Nina's Stillwater Calendar

Wednesday, February 28

Look honey, I got this for you!

My new machine finally arrived! It is faster, newer, and installed with a better OS than my old one. So I rushed home after class to play on it. And was promptly booted to the sidelines by my husband who claimed he needed to fix "a few" things before it was ready for me. At 9:20 I was informed I could finally start installing my machine.

Tuesday, February 27

How I feel about Algebraic Geometry Homework...

Check out the 2/26 PhD comic: Time Lapse Montage.

Additional Recommended Extensions

My beautiful new monitor came yesterday. Now I just need a box! I kept a number of extensions that I tested installed to continue evaluating. There are a few toys I didn't think that much of at first, but I have really grown to like.

Tab Mix Plus - Restores your tabs as you had them after a crash or accidental closing. Also allows you to duplicate a tab with all its browser history so the back buttons will work.

Gmail Notifier
- I reviewed the Firefox extension called Gmail Notifier and found it wasn't up to snuff, although it does play custom sounds for new mail (maybe someone on Firefly saying "shiny"?), which is fun but ultimately not very useful. I barely mentioned this Gmail Notifier, actually a stand-alone application. I didn't think I'd be all that crazy about it so I didn't actually review it. It has very few features, but I love them. The white envelope icon sits in the system try next to volume control and messenger icons. It turns blue when I have new mail. When I mouseover it, a little box appears with the number of new messages in my inbox. When I double-click on it, my inbox appears. When I get new mail, a teeny little box pops up right above it with the sender and a few lines of the message. Only useful while I am using the computer, but I have found it better than continually hitting F5 while waiting for an expected message. And, my favorite, it opens mailto: links in Gmail in my default browser instead of in Outlook or Outlook Express.

Monday, February 26

Feeling Old

I am only 25, but somehow when I take courses with younger students, like freshmen, they make me feel old. Like the time in kickboxing class when an 18-yr-old declared he wasn't getting married until he was old. "No, like really old. Like twenty-seven." I felt like I should buy a cane and dentures or something.

Last week in Chinese class I ran into it again. While talking about honeymoons and trips, I mentioned Scott and I are hoping to take a sort of second honeymoon when I graduate from college in three more years, if all goes according to schedule, since that will be our 10th anniversary. Everyone stopped and stared. Finally someone asked "Anniversary of what?" After meekly responding "Our wedding" I got the incredulous question: "How old are you?" I decided I should just slouch quietly in my chair until class started.

Sunday, February 25

Math in Islamic Art

Check out this BBC article on math in Islamic art.

Down Girl! Chill out.

So today I was talking with a woman who likes me, who cares, who I've known for a very long time. And she said something so totally offensive to me that I was speechless. I just stared at her for a moment and she was like "What, no comeback?" Apparently, she thought it was a funny joke. It took like five breaths to calm down and think "Chill out Nina, she didn't mean it" over and over in my head. And here I am hours later, and it is still kinda nagging at me. And she probably has no idea it bothered me at all.

Saturday, February 24

4 Steps to a Better Browser

1. Install Firefox

For those of you still using IE, Firefox is faster, slicker, and leaner. As an added bonus, it comes with fewer features! Wait a minute, you ask, why is fewer features a good thing? Well, because it comes with fewer features. So you add only the features you want. Plus, any developer anywhere who wants a feature can write one and share it with everyone else. These new features are called add-ons.

2. Extend

Extensions are a type of add-on that add new functionality. I am usually too lazy to bother customizing my surfing experience to that extent. But a new computer looming on the horizon has lit a fire under me so I checked them out. Installing extensions is a painless process. Go to the page of the add-on you want, click the big green install button, and then do as prompted. It only takes 2-clicks and about 6 seconds. The install will ask if it may shut down Firefox. Don't worry, it will bring all your tabs back up just the way you had them, only with the new features added. These extensions are the best I found for my Internet use:

Better than copy-pasting into a Word Doc named Untitled every time

ScrapBook - ScrapBook is a left-pane browser, much like bookmarks, where you may "scrap" websites along with comments. You may scrap entire websites, linked material, etc...or just a highlighted paragraph. You may annotate, highlight, and comment on any scraps. And extra stuff, like linking to the original URL and viewing metadata are only 2-clicks away. The browser itself can be closed when not in use. The ScrapBook menu resides next to Tools and the browser comes back up with an easy Alt-K or 2-click menu selection.

For More Info
Quick 'n easy lookups

Research Word - Highlight a word or phrase then right click and select a site to look it up:, Wikipedia, etc. This requires a double-click to highlight, a right click to bring up the menu, a click to select the option, and a click to select the site you want for a total of 5 clicks. There are straight mouse-over options, but I prefer the lower profile and greater options this extension affords. And at 5 clicks, it is still better than opening a new browser, going to the site, and then copy-pasting over. If you primarily read websites that are not in your native language however, you may prefer a mouseover translation extension.

