Tuesday, June 29, 2010

But It Could Be

This morning had a conversation to remember!  I have not seen such a bright, mischievous sparkle in anyone's eyes since my college years.

Smiley was playing outside.  Almost done with a cold, his nose still needs wiping a few times each day.

He often tests authority, which is normal for two-year-olds. In May I wrote about disciplining him as a toddler.  He knows he gets reminders about rules if he is genuinely not focused.  He knows disobeying is one way to get the personal attention and eye contact he enjoys.  He would love it if he could always be uncooperative once, and then cooperate after I repeat myself or threaten to put a toy in time-out.

But he also knows that I try to be consistent about not giving him any chances if I am sure he is focused.  In other words, he is not punished for being distracted or for taking a while to transition between activities, but actually being rebellious has consequences.
Me: Come here, please.  Your nose needs wiping.

Smiley: I go ride my bike.

Me: You can ride your bike after I wipe your nose.  First the nose wiping.

He pauses, and decides to be defiant.  He walks to his bike.

Me: I think your bike needs a time-out for making trouble.  This is not a game.

He pauses for a longer time, thinking carefully.  His eyes gain a mischievous gleam.

Smiley: It could be a game.

Me: Yes, it could. But it's not. Please come to me so I can wipe your nose.

He doesn't. The bike gets a short time-out.
It wasn't easy to keep a straight face.  Should I start praying that he does not break too many hearts in the years to come?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Refinance Example

Mortgage rates are at their lowest since the 1950s.  It is a good time to refinance!  So my family did.

How much did we benefit?  Let's do the math...

We had a 30 year mortgage with about 23 years remaining.  As with my analysis from a week ago about whether to get a credit card that provided miles or money, I will change the dollar amounts for both the friendliness of rounded numbers and for some personal anonymity.

We'll analyze changing a $150,000 mortgage.  The original situation is a partially complete 30-year loan at 5.625%, which has a $960 monthly payment for 279 more months and then a final $184.45 payment.  The new situation is a 15-year loan at 4.5%, which has a $1,147.50 monthly payment for 179 months and then a final $45.67 payment.
The example is a bit complicated, so I included all of the details as a Google document.  If you wish, open that link in another tab or window so you can refer to it while reading the summary below.

Or, if no one has sabotaged it, here is another copy with permissions set so you can edit it: change only the cells with a colored background and all the other numbers automatically adjust!
There are two issues when refinancing.  (Well actually, there are many others, but everything else about points and fees can be wrapped up into the new loan's numbers and then ignored.)

Less Total Interest

The first real issue is how much the total interest changes.

The old loan would pay $960 per month for 279 months, and then pay $184.45.  That makes a total of $268,024.45.  Subtract the loan amount of $150,000 to get $118,024.45 of interest paid during all those 280 months.

The new loan would pay $1,147.50 per month for 179 months, and then pay $45.67.  That makes a total of $205,448.16.  Subtract the loan amount of $150,000 to get a total of $55,488.17 of paid interest.

Subtracting $118,024.45 - $55,488.17 = $62,576.28 less interest by refinancing to the new loan.

Investment Change

On the other hand, the new loan costs an extra $187.50 each month.  That money could have been put in an investment to grow with compound interest.

Now we get stuck in a subjective area: by how much would that investment grow?  I cannot predict the future of the stock market!

Let's assume that for the next 3 years the investment grows at 2%, and then from the start of year 4 onward grows at 8%.  (I'm assuming the economy will take a few years to recover and then investments will have an average rate of increase.)

On the version of the spreadsheet that you can edit you can change my assumption about how much the investment will grow.

But using my guess, we are behind $187.50 the first month, $375.31 the second month, and so on.  By the time 15 years have gone by we'll be behind $60,886.24!

Fortunately, once those 15 years are done the situation drastically improves.  Now instead of getting farther behind each month, we are done paying off the mortgage and are getting ahead by $960 each month (we are paying nothing, instead of the monthly payment of the old loan).

But compound interest still works against us.  It takes a long time to pay off a $60,886.24 debt that is earning 8% annually, compounded monthly, while only paying $960 per month.  Not until year 22 do we break even.  At the end of all 280 months we wind up only $16,750.18 ahead.


So by refinancing we end up paying $62,576.28 less interest during the next 23 years.  We also end up $16,750.18 ahead by the investment value.

The total is $62,576.28 + $16,750.18 = $79,326.46 of benefit.

