Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blogging Flickr photos (part 1)

My most popular image on Flickr is, sadly, not one of my photographs. It's a screenshot from an old blog post about how to include images from Flickr in Web pages. But the number of views it's gotten (currently just under 4000), along with my latest photo blogging, makes me think it's time to reprise and indeed expand my article so that it covers adding images from Flickr to blog posts (especially, but not exclusively) created with Blogger.

There are lots of ways of adding images from Flickr to your Blogger posts. The easiest, but least flexible, is by using Flickr's tools to blog your photos. First, tell Flickr where you are blogging. You can choose from a few layouts by clicking the Layout link next to your blog name. Then, when you want to blog about a photo from your Flickr stream, click the "Blog This" button above the desired photo:

Flickr's Blog This button

You'll then get a menu where you can choose the blog that you want to post to, and then two fields next to a small version of your photo. In the first will be the current title of the selected photo. This will be the Subject of your blog post. In the second will be where you can write your blog entry:

Blogging from Flickr

Fill in the fields, click Post Entry and your new post will almost magically appear over on your blog.

If you want to blog about a single photo, this method is all right, but it falls down hard if you want to add any additional photos or formatting. Unfortunately, you are limited to writing a plain text entry, and you can't add labels either. These are big negatives for me and so I almost always use a different method, which I explain in part 2 (about Blogger's Insert Images button) and part 3 (about adding the code manually--my preferred technique).

In part 4, I'll show you how to wrap text around your Flickr images that link to Flickr.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Crows are watching you

Just read an incredible article in the New York Times. It turns out that crows (and their relatives, ravens and magpies) can recognize human faces. Not only that, they keep a lookout to see if someone they know (and fear) is nearby.

Researchers donned "dangerous" masks, and then trapped, banded, and released birds. They then walked through the same area without the mask: no response. Then they walked through the area with the mask and they were scolded not only by the birds they had trapped but by other birds, who were perhaps taught by the trapped birds that that person was a danger. There's a very illustrative video.

On Wikipedia, they tell about New Caledonian crows who have been studied for their ability to use tools, including human cars: they drop seeds into the roadway and wait for us to crush them!

Every little thing

My friend Gregory was in our corn field recently photographing our neighbor's donkey. Gregory is an amazing photographer (with a small but beautiful show at Elmer's these days), and he finally helped me understand how f-stops and exposures and stuff affect pictures. It's something I've never really gotten before. I feel like I can frame pictures pretty well, but I don't have any expertise on taking a good picture. Gregory was kind enough to lend me a tripod, so I took a bunch of pictures of my gourds and sunflowers, experimenting with the f-stop, but boy it's hard to get it just right and in focus. It doesn't help that my eyes have gotten so bad in the past few months that I can barely tell if something's in focus or not. A couple of them came out all right. It was fun trying.

It never ceases to amaze me how much there is to learn about every little thing. You scratch a little, and there's a whole world there to discover. And it's a big world.

Here's my shot of the donkey.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Growing in the night

One of the things I love about gardens is how they keep going even when you go off and do something else.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

They don't know everything

When I first got my rabbits several years ago, everything I read said I shouldn't give them anything but rabbit food pellets. That greens would actually create blockage in their systems. This didn't make any sense to me. Whenever I've seen a rabbit out in the wild, it was munching on grass, looking as healthy as can be. So, instead of listening, I built my rabbits a cage with a wire bottom and sides so they could be right on the grass and eat as much as they want.


Then they said that I couldn't keep boy rabbits together, because they would fight. Maybe if I raised them together it would be OK but only if I got them castrated. I was skeptical and ended up putting five boy bunnies together in a 10 foot by 4 foot wire cage on pasture. You could tell they were happy. A year later, I added their dad and they all get along very well. The problem isn't putting bunnies together, I don't think, it's not giving them enough room.

