No Fancy Name
Saturday, December 31, 2005
dinner out, two nights in a row!
On Thursday I had dinner with two profs (they're married to each other), at their house. It's a lovely little house in my favorite part of town (which also happens to be next to the university) and we had more than a passing conversation about the appearance of real! working! radiators! in the house. Houses in California don't tend to have radiators, but houses in the east do, and they're from the same parts of the east that I am, so we all bonded over that. Given the influence these people will have on the next step in my academic career, I'll bond with them over dirt if I have to. Luckily I don't have to, as being from Pennsylvania and having spent time in Durham, North Carolina and being familiar with elements of Western NC will do just fine for the bonding. They're really nice folks, have been here for quite awhile, and they like me—hooray!

We talked about how I was doing so far in classes and how I planned to schedule my remaining time in the program, especially considering I have a job and will continue to have this job until I go to another school (and even then there will be elements of the job that I'll still do, I'm sure). I told them my plan was to take three classes this Spring, leaving only 6 seminar credits and 6 thesis credits. I would take one seminar in Fall '06 and 3 thesis credits, and also take the MA exams. Then in Spring '07 I would take the remaining seminar and thesis credits, and if I had to retake any part of the MA exams, I could. I told them I was concerned that my lack of time as a TA would be a negative factor in my PhD apps, and they agreed, and then asked why I wasn't going to apply for a TA-ship. I said it was because I would have strict requirements as to when I could teach and didn't feel I could teach multiple classes. Dr.E1 said that in my TA app I should request only one class and note the times that would work for me (730am, or evening classes, or the Friday morning block class). I was surprised that I could be picky, but when the head of the TA program tells you what to write in your application to him, and his office-mate is the person who assigns people to sections, uh...yeah, I'll listen. This conversation came after our discussion before dinner about inflated grades, plagiarists, the difference between writing to communicate and "scholarly" writing, the inability of some of my MA classmates to do either, and so on and so forth. I guess I passed the informal interview!

They also gave me a little bit of crap about my comment "taking the exams again if I have to," as they asked if I really thought I couldn't pass the exams and I said no, of course I don't think that, but I'm big on planning for the worst. They assured me I shouldn't be concerned, and I think they're right, especially since I plan to study all summer for them. Then we talked about my thesis. Dr.E1 is the prof for my American Romantics seminar this Spring, and we talked about the class and how I should think of the paper in that class as the starter of my thesis, so I can work on it through the summer and then in the fall, so that when the final semester rolls around I'll have a solid 60 pages that I've lived with for a year and will be ready to put it to bed without too much anxiety. I thought that was a lovely idea!

Subsequent to this evening out, my school-related anxiety decreased dramatically.

On Friday (my birthday), my buddy and her partner took me out to one of our fave restaurants. I told them that all I wanted for my birthday was to hang out with them, which sounds sad (and it is, kinda) but we rarely just get to hang out what with work and child-related schedules and what not. We had really good food, including chocolate soufflé—yum yum yum! I had a half-dozen oysters as an appetizer, and pan-seared tuna as an entreé, along with one of my two standard drinks (always either a mojito or a lemon drop, in this case it was mojito night). Top that off with the chocolate soufflé and the company of your bestest pals, and it was a good birthday. There was even another present attached, which is a night out at a Warriors game with them and their kiddo, date to be determined. Hooray!

Then, since my buddy is also my boss I mentioned the stuff re: being a TA next fall and, ever the Buffy-aficionado, she says "So you'd be like Riley? You have to put it in terms I understand." I thought that was funny. Then she said "sounds fine to me" so there's that bridge crossed as well. I do like to plan ahead!

Friday, December 30, 2005
cheeky squirrel, redux
The cheeky squirrel in my back(non)yard? Now the squirrel seems to think that climbing up the screen door will magically unlock some hidden cache of food (it won't). Also pictured here is Deuce, unsure what to do.

happy birthday lebron james and tiger woods and rudyard kipling!
oh yeah, and me!

A lot of other stuff happened on this date as well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005
how google collects and ranks search results
Via Niall Kennedy, a link to an article in Google's December '05 Newsletter for Librarians describing how Google collects and ranks search results. This is information of interest to many more people than just librarians!

The article is very readable and informative, and goes through the process of crawling and indexing documents to ranking the results. The author, Matt Cutts, is a Google Engineer who seems to spend all his days thinking about search/-es/-ing and who also has the ability to explain it all to the layperson.

I *heart* Cillian Murphy, or go see Breakfast on Pluto at once
I rarely go to the movies, because I am a big loser. But Mel and her partner go all the time and every time we're on the phone I try to live vicariously through them by asking what they've seen or what they're planning to see, etc. The other night they were going to go see x or y or z and I said something like "z?" what's that? "Z" was Breakfast on Pluto. I got a thumbnail sketch but in the meantime I had fired up Yahoo! Movies to see who was in it, etc. Cillian Murphy! A Patrick McCabe novel! Directed by Neil Jordan! All the things I like, and I had no idea it existed. (See above re: loser.) I said something like "go see that, and tell me all about it!" and then said "no, wait! it's playing here!" So I took a shower and put real clothes on and motored downtown to see it.

Boy oh boy am I glad that I did. It was lovely, and Cillian Murphy is awesome. Awesome. This is one of those movies that has gotten pretty crappy/average reviews by the press, and Rotten Tomatoes has it at "rotten" (54%) but whatEVer. It's really a lovely film. I like this review, in the SF Chronicle. If it's playing in your town, go see it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005
how to have a perfectly normal christmas
Latch on to some other family! Really. I've done it for years and it's worked out great for me. Ok sure, you have to pick a good family, so lucky for me that I did. Oh yeah, and that they haven't kicked me to the curb (yet).

Christmas Eve brings the annual dinner-at-the-British-Pub. My buddy's family is Scottish (except for the wee part that's Irish) so beer and fried treats are just the way to celebrate. So my buddy & partner, and her mom/dad/brother/grandmother, and various hangers-on such as myself, we go eat pub food and beer at some ungodly early time like 5pm. There are baskets of fried potato things and malt vinegar passed around, fish & chips and chicken pies are favorite main dishes, and someone always gets something odd—usually it's me, because I like steak and kidney pie, but this year my buddy's brother got the crazy thing: a sandwich made from two battered & deep-fried bangers...a heart attack on a plate, basically.

The highlight of the night is when my buddy's mom hands out her little packages of shortbread. That stuff is hoarded like gold (or crack), it's so good and only made for holidays. My buddy's grandma, once again proving she is a better person than my own grandmothers, hands out packages to those of us who are hangers-on. Last year I got two pairs of winter socks—black and blue socks with little snowflakes on them. Damn right I wore those socks proudly, and always wear them to family-type gatherings. This year I got a pair of really warm fuzzy pastel socks for wearing around the house. They are very, very warm and I love them.

On Christmas Day I went over to my buddy's house and we all snacked on Typical Holiday Hors d'Oeuvres and then had Perfectly Normal Dinner Food followed by Normal Pumpkin Pie (I baked it in a new pie dish and the crust in the very center wasn't entirely baked through but no one cared). Games followed—previously I was disallowed from playing games with my buddy's partner and their kid, because I always won.

