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an illustrated progress report pt 1

When I started on learning to take pictures, I read a lot of Thom Hogan's articles over at his Nikon site. Yes, he's writing mostly about SLR and DSLR cameras, and only really about Nikons. That's totally fine, because he writes a lot of really sensible stuff pointing out that look, it's art you morons, and you do not need fancy electronics to make art, you can do it with burnt sticks or by banging rocks together, so stop whining and go out and PRACTICE. Since I can draw, this was exactly what I needed to hear.

One of his articles points out that composition is composition, and you'll probably learn more about composition in a life drawing class than in any photography class. Oh. I've had rudimentary life drawing. Well then. So I poked and made a list of composition elements (the first entry with the camera tag). For the past 5 months, I've been hacking away at various elements. Most of what I've come up with is snapshots, not great art. I am ok with this. You would not believe how many crappy horses and seashells and stained glass windows I've drawn. Most great artists have a much larger pile of absolutely terrible practice work, so I am not alone.

From My Pictures

This picture was the first one to really set me off on a quest. It's a nice enough snapshot. It's also totally uncropped. And it wasn't what I meant to really take, because I mostly use my optical viewfinder. I wasn't cropping to the viewfinder's coverage area because I didn't understand how to find it, or why I should care. So I poked, and prodded, and got help (many thanks ghent_the_cynic) and calculated that my viewfinder is about 75% coverage.

For a while I thought that meant I had to crop everything to match the viewfinder. This is wrong. I should check if cropping improves the picture... sometimes it does (as with this one) and other times it doesn't, like with a lot of the pictures where I try for the subject bursting out of the viewfinder frame, as below.

From My Pictures

Eventually, I had the astonishing (to me) realization that I can crop out bits of a picture and get a new! improved! picture.

From My Pictures

There is probably more to learn about cropping.

May. 4th, 2010

Win: Have pink Lamy Safari.

Win: have purple ink for it.

(yes, it is so screamingly girly you might puke. DON'T CARE.)

Win: am now solidly into Chapter 4 of Persuasion, up to page 46 in my notebook.

Win: oh hey, working on copying out fiction let me write a few paragraphs on some original description

lose: my bike is Very Sick and probably needs a wheel trued, and I didn't have the energy to go do it because I didn't eat enough breakfast OR get lunch in until 2pm. I need to be more reliable about eating.


it is spring...

The fish in Lake Monona are spawning.

well, that's a surprise...

I biked 24 miles today. Guess I already am in shape to bike to Blue Mounds state park for an overnight.

Chicken cobbler

Chicken Cobbler from Mark Bittman.

If you've made chicken soup from scratch ever, this is an improv template. My attempt today "failed" in that it wasn't actually chicken cobbler. So here's what I did, and how I plan to fix it for next time... there will be a next time.

I roasted a kosher chicken for lunch a few days ago. As soon as the carcass was cool, I stripped it of the meat we had not eaten. I basically had just over one chicken breast's worth of meat. I plonked the bones into a large saucepan, and added water to cover. I simmered it gently, until I had a very clean stock, and stuffed it in the fridge.

Today, I fished out the meat and stock. I was pleased, because the stock was very gelatinous and thick, so it was just this side of pourable. Poured it out into a measuring cup, and found I had a touch over a pint. I mixed in the recommended amount of thickener, and then stirred in the vegetables. I used lima beans, peas, onion and a shallot, on the grounds that we like them and we have them on hand. I added a shot of sherry for flavor. I minced the roast chicken. I added pepper and thyme. Poured into a casserole dish, and and added cobbles. I baked it in about 35 minutes, with somewhat lower heat than I would ordinarily use.

The end result was the broth was too liquid, and a tad light on vegetables. I should have used more thickener, and a couple carrots, a celery stalk, or other vegetables would not have gone amiss. If you add vegetables that take long cooking, you probably want to par-cook them in the sauce. The quantity is about right for feeding 4 adults, with no leftovers. I would not want a whole lot more meat.

