Thursday, May 29, 2008

Borg Boy gets Parenthacked!

Oh wow! Here's the Parent Hack I submitted: "Finger bowls" help toddlers clean their own hands at the table | Parent Hacks

If Asha could have seen him at the nursing home this morning, "civilized" would have been the last word to come to mind. :-) At least he still seems to like his finger bowl... although sometimes we do have to keep him from drinking it when he's done.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The TBR list: Wicked Game

My To Be Read (TBR) list is already huge, but I add to it on a daily basis. Here's today's addition: Wicked Game, by Jeri Smith-Ready.

Let me just note that I hardly ever read vampire novels. I never got into Anne Rice, and I quit reading Laurell K. Hamilton after about the second one. I skipped Stephen King's vampire novel(s?), even though the one I can think of right off came out during the time that I was still reading King's books as soon as they hit the shelves of my local library (where I worked, so I usually got dibs). But the premise for this book—and the "Big Idea" behind it—are irresistible. I probably would not be interested in this book if I hadn't read the author's Big Idea; John Scalzi is doing a service not just to writers, but also to readers, with his Big Ideas posts.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Running on MP(3)

Via The Weight of the World: Podrunner is a free service—a particularly awesome-looking one—that lets you download workout music mixed to good tempos for walking, running, or interval training. I have GOT to try this!! Honestly, what's the point in having a Walkman phone if I don't use it to play music while working out?

The #1 Cause of Sleep Deprivation In My Household

From the incomparable xkcd, which actually got a writeup in the New York Times today. A couple of years ago, I would have said w00t!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Get off the Internet: words I wish would go away

Words I wish I could quit seeing on the Internet. Just two today, but I expect this will be a recurring post.

  • The Interwebs. It's a combination of a George W. Bush gaffe and a geeky joke. The thing is, many of the people who use it haven't heard the "interweb" joke and don't know it's about them. They tack an "s" on the end to show that they don't like Bush (well, duh; neither do 71% of our fellow Americans). I can see using it sarcastically once or twice, but not making it your customary way of referring to the World Wide Web, as a lot of people have done.

  • Staycation. Someone coined this term to describe staying at home instead of going on a vacation because of the sinking economy and the rising cost of gasoline. To those of us who don't make a habit of taking the kids to an expensive kid-related resort for a week every year, this is called "normal." But it's part of the news media's growing obsession with frugality, which I expect I will write about later.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I did WHAT?

Between my aging ReplayTV unit and the "play now" feature on Netflix, I can watch Quantum Leap at pretty much any time I want to. This makes me very happy, for some reason. But it's made me think of the thing that's always bugged me about the show (besides the entire final season): do the people Sam has leaped into have any idea what he's doing during the time he's in their place? When he leaps to someone else, are those people suddenly back in their bodies and their lives, with no memory of how they spent the last several days? That would be pretty bad, since Sam has usually done something completely life-changing while he was there, and it would suck to have no idea what happened.

Although it does explain a few things about Iran-Contra.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Email lists are hell

I am currently subscribed to a very active, very old mailing list that I've been reading, off and on, for many years. Because it's old, and because it's run by an old guy, it still has a lot of old-style conventions. Some, such as requiring subject tags and requiring list members to stay on-topic or take if off-list, make sense, and I approve of them. Others, such as getting snapped into line by the listowner for accidentally replying to an untagged message without adding a tag, are just irritating, and remind me of the reason I unsubscribed from all mailing lists for six months in 1993. But the anticipation of getting one of those messages (the listowner must be out of the office for the afternoon or I'd have one already) reminded me of something I wrote back in 2000, and now I finally have a place to post it! So here you go. It's been updated for 2008.

...oh, and BTW, before anyone gets all "why do you hate children and cats" on me, please note that this is supposed to be funny. Whether or not you find it so, please note that it in no way describes my own feelings about, well, anything.

This is the FAQ for the We Don't Like Windows or Any Other Operating System Except UNIX is Okay As Long As We Don't Have to Pay For It Cat-Hating, Child-Hating Star Trek TNG Mailing List. Please read it and know it well before you decide to post to the list. Be warned that if you post on any of the topics listed here, you'll probably get flamed.

DO NOT post unsubscribe messages to the list. If you do, you will be automatically removed from the list without any other notice.

And now, with no further ado:

The We Don't Like Windows or Any Other Operating System Except UNIX Is Okay As Long As We Don't Have To Pay For It Cat-Hating, Child-Hating Star Trek TNG Mailing List FAQ, v. 2.1.

copyright 2000, 2008 by "Commander Data," listowner

Q: What does FAQ mean?
A: If you don't know, you don't belong here.

Q: What does "flamed" mean?
A: Hello! Didn't you read the answer to number one?

