Sunday, November 28, 2004

Let there be (better) lights

Thanks to my favorite local electricians, our Thanksgiving table was beautifully lit and I am newly enlightened about light fixtures.

The back story: Two years ago, I purchased a dining room ceiling fixture by Murray Feiss at Harold's Lamps in Seattle. The fixture was featured in Seattle Magazine a few months later, so I was mildly amazed that I'd selected something so stylish (nicely frosted and marbled glass and a brushed-pewter metal).

Sometime this past summer, three of the five light bulbs burned out. I noticed this a few weeks ago and trotted off to the store to buy replacements: 40-watt, thin stemmed small clear globes. When I got on a ladder to remove the burnt-out bulbs, to my astonishment, each of them twisted right off the stem, leaving the broken glass stems wedged in the sockets. My attempt to remove the jagged stems with needle-nose pliers worked for two of them, but the third just wouldn't budge. I called the electricians (feeling silly, it was such a small job) and they said they'd try to get to me before Thanksgiving.

In the interim, I fumed, and considered calling Harold's to complain. However, I'd purchased the lamp two years ago, and they are notoriously rude. The last lamp I bought at Harold's, a pole lamp, came in a box clearly marked "lightbulbs included." Since the bulbs were a weird compact fluorescent style, I'd called them to report that the "included" lightbulbs were missing from the package. There was a brief silence on the other end, and the saleswoman said, "oh, well, go get some at a drugstore," and hung up. Nice.

The electrician turned up just after 5 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving and fixed the fixture. Even better, he told me a few interesting things about lighting that will help me prevent future fixture frustrations:

  • Standard incandescent bulbs like the 40-watt bulbs that broke say "120v" on them, meaning they are rated for 120 volts. However, power companies now run voltage closer to 123 volts. He recommend buying a brand of bulb sold at Home Depot that is rated for 140 volts and can better handle the highter voltage.

  • Many expensive fixtures, such as my designer ceiling fixture, use the same plastic sockets as very cheap fixtures. He recommended that if you are investing in a fixture, you purchase one with more durable ceramic sockets.

    Now if only the electricians could fix our stove...

  • Thanksgiving recap

    Thanksgiving was: friends, relatives and pies, pies, pies! (The turducken breast was nice, but not very Thanksgiving-y. Next year, back to the regular bird.)

    Sally brought three pies: mincemeat (not Crosse and Blackwell mincemeat, but the real thing from de Laurenti's at the Pike Place Market); four-nut pie (from a Greg Atkins recipe in the Seattle Times Sunday Magazine); and Japanese squash pie. I made traditional pumpkin pie with 2/3 the sugar and used a new pie crust recipe that turned out to be just fabulous. It includes rice vinegar, which imparts a lovely, flakey lift to the crust.

    Here's the crust recipe from Puyallup Fair prize-winning baker Carol Lagasca, as published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

    No-Fail Pie Crust
    (makes four single crusts for 9-inch pies)

    1 egg
    1 TBSP rice vinegar
    4 TBSP cold water
    3 cups unbleached flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 cup Crisco
    1/4 cup butter

  • Mix egg, rice vinegar, and cold water; set aside.

  • Mix flour and salt. Add Crisco and butter, mix with fork or pastry cutter until coarse and gritty.

  • Poke a hole in the middle of the flour mixture, and add liquid mix, a little at a time. Form into large ball.

  • Divide into four equal parts. Roll each crust out on a floured board.

  • I made one pie, a couple mini pies for another household's Thanksgiving, and used one crust to make little flower-shaped piecrust "cookies" to decorate all the other pies. Since pumpkin pies have no top crust to decorate, I baked the flowers on a cookie sheet (20 minutes) and dropped them on the pumpkin pies when those came out of the oven. Next year I hope to have a set of leaf-shaped cookie cutters to make fancier decorations.