The point isn't about rabbits though, it's about all the information that we get and how skeptical we should be about it. I've been doing a lot of research about cancer and it's so hard to believe what anybody says. The conventional medicine is so sure of itself, insisting that the patient can do little, and that radiation, chemo, and surgery are the only options. Even so, they offer little hope and miserable survival rates.

Dig a little, and there are plenty of people who say otherwise. There's the Budwig diet of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil, there's hyperthermia and insulin potentiation treatment, there's detoxing your body with raw foods. But what is real, what is true? It's so hard to tell.

And why should it be the same for every person? If one person can eat plate after plate of spaghetti and stay rail thin, while another eats salads and stays heavy, if one person loves chocolate but another loves lemon drops, doesn't that mean we all have different metabolisms and that there could well be different things that help different people?

They can no sooner test these alternative treatments than they can test alternative parenting techniques. There's no control group. There's no way to know if the thing you're doing is the thing that's having an effect.

There is a government agency dedicated to studying alternative treatments for cancer. But one of the studies they're following (or funding, I forget which), called for freeze-drying 20 different substances for which there is "anecdotal evidence" of anti-cancer properties and then administering these now standardized amounts to patients. It almost seems like they're looking for a way to prove that these things don't work.

Mostly, though, I got the impression that it was virtually impossible to create a rigorous, scientific test to gauge the efficacy of these anti-cancer substances. How could you standardize them without rendering them useless? How could you standardize your population?

And then I get back to my rabbits. I can see, with my own eyes, that what they said was wrong. Intact boy bunnies can live together, even if they haven't started out together. Bunnies who eat grass don't necessarily get blockage. My evidence is just anecdotal evidence. I did no blind studies. But it's no less true.

This gives me hope.

They don't know everything. Each of us must use our senses, our experience, and our knowledge to analyze the information we receive and make our own assessments, our own decisions. If it doesn't ring true, we must continue to search for better answers. And if it does, then we need to follow our instincts and our conclusions, despite the lack of "scientific evidence".

Non-breaking spaces in FileMaker Pro

One of my quirks is a lifelong love affair with databases (which many would put in the same category as bowling and prunes). Today I was working on a mail merge system for a local non-profit, and I needed a non-breaking space in my letter to keep "July" and "27" on the same line. It's Option-Space. It doesn't show up in my Calculation field, but when I browse the letters, my date stays together and looks much better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Little Brother

Just finished reading Cory Doctorow's new book, Little Brother, about a teenage's boy's fight against an excessive crackdown by the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack in San Francisco. I read a negative review on Amazon which rightly complained about the cookie cutter bad guys and lack of evidence that our hero is such a great hacker, but I still think they sort of missed the point.

As I've been worrying about the world and dread reading the news, I am often given hope by hackers and visionaries who might have looked like the protagonist when they were a few years younger. These are people who hold dear the ideals on which this country was founded--rights to privacy, freedom of press, expression, assembly, religion, and to be treated fairly and equally before the law--and who have the technological power to defend them. I love passing that hope on to my daughter when she asks me, "Why do they do that?" in response to the news of some corrupt government official.

She's actually the intended audience for this "young adult" book, and she really liked it, calling it "very intense". I highly recommend reading it yourself and then sharing it with your kids. We need to have hope.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bringing in the Sheaves

Oh, what a lovely morning! Our friends, Dave and Joanie, invited us to see their wheat field and to watch them harvest the wheat with a scythe. I couldn't pass up the offer.

Growing wheat

They've got 900 square feet of three different kinds of organic wheat. Dave thinks they'll harvest about a bushel of wheat berries. Joanie told me they started with a no-till system, first covering a patch of the field with 2 inches of leaf mulch, then Kraft brown paper, and then another 6 inches of leaf mulch. Then they seeded the wheat right in the new garden. It seemed like a manageable size. I don't think I ever realized that you could just grow a small amount of wheat like this.

