Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Smiley News

Yesterday Smiley finally got his lower right lateral incisor (#26). It's left-side match should be in soon.

Last week he started running. Before that he could scurry, but not really run.

Oddly, he also had his first apple juice last week. He likes apples but they are not as nutritious as other fruits. Before he had enough apple slices and applesauce that we did not want to also give him apple juice. But my wife has been canning, so we finally had apple juice around the house, and it was hot enough outside that Smiley is drinking lots of liquid.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sansa Fuze with Rhythmbox

The default music player for Ubuntu is named Rhythmbox.

(There is a supposedly better one, named Amarok, but it does not like the sound card on my Acer Extensa 4620Z.)

Unfortunately, Rhythmbox has a few problems. Foremost is the the inability to display disc numbers when viewing lists of songs, which sometimes make creating a playlist from an audiobook a needlessly lage amount of work.

Also, Rhythmbox is famous for having problems with mp3 players.

Today I received my last of the year's birthday presents, a Sansa Fuze 4GB music player. It's nifty. But it does not play nice with Rhythmbox.

I have to add songs to the Fuze manually, using the file manager. This is only slightly slower, so I don't mind.

I also have to jump through some quick hoops when making a playlist on the Fuze. I found what to do here, but will retype it so I know I'll always have a copy.
1. Create a draft of the playlist in Rhythmbox

2. Alternate-click on the playlist in Rhythmbox and save it as a m3u file

3. Move the file to the appropriate Fuze directory (MUSIC, AUDIOBOOK, etc.) and then edit it with any text editor

4. Use Find and Replace to fix the file paths. (For example, remove "home/username/Music/genre/")

5. Use Find and Replace change all / symbols to \

6. Save the file
UPDATE: Photos and pictures are also easy to move to the Fuze with the file manager, but the Fuze will only display them if they are within a certain size limit. Video needs to be converted to a certain format: instructions are here. Instructions for Linux users updating the Sansa Fuze firmware are here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kangaroo WeeRide Toddler Bicycle Seat

Today I did some errands by bicycle. It was the first time I took off Smiley's bicycle seat, which reminded me to blog about it.

Back in Spring we got him a WeeRide LTD seat. This fits between the handlebars and my seat.



(There is also a non-LTD version with less padding. Both versions are sold with the mounting bar included; the separately sold bar is only for a family that wants a second one, to be able to quickly move the seat from one bicycle to another.)

It works great. But there are a large number of caveats.

First, it does not fit every bicycle. The Amazon reviews make clear that some people had to return it for this reason.

Second, I am 5'4" and it just barely fits comfortably. Anyone smaller than me would probably have problems. I did not have to change how I pedaled, or where my knees where.

Third, the 5mm hex key it comes with is so poorly machined it does not work. Anyone ordering the seat should also buy a hex key set if they do not already own one.

Fourth, my leg length allows me to normally stop the bicycle without hopping off the seat, simply pointing one foot tiptoe to rest while stopped. Anyone used to hopping off the seat when stopped would obviously have to change habits.

Fifth, my fitness level and bicycles number of gears allow me to bicycle up even the steeper hills I would ride on without standing. I never had the habit of standing while pedaling up a hill. I have not tried standing while Smiley is in his seat, but from the Amazon reviews apparently this does not work.

Sixth, the harness system is odd. Smiley can twist out of a shoulder strap, as he did in the above picture when smelling roses at the Owen Rose Garden. I assume this is intentional. If, heaven forbid, I was to crash then having the toddler firmly stuck in the seat is probably not the best option. But a wiggly child who does not follow instruction would need a different bicycle seat.

Seventh, the child can grab the handlebars. Smiley does not try this while I hold them, but if I let go of one to adjust my MP3 player or blow my nose he sometimes does. Be alert for this potential source of swerving!

Eighth, the routes I might bicycle are all on streets and paths kept clean of gravel and debris. By using a bicycle seat instead of a trailer, I am betting that my likelihood of crashing my bicycle is less than a motorist's likelihood of hitting my trailer. If I lived near gravel roads or where autumn leaves sat damp and made slipping a danger, a trailer would be the better choice.

Ninth, there is no hole in the seat large enough to pass a cable lock through. Where I live I am not worried about the seat disappearing while the bicycle is locked in front of the library or a store. In other locations this might be an issue; the seat comes off quickly and easily but is very bulky to carry around while doing errands.