This year I was completely trounced in Monopoly and Stratego. In Monopoly, the kid actually managed to buy both Boardwalk and Park Place and put hotels (not houses, hotels) on both of them, before I could complete my own plan for world domination. I landed on Park Place when it had two houses on it, and had to turn over all my cash and sell back to the back 75% of my properties, but I fought back! My buddy's partner (gah, I really need names for these people) was in jail not once, not twice, but ten times. Ten. When she got out, she landed on Boardwalk with a hotel, and went bankrupt. The kid and I kept playing, and I eventually landed on Boardwalk with a hotel as well...and that was that. In Stratego, which I had never played, I told the kid that he would win and win quickly—that is not a game for people with extremely poor short-term memory. He won twice in a half-hour timespan. It was sad.

There was some video game-playing and random TV-watching, and then I went home.

Totally Normal Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005
THIS is why I stay far, far away from my family
So last night I'm sitting at home watching my Warriors lose to the Pistons when the phone rings. It's my cousin, on my dad's cell phone (I think. I don't know my parents' cell phone number. Is that sad?), calling from the annual get-together-at-Grandma's (fundamentalist Christian/bigoted/racist grandma, not paranoid schizophrenic grandma). It was 10pm or so their time, so I was a little surprised the "party" was still going on.

My cousin says "we just wanted you to know that my dad [my uncle] is standing here with a bloody face and the cops are coming in the house; we'll call you later."


So a little while later she calls back, after the cops had gone, and gives me the scoop. Picture if you will blocks and blocks of hundred-year-old houses smushed up against one another, in a poor town in central Pennsylvania. Here's an example. Imagine that you've got old people like my grandmother living in the majority of houses in the neighborhood, and 20-something heroin addicts living in the rest. Got it? Ok.

The annual Christmas shindig was over and my uncle went out to shovel the sidewalk so no one would kill themselves on the way to their cards. My dad was out on the porch probably smoking a cigar or something (he can't shovel things, back issues) when they notice some lady trying to park on the street and having issues with it (car was bigger than the space). This lady starts yelling up a storm, fuck this fuck that, who are all the people parking on the street, etc. It's a public street, mind you, first come, first served. My uncle goes down to tell the lady just to move along, there are other spaces, essentially "shut up and park" because it's 10pm and she's yelling loudly in a quiet neighborhood. It ends with my uncle telling her to kiss his ass, as he walks away.

Well, the woman finally gets a parking space and waddles into her house...the one next door to my grandma. Then her skanky white trash son comes out of his house and starts hollering about the parking space, as in "who the fuck parked here" and fuck this and fuck that. My uncle said something to the effect of "I don't know, I don't live here, just shoveling the sidewalk, go away, whatever." The young guy didn't like this answer and punched my uncle in the face. Uncle grabbed the guy's hair, put him in some sort of headlock, and shoved him into the snow and pinned him. His mother comes out and jumps on my uncle's back. Did I mention she's about 300lbs?

My dad, smart man that he is, was dialing 911 from the safety of the porch. The young fellow is hollering "Ma, get the pistol! I'm gonna blow this guy's brains out!" My uncle, smart man that he is, immediately let the guy up and ran into the house. But the cops were on their way, and the eventually arrested the guy for aggravated assault and making terroristic threats. Now we're waiting to see if the story shows up in the local paper, because that's just the sort of thing they like to report.

Fun for all!

Friday, December 23, 2005
In 2 BAs worth of schooling, I never got a 4.0 in a semester. I suppose the first semester of graduate school would be the time to reverse that trend. Yay for me! Thanks to all of you who helped keep me sane with virtual pats on the back and blog posts to read.

In other news, the Enterprise Application Taking Over My Life? The one my boss and I have been building since August (aka "throughout the entire freaking semester")? It's ready to move from QA to pre-production. (That's good.) It'll be released and out of our hair before Spring semester starts. Hooray!

cheeky squirrel
One of the local squirrels just walked up to the sliding glass backdoor, stood up on its wee legs, and tapped on the glass.

Apparently this is the universal symbol for "dude! all outta seeds out here!"

I dutifully got up and tossed some seeds and such out onto the patio; the ducks ate their share and then the squirrel came down from his tree and had a snack. The wildlife have trained me well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
proof that Hamano Sushi kicks ass
You may recall (or not) how Profgrrrrl and I had sushi at Hamano Sushi when she was out here visiting family over Thanksgiving. You may also recall that I gushed about it being the best freaking sushi I ever had in my entire life, and that I learned of the place via a search for sushi recommendations on SFist.

Today, SFist gave Hamano Sushi the 2005 'Fiste for Best Sushi. Hooray, Hamano Sushi!

I can't wait to go back. I might end up just driving up to the city my own damn self and sitting at the bar, it's just that good (good enough to make someone drive 50.7 miles to eat alone)!

an interstitial
...lest you all think I turned into a blogger who talks only about technical/geeky things, here's a post about school and books before I launch back into blog posts about technical/geeky things I've been meaning to write about.

The bookstore finally updated the catalog to include books for the spring semester, so I just finished my book-shopping and will hopefully have them all in-hand before the new year. Very exciting! That will give me almost an entire month to read ahead (classes start the 25th of January) so let's hope I do.

I have high hopes for this semester, for many different reasons. I'm stoked that the Romanticism seminar isn't just the big six, and I like the prof (she's one of the ones I'll be helping out from a technical standpoint). I'll dig the Victorian seminar because I took this prof's undergrad Victorian class and I know exactly how he'll teach this one and what will be required...and it's not an ass-kicking amount of work and I've read almost everything on the reading list already, so it'll be more of a refresher than an entirely new deal, allowing me to just sit back and listen to the guy prattle on about All Things Victorian, which he does very well (even if I am the only one who laughs at his little jokes, because I'm the only one who gets them). Finally, my AmLit (American Romanticism) course will rock hard because I enjoy all the authors (Whitman, Melville, Hawthorne, Poe, Dickinson (ok, not so much with the Dickinson), Emerson, Thoreau) and the prof is jolly and nice. He (judge of the annual AmLit prize, which he gave to me last year) and his wife (one of the profs I'm working with right now on her own research) like me quite a bit, and I like them, so it's one big lovefest really. Should be fun.

Ok, back to work now, and then I'll have a few more geeky blog posts before I get back into the cat/food/general-nonsense kind of blogging for which I am better known...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Styling the LibraryThing Blog Widget
LibraryThing users have the ability to paste a widget into a blog template, thus allowing users to see a list of what they're reading, or a random selection, or a list of top tags or top authors from their LibraryThing collection. Tim (aka "the LibraryThing guy") has provided three pre-determined styles but there's also the ability to select "Don't style it (I'll style it with CSS)". Upon generating the code, you will see this note:
CSS DIV classes used
     * LTwrapper
     * LTheader
     * LTitem
     * LTprovided
All well and good, you say, but what does that mean to me?

