Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Soliciting Recipes

As I spent all Thanksgiving day in a happy cooking haze, there are some things I will likely make again, such as my new "mashed cracktatoes" (featuring sherry-sauteed onions) so named for their unbelievably addictive quality. Luckily I wrote down how I created them. When I get home I'll look it up so I can post it. Oh, also the apple-ginger sorbet and the Guinness ginger cake turned out well. I'll post those too if you want.

Meanwhile, I really want to know about Library Liddy's Notorious Cranberry Sauce, as well as any other special recipes anyone has to offer that they tried and liked this year.

(Come Christmas I'll be bringing out those Library Squirrel Cookies recipes, never fear. I think I'll try the ginger ones this year--it's my theme!)

So, what did you all try making this year that turned out well?

Film Debut

I had to make a film of my own after seeing Liddy's.

Now I want to create a character and submit it! I don't know what yet, though.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Our Primate Past

Explains the answer to a question about chalkboard screeching that I never thought to ask.

(Or were we perhaps intelligently designed to hate chalkboard screeching?!)

Will Try Anything, Doesn't Know Art of War apparently how I would fare were I a general.

Come on! I could learn!

Ulysses S. Grant
You scored 77 Wisdom, 58 Tactics, 62 Guts, and 46 Ruthlessness!

Like you, Grant went about the distasteful business of war realistically and grimly. His courage as a commander of forces and his powers of organization and administration made him the outstanding Northern general. Grant, though, had no problem throwing away lives on huge seiges of heavily defended positions. At times, Union casualties under Grant were over double that of the Confederacy. However, Grant was notably wise in supporting good commanders, especially Sheridan , William T. Sherman , and George H. Thomas. Made a full general in 1866, he was the first U.S. citizen to hold that rank.

My test tracked 4 variables.
How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating

You scored higher than 90% on Unorthodox

free online datingfree online dating

You scored higher than 34% on Tactics

free online datingfree online dating

You scored higher than 71% on Guts

free online datingfree online dating

You scored higher than 64% on Ruthlessness
Link: The Which Historic General Are You Test written by dasnyds

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Faeries vs. Condos

I don't know why we haven't tried this in Mid-Michigan, AKA Overdevelopment Central.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

What We Did on Our Thanksgiving Break

In the spirit of informed consent, some people [Argotnaut!] might not want to read this entry as there will be a graphic description of the car accident we were in last night. (No no, we're okay, just variously bruised and stiff, and a bit traumatized.)

I/We spent Thanksgiving happily cooking from morning until evening, though I was surprised to realize that there is only one oven rack in TheLimey's oven. This meant we had to work the scheduling around very carefully, and I ended up not making perhaps the last third of the items on my cooking list. However, the important things were done, and when TheLimey's relatives came around for dessert in the evening they had a (second) Thanksgiving dinner as well as pies, cakes, and cookies.

So anyway. Friday we lounged around like slugs for once (as planned) until evening when we were supposed to go visit a friend of mine in Ypsilanti for the evening. We set off at about 7 for the half-hour trip, and a light snow was beginning. I had just gotten my car back from the service station around the corner, where we had had it "winterized" (including new tires), so I was feeling very satisfied with its reliability. So much so that I completely forgot to even look at the gas gauge until we had already passed the edge of town.

There we were, in the snowy dark, crawling down a winding two-lane country road as the snowflakes began to fall through the headlights ever faster...with my gas gauge on "E". I know some cars can go another 20 miles at that point, but by the time mine hits "E" it really is empty. We discussed whether the next crossroad had a gas station, and thought that it did. Unfortunately both of us remembered falsely, as it turned out to be one of those "former gas stations" that only holds a convenience store. (We could have bought all the beer we wanted!)

Thus, in a spirit of aggravation, we turned around to try to get as close to town as we could before the gas gave out, though it was several miles away and I knew we wouldn't make it. Sure enough, a few yards later the car began coughing and dragging. It managed to get about half a mile, where I pulled off onto the shoulder (not far enough off, but there was an embankment preventing my getting any farther off) at someone's driveway. We tried knocking on their door to see if we could get a ride into town to get gas, but no one was home. So we started walking really really fast, carrying my gas can.