    After Thanksgiving I took the extra raw cranberries and dipped them in sweet Dolci Frutta dipping chocolate (usually used to make chocolate strawberries). The contrast of sour cranberry and ultra-sweet chocolate is a real kick. (If you make this, be sure to use fresh, crunchy cranberries.)

    Saturday, November 27, 2004

    Walmart, watch out!

    Target has a product very hot in certain areas--previous obtained only in boutique environments, now at your local mall.
    [Editor's note: Target finally spotted this prank page on their site, a low-key listing for a modest amount of marijuana, and removed it. But it's captured for posterity here.]

    Friday, November 26, 2004

    Cy Coleman

    Just spotted the obituary for Broadway composer Cy Coleman, whose compositions included the amazing "The Best is Yet to Come." There is not a particularly good Sinatra rendition in the iTunes Music Store, but I did find great performances by Nancy Wilson and Shirley Horn (also Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Sara Vaughn, and Peggy Lee--you get the style). If you're a dancer or a musician, "The Best is Yet to Come" is memorable be cause the melody tumbles along over the beat like water over rocks. You can't imagine anyone singing this tune a cappella--the tension, the swing, would be missing.

    Coleman also wrote "Witchcraft" and "Big Spender," and scored movies, among the The Heartbreak Kid.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2004

    F1:E2 means we're ERC-ed

    Beep! Beep! Beep!

    As soon as I took the cornbread out, our oven beeped at me, shut off and displayed the message F1:E2. Eventually it calmed down and the rest of the controls became accessible again.

    Our KitchenAid electric stove is the Chevy Vega of cooking appliances. Epinions reviewers have targeted this model as a classic lemon, though it can't quite match the KitchenAid electric model (also memorialized on Epinons) that activated its oven door lock while the owners were making a roast for a dinner party. Three days and multiple repairmen later, the door was still locked and the kitchen redolent of rotting meat--apparently KitchenAid has the door screws on the inside of the door, where no one could get at them.

    But back to our KitchenAid...thus far, the occasional F1:E2 problem has not prevented me from cooking. But it hit with a vengeance tonight while I was making cornbread for stuffing. With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I started to panic. While a couple error messages are mentioned in the KitchenAid manual, this is not one of them. (But, of course). Thanks to Google, I was able to get the complete list of KitchenAid error messages from There I learned that E1:F2 means that the ERC needs to be replaced.

    The ERC?!?#?

    According to the Samurai Applicance Repairman at, the ERC is the electronic range control. He explains that when an ERC fails, the appliance is still in fine working order--just the fancy control system is fried. And you'll pay big bucks--not to fix the oven, but to fix the shoddy electonics system that controls it. On a stove not even three years old.

    Let's just say I've printed out a recipe for roasting a turducken on an outside gas grill. And one thing I won't be giving thanks for tomorrow is the KitchenAid company.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    Strange worlds, nu?

    The strong influence of Jewish writers on contempory science fiction is not news to aficionados of the genre. At the Jewish literary site, Daniel Oppenheimer takes a look at what has, and hasn't, happened since the definitive compendium of Jewish SF, Wandering Star, was published in 1974.

    Sunday, November 21, 2004

    Google Dating

    No, this isn't a meet-up service. Google Date is a weird little Google add-on that lets you type in the date, and then Google tells you what things happened then. Obscure things, mind you. You can reduce the level of obscurity somewhat by using the keyword option.

    (Thanks to weblogwannabe for the tip.)

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    The Best of Thanksgiving

    It floors me that I've been blogging for more than a year. Last November, I responded to question from the (now defunct) Friday Five about my aspirations by saying that I "just want to survive Thanksgiving." (Obviously, I did.) And I was ranting about our ghastly electric stove and threatening to grovel, once again, before the gas company and beg them to run a gas line to our street.

    Here it is, a year later, and still no gas line. But the gas company employee who kept telling us the line was coming, and losing all the papers the neighbors signed committing to buying gas appliances, is mysteriously no longer with the gas company. The woman who took over from him now says we will have a gas service by the end of January. Which would be lovely since, believing her predecessor, I purchased a Wolf gas stove, which is now sitting in a warehouse waiting to be delivered.

