Category: Links

Making homemade yogurt

I made yogurt for the first time this weekend and it was surprisingly easy! I used the recipe at A Year of Slow Cooking.

Then I made a video of it to submit to Get Rich Slowly’s video contest. That part was fun, too!

The hardest part was really getting the fruit to taste the way you like it. It took a few tries to figure out the optimal ratio of pureed peaches to yogurt (I went with 1 part peaches, 2 parts yogurt) and only after adding a tiny drizzle of honey did it taste as sweet as we like it.

I used GarageBand (on the Mac) to edit the music down to less than two minutes and iMovie to produce the movie using its built-in transitions and text effects.

UPDATE: Oh yeah. The receipt shows the yogurt at $0.79 but I listed $1.00 in my calculations. That particular receipt that I scrounged up listed non-organic yogurt on sale. $1.00 seemed to be the average at my local store for organic yogurt.

Steven’s most-used iPhone apps

Steven is currently 2 and a half years old and has been using the iPhone since before he was two. Here are the ones that have amused him the most over the past almost-year or so.

  • Peekaboo Barn – Tap the barn to open the door and see what animal is making the noise. A voice-over tells you the animal and a word is also displayed, although you can change the settings for no voice (or to hear it in Spanish!). Steven learned to say “moo” from this app and still enjoys it now. There is a free version with a few animals, but after just a few days of hearing “moo,” “baa,” and “cockledoodledoo” over and over and over again, we sprang for the paid version.
  • FirstWords: Deluxe – Drag mixed-up letter tiles into the right spots. When the word is completed, the picture animates, a fun sound effect is played, and a voice reads the word. The Deluxe version combines FirstWords: Animals, Vehicles, At Home, etc., etc. for about the cost of a venti Starbucks drink. Even before Steven started recognizing letters, he knew to drag the tiles around until they “hit” the right spot; now he’s starting to pay more attention to the letters that “match,” even if he still can’t recognize them on his own. This is probably one of his favorites. There is a free version of FirstWords: Animals, I think, but I would just get the Deluxe version right away.
  • Shape Builder – Drag puzzle pieces into a silhouette of a shape. When the puzzle is complete, the object fades in, a voice reads the name of the object, and a sound effect is played. It took about two days of us holding Steven’s hand to guide the puzzle pieces into place for him to figure out how to play it on his own. This is also one of his favorites. There is a lite version but the paid one is well worth it.
  • Preschool Connect-the-Dots – Tap the dots labeled with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or numbers, in order to form an outline of a shape that fills in with a spoken word and sound effect. You can change the settings so that it’s easier (the next dot is immediately highlighted), so that the letter/numbers are spoken as you tap them, etc., etc. Steven needs it on the “easy” setting for now, but we noticed him starting to say the names of the letters as he played it more and more.
  • Old MacDonald – an interactive sing-out-loud “book” with lots of animations and Easter egg-type things that happen when you touch the pictures.
  • Balloonimals – Blow into the mic to inflate a balloon, then shake the phone a few times to “twist” the balloon into a cool balloon animal. There is a free version with two animals, but we got the paid version, too. Steven ends up spitting all over the phone when he tries to blow it, and sometimes he gets frustrated when he can’t blow it up all the way and it deflates.
  • weeGiggle – Steven liked this “exploratory app” more when he was younger. Drag around the scene and touch the animals to hear funny sounds, laughs, and watch them change shape. He’s a little bored with it now, but initially it was a sure-fire way to keep his attention for a long time.
  • Stunt Wagon – I think we got this game for free during a promotion (it’s now $0.99). It’s more for older kids/adults as it’s a video-game-type app, where you have to steer your character down a hill, avoiding obstacles. Even though Steven can’t play it for real, he likes the music and the funny sounds that the characters make when they crash into obstacles, so we often hear it coming from the back seat. I probably wouldn’t have bought it, though.
  • Built-in iPhone Photos – Steven loves to browse through the photos and videos on my iPhone.

Cooks Source vs the internets

Tipped off by @meyerweb’s tweet, I started following the Cooks Source (#crookssource) debacle on TweetDeck.

  • See the original author’s blog about finding out she was a victim of copyright infringement and the astoundingly ignorant, condescening, and not-very-grammatical reply by Cooks Source’s editor here: http://illadore.livejournal.com/30674.html
  • And while it exists, see the Cooks Source Facebook page. If it’s winter where you live, you can be warmed by the hundreds of flames posted there.

The story has been picked up by the Washington Post, Gizmodo, The Guardian, BoingBoing, and I’m not sure where else, and the internets continue to steamroll forward with righteous indignation.

Meanwhile, Cooks Source is oddly silent. This tweet from @brucefloyd rang true for me: “#crookssource fiasco is proof that social media is not just about having an account. It’s about monitoring and responding.” On the flip side, if Cooks Source had immediately responded to the initial outcry with a humble and authentic apology, we might not have had so much fodder for entertainment.