It definitely can stand to have a salad and biscuits on the side. If you do that, it might well feed 6. Pretty efficient way to make roast chicken last for a lot of meals. Means I might be able to regularly squeeze 12 servings out of a roast chicken.

signal boost: women and bikes

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals' survey on women and bikes

Women only (duh). It is one of the better surveys I've seen on women and biking, since it doesn't assume that we all ride pink bikes, have coaster brakes, and are scared to death of cars. It's got a lot of hidden able-ism, which ticks me off. Whether you ride or not, please at least take a lookie. If you catch them in able-ism, please make ample use of comments and "other" sections to try and clarify.

more self-assessment

I'm poking around at (and the various related stuff). Initial squat test was 47. Clearly, leg strength is not a huge issue for me. It might be worthwhile working on their program, but I think I'll get more gains from working on plies and eventually grande plies in all the ballet positions. Working on turnout forces me to work the small stabilizing muscles that are the cause of a lot of my lingering knee issues. Once I can do 10 plies with correct form in all 5 ballet positions, it might be worth using their guidelines to improve.

For crunches, I managed 22. Core strength is clearly an issue. But I also did the test yesterday and shouldn't have. I think I'll just work on doing 10-15 crunches a day for a week or two, and give myself an off day before re-assessing.

For pushups... 42 wall pushups. I'm stronger than I thought upper body wise. That's a good enough result that I should re-assess on Friday, using knee pushups.

On the sun salutation poses... it's probably time to add in upward dog. That means downward dog, the lunges, and plank are the remaining tough bits. I kind of think I shouldn't add lunges until my plies are pretty well in place, since a big problem in lunges is not having much stability.

how I do self-assessment for physical fitness

I can't afford to work out to exhaustion. Hell, most of what I do exercise-wise isn't working out. It's going to the grocery store, or the library, or Target, or knitting group.

I use a few rough guidelines to keep myself on track:

1. Depending on your body and fitness, it is roughly 1 mile of walking to equal 3-5 miles of biking. So if you can walk 1 mile, you should be able to bike between 3 and 5 miles. Someone like Kent Peterson is definitely in the 5 range. Most of the time, I'm closer to 3.

Right now, I can walk about 5 miles in a day, tho my knee is not pleased with it. So somewhere in the 15-25 mile range is not unreasonable for me in a day.

2. Your body's fitness is a bit like a bank. You can't force your body to do more effort than it is capable of. So if you regularly bike 4 miles each day to work, making a big increase in effort is likely to lead to a very pissed off and upset body.

3. Your body thankfully is not a vindictive sonofagun... If you normally bike 4 miles to work each day, and take the week off to do a 20 mile ride on the weekend, it'll think that is pretty ok. You asked for the effort all at once instead of a bit at a time, and most of the time, your body will be ok with that. Again, bodies vary on this, and it might be you can do a smidge more or a bit less.

A "normal" week's effort for me is 1-2 trips to the grocery store (about 4 miles), a trip to the library or two (about 4 miles), and a trip out to Anna's for knitting (about 20 miles). So that means if I'm in good shape, I can pretty easily do 38-40 miles in a week, and I'll get all the basics done. It looks like I'm on track to start the year off at "normal". I won't know for sure for a week or two, since I don't count myself as ok until I've proven I can do something consistently. Bodies are huge fans of routine.

4. If you can do 20 miles in a week, a few weeks of pushing it to do 22 (10% more) is a big deal to your body. Every time you push your body for more, it has to rebuild itself. It can only work so fast on the redesign. It is really important to be fair with your body, and assess yourself slowly.

Right now, I'm on my second week of assessing myself. Yep, short errands are fine. Yep, long rides (done with care) are fine. Yep, looks like 35-40 mile weeks are within reach. But I won't be done assessing "where I am now" for another week or two. Then comes the fun part... pushing for more. If I come out with a verdict of "40 miles is ok", then I can push myself to about 44. I get to sit at that mileage for 3-4 weeks. Then I can push again, to 48 or 49. A month later, another bump, probably to about 54. If I don't hit the goal 3 weeks out of the four, odds are my body won't think we actually made the jump. If I'm dedicated and aggressive about my goals, there's a decent chance I can be over 60 miles a week. In August. The odds of me joining the 100 miles a week club this year are pretty low, since I usually end up phasing out riding in favor of walking sometime in October or November.