Tenth, pediatricians currently recommend that babies under a year of age not use any bicycle seat or trailer. Their brains still slosh around too much for that kind of vibration to be safe.

Another Nice Company

Today my wife to Smiley on an afternoon outing, freeing me up to do some errands.

I rode my bicycle to the grocery store to pick up a refill of Smiley's vitamin drops. Then I went to the credit union to deposit birthday checks for my wife and I from Bubba. Then I went to the UPS store to mail my broken laptop battery. Then I went to the blood bank to donate blood (my 21st time since moving to Eugene, blood pressure 120/73 which is ten points high for me).

Oregon Community Credit Union is not my actual credit union, but I can use its nearby branch as if it were without any fees.

I had noticed during previous visits that their entryway lacks the usual sign prohibiting weapons, and this time asked the teller if the omission was intentional. It was! For once a local bank is willing to trust that people responsible enough to get a concealed handgun license are not likely criminals. (Something the local shopping malls and libraries are not willing to do.)

Huzzah!

Two Nice Companies

My laptop is an Acer Extensa 4620Z. The battery it came with is a lemon. I've had it less than a year. A couple months ago its ability to hold a charge started falling. Now it's down to 20% of the standard charge when full.

Acer's customer service phone number is 866-608-2237. When you call, after the brief recorded message about calls possibly being recorded a real person answers the phone.

On Friday I was told that Acer only knew the date in June 2008 that the retailer received the laptop. I would need to fax my sales receipt to Acer in order to prove that my one-year warranty was still valid. That was a reasonable request, and the fax was sent yesterday.

Today I called. Acer had already processed my fax so my warranty information was updated. The person answering the phone told me where to mail my broken battery; once received a replacement would be sent. (I could have used a potential credit card charge as collateral if I wanted to receive the replacement battery first.) Within a week, I should be all set.



My website hosting is done by WingSix. A couple years ago they were bought out by MidPhase. This caused a few problems, but these were sorted out once I talked to the MidPhase billing manager, Jasmine.

(After that merger I would recommend MidPhase, but not WingSix.)

I just noticed that annual domain name registration is less expensive at MidPhase, but my type of hosting plan is less expensive at WingSix.

So I called Jasmine to ask about switching my registrations to the parent company. She said it would be needless work to actually make that switch: easier for her to simply adjust my account to only play MidPhase prices for the annual domain registrations. Ta da!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blarg

Sigh.

My penei.org e-mail account is supposed to automatically forward everything it receives to my main e-mail account at gmail.

I just accidentally discovered that it had stopped doing so, way back in November 2008. The website hosting company I use had changed servers and "lost" the forwarding setting when transferring my account. Sorry if I have apparently been rude to anyone. I'll try to sort through the mess tomorrow.

UPDATE: Well, an hour later and I'm done. Fortunately, only a few friends or family used that address. Mostly it was junk mail and ministry-related mass-mailings.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boo

About two weeks ago we got a guinea pig.

We have been wanting a pet for a while. We like pets, and more animal dander in the house might help Smiley avoid developing allergies.

A guinea pig is a sensible choice. It can survive happily without us for a few days when we go camping, if we bring the plastic pool inside to use as a super-sized cage. Smiley is good about petting gently instead of squeezing, but it is nice to have a rodent big enough that it will not hurt it if Smiley gets too excited.

We asked Smiley to name it, since he was talkative the day we got it. Of the "words" he said that day the best name was Boo. So we decided our guinea pig is named Boo after the miniature giant space hamster (not the animated child or older fictional man).

We have some photos and video, but not yet processed. Soon!

Sandbox and Shrinkey-Dinks

The terminology used in "old school" role-playing games can sound a lot like preschool.

A non-linear, open-ended adventure is called a sandbox. So there are articles about how to make a good sandbox.

Also, some in that RPG crowd has fallen in love with an idea published in June about using inkjet shrink film and binder clips to make home-made Shrinkey-Dink miniatures.

Average Household Expenses

Sometime during the last month I stumbled across this diagram of typical American household expenses.

What I was actually curious about was how typical expenses changed during a recession. Did people try to spend about the same proportion in each category but smaller amounts? Or were some categories favored and others diminished?

(I say "try" above because there are obviously some expenses such as rent that are difficult to cut back just because a family is trying to spend less.)

Stocks in August

Back in June I wrote about investing during the recession.

Last week (on August 17th) I checked how our investments are doing. Since December 18th our portfolio is up 14%. The S&P500 went up 11% during that time.