Map This - Highlight an address, right-click and choose Map This, and Google Map pops up. You may also set your home address and then choose Map To This from your right click menu to get driving directions.

Change - Double-click an amount in a foreign currency to see your chosen currency appear next to it in parentheses. I love this feature. When you install it you'll see a toolbar. Choose your currency and then get rid of the toolbar. It just clutters things up.

Custom Experience
Make your browser feel like home.

Menu Editor- Once you have all these sweet little features, your right-click menu will be quite a mess. Install this editor to customize your right-click menu and the menu bar at the top. You get to this toy through Tools->Add-Ons->Menu Editor->Options. Off the beaten path, but how often do you really need to use it? Then drag-and-drop to customize your menus to your heart's content. You can even move items between menus. For example, you can put "Bookmark This Page" onto your right-click menu. This really is a must-have extension. Bookmarks - is like your standard bookmark menu in the same way my Motorola Razr is like the rotary dial phone we had when I was a kid. The one I hated dialing 9 on because it took so long to finish rotating back around. is just more intuitive, easier to use, and lets you get ideas from other people who think like you. And this extension integrates your bookmarks into Firefox and keeps them in sync so you can access your bookmarks anywhere.

Gmail Notifier
- This is perfect for anyone who misses "you've got mail!" Discreet little Gmail icon sits in your status bar on the lower right with the number of new messages next to it. But I can put that same info on my system tray with a little app, oddly enough also titled Gmail Notifier. Then I can see it whether I am surfing or not.

Gmail Skins - Gmail is a dependable email service with an intuitive organization and storage structure and tons of space. But, like many great offerings (read: Firefox) it is slim on features.

This skin allows you to change the colors, menu location, scrolling, and tiger-stripe your inbox. You can also add your Google homepage as a column on the right-hand side. I didn't know such a thing as Google homepage existed until I installed this, but it is drag-and-drop customizable, like blogger. Mine displays Stillwater weather with Oklahoma and NPR news. To setup this extension just install and then go to your Gmail. There will be a link above your inbox that you click on to choose your settings. This link goes away once you are done.

This extension still has a few quirks, but is in active development with some very cool planned features. The biggest bug is that once you've chosen you're settings, you may not be able to edit them. Instead, you'll need to delete the settings, which are saved under labels as "gmskin:" and then go back to the main page. Basically this starts you over and the link at the top will be back.

Safer Surfing
Think of these as your online cannon fodder.

Magic Password Generator - Most of us pick an easy to remember password and then use it over and over and over. While this is convenient, it is also very bad security. A password generator gives you the convenience of one password with the security of unique and very strong passwords.

Here is how it works: You choose a master password, something you will remember. When you want to login somewhere, the generator does a hash on your master password and the domain that you are creating a login for to create a login password. A hash is a 1-way mathematical process, a type of encryption. Because it is 1-way, anyone who has the login password won't be able to recover the master password. So an identity thief who gets your login password only gets access to one of your online accounts. As an added bonus you have some protection against phishing. If you enter your master password on a bogus Bank of America site, the hash won't produce the same password as on the real Bank of America site because the domains are different. And because it is a straightforward mathematical process, every time you go to the real Bank of America domain to login, you enter your master password and the generator creates the same login password as the last time you were there. You just remember your master password and the generator does all the rest.

Of course, this sounds very technical, but once it is setup, it is push button use. So let's talk about setting it up. Install the extension like normal. In Tools->Add Ons you can select Magic Password Generator. Select options. Then enter your default username and email. The Magic Password Generator will auto-fill login information. Now right click on your toolbar and choose Customize. Drag and drop the padlock icon onto your toolbar. If you don't want this button, you can use the right-click menu.

If you are away from your home computer this handy little button won't be there. In that case you will need to use a bookmarklet (Firefox, Opera) or online form (IE). This password generator has both. I recommend saving the link to the generator in your bookmarks, your homepage, your blog, your email, or some other URL you will remember no matter where you are.

There are two things to consider before upgrading your security protections this way. The first is the start-up time. You will have to change all of your existing passwords that you want to use the generator with. This takes time, but, especially for financial records, is totally worth it. And you can't use the generator for passwords that you are required to change periodically since it will always generate the same password. The second is what generator you use, because once you choose one, you will have to change all your passwords again if you switch to a different hashing scheme. For example, there is an extensionless password generator, SuperGenPass, that operates as a bookmarklet and can be used anywhere. I find it too clunky for home use, but you may prefer it.