Every set of headlights that came around the bend (and there were a lot of them) we got as far off the road into the snow as we could, mindful of how slippery it was and how cars were sliding about on the road that night. (And how drivers of cars tend to stupidly hit people on the shoulder anyway, even in good weather in broad daylight.)

It wasn't too long after that, perhaps a half mile, that a van pulled over and the occupants offered us a ride into town, which we accepted. As their back door didn't work, we had to crawl through the center console from the front (already a bad sign?) to reach the back seat. Eminem was blaring from the speakers (now I believe this was also a bad sign). I took a hit from my inhaler (which was subsequently lost in the accident, so luckily it was already low), and nearly dropped it as the driver slithered practically off into the ditch. As the driver and passenger introduced themselves to us, I saw that the windshield was so frosted over that it was hard to see anything other than the glare of other cars' headlights.

At this point, I turned and began digging out the seatbelt, which is always hard to find in an alien car, but I felt there was an accident waiting to happen. (Also, I always feel naked without a seatbelt.) I am very glad I did. I noticed that TheLimey didn't put his on, about which I should have said something, but I hate being a nag. (Next time I will do it anyway.) I figured, hoped, prayed we would be able to make it the mere two or three miles down the road to the gas station, with any luck.

The driver was not going terribly fast in absolute terms, but definitely too fast for conditions. (I had been going 35 as it was, and I think he was going 45 or 50). Especially when those conditions included a frosted-over windshield and apparently bald tires. He appeared to be navigating solely by avoiding each individual mailbox that popped up into the headlights in the dark at the right edge of the road, and the van careened in a slithery fashion to and fro over the road as we went. (Honestly, I don't know how they arrived to where they picked us up!) I tightened the seatbelt and stuffed my purse tightly into my lap.

As we neared town, more oncoming traffic appeared. There was yet another terrifying slither toward the ditch on the right that the driver tried to avoid by swerving left, finally with the inevitable outcome that the whole van went into a slow graceful brake-locked donut toward the left. Right into oncoming traffic. Did I mention that I was on the right side of the van? Well, I was, so those headlights were aimed directly at me. I had time to think about a lot of things, as time always slows down in those situations.

My thoughts as the impact neared were things like: "Welp, here we go, as I expected," "I hope I can keep track of my purse and its contents when everything explodes," and "I wish my husband was wearing his belt, but this is all going slowly enough that I don't think he'll be seriously injured, especially since he's on the lee side of the impact" and even "That girl's screaming isn't going to do anyone any good," although this was less a conscious thought than an impression. I wondered what the driver of the other car was feeling behind those headlights, and imagined it was probably what we were all feeling. Although I think I actually felt a sense of relief that the suspense of the scary drive was over, and here, finally, was the crashing conclusion.

I threw out my left arm, vainly trying to keep TheLimey in his seat, as the s l o w . m a s s i v e . c r u n c h . o v e r t o o k . e v e r y t h i n g . e l s e . i n . t h e . w o r l d.

I felt that I slid surreally slowly to my right and off the seat bench onto the floor, as the belt was one of those that just reaches forward over one's lap from a fastening at the right side behind the seat, rather than coming out of the bench itself. I had an impression of TheLimey being thrown up and away from my left hand. I was wedged down between the seat and the door of the van, and I felt annoyance as my glasses were squished off my face by the surfaces closing on me.

I quickly grabbed them and put them back on as everything stopped moving, or perhaps began moving at a normal speed again. I was also conscious that my purse was mostly still within my range and appeared intact. I felt my "it's-a-crisis-and-you-have-to-fix-it!" caretaking circuit switch on, and felt that my list of priorities was clear. It was a) make sure I can move; b) tend to my husband; c) tend to the people in the front.

I realized later that the reason my glasses were squished was that my head was being squashed by the inward deformation of the van door towards the seat. As I shoved my glasses back on, I tried to undo my seatbelt fastener, which was up there somewhere on the seat. I thought I saw my husband leaning over, holding his belly, and thought, God, he's been hurt, but it'll be okay. I'll call 9-1-1. He's alive.

However, he quickly leaped up and crouched over me, grabbing my face to try to see if I was okay and to get me to get out. There was a smell of burning plastic and smoke. I was conscious of feeling that I had very clear thought processes, as I requested clearly and firmly that he get off the seatbelt fastener so I could undo it. Several times, and then he seemed to hear me, and I undid the fastener. I saw him grab my purse off the floor and hand it to me, and I scanned the floor for items as I felt inside my purse: phone, wallet, there, ok. The glass in the door was completely gone, so I climbed out the window, noticing that the other driver had gone off into the field adjacent to the road, but had not flipped over.