Harvesting the wheat with a scythe

Of course, part of the reason that growing a very small amount of wheat is so unusual is that people think you need to have huge machinery for harvesting. To solve that issue, Dave uses a scythe. It looks like it came straight out of a Halloween costume store, except it's real. It has a big wooden handle on one side and when he got going you could tell there was a clear rhythm to it. He has a whet stone in a holster in his pocket because the scythe must be sharpened every few minutes. He was done cutting the wheat in less than an hour, and would've gone even faster if we hadn't been chatting and experimenting and thinking about how to separate the wheat from the weeds (not the chaff, that comes later).

Wheat ready to be dried and then threshed

We ended up separating most of it by hand. It was time-consuming, but it's amazing how a job divided between friends can get done so quickly and happily. And watching the pile of golden wheat grow at our sides was downright intoxicating. It was really beautiful. I felt really inspired. Perhaps we'll grow some winter wheat this fall ourselves. I love the idea of the no-till garden. And the thought of making bread from our own wheat is really enticing. It felt just like the first time I spun wool... that delicious feeling of going back to the source and doing it all yourself without relying on any external power.

Parsley, Dill, Caterpillars, and Time

Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes
My friend Nancy Bea recently wrote about the plethora of pests in her garden this summer. There was one that was so beautiful she couldn't bring herself to kill. I think she was talking about the Black Swallowtail caterpillar, one of the few that is beautiful as a larva as well as an adult. They love parsley, dill, Queen Anne's lace, and carrots. I have a few in my garden as well that I, too, leave alone. In fact, I always have the urge to plant a whole crop of something they'll love in hopes of attracting them. This year, they were lucky enough to find some dill volunteers, since our gardening was completely thrown off by our trip to Barcelona. Course, if you're kind to them, remember they are as ravenous as any other caterpillar (look at the second row picture!)

It seems to be the time for caterpillars. I happened to see some gorgeous Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars the other day and didn't have my camera (gasp!), but of course images of them abound elsewhere.

And I've noticed more and more Monarchs flying around our rather weedy field. They love the clover and then lay their eggs on the also plentiful milkweed.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar, Danaus plexippus

Right behind the house there are a few errant milkweed that have a collection of Monarch caterpillars in each possible stage (instar)... the tiniest dark green baby maybe an eighth of an inch long, the teeny half-inch long toddlers just showing their stripes, up to the beautiful yellow, green, and black striped adults ready to go into those gorgeous gold tipped chrysalises.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar, Danaus plexippus

This one above is probably only in the fourth instar stage. (The fifth and last instar features longer antennae.) I found it on the side of a wooden step, below some milkweed, just hanging out. I think it's probably getting ready to molt.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Country Bumpkin in the Big City

Yesterday, my old Nokia phone finally refused to charge. Of course, I was sort of pleased, since that was the last obstacle between me and an iPhone... This morning, I decided to drive down to the Apple store. As I was getting dressed, I looked at the pants that I was putting on and noticed the specks of grass that were still on them from when I weed-whacked around the pig fence yesterday afternoon. It made me feel like a country bumpkin on my way to the big city.

The strange thing was I kind of liked the feeling. I also like being a technology addict here in my small town. And I realized I also like being an American in Barcelona, and a Catalan in the US. I often worry that I don't quite fit in, but maybe it's because I don't completely want to; there are these big important parts of me that stick out, that I like having stick out. I remember when I was little, my sisters would tease me for watching bowling on TV and eating prunes (back before they were dried plums). These were things most 8-year-olds didn't do, but they were totally me.

And I suppose the only reason it's curious is because I spend a fair bit of time wondering if I belong anywhere, and often feel a bit like an alien. Probably much of the problem is imagining that anyone could fit in a box labeled "country bumpkin" or "technology addict"; no-one is that one-sided. But I do think that part of my alienation (though that's a strong word) comes from liking very disparate things: sewing and PHP, bowling and local food, politics and pumpkins.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chemistry Sets with no Chemicals

Tim O'Reilly writes today about how Chemistry sets no longer have chemicals, how people breaking no laws are having their houses overrun by the police, and how in the end, our love of "safety" will take the fun out of everything, and make us dumb, too. It's a must read.