Q: What's the purpose of your list?
A: Our list is a haven for those of us who hate Windows and all other operating systems unless they're UNIX-flavored (Linux is fine!), hate children and cats, and really love Star Trek TNG. Here, we can express ourselves freely and rant about the people who oppress us because we don't subscribe to their narrow worldview.

Q: I have to use NT at work, but I really prefer UNIX.
A: You should get a different job. NT is an inferior network operating system that will never match the elegant simplicity of UNIX.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We hardly ever get this question anymore. Most of the NT users have either gone away or switched to XP or Vista, in which case the answer is the same.

Q: I know, I know, I really do prefer UNIX, I just don't happen to be currently working with it.
A: Then why are you here? If you don't hate Windows, you should find another list that's more appropriate to your beliefs.

Animations - new 003Q: I'm using Mac OSX, which is built on a UNIX kernel. Is that okay?
A: Only if you run it from the terminal window. Also--and we hate to be picky here--but Mac OSX is technically a "UNIX-like" operating system. So really, it doesn't count.

Q: What does TNG mean?
A: If you don't know, you don't belong here. Christ, I HATE newbies!

Q: TNG is okay, but I really prefer Deep Space Nine. I also watch a little Voyager now and then, and it's okay too.
A:We really only discuss TNG here. If you want to talk about those other shows, you should find another list.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This answer applies to Enterprise too.

Q: Does everybody on this list hate Windows and Macintosh, children and cats, and love Star Trek TNG?
A: Of course not! You clearly came here expecting that everybody here would be just like you. That was your first mistake. Everybody here is a unique individual, with our own lives and interests. We just happen to have a mutual hatred of inferior operating systems, sprogs, and grille-bait, and we love Star Trek TNG.

Q: If I like cats but hate all the rest of it, and love Star Trek TNG, can I participate?
A: Well, you can, but I doubt that you'd get much out of it.

Q: I don't like children much, but I don't really hate them either. Can I participate?
A: Okay, but don't be offended when we refer to your pwecious widdle Bratleigh and Snotleigh as crotch fruit, f#@k trophies, doorstops, or car catchers.

Q: Is swearing allowed on the list?
A: Of course. We've used "substitutes" for swearing on this FAQ in order to trick the g@dd@mned Internet filters that try to take away our right to free speech on the Internet.

Q: If you love TNG but hate children and cats, how do you feel about Wesley Crusher and Spot?
A: Please don't mention Wussley on this list. We don't believe that he is Canon. Also do not ask us for the words to "Ode to Spot." They're available via ftp somewhere, but don't ask us where or how to retrieve them. We're not going to hold your hand while you figure out how to use the Internet.

Q: I know this topic has probably come up before, but why did Dr. Crusher leave in the second season?
A: If you don't know, you don't belong here. That's a really stupid question. If you had been watching Star Trek TNG you would know the answer. Also, topics that have come up before aren't really encouraged on this list. You're obviously too new to know that, and should refrain from posting until you've been here a little longer. Newbies, sheesh.

Q: But I've been here for three years, and have never seen that topic come up.
A: That's because those of us who have been around for a while know better. This happens ALL THE TIME. We get some publicity and suddenly all these new people show up and don't know WTF they're doing. Then the stupid sh|ts start sending UNSUBSCIBE messages to the list. IT"S RIGHT THERE IN THE INSTRUCTIONS YOU WERE MAILED WHEN YOU JOINED!!! RTFM STUPID!

Q: WTF does RTFM mean?
A: Oh, you're a real laugh riot.

Q: How long have most of the list members been participating in the list?
A: Glad you asked. Most of us have been here since we were using 300 baud modems. The listowner and the co-moderators started the list when TNG debuted in 1986, on a bulletin board at XEROX PARC.

Q: Um, I'm pretty sure that Star Trek TNG debuted in 1987.
A: Nope.

Q: No, really. Fall of 1987, according to...
A: Do you want me to ask the listowner to unsubscribe you? If you don't stop INSULTING the people on this list, I will. The listowner and I are good friends, and I have a private e-mail from him telling me that he doesn't like what you're saying either.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I realize that IMDB says TNG debuted in 1987. The listowner and I do not consider IMDB an authoritative source, given that it was originally created from user-contributed content. And please don't get us started on Wikipedia.

Q: How do I join the We Don't Like Windows or Any Other Operating System Except UNIX Is Okay As Long as We Don't Have to Pay For It Cat-Hating, Child-Hating Star Trek TNG Mailing List?
A: You can't. We don't really want any new members.

Q: My name is Cherie. I'm 22 years old, 36-22-32. Some people think I look a lot like Marina Sirtis. I'm an art major and specialize in fantasy watercolors, but I'm also interested in astronomy, particle physics, and cooking. I'm new to the Internet, but I'm so happy to have found this list because I really love Star Trek TNG, although Voyager is really my favorite. Neelix is so cute! I also love my Macintosh and want to have a large family and a lot of cats. Will I fit in on the list?
A: Actually, we're really flexible about the whole cats/kids/OS/TNG thing. After all, every voice is a valued contribution. If you need any help "learning the ropes" just post and we'll be happy to help--you'll find we're a friendly group. Welcome to the list!