Simply put, it means you can use your own colors and fonts and what not to customize the output of the script that Tim provides. The code you can't see—the HTML code dynamically generated by Tim's JavaScript/PHP widget code—is marked up using CSS classes such as .LTwrapper and the others listed above. If you put definitions for these classes in the stylesheet section of your blog template, then voila—a customized LibraryThing widget display.

Classes? Stylesheet? The...what now?

In short, stylesheets enable you to create your own set of presentation rules for HTML tags, classes, and other elements. By creating a thorough stylesheet, you can rest assured that the content you surround with specific tag pairs will always look the same. In this case, once you define the .LTwrapper (etc) classes in your stylesheet, they will display in the same manner each time they're used.

Stylesheet rules consist of two parts: the selector, which can be a tag name, an identifier name, or a class name, and the declaration, which describes exactly how the selector should appear. Take, for instance, the standard <b></b> tag pair. If you wanted to ensure that all text within this tag pair was always displayed in a red, bold, Verdana font, you would use the following rule:
b {
     color: #FF0000;
     font-weight: bold;
     font-family: Verdana;
You could also write the rule on one line:
b {color: #FF0000; font-weight: bold; font-family: Verdana;}
Rules written on multiple lines and in an indented style are much easier to read, but if you prefer your rules all on one line there's no detrimental effect.

The three items within the rule listed above—color, font-weight, and font-family—are called properties, whereas "#FF0000," "bold," and "Verdana" are the values of the properties. Notice that the rule for the <b></b> tag pair does not have any information related to font size. In this instance, the font size will be inherited from whatever element the content is contained within. For instance, if font size information is indicated at the paragraph level (e.g.for example, in the declaration for the <p></p> tag pair) and bolded text appears within a paragraph, the bolded text will also be the same font size as all the rest of the content in the paragraph.

You can see that it would be advantageous to declare as many constant variables at the highest level possible. For instance, if you know the base font family, font weight, font color, and font size for all the content in your document, define these items as part of the rule for the <body></body> tag pair:
body {
     font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
     font-weight: normal;
     font-size: 12px;
     color: #000000;
     background-color: #FFFFFF;
But alas, I digress (and cut and pasted from Appendix B, "CSS Fundamentals," of my book. The rest of the appendix goes on to describe examples of many types of properties, so see what you're missing?? I kid, I kid. You can also learn CSS basics in this Webmonkey guide or from the W3C.

Now we'll get back to the LibraryThing widget...

Styling the LibraryThing Widget (1/3)IMAGE 1: This is an example of the form you'll see when visiting the LibraryThing blog widget page. If you select "Don't style it" and then press the "see it" button, code will be generated and displayed on the right side of your screen. The code in the textarea (where it says "Paste this into your HTML") is the code you should cut and paste into your template, wherever you want the widget to appear. Below the textarea is the list of classes used.
[click to embiggen image]

Following are the style definitions I use, which produce the output shown in Image 2 (below).
.LTwrapper {border: 1px solid black; padding: 4px; width: 170px; float: left}
.LTheader {font-weight:bold;font-size:11px;}
.LTitem {font-weight:normal;font-size:9px; padding: 3px 0px 3px 0px;}
.LTprovided {font-weight:normal; font-style: italic; font-size:9px; padding: 3px 0px 3px 0px;}

Styling the LibraryThing Widget (2/3)IMAGE 2: The .LTwrapper does what you'd expect given the name—it is the div wrapped around everything else. I've given mine a particular width (170px), a padding around its internal elements (4px on all sides), and a 1px solid black border. The .LTheader class is used for the first line, the one that says things like "Random books from my library" or "Top authors from my library" or whatever else you've chosen to show. I haven't done anything terribly special with this class, except bold it and make the text 11px. Remember, unless specifically named in the definitions, the style will inherit other attributes from the overall body tag or whatever other container tag it is within. This is why the font family shown here is the same as the font family used in the rest of my blog template. The .LTitem class is just normal font weight and 9px, but I've also used some padding elements just as I have with .LTprovided, which is also italicized in addition to being normal font weight and 9px.

A word about the padding values, because I show two different usages here: "4px" and "3px 0px 3px 0px". If you want the same padding (or border, or margin) values on all four sides of an object, you need only declare the one value, e.g. "padding: 4px". But if you want 3px on the top and bottom and no padding on the left and right sides, use "3px 0px 3px 0px". This follows the "trouble" mnemonic device: Top, Right, Bottom, Left == TRBL == "trouble". You could use the four distinct styles such as padding-top, padding-right, padding-bottom, padding-left but that's three extra of typing/maintaining.
[click to embiggen image]

To futher demonstrate how you really can custommize these styles however you want, I offer this horrible example:
.LTwrapper {border: 2px dashed; padding: 5px; width: 150px; float: left; background: #D9D600;}
.LTheader {font-weight:bold; font-size:12px; font-family: Courier;}
.LTitem {font-family: Courier; font-weight:normal; font-size:10px; padding: 3px 0px 3px 0px;}
.LTitem a {font-family: Courier; font-weight:normal; font-size:10px; padding: 3px 0px 3px 0px; color:#ff0000; border: none;}
.LTprovided {font-family: ZapfDingbats; font-weight:normal; font-size:10px; padding: 3px 0px 3px 0px}
Styling the LibraryThing Widget (3/3)IMAGE 3: Oh my. Well, here you can see a different border (2px dashed) and background color (#D9D600, or "mustard-ish") defined in the .LTheader style. Differences to the other styles have to do with font families (Courier, Zapf Dingbats) and sized. But you'll see I also added a new style: ".LTitem a". This style will be used for all a tags (links) within the .LTitem div. As you can see in the definition, the color for this style is "#ff0000," aka "red". I use the "border: none" definition to wipe out the "border-bottom: dashed" style I use for other a-related styles in my template.
[click to embiggen image]

Now go forth and customize!

Oh wait. Remember to backup your blog template before making changes, so you can paste it back if need be. Also, Blogger users (and I presume users of other blog platforms but I don't know because I don't use 'em) can change your template and press the "Preview" button to your heart's content, without saving anything. This allows you to tweak your custom styles until you have them just so, before saving your template and republishing your blog. Also remember, you don't have to republish your entire blog if your LibraryThing blog widget is only on the main page—you can republish index only and you'll be all good.

NOW go forth and customize!

Update: LibraryThing user Mark reminds us (well, me) that you can style the book cover images as well, if you select
"Small" or "Medium" for the "Book covers" question in the widget form. He uses these styles:
.LTitem {float:left; margin-top:1em}
.LTitem img {float:right; margin-left:1em}
Note the use of "float: left" and "float: right" which puts the author info on the left and the image on the right. Swapping the float values would produce the opposite effect. You could also throw a border value into the image tag, something like "border: 1px solid black" and so forth, or some padding around the image, to ensure that the text and image are visually set apart from each other.