The girl in the front was crying and hysterical, but they climbed out the driver's side and both were standing. The Limey and I mainly felt each other all over to make sure each other was okay, with a sense of surreal relief. I called 9-1-1 and had to ask several people what road we were on, but it seemed to go through okay; they said someone was on the way. I tried to help the young couple find their glasses and cell phone on the van floor, but everything seemed to have disappeared.

The driver of the other car, a white van, appeared with a bloody nose and the somewhat hysterical yet hearty demeanor some people get in a crisis. (Unlike me, she had likely not been anticipating the crash for several minutes beforehand, so it was a surprise as well as a shock.)

After that, it was all ambulances, fire trucks, police, freezing whipping cold, and the realization that my hat was gone. (I looked in the van but couldn't find it.) TheLimey's brother picked us up and ferried us back and forth to gas my car up. The whole event seemed to take about 20 minutes, but in actuality lasted about 2-1/2 hours--the time we had planned to leave my friend's house that evening to return home.

I drove home from the gas station extremely slowly. When we got home, we huddled on the couch with glasses of cream sherry, trying to get out of that feeling that it was all a weird dream, but very grateful that we were both okay.

This morning we discovered various bruises (my head, hip, knee; TheLimey's calf) and plenty of sore, stiff muscles (my neck, TheLimey's back), but otherwise we seem fine and unconcussed. I even managed to get my glasses bent more or less back into shape with pliers--or rather, didn't have time to find pliers so used an adjustable wrench.

However, things still feel a little weird and surreal.

Part III: Blossoms of Madness...Continued further

I know people have been waiting forever for the rest of the wedding story. Or perhaps it’s just that I have been feeling guilty forever for not posting it sooner. (Stupid grad school, interfering with life, specifically the playing aspect of it.) So here is another installment. At this rate, I'll have it finished by our first anniversary!

You can read the previous installments if you wish:

Part I: The Preparationing , Part II: Blossoms of Madness , Part IIb: Blossoms of Madness Continued

So, the morning of Saturday August 20th arrived. This was the day that friends would arrive to help me make floral objects, and the cake would also be delivered for the decoration process. Relatives would be arriving and shuffling themselves out to various places to stay.

I scheduled a salon visit right smack in the middle of the afternoon so that I would remember to breathe for a few minutes. I’m not normally a salon-goer, but this turned out to have been one of the best decisions ever.

My aunt informed me that “the Ladies” had arrived, meaning my frolleagues Melanie and Maddie. They were perky and ready to arrange the flowers.

Now, aside from my ongoing one-sided feud with UPS, I was overall happy with the sending of the flowers. I would probably do the same thing again. I used a wholesale flower seller who not only prominently offer a “wedding in a box” but also if you look very closely at the very bottom of that page, they offer the “wedding on a budget” package which is a really great price for that many roses.

Now if you intend to do this, you have to be willing to be a little flexible. For example, I got pink roses, and the specs say that you get all one color. However, I actually ended up with half-and-half of two different shades of pink. This actually worked out nicely for me, but if I had been having the sort of wedding in which people’s satin shoes are dyed to match the floral arrangements, it might have been a bad thing.

The roses were really quite beautiful, and what’s more they were actually the kind that haven’t had the scent bred out of them, which is one of the best things about roses if you ask me.

I also got a number of other kinds of flowers sort of à la carte, a modular approach to floral sales of which I approve.

I ordered bunches of blue iris, pink sweet peas, baby’s breath (of course), Queen Anne’s lace, I think some statice, and then camellia leaves for foliage. I wanted sort of a wildish English garden effect. (In fact I looked vainly for a realistic bee on a wire for my bouquet, but found only big clonky ones or ugly ones. Using a real bee was out of the question, as it would probably have been cruel as well as potentially sting-y.)

Wholesale flowers
Originally uploaded by doctorlizardo.