    Thanksgiving will be at our house this year, for various amusing reasons, and it will just be my mother-in-law, our friends John and Sally, and Zorg and me. I suspect there will have to be a "kittens table" in the garage, since the kittens view our sitting down at the dining room table as their signal to begin "cleaning up" on the kitchen counter.

    Having been ordered by the m.i.l. to get an organic turkey from a particular vendor at the farmers market convenient to her, I instead ordered a turducken from the Cajun Grocer. An organic turducken, of course, cher.

    Since the turducken is by definition already stuffed, I'm making a cornbread stuffing sidedish that includes lots of yellow and red peppers, mushrooms, and apples. And I've tested a fabulous light salad:
  • marinate sliced celery and apple in oil and vinegar, salt and pepper
  • toss lettuce and parsley with that dressing
  • then sprinkle it all with a good blue cheese (crumbled) and toasted almonds

    A pumpkin pie fan, I'm making an extra mini pie to send over to some friends who dislike pumpkin pie but are having a guest who likes it.

    I'd thought I'd blog about a few of the great Thanksgiving disasters of the past--the flying turkey, the return of the stuffed cabbage appetizers, the whipped cream cannister that attacked Nina--but maybe later in the week.
  • Installing Palm desktop for Mac for a Treo 600

    First of all, don't install the new (Nov. 19 2005) Palm Desktop 4.2.1 for Mac if you are going to sync to a Treo 600. Bad things will happen until Palm releases a new version; read all the info on the download page and make sure the Treo 600 has been added to the list of supported devices.

    For the time being, you will want to install Palm Desktop 4.1 for Mac.

    If you are upgrading from a previous version of the Palm Desktop, be sure to make backup copies of up your User file (in Documents>Palm>Users). Things are going to get hairy, and losing your User file could be the element that shoves you right over the edge.


    Start by opening the Palm Desktop 4.1 installer for Mac that came with your Treo 600 or with the software MacDesktop_41_T600.sit you downloaded from the PalmOne site.

    Using Mac OS X, 10.3.x? Alert! Alert! Alert! The installation will choke and you'll get a cryptic system error message from the installer (not from your Mac system). Again and again and again. Don't change those settings! The problem is at Palm's end.

    You could go to their Treo help pages, which will give you a number for TMobile, which will helpfully connect you to their tech support which will have no idea why you are getting the error message but will connect you by some back channel to palmOne's tech support. That's assuming you call during business hours--TMobile is available round the clock, but palmOne isn't.

    You could, of course, search for several hours on discussion boards for a solution to the installer problem. Too busy? OK, here's a hint: You need to download a little file hidden on the palmOne site. It's called the palmOne Permissions Fixer.

    Downloading and installing it takes but a few seconds. However, you won't be able to launch the palmOne Permissions Fixer unless you have expanded its .SIT file using the latest state-of-the-art version of StuffIt Expander. Got it? OK.

    Once the Permissions Fixer is launched and runs, the Palm Desktop installer will, indeed, work.

    If you are going to sync to the Treo using Apple's iSync, make sure you have the latest version of the Apple iSync Conduit (v1.2). Download it, but don't install that conduit until after you have the Palm Desktop 4.1 installed.

    OK, now read the iSync instructions. The worst is over. Tell the cat it's safe to come out from under the couch.

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    Just call me the Repo Gal

    Today I repossessed my own car and spent $400+ on a cell phone. Neither activity had been on the horizon this morning when I sat down to my desk.