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Monday, December 19, 2005
Firefox Extension: Blogger Web Comments
When I first saw this extension announced on Blogger Buzz I thought "Neat. A built-in sort of feedreader kind of thing for Blogger-based comments." Except that's not what it is; despite having "comments" in its name this isn't about comments—the things readers leave on your site, attached to individual posts—at all. But I suppose "See Inbound Links via BlogSearch" was a bit too long and not so catchy.

That's what this extension does, though—it gives you an interface for viewing your inbound links per blog or post, depending on what you're viewing. This is not a bad thing, it's has nothing to do with comments per se unless you call inbound links "comments" and I don't (and neither does Blogger—they're backlinks!). But that's neither here nor there. It's a neat little extension in that it saves some clicks/navigating away from pages and it is yet another interface to a post editor without actually opening another tab or navigating away from the site you're viewing. To install the extension for Firefox 1.5+, go to Google's page for it.

Here is a series of screenshots I took, showing how it works:

Firefox Extension for Blogger Web Comments (1/4)IMAGE 1: After installing the extension you'll see a wee talk-bubble icon (or a gaggle of them) in your status bar (bottom of your browser). Hovering over the icon will show the number of linking posts for the page you are viewing. In the image you can see it says "more than 6 posts found"—anything up to six shows the number, over six just says "more than..." and if there are no posts found it says as much.

If you right-click on the icon you'll see a context-menu (not shown here) with options for logging in/out, starting/stopping comment retrieval, add comment (aka "write a blog post about this"), and view comments (aka "pop up the window of inbound links"). If you select "view comments" then you'll see the pop up window as shown in this image. You can click on an entry in the window, which will take you to the linking site, or you can collapse the window, show more, or add a comment (post!).
[click to embiggen image]

Firefox Extension for Blogger Web Comments (2/4)IMAGE 2: Selecting "Show More" takes you to the BlogSearch page for this particular search. The particular search depends on if the search was invoked from a blog or website in general, or a specific post/page. Again, despite the name "Blogger Web Comments" this extension is really a "see inbound links to any page on the web" tool or "BlogSearch results" tool. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, because it isn't...I just think it's poorly named. It's both confusing (in that it doesn't do anything related to "comments") and limiting (becuase it's not limited to Blogger sites/pages).
[click to embiggen image]

Firefox Extension for Blogger Web Comments (3/4)IMAGE 3: Here's where the Blogger-specific elements come in to play—the posting interface is for Blogger only. When you click "Add comments" (post!) you'll see either a login window (as shown in this image) or, if you're already logged in this session via the extension, the post interface itself. Use your Blogger credentials to login, or use the "Forgot Your Password?" link if appropriate.
[click to embiggen image]

Firefox Extension for Blogger Web Comments (4/4)IMAGE 4: After logging in, the post editor is available to you. You can use the WYSIWYG or standard editor, you can select to which blog you want to publish (if you have more than one), and you can choose to publish or save as draft. The title of the blog/site or post/page is automatically added to the editor, as is a link to the blog/site or post/page.
[click to embiggen image]

For more information about the extension, read Google's FAQ for it.

Niall Kennedy had a really good point re: the open-source-ness (or lack thereof) with regards to this tool: "When I use an open-source product I expect to be able to tweak, modify, hack, and break a few things. Slapping protections and restrictions on an extension of a Mozilla Public Licensed product seems a bit evil to me." I tend to agree (and we all know I'm a big fan of Google and Blogger in general), because the first thing I thought was "gee, this would be really great if I could select the search site on the fly, switching from one to the other as I saw fit, or even if the results from multiple search sites were integrated into one window with some sort of indicator icon" because I don't use just BlogSearch or just Technorati or just [insert list of other search engine here], I use all of them—precisely because some are updated more frequently/successfully or show more results than others.

I understand Google not doing such a thing because, after all, they're trying to get us all to use BlogSearch—and that's fine. Just call it that, the "BlogSearch Results Tool" or something. If it's a "comments" tool meant to provide easy access to creating posts on your Blogger-based blog for things you see linked from other things, well...including other search results would provide a wider range of things to post about. Duplicates, too, so there's always that wrinkle.

Is it cool? Sure. Does it have a strange name with regards to what it actually does? Yes. Do I still have it installed? Yes, and I will until I discover I don't use it because other extensions do the same thing and its unique functionality isn't of interest. It's unobtrustive, sitting there in the statusbar, but perhaps so much so that I forget about it.

As for the extension I thought it would be, a built-in sort of feedreader kind of thing for Blogger-based comments? I can think of plenty of folks who would like to have that, especially if it included a management tool for approving/deleting/etc from the display.

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FeedBurner's FeedFlare
First, let me add the disclaimer that I don't work for FeedBurner and don't even know the guys at FeedBurner, but I love the FeedBurner service. The control and customization you have over your FeedBurner feed, plus the outstanding support forums, the administrative section names that make me chuckle evey single time I login (analyze, optimize, publicize, monetize, uh...."troubleshootize"? that's funny!), and not to mention the stability of the service—all great things.

Then they went and added this slick new FeedFlare service the other day, and I love them even more.

FeedFlare came about after the FeedBurner folks sat around thinking about "the importance of the feed item and the ability to leverage the structure of the feed to build a bridge between web services and the content item." Basically, this means you can select some stuff that will appear in the feed footer that makes it easier to see items/perform actions which are becoming more and more integrated with the whole blogging experience. The first release of FeedFlare includes communication between your feed and email actions, and Technorati links, and Creative Commons, as well as comment counts for WordPress feeds.

Here are a few screenshots I took, showing how it works:

FeedFlare example (1/2)IMAGE 1: To activate or customize the FeedFlare service, login to your FeedBurner account and click the "Optimize" tab. Once in the "Optimize" section, select the "FeedFlare" link from the side navigation. Although not shown here, when first you click the link the service will be inactive. To activate it, all you have to do is click the "Activate" button at the bottom of the page. The "Email This" item is pre-selected, but you can select/de-select any option before activating the service. The preview area will automatically update as you select/de-select options. When you are satisfied with your selections, press the "Save" button.
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FeedFlare example (2/2)IMAGE 2: This image shows how a FeedFlare-enhanced FeedBurner feed can look in a feedreader. I use Sage as my feedreader, so your mileage may vary with regards to how these items appear in your reader. In the example shown, you can see the popularity of a particular post at Freshblog, with its two Technorati links displayed in the FeedFlare footer. Other links in this particular customized FeedFlare footer are the "Email This" option, the "Add to" option, and the ability to view the Creative Commons license for the blog.
[click to embiggen image]

I recommend all Feedburner users activate the FeedFlare service, if for no other reason than to do your individual part in "build[ing] a bridge between web services and the content item." That was FeedBurner's ultimate goal in creating this service and to reach that goal they really need content owners to step up and press the wee button to activate it for their individual feed.

Readers of my book, this additional service is relevant to Topic 49, "Providing an External RSS Feed," in Chapter 8, "RSS, Indices, and Folksonomies."

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Firefox Extension: Google AdSense Preview Tool
Amit Agarwal at Digital Inspiration cooked up this very useful Firefox 1.5 extension for users of Google's AdSense: a Google AdSense Preview Tool. It is an easy-to-use extension that simply displays which Google AdSense ads would appear on a selected page.