Mar. 12th, 2010


The muscle development is almost a visual match on both sides. The left is still noticeably weaker in practice, but it takes a lot more work for me to get tired enough to wobble. That means it's taken me about 18 months to really recover.

travelling woman redo

I have 160 stitches. I think. I can't count.

Stitches are on lifeline. Now I go check help files on pattern.

ETA: After further consultation, there is a spreadsheet. With further counting, I have 50 rows. That is correct for starting the lace. So the error is I did something dumb somewhere and got an extra stitch in. Somehow. It mathematically has to be on the right side, so I will sneak a decrease in on that side as I set up the lace. (it has to be on the right side because I've counted stitches twice and gotten the same results both times... the right side has 80 stitches up to the center stitch, and the left side has 79 stitches + the center stitch. I've also got 25 yarn over holes along the center stitch, which means I basically did the centering correctly.)

ETA2: Except no, I can't count. I am on a right side row. According to the pattern, I should be on a WRONG side row. Which means I have 158 stitches... Augh! Also, if you're picking up stitches, it really helps to *not* start picking up so that they end up with the working yarn clunked against the knob on your straight needle. Yes, Travelling Woman is small enough to be done on straights. Trivially.


Somewhere in here, I will finish the Norwegian Star + taradiddle part of the design. I probably should sit down and sketch things out so I can have my asymmetric zig-zag show up nicely without having to rip back. The zig-zag is also going to need a taradiddle, and I can't quite see in my head what I've got to work with.

(for the curious, I'm taking the star from here. The seeded band would be a taradiddle in my book... but I used that idea elsewhere since the dubbelmossa design doesn't need decreases any time soon.)


Hrm. The taradiddle I'm doing is wrong to flow nicely into the zigzag in terms of visual weight. Bother. Maybe if I make the zigzag 3 wide instead of two?

The other design issue is somewhere in here, I'm going to be in an acid green section of Kauni. Somehow, I don't think dark purple is the ideal contrast color for acid green. Available options are fuschia, navy, teal blue, handspun grey shetland, burgundy, or I could finish the brown handspun shetland. I could have sworn I had pale blue around here, but stash tossing hasn't turned it up. Wrong value for the acid green anyway.

You can have a *lot* of fun with a single ball of Kauni :)

Jan. 22nd, 2010

Figured out how to make Imagemagick do a batch conversion of files from JPEG to PNG. Woo!

Chris and Anna offered me a ride to the UW butcher shop. The meat stash is improved, and Chris helped me with the dread problem of "I can't count". I've now got numbers on how the viewfinder compares to the LCD using a brick wall. He also gave me a very useful idea for photographing the viewfinder's size. Take a piece of 8.5*11 paper, adjust things so it totally covers the viewfinder, take shot. The area that isn't paper is excess coverage. Anyone who says you don't need math for art is on some REALLY good drugs.

So the next step is to use the data to figure out how much to crop off. Then, I figure out an Imagemagick command line, and I can automatically crop to the viewfinder image.

composition exercises

When I got tinycamera, I made up a list of stuff to work on. Mostly, it was composition exercises. This is my two week evaluation.

I did a lot with line. The big area where I'm falling down with line is "curved lines", since nearly all my favorite pictures with a line focus have straight lines. Suggestions for good curved line exercises are welcome.

I did a lot with repetition. A lot a lot a lot. Not shocking in a fiber artist. I haven't managed anything here I'd think of as clever, but I will persevere.

I've done a lot with value and contrast. It's an area I can stand to work on more, but I am getting much better at identifying pictures that can work.

I've done a lot with framing. Most of the pictures that make it to Picasa are not cropped. If I have to crop it, I think about 3 times before I put it up. Right now there are 3 cropped pictures out of 29 where I *had* to crop it for the shot to work. There's nothing wrong with cropping, but most of the time I'm taking pictures of yarn, knitted items, or landscape. I don't have a lot of excuses for getting the framing wrong on stuff that's not moving :D. I'm still really bad at it, but the more I practice the better I get.