EDITOR’S NOTE: People who were on the list back in 2000 might remember that Cherie and then-moderator “Mr. Barclay” embarked upon a whirlwind romance that culminated in an on-list engagement, which dissolved a few weeks later when Cherie hooked up with some scary SCA dude at a Creation con in Chicago. Anyhoo, needless to say, Cherie is no longer participating on the list. “Mr. Barclay” still posts sometimes, but under a different name that only a few of us know.

Q: Oh yeah, he’s Commander Data now, isn’t he?
A: No.

Q: No, really, he announced it. It’s in the archives, August 29, 2001.
A: You’re wrong. He’s not Commander Data.

Q: Hey, aren't YOU Commander Data?


Lou and Lou safety violations

I have a love–hate relationship with The Disney Channel. I love some of the weekend stuff, especially the movies. However, I hate the morning programming. The Little Einsteins drives me absolutely up the wall. That horrible little blond girl is always flat. I can only assume it's on purpose; it's probably supposed to reassure kids who can't sing on pitch that they're still perfect, unique little snowflakes who shouldn't let their inability to sing keep them from doing it on national television, thereby ensuring the popularity of American Idol (and the Idol-based attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park). I also hate Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, with its contrived lessons and weird animation.

But most of all, I hate Lou and Lou: Safety Patrol. In addition to being smug, self-satisfied know-it-alls, Lou and Lou are often just WRONG. They issue pointless "safety violations" for things like their preteen sister Lulu singing along with her iPod (oh, wait: I'm sure it's a Mix Stick) in the car, because it might distract the driver. Like having the most annoying twins in the world sitting in the back spouting safety violations isn't distracting. And is nobody allowed to talk or listen to the radio in the car? Wow. They get my vote for Dreariest Family EVER.

That was in this morning's episode, wherein Lulu also gets a safety violation for not buckling up, so she buckles her lap belt. Apparently the twins aren't at all concerned about a related safety violation: Lulu is using a lap belt alone, without a shoulder belt. Using a lap belt alone is NOT safe; in an accident, you need a shoulder belt too, to prevent head, neck, and abdominal injuries. In front-impact and rear-impact crashes, shoulder/lap belts are considerably more effective than lap belts alone in preventing fatality. Note that the statistics I just linked to are for outboard seats; Lulu is sitting in a center seat (and apparently in a booster). But since 2004, vehicles like the one Lou, Lou, and Lulu's parents own (a minivan) have been required to have lap/shoulder belts in the center back seat. As a frugal person, I don't necessarily recommend going out and buying a new car every couple of years, but seriously, those kids' parents are so obsessed with safety that I would think they'd want to, now that Lulu is old enough to ride in a booster instead of a car seat with a harness.

At least Dad gets a safety violation for talking on the cell phone while driving. I guess that would violate the "no talking in the car" rule.

[EDIT: Yes, I know I could just turn off the TV. But that would mean I'd have to actually play with the child instead of using the 7:30–8:00 time slot for reading my RSS feeds, checking my email, and updating my Facebook status. I suppose I could change the channel over to Sprout, at least.]

Monday, May 19, 2008


I had to have the screen replaced on my nearly brand-new laptop a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it got broken in January, in a toddler-related incident: Borg Boy and I decided to dance to the sappy children's music on the television, and I left my shiny two-month-old Vaio on the footstool. Unfortunately, the impact from our dancing on the wood floor made it vibrate right off the edge. Even more unfortunately, Acts of Barney are not covered by our renters' insurance.

Being the workaround maven that I am, I immediately hooked it up to the flat-screen Dell monitor that belonged to our desktop, and resumed working on it. Every once in a while, in a leap of enthusiasm, I would make a few phone calls with the intention of getting it fixed.

Three months and $300 later, I had a new screen on my laptop, and a Blue Screen of Death every so often. When I was finally able to copy fast enough to get the error from the BSOD (I know there used to be a way to make it pause there instead of restarting, but couldn't figure out how to do it in Vista), I Googled it and found out that it's probably a result of an incompatibility between the driver for the new screen and a recent Windows update... but since it hasn't happened since the last Windows update, I think it's probably no longer an issue. However, as of yesterday, I have a new problem. Every time I set the computer down, it makes its dock/undock sound, and I get a little balloon that tells me that my USB device could run faster... but there are no USB devices currently connected to the laptop. Weird. I think it's time for my tried-and-true troubleshooting technique: When in doubt, reboot.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A long, rambling explanation of what I miss about work

