Archive for August, 2007

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Friday, August 31st, 2007

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Image resizing technique

Friday, August 31st, 2007

This is a really cool demonstration of a technique for image resizing that respects what is designated as the main focus area or areas of an image. Some of the illustrations get a little freaky, in the sense that this is just not how we’re used to thinking about visual scale. But it’s clear that there could be incredibly useful applications of this approach in any kind of content delivery — especially those that are platform-agnostic, like news and media web sites, as well as e-commerce.

Anyway, check it out.

Ah, restful sleep!

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I finally got a decent night’s sleep last night. It’s been weeks since I’ve been able to relax in any significant way, thanks to the fleas and all the rest. But after we had the exterminator come in on Wednesday afternoon, the house is much closer to flea-free.

I think I’m going to need at least another night or two of decent sleep before I’m even close to being myself again, though. I’ve been feeling so drained and listless, and emotionally raw. That’s not an easy way to move through the world, you know?

ANYway, I’m just glad to be a little more with it this morning.

That stinks!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

I don’t get my nails done in a salon very often. I’m fortunate to have the kind of nails that grow well, have a nice natural color and shape to them, and don’t need much grooming. But I do treat myself to a manicure now and then just for the pleasure and the tidiness of it. When I do, I’ve always tried to opt for salons that don’t specialize in acrylics. There’s always such an overpowering chemical smell walking into one of those places, and when I walk into one I’ve never tried before and it has that smell, I usually just turn right around and walk back out.

I’ve commented to friends from time to time, too, that if all those chemicals smell that bad, they can’t be good for the health of the people who work there. Now a study has shown that the chemicals in nail treatments are associated with higher incidences of birth defects, and that the intensity of exposure for salon workers is 1200 times that of the average American. But to my surprise, it’s not only the acrylics that are implicated: it’s regular nail polish, too. Three compounds regularly used in nail salons — toluene (a colorless liquid used as a solvent), formaldehyde (helps harden nails) and dibutyl phthalate (a plasticizer that makes nail polish flexible) — are known to cause cancer or birth defects.

In fact, after six Vietnamese nail salon workers in Springfield, Massachusetts miscarried and others had rashes, fungal infections, and asthma, a community group obtained a $100,000 grant to build a salon with high quality ventilation. Moreover, OPI Products, which produces the nail polish used in many salons, “announced in March that it would begin removing toluene from its products. Last year, the company said it was removing dibutyl phthalate.”

So it looks like there’s hope for improvement, but I’m still not convinced that the acrylics aren’t horrible, too. I mean, even if they didn’t cause health issues, I’m still stuck on the superficial smell issue. Seriously, can you imagine having to spend 8-12 hours a day surrounded by that stench? Those are some dreadful working conditions. Luckily, improving the ventilation in salons should help with that problem, too.

HT: Jezebel

Keeping ‘em on their toes

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Amazon has introduced a feature called “Lightning Deals” on their Gold Box page apparently as a direct response to the popularity of Woot.com. Cool. I dig it when the hip newcomer (relatively speaking) keeps the old-timer on its toes.

Why I’m abandoning MasterWriter

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Last week, a song opportunity came up (I’ll say more about it when/if there’s more to say), and it required digging through our catalog for songs of a particular style and mood. I thought I’d done a relatively decent job of setting MasterWriter up to be able to do this, but in this case when I attempted to find suitable songs, I found myself at a loss as to how to whittle down my 600+ song library in an efficient way.

See, MasterWriter is antiquated by software standards (the copyright in the web site’s footer says 2001, and yet the FAQ page still says “Coming Soon!”), and its search capabilities still require the user to select a field in which to search. Ugh. More to the point, not all fields are searchable. So where I’ve set up a rough approximation of keywords (such as male, female, or neutral, loss, breakup, happy, etc), I now realize that I have no search capability.

But I knew this, sort of. I had recognized a while back that there was every possibility that MasterWriter would never produce another software release (even though I provided them with feedback so specific it was practically a requirements document, which no one at MasterWriter ever acknowledged to me, so I shortened it and posted it as a review on Amazon, thinking maybe someone would get ambitious and use that feedback to build a better tool). At that point I started investigating other possibilities, such as Journler or Yojimbo. But now I see that I need to speed that process up and get everything moved over from MasterWriter to another app with a quickness so I don’t run into more situations like this.