I've done a lot with texture. There are some textures I need to work on capturing, but I've also got some good shots of stuff I hadn't even thought of trying.

My sense of perspective is getting much better. I am making fewer stupid mistakes. I haven't managed any photos where the perspective has a layered or medieval illumination feel... I've seen it done, so I'll keep thinking about it and trying stuff. Depth and proportion, ditto. I haven't managed any of the intentional fails that I want on those, but I will.

Big fails: hue. shape. negative space. balance. I have some ideas on tackling these, but I've had a lot of fail on actually doing it. Suggestions on where to go to tackle one of these ideas or things to try or cluebats of "you're already doing this doofus" are all welcome. (pictures of yarn or knitting do not count for these unless I'm designing a still life... so far all fibergeek pictures have been product photography)

Smaller fails: motion. harmony. direction. These are small fails because I have no freaking clue how to approach them. Ideas welcome.

good tired

Skating was educational. I knew a lot of the muscles that work to stabilize my legs were weak. I didn't realize *how* weak. Basically, every muscle that works along my inner thighs and calves is just not there. I can make them do very simple things in ice skates, mostly off muscle memory. But anything more complex than front inside edge is almost beyond my strength. This explains a lot about why walking has been so tiring.

So my sister and I brainstormed exercises this morning. Today will be a rest day (meaning I should walk the camera, but not do a whole lot else). Tomorrow, I see how much I can do where my legs aren't bearing full body weight. Then I have a starting point.

Oh. And if you didn't know this, there's a muscle that wraps around where your spine and pelvis hook up. It stabilizes your hips when you walk. It hurts today.

Jan. 15th, 2010

Acid green and red go surprisingly well together.

Jan. 15th, 2010

No, I haven't gone crazy. I just am having a fit of SAD fueled need for color, and orange is a lot more tolerable on a computer screen than in my clothes.

Jan. 13th, 2010

Talked to mom and dad last night :). Got a bunch of pictures on yesterday's walk, some more successful than others... the day's theme was texture.

I am grumpy because normal shutdowns in Ubuntu 9.10 lead to an AWFUL lot of fsck running on reboot, and an awful lot of my OS muttering that there were errors in the shutdown. Even more annoying, I'm having total X freezes happening on an almost daily basis... if the uptime gets long, odds are I get a total freeze (no kb input, no mouse, input, sound system freezes on about a 500ms loop). This can't be good for the filesystem, since I can't get out of it except via a hard power-off.

1. I need to figure out what log files will let me see how things get unmounted at shutdown

2. I need to look for what is or isn't getting unmounted

3. I need to run a filesystem check on all the linux partitions to see if I can find out what is wrong.

4. I need to figure out how to catch the X crashes in the log files

5. If there's a repeating pattern, I need to figure out how to bug report it. (related, figure out if I can catch it with apport)

It's warm and sunny today, so I need to do more walking the camera.


in which a fibery education is useful

Yesterday, I spilled Bill's coffee on the sofa. We examined the situation, and decided to wash the affected cushion's slipcover, since that had absorbed almost all the coffee. The sofa has no care instructions. To my hand, the fabric is obviously synthetic, tho I'm not sure what kind of synthetic. The piping is filled with plastic tubing. The stitching is failing. Ok, so machine wash is out, since we have no idea at what temperature the stuff melts and we don't know what stress it can take. It's definitely not the kind of fabric that dissolves in water, or the original spills would've destroyed it.

Right. Handwash in the bathtub. The initial wash we were overly timid on soap. The following two washes, we were much more generous (after it was clear that the dye wasn't being ruined by dish soap). That slipcover was FILTHY. Then a rinse. We decided that a *cold* machine dry was probably worth it, on the grounds of we like having a sofa. It worked. Unfortunately, it was now very clear that we *have* to was all the slipcovers.

We're on wash number four of another set of slipcovers. I have some hope that we won't need wash five.