Several months ago, I saw a review of one of the books Tim talks about, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments, by Robert Bruce Thompson. It looked interesting, so I posted a note about it to our local homeschooling web site. The responses I got were really frightening. One parent said she'd be afraid to order chemicals after an area teen had gotten arrested for having a lab in his basement, and others agreed you should be careful.

Frankly, I found the whole discussion pretty depressing. What was it Franklin said... They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. What could be more essential than the right to learn how the world works?

Birth of a sun...


This was three days ago:
Birthing sunflower

This was two days ago:
A new sunflower

And this was this morning (you can already see wear and tear in the petals):

It's the only one blooming so far. I can just imagine it saying, "Me first, me first!"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So, What is a Wiki anyway?

It has not escaped my attention that, despite the name of this blog, there has been not a single entry about wikis since I started writing two weeks ago. Part of the reason is that I was spending an awful lot of time creating a movie for the Ashfield Film Festival, but the most important reason is that I wasn't sure how to start. Perhaps an introduction will do the job.

Readers, meet wikis, wikis, meet readers.

Let me tell you a little about wikis. The name is the most intimidating part, but has the best story. The guy who developed the first wiki software, Ward Cunningham, named his invention after the Wiki Wiki shuttle bus at Honolulu Airport. Wiki is Hawaiian for "fast". But fast only tells part of the story. There are two more things about wikis that make them really valuable tools.

First, wikis can be used to create web pages collaboratively. Wikipedia is a prime example. You, me, and the postman can go on to Wikipedia and add or edit the web pages that are there, thanks to the wiki software that Wikipedia runs on.

But wikis don't have to be a joint effort. I've been using them to create Web sites for friends and family members, like, for example, my Dad's painting site. The advantage is that a wiki is incredibly easy to edit, which means that once it's designed and set up, it's easy for the Web site owner, like my Dad, to update the information on his own Web site, create new pages and links between pages, and more, without knowing HTML, and without having to upload pages through FTP.

So, again, what is a wiki? It's a web site generated with wiki software (like MediaWiki or PmWiki) that can be edited collaboratively. Once the web site (often called a wiki) is set up, pages can be created and/or edited without any knowledge of HTML or FTP.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Baby gourds, pumpkins, and squash bugs

We have a whole new collection of small chicks, but I'm afraid I've given my heart to my baby gourds and pumpkins. This afternoon, I went out to my too-large pumpkin patch and spent a while watching them hiding like shy toddlers behind the huge, lush leaves of their parents.

A small gourd amongst lush leaves

A new pumpkin

It's been raining non-stop, except that today it stopped. I think all the rain has made it hard on the squash bugs; there really aren't that many. The squash bugs love pumpkins but not gourds (which are a separate family) and about a month ago I started seeing the tell-tale signs of yellow, spotted leaves. Turn over the leaves and there are neat little rows of orange-brown eggs, and sometimes whole menageries of baby squash bugs.

Big and little squash bugs

The curious thing is that often you find multigenerational groups of squash bugs, a couple of medium size ones along with a slew of babies. I don't know if they just like to hang out together or if they actually help each other.

They are awful to (all kinds of) squash. The leaves wilt away and the bugs swarm all over. And they are awful to squash, but I do it anyway.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Widescreen movies in QuickTime
or, Happy Birthday, Cecil

It's a little known fact that Cecil B. Demille was born while his parents were vacationing in Ashfield, Massachusetts on August 12, 1881. Perhaps for that reason, or more probably because it was a lucky excuse, a group of Ashfield residents began the Ashfield Film Festival, whose deadline for submissions is, not surprisingly, August 12. That's today.

I finished my movie yesterday morning and spent the better part of the day insisting that FinalCut really export it in widescreen format, that iDVD really keep it in widescreen format, and that my projector really display it in widescreen format. The best tips I found were from a post on Apple's iDVD support forum which referenced this article.

