Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Venti Must Be The True Key To Productivity

Today I went to a talk given by Merlin Mann, from 43folders. This was part of the Duke Web Communicators Group lecture series. If you haven't checked it out, 43folders is a productivity blog for what Mann refers to as "knowledge workers" or people who process information rather than producing a tangible product. He stressed the importance of examining our lives to make sure that we're spending our time on what we really care about. I know from personal experience it's so easy to spend an entire evening looking at random stuff on the web, which contributes nothing to what I would like to accomplish or learn and isn't necessarily more enjoyable. At the same time, he said that it is horribly sad to get to the point that one avoids new information, so one must choose wisely. He, of course, said all this and much more with clarity and while repeatedly making us all laugh.

So, one of the things he said was practically mandatory was to remove everything from our e-mail inboxes and as each new piece of e-mail comes in, either archive it or tag it as requiring a response. Everything requiring an action should be added to a task list of some kind. I've been struggling with dealing with e-mail ever since I can remember, so I decided to give it a try. I just archived 6767 messages in my gmail account. As many of you know all too well, I've always had the hardest time remembering to reply to e-mail once it's no longer visible in my inbox. Now I can label messages as RESPOND, archive them and never think about them again either, but at least I will have labeled them appropriately. As always, it's the thought that counts. I'm trying the equivalent of this at work, too, where it's slightly more important that I don't forget to deal with things.

I also noticed that he was drinking the largest size of Starbuck's coffee (venti) and I'm betting it wasn't decaf.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Raw Fish Fixes Everything

Yesterday, I decided to enjoy the nice weather and microwaved the leftover pepper, eggplant and goat cheese pizza in the Great Hall microwave and then sit outside in the sun on the Bryan Center Walkway Plaza Thing. I'd never used that particular microwave before, but it seemed incredibly powerful. I think I could have just waved the plate in front of it from five feet away and it would have gotten plenty warm enough. The pizza was really good, even after its transformation. I also got a "Passion Paradise" mango and guava Keva Juice smoothie to drink. That's the second one I've had of that flavor and it's just about perfect.

Last night I went to my parents' to visit with FIFO again. While eating tuna salad for dinner, we watched a live webcast with a panel of liberal bloggers, including Atrios, on blogging and elections, filmed at the Museum of Television and Radio, in New York. I could easily see why they are such prolific bloggers.

Today, after getting back from my semi-weekly meeting at the American Tobacco Campus, I went with LA to the Loop, on campus, so I could see if they had a goat cheese and sausage pizza similar to the one at their Chapel Hill location. Similar is a word that is open to interpretation. Both pizzas were round, certainly. You really couldn't taste the goat cheese. The one I ate in Chapel Hill was great. The one I ate today was just so so. Fortunately, I think the experience has cured my potential desire to eat pizza for a fifth day in a row. I actually felt sick as my stomach afterwards. I think these goat cheese cravings are because I miss the goat cheese dip that RR used to make when we were in college. I need to get the recipe from her again.

I took this photo using my Treo 650 from my van, as I was leaving work.

This evening I met CL, JL, PS, TH and SY for dinner at Champa. We had a great time, as usual. Since I wasn't feeling that well, I decided to have sushi instead of my usual pad thai. Raw fish fixes everything. I had a Tanzania Roll, which was yellowtail, cucumber and scallions. I also had a Crazy Roll, which had eel, asparagus, salmon skin and a few other things. Both were good. I also traded a couple of pieces with the rolls that CL ordered and they were good, too.

Oh yes, I forgot that I actually have leftovers from today's pizza in the work fridge. I probably will will be eating pizza for a fifth day in a row after all. This may actually be a first.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Branching Out

I know some of you have been wondering about my woodpecker friend. Well, he's been banging on my great room windows more or less every day since I last mentioned him. This weekend he started to branch out. He started banging his beak on my bedroom windows. It's not the best way to wake up, but it could be worse. Of course, I think the best way to wake up is to be licked in the face by a large dog, but I'm guessing that many of my dear readers would not agree with me. The woodpecker even followed me and started tapping on the little window above my sink in my bathroom. I don't know why it took him his long to determine that my house has more than one side.

I have now converted my mom into being a flickr user. I spent a large portion of yesterday afternoon playing functional tech support. Hopefully, I had a 100% customer satisfaction rating for the day. Of course my deciding to upgrade her account to pro for an early Christmas present might have helped with that a bit. Some of her photos are really rather wonderful.