Also, I'm saving up for a new sofa. And we're putting washing slipcovers on the list of things that need to be washed annually because OHMIGHOD these are scary dirty.

abnormal lentils

Take some red lentils. Start them cooking with a glaze of olive oil, salt, and enough water to make for lentil soup.

Take some lamb that's tender enough to eat rare, and fry it up with a teriyaki type glaze. (mine was based on what vaku calls sweet soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and lemon)

Once the lamb is cooked, peel it off bones (if applicable), and slice it thin.

Zest and juice a lemon into the lentils.

Toss some sweet pepper bits at the lentils.

Toss generous helping of mild salsa at the lentils.

Dump in the lamb.

Serve with grape tomatoes on the side, because you have them.

ETA: Aesthetically, Bill would prefer more Italian in feel and less Greek. I would like to push it more Greek. This suggests it'll split into two versions.

computer geekery, backups version

So... we got ourselves an enclosure. The hard drive from my old box sounds... bad. However, I've gotten the critical data off it. Over the course of the data extraction, it's gone from sounding like a hard drive to having bouts of chainsaw. I am now even more relieved that I insisted on simultaneous tinies. (and the Samsung NB30 announcement is making me go squee and plot to push my savings rate up ever-higher)

Next up, Bill's drive.

Then we can tackle the DVD drive. There at least, the problem is "ohai, have disks had no way to play them"

Jan. 8th, 2010

Lots of shots yesterday didn't work. I'm not sure what *would* work on a few of them.

Item: a snow covered tree trunk with interesting interplay between the bark pattern and the snow pattern. I can't quite see how to get the shot to be all about pattern. Partly it's the contrast level. The trees I was trying had walnutty/mapley bark, so pretty dark and shaggy. I'm wondering if a more grey birch bark would be easier? I know trying to get an overview just totally doesn't work. It needs to be zoomed in so all you see is the snow and the bark.

Item: 3 pine trees by the creek. Total fail because I can't frame them properly. (personal idiosyncrasy: I love landscape shots where you're taking a portrait of a tree... and with this grouping, you can't do a landscape orientation because then you get a ton of other clutter)

An attempt at an overview of the Olin bridge also failed. I think a combination of not enough wide angle, the light, and being too far away.

On the bright side, I'm managing something not horrible each time I go out.

I think today I need to work on something new. With all the snow, today should be good for contrast. And I have never worked much with texture. So I think a textural mission would be good. Plus, a texture mission would fit well with getting some knitting projects photographed for Ravelry.

Jan. 7th, 2010

Yesterday's photography results are in. I succeeded at perspective. I'm not perfectly happy with any of the shots where perspective dominates the composition, but I got 3 shots where there's definite perspective.

I did a lot better with repetition. Most of the shots have several kinds of repetition, and I had an easy time figuring out how to layer repetition, and how to get things framed up ok. I'm happiest with a shot of one of my mittens, and with a berry vine growing on a lattice fence.

Also, I have lentils and rice with lots of butter. Very plain, but it's such a nice *warm* breakfast on a cold snowy day. I don't have to go anywhere, but I need to take a walk if I want to work on composition exercises. I might go with repetition and perspective again, because if I head towards Lake Monona there's a bridge that offers a lot of ways to handle perspective. Knee rehab, exercise and art, all at once.

Jan. 6th, 2010

I need to walk up to TJ's. There, I will pick up some snacky stuff for knitting tonight. I should bring my camera with.

Since I walk along roads, there should be lots of shots where I can focus on line. TJ's is in the base of an apartment building, which gives me a nice source of repetition. Shape, in the form of quadrilaterals and plant outlines, is present. Texture... brick, concrete, asphalt, smooth metal. Lots of options there. Hue for sure, since I KNOW I can do white and brick red and winter tree trunks and various car colors and tradional Middle Eastern carpets (oh, more repetition there). Perspective and proportion...

Ok, need to focus. I can see how to work with repetition on the apartment building. I am *positive* I should be able to find at least 3 other instances of repetition today. And I should at least try playing with perspective, since there's this perfectly serviceable hill which makes it easier.

camera here!