But MasterWriter has no real export facility. So it seems to come down to a manual, one-by-one copy and paste process. No kidding. I’m not thrilled.

Making this big old world seem smaller

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Rock on! One of my favorite neighbors recently moved to Shanghai but is now on Facebook. The internets have become useful again.

Environmentalism vs. economics as personal responsibility

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Reading over the thread at Music City Bloggers about mortgage foreclosures and such, I’m struck by a disparity I notice in the voices of the regulars there and in other online fora.

Why does it seem that so many of the people who get most passionate when it comes to matters of personal financial responsibility and conservation of fiscal resources are not equally passionate when it comes to environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources?

If these people can applaud and embrace the concept of budgeting dollars and curbing consumption when it is out of scale with the economic resources available, why can’t they applaud and embrace the same principle when it comes to things like water, oil, clean air, trees, etc?

Is it because they don’t think of it as a personal responsibility? Is it because no one has told them convincingly enough that it’s the right thing to do?

You know what I think we need in the U.S.? We need a pro-environment activist who speaks from a conservative / Christian basis. Sort of like — no, scratch that, exactly like the Dave Ramsey of environmentalism.

Although come to think of it, Paris might not get my mind off of rats…

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

OK, right off the bat, here’s the sucky thought du jour: I can’t decide if we should go through with the trip we were planning to Europe. Though I’m in luck if I need to travel, because I’ve got bags under my eyes that could hold my entire wardrobe. Why? Because we spent the night in a hotel room with all six cats while we fogged the house for fleas.

I cannot properly do justice to the level of annoying this whole flea thing is. And it’s not just fleas annoying me. Allow me to whine for a moment.

  • I’m pretty sure I saw somewhere that it’s the hottest August ever on record in Nashville. Even if it’s not, it should be. So let’s just get that out of the way right now, ’cause the extreme heat sure isn’t making anything (or anyone) easier to deal with.
  • Remember the rats? Well, they’ve apparently nested underneath and in the walls in the back of our house. (One of my coworkers suspects that this is where the fleas are coming from, but I don’t know if there’s any way to be sure.)OK, and side note — this is a bad story. Feel free to skip to the next bullet — Karsten went out weeks ago and got rid of the junk pile, busted up the old deck, and started digging out the weeds around the house. He hit a nest with tiny wriggling ratlings (it’s easier to call them ratlings than “kittens” when your aim is to get rid of them). It was an awful scene and he was devastated at having hurt them but the aim is, after all, to eliminate the population from our property. So as a compromise, whichever babies weren’t already killed from the impact of the shovel got carried off to an empty lot a few hundred yards away.But anyway, even after all that there are still rats in the walls, and we’re not sure how we’re going to win this one.
  • Baby Clyde is doing better, we think. He apparently had a blockage in his digestive tract so when they x-rayed him, his stomach looked totally full even after a day of intense vomiting. Not sure how or why, but the next day’s x-rays showed his stomach clear and his lower digestive tract filling up, so the vet was satisfied that things looked to be on the right track. But I’m still nervous because we don’t know why he was having trouble in the first place. Which in my mind means it could happen again anytime. But considering I thought he might be dying on Sunday night, I’ll be relieved if all we’re dealing with is a bad case of indigestion.
  • And the fleas! The fleas are driving me nuts. I mean, it’s just exactly the kind of thing that really gets to me. I can’t take any kind of insect in large quantities. I won’t even release ladybugs in the garden ’cause they freak me out en masse, but individually I’ll let them crawl all over my hands and arms. A whole mess of bugs I don’t like under any circumstances invading my living space? Definitely gonna mess with my mind.
  • One of the other cats, Blackberry, has had a long-standing problem with urinating where he shouldn’t. We’ve fought it for a while, but it had been getting worse recently. Took him to the vet and found out he has a pretty serious bladder infection. Uh, OK. Now I feel like a terrible cat person. So we’ve been giving him pills twice a day for weeks, and if you’ve never had to give a pill to a skittish cat, well, you just haven’t experienced life.
  • Between the overages in the house renovation and the flea/rat/vet/hotel expenses, we’ve depleted our checking account to levels we haven’t seen in years. It really sucks and it makes me feel anxious. I think having had the experience of losing nearly everything we owned and getting as close as you can get to bankruptcy without actually filing, I’m having traumatic flashbacks to my anxiety level at that time. Our situation right now in no way resembles our situation then, but it’s hard to shake an experience like that.
  • Oh, and I’m trying to accomplish about a million things simultaneously in the next few months at work. So there’s that, too.