In reality doing a refinance costs a few thousand dollars of fees, appraisal, insurance adjustment, and so forth.  This would come out of the cited total benefit.  But we'll still be ahead by more than $75,000.

Not bad for a few hours' hassle of phone calls and paperwork.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Little Boys and Big Trucks

Smiley checked out another book about trucks from the library.  It has one photograph of a monster truck jumping on cars.  This confused Smiley, but after a bit of searching I finally found an acceptable YouTube video about two big trucks driving on cars (the link starts the video in the middle).

Now he knows the following facts:
1. Broken cars get taken on tow trucks to mechanics who fix them.  (He thinks this plan works for any broken car.)
2. Monster trucks jump in cars and break them.

So now Smiley is eager to see monster trucks in person, but mostly because he wants to see tow trucks in action.

He does not want to see our car get badly broken.  But he also knows that broken cars make funny noises, and a couple times he has expressed the wish that our car would also make funny noises so it could go on a tow truck and visit the mechanic.

Speaking of trucks with big tires, when I was a little boy, one of my favorite toys was a Matchbox Rough Riders 4x4 that I think was supposed to be a brown Jeep Cherokee.  (A very similar toy was called Stompers.)

Their motto was "You can try to stop 'em", and although designing an obstacle course that did stop them was easy, it was dumploads of fun to see how dramatic an obstacle course could be built that they could navigate.  It was also a prime travel toy, since it was small enough to pack easily and a relative's home or hotel room would have new things with which to construct a novel obstacle course.

A slow but steady battery-powered car seems such an obvious toy that I was surprised how hard it was to find one for Smiley.  Matchbox now sells the Power Scouts, which are quite inferior because they have much less clearance under the chassis.

(The Power Scouts are less expensive at the local toy store, although I notice that Amazon has a model with treads that might be worth a few extra dollars.)

Alphabet Flash Games

Smiley loves the alphabet.  And why not?  It's a song!  It is illustrated as the "words" in two of his books!  It is the theme of a most wonderful wordless book.  It's a wood puzzle!   It can be used to measure time!

So I wondered if I could find any online flash games about letter identification or other early alphabet skills.

I found a big list of them from the Utah Education Network.

His favorite is Alpha Bricks, which has cute pictures but annoying music, and lets him pick the spoken letter from 3 choices.  He only has trouble with J and L.

He also likes Boowa Flash Cards, a simpler, quieter version of the previous game in which he picks the spoken letter from 4 choices.

Not as popular, but still okay, is Kangaroos at Paw Park, which involves matching upper and lower case from 4 choices.

Quite different is Big Bird's Letters and Elmo's Keyboard-O-Rama.  He gets to press any letter key on the keyboard to see the letter and a picture.  This can be fun too.

Similar but much more funky is Bembo's Zoo, where he can press any letter key on the keyboard to see a trippy animation involving the letter.

Anyone else know of other good ones?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stuck in Rabbit's Door

This past week Smiley decided to become fascinated with the story of Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit's doorway.  I have had to pretend to pop him out from being stuck countless times.

I did find the cartoon on YouTube, but it involves too many "camera" switches for Smiley to watch it.

I also noticed that the Kenny Loggins song is also on YouTube.  That makes me happy.  It's another song I only own on tape and would not purchase again, but am pleased to be able to some day show to my children.

Credit Cards: Miles versus Money (and a funny story)

For many years I have only used one credit card.  It gives me Alaska Airlines miles and an annual $99 companion-fare coupon.

Lots of credit cards offer 1% cash back, usually as a store credit to a specific merchant.  Years ago I did the math to check that earning miles was worth more to me.

Recently Fidelity began offering a 2% cash back card, with the rebate going to an IRA instead of store credit.  So I wondered if this was a better deal for me.

I'll change my actual numbers slightly, both to round them and to hide my family's actual financial habits.

First, consider the Fidelity card.  Our average monthly credit card spending is $1,500.  Multiply by 12 to get $10,000 per year. The Fidelity card would put 2% into my IRA, so $360 per year.

Second, consider airline travel using only Alaska or Horizon planes.  The Alaska card would earns 18,000 miles each year.  Travel that only uses Alaska or Horizon plans costs 15,000 miles per trip.  This would probably be to San Diego to visit relatives: a $300 flight.  We would earn 1.2 of these flights each year, so a $360 value.

Finally, consider airline travel using "partner airlines".  This kind of travel costs 25,000 miles per trip.  Typical flights I might take to visit East Coast cities with family cost $620.  We would earn 0.72 of these flights each year, so a $446 value.