From My Pictures

This is a tiny camera. It's bigger than my cell phone. Just. It's got a Gorillapod tripod to be buddies. Yep, tiny camera has a tripod mount, viewfinder, and a very interesting design.

So now, expect the occasional plague of pictures. And my Ravelry project pages might actually get... images. Woo. Right now I'm a clueless noob, so everything is being taken in full auto. With some work, I might be able to use the programmed auto mode.


Jan. 3rd, 2010

Set camera up to work with M1 or M2 image size. This gives me use of optical zoom without image degrading (3.7 for M1, 4.6 for M2)... at least that's the theory. Should test. According to Canon, this will let me fake a telephoto lens... but only on a 640*480 image. Math says on M1 I'd get a 33-122mm equivalent lens, and on M2 I'd get 33-151mm eq. Base ISO is 80, so at least to start most shots should be taken on sunny days.

Start off by working on basic composition exercises, with camera in full auto mode. Build up a pool of 3ish shots that I think are ok for each idea. Probably do a best out of 10 or best out of 15. Best does *not* mean "most artistic merit" (duh, do not ignore artistic merit, but...). Best has a lot more to do with "how useful is this shot as a baseline for what the camera can do?" so I can judge my more manual shots against the full auto ones. Probably work with screen off, just viewfinder? Practice with tripod as much as possible, but can't turn image stabilization off til I am out of auto mode.

-straight lines
-curved lines (pick up French curves and use it for ideas?)
-lines of movement?

-more sides?
-geometric solids
-tree outlines
-plant/shrub outlines
-animal/people outlines

-broad range of values
-target value (light OR dark OR medium)

-fine grain
-coarse grain
-tree branches against sky as texture?
-leaves on trees as texture?

-neutral (as in mixed paint neutrals)

-not sure how to work with this explicitly

-single point
-two point
-archetectural drawings style
-medieval illumination style "no perspective"
-perspective shown via layered effect
-look at objects from angles that are weird/unexpected
-play with glass tables
-macro mode used on things that are "big"

-golden mean
-focus on something that's "too small"
-focus on something that's "too large"
-play with horizon lines

-skewed horizons
-actual balance type scales
-play with it as extra layer on things like hue, value, shape
-objects that look like they *should* fall over or have fallen over

-not sure how to work with this explicitly

negative space
-take a picture where the focus is on "nothing"
-take a picture where the focus is on the shape of empty space (ubuntu logo, vase/face illusion)
-margins of a book/printed text
-car or bike photo where the focus is the space around it somehow

-play on hue, both in analogous and contrasting directions
-play on value
-do some exercises in black and white mode
-juxtaposition of odd things (kind of an antiharmony exercise too?)
-clouds contrasting with sky, trees contrasting with sky etc

-literal, with same item over and over in a still life
-try and work a particular number into a shot without it being obvious a la Escher's tesselations or odder stuff
-anti repetition, where there's an intentional lack of order

-try to take the flattest picture I can
-try to show the depth of a texture as clearly as I can
-try to give the impression of "infinitely deep water" or "infinite sky"
-use shadow to make various shapes "come alive"

Next, work on the prefab scene modes. Again with the basic composition exercises, but here cycle through at least 2-3 modes for a given shot so I can compare how the various presets work. This includes trying ones I think are a bad idea, so I can see if I'm right or not. Use notebook to keep track of what I did.

Then start in on the more manual controls. Stitch assist, white balance, macro mode, various metering modes (spot aimed at wannabe pros?), and manual ISO look most useful to start. When I start working with white balance and metering etc, pick up a grey card and a color card so I have standard test tools.

Longer term: work on getting a picture I like enough to make it my computer's wallpaper

Work on getting pictures of my yarn/finished objects for Ravelry.

year in review

I don't do resolutions well.

But... I am making progress on some goals. I've figured out some stuff to tackle in learning how to use my camera. I need to read the manual. If the manual suggests some exercises to get used to the camera, I should begin working through them. I should also take it out on walks, and work on basic artistic stuff. Can I take a photograph where I'm emphasizing line? Can I take one that uses negative space well? What about texture? Working on doing really basic art exercises with a camera ought to help me learn to use the fool thing.