Here is a series of screenshots I took, showing how it works:

Firefox Extension: Google AdSense Preview Tool (1/4)IMAGE 1: Right-click on a page to see the Google AdSense Ads that would be produced. This action will open the Google AdSense Preview Tool in a new tab.
[click to embiggen image]

Firefox Extension: Google AdSense Preview Tool (2/4)IMAGE 2: Click the new tab to see the items in the Google AdSense Preview Tool. At the top of the page you will see an ad palette customization form, and below this form are examples of ads which would likely be displayed on the page you used to generate the display. For reference, that URL is shown at the top of the page in the "Web Address or Keywords" field. Although only a subset of the text ads are shown in this screenshot, the tool also previews image ads and link unit ads.
[click to embiggen image]

Firefox Extension: Google AdSense Preview Tool (3/4)IMAGE 3: You can use the palette selection tool to see how ads would look in a selected standard Google AdSense color palette. Simply select a palette from the drop-down menu ("Black Knight" shown here) and press the "Preview Google Ads" button. The page will reload and show the ads in your selected palette.
[click to embiggen image]

Firefox Extension: Google AdSense Preview Tool (4/4)IMAGE 4: You can preview ads in your own color palette by entering values in the border, background, title, text, and URL fields. Once you have typed new values in the form field, press the "Preview Google Ads" button to reload the page and show the ads in your personalized color palette.
[click to embiggen image]

Things to remember: this tool does not take into consideration your own Google AdSense credentials, so if you are already a Google AdSense user and you fiddle around with palettes in this tool, those values won't be saved in your Google AdSense profile. Similarly, if you already have saved palettes in your profile, they will not appear in this tool as selectable items. There's no connection between your account and this tool.

However, that is not to say this extension is not useful—because it is! Using this extension allows you to see—with one click—which ads would be generated on a selected page. You can then tweak your keywords if necessary, or figure out some ads to disallow, and so forth. It's quick, it's easy, and it's useful—everything a Firefox extension should be.

UPDATE: This extension is now the "Contextual Ads Preview and Comparison Tool" and previews not only Google AdSense but also Yahoo! Publisher Network and Chitika ads and offers comparisons between all three. So, these screenshots are a bit different than what you'll actually see there now, but the idea is the same.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005
i have conquered literary theory
Ok sure, not ALL of it. Just this particular class. I just got my paper in today's mail (yes, the one I handed in on star for grading goes to ProfK!) and it had a nice fat A on it. Only comments were related to transitions between things, which I completely agree with and knew were a wee bit troublesome when I handed it in. The assignment was to roll three previous essays (particular critical analyses) into one large essay while also adding a fourth analysis. I gave it a shot and then had Mel look at it after she swore in blood that she wouldn't make fun of anything I said or call me an idiot. She just pointed out a few things for tweaking and that was pretty much it. So, thanks Mel—it all worked!

I really wanted to do a good job not only for the standard reasons related to learning and getting a good grade, but also because it was a theory class that made me hate grad school the first time around, and I wanted to kick its ass. I think my class at UK was just a crappy class at a weird time to take theory for the first time ever (1992). If I recall correctly (and I think I do), the readings started with Hélène Cixous. Cixous is all well and good, but I didn't have the foggiest idea what the hell any of it was all about.

My SJSU class was much different. It was a nice, linear walk through it all, with theory essays and application essays, and a really wise old professor. This is the book we used: Contexts for Criticism. I recommend that book for anyone teaching intro to theory classes. ProfK is the editor of the book, and wrote really lovely transitional/introductory essays for each chapter and also selected (in my opinion) a good cross-section of critical pieces to learn from/use as models.

We also read all the essays in Falling into Theory and I just have to say that it's a little odd to discuss an essay by Michael Bérubé in class when you're the only one there who also reads his blog. We're talking about something in his essay "Aesthetics and the Literal Imagination" and I'm thinking about the guy who digs around in the trash for his kid's retainer. Things like that make me chuckle!

Friday, December 16, 2005
i hardly know what to do with myself
The workday is coming to a close, and there's no reason to work through the weekend (*knocking on every wooden thing available, twice*). Also, the semester has been over since I turned my essays in on Monday/Wednesday.


It's not that I don't have anything to do, because that sure isn't the case:
- work on Project A for ProfE
- work on Project B for ProfD
- email ProfH about Project C
- write five or blog posts re: things I've had bookmarked for a few days
- go through Blogging in a Snap and write all the errata posts/update posts necessary b/c of changes in Blogger since the book was printed
- work on the 3rd edition of PHP, MySQL and Apache All-in-One b/c the first 25% is due soon and the whole edition has to be done in the next couple of months. Since the semester starts on Jan 25th, I'm going to do as much as I can between now and then. I know, famous last words.
- Start reading for next semester. I think I've selected the three classes with the most reading. Figures.
- Brush up on the ol' French so I can take the language test and get it out of the way.
- Oh yeah, get holiday gifts and send off those darn cards.

I just don't know where to start!

Tomorrow I'm going to a double-feature of Cover Girl (1944) and Holiday Inn (1842) with one of my school chums. Also, one of my classmates asked me to help her kick her paper into shape...the one that was due on Monday. Of course I said I'd help, because that's just wrong. I'm a big believer in the "only take an incomplete if your body is incomplete" (you know, like if your arm fell off or something) or if there was truly something tragic that happened. Stupid shit like "I have to work all the time," that's not enough reason for me to ask for an I or an extension or anything like that. But to each his/her own, you know. So yeah, I'll definitely do whatever I can to help someone else get wipe the I away ASAP.

I think maybe I'll watch Memento tonight. I've only had the DVD from Netflix since...well, a really really really long time.

geeky news: Feedster loses founder, CTO
Via Niall Kennedy is a link pointing to a crappy little one line blog post re: "Feedster loses founder, CTO". I would hope there'd be an actual press release from the company, or some otherwise official-sounding thing, because your co-founder and CTO doesn't just leave without some sort of fanfare (good or bad). The way Niall describes it, it sounds kinda fishy.

Now, I don't personally know Scott, and I'm not even a Feedster fan—I rarely use it. I can imagine the loveliness under the hood just based on the way it runs, but the sheer crappiness of the interface for a logged-in user (the whole "my feedster" thing) always kept me from using it.

This was a sticking point for Topic 51 in my Blogger book, "Using Indexing Mechanisms to Your Advantage." I'm an unabashed fan of Technorati. But my acquisitions editor is married to the aforementioned (now ex-) Feedster co-founder/CTO and I didn't want to get her in trouble at home.

I hope everything works out for Scott. I might not like the thing he built (at least the outside of it), but if Shelley married him then he's an outstanding guy. As for Feedster? If he left under circumstances not entirely of his own choosing, then there's yet another reason for me to dislike their stuff. Irrational, I know, but fiercely loyal (often to a fault).