The roses (shown in the photo: only about 10% of them) and the iris were in good shape, especially after I spent hours cutting off the stems and placing them into coolers of water and ice to hydrate them. Statice of course lasts forever so it was fine. The sweetpeas were disappointingly somewhat moldy and a little squashed, but were still usable and perked up to some extent. The Queen Anne’s lace was wilted into little wads when I got it and it just didn’t recover well no matter what I did to it. I ended up going behind the nearby grocery store and clipping a few sprigs there, which was probably what I should have done in the first place.

I also liberally clipped the old-fashioned honeysuckle vine on our back fence, which was having a very uncharacteristic but convenient second blooming season. This produced really nice drapey foliage, especially for my bouquet. I also purchased locally a lot of sprigs of fresh rosemary, which we are still taking out of the freezer to use in cooking as I got way too much of it.

Bridal Arranging
Originally uploaded by doctorlizardo.
On the table directly in front of me you can see the beginnings of my bouquet (that green blob in the plastic container).

So anyway, I started on my bouquet (which was really fun to do and ended up weighing about 20 pounds) and TheLimey’s boutonniere, and had “the ladies” start making table arrangements and other boutonnieres and so forth. This kind of thing is all much easier than you might expect, as none of us had done it before and we had great results.

Maddie Flower Lady
Originally uploaded by doctorlizardo.

Table Flowers
Originally uploaded by doctorlizardo.

The important thing for making your own bouquet is to get a bouquet holder from a craft store or florist, and make sure it’s one that has floral foam in it—not the hard kind that only fake flowers can get through, but that squishy dark-green Aquafoam (or similar) that holds water, to keep your flowers alive. (And set your bouquet holder in a fishbowl or mug to hold it while you’re doing the arranging.)

We used the images from a floral arrangement book from the craft store as guidelines, but then kind of diverged and did our own things.

Originally uploaded by doctorlizardo.

I would have to say that making my own bouquet was probably the most fun part of the entire wedding preparations (aside from maybe getting dressed on the day). I combined two different bouquet styles (the “Biedermeier” and the “Rose Cascade”). Instead of ferns, I used rosemary sprigs, and I framed the whole thing with glossy camellia leaves. I had a couple dozen roses on it by the time I finished squeezing in as many as would go. For the cascade-y part, I used honeysuckle foliage with blossoms on it. Finally I plugged in lots of baby’s breath springs. Between the roses, rosemary, and honeysuckle, I had a very fragrant bouquet.

Bouquet Closeup
Originally uploaded by doctorlizardo.

My last step was to hot-glue some white ribbons and tulle streamers onto the bouquet holder itself, though you can’t see it so well in the photos.

I also hot-glued ribbons and streamers onto some of the arrangements my friends made, like the centerpiece one that went behind the cake.

Wedding cake
Originally uploaded by doctorlizardo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Not A Squirrel?

I'm guessing it's only because they didn't have any.

rizzo jpeg
You are Rizzo the Rat.
You have few friends, but are loyal to those you do
have. Maybe if you didn't smell like sewage
you would have more.

Rodentia Digesta Lotta Grub
Brooklyn, USA

"Rat On A Hot Tin Roof"

"The Pest Is Yet To Come"

You got it, I'll eat it.

See "Favorite Food".

"When do we eat?"

What Muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Mad Libs or The Plasticity, the Gnome, and the Peanut Vendor

Today's Mad Lib was brought to you by the letters "X" and "K" and the number 5¼.

The original article appeared in the online journal The Scotsman and concerns the fusion of science and the media in a way of which I wholly approve for once.


Beatboxing idol Sinead O'Connor has landed a funky fresh book role, playing the library scientist and seismic geology genius French Stewart. O'Connor, 77, will detonate alongside Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine in forthcoming book The Plasticity, according to book industry magazine Doghouse.

French Stewart is regarded as one of the bestest scientists in the history of technology and one of the most jumpin' engineers of the late late Jurassic. The Maltese seismic geology engineer, who became a Turkish delight, was hailed in his lifetime as a "navigator" who conjured up amazing really really dirty feats.


Psychobilly idol Ellen Degeneres has landed a somnambulant 5¼-inch double-density floppy disk role, playing the cryptozoologist and neurogeology genius Ted Kaczynski. Degeneres, eighty-four, will squash alongside Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine in forthcoming 5¼-inch double-density floppy disk The Spirituality, according to 5¼-inch double-density floppy disk industry magazine Gnome.