Over the last year, I completed a handspun project. The Pi R Square shawl. I know I can do better than that this year... I have a spindle almost full of singles for a rolled brim hat. I need a spindleful of Shetland, and then I will have a bunch of handspun for playing with colorwork. I have most of the singles done for the sock project. And I'm making good progress on the parrot singles. If I finish just two, I'll have doubled my output. I'd kinda like to try for 3 tho. First goal is simple tho... finish the silly hat by the end of the Olympics.

I've been working on learning Python. I'm on section four of the tutorial. Need to work on getting from there to the end.

Over the last year I went from a mostly Open Source software user to pretty well nothing but. I am now pretty resentful of booting into Windows... I'm doing it perhaps twice a month, mostly to make sure my OS and antivirus get regular updates. It's making learning Python easier, tho I haven't figured out the ideal solution for a Python-friendly text editor. Ubuntu ends up being lot lighter than Windows on Tiny, so the switch has had some real payoffs. I'd like to get a more sensible install with Ubuntu 10.04. Right now, I have a lot of software I don't use, so the OS partition has to be quite large.

I didn't make my savings goal for the year. Instead, most of the money that I wanted to go to savings went towards vacations and towards emergency computer purchase. So my working on savings was good, but I need to plan better.

I didn't make pretty much any of my bike related goals over the last year. On the other hand, I didn't hurt myself either, and I *did* get back on the bike. Next year, I should work on the basics... get groceries like a sensible person.

It wasn't a goal... but I got orders of magnitude better at mailing things. I should keep working on this.

Dec. 27th, 2009

This is basically a white sauce based casserole. I'm dreaming of a white ziti. Definitely in the vein of "things from cans can make calorie bombs". Also very much in the vein of lasagna or pizza casserole or any of a number of vaguely Italian casserole dishes that I'll actually *eat*.

Our rendition was modified, because I forgot ricotta, and I didn't realize I'd killed the frozen spinach. I used a jar of Alfredo, because my cream based sauces are HORRIBLE and we didn't really have Bill-brains for a good cream sauce. Making it vegetarian would be pretty easy. Sub garlicky white beans or mushrooms (no mushrooms for me please). With sausage, it is quite nice. Instead of spinach, I subbed sugar snaps, because they are the right shape to go with the pasta.

You'd probably change the structure depending on what kind of pasta you used. I'm now tempted to make the next batch into a lasagna.

I had mine with clementines as a side, and the citrus cuts the caloriebomb nature nicely. Yum!

Dec. 27th, 2009

I am dug out from snow and seasonal malaise, at least for a bit.

Christmas was lovely. Both sets of parents made a generous donation to the "get Emily a camera fund", which gave me about $320 to play with. This will let me get a Canon 780is, which is a little red camera with a viewfinder and Flip-like HD video. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I know that in competent hands (ie, not mine) all of the cameras I considered have decent color ability, and are really more 10 megapixel cameras if you want reasonable noise levels. They're not good for much beyond ISO 400. If I read the manual, I should be able to set it up so it's not taking silly noisy photos.

In addition to the camera, I'm getting myself a little tripod, a spare battery, an 8gb SD card, a camera case and some kind of screen protector. Pretty much everyone I talked to on the subject has found that if a digital camera dies, it's because the LCD screen bites it. Therefore... screen protector *and* case. I'm clumsy, and I want to make sure I feel safe using the silly thing.

That still left me with a bit of leftover funds, so I can squeeze a tiny DVD burner into the Amazon order. I found one that should run off a single USB cable. The last bit of hardware we could use then is a USB hard drive enclosure, and I can squeeze that into February's budget.

Post holiday sales mean right now XBox Live points are $45 rather than $50 for 4000, so I may jam some in out of the household budget. More DLC!

I also got a bunch of sock done. I'm about 1/4 done with a black and pink sock. Progress! I didn't bring any spinning with me at all, because I couldn't find the spindle with the stupid sticky merino on it. Everything else would have meant finishing the yarn would've been a pain.