So the end result is that as long as I might need to travel across the country I should stick to the Alaska Airlines card.

I still got the Fidelity card.  It has no annual fee, so I'll own it but not use it.  If airline fares go down in price then it will be easy to switch over.

But getting the Fidelity card was not without an unexpected consequence!

A decade ago most credit card companies would happily raise your card's credit limit if you called them and asked nicely.  Just for fun, I tried this a few times and soon had my card's limit up to $19,000.  There was no reason for this, but I found it amusing.

But, alas, no more!  When my credit check for the new Fidelity card happened, it somehow triggered something with Bank of America, who runs the Alaska Airlines card.  They lowered my credit limit to a much more reasonable $7,500.  Probably a wise thing for both them and myself in case my card ever gets stolen.

(I last blogged about my credit card about a year ago, when I mentioned its website's ability to generate one-use fake card numbers.  I should be doing that more!)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Very Oregon

In Oregon it is illegal carry a gun concealed unless you have a permit.  Not everyone can obtain the permit: only those with a clean enough criminal and mental health history.

To paraphrase, certain people can get a permit to do an activity previously illegal.

As a similar example, Oregon is a state with a medical marijuana permit.  Only those with certain medical needs can obtain the permit, but they are again able to do things previously illegal.

Recently the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that these two permits were compatible as the laws are written.

I wonder if those claiming otherwise will now try to change the laws, or if they will give up?

Oil Changes

For about two weeks, Smiley has been fascinated by oil changes.

So I made him a Duplo setup for doing oil changes with his duplo vehicles.

I also found him an oil change video on YouTube that does not have needless camera changes.  But he did not like it.  It was too boring.

There have also been dozens of oil change bedtime stories, which he has asked for.  I think Uncle Nathan has taken everyone in the extended family's car to the mechanic at least twice.

Climbing on Fire Trucks

Today is the city's annual Safety Festival at Alton Baker Park, from 10am to 4pm.  Kids can climb on fire trucks and do all sorts of other fun things.

Strangely, this event is neither listed on the Parks & Rec calendar nor as part of the Summer in the City events.  But it's never needed optimal publicity.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Three Real Bears

A few days ago we got Smiley some new Little Golden Books, including Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

He loves that story!  Yesterday I had to act it out several times.  Eventually I got tired of pretending to be Goldilocks, so I looked for an online film or cartoon version.

Happily, I found a great version that uses trained bears!  I'm not letting Smiley watch it more than once each day, since it does not completely minimize changing camera positions.

New Not-Shoes

I've mentioned working on my posture a few times this year.

My wife wanted to get me new sandals for Father's Day, since the pair I wear all the time is now nearly lacking in tread.

At the store I fell in love with a pair of Ecco sandals that had a soft, wavy footbed.  There were so comfortable and seemed to help my posture so much!

Then, on a whim, I tried on some MBT sandals.  They were as much superior to the Eccos as the Eccos were to my old, worn-down sandals!

So now I'm wearing funny shoes and love them.  I'll blog more in a month or two to share if they seem to have any long-term posture benefit.

1.21 Gigawatts

This year the country's solar installations will be increased by about 11 gigawatts.

Thanks to Steven, I can see that 11 gigawatts is only a third of a percent of the country's 2008 electrical use.  The commenters to the first post argue about that 0.3% figure, so it's nice to know an engineer I can trust.

Long Distance Relationships

Earlier this month Nathen wrote about long distance relationships.  As somoene in one, he wondered how to measure the difficulty of being in one.

It seemed to me, as someone who has been married a while, and has a little experience with marriage counseling, that Nathen was pursuing his idea backwards.

For example, he knows that free video chat and phone talks make life nicer for those in a long distance relationship, so his metric rewards having those luxuries.

I would, instead of building forward from what is day-to-day pleasant, work backwards from traits of successful relationships.  Here I'll need help brainstorming!

For example, someone wise (but I sadly have no citation!) coined the phrase emotional adultery to describe when a husband and wife are no long each other's best friends.  If the husband is more emotionally close and open with a golf buddy than his wife, that's still a huge weakness in his marriage.  Thus, for Nathen's discussion, I would ask if the couple in the long distance relationship had some way of staying best friends.  Free video chat and phone talks might be their solution, or perhaps they manage by writing letters, or perhaps they both have no social life and spend hours playing a MMORPG together.  Whatever their trick, it's the result of staying best friends that matters, not the mechanism used.

So I ask family and friends that have more experience with long-distance relationships than I, what threatens a long-distance relationship?  And how were these threats averted?