Little Things You Always Wanted
These features fix annoying little problems we all run into.

BugMeNot - Allows you to bypass compulsory web registration to view free stuff. Like signing up at a website just to view a news article. It's annoying and pointless since logging in doesn't give you personalized features and it doesn't cost anything. BugMeNot works by allowing any user to go someplace, make a generic login, and enter the info into BugMeNot. Then when other users go to the same place, they use the same generic login by right-clicking and selecting BugMeNot. Obviously, you don't use this to login to your email. The same folks have a coupon code sharing site called RetailMeNot that you can check out, but I have never used.

Extended Copy Menu - Adds two copy options to right-click menus: Copy as html and Copy as plain text. Not strictly necessary since there is a paste as plain text option, but still handy.

IE View Lite - Some websites just aren't optimized for the Firefox experience. IE View allows you to view those sites in IE, without opening up a whole different browser.

Resizeable Textarea - Allows you to resize some textareas for posting to boards or forums or whatever. You just mouseover the edge of the textarea and the cursor switches to a double-headed resize arrow. Operation is a little gummy at times. Specifically, it acts funny if I try to use a diagonal resize on Gmail's To: textarea. Works fine if I use the vertical resize. And right now there is this one particular spot left of middle of the blogger textarea where I get the resize arrow, but at least nothing bad happens if I click on it. Despite the gumminess, I think I could get to depend on this feature.

Nuke Anything Enhanced and Remove It Permanently - These allow you to right-click on some annoying object (typically flashing or moving ones) and get rid of them. You may remove them for this visit (Nuke Anything) or ask your browser to remember you don't like that object on future visits as well (Remove It Permanently).

Nerdy Features

Stuff only people like Scott will like. Warning: I haven't checked these out. They just look cool. And have really high user ratings.

ServStats - Check out other users' experiences with the server you are trying to connect to including failures, latency times, etc.

View Dependencies - Lets you view all files that were loaded in order to view the current page.

CookieSwap - Some websites (i.e. Google, Amazon) offer different search results or prices based on your browsing history. CookieSwap allows you to change between multiple cookie 'profiles' so you can see how this changes your search/shopping results. You may even hand edit the cookies to check for specific oddities.

About This Site - Right-click menu to view traffic information, references, previous versions, etc. This actually doesn't have any user ratings, but PC Mag named it a Top 15 Firefox Extension. If you care about what PC Mag has to say.

StumbleUpon - Basically channel-surfing for the web, StumbleUpon takes you around to random, well reviewed sites and quickly matches your preferences to which sites it takes you to. I haven't installed, not because I think I wouldn't like, but because I think I would like it to much. A reviewer called it crack.

3. Skin

Skins (or Themes) are another type of add-on. Add a skin to your browser to customize the look. These are as easy to add as extensions. Now you've got an easy to use and totally personalized browser. So just remember...

4. Don't Junk It Up!

Be careful not to install too many bells & whistles. They can make your browser unmanageable.

The Bad and the Ugly

Google Toolbar
- I love most everything Google does, so this extension came as quite a disappointment. The Google toolbar has tons of helpful features, but they are all done better, slicker, and less annoyingly by someone else. My biggest problem with the toolbar is the screen real estate it requires. Even if I want only two buttons and the search textbox, it insists on a whole 'nother toolbar.

To Be Continued...

I am getting a new computer! So, time to trash this one before I reformat it. I have been trying out every extension, free toy, etc, I haven't tried previously for fear of trashing my machine. Today I focused on building a better web browser. What features matter? How much screen real estate am I willing to give up in order to access features more quickly? In other words, how desperate am I to avoid Algebraic Geometry homework? During all this research, I started writing a review of and guide to those features I think are indispensable in a browser. I will post the review tomorrow (meaning today, only after I sleep).

I have attempted to make this review accessible to everyone, without weighing it down with too many explanations. Instead, I have linked terms to sites with explanations when I felt it was needed. For those of you who need a little primer on vocabulary: system tray is a widely-used term for the start bar in Windows, status bar is the bar at the bottom of your browser that does little more than tell you it is done, a toolbar is a bar anywhere on your browser that gives you access to tools through buttons or URL displays or whatever, the menus are the text fields at the top you can click on to drop down. No, I don't think you're stupid. Just wanted to make sure you knew.