I went to the California Pizza Kitchen with DS last night. I'd never been there before and I was impressed. I had a pear and gorgonzola pizza, which was excellent. I ate the leftovers for lunch today and they were great, too. We saw the Borat movie afterwards. Is nice. It was very funny, but not quite as funny as I had expected.

The excitement for today was the CIT Multimedia Monday session on PRS "clickers", which were originated for Physics classes. They basically are electronic devices that allow users to anonymously enter in multiple choice, numeric or very short answers to questions. I actually used them when I took a Physics course ten years ago, but they mostly use RF now instead of infrared. Like most of our MM sessions, it was fun and interesting. At the end we did a survey and found that most CIT employees prefer dark chocolate.

My parents and I went to the Flying Fish again and ate virtually the same thing (fried oysters) as last time. It was just as good.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Only Six and No Falafels

Today I went with my dad and AE to the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show, which is held every Thanksgiving weekend at the Raleigh fairgrounds. I bought myself six more pairs of earrings, a small vase and a gift. At least my priorities are consistent. At least earrings don't take up much space. I just really like earrings. It can't be any worse than collecting stamps or coins. This year I added to my Nell Chandler, Janet Harriman and Tim Garvin collections. Plus, I got a pair by Dory Brown, who also makes wonderful pulley necklaces. Fortunately, I don't like wearing necklaces, so it's easier to limit myself to earrings. It was also fun just chatting with other artists, such as Larry Favorite and Richard Marshall.

The one major disappointment about this year's show is that they did not have food from Neomonde. I'd been envisioning my falafel sandwich for months now. Instead I had to eat mediocre chicken salad. It was ok and it eliminated my hunger, but it just wasn't a falafel sandwich with tahini dressing. It may mean that I will at some point in the near future need to venture off to the Morrisville Neomonde location and get a sandwich.

I believe I have tried all the flavors of Izze soda now. Here are the flavors in order of preference: grapefruit, blueberry, pear, pomegranate, blackberry, lemon, clementine. Oops. No, I haven't tried apple yet. I need to find some apple.

If you like to complain or if you have a lot about which to complain, then you should really be singing your complaints, rather than merely talking about them. In fact, if you can get a whole choir together, similar to the Helsinki Complaints Choir, that's even better.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship with Fudge

Yesterday, before the gustatory festivities, my parents and I watched Casablanca. None of us had ever seen it. I thought it was a very good movie, although it was hard for me to follow where the characters were supposed to be from at first, because I'm not used to black and white films and the fake accents weren't terribly strong. It's kind of interesting watching a movie you've heard half the dialog and the music before, but you didn't know the plot. Again, I've probably only seen half a dozen black and white films in my life, but I thought the use of contrast and light made it a beautiful film.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that I'd used a particularly cool web application for creating a mock-up of the user interface of a Blackboard building block (module) that I'm going to be writing. The drawing application is called Gliffy. It was very simple, easy to use and I ended up with exactly the sort of drawing I wanted. I've never used Visio, but this may be a good substitute if you don't feel like dealing with the licensing or installation of a traditional desktop application. Thanks to CV for suggesting this!

On a whim, I made fudge for the first time today. I used the recipe on the inside of the Baker's Chocolate box and it was extremely easy. I'm pleased with how it turned out. I actually only used 15/16 of the chocolate, because I ended up losing one of the chocolate squares in the pile of paper wrappers.

I went over to my parents' house to visit FIFO and eat my mom's homemade pizza. If you aren't impressed with dogs, then perhaps you will be after seeing this:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Food and Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear readers. It's important to stop focusing on food for just a moment and dwell on for what one is thankful. I, for one, am thankful for everything. I think that just about covers it. Moving right along now...

After guitar practice on Friday night, JJ, HB and I went to George's Garage. I had scallops and shrimp over lemon risotto, which was excellent. I'm making up for having thought I disliked scallops for so long. We all ordered the same thing and and then JJ and I both had servings of bread pudding.

The next morning I had brunch with AE at Nosh. I had the Rocket Breakfast again, but I didn't come close to finishing it this time. JJ and JA also unexpectedly showed up, but we had already finished eating. That night had I had dinner with AE and one of her fellow French horn players, S, at The Loop, in Chapel Hill. We had a pork sausage and goat cheese pizza, which was one of the best pizzas I've eaten lately. I love goat cheese.