    At noon, I caught the bus down to the detailing shop to pick up my car, thinking I'd zip back home in matter of minutes. "Out to lunch" said the sign on the shop door, with a phone number underneath. I dialed the number thinking it was his cell phone, only to hear ringing inside the garage and an answering machine pick up. I spent a frustrating hour pacing the parking lot and waiting for the detailer to mosey on back. After a hour had gone by, I gave up and went next door to the graphic arts business and asked if they had a cell phone number for him. No, but the owner of the graphics shop turned out to be the building landlord. She let me into the garage and, apparently deciding that nobody would try to steal a 1990 Honda Civic (detailed or not), she let me have my car. I spotted my name and a price on the desk calendar; she calculated the sales tax, and I left the detailer a check where my key had been, along with the note "Ask Rose what happened."

    While waiting for the detailer, I opened my own cell phone and half of the lid snapped off. It didn't really sort of bent, cracked and peeled (being plastic). This is a common stress problem with Treo 300s. The only options are to send the phone (which has the earpiece in the lid) off to have a new lid hooked up. That means no phone for a week, $70 plus shipping, and every likelihood that the lid is going to break off again in a few months. (No doubt why Treo 300s are not sold anymore.)

    Thus I found myself at the T-Mobile kiosk at the mall after work, buying a Treo 600 (T-Mobile is the only cell phone service that has a decent signal on our street, and the Palm-OS Treo is one of the better phones for syncing with a Mac running OS X).

    I had synced the 300 data to the machine, so, supposedly all I need to do is charge the 600 and sync it to the computer. Ho. Ho. Ho. More later...

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    Novels like golf

    Actually, I like Patrick White's writing, but I love this comment from a discussion of Australian literature: "I always like that description of Patrick White's novels as being like golf--great swatches of scenery interrupted by bursts of snobbery."

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    Saturday, November 13, 2004

    In our wildest dreams

    Here, from a blogger on, is the concession speech we wished Kerry had given.

    Remember the Persian Gulf War?

    I do, every time I look at my UGG Australian sheepskin boots.

    In 1990, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait, renewing the claim that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq and asserting that Kuwaiti oil drilling on the border was tapping into Iraqi oil fields. In January 1991 the US came to the defense of Kuwait, putting us into our first international military conflict since Vietnam. The US went into shock, one of the effects of which was that commerce ground to a halt. Shopping, dining out--doing anything but sitting glued to TV and radio--was unpatriotic.

    It was during the first week of the war that a friend and I enjoyed dinner at Seattle's renowned Le Gourmand--as the only party of the evening. And during that same week that I discovered how panicked merchants get if they don't have any customers.

    I'd never seen UGGs before, but they looked warm and cozy up there on the shelf at the funky shoe store in the University District. My old Seattle bungalow was cold and drafty, and sheepskin boots seemed the solution. The price--$120--was too much for me in those days, so I asked if they'd take $89. The store manager, who hadn't had a sale all week, agreed, and I went off with the boots.

    The UGGs became an integral part of my at-home identity. I wore them after work with sweats, and I wore them in the morning with my bathrobe. Since my feet are always cold, I wore them from September to June every year.

    One cold, relentlessly rainy night in February, my cat Betaille rushed in the cat door carring a huge, struggling rat. She dropped the rat in my bedroom, and it leaped into one of the UGG boots. Betaille immediately shoved a paw in after it. Terrified she'd be bitten, I tossed her out of the room. In the chaos, the UGG fell over, but the rat remained inside. There was no way to get the rat out of the house without tossing the boot, too. So I closed the boot with kitchen tongs and, opening the back door, hurled the rodent-stuffed footwear out into the deluge. Two days later, when the rain stopped, I went out to get the sodden boot. Fortunately, the rat had departed. But what had it left in the boot? I brought the boot in and soaked it (and its mate) in Woolite in the sink to eradicate any remaining rodentia. Do you know how much water sheepskin can absorb? It took many, many rinses to get the soap out. I dried the boots in a warm room, and they were as good as new.

    Last year those UGGs entered their 13th season of wear. They'd been washed a few times, and the sheepskin was getting a bit matted. The soles were wearing down, getting stiff, and didn't provide much traction any more. So I decided it was time for a replacement pair.