Basically, even though you've shot and edited your movie in widescreen format, you have to follow a special process to keep it widescreen in QuickTime. First, export the movie as a standalone QuickTime Movie (not using QuickTime Conversion). Then open that movie with QuickTime player and, through the Movie Properties box (Command-J), change the movie's size to 853 x 480 pixels. Save the changes and then you're ready to import it into iDVD. Don't forget to check the widescreen option in iDVD when you begin your project.

Oh, and if you want to see my movie, come to the Ashfield Film Festival, 7pm, September 20th. You'll also be able to see all of the movies on YouTube sometime after the festival. I'll be sure and post a link here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New Chicks

New Chicks

We got the call this morning from the post office. Our chicks had arrived. There's about 30 in the picture. This year we ordered Colored Range Broilers from a new place we hadn't tried before: J.M. Hatchery, thanks to a tip from my friend, Embrace Create.

These are “meat birds”, which means that they should grow quickly and by November or so be ready for slaughter and our freezer. Last year, we had a terrible time. We had gotten Cornish Rock crosses and put them out on pasture in a portable coop that I rigged up with PVC and welded wire. But those chicks never got very fat. I thought perhaps they were getting too much exercise, but at the end of the summer, another friend said it was the grain we were feeding them, and that they had had the same problem.

So, this year, we are trying new chicks and the same grain. Doesn't seem logical, but there's no alternative provider of organic grain. Supposedly, they have changed the formulation, but we'll be watching more closely and won't be so willing to blame ourselves if the chicks stay scrawny.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Line breaks in Blogger Blog titles

I just changed the "Description" of my blog, that bit that goes right under the title. If you have your own blog, you may have noticed that Blogger controls the line breaks in your description. Even if you add a regular line break, the lines all flow together when you go to view your blog.

But I wanted Bringing new meaning to the phrase "Wiki Farm" to be on its own line.

The answer? Add <br> (which is the HTML code for a line break) where the new line should begin.

Line breaks in Blogger Blog titles

As you can see at the top of this very page, the rest of my description starts on its own line, just as I wished.


Henna hand

A friend invited me to a Henna party the other night. There were 7 or 8 women, all friends or friends of friends. And one of them painted Henna on various parts of our bodies. As you can see, I got mine on my left hand. I really like looking at it which is strange, because ever since my family got robbed when I was 16 and the burglars made off with only my haphazard assortment of teenage jewelry, I have pretty much ignored external adornments, tinted or otherwise. Since I work at home, I don't pay much attention to the clothes I wear, tending toward shapeless t-shirts and jeans. I don't wash my hair or shower every single day. I don't wear make-up. On the other hand, I'd never wear sneakers with a skirt. We all have our limits.

But the reason that I'm writing all this is that at this party I felt completely unglamorous, and even a bit frumpy. I don't have anything against glamour, I even admire it. I'm just not good at it. But then I had this thought: it's probably a good thing for our daughters to see all sorts of moms at all levels of glamour, who all do cool and interesting things. I volunteer to be the one with little glamour but lots of pigs, gourds, and wikis.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Subscribing to a blog

I've been talking and thinking about blogs a lot. I thought I only read two: O'Reilly Radar, which is a technical blog about "insight, analysis and research about emerging technologies" and which is a blog written by Web design and standards guru, Jeffrey Zeldman. But each day when I go to my personalized Google page, I am reminded that I am subscribed to a few more than two. I don't actually read every post every day, but by having new posts appear on my iGoogle page, I can see which ones I want to read and skip the ones I don't have time for.

Why subscribe to a blog? I am just not the kind of person to remember to go to different sites and see if there's something new. By subscribing to a blog, I can see when there is a new post, and even read that post (or sometimes an excerpt of it) without going anywhere special (or remembering any addresses).

There are stand-alone programs (RSS readers) that let you follow blog posts, but for me it's easier just to use Google Reader and have the blogs appear on my iGoogle page. I realized that I wasn't yet subscribed to my friend Nancy Bea's blog, so I thought I'd walk you all through it...