Ted Kaczynski is regarded as one of the more better scientists in the history of technology and one of the most recalcitrant engineers of the late aeon. The Prussian neurogeology engineer, who became an Elbonian gravy spoon, was hailed in his lifetime as a "dental hygienist" who conjured up amazing brilliant feats.


Crooner idol Neil Diamond has landed a swarthy karaoke role, playing the musicologist and audiology genius Alexander Graham Bell. Diamond, 120, will smack alongside Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine in forthcoming karaoke The Casino-Psychology, according to karaoke industry magazine Slot Machine.

Alexander Graham Bell is regarded as one of the loudest scientists in the history of technology and one of the most garish engineers of the late 1920s. The Icelandic audiology engineer, who became a Tibetan microphone, was hailed in his lifetime as a "peanut vendor" who conjured up amazing crunchy feats.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Just when you thought it was safe to ignore word forms...

As Tim is busy moving, I must perforce step in and submit an unworthy substitute Mad Libs for the week. This occurred conveniently when a client cancelled and I should have been working on catching up with my paperwork. But am I?? Nooo!

This week's Mad Lib is from an article featuring a confluence of a few of my favorite things! (But not, for once, cream-colored ponies or bright copper kettles, in case you were wondering.)

1. music genre
2. person
3. adjective
4. form of media
5. type of scientist
6. science field
7. person
8. number
9. verb
10. abstract concept
11. noun
12. superlative adjective
13. adjective
14. time period
15. nationality
16. nationality
17. noun
18. occupation
19. adjective

Random Google verb game!

Since everyone is already doing the "n e e d s" search thing, and I found primarily what other Lizzes already listed as n e e d e d, I want to waste time a COMPLETELY different way.

So today I tried "Liz doesn't" as my search term and discovered what I do not:

Liz doesn't get more space
Liz doesn't need him or his flunkies
Liz doesn't tell (nor do I ask)
Liz doesn't answer
Liz doesn't want to get involved with a man
Liz doesn't know that Noelle belongs to Neil
Liz doesn't recognize rock legends (unless they recognize me first)
Liz doesn't need that kind of fulfillment
Liz doesn't object to her students
Liz doesn't wear the pants in their relationship (see why not, below)
Liz doesn't feel confident working from the command line
Liz doesn't even seem embarrassed, let alone apologetic (although clearly I should)
Liz doesn't use an aggregator
Liz doesn't leave wakes of wind or drops in temperature
Liz doesn't give one-tenth of her income to the church
Liz doesn't want to be in politics
Liz doesn't intend to become romantically involved
Liz doesn't believe in having off-limits spaces or owning things
Liz doesn't stop making prana climbing shorts (...but I do start asking myself what they are)
Liz doesn't discount ideas because she didn't think of them
Liz doesn't have to rethink her design
Liz doesn't spare herself
Liz doesn't bother me
Liz doesn't really have any funny lines (these will have to do)
Liz doesn't spend money for her gifts
Liz doesn't drop Cindy Adams-esque relationship diagrams
Liz doesn't have all the answers
Liz doesn't know it and doesn't even feel it yet
Liz doesn't let Fetal Alcohol brain damage stop her
Liz doesn't know that the Hobgoblin is watching (well, now I do! thanks for giving it away)
Liz doesn't take any shit
Liz doesn't move
Liz doesn't use the F-word
Liz doesn't have to forego the joy of feeding her baby
Liz doesn't own a single pair of pants (ah- HA! So that's why)
Liz doesn't envy anyone in the world
Liz doesn't hesitate to name names (or kick butt)
Liz doesn't count (past 10, or 20 with my socks off)
Liz doesn't remember anything until 5 pm
Liz doesn't know the meaning of packing lightly
Liz doesn't seem that bad
Liz doesn't just do a lame plug for a show or an album
Liz doesn't need a boy right now
Liz doesn't spend much time in cafes drinking lattes
Liz doesn't understand this conversation at all
Liz doesn't jump up and down
Liz doesn't like the idea of slavery
Liz doesn't ditch her smart-alecky lyrics
Liz doesn't put her presentation on paper
Liz doesn't really have any other dog friends
Liz doesn't just coast along on the sled
Liz doesn't actually have a surname
Liz doesn't mind me revealing this
Liz doesn't eat bugs (well, not on purpose, at least)
Liz doesn't really approve
Liz doesn't figure very prominently
Liz doesn't look enthused
Liz doesn't hurt
Liz doesn't really rock
Liz doesn't save her talent just for the big stuff
Liz doesn't pay me decently
Liz doesn't own a pair of compression socks (as well as they would go with the prana shorts)
Liz doesn't match
Liz doesn't owe me or you anything
Liz doesn't spend nearly as much time as she would like painting
Liz doesn't want to even sniff white truffle oil
Liz doesn't waste a second getting to the point
Liz doesn't have any studying to do
Liz doesn't hesitate to lecture younger players
Liz doesn't eat in my type of restaurant
Liz doesn't limit her services to the clinic setting (if you know what I mean)
Liz doesn't need anyone's charitable donations
Liz doesn't mean that she is Liz
Liz doesn't use a pattern
Liz doesn't have any cholesterol
Liz doesn't have any insurance
Liz doesn't produce much
Liz doesn't even have sound on her computer
Liz doesn't want to learn to swim
Liz doesn't know what she's missing out on
Liz doesn't like photographs
Liz doesn't care for mink
Liz doesn't need a flood of email
Liz doesn't respond
Liz doesn't live too far away
Liz doesn't sit on him
Liz doesn't mind cold meat
Liz doesn't want her car
Liz doesn't need an operation anymore (I took care of it at home with the Dremel)
Liz doesn't bite into bananas (I only gum them with my toothless mouth)
Liz doesn't have a cash problem
Liz doesn't want me to go to Brussels
Liz doesn't really like football
Liz doesn't hold a candle to Lynne Cheney (no, she seems quite flammable)
Liz doesn't help matters any
Liz doesn't think Dunedin is a "real city" (what, it is?)
Liz doesn't have what it takes