I’m really trying to keep everything in perspective by remembering that we have a house, we have our health, and we’re not broke (yet). But the amount of stuff we’re having to deal with is enough to make me whimper.

So yeah, I can’t decide if we’ve now spent enough unbudgeted money on all these various problems to mean that we should hold off on our long-awaited vacation. The vacation that coincides with our 10 year anniversary. The vacation we’ve been trying to take since 1999. The vacation we could really freakin’ use right about now.

You see what I’m saying? We’ve been really looking forward to this. So to put it off, while it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, would hurt and would suck and and and. Yes, we’d get over it. But it would be a big disappointment.

Anyway, it’s not time to decide yet. For one thing, I don’t think we’re out of the woods with the whole pest control issue, so there may actually be even more money to spend. But also because we still have a little time before we have to make the decision, and I may yet come up with some genius plan to make everything work. Hey, it could happen.

Mais il y a peu de chances. Le sigh.

A little more at ease

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Well, we’re finishing up at the emergency vet. They’re treating Clyde’s symptoms because most of his vital signs look OK. But the vomiting has the vet concerned and he said if that’s still going on tomorrow, we should take him in to his regular vet. For now, he’s had forced hydration and an anti-nausea shot, and he has to sleep in a cage at home so he doesn’t eat or drink, but there’s hope for some sleep tonight.

Don’t know what to do

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Baby Clyde has been throwing up since this afternoon. He looks pretty ragged. I’m sure we’ll take him to the vet in the morning if he’s still acting and looking this bad, but I can’t decide if we need to take him to the emergency vet now.

Is there a chance, however remote, that this is a delayed reaction to the Hartz flea treatment? You all got me really spooked with that. Should we be calm and wait until morning or freak out and take him in right now?

This is my most beloved cat. He’s wonderful, and he deserves the best treatment. I just don’t know if there’s anything to be gained by taking him in right now.

Ugh. I know I won’t be getting much sleep tonight either way.

Liveblogging

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Liveblogging
Liveblogging,
originally uploaded by lesley s.

Ha! Here’s me all nerding it up at BarCamp and liveblogging the goings-on. (And that great-looking guy next to me? The one and only musician/restaurateur/blogger Nashville Knucklehead.)

It was already sweltering by this point at Exit/In. I was desperately thinking about exiting.

Kat & Ivy talking about hyperlocal self-publishing

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Kat & Ivy talking about hyperlocal self-publishing
Kat & Ivy talking about hyperlocal self-publishing,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

Or, in other words, about Music City Bloggers.

Main floor at BarCamp Nashville

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Main floor at BarCamp Nashville
Main floor at BarCamp Nashville,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

It’s packed. It’s very warm. But it’s also very cool.

I’m headed to camp!

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

I’ve mentioned it here and there, but I thought I’d put it right here: I’m going to BarCamp today! I’m going to savor the geeky flavor, or if I don’t, I’m going to escape to Fiesta Azteca for a Negra Modelo or three. See? There’s no risk involved.

But anyway, I’m psyched! It should be great. I’m excited to see several of my brainy friends speak on the primary stage: Jackson Miller, Chris Wage, and Brittney Gilbert.

And then my other brainy friends will be speaking on the secondary stage — Kat & Ivy & maybe some other folks from Music City Bloggers will talk about “Hyperlocal self-publishing portals.” As if they have any experience with that! Ha, I kid.

And then maybe we’ll all go out for drinks later. For serious! Why can’t that kind of fun be an every-night experience?

I haven’t figured out what I’m wearing, but I have, like Jackson, deliberated about what technology I’m bringing with me. And unlike Jackson, I’ve decided to bring my laptop. I may do a little live-blogging; why not?

Grace at Blackstone’s

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Grace at Blackstone's
Grace at Blackstone’s,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

Grace of Graceless in Love at tonight’s blogger meetup at Blackstone’s. Ain’t she cute?

Serious question

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

No really! I want to know. Food is very serious to me, y’all.

So, rawfoodists don’t eat food that’s been exposed to heat over 100 or 110 degrees or whatever (I’ve seen a pretty broad range cited, actually), right?