BLOG: Deep End Dining
I discovered the Deep End Dining blog via links at Slashfood (another beloved blog, by the way). The folks at this blog eat all sorts of crazy stuff and then blog about it. But wait! It's not disgusting Fear Factor crap described by teenagers or others with a prediliction for using U and 2 and 4 in place of actual words and TyPing In MiXEd CaSE. Oh no. These folks eat the things I wish I had the guts (no pun intended) and money to eat, and write really lovely reports about the occasion.

For instance, parts one and two of the "Eat Fugu or Die Tryin'" series (upshot: he did eat it, he did not die, and it sounded really good). A warning, though, for the vegetarians or faint of heart: they do have a series of posts (with pictures) of their experiences with balut.

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Cute Overload!
[via BoingBoing]

listen to einstein

[Link to image generator via Lucy Tartan.]

some Wikipedia notes
I haven't posted anything about the latest Wikipedia kerfuffle because I haven't been posting anything except silly updates about my various and sundry papers (which are now out of my hands) and work things (still in my hands). But Mel did recently (and so did By-the-Bayou John). She asked:
First, why didn't he just change the entry himself? or have one of his minions do it? (In the past few days, on the heels of this issue, Wikipedia has changed the rules so that only registered users will be able to contribute information, allowing all changes to be tracked to a particular user.)

Second, no one with any sense would take a Wikipedia article on a super-controversial (and potentially wacky) topic like the Kennedy assassination very seriously.
On the first point, a big fat "exactly!" to that. Some people, not naming names here (*cough*me*cough*), sometimes peruse changelogs and the "who's been bad on Wikipedia and should we ban 'em" pages just for kicks. Well, and also to see the sorts of things that people like to deface, and how. Also, I actually thought people already had to register/login before making changes—I had to (and still do). It's not like making changes in a wiki is terribly difficult, and if you screw it up you can simply re-do or someone will catch it right away and fix it for you (if it's something like formatting). So yeah, it's pretty lame the guy didn't fix it because there would still have been a changelog/diff results and thus he could point to the old content in the changelog/diff results while making his point, but the incorrect info wouldn't still be posted for all to see.

On the second point, again with the big fat "exactly!" I use Wikipedia for general knowledge/date ranges/starting points kinds of stuff because in some cases the related links are a pre-filtered Google search and that cuts down on the time I spend weeding through crap while looking stuff up. I mostly use it for things related to history and religion where I think I know the answer to my own question but I want to quickly check if I'm even close.

If you want to talk about kerfuffle around topics, take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Deconstruction and note the big fat warning at the top: "This article needs a complete rewrite for the reasons listed on the talk page." Then go to the actual talk page for this topic and watch your head explode. Fun for all!

When it comes to the accuracy of items in Wikipedia articles, just published the results of a comparison between the accuracy of 42 science-related articles in Wikipedia and Brittanica. The results showed "the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three." Further: "Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopaedia. But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively." The article goes on to raise some good points as it relates to researchers and teachers.

Via Slashdot comes a link to this really interesting follow-up, where the relative length of articles is discussed. Namely, that "the Wikipedia articles in the sample were, on average, 2.6 times longer than Britannica's" (6.8K in Wikipedia to 2.6K in Brittanica) making the error rate—when using errors per 2K versus errors per article—1.3 for Wikipedia and 3.6 for Britannica.

Overall, I am a fan of Wikipedia and at some point hope to add more content to articles and make corrections where appropriate. For instance, I want to edit the Jean Toomer page because it's pretty sad and I've done a bunch of Toomer-related work this semester. In a discussion about various other technology-related things, my AmLit prof mentioned how he needs to go in and edit the Lady Caroline Lamb page because he's written a book about her and obviously knows a great deal. I'd recommend anyone with knowledge of anything take a few minutes one day and edit an article on a topic near and dear to you. It's not difficult or scary, I promise!

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fruit pizza ROCKS
fruit pizzaInspired by BrightStar, I woke up this morning, did some work, then made fruit pizza. In this case I used Paula Deen's fruit pizza recipe because my mom didn't answer the phone yesterday so I couldn't get her recipe. It's probably darn close to this one. Or maybe it's closer to the changes I made to the linked recipe: I doubled it, nixed the peach and green apple and raspberries, used mandarins instead of big orange, and added kiwi. Oh, and I did drizzle with chocolate, but it's not shown here.



Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Whew. Off to campus to deliver the thing. Boss is pleased I can continue my actual work...and we have a conference call at 9:30 re: squishing bugs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
i have officially reached the part of my essay in which I talk out of my ass
More later!
The unfortunate situation now is that coffee is useless. I need a frickin' shot of adrenaline. [3:07am, 12/14/05]
Have tricked myself into thinking my instant coffee is adrenaline. [4:04am, 12/14/05]
Venti quint no-foam latte. Will be taking the paper to campus around 8am. [5:25am, 12/14/05]
The sense of almost-doneness is all very exciting. Need to step it up a little as I'm quickly writing the last four pages. [7:12am, 12/14/05]

i slept through my alarm and truly thought today was Saturday
It isn't.

My body didn't like the idea of two all-nighters in a row, and rebelled. Getting old sucks! But at least I know (because I'm old and wise) that when your body rebels like that, it's inevitably for the best. So I'm not stressing about it.

I have to do some work now (for work work, the work that pays me) and then I'll try to squeeze in some work on my AmLit essay which is technically due tonight but he said that if we don't manage to get on campus til Wednesday morning to hand it in, no big deal. I'll think I'll take advantage of that, which will allow me not to stress so much about it.

Even the act of finishing the other two things was a great weight off my shoulders. Well, that and the fact that I've written five-ish pages of this essay already and my prof didn't have any issues with it (besides syntax, which is fine by me). Working with editors for my books has previously cured me of taking offense to the virtual red pen of editors. I am now a big fan of editors. I think the trick is to learn from the marks and not keep making the same mistakes. "Duh!" you all say, right? But such is not the case in school...I see people complaining about editing marks on their papers, over and over again, and I ask them, "Were you mindful of the marks on paper 1 when you wrote paper 2?" "No, it's my paper, this is how I write" "Then shut up." I enjoy marks on papers because it means the prof actually read my stuff. Marks and an A or A-, I'm good with that. I dig the learning experience. Of course, if I totally wrote like shit I might think otherwise, but I don't, so I'm going with my statements above as truth.

Also, to all you profs out there mired in grading: you can do it! To my fellow grad students also finishing up theses and what not: you can do it!

Now if only I can do it, everything will be hunky dory.

Need coffee now.

Sunday, December 11, 2005
because I need to cross items off a list (hopefully)
I tend to write my lists in stepwise order, as you see below. I think it's the technical writer in me (documenting software and processes and what not). As I go alone, I'm not really following the order of the list...and I keep changing items in the list...but hey, things look like they're getting done.