I'm amazed we're continuing to beat the market. During normal economic times that is very hard to do, especially with a portfolio whose main goal is to balance types of risk.

Fan Map of Westeros

Back in June I mentioned the Cartographer's Guild.

I stopped by the other day, to rest my brain before bedtime by looking at pretty maps.

I have never heard of Westeros or the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels by G. R. R. Martin. Apparently the stories are loved by many, but no one had yet created a great map for that fictional setting.

Until now. Wow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Itty Bitty Boutique

At the end of next month a nice children's used clothing store is having a big sale.

Locals who want to put clothing on sale by consignment should start that process promptly...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fawn Noise

Part of being the parent of a sixteen-month-old is reading board books and making animal noises.

My turkey noise is dreadful.

On Monday, while on a walk, Smiley and I saw three does with young (two had one fawn, the third had two fawns). One of the fawns was slightly distressed because its mother had walked somewhat far away. It began making a soft, chirping noise almost like a bird call: eeywha, eeywha, eeywhar.

I don't think any of Smiley's board books have fawns. But if they did, I'd now know what noise they make.

Which is a lot nicer to blog about than the fact my front lawn has recently been teaching me to identify a deer's age from its fewmets.

Two-Word Monsters

Telecanter challenges folks to invent intriguing two-word monster names.

Sounds like a job for Chris Pound's word generators!

(Similar is this list of the ten manliest names ever.)

About Two Churches

Recently a few friends have asked me where I have been going to worship after Sar Shalom ended.

I have not yet found another group to be my family's spiritual home. But there are two places I enjoy visiting.

The first is Calvary Fellowship, which is simply the closest church to my house. I take Smiley there most Sunday mornings so we can sing and dance together; I also like to support the neighborhood community. After about twenty minutes he is ready for something else. If there are lots of kids at the toddler room then he gets to enjoy being there while I return to the rest of the service. A few Summer weekends there have been very few other kids his age, at which point I've judged that a small amount of socializing for him is not worth the effort of de-glutening him when we return home.

The second place is the Church of God, Seventh Day. Most people have not heard of this denomination and confuse it with the Adventists. I enjoy their company and discussions, but usually need to leave between the sermon and the discussion because of Smiley's nap timing. If only that congregation was interested in celebrating the Tenach's appointed times, the local and currently drifting Messianic community could simply be there!

Continued Lament

A little more than a year ago I mentioned Lockhart's Lament.

A few days ago I found out, from a Math 20 student, about an interesting research summary by Jean Anyon, an excerpt from "Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work".

Among other things, Anyon describes how the "lament" put forth by Lockhart does not apply to math teaching in private schools for the very wealthy.

Herbs in a Fantasy Setting

My wife likes plants and role-playing games. So this one is for her.

Les Paul

Recorded music has brought me lots of enjoyment and worship.

So it's appropriate to link to some memorializing of Les Paul. Here is what James Rummel and Questionable Content had to say. (Be sure to follow James's link!)

Old Tapes

Smiley is enjoying music more.

So I went to the garage and looked in my box of cassette tapes. The only tape player we own is the one in our car, but he might as well have some kid's music there.

I was mainly looking for my old Rosenshontz tape. It was a copy of the two tapes I grew up with (Share It and It's the Truth), one on each side of a 90-minute tape, that I made for myself before leaving home.

I also found some tapes with music I used when teaching Head Start. Also good for Smiley, but not as sentimental.

(Naturally, I also found all sorts of other things. Such as my copy of Alice's Restaurant. I probably only listened to that tape a half-dozen times, so it's nice to see that it is on YouTube for future generations to sample now and then.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bigger Appetite

When I last posted on Tuesday night, Smiley had finally finished his "active" teething of his upper canines.

Unsurprisingly, the next day he ate a lot! One egg, two plums, half a cup of blueberries, half a cup of rice pudding, one-quarter cup of quinoa salad, and some cheese and quesadilla--as well as his normal 16-20 ounces of whole milk.

Thursday he also ate a lot, but I did not bother to write it down. (I was going to write this blog post on Thursday, but was too busy with grading Math 20 final exams.)

Yesterday he did not eat quite as much, but drank almost 16 ounces of diluted orange juice. I'm not sure why, since the weather was not very hot.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Two More Teeth

Tonight Smiley finally got his upper right eye tooth (#6). He had been working on that one for two weeks.