So does that mean that produce grown during a heat wave is out of the question? Or does the heat restriction only apply once the fruit or vegetable is removed from the plant or the plant itself is no longer in the ground?

(Yes, the attentive among you will surely point out that I should know as I myself kept to a raw diet for a short period of time once. I felt great, too. But it was too much work and I got lazy.)

Birds took out our power.

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Our area lost power for a while last night. Turns out it was birds. Weird.

ETA: Oh, and I also want to say that people have no freakin’ clue how to drive when the power is out. When stoplight intersections have no power, people barrel right through. We had to drive out of the neighborhood to find food, and it was a white-knuckle experience getting through the intersections. Idiots.

Favorite Treo-ready web sites

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

I’m buried at work, but since Ginger did me the honor of calling me both cool and hip for using a Treo, I want to at least reply with a list of my favorite Treo-ready web sites. Ever helpful, that’s me.

I also wanted to do this anyway, since I had the opportunity the other evening to visit the Apple store (yes, I’m slow, but I avoid the mall like it’s toxic) and got my hands on an iPhone. Short recap: I went in inclined to fall in love with it. I’m an Apple fan in general, and I love a slick interface. But after working with it a bit, I was left feeling a bit, eh, it’s nice, but my Treo can do most of this stuff already and with a much easier-to-use keypad. Sure, that large iPhone screen is beautiful and when you don’t need a keypad, it’s a sweet interface. But that virtual keypad sucks. I’m curious to see what the next-generation iPhone looks like.

But anyway, while I stood there scrutinizing it, I overheard the couple across the table from me talking about how amazing it is. The man was telling the woman about how you can visit this site or that site, and she stood agog at the idea of visiting web sites from your phone.

And no, I didn’t tell them that was old news. I decided to let them revel in their fandom.

But I did decide right there and then that I should put together a list of my favorite PDA-ready web sites. (And I thought about doing a Treo vs. iPhone comparison, but I see a good one’s already been done.) So here’s the quick and dirty version of my links reference: all bookmarks borrowed from the Blazer browser on my Treo. I’ve tried to designate which use WAP or WML (which means they’re efficient on cell phones other than Treo-like PDAs) and which are simply designed for a smaller screen.

My Indispensable, Specifically-Designed-for-Small-Screens Links:

(more…)

Mac Crackin’

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Turns out Macs may not be so hacker-safe after all.

Edited to add: related news and perspective about Germany’s new anti-hacker law.

Good, Bad, Ugly: weekend recap edition

Monday, August 13th, 2007

The ugly: we spent the entire weekend obsessing over fleas. In 8.67 years of living with multiple cats, they have never had fleas. Admittedly, our cats have been outside (on leashes) more lately than ever but I also think the flea population must be larger this year, probably due to the heat.

Anyway, we’d “treated” the cats with some over-the-counter Hartz crap a few weeks ago, but it obviously didn’t do a thing. Meanwhile, the problem was getting worse. I’ve been busy with work so I couldn’t do much about it myself and had been trying to be patient since I knew Karsten was already dealing with the rat problem in our back yard and I didn’t want to overwhelm him. Besides, he seemed confident that the Hartz stuff would work and that the fleas were minimal anyway. On the contrary, it seemed to me that if you spot one, you can assume there are dozens/hundreds/howeverthehellmany you can’t see. I regularly noticed fleas on the cats, so I printed out web pages with tips on killing fleas and left them on his keyboard. I suggested he just call an exterminator and get it over with but when he did, he only asked about the rats. He just didn’t seem to feel as much urgency as I did about having to coexist with the fleas. It was all starting to freak me out a little. Last week, when I stood in the cat room and could see the fleas jumping around, I had a major meltdown. Karsten felt bad for not realizing how upset I’d been getting about it, but I assured him that everything would be fine it we could just rid the house of fleas. So he picked up the Advantage flea treatment from the vet on Friday and we started treating the cats first thing Saturday morning.

Each cat had to be isolated so they wouldn’t lick the stuff off of each other, which meant that we could only treat three cats at a time: two of them were stuck in cages while a third got to be loose, but stuck inside a closed-off room. Meanwhile, we vacuumed the house, sprinkled boric acid powder on all the carpets and fabric surfaces and used a broom to push it down into the fibers, and washed the curtains and bedclothes in the hottest water and dried them in the hottest drier they could withstand.