Sunday night/Monday morning
- finish introductory section (5-6pp) of AmLit essay it was a good 1289 words, not 5-6pp but I'm happy with it note: so was my prof, who just took a virtual red pen to syntax and not ideas. hooray for not wandering into the Land of Misinterpreted Theories! I feel better about finishing this tonight.
- send introductory section to Douglass
- send theory essay to Mel and hope she doesn't make fun of me it lacked the concluding remarks when I sent it
- do something important and time-sensitive for work
- sit for a moment and eat something
- make some coffee
- take a nap yeah, I took a nap before I even started the darn thing. we'll see how that all plays out.
- do some work that has to happen before 5am Monday
- go to sbux (if it's 5am and they're open) and get venti drip w/ 2 add shots
- do some work that has to happen between 6am and 6:15am Monday
- write methods essay
- finish up 2 paragraphs of concluding remarks for theory essay and make other relatively minor changes within it
- print theory essay
- print methods essay
- work my boss says we're done, at 1:38pm. love my boss. hate my job/this industry, but it has nothing to do with my boss or her company, that's for sure. ok, so we started working today at 5am so it's all relative, but still. awesome.
- take methods and theory essays to campus and either put in boxes or slide under doors

edited to add... I turned in the methods and theory essays on Monday night, slipped all the required things under the doors of profs who certainly weren't on campus at 6:30pm. It was a little sad to also take some books back to the library, but not that sad. But it was funny how the parking garages were all very full at 6:30pm on a Monday, until I realized that it was also exam week so all the kiddies taking a final at 6 or 7pm were all dutifully parked on campus. We have a very full campus during the first week of class and exam week, and in-between not so much, go figure...

Saturday, December 10, 2005
(very) quick hits
* Four days. Three papers. Really only two days because of work. Got very little done on them during the work week because of work (duh!). It is currently unclear how this is going to happen. But I did sit with some people from theory class and talk them through their papers. My paper in that class is the first on my list to complete, and should really be done before noon today. Then I will look at the 20 pages of notes and quotes and outline for my AmLit paper and start pulling that into an actual full draft, which I'll send off to the prof to take a gander at (he said he'd be available for reading anything we wanted to send up til the time we turn it in, and he meant it). Once that is off, I'll start on the wee paper (only 10-ish pages) for methods class. I have nothing more than a thesis statement actually written, and stack of books on my table, but as long as I don't get hit by a bus it'll be ok (it's all in my head, really).

* My parents sent me a lovely KitchenAid electric stand mixer, something I've wanted for a long time but never got around to buying. Of course, I got it the day after I made cookies... But I am looking forward to cooking and baking things that require more power than I can personally provide. Also, I have to do something with my recipes besides keep them all in a big stack on top of the microwave. But that's for another weekend.

* I got 2 new goldfish last night. In the last couple of weeks my fish population dwindled from 3 to 1, and goldfish need friends. I really had no concept of how much my goldfish had grown until I put the 2 new guys in the tank. They're about an inch and a half long, and the remaining fellow is like 4 times bigger than they are! He sure has grown since I got him. At first he thought the little guys were food but when he poked at them it looked like he went "oh crap, you're fish!" and the little guys ran away and hid and said something like "boy, you're one stupid fish, must stay on my toes." It's all good now.

* If you can donate blood during this holiday season, please do. I was eligible again this weekend (I last donated Oct 8th) but this weekend isn't happening and on Tuesday I have a dentist appointment so I'm not sure how long that rules me out for a donation. But it's around the holidays that blood banks try to get their inventory up. Especially you O- people (like myself) who are universal donors (every other blood type can use O- blood).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
i need the collective brain power of the internets come up with a domain name. I have a sandbox for testing of various projects I'm working on, separate from my blogs or the site for my books, and I need a domain name for it. All the projects in the sandbox are related to academics. For instance, snippets of things related to work on digital archives, a database and management interface for a glossary of people appearing in a book, an interface and search engine for a 6000+ item bibliography (look for announcement in January from the Steinbeck Center, any Steinbeck scholars out there), etc etc.

Anyway, I need a domain name for my sandbox and you all are typically much better at thinking of things than I am, so have at it...

papers still in nebulous state, but I did bake cookies
Seminars are officially over. Papers remain. But cookies were a big hit (they're really good cookies—Tyler Florence's "My Big, Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies") so that's always fun. I'm a fairly decent baker. Part of it is genetic—my mom makes really good baked goods—part of it comes from working at a gelato/pastry/bakery place, and part of it comes from my ability to, you know, read. If I could bake my papers, I'd be in good shape but no, I have to write them.

It was sad to leave the AmLit seminar last night, because everyone was fun and nice and our prof is awesome. We read Uncle Tom's Children for class last night, and the man burst into song on three occassions. Thank god he can actually sing! Everyone in the class wants to have some sort of get-together, so we probably will.

Such was not the case in my methods class, that's for sure! One particular person didn't even come to the last class, and we all assume it's because her presentation was so terrible that she just didn't want to deal with us (she also didn't come to the theory class right after bad presentation, or the final theory class after the final methods class). Yes, this is the same person who wrote a dreadful poem as part of her presentation in theory class on a René Wellek essay. For our presentations in methods class we were simply to explicate a short story or poem or passage. Most people chose to look at it from a specific critical perspective, some people chose to give examples of how one would discuss it using a few different critical perspectives, etc. [If you're wondering what I did, I discussed formal and intertextual analyses of "Becky" from Cane).] Most everyone did fine, normal things. This woman, though, managed never to discuss her story let alone explicate it, and better yet said she was going to discuss formal, intertextual, and structural analyses...and explained each of those things incorrectly. The whole thing was a train wreck, and the entire class knew it. The prof, not one for confrontation, was visibly agitated. I (I'm told) had a look on my face like "oh my god I can't believe she's saying this stuff, can you all believe she's saying this stuff? isn't anyone going to stop her?" I wrote a note to my friend sitting next to me and said "should I ask a question?" meaning should I actually ask a question during the end-of-presentation time for asking questions/discussing things and she said "oh yes." So I did. I asked a three-parter, which was basically in the form of "So, if you were to discuss a [theory] analysis of this piece, which would be [correct definition of theory], would you say [example A of using particular method of analysis], [example B of using particular method of analysis], or perhaps even [example C of using particular method of analysis]?" times three. My classmates (besides the one giving the presentation) silently cheered. Of course, this might not be the reason she hasn't been to methods or theory class, but it sure gave us something to chatter about for a few days. I know, I'm going to hell.

Oh yeah, papers. And work. Mostly work, then papers. Although tonight I'm going to hang out at the library with some people from theory class, to help them with their papers because they're all behind the eight ball with regards to knowing how to write their fourth analysis and roll it plus the other three into one coherent paper. In the meantime, would someone please invent some sort of brain-dumping device wherein I could plug one end of a cable (preferably USB) into my brain and the other end into my laptop, thereby allowing my papers to come directly out of my brain and into a word doc? That'd be great, thanks.

Monday, December 05, 2005
day before the last seminar of the semester
My papers are in a nebulous state. I also have to read a book for my final class (tomorrow). I also have to bake cookies. I also have work to do.

But mostly I have to write these papers. I never did get around to submitting a rough draft for the class requiring a rough draft, but I will in the next few days. I have to. I have a considerable amount of notes and quotes to use, etc...just have to write those pesky sentences that make it, you know, a paper. Other paper, not concerned—it's 3/4 complete. Other other paper, yeah, not so much more than a sentence and a bunch of incomplete notes. Should make for an interesting weekend (two papers due Monday, one on Tuesday).