Thursday, February 22

Just Do It

So I finally convinced Scott to leave the Wii and to stop drooling over the specs for the new laptop he is buying and come to bed. We were just snuggling in to sleep when I remembered I forgot to blog today so here I am at my computer desk. Of course, I had plenty of time to blog earlier. I did almost nothing useful all evening. But I waited until I was snuggled into bed to remember to go blog. It was because I didn't have a topic. If I had thought of a topic, I'd've remembered to blog. It's like when Naomi and I didn't want to attend a class, but we also didn't want to ditch it. So we made a concerted effort to forget to attend. We were surprisingly successful until Naomi remembered we had class and forgot we were forgetting about 3 minutes before class. We didn't have enough time to forget again so we were stuck ditching.

Wednesday, February 21


I asked my (Japanese) officemate for some words meaning to correct someone. She didn't know there were any other words so I started describing a few. Then Zhenyi, a (Chinese) grad student, came in and we looked through a thesaurus while I described some of the phrases. Beating a dead horse (offshoot from jawbone) was sort of obvious, but called on the carpet wasn't so much. I wasn't sure how to describe dress down. I mean, where did that even come from? Then there is the highly descriptive tonge-lashing and the also-highly-descriptive-but-not-so-obvious raked over the coals. There are talking to and chew on for people over 50, as in "Boy, I'm gonna give you a real talking-to." I prefer rail at for any particularly energetic yet fruitless exercise in castigation while jump on is saved for those picky little things we just won't leave alone (read: Scott's spelling). But my favorite is ream and the similar rip/tear into. Probably because ream sounds mean and aggressive. Perhaps nicer people use chide.

Tuesday, February 20

To buzz or not to buzz?

It is finally back to buzzed hair weather. The first warm, light breezes of spring always make me want to pull out the clippers and get rid of my winter coat of hair. Since I don't notice a lot of suddenly shorn heads this time of year, I guess not everyone else has the same inclination. But this year I went through all of the trouble to get a cute haircut. And I like it. So I am feeling torn. If only all of my problems were like this one. Which good thing to pick this time around?

Monday, February 19

Five Things

I have been "tagged" to write five things you guys don't know about me. Which is awkward because if I wanted someone to know something about me then I would already have told them. The only things left are either too boring or too embarrassing to blog about. I could take the easy way out and tell you about my dogs, but that is like listening to old ladies talking about their "brilliant" grandchildren for fifteen minutes even though you know their grandchildren are still in diapers. I could tell you little details like my favorite color or something, but you don't really care about those things anymore than I really care about your favorite color. Unless it's crimson. Then I care.

So I am stuck telling you things you probably already know about me. Sorry, this is the best I can do.

1. I am a super-duper fantastic wife. Just ask my husband anytime I am nearby with a weapon on hand.

2. I never remember anything. I forget people's names (I've only forgotten my husband's name once since our wedding), where I've put my expensive electronic gadgets (1 PDA lost, 1 cell phone killed in washer), what I am doing, etc.

3. I am totally unobservant. I miss jokes, nuances, subtleties, and jetliners passing within 20 feet of me. Any D&D players may note the rather dismal 6 I gave myself on my wisdom stat at left.

4. I really do care about my appearance. I like to look pretty and stylish. Just not enough to do anything about it more than once or twice a month.

5. I am an unabashed optimist. I thought everyone knew this, but then a friend realized this last summer after she had already known me for a year. Granted, that was not my best year. I was grumpy and depressed for most of it. But bad moods and optimism aren't mutually exclusive frames of mind. On the flip side I have another friend who describes herself on her MySpace as a "bubbly pessimist." I think Pollyanna is perpetuating inaccurate stereotypes.

Sunday, February 18


Today, during the women's group lesson at church, I heard a familiar refrain: We shouldn't gossip or judge each other. We hear this during the women's group at church rather often, which leads me to conclude that there must be a problem with gossiping among the women at church. One person had so much feeling in her voice I was sure there must have been something recently. As I haven't heard any gossip, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that I was totally missing something. I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I don't like knowing things about other people that I'd rather not know so I am grateful that I have no idea what is going on. On the other, how could everyone leave me out! Do I smell or something? Scott suggested the gossip network had a minimum number of children requirement. If you don't qualify for play dates, then you don't qualify for gossip.

Then there is gossip about me, in particular. I want to know who says what about me so I know who is really a backstabbing wolf in disguise and I can hate them as they deserve. But I absolutely don't want to know who says what about me because then I would have to sit at church every Sunday hating them!

Saturday, February 17

Game Reviews

We played the Order of the Stick game this morning at our local game store for about 2 1/2 hours before throwing in the towel. I felt like I was working too hard to play the game to have any fun. So this post is dedicated to the best games we have found so far (like to purchase, we weren't considering games that don't require anything except people). Keep in mind I like easy to learn, fast-paced games that are still fun the 50th time I play them.