    That's when I discovered, to my horror, that in between wars my UGGs had become celebrity footwear wear at ski resorts and at the beach. They now came in baby blue, pink, and every color imaginable. And there was a growing backlash against LA bimbos who went trotting around in UGGs and mini-skirts: apparently, they are known as "UGG sluts." As a result of all this fuss, UGGs were selling at full price, or at least they would have been selling at full price if there were any. The black ones I wanted were backordered for a year on the Nordstrom website. Imitation UGGs were springing up all over eBay. It was just too discouraging.

    By this fall the industrious Aussies had been able to dye up plenty of sheepskins, and I was able to snag a pair of real UGGs on eBay for $90 plus shipping. They are identical to, and just as gorgeous as, my first pair.

    The problem now? It's hard to put that old pair into the Goodwill bag. Those boots know more about the past 14 years of my life than even my best friend does.

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Spice up your backups

    I have been patting myself on the back for taking the plunge, buying a superb 250GB external drive, and making bootable copies of my two computers' hard drives on a weekly basis, using the very friendly Carbon Copy Cloner shareware.

    But this would be so much more fun.

    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    Hack the vote

    An overview (with links) of mounting statistical evidence that there may have been hacking of the central PCs where optical-scan votes were tabulated. Oh, arggh.

    Democrats' conundrum

    "If we have to act like Republicans to beat Republicans, then I'm not sure what we win."
    --Stephen Elliott, author of Looking Forward to It

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    Cat news flash

    Kaylee the hyperactive kitten went in to get spayed Tuesday and the vet called to say that when they opened her up they discovered she was still in heat. Since her behavior for the past week had been far calmer than the shrieking we'd assumed was heat, this was a surprise to us. It made the surgery more difficult, and Kaylee returned home a very subdued, tired little cat. But she is expected to make a full recovery.

    If you don't look, you won't see anything wrong

    The Seattle group headed by Bev Harris has gone to court asserting that major voting machine errors occured in the recent election and that no spotted them because no one was looking--or knew where to look for the weak spots. They're calling for audits by computer security professionals.

    What makes it weird is that they are warning people about what they call a "deceptive" site,, where there is a lot of yakking but no action.


    Now, let's go to the maps

    A thoughtful, in-depth look at what's behind the red and blue states. And an irreverent one.

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    Reaction from the blogosphere and beyond

    "The red/blue split first noticed in 2000 looks less like an anomaly of a tight election and more like a long-term alignment of the American people: The coasts, the Northeast, the Midwest -- almost anywhere that people are gathered in big cities -- for the Democrats; the West and the South for the Republicans. The last time the nation faced this kind of split, in the mid-19th century, we ended up shooting one another."
    --Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comments

    "Apparently, my country holds a fundamentally different set of values than I thought we did, and that scares the shit out of me."
    --Wil Wheaton

    "I have no doubt that the pendulum will swing back in my direction, perhaps in 4 years, perhaps in 8 or 12. I only hope that incurious George and his band of imperialistic jingoists do not do too much harm to the US and the world in the meantime."

    "It's over. Let it go."
    --Larry Lessig

    "I’m going to spend time these next few days looking for the America in my heart. It may be a while before I see it anywhere else."
    --comment posted on Lessig's site by adamsj

    "My stomach is a mess. Even though I knew it was not going to be easy, just seeing those numbers come in are giving me agita. I'm smoking like there's no tomorrow--and since I have to go outside my apartment to do so, you know I'm freezing my butt."

    "Now, without constraints, Bush can pursue the dreams he campaigned for--the use of U.S. military might to bring God's gift of freedom to the world, with no more 'global tests,' and at home the enactment of the imperatives of 'the right God.'"
    --Sidney Blumenthal in Salon (Nov. 3)

    Why we keep losing to this idiot

    If you can choke down just one piece of post-election analysis today, consider seeing what Slate writer William Saletan considers to be the lessons learned--and how we should apply them.