An iGoogle page is a personalized Google page. Besides searching the Web, I use mine to see new pictures from my friends' Flickr accounts, check my Calendar, look at weather reports, follow news articles, read the comics, and finally, follow blogs with Google Reader. If you have a Google Account, you can set up an iGoogle page of your own. From Google's main page, click Sign in in the upper right corner:

Google, signin

Next, enter your user name and password. Then click iGoogle, also in the upper right hand corner:

go to igoogle

If you don't have Google Reader on your iGoogle page, just click the "Customize this page" link at the top right to add it.


Just type "Google Reader" into the Search for gadgets box and when Google Reader comes up, click the Add it now button under its logo:

add google reader

Here's what my iGoogle page looks like:

my iGoogle page

As you can see above, my Google Reader is in the top right corner. You can see the title of each new post along with the name of the blog that it comes from. I have it configured so that when I click on a post name, the post is expanded in a bubble:

Read new post-1

Some blogs let you read the entire post right here, photos and all. Others (like Zeldman's) only give you a brief excerpt and you click "Show original item" if you want to jump to the blog in question. (Configure your iGoogle gadgets by clicking the down arrow next to their names.)

OK, so how do we add a blog?

First, navigate to the blog you want to subscribe to.

genre cookshop, top-1

Next, find the Subscribe link or button. Nancy Bea doesn't have a "Subscribe" button per se, but down near the bottom of the page, you can find a little "atom.xml" link. That'll work too. Anything that says "atom", "RSS", "feed", or "Subscribe" should do the trick. In this case, we'll click that atom.xml link.

Genre Cookshop.atom-1

You'll jump to a page that displays the "feed" for the blog, that is, what is sent to subscribers.

Because of its extension, Firefox understands that it's a feed and asks if you want to subscribe. (I haven't tested this yet with Explorer, but I'll try to.) Choose Google from the "Subscribe to this feed using" menu and then click Subscribe Now.

Genre Cookshop subscribe-1

Google asks if you'd rather add the blog to your homepage or to Google Reader. If you want to see all the posts from a particular blog in one section on your iGoogle page, choose Add to Google homepage. I want all my blogs together in one section of my iGoogle page, so I choose Add to Google Reader.

Add to Google

You'll be transferred to Google Reader where you can adjust your settings, if necessary. (I didn't do anything here.)

When you next go to your iGoogle page, you'll see Nancy Bea's latest post in your Google Reader. It won't necessarily be up at the top of the list, since all your posts are in chronological order:

Google Reader, after

I'm also not sure why the title of her most recent post "More travels" did not appear here. It maybe the way the feed was constructed.

I have a pretty standard Subscribe button on this blog. Let's see if it works the same way.

So, navigate to my blog... oh, you're here already :)

My Subscribe buttons are below the labels. Click the Posts pop-up menu and then click "Add to Google".

Subscribe posts

This time we go straight to the choice between adding it directly to my iGoogle page or to Google Reader. I'll choose Google Reader again.

Add to Google-2

Next time you view your iGoogle page, you'll see the latest posts from my blog!

pgw recent posts-1

Let me know if that all makes sense and if it works in your browser.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pigs love Whey

Down the road, there's a great CSA called Sangha Farm that makes yummy goat cheese. I asked them if I could have their whey for my pigs and they were kind enough to save me a bucketful. I finally gave it to the pigs yesterday and boy did they love it. They slurped it up.

Pigs love whey

Laika liked the whey too:
Laika loves whey too

They didn't like it as much as grain, however. I found that out this morning when I gave them the other half. I only had two dishes, so I put grain in one and whey in the other. They fought over the grain. Once in a while the boy, who's at the bottom of their short hierarchy, would come over and sip some whey, but really he wanted grain too. So I dumped some extra on the ground. Then they were happy.

When we went back this afternoon, both the grain and the whey were all gone.