Best Strategy Game: Settlers of Catan
Easy rules and fast game play set this strategy game apart from the competition. The high cost ($40 for the base set and every expansion) is a turn-off. We bought it anyway. If you like Settlers, you may enjoy Basari or Puerto Rico. While not a strategy game, Basari also requires negotiation and some of the same types of shifts in tactics. I haven't played Puerto Rico yet, but it has gotten great reviews. Like Settlers, players grow stuff and try to use resources to their best advantage.

Best Group Game: Set
This game isn't turn-based so people can start and stop playing whenever they feel the inclination. It is fast paced and very quick to learn. It is also suited to all skill levels. Like Pit, only with more thinking required. The short learning curve and ease of moving in and out of the game make this my choice over other great group games like Bang! and Hex Hex, both of which have slightly longer learning curves and require everyone to sit still and play.

Best Puzzle Game: Rumis
This game involves placing 3D block, like Tetris pieces, to achieve certain objectives. The extra dimension is more challenging than you might think.

Best Stupid Game: Munchkin
Of course! Hilarious, but unlike Order of the Stick, quick to learn and play.

Best Couple Game: Oshi
Keep in mind that I am not considering old classics like Go. Oshi is a new favorite of ours and has the potential for lots of strategy without requiring as much deep thought as Go or Chess.

Best Memory Game: Gobblet
You are trying to get three in a row, which sounds easy until your opponent covers some of your pieces and you are trying to remember where they were.

Best Word Game: Quiddler
I am always sick of playing Scrabble about 2/3 of the way through. Fortunately, there are many other choices for word games out there. Quiddler is an easier, quicker version of Scrabble played with cards so no board for the cat to jump on and ruin. I also like Boggle and Wordspot, both word-finding games.

And a few other games:

Ticket to Ride is easy to learn and a lot of fun to play, but a pain to score and I found it got too boring too quickly to be worth the money I spent on it.

Most anything by Cheapass Games is cheap (duh) and fun. Their hit game is Killing Dr. Lucky, which is like Clue, only backwards since the homeowner isn't dead yet. But we like Ben-Hurt, a chariot racing game like Circus Maximus.

Thursday, February 15

Colonial Florist is awesome

Scott ordered flowers for me two weeks ago on FTD. And I didn't get any flowers on Valentine's Day! I was so disappointed. FTD failed to send the order to our local florist. So today he went to the florist and talked to them for half-an-hour to make sure I got my flowers. And Colonial Florist (hereafter referred to as Stillwater's Best Florist) brought me some brightly colored flowers today with a box of Jelly Bellies and a note apologizing and exonerating Scott from all blame. Even though they must be exhausted after dealing with last minute Valentine's Day orders and it wasn't even their fault to begin with since FTD was the one that screwed up.

Final Update on Dissed!

Well, revenge was sweet, but it seems Scott has had enough of it. So I am formally acknowledging that Scott is a great husband, despite his faux pas, and it very sweet to me. Specifically, he picked me up from my office at 2 am after I finished my homework and then brought me home to play Wii. Before he picked me up, he put new super-duper cables so we get better picture and surround-sound and he fixed the tuner so instead of Video 1, Video 2, ... it says Wii, Tivo, DVD, ... If fixing my techno gadgets and chauffeuring me around ain't love, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, February 14

Update on Dissed!

I told my topology class how mean Scott was to me just hours before Valentines Day. My professor told the story to other professors over lunch in the lounge and now it is the story du jour here in the math dept. Revenge tastes sweet. :)

Was I really that bad?

There is this loud, obnoxious, self-absorbed guy in my Chinese class (汉语课). Yesterday, I was talking to someone and he butted in to argue with me. Only it was the kind of argument where he listens to me just long enough to come up with some way to intentionally misinterpret what I say and then interrupts me to accuse of me of really thinking whatever twisted version he has come up with. After a few exchanges I determined this little exercise in one-up-manship was not enriching my life and told him I wasn't going to continue. Then it hit me: I used to pull crap just like that. I wasn't as loud and I really don't think I was quite as self-absorbed as this guy has proven himself to be (Note: this claim is being made by someone who writes a blog about herself and expects everyone else to read it). But I think around 19 I was probably just as obnoxious. How embarrassing.

Wii Wise

So, as predicted, instead of doing Algebraic Geometry last night, the Wise family made Mii's and bowled (I won) and played tennis (I lost). Scott even braved the cold to go to Radio Shack around 8:30 to pick up cables so we could get better video quality from our Wii and TiVo.

Tuesday, February 13


Scott picked up a game pack for our new Wii that included air hockey. He waxed romantic for a moment with "Oh, honey, our game is in here." I replied with a blank stare. We have a game? "Air hockey. We always used to run to play it together." Continue blank stare. "You know, when we were dating." Realization dawning. He was talking about something he used to do with his ex-girlfriend. "Oh yeah, that was Jenny." Wow, that was cold.