    Crimes Against Nature

    "Your public servants serve you right."
    Adlai Stevenson

    Liberal thinking this go-round was that if we just mobilized all the like-thinking Americans who'd been staying home from the polls from distain or ennui, we'd win this time.

    We were wrong. We did what we told ourselves was our best, spoke out, moved on, assembled our numbers, made sure the choir was thoroughly preached to, affected the disaffected, and--we lost.

    Our best has got to be better.

    It's tempting to fume on the morning-after that the lesson learned is that half of the country lives on the far side of a bottomless chasm, believing that a (Christian) God is on the hotline to Bush, the world environment is ours to plunder, might is right, and women and gays are second-class citizens.

    But the self-righteous right was merely the minority core of the Bush victory, not the deciding factor. I believe that those who cast what were the deciding votes for Bush look just like our friends. And that they voted for Bush not because they believe in his ultra-right views, but because they checked with their budget book and made selfish, short-term decisions about money.

    Bush is the good buddy not only of the rich, but of the upper middle class. He lets you keep more of your capital gains. He's phasing out the inheritance tax. Four more years of Bush can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if you are in mid-level management and have a family with property. I think it was an all-too-easy choice for middle-of-the-roaders to make, particularly if they are sufficient isolated by geography or numbed by consumerism to be able to ignore increasingly poisened water and air and increasing class divisions in the world and in the nation.

    Our mission between now and 2008 will be to bring an awareness of environmental and economic issues to those middle-of-the-roaders and expand their political consciousness so they will look beyond next April 15 and the next quarterly dividend. Your assignment: Read Robert Kennedy Jr.'s new book Crimes Against Nature. Then give it as a holiday gift to a Republican you love.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2004


    10 p.m. PST and according to CNN Bush is 21 electoral votes away from four more years of ruining the environment and the economy. I feel like throwing up.

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    In the meantime, wear shoes around here

    Many years ago, I was up late working on a fiction writing project when my big orange tabby, Bosco, wanted to go to bed. He began walking along my bookcase, and, selecting a volume, pulled it out and let it tumble onto the floor. The volume? How to Sell What You Write.

    Not long after that, I woke up on my birthday to find a tiny stuffed animal on my pillow, holding a little sign that said "Happy Birthday." I found out later in the day that my cat Betaille had stolen this from my nextdoor neighbor's house—she was a cat burglar any way, but how did she know it was my birthday?

    A few days ago, Kaylee, the little Stripe Sister, began trying to tell me something. It started when I noticed she was coming into my office, standing up on the back of the sofa, and picking push-pins out of the bulletin board. She'd then take the push-pin and bat it around the house until it was lost under some piece of furniture.

    That particular bulletin board is covered in memorabilia: Handmade cards, favorite snapshots, bookmarks, my tags from MacWorld and Northwest Bookfest--you get the drift. The bulletin board gets assembled slowly over time as a collage (similar to those "mindmaps" drawn by the touchy-feely facilitator-types at the non-profit bureaucracies where I used to work).

    So this morning Kaylee is busy taking apart the last three years of my life. She's worked her way more than halfway up the board and can't reach any new push-pins by standing on the back of the sofa. Now she just launches herself onto the bulletin board, hangs there by her claws, and works at the next push-pin with her teeth. When she gets it, she releases the claws, pivots, and bounces down onto the sofa with her prize. Cards and photos are all over the sofa and the floor, where big Stripe Sister Zoe is helping play with the push-pins. Now even Sheba, the deaf white cat, is involved in the push-pin soccer game. (Don't try taking a push-pin away from her!)

    I could get the squirt gun and stop Kaylee, but at this point it's fascinating to watch. Clearly, I'll have to build a new bulletin board--after she outgrows her push-pin obsession. In the meantime, we'll be wearing shoes around here.

    The bulletin board bandit makes her getaway with another push-pin.