By mid-day Saturday, there were dead and dying fleas all over the house. So I went around and vacuumed everything again yesterday, but they’re still dropping off. It’s gross, but it means the treatment is working, so I’ll take it.

The bad: it was miserably hot outside. I mean it. Hot. It was 104 yesterday. It makes me feel like I’m melting. And since we wanted to escape the house once we got through each day’s flea treatment, we were limited in our options.

Though actually, that didn’t go too badly: we ended up going to see a movie (”Becoming Jane”; it was OK), eating out for every meal (all the food was great), thrift shopping (I found some cute stuff), and hanging out with some Sam and Alyssa Cornett, two songwriting friends who were visiting from Chicago (which was fun).

So I guess the bad was really just that every time we stepped outside, we felt like we were about to melt into flesh puddles.

The good: even in my jangled state of mind, I wrote a few songs. Hanging around songwriters last night got me all fired up. When we got home, I dashed off two songs in fifteen minutes along with a few other ideas I’ll come back to eventually. One of the reasons I was so inspired was that, although the songs our friends were playing last night were written well and were enjoyable, they were so consistently about relationships ending badly that I felt double-dog-dared to write a heartfelt song that wasn’t about that. So I did.

Pointless observation about the weather

Friday, August 10th, 2007

96 degrees at 8:30. Wow.

And just think: it was nearly 30 degrees cooler in the office. I hate that.

Fighting crime with bunny ears

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Fighting crime with bunny ears
Fighting crime with bunny ears,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

At the North End Night Out Against Crime: S-townMike, me, & Hutchmo. This is picture #2 because they wanted to suck in their guts. Of course, my own gut looks unjustly large in this shot, but I’m going with it because that’s just the kind of crime-fighting neighbor and friend I am.

That’s not me making the bunny ears, by the way. I’m being framed!

Reenacting “Fried Green Tomatoes”

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

When my coworker Jennifer and I went to lunch today, the parking lot at our lunch destination was totally full but we finally noticed someone backing out of a space so Jennifer pulled up and waited. At the last minute another car zoomed in and took the space, despite Jennifer’s honking to indicate we were waiting. I unlocked the door to get out, but Jennifer put her hand on my arm to stop me. So as the driver got out of her car, I rolled down the window and shouted that we were waiting for that space. The bitch snapped back at me that we didn’t own the parking lot, or some rude shit like that. I yelled back, she yelled back, whatever. I felt like smacking her upside the head at least, but Jennifer was clearly more in the mood to move on.

So Jennifer drove on, and I tried to shake off my anger, but I was left with bewilderment. What made this woman so sure we wouldn’t key her car and/or slash her tires? I mean obviously we didn’t, but how could she know that we wouldn’t? Maybe we looked too wholesome to worry about, but I don’t know: even if I were the kind of self-centered selfish asshole who felt I could do something like what that woman did, I still wouldn’t do it because the risk of retaliation seems too high.

But I’ll tell you what: I really really wanted to come up with some devious thing to do to her car that would have been cleverly annoying. You know, nothing permanently damaging (what she did wasn’t permanently damaging to us, after all), just something that would have been a nuisance for her (what she did WAS a nuisance, after all). But I guess I’m just not that clever. (Annoying, on the other hand, perhaps.)

The moment is well past, of course, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts and ideas. What would you have done? Or what would you like to have done?

Creative reuse

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Good to see that Hall & Oates have a healthy attitude about allowing their music to be repurposed, even if that repurposing is done with more than a hint of irony.

Speaking from his home outside of Aspen, Oates credits Yacht Rock for rekindling interest in his band — and lowering the overall age of Hall & Oates’ fan demographic.
[...]
And musically, it means that the time is ripe for a Hall & Oates mashup album — the first of which is in the works from Gym Class Heroes.
[...]
Oates calls the final product “the most unique steps I’ve heard coming out of hip hop in quite a while,” and says he’ll give permission to anyone to use his music, so long as the intentions are good. “Once you make a record, it’s out to the world. Who cares?” Oates says.

I’m a bigger fan of Daryl Hall creatively than I am of John Oates, but from what I know of the two, Oates deserves most of the credit for this laissez-faire attitude toward reuse. Color me impressed, oh mustached one.