To be fair, he followed up with: "You are everything good in my life now so I just assume all good memories must have you in them." Hm, definitely cheesy, but is it smooth?

Thank you Anil & Todd & Sunday!!!

Sunday saw a Nintendo Wii at Hasting's and told Todd who called Anil who was out for lunch and bought one for Scott and I! Now I can play games and stop working on these awful Algebraic Geometry problems. No seriously, I mean awful. I recently attempted to relieve a few people of this idea they have that I am smart and can do crazy math stuff. I spent a good part of Saturday and most of Monday trying to understand what the Algebraic Geometry homework is asking me to do. Today I finally worked 1.b) and 5.a), at least in part. That is all I have to show people! Leaving the rest of 1 and 5 and all of 2 and 3. I am not even planning to attempt 4 because there is just no way.


I used to be a good writer, for a high school student. I want to be a good writer again so I write in this blog every day to become better. As you have probably noticed, I write even if I have nothing to say! Just now a faculty member asked me to write an article for a newsletter she is putting together to help with fundraising, a novel concept in many math departments. I hope the practice pays off.

Note: Jill, I haven't forgotten I am tagged. I am still thinking.

Monday, February 12

Planning is in the air

Valentine's Day is this week. And while it may be a superficial holiday invented by a secret cabal of chocolate makers and florists, it matters to many of us women. In high school, those with flowers or cards got to show them off and feel special while the rest of us seethed with envy. Now we may be older but we are no less superficial. We all want something to make us feel special. And some deluded men have an idea that come Valentine's Day, they'll just wing it. They think they can run to the drug-store to pick up a card on the way home, ask their sweetie where they want to go for dinner, put the bill on the credit card, and everything will be okay. It won't. Some better plans:

1. Watching her favorite movie over a pizza dinner. Stick a freezer-to-oven, no-work dessert in the oven half-way through so she can eat dessert after the movie.
2. Flowers sent to her at school/work and dinner at home followed by a foot rub.
3. An invitation sent to her at school/work telling her where and what time she will be picked up for dinner and what the dress code is, if any. Followed, of course, by the man actually showing up, dressed appropriately.

Now what do all these plans have in common? Well, they are planned, like ahead of time. Which is the part that actually makes us feel special.

Sunday, February 11

If only you knew the truth

I actually have two blogs. I have this public blog and a private journal blog. I have a very good reason for two separate blogs. There are people in the world who tell me that they think I'm alright. They think I am smart or I work hard or I am nice or whatever. My public blog may not reinforce those beliefs, but it doesn't immediately send them up in flames either. My journal, on the other hand, has all of my completely uncensored thoughts and feelings, including all the mean, nasty ones. And I am frequently very grateful that those people who think I am alright will never see my journal and learn how wrong they are.

A friend has mentioned that when he led our church congregation, he thought everyone thought he was doing a great job. Later he learned that lots of people didn't think that. So I suppose that I should be likewise very grateful I don't have to learn anyone's uncensored opinions of me! I know I am self-absorbed and petty, but I really like to think that other people think I am alright.

Saturday, February 10


I learned yesterday* that self-discipline has twice the importance of IQ in predicting academic success. Anyone who has ever taught is probably unsurprised.

I have frequently been frustrated by my lack of sufficient self-discipline. But, by definition, I must lack self-discipline by choice. So how can I be frustrated that I don't have it? I must be frustrated that it isn't as easy as I wish it were. In other words, I am not frustrated by my lack of self-discipline, but by the fact that the universe doesn't order itself in such a way that I never have to develop any. For example, I could exercise self-discipline and choose to go do my homework, instead of sitting here blogging. But I would prefer that homework were so much fun that I wanted to go do it instead of sitting here blogging.

* The LDS church offers religion classes, called Institute, at any university with enough students to take them. The Institute here in Stillwater offers a very good marriage class once a month. This month was on parenting and taught by a professor in FRCD who gave us this nugget of wisdom.

Thursday, February 8

Pink Clouds

Tuesday was absolutely beautiful. It was warm and sunny. Which was shocking since Sunday and Wednesday were both freezing and Monday was pretty chilly. Even the sky was gorgeous so I took a few snapshots.

You don't have to admit it!

I stopped by someone's office today. Someone I have known for 6 years. I've been to his house and I see him most weeks. And today I learned that he didn't know my name. For 6 years he has been calling me 'Nita' and I never noticed. So, today, when he wrote 'Nita' down, I told him he misspelled my name. He had a golden opportunity to play dumb, say "where?", and just fix it when I told him. I never had to know. That may technically be dishonest, but I would'nt've fessed up. I'd've pretended I knew his name all along and just spelled it wrong.