On Sunday, my dad and I went to the Benson hamfest. I-40 was closed due to sinkholes and we had to a take a detour on 70. Apparently we could have gotten on 42, but it wasn't marked and we ended up going all the way to I-95. The Benson Hamfest, a.k.a. JARSfest, had a very good turnout, possibly due to splendid weather compared to previous years. We saw a bunch of Triangle hams and I bought a whole bunch of resistors to use for making jewelry. Afterwards, DW, JF, JH, my dad and I went to the Cracker Barrel in Garner. It took forever, but my traditional one egg and bacon was awfully good. Most importantly, I got to eat a generous amount of their cornbread. That night, my parents and I went to ACME Food & Beverage Co. I had the fried oyster salad with bacon bourbon vinaigrette again. We also shared a piece of cranberry pecan pie.

On Monday, one highlight of the day was having lunch with AE and NP. I had quiche and a side of scalloped potatoes. We probably laughed the most about an ad for a fake sleeping puppy that has lifelike breathing motions.

Monday night, my parents and I went to the Flying Fish, in downtown Hillsborough, for dinner. It's owned by the same owner as the Flying Burrito, in Chapel Hill, which I've never been to. It's primarily a seafood restaurant and they have delicious oysters. It's unbelievable that they've been there for 14 months and I had no idea they were there. I guess I don't go to downtown very often. I'm certainly going to be visiting more frequently from now on!

Tuesday, we had our holiday potluck lunch at work. We had an incredible spread, with a lot of vegetarian items. A couple of the best things were scallop and tilapia ceviche, made by HC and broccoli lasagna, by KN. I ate so much of everything that I couldn't eat any of the desserts. I took coconut macaroons that I'd baked the night before. I ate a second helping of ceviche before I left for home that night. It was incredibly windy and rainy, so I probably needed the sustenance for the drive home.

Wednesday was the kind of day when you wake up and you actually wish you were sick, because you dread going out in the horrible weather. It was very cold, rainy and windy, because a noreaster had developed off the coast. There were flood warnings and everything was just a mess. In fact, the power was off at my parents' house and my house between about 10:20am and 7:30pm. That was one of many reasons why I ended up being glad that I was at work. KN brought in bagels and I was downright ecstatic about that. SM, one of our new brand new employees, picked up some coffee from Twinnie's for me. Finally, a bunch of us ordered pizza and watched the 1966 Batman movie, which was absolutely hilarious combined with our non-stop heckling. I met my parents at Thai Cafe for dinner and I called the answering machines during dinner and discovered that the power had finally been restored. Despite my getting cold and soaked in the morning, it turned out to be a good day.

At some point recently, I actually registered on facebook. I think it was mainly because I knew that most of the people at work were on it. I'd been resisting signing up for Yet Another Social Networking Thing, but I'm actually impressed with the user interface compared to Orkut and Friendster.

Another recent discovery has been It's a Birkenstock store in Germany that has free air shipping if you spend over $192.70. It's a dream come true, because they have all these styles that you can't get in the US in the sizes and widths that fit me best.

Tonight, my parents, AE and I went to ACME Food & Beverage Co. for Thanksgiving dinner. I had a salad with crumbled bleu cheese and cider vinaigrette followed by deep fried turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, collard greens, and oyster stuffing all in one tasty pile with a container of cranberry sauce. For dessert I had cinnamon chocolate cake.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Beware of Soup

We had lots of storms last night that resulted in treacherous tornadoes in other parts of the state. I woke up about 3:30 am because of the wind and the downpour. With as many windows as I have and with the vaulted ceilings in the bedroom, a hard rain is quite loud. Whenever I have the worry of severe weather swimming in my mind as I sleep, it's pretty easy for me to wake up. I was eventually conscious enough to get my hand held ham radio on so I could leave it on the fire channel, where I could assume they would warn me if there were an actual tornado warning.

Then at 5:25am, my alarm went off and it was time to test a Blackboard feature that has been failing. I was only slightly more awake than I was when I was unable to use an on/off switch, but it still seemed to go well.

I then had to dash off to the American Tobacco Campus to pick up and be trained to use my procurement card. In all of 20 minutes or so, I learned that I am not allowed to purchase animals. What's the fun of that? Fortunately, I was able to buy a cafe mocha before heading to the office. I used my personal card, of course.

Then then real fun began. After attending a Staff Development Committee meeting, I went to Twinnie's to pick up a small serving of broccoli and cheese soup, to serve as a late lunch. I opened up the lid to the soup container a little soup plopped onto my Goldtouch Ergonomic Keyboard. It wasn't that much, so I immediately shut down the machine and painstakingly took several napkins and soaked up all the liquid. It didn't look as if much had gotten underneath the keys at all and I was able to clean up the tiny spot that had. Whew!