Last week Nathen wrote a nice post about the importance of metacommunication.

That's not the initial theme, but the concluding lesson is that if everyone was skilled at metacommunication then most family therapists would be out of work.

Except that I don't quite agree.  I have done a fair amount of counseling as a preschool teacher and minister, and often a counselor is needed just because the upset or hurt individuals are not willing to extend to each other a normal amount of patience or trust.

When I taught preschool, I loved being able to vicariously apologize.  As a minister that no longer worked.  But usually all I needed to do for "counseling" was get the people together, give them ice cream to be eating, lay down the ground rules for the conversation, and privately ask each person for extra patience and calm for my sake as the moderator.  Then the issues would be talked about and everything worked out smoothly when people who wanted to be friends actually saw how much a situation had troubled or hurt each other.  My biggest role was often disliking the conversation as much as anyone else (and I didn't even have ice cream!) but since I was patient when someone was boring, or calm when someone was angry, or forgiving when someone ignored the ground rules, or surprised when someone explained a perception that no one else expected, then the other people in the room also acted that way instead of following their mood and walking out of the room.

Draft of Dvreem

Huzzah! A bit over a week later and I've finished a workable draft of the diceless version of the RPG.

I am not yet officially putting it on my website. But you can see it here.  Constructive feedback would be very appreciated.

Now I can begin to move the old pages about the setting over to this new document.

I will keep the version that used 8-sided dice around, for those who like dice.  After all, it did take a lot of creativity and play-testing (thanks Nathan!) to develop combat rules that allowed a lone hero or heroine to use swordplay against a group of flunkies like an Errol Flyn fight from Robin Hood.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Bluefish Color Customization

In April I was happy with slightly darkening my text editor's background.

Now I am trying the very black background shtick.  I have friends that swear by it, and it does seem easier on my eyes.

There are two parts to doing this with Bluefish for HTML documents.

First, the .gtkrc-2.0 file.
style "EditorStyle" {
GtkTextView::cursor-color = "yellow"
GtkEntry::cursor-color = "#yellow"
class "GtkTextView" style "EditorStyle"
Second, the Bluefish syntax highlighting preferences for HTML documents.
html tag: #888888
Headers: #CDE555 with background #7A7869
Paragraphs: #E88998
Attributes: #98AD74
Attribute contents: #CDE555
Comment: #A5B5D9
DocType: #BB8800
Entities: #638D94
Special Characters: #53A9D4
The Headers and Paragraphs classifications I defined myself.  Both are "only start pattern" with a parent of ^Tags$.  The patterns are simply {h[0-9]}|{/h[0-9]} and {p}|{/p} (with angle brackets instead of curly brackets since otherwise typing them confuses blogger) using the | symbol as a logical "or".  If I knew more about regular expressions I could make the whole header line stand out nicely.  But I don't, and having only the start and end tags distinct is sufficient.

I also used those text colors for CSS stylesheets.  I set Plaintext to white and reused the HTML colors for the CSS items in my files.
Tags became Selector
html tag became Identifiers and Attribute Identifiers Selector
Attributes became Pseudo-selectors and Property
Attribute contents became Azimuth, Color, Color Hex, Misc, Length, and Unit
Comment remained Comment
Entities became Attribute Identifiers and Symbols
I also switched my font to the Ubuntu font FreeSans which has unusually large line spacing.  This allows me to keep my eyes happy even if the font size one smaller than otherwise possible.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spring of the Egg Baby

A few months ago my wife found a new breakfast recipe: an Egg Baby by Eggbeater blog.

She has perfected a gluten-free version that has become an almost daily part of her breakfast.  It is easy to make and in the oven creates its own middle custard layer automatically.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

College Loan Bubble?

Today Instapundit had yet another post about the college loan bubble, and it was the nicest summary I've yet seen describing the problem.  TaxProf also started a discussion with some well-informed participants (and some at the other end of the spectrum).

The basic problem is that college price increase have been enabled by a student loan bubble, which may finally be bursting (logically after the mortgage bubble burst), exacerbating endowment problems.

Mr. Reynolds reasonably claims that acquiring college loan debt is poor cost-benefit analysis if your degree does not historically lead directly into a well-paying career.  This offers no suggestions for how to deflate an economic bubble.  Perhaps the civilian corps programs will evolve into a way to work off college debt owed to the Federal government?

Locally, LCC's tuition per credit is tiny compared to at University of Oregon.  Many of my LCC students have college loans that are small and make sense considering how a two-year degree can help their income.