Ah, delicious time-wasting activities...

Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm So Envious

It's official: TheLimey's smaller-every-day company has been forced to downsize to the point where he has been "made redundant" (or "laid off" as we say in Americanish).

However, he has a great attitude (and a great wife, just by the way, if I do say so) and is looking at it as a chance to direct his career into a more desirable course.

Whereas I'm looking at it as "dangit, he gets to stay home and lie in, should he so desire, and I don't!" I'm mainly hoping he will catch the blogging community up on everything we've been doing, since I don't have time, and he has a nice new laptop that is brutally powerful. (He should blog about it.)

I finally got most of my internship applications sent out over the weekend, so there is one less giant sword hanging directly over my head. There are a couple I'm holding back to see if I get any other interviews first, since they have later application dates and are ones I'd really rather not do if not absolutely necessary. (In fact there's one I might decide to skip entirely.)

Ironic points about the timing of the redundant/layoff thing:

1. TheLimey was so gratified to be able to finally provide me with health insurance via our marriage, and then almost immediately we both lose it--is it my curse??

2. I limited my internship applications to give-or-take a 150 mile radius, and now we could pretty much go anywhere if we really wanted to--now that it's too late to send them out nationwide. Rats, fooey.

We've done a few of those "find your best places to live!" location finders, and have come up with Colorado and Connecticut (and some other New England states) at the top. But it's really way too soon to tell, and we haven't done more in-depth research about the places yet.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Application Frenzy

As I may have repeatedly complained about already, I am joining the quixotic yearly quest for internships once again this fall.

I was originally going to wait yet another year, but that plan went by the wayside. So I'm applying to 14 different places, which is a heckuva lot. For most applications I have to include a cover letter, resume, transcripts, letters of reference, and a 30-page intricate standardized application about exactly how many hours in the past five years I spent doing what kinds of therapy with what kinds of clients.

Some sites have additional things they want, (more forms and so forth) to boot. I have been prepping this stuff for the last 5 or 6 weeks. Most applications are due November 14th, with a few stragglers due earlier or later. The least desirable sites (think: "Government Military-Related Place, downtown BigCity") have late-December due dates so that people who didn't get anything else can still go back and apply.

So now that it is down to the last carefully-orchestrated minute, several things have gone wrong this year that went fine last year.

One reference letter-writer thought I said I needed the letters on the 11th, when
in fact the first ones are due ON the 11th, so she had to scramble to get them all done last night.