GNOME discoveries

How to find the gnome panel applets

No, they're not documented anywhere I could find on gnome's site. Nope. No man pages either. The basic logic should work on a regular gnome desktop, not just in UNR.

Applets I found this way:

cpufreq-applet - it's a CPU monitor that also lets you change your power settings on at least an Atom chip... probably more (after all, it's hiding away in Gnome)

multiload-applet - system utilization monitor


custom application launcher

clone an application launcher from the gnome menu

character palette - lets you pick non-American English characters

clock - it's probably not the same as the UNR clock, haven't experimented

connect to a remote server

dictionary look up

disk mounter

drawer - haven't played with, appears to be a way to create menus?

dwell click - no idea?

eyes - toy to "watch" mouse pointer

fish - toy

force quit - some kind of kill tool

gnote - probably not standard, I have the gnote package installed. it's a sticky note program like MacOS has stock

go home

indicator applet - 2 varieties, probably best used by the OS

inhibit applet - allows the user to control automatic powersaving

invest - stock ticker

keyboard accessibility status

keyboard layout

lock screen

log out

main menu

menu bar - customized menu

notification area

pilot applet - for use with PalmOS devices

pointer capture - locks the mouse pointer

run application

search for files

separator - for organizing panel items

show desktop


sticky notes - no idea which sticky note app this is because...

tomboy notes - this is UNR's sticky note app


user switcher

weather report - local weather

window picker

window list

window selector

workspace switcher - this is the one in the tutorial

Some of these are best left to the OS to handle. But if you need/want a feature from another OS, this is a good place to look.

Dec. 4th, 2009

I make yarn. Also, I hit the bank, the New! Improved! Land's End store, Art Gecko and the butcher shop.

The Land's End store is now a concept store, for a new line called Canvas. Good news: it is aimed at preppy/hipster/bikers. This means the canvas bags actually would work on a bike or walking long distances, the pants largely have pockets and the pockets are BIG ENOUGH, and the hemlines will not get munched by your chain. Prices are reasonable to astonishingly cheap. Bad news: it's full of clothes for Spring 2010. It is December 2009. Madison is not Paris, and these are not custom clothes. This is... issueful. Further, the fit model they're using for women has No Boobs. At all. There may be hips, but I'm not even sure a B cup would work.

The original plan was they'd open in March. They should have stuck with the plan, because State Street does not have a ton of resort customers, and even if it did, they're gonna have SERIOUS issues with looking shopworn by March. Cheating til January or February, if they had a plan for an actual spring line coz this stuff is secretly a resort line would also work. But in general, total FAIL at doing retail. (extra special side of failsauce because the not-quite-perfect store was synched with normal human seasons instead of retail seasons, so a normal human who is freezing in december would walk in and find acres of long johns... this kinda thing got them tons of sales.)

Art Gecko has some interesting wrap skirts. Not sure if they're made of win or not, need to thinky. Very pretty for date night/evening wear, but the basic style would sorta be more useful in a daytime fabric without gorgeous embroidery.

Butcher shop sold me steak, boneless pork loin roast, and bacon. Lots of bacon. Yum!


I don't like to buy fiber online a lot of the time. It's a bit of a crapshoot, and I've learnt that for handdyed stuff, well... there are all too many folks selling stuff I'd be embarrassed to claim as a hobby dyer. But a friend has been dyeing lots of fiber in just the kinds of colors I like. And it's been real clear that his idea of good fiber and mine are congruent. So I bought some. Bright! Antidepressant! Brighter than the picture... it's a really great sort of sun conure colors.

And even better, the fiber is as nicely handled as I'd expect. I definitely need more, because I like the option of getting oddball stuff like Dorset, Jacob, and Clun Forest instead of the more usual fibers.



Despite the chaos, yesterday went better than I had any right to expect. We got home very nearly on schedule, despite one cancelled flight and one delayed flight. A thousand thanks to the United Customer Service rep in LA, who was incredibly sweet and did her best to fix everything for us, without being asked.

Nov. 11th, 2009

*runs around screaming with glee*

The project has moved forward.

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