Humorously, Portland State University now encourages students to use food stamps.

Sadly, recent articles share tips for paying student loan while unemployed, and tuition may soon be taxed in Pittsburgh.

Blender Jargon

Smiley will eat almost any food.  Once, last month. he turned down an offer of frozen mango chunks because he wanted frozen spinach straight from the bag.

But he is picky about textures: he prefers them consistent within a food.  So when we give him Egg Baby we must remove the middle custard layer, and when we give him vegetable soup we first blend it.

Today he was fascinated when watching his serving of soup in the blender.  "That's fast soup!" he declared.

Three Ingredient Rice Pudding

A couple weeks ago I mentioned some great sweet brown sushi rice we purchased from Azure Standard.

Today I made rice pudding with it, mostly for Smiley.  Only three ingredients, very healthy, and it tastes delicious.

I usually prefer a rice pudding with egg in it, such as my Dark Rice Pudding.  But I am happy to eat a more plain rice pudding too.

Movie Review: Death Wish

About a month ago I read a blog comment somewhere that recommended the film Death Wish for any fans of batman.  So I checked it out from the library and watched most of it.

(I'm not very film savvy.  I had never heard of the film or its sequels.  I could have identified the name Charles Bronson as an actor, but not named any of his films.  I think The Great Escape was his only other film I've seen.)

The night I watched it I stopped two-thirds of the way through because it was bedtime, and the film did not grab me enough to make me want to watch the ending.  I did check two movie quotation sites to make sure there was no famous dialog I had missed.

One reason the film did not connect well with me is that it's basic premise is quite out of date.

(Unfortunately, I have only currently dangerous links following: the website I used a month ago to look up New York and Oregon crime rates is currently having malware issues.  Perhaps in another month those links will be safe to click again.)

Anyway, New York was indeed experiencing a lot of violent crime in the early 1970s when the film was made.  But now domestic violent crime rates have been falling for twenty years.  Moreover, concealed carry laws are much more widespread, and I know and read about folks and who help people get trained and licensed.

So the film's basic premise--that someone traumatized by family members' suffering in a violent crime would decide it was sensible to deliberately go into alleys and other such places hoping for a chance to shoot violent criminals--is now absurd.  Unlike many of the film's viewers in the big cities of the early 1970s, I had no sympathy for the protagonist.  Paul Kersey could have moved to a city that allowed him continue his job while starting a hobby of helping people get trained and licensed for concealed carry.  That would help society legally, and much more, than provoking dangerous encounters to use a gun illegally.

UPDATE: These days someone could even specialize in helping college students earn and use concealed carry permits.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Diceless Role-Playing

Yay!  Grading is done for Spring term.  (Well, pretty much.  I have one student who needed to take the final exam late, and a second who I allowed to turn in the project late.)

Blogging has been light as the term ended.  But more than school work kept me from writing little essays for your enjoyment.

During April and May I read The Great Book of Amber, a few pages each day.  It is a fun story.  I could read it a bit at a time since it is not overflowing with too many characters to easily keep track of.

Reading the stories prompted me to investigate Erick Wujcik's famous role-playing game, Amber Diceless.  I had heard of this game system years ago.  But I only thought about it when in game stores, where I have never seen a used copy for sale, and was unaware it is still popular and new versions are still being created (in fact, you can buy a patronage for the current effort, if that floats your boat).

The online reviews of Amber Diceless were very positive, not only about the game but about the many pages Wujcik devoted to general "how to play a RPG well" discussion.  The book is both a rulebook for a new RPG game and Wujcik's legacy as a leader in the gaming community.

So I got a copy, and found it extremely thought-provoking and beneficial.

My wife graciously agreed to experiment with changing our game's system to be diceless.  This was not easy, but I eventually came up with something pleasing and original.

There are numerous diceless RPGs, but among them are only a few ways to resolve "ties" when competing characters are close in skill or ability.
Three Variations on Tie-Breaking

Amber Diceless, which focuses on combat, uses a "rock, scissors, paper" vicious circle.  Most combat actions were opportunistic stands that were cautiously defensive unless the opponent messed up and left an opening.  This was slow but sure, yet vulnerable to a furious attack that displayed more energy and skill than the character could actually maintain.  Finally, being so aggressive against a foe who was purely defensive was a mistake since the aggressor would become worn out quickly; being purely defensive also maximized the information taught by hits: if wounded you were clearly outclassed, and if you hurt the foe when overly cautious you were clearly more skilled.