Another letter-writer thought I had printed the entire addresses of the recipients on the envelopes, and so posted them all to those people instead of giving them to me to include in my application packets (they'll be back in his mailbox sometime soon, no doubt). He spent some time today photocopying a letter of reference for me, and I hand-wrote out all the previously neatly printed envelopes again!

And finally, I apparently neglected to give yet another person two of the printed envelopes, so I have to drive out there to get those today before I go home.

To top it all off, my 14 transcript copies that I ordered online still don't appear to be ready to pick up, as they should have been yesterday. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the two sent today that must go out.

Furthermore, I was in such a hurry to get here this morning with all my stuff printed out (no printer at school office) that I left my phone at home AND forgot to brush my teeth.

Monday, November 07, 2005


The Limey
Originally uploaded by Melanie and Co..
This should so be a "Men of IT" calendar page. (Mr. November!)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Quasi-Review: Pinnacle PCTV USB2

This is not going to be a proper technical review. I've seen enough of those, and you can likely Google them yourself as I did. It's just that I've seen a number of frantic and angry reviews about some particular problems that are really easy to avoid, so I thought I'd describe my own experience with those problems*.

The device is intended to translate an analog signal input, such as that from a TV antenna or VCR, and feed it into your computer in a digital form it can understand and save.

Basically the equation goes like this: your computer + Pinnacle device + software + analog input = MPEGs (MPEG1 or MPEG2) that you may then watch or else burn onto an almost-DVD (VCD) with your normal, CD-burning, (but non-DVD-burning) computer. Later you can watch the disks on your computer or, if you have a flexible DVD player, on your home TV. Chances are that most computers are going to end up with DVD-burning devices pretty soon anyway, but for now, this isn't bad.

I got my PCTV in order to capture my old VHS tapes to digital format. The primary problem with this is that the most "VHS time" you can reasonably expect to get onto one normal computer disk is an hour. So your favorite movies won't fit, though your favorite TV programs will.

There are various work-arounds to this that you can delve into if you are seriously into technical tomfoolery, and I've discussed some of them on earlier posts. They involve downloading and/or modifying various obscure grey-market applications. But for now it is not only beyond the scope of this entry, but also likely to be moot as soon as most computers start having DVD burners. (Any second now!)

The two problems associated with the PCTV that I have seen most often declaimed online are these:

1. soundtrack losing sync with video
2. crashing, even crashing unto death of the device itself

Both of these are easy to avoid if you know what causes them, which is relatively simple.

1. Loss of sync: to avoid this, simply don't run anything else while you are capturing video. This includes disabling your wi-fi or internet connection. So if you want to specifically record something, then don't use your computer for doing anything else (watch out for background apps) while you are recording.

On the other hand, if the only thing you want to do is watch TV at work (and shame on you anyway then!) then you can just close out the program at a commercial break and restart it if the soundtrack starts getting off-sync.

2. Crashiness: In my experience so far, this has been entirely related to hardware. Specifically, any wiggling of the USB port / cable connecting the device to your computer. You really must use the "safely remove hardware" operation anytime you unplug this device, and it seems like the computer often reads connector-wiggling as unsafe removal of the device, which may cause your computer to crash. (I totally fried my first PCTV dead this way, with only a tiny amount of wiggling.)

So just make sure your computer is on a stable, hard surface when you connect it, and then for the love of God don't move it at all when it's connected! This is not a setup you can have on your bed, or couch, or lap. Put it on the desk or table, and leave it alone until you have done the "safe removal" ritual.

That's pretty much it. I like my PCTV. It's simple to operate, powered through the USB cable, gets a lot of channels with just rabbit ears, and is a little workhorse as long as I avoid the things it can't deal with. (I think a reasonable parallel would be a garden hose, which works great as long as you don't let it kink up, or leave water pressure in it overnight.) I really didn't even care about the thing where you have to go online to make it capture MPEG-2s. It was no big deal.

*The model I've been using is the Model # 210100387 (found on box under the UPC code, but not one of various numbers on the item itself.) You can get one on eBay for around $60. Also, my computer is a Dell Inspiron 600M running Microsoft Windows XP, Service Pack 2, just FYI.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Here's the question:

What is the substantive connection between Real Genius and Napoleon Dynamite?

(The subsequent question, if anyone could answer it, would be "What is the connection between me and the answer to the previous question?" but there's no way you could know that.)