Gourds, too

This morning I was weeding my entirely-too-big gourd and pumpkin patch when I realized that pigs and chickens are the same group and that gourds and the other crafty things I do needed to be represented in this blog. I love to sew, to knit and crochet, to make just about anything. Lately, I'm obsessed with gourds... I've been carving them and photographing them, so they seem like a good standard-bearer for that part of my life.

I've also changed the name and address of my blog accordingly, to "Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis"... from now on, you can find me at

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Making Eggs out of Japanese Beetles

This time of year there are so many Japanese Beetles!
Too many Japanese Beetles

They love my fruit trees and are really decimating the plum trees in particular.
Not a lot of photosynthesis happening here

This afternoon I went out and collected the Japanese Beetles in a plastic container. Their defense mechanism is to drop out of the tree when you go near them. Once they hit the ground they either lay on their backs and blend into the background, or burrow into the dirt. Either way, they're hard to recapture. If you position the container under them, you can often catch them as they fall. It also helps to collect them when they are least active: in the morning or at dusk, or in rainy weather.

Put a leaf in with the beetles and they won't even try to escape.
They're happy as clams as long as you give them a leaf

Then, my favorite part: carefully pour them out in the chicken yard:
In the chicken yard

The chickens come running and the beetles are gone before they even consider flying away. Chickens are generally not very smart, but they can spot a Japanese Beetle in tall grass with one single beady eye. No Japanese Beetles escape.
In 17 seconds, they were all gone

The beetles reappear in the morning as fresh eggs. I'm not sure this is the most effective treatment, but it is satisfying.

Oh, and books too

That is, it should probably be "Pigs, Chickens, Wikis, and Books"...

I just finished reading this book called Accidentally on Purpose about this 39 year old woman who has a one-night stand, gets pregnant, and decides to keep the baby that--of course--subsequently changes her life. Strangely enough, it didn't feel like so much a book about parenting as a book about relationships. She has a very strange one with the father of her baby: she wants her baby to have a relationship with his father and she thinks the father is sexy, but she spends the better part of the book describing in detail what a slacker he is. He doesn't have a decent apartment, he has a boring job that he hates, he doesn't have a car, and on and on. And she is continuously put out by what she calls "enabling" him, driving him home after he's taken care of the baby, helping him buy a car he doesn't want, encouraging him to go for a better job that he's nervous about. I found myself constantly cringing for this very real person getting slammed in public. Then again, the more she griped about him, the more I disliked her.

Too close to the end, she realizes that if she can let up, maybe he can get up. I would have liked to have heard more in this regard. Instead, it felt rushed and almost as if she wasn't really willing to examine her own needs to control how things were going as much as his passive-agressiveness and unwillingness to go along.

Still, it was an interesting read. How children do change your life!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Activity Monitor

For the last few months, my MacBook's fan seems to stay on way longer than necessary. I can close the MacBook's cover and still the fan is going like crazy. I'm not really sure what the problem is and for better or worse, the symptoms are not so severe to make me spend that much time troubleshooting until I find it.

This evening though, it seemed like it went on for more than normal. I tried quitting out of all my open programs (and it's true that there were quite a few) but it still wouldn't stop. A bit desperate, I opened up the Activity Monitor (it's in the Utilities folder) and clicked on "Disk Activity" in the header to the lower half of the window:

And I could at least see that I wasn't crazy and that the disk was being used and therefore something must still be going on.

That's when I realized that Photoshop was still open. I control-clicked its icon in the Dock and saw that the "Application was not responding" (or however they word it). Once I force quit (another option in that same menu), the Activity Monitor showed that the activity was lessening, and the fan finally stopped.

The other thing that I found interesting was the little CPU Usage window. To make it appear, choose Window > CPU Usage:

You can have it float above your other windows as you work in order to see which programs are taxing your CPU most. The idea is that if you feel like things are going slower than normal (or slower than you'd like), you might be able to pinpoint which program is the culprit. Or in my case, if the fan starts going crazy, and it corresponds with increased CPU activity, maybe I can figure out why.

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