Many diceless RPGs seem to give each player a small pool of "luck" or "karma" points that must last the adventure or campaign, and can be spent as tie-breakers in important situations.

Some diceless RPGs require most contests continue until one character makes use of a situational advantage.  Arugment Diceless Storytelling by Rainer Koreasalo and Martin Lamontagne's Diceless version of Risus by S. John Ross are two free examples.
Anyway, my new diceless RPG system uses something new, rather than any of these three game mechanics.  I think it is more conducive to suspenseful and fun storytelling.

Hopefully I'll be ready to share more soon.

Can't Argue With That

One of my vices is wasting time looking at funny pictures online.

To keep this to a minimum, I usually only visit a "demotivational poster" site, which means the captions are often funny even if the pictures are not.  (If you have a better site, please let me know.)

Anyway, I have learned how to win any argument and about the benefits of owning a modern car.

The Relativity of Aging

An article in The Atlantic ponders how time seems to go more quickly as we get older.

Back when I was a kid I figured out my own theory.

Being nerdy, I had heard about special relativity, but only as slogans about time slowing down as speed increased.  This seemed humorously like aging.  When we are young we run around all the time and Summer Vacation seems to last forever because for the young time moves slowly!  Really old people are not actually moving more slowly: it just looks that way to us younger folk because we can't see that for them time is moving so much more quickly!

So the secret to eternal youth is to give everyone else a black hole for the holidays, right?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Blockade versus Occupation

David Bernstein, at the Volokh Conspiracy, shares an intriguing interview with Itai Epstein, the Director of Amnesty International in Israel.

The short and boring story is that the vocabulary used by Amnesty International does not differentiate between blockade and occupation.

The longer and more entertaining story is how many commentators also cannot make that distinction.

Anyway, this was interesting to me because there are many very clear examples of the Palestinians manipulating the Western media by either speaking lies (for example, the "Jenin Massacre") or by preparing events specifically to allow a rehearsed reaction (for example, the incident with Ariel Sharon in 2000).  But I seldom get to see such a clear example of the English-speaking players in the game being simply obtuse in their use of vocabulary.

UPDATE: A few days later, Powerline dissects President Obama's response.

Recent Social Networking for Local Parents

Last Summer I was worried about finding Smiley play dates for rainy days.  What would he and I do all day during the rainy Winter months?

It turned out to not be a problem.  We never got bored, even if we got a bit stir crazy on a handful of days.

About a year ago I had tried to find other local househusbands.  Smiley and I have really enjoyed the weekly story-and-song times at the Eugene Library, but that was the only regular development from those efforts.

I recently found two local parenting groups by focusing on homeschooling instead of toddler parenting: the Barnraisers and the Eugene Area Unschoolers.  I have no plans on homeschooling (in my mind, it makes sense to volunteer in public school classrooms so my time and energy help many more kids).  But for now I am "unschooling" Smiley since I am deliberately arranging his environment to help teach him many things, so these are sensible groups to join.

I also recently found a Facebook group that I expect would not welcome me.  As with many "parent" groups it is quite mom-centric--this time humorously so.

Sea Lions, Undercover

Because of my quirky sense of humor, one of my favorite blog posts ever was Shark Spies.

Now sea lions (and another dolphin) have joined the action.

Blogging Software Adjustments

I've done some experimenting the past two months.

I tried using TwitterFeed, which automatically turns blog posts into status updates for Twitter (which for me automatically also adds them to Facebook).  It worked as advertised, but is unintelligent: the blog post is simply truncated, usually in the middle of a word, with no guarantee that the resulting status update actually conveys any useful information to help a reader decide if they should follow the link to read more.  Since I do not even blog one post per day, it's trivial to use TwitterBar to make the blog post status updates manually and more meaningfully.

I installed the Firefox add-on Google Shortcuts.  It is nice, but I am in the habit of using my home page, which has all those links.  I can understand that someone without a personalized home page might love this add-on.  I've personally gotten more benefit from adding the "most visited" and "recently bookmarked" menus to my menu bar.

The new Blogger post editor is great.  I can finally use "undo", and the post time and date are now when I click on "publish post" instead of when I first start typing the post.  (There are sometimes months of difference!)

On Tuesday I started using Google Analytics for both my blog and website.  A friend mentioned his blog's statistics, and I was curious about mine.  Of course, I'll need to wait a month to see any meaningful data.  I feel a little guilty using Google Analytics, since I myself block it with the NoScript Firefox add-on.