Next I just picked up the soup bowl maybe 1/4 of an inch off my desk and suddenly about three times as much spilled on the keyboard and quite a bit more spilled on my desk. I decided at this point that I 1) was really not having a good day, 2) I was an idiot for having soup anywhere near the keyboard and 3) I was never going to eat something like that at my desk again. It was time to ask PW to come to the rescue and start confessing to my boss and any other passers by what I'd done. It brought back no-so-fond memories of spilling V8 Splash Tropical Blend on one of the Sun keyboards in the Duke Computer Science Majors' Lab (which no longer exists), except this was worse, since it's a fancy keyboard.

I actually ate the soup, which I believed was its intended purpose. I ate it in the kitchen area, too.

The good news is that it seems to be advantageous to have a fancy keyboard. The entire area underneath the keys is sealed, so nothing can get damaged. PW, who cleaned the keyboard up, expected it to be just fine once the keys dried.

After finishing the evening with a nice take-out serving of Kurama sushi, it turned out to be not such a bad day after all.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Food Change Blindness

I completely redid my favorite restaurants page on googlepages, a.k.a. Google Page Creator. It's actually my first experience with any sort of html editor outside of what is associated with blogger. I would actually like more control and I did find myself switching to html mode to fix things, but overall it was probably more pleasant than doing everything by hand. It's entirely possible that I would like something like Dreamweaver much more, for more sophisticated pages, but this did the job and was convenient. I have the feeling that I am more likely to maintain the links on this version, but that, as usual, may be wishful thinking.

Friday's Visualization Forum was particularly interesting. It was a talk by Stephen Mitroff on change and inattentional blindness. I don't want to spoil the demos for those who might see them in the future, but it's amazing what it's possible to miss when one is concentrating on a particular task, such as counting. One experiment was where they had an actor playing a construction worker asking a person for directions and then people would walk between them while carrying a door. While the door was going past, they would switch actors and the person giving the directions wouldn't even notice. Something like 50% of the people didn't notice. The videos of this were just hilarious. It was clear from all the demos and experiments he showed that eyewitness testimony is pretty much worthless.

I had fun at guitar practice that night. JJ and I played music by ourselves and then he, JA, HB and I went to Bali Hai for dinner.

Last night, my parents and I decided to check out the new Nikos, Nikos Taverna, on Davis Drive, in Morrisville. We've been going to the original, Taverna Nikos, at Brightleaf Square since 1992. The new location is spacious, with high ceilings and large paintings. It was well lit, so my photo turned out well. I had the Garides Kataife, which was shrimp dipped in mustard and covered with shredded pastry. It was extremely good and was served with lots of perfectly cooked vegetables. For dessert, we shared a honey walnut spice cake, which was moist and not too heavy. It was a very pleasant way to end the meal. It was also nice to have a chat with the owner, since we hadn't seen him at the old place for a few months.

Today AE and I went to the see the Stars of the St. Petersburg Opera in Baldwin Auditorium. It was supposed to be a comparative look at Russian and American works, but the Americans couldn't make it for some reason, so they compared Russian opera to Italian opera instead. I enjoyed it.

Afterwards, we went to Cinneli's. I'd only had pizza delivered from there before and had no idea that they had an expansive menu with tons of pasta dishes. I had fresh clams and mussels in a spicy tomato sauce over linguine. They had very good bread, too. I used to go to that location back when it was Pieworks, a decade or so ago, so it was interesting to see how it had changed.

Finally, we went to Whole Foods and shopped. It was yet another kid in a candy store experience for me, since I hadn't actually been there to buy stuff in many years, but I managed to get several things that I actually needed in the process.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Last night, as I was getting my clothes ready for the next day, I went into my closet and saw that there was a spider on the edge of the stack of wire basket drawers. I had an uneasy feeling as I got closer to it, because it looked an awful lot like black widows I'd seen before. As you can see below, it was hanging upside down, so I could clearly see the red hourglass. I was not thrilled in the least. No, I did not scream.

Growing up, I was always pretty much afraid of spiders. Since I've been living by myself, I've pretty much gotten used to them. If they are 17 feet up in the air, it's not like I or anyone else can do anything about them. Also, I haven't been too keen about smooshing them against the wall with a book or a shoe, because I don't want to stain the walls. I've got my handy dandy hand vacuum and it's clear so I can see that they haven't gotten away (unlike ants, which quickly escape). Sometimes I'm just too lazy to even get out the vacuum.