Two years ago, I gave up my great job in a university IT department to stay at home with my son. There were a lot of reasons, but the main one was that he had some medical issues and required full-time care early on. I couldn't see leaving him with a full-time nurse, and the only daycare in the area that could take on that kind of responsibility was a 40-minute drive from my house, and another half-hour drive back to work. For the most part, I enjoy being at home with him and being a homemaker, but I do miss some things about my particular work:
  1. The workflow. Even before I read The Tyranny of Email I had already discovered that I work best in three-hour segments, especially when I'm writing code. Ha! No stay-at-home mom ever has three straight hours to get anything done. I don't do much coding these days, but I also find the three-hour rule to be my standard for copyediting, sewing, and anything else that requires some concentration and puts me in a state of flow.

  2. The co-workers. I was already in full sympathy with the stay-at-home moms who went totally nutso when confronted by the social deprivation of being trapped with a two-year-old all day. It even happens to people who are used to being around children, like kindergarten teachers and physical therapists. But at times it's beyond frustrating for someone who was accustomed to spending lunch hours, walks to meetings, and not an insignificant amount of work time chatting with a bunch of other geeks about Star Trek, operating systems, and cars.

    Once you're a stay-at-home mom, you can basically give up on ever getting a chance to talk about those things again (except on the Internet, where nobody knows you're a mom). I have yet to meet another SAHM in person who likes anything remotely geeky. I'm sure they're out there somewhere, but in trying to find one I feel like that guy with the lamp who went looking for an honest man. The women I've made friends with have been highly intelligent and educated, have wide-ranging interests, and have been great mothers, but they couldn't care less about the new season of Doctor Who or the possibility of Microsoft hooking up with Facebook, and no matter how silly it seems, I would like to have someone other than my husband (the Go-to-Work Geek) to discuss some of those things with.

    ...and speaking of TGTWG, I like talking with guys. Since first grade I've had at least as many male friends as female, sometimes more. Most of my co-workers in my last job were guys. But guys don't hang out in playgroup. There might be an occasional stay-at-home dad (and he's usually a geek), but there seems to be some baffling unwritten etiquette about talking to these men in playgroup: first, you have to already know their wives, and preferably, already be close friends with them. It's best if you were college roommates, or if one of you once saved the other from drowning in an icy pond. Second, you can't talk about anything that the rest of the group doesn't know anything about. That's actually just good manners; it's not specific to men or playgroup, but it rules out any conversations about the newest release of Ubuntu or whatever. It's not always followed, either; apparently my favorite playgroup had no problem, the time my husband attended in my stead, talking about breastfeeding and PMS (I'm assuming those were two separate conversations, but who knows) and all sorts of things that made him lapse into a kind of misogynistic language I've never heard from him before.*

  3. Myself, as a worker. Mainly, I think I miss being somebody in my own right: not "Borg Boy's Mommy" or "Mrs. Go-to-Work Geek." I realized not long ago that when my attention is divided between a conversation I'm trying to have and keeping Borg Boy from sucking up an entire bottle of green SpongeBob yogurt and then spitting it out all over somebody else's sofa, I simply cannot be myself. I lose track of the conversation, I get self-conscious, and I completely lose my train of thought. That makes me even more self-conscious, and it just spirals downward from there, so that I leave social events frustrated and angry with myself. I don't have this problem—at least, not to the same extent—when I'm on my own. But I'm almost never on my own! That's what I miss the most about work: having eight hours a day when I was a competent person, good at my job, able to talk to people and listen to people and respond authentically instead of having to interrupt them with "Oh, just a minute, he's climbing into the trash can." Yes, it's true that I probably derived too much of my self-image from work. The problem is that I'm still doing it, only I'm not nearly as good at this job.

* Well, he called them "a bunch of hens," which is pretty misogynistic for a guy whose mother had him marching on the steps of the state capitol hoisting an "ERA YES!" sign when he was 10, and who has worked in a female-dominated field for nearly 20 years.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Obligatory Introduction and Welcome

Welcome to Stay-at-Home Geek. I'm an over-40 mother of a two-year-old, which is weird enough, but on top of that, I'm a former IT professional turned stay-at-home mom. In the niche-ified world in which we live, I think that puts me in a category with maybe three other people. In any event, it means that in order to meet other people in the same situation—which I'd like to do, because frankly, I'm going a little crazy—I have to go online. Which isn't a big deal for me, since I've been online since 1990, when the Internet was young and text-based.

So I guess that's what I'm doing. I've always been bad at this kind of introduction, and it's hard to concentrate with Handy Manny and his tools singing in the background, and my toddler, Borg Boy (formerly Borg Baby—you'll get The Origin of Borg Baby later) whining "Nooooooooo!" every time I turn the TV off or change the channel, and "Nooooooooo!" again if I turn it back on. So I will end here, and go get ready for my day.