The upper left (#11) had broken through on July 11th.

Now he has twelve teeth.

His gums are white where his lower lateral incisors are teething (#23 and #26). Those should be next.

He has had his upper lateral incisors for many months, an odd but photogenic discrepancy. His four molars came in between March 28th (upper left) and mid-April.

Coca-Cola

Last weekend I met someone who is retired, but spent most of his life working for Coca-Cola.

He had many positive things to say about that company. They are in more countries than the United Nations, inexpensively providing tons of people who live where unboiled water is not safe with their only alternative.

Since 1967, the company has focused its efforts outside the U.S., and has made the majority of its profits there.

The company has never changed its logo, unlike Pepsi, which does so often.

(Is it just me, or does the new Pepsi logo look like it should be on the tail of an airplane?)

Anyway, it was fun to hear someone recount why they are proud of their former company.

Arneson and Gygax

I've only mentioned Arneson and Gygax once in my blog. Time to do so again.

During the past month I've read through the comic Order of the Stick, which I enjoy but only read in spurts because its pace is so slow.

(Tangentially, my absolute favorite OotS comics are this one and this one.)

The comic's author/illustrator, Rich Burlew, wrote commemorative comics when Arneson and Gygax passed away. Dave Arneson invented the whole concept of a storytelling game with one person being the "narrator" and everyone else playing a single character. Gary Gygax was the writer, who took his and Arneson's ideas and brought them to the world.

Gygax will soon have a memorial statue in his hometown. At least that's what the news is reporting. Everyone knows there the main part is underneath, through a secret door.

What would be a fitting memorial for Arneson? Why, an annual adventuring day in his honor.

UPDATE: A bit more detail. Apparently David Wesely was before Arneson and invented polyhedral dice. His gaming was not fantasy storytelling, but playing a miniatures combat scenario with a referee whose job was handling hidden movement, resolving rule ambiguity, and helping spectators participate. Arneson took what Wesely had done and turned it into fantasy storytelling. For more information, go to this link and search the page for "The Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons".

UPDATE: Another long history here, written by David Bowman.

Sixteen Months

Smiley was sixteen months old last week.

We went to the pediatrician's office on Friday, just to use their scale. He is now 31 inches tall (37th percentile) and weighs 21 pounds, 3 ounces (just off the bottom of the chart).

This is predictable. His height is staying about the same percentile as when he was a year old. He was only tenth percentile for weight, and a drop after a child starts walking is normal; he also has been teething. (If he is not back on the weight chart in two months, for his eighteen month checkup, then we might worry.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Oregon Has Health Care for Kids

Oregon has officially begun to phase in universal health care for kids.

Ten Grams Is Enough!?

Anyone want a crippled blue rat? They are really cute. Poor things.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Earliest Worship Teams?

Here's something I never noticed before, that I saw when doing my One Year Bible reading.

Here is Second Chronicles 29:25:
And he [King Hezekiah] stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the LORD by His prophets.
In Torah we read a lot about what Tabernacle worship is supposed to be like. But we do not read about musicians.

I knew from my studies about First Century Judaism that music was a very well-established part of the Temple worship then.

But when did music by priests begin? Apparently during the reign of King David as directed by at least two prophets!

Including God in Fiction

A family member pointed me to this blog post discussing whether and how to properly include God in a fiction story.

I've written two fantasy novels that have a Christian-like messiah-figure. (Neither is yet published.) The problem I faced was describing a realistic relationship with God.

If God is too active in the story then it spoils suspense. The reader would never worry about protagonists who were simply following after God, observing what he was doing.

If God is not active enough, the story ceases to teach anything about what a relationship with God is really like. A deity that sends people on an errand and then never helps, or whose help appears random even in retrospect, is not the God I know.

For example, the lion in A Horse and His Boy portrays one aspect of realistic, ongoing relationship with God: now and then God speaks clearly and teaches us.

In contrast, the the bird that rescues the protagonists in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is merely a tribute to God. He can save us from trouble and remove our fears.

In my novels I strove for something yet more challenging: what it is like to be on an adventure with God. Other people will have to say if I succeeded.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Abiyoyo

While on a walk with Smiley, singing different things, I found out that my wife had never heard the song Abiyoyo. Now she has a link!

Yellow Jacket PDF

If you are interested in learning more about Western Yellow Jackets, here is a long PDF.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Stimulus Monitoring Update

My post from February about monitoring Stimulus Plan spending is full of updates. So it's time to make a new, short post.