Of course, some people think that I'm cruel because I kill the things at all. Well, so be it. I think that's pretty much the extent of my discriminatory tendencies. I don't even let yellow jackets bother me too much any more. So, I did call my parents and they headed over while I took the photos. My dad wore gloves, got her with a tissue and flushed her down the toilet while I was busy feeling ill.

Now I'm extremely paranoid getting stuff out of my closet, in case she had friends. It's extremely unlikely and it will probably wear off soon enough. I know that it's also unlikely that I would have gotten bitten and I know they only kill people around 5% of the time, but from what I've read it sounds rather unpleasant while you're surviving the experience. I could have easily put my hand right there on it when reaching for a nightgown if I hadn't been still wearing my contacts. Ick. Black widows just aren't supposed go in houses. They're supposed to live in garages or outside. Don't they know that?

I had an excellent lunch with NP today. The Refectory had chicken pot pie and it was delicious. The crust was mixed in with the filling and it did have mushrooms, but it was one of their best dishes yet. The weather was gorgeous, too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

You mean they didn't steal it?

Now that the election is over, I still have a feeling of disbelief. Despite prevalent optimism about retaking the senate, we really don't know what will happen. It's looking good, I am writing this, Keith Olbermann is announcing that AP has called the race for Webb, but Olbermann still is sounding skeptical that it's over.

Even thought it's quite clear that the House has a democratic majority, it doesn't seem real either. This is despite the fact that there was actually liberal happy dancing in the aisles at work today. I think I just have a hard time believing that any situation can and will improve. The good thing about this is that I'm often pleasantly surprised.

I had a truly excellent time watching the news coverage of the election returns last night, with DS, LA, AT and AN. I made macaroons and ordered pizza. We were enthusiastically, yet pensively, glued to my television all evening. I learned that Picture In Picture doesn't work so well if the DVR is recording something on a different channel. I don't use it very much, obviously.

Olbermann is sounding less skeptical. Wow.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Republican Election Day Activity Guide

I know I don't have to remind all my faithful readers to vote tomorrow. If you haven't already, you will soon.

If a Republican has wandered here by accident, I'd like to remind you of many addictive activities available to you on the net. I know you need to upload all your photos to flickr immediately. Go out and buy a scanner if you have to. Maybe you will be finished by Thursday or Friday if you get started now. Try out Second Life. From what I have observed around the office, you can spend hours just creating your avatar. If MySpace or Facebook tickle your fancy, then by all means. Even the ESPGame has been known to keep people glued to their keyboards for days.

As a recovered IRC addict (before I could vote), I am speaking from the heart when I urge you to reach out to those in your on-line conservative communities. You need to be there for each other....for another 24 hours.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Time for a Change

As I've kind of hinted, it's not quite a much fun always writing about the past. I do enjoy almost reliving the experience as I am writing about it, but it's kind of nice writing about what is actually going on in my life right now. For example, it doesn't always make sense to write about the newest feature or gadget three or four months after the hype is gone. Are you really going to care about the upcoming election results if I write about them in February? With some luck, it will be a fond memory.

Now, those of you who do like reading about my past adventures, you don't have to worry. My plan is to continue with my chronological account, but I'll intermix it with current posts. This blog is supposed to be confusing, if I'm going to live up to what I've written about myself in my profile. When I'm writing about the past, I will put "Flashback:" in the title. Does this all make sense? No? Good. Again, this is just a plan. It's really an experiment. I'll probably change my mind in a week or two.

Another goal of mine is not to worry quite so much about having one or more photos in every post. It's nice, but if the time it takes keeps me from blogging when I get a chance, then it's not worth it. It doesn't really take me that much time for me to type in a bunch of nonsense, but picture selection, blogger image upload bugs, and layout adjustments take up the bulk of my time.

Tonight I had dinner with AE, JB, K and K's husband, L, at Chai's. AE, JB and K are all French horn players in the Durham Community Concert Band. We had a good time and I tried the Singapore noodles with chicken. It was pretty good. I still prefer the Japanese Udon soup with tofu. I wish it weren't so messy. We went to Shade Tree Coffee afterwards and talked for quite a while.

I just tried out the new Java based Gmail mobile client on my Treo 650. It's pretty zippy, actually. It's a little trickier to install, because you first have to download and install the IBM JVM from your PC. Then you have to do a soft reset on the Treo. Finally, you download and save the Gmail application from Google doesn't provide any install documentation on the download page, which is kind of surprising. In contrast, with the Google Maps mobile client, I just had to download the prc file and I was ready to go. I hope they are working on a mobile client for the Google Reader!