Wednesday, February 7

New Look

Scott noticed that the bar along the top of the blog is really quite large on low-res monitors. But I didn't know where to change the html, been too long since I coded. So he fixed it! Yeah Scott!

Losing Something I Didn't Have

I always wanted to serve in the Peace Corps. But it wasn't in the cards. I got married too early to do it on my own, and my husband's career is too important for him to take a few years off to go with me. I knew, without a doubt, I would never sign-up. So how did I feel when I was informed during my debriefing for a government internship that I was not permitted to join the Corps for 10 years? I had been tricked into losing an opportunity I didn't have! I was very upset. If I had known up-front, I would have taken the internship anyway. After all, I was never actually going to join the Peace Corps. But what happened was completely different. Like the difference between a 10-yr-old boy hearing he may possibly get a puppy at some unspecified future time and hearing he will never get a puppy. Same outcome, different result.

Tuesday, February 6


Yesterday was a s'more day. S'more, or "some more", is a food we eat to while celebrating a good day with friends and family. Yesterday was definitely a good day because I had homework due this morning and left my office at a reasonable hour, meaning before 2am. Then Barbara invited Naomi and I and Scott to a community dinner at the Wesley foundation. Everyone collected their meat and veggies and then cooked it on a communal grill. Afterwards, we toasted marshmallows for s'mores! Which gives me one more lovely s'more associated memory.

Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos

Saute the following:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
Mash in:
  • 6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
Assemble burritos with a glop of beans, a glop of potatoes, and some cheese:

  • 4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • 12 (10 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
  • 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
Roll up and freeze individually. Reheat in microwave.

If you are anything like me, you stopped at mixing mustard and soy sauce and wondered if this was some sort of joke. When you got to sweet potatoes, you were sure it was a joke. I figured the 359 people on that gave these burritos a 4 1/2 star rating weren't joking though, so I gave them a whirl. And learned that addictive isn't in the name for marketing reasons. These things really are delicious in an addictive sort of way. The other addictive part is being able to pull a burrito out of the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and start eating it in like 3 minutes. I know you can do the same thing with Hot Pockets but these are cheap and relatively healthy, if by healthy you mean not dripping grease into little pools on your plate. If, by healthy, you mean definitely not a carb-loaded, nutrient deficient flour tortilla, then not so much.

Servings: 12
Per Serving
Calories: 513

  • Total Fat: 8.4g
  • Cholesterol: 20mg
  • Sodium: 1174mg
  • Total Carbs: 79.3g
  • Dietary Fiber: 13.6g
  • Protein: 19.6g

Monday, February 5

Morbid Imaginations

I have an overactive imagination. I mean every girl dreams of being a princess or Wonder Woman or something. But I get so immersed I actually get disoriented when I come back to reality. Like imagining I am in space in free-fall and then remembering gravity in time to notice myself falling over. So when both my brothers and a male cousin died in short succession, my imagination took a predictably morbid turn and I began imagining new and creative ways my family members could die.

I had to fixate on something to give my imagination some structure and limitation. Otherwise I would wind up imagining some way my entire family could be on the same doomed plane at once and then where would I go? I can't top that. So I fixated on two rules: only male relatives die and only one at a time in unrelated circumstances. I could have fixated on their common age instead of their gender, but then I would be fair game and an exciting death is only exciting if you are around afterwards. I could have fixated on both, but then I would have only had 3 cousins to knock off, besides my husband. Not enough "scope for the imagination."*

I started with my dad (sorry daddy, I love you) and chainsaw accidents. Those could get wonderfully gory. But then the story I would tell afterwards would lack punch. "Equipment malfunction" wasn't a romantic way to go as Anne Shirley might say. I also realized I missed out on all the dramatic possibilities with my brothers' deaths. Those involved quiet, early-morning phone calls or hospital visits. There was no opportunity for hysterics or dramatic soap-style announcements. I would learn of daddy's demise from the news, with lots of people, like extras in a movie, waiting around for my dramatic moment.

The perfect newsworthy end for my daddy was to be shot, once in the heart, by an unsympathetic criminal. As an added bonus, there would be the drama of a trial. At the end of which the criminal would be sentenced to death and, as the heroine, I would forgive him and ask that his life be spared. Of course, I didn't really want my daddy's killer to live, so he would have to suicide. The perfect ignominious end.

Unfortunately, I was left alone with my mom at the end every time. I tried killing her too (innocent bystander?) but the rules specified male relatives only, so I was stuck with her. And I don't think I'd love my parents as much if they didn't have each other to call and harass and fuss at. I decided daddy had to live.