I don't have much to say, except that as of mid-July the Wall Street Journal was a better source for this information than the recovery.gov website.

The Escapist

All of my favorite super-hero comic books are in part great because they were written for adults, not young teens. (Examples include Astro City, Planetary, and Watchmen.)

A new addition to this fold is The Escapist. Fortunately, the city library has the first three collections. Unfortunately, most of the stories were so-so and forgettable. Based on the comic's background, I expect that those stories that failed to "grab" me were actually full of fun references to old comic books of which I was ignorant. But each collection had a few stories that made me glad I spent some time reading them.

Taser Fear

Taser weapons are becoming more useful at a longer range.

James recently wrote twice about Taser weapons. He does not like them because they are unreliable at stopping an attack. (Unfortunately, his more informative posts about less lethal weapons that I once linked to are no longer online except at the Wayback Machine here and here).

I really don't like Tasers. Perhaps I just am more used to long-term views on issues.

Tasers will always be devices that are very unreliable at stopping a large man with an adrenaline high, but quite effective at quietly subduing a petite woman without injury. (If they were more powerful, they would not safely be "non-lethal".) Now, who would most want that kind of thing? Not the good guys...

UPDATE: James has kindly re-posted his essays, here and here.

BMR versus BMI

The Math 25 workbook I helped write contains an activity that uses the Basal Metabolic Rate.

A less respectable measurement of fitness is the Body Mass Index, which has recently made news mostly because state and Federal governments keep using it instead of the BMR, perhaps because it allows them to claim more people need help from a Big Brother.

Goofy Musical

Last weekend my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by attending a performance of A Connecticut Yankee.

The music was catchy and performed superbly. The actors (all locals, most from U. of O. or LCC) were terrific. The show not only was humorous, it was often goofy.

Smiley is often silly, but he's never goofy. He is only just beginning to develop as part of his sense of humor the concept that once you know how something is supposed to work then you can purposefully do it differently to make someone laugh. (He will now laugh when I am goofy, for example if I put his sandals on his baby doll. But he does not initiate goofiness.)

I think I was running below my recommended daily allowance of goofy. It was nice to get replenished.

Fair Fairmount

A couple weeks ago Smiley and I discovered (at the recommendation of a neighbor) a city park near where my wife works.

Fairmount Park is small, but has a fun water feature. Even better, after 3pm all of the play equipment is in the shade. Great for very hot Summer days!

More Old School RPGs

This post is an update to another from a week ago, but it might turn out longer than the original.

It turns out that a company named Mythmere Games supports not only Labyrinth Lord (which I blogged about a week ago) but two other "clones" of older versions of D&D. Since I had recently read some interesting commentary about the White Box rules, I was happy to be able to download a copy.

The "clone" of the White Box rules stressed that having fewer rules than more recent RPGs allows for more narrative creativity. I found this amusing, since my RPG has even fewer rules. Certainly having too many rules can create humorous side-effects, such as Pun-Pun the ultimate Kobold.

Now we just need a "clone" of the old board game Warhammer Quest.

UPDATE: Ah, I'm apparently clueless about this "old school RPG" stuff. The Standard is something called OSRIC, available for free at that link as a 482-page PDF file.

UPDATE: A bunch of these old school rpgs are reviewed here.

Open Carry in California

James has a new version of his blog, which unfortunately wiped out his archives.

He had recently written about how California is sort-of an open carry state. It is legal to open carry, as long as your handgun is unloaded.

The full article is at the San Diego Reader.

A Big Histamine Day

Thursday evening, while doing some yard work, I disturbed a yellow jacket nest (that my wife and I did not previously know about) and was stung nine times.

Friday I needed to get my three allergy shots.

So Friday night I did not get much sleep. I was itchy and sore in a dozen places.

By the end of Saturday there is only mild itchiness remaining. I hope to sleep better tonight. (Smiley is teething. I did not really another thing keeping me from sleeping.)

On Friday I purchased more yellow jacket traps. Their packaging has a nice identification guide, the pictures of which the website does not show side by side. We have Western Yellow Jackets, further evidenced by the pattern near the eyes.

I have now been stung by some sort of bee (back in high school) and one type of yellow jacket. This puts me at a measly 2 on the Meta-Schmidt Sting Index counting how many types of hymenoptera someone has been stung by. But I'm not complaining.