Saturday, December 03, 2005
not. helping.
not. helping.

This morning, geese took over my duck pond. The ducks were not pleased. Following are the thoughts that ran through my brain...let's guess if I had or had not yet imbibed of the caffeine.

- "Why are all the male ducks in the middle of the pond?"
- "Why are all the ducks craning their necks upward so much?"
- "Why are the ducks' heads black instead of green?"
- "When did the ducks get so damn big?"
- "Oh crap, those are geese!"

Obviously, I'm not too swift before the morning coffee takes hold. No idea where the geese came from, and I haven't seen geese in the pond before. I think this might just have been a rest stop, as they're no longer in the pond or any of the other ponds in the complex. Sure did piss off the ducks while they were here, though!

I have eaten goose exactly once in my life. Given where I am from, that number should be greater. See, I am from Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, (supposedly) the only place in the United States where the medieval Michaelmas feast is still celebrated. The only time I actually ate goose on Goose Day, I think I was nine or ten and I went with my grandmother (the insane one, not the fundamentalist christian one) to the lunch counter at Murphy's five and dime store. My great-aunt worked there for a bazillion years and at the time she was working at the lunch counter so we went there and ate goose. It was as good as you would have expected lunch-counter-goose to be, and I never had it again.

Upgrading to Firefox 1.5
Upgrade to Firefox 1.5!...was extremely easy and only a few of my extensions were troublesome (but I found fixes). Total time from click-to-download to full, customized browsing experience: 23 minutes. Awesome! During the installation, the process checks to see which themes and extensions will be incompatible, and either doesn't even migrate them in or disables them after migration (it depends on just how messed up the extensions are in relation to the new architecture).

After the initial installation, my theme (Phoenity) was disabled as well as the TinyUrl, Google PageRank and Tab X extensions. This means all the other extensions were migrated and updated sucessfully without intervention on my part. Hooray!

Once I saw that Phoenty wasn't updated, I went to the author's home page to see if there was an updated version for 1.5 that just hadn't made it to the official Mozilla servers yet—but no go. So I spent a few minutes looking for a new theme, and found the Azerty themes for Firefox and Thunderbird. I dutifully installed both (because the themes for both have to match, of course!) and am pleased with the look of it all. Next, I looked at the individual pages for my other non-migrated extensions, at In the user comments for TinyURL I found a link to an updated version here. Similarly, in the user comments for the Google PageRank extension I found a link to an update. Finally, the Tab X extension didn't migrate over during installation, but the version downloadable at its page is a 1.5-compatible extension, so I just reinstalled it. I like having x-icons on each tab, used to close the individual tabs instead of using a context menu or shortcut key. I still don't understand why this isn't the standard behavior. I also found a new extension, "new tab" button on tab bar, which does just that (adds a "new tab" button on the tab bar.

My personal Firefox roundup (below) looks a lot like it did when I wrote a similar post in July. It's not that I fear change, it's just that I know what I like and don't tend to add to it unless it really helps me in some way. I keep an eye on with the RSS feed of new extensions everytime it updates, just in case I see something cool and useful (for me).

Firefox Version: 1.5.0
Theme: Azerty, which I also use as my Thunderbird theme.
Extensions: (get some here, or keep up with the RSS feed)
  • BlogThis: Adds a context menu option to blog a link to the current page and any selected text through Blogger's BlogThis form.
  • BugMeNot: If you right-click in the username text field of a registration-required site, you'll (possibly) get a valid username/password for use therein.
  • DictionarySearch: Adds a context menu option to search for a selected word at the dictionary site of your choice.
  • ForecastFox: Displays weather information for a location of your choice; many customizable options.
  • Gmail Notifier: An integrated GMail notifier; checks mail at customizable intervals or click to open GMail in new tab.
  • GooglePreview: Inserts a thumbnail preview within Google search results.
  • LinkChecker: allows you to check the links on a page, as it checks and then colorcodes all links: red is for broken links, yellow is for forwarded links, green is for good links, grey is for skipped links.
  • "new tab" button on tab bar: Adds a wee icon on the tab toolbar to add a new, blank tab.
  • Sage: RSS/Atom feed aggregator; this is my primary feedreader. As its description indicates, "It's got a lot of what you need and not much of what you don't." Exactly. I'm a huge fan.
  • Tab X: adds an "x"-closes-tab button in each browser tab.
  • TinyURL Creator: An interface for using to convert long URLs into smaller ones (easier for pasting into email and IM).
  • Translate: Adds a context menu option that allows you to translate (via Babelfish) selected text from [language] to English.
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Friday, December 02, 2005
"Simple Products for Simple Minds!"

A store for the simple-minded: Baby Bush Toys.

[via By the Bayou]

now on eBay: the Baby Jesus Cheeto!
Better than a grilled cheese sandwich, check out the Baby Jesus Cheeto now available on eBay.
Baby Jesus Cheeto! Just in time for Christmas and this holiday season. A total miracle has occured in Seattle, Washington: a Baby Jesus Cheeto in the image of Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. You can see his little arms and toes. Give the gift of rebirth. Found by my Uncle Jim. He was about to munch down when something made him think again, and to his wondrous eyes did appear the Baby Jesus. Share this miracle with your family this Christmas! Cheetos!
[via little. yellow. different.]

Thursday, December 01, 2005
MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test
Via Lifehacker, the MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test. All folks who are not terribly internet-savvy should take this little quiz, and even if you are internet-savvy and have been purchasing things online for years and years, take it anyway. I got two questions wrong—not because I misindentified phishing schemes as legitimate, but the other way around. I'm ultra-conservative when it comes to things like this.

The quiz shows ten example emails and you're asked to identify if you think it's phishing or legitimate. When you have completed the quiz you can see your results, and the results include the all-important answer to the question "why?" Why is one example a phishing scheme and the other legitimate, etc. The quiz is very well done.

get your archive on...
04/04 · 05/04 · 06/04 · 07/04 · 08/04 · 09/04 · 10/04 · 11/04 · 12/04 · 01/05 · 02/05 · 03/05 · 04/05 · 05/05 · 06/05 · 07/05 · 08/05 · 09/05 · 10/05 · 11/05 · 12/05 · 01/06 · 02/06 · 03/06 · 04/06 · 05/06 · 06/06 · 07/06 · 08/06 · 09/06 · 10/06 · 11/06 · 12/06 · ???


job / books / new blog

04/04 · 05/04 · 06/04 · 07/04 · 08/04 · 09/04 · 10/04 · 11/04 · 12/04 · 01/05 · 02/05 · 03/05 · 04/05 · 05/05 · 06/05 · 07/05 · 08/05 · 09/05 · 10/05 · 11/05 · 12/05 · 01/06 · 02/06 · 03/06 · 04/06 · 05/06 · 06/06 · 07/06 · 08/06 · 09/06 · 10/06 · 11/06 · 12/06 · ???


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