Next I tried killing my husband. I had run out of my best ideas with daddy and was left with car accidents. How pedestrian (lame pun intended). I should have tried exploding computer monitors. That is how he used to joke about dying. It wasn't the bizarre and accidental death so much as the aftermath that was problematic here. I figured I would lay in bed for at least three months eating chocolate ice cream and watching reruns of Buffy. That was not exactly the romantic heroine image I wanted to cultivate. In fact, it was a little pathetic.

The only people left on my list were one grandfather, three cousins, and an uncle. I am only close to one of my cousins and, after my brothers, even that is anti-climactic. Given the lack of raw material to work with, I didn't even make a respectable effort at killing him. So ended my sad career as an armchair psychopath.

* Quote is from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Sunday, February 4

My Cousin Jon

I didn't feel like blogging today but I pledged to so I sat down and blogged. But my topic was awfully morbid, though I thought it was funny, and Scott said if I posted it you all would bug him suggesting I be locked up. So I have to write another post. This picture of my cousin was taken by an AP reporter during the California wildfires in 2003. I thought it was really cool. And that is the extent of my creative vocabulary tonight.

Note that I added a new comic strip's RSS feed to the left sidebar.

Saturday, February 3

Losing Sight of the Whole Picture

When I got a teeny-weeny, very safe, 250 cc motorcycle, Scott began fussing about how I was going to wind up a splat on the concrete. After a few weeks of this, I let him ride once. He decided they weren't so dangerous after all and signed up for a safety course.

Part of the course involves learning how to use the front and back brakes effectively. One woman accelerated smoothly, passed the marker, braked firmly, and came to a stop. She smiled triumphantly at her successful braking. Then she fell over. She was so focused on braking that she forgot to put her foot down.

Friday, February 2

I'm Heading to the Pacific Northwest (in like, 4 months)

I got my assignment from DHS and I will be going to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Yay! I'll be in the desert many many miles from any major cities! Which means I will STUDY!!!! I hope.

The Definition of Insanity... doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Every morning, sometime between 2am and 6am, our dogs decide they are bored and want to wander outside for a little while. So they waltz into our bedroom and start beating my husband with their cold, wet snouts. They pick his arms up and fling them up in the air. They nudge his head around. They wake him up and, inevitably, he gets up and lets them out!

This seems to be a fairly direct cause-and-effect chain to me. They beat him. He rewards them. They continue beating him. When I point out this chain of logic for my husband, he agrees but insists he is powerless to change anything. Apparently the dogs hold all power in our household and are capable of compelling obedience. He claims 1) the dogs are determined to wake so he may as well capitulate and 2) if he does not, they will retaliate by making a mess. Of course, he always gives in so there is really no way of testing either hypothesis.

This morning something changed. This morning, when the dog started pushing Scott around, I woke up and crawled over Scott to sleep on the edge of the bed between him and the dog. And nothing happened. The dog went away and left us alone. She didn't make a mess. The world didn't come to an end.

Thursday, February 1

If I meant to drop vague and oblique hints...

In an earlier post, I complained about the unspecified remarks of some unnamed people. A few of my dear friends and readers wondered if I meant them. Or course, I didn't. I was referring to people who certainly are never going to read my blog, because we aren't friends. I regret making anyone uncomfortable so I want to clear something up. I won't make vague accusations against anybody I know off-line that I also know reads this blog and then leave you to wonder.

There is one exception. If - sorry, I mean When - my husband does anything wrong or annoying or if I am just in a bad mood that day, I will feel fully justified in making oblique hints about the gaffe on my blog. If he fails to read the blog, notice the hints, and make amends within two hours of posting, I will further feel justified in acting affronted for the remainder of that day while refusing to tell him why. Finally, I reserve the right to mention both the original blunder and his subsequent failure to notice the hints on my blog anytime a remotely similar situation crops up for the remainder of our mortal lives. I'm sorry I have to do this honey, but it doesn't seem fair to change the ground rules that men and women have been using to operate by for thousands of years off-line just because now it is online.

Spreading Addictions

Firefly was a short-lived FOX tv series (fansite). I never even heard of it until after it was off-air and on DVD. Then a friend, Fyl, got me hooked. I watched the entire season, 4 DVDs worth, on one weekend. Then I inflicted this addiction on others. They all thanked me for it and went out to buy the whole collection themselves. And then stay up all night and all the next day watching it.

But that was a few years ago. The drug I am currently pushing to the world is a comic strip: The Order of the Stick (OOTS). I have an RSS feed for the latest strips on the side-bar ( <---- over there) and I already have a fish hooked. Barbara even made it to to strip #200 before telling me!