtown to see the tree. It has been a number of years since I’ve seen the capitol tree, so it was a nice thing to do on our day off.