P.S. Oh, and I forgot to mention the fake twitter accounts that have sprung up: @crookssource and @cookssource, among others.

Mobile Mouse

I just found out (via @chriscoyier) about a way cool iPhone app: Mobile Mouse, only $1.99. It turns your iPhone (or iPad or iPod) into a remote mouse, trackpad, keyboard, etc. for your PC or Mac — or for multiple PCs and Macs!

The overview video had me sold about me halfway through (it’s a long video, about 9 minutes), and it was a matter of minutes to download the app, download the corresponding software for my Mac and PC, start up the software to turn the computer into a server (I didn’t have to adjust any settings), start up the app, and let it automatically connect. It’s super-easy to switch between controlling the Mac or PC by hitting the ‘settings’ icon in the top left corner of the phone screen and choosing which server to connect to.

I had some trouble getting the “air mouse” feature to work until I looked at their support page and figured out that instead of trying to move the mouse like a laser pointer, I had to tilt it from side to side (true for iPhones 3GS and below). You can easily switch from “air mouse” to “trackpad” — and the trackpad works horizontally or vertically. The keyboard can be shown or hidden and there are easy buttons to switch to view all your programs/applications, a browser-specific button panel, or a media button panel. The media button panel is smart enough to know if you’re using iTunes or DVD or Windows Media Player or whatever. It’s going to be perfect the next time that Steve and I watch DVDs on the laptop.

I am not so sure how much I will use this app, apart from DVD-watching, but overall I’m quite impressed with its functionality!

Backing stuff up

I finally took the plunge and got a pricey 4 TB My Book Studio Edition II, a fancy external hard drive from Western Digital. Ever since my external hard drive crashed a year ago which had tons of my work-related files on there and I paid $1000 to restore my files, I’ve been intending to get some kind of RAID back-up system after PK explained what a “redundant array of independent disks” was. I ended up getting the My Book drive not just because it was pretty but because it was Mac-friendly and easy to format into a RAID 1. In layman’s terms (which is all I really understand), this means that the two 2 TB drives “mirror” each other with the exact same data, so that if one drive fails, you have the other as a backup. I set up the drive last night, configured Apple Time Machine to back up my computer to the drive, moved off some of my space-hogging files (I freed up 60 GB of space just by moving my Windows virtual machines off), and now I’m triple-backing-up my other external drive’s files, which have old work files and eight years of digital photos and videos.

My next step is to move a bunch of files off my old PC (which has, oh, 8 MB of free space on the C drive!!) and then figure out how to reformat that computer. Never done it before so if you have tips, please pass them on!

Custom jewelry on Etsy

For Christmas, my sister Angela made me two pairs of custom earrings (actually, I think at least one more pair is in the works). Here’s what they look like*:

If you’re coveting my earrings, no fear: Angela has opened an Etsy shop, Watermark Designs, so that she can sell to the masses. For now, I think she only has two pairs of earrings** listed, but she’s finding this a very enjoyable hobby and is working on more. If jewelry is your thing, or if you’re looking for a nice gift for someone else, please consider supporting her so that she can buy components to make more!

*I took these photos from Angela’s blog post.

**I’ve seen those two pairs in person, and they are gorgeous.

Visiting the California Academy of Science

For a fun vacation day, we went to see the San Francisco California Academy of Science museum with our friends the day after New Year’s.

The museum has a huge enclosed rainforest exhibit with live birds and butterflies flying around the spiral walkways that link the three or four stories and an elevator that goes down to a level below with a clear tunnel that lets you walk under/through the “flooded rainforest floor,” complete with big catfish.

There’s a planetarium (only open to children above 7 years old, so we didn’t see visit it), an aquarium, a natural history section with stuffed animals and fun animal facts, a live penguin exhibit, and two alligators, one of which is albino. The renovated museum is also the world’s greenest museum, which was interesting to me; recycled denim is used for insulation, the place is full of windows, a radiant heating system is in the floors, and the “living roof” is curved with hills and valleys and covered with half a foot of dirt and living plants, which channels breezes to the viewing area on warm days, traps rain and keeps it from being stormwater on rainy days, and includes windows that open to vent hot air from inside the museum when it gets too hot.

Our friend had done a bit of online research and had determined that getting there early was best. We got there 45 minutes before opening (the museum opens at 9:30), got parking immediately in the second level close to the elevator, but were shocked at the long lines in front of the doors and ticket windows. There were half a dozen self-serve ticket kiosks which people hadn’t discovered yet (credit cards only and no coupons/discounts, although you can buy child/student tickets there), so I managed to snag a spot second in line behind one, but we still had to wait until 9 am for the tickets to go on sale (and a museum worker to come and manually turn on each kiosk and log in).

Our friend had also noted that you should immediately go to the rainforest and planetarium exhibits if that’s what you want to see, otherwise you could potentially stand in line for two hours (and we saw people doing that later on!). Seeing the planetarium requires you to pick up tickets for specific showtimes (or “exhibit-times”?), but since we couldn’t go in there anyway with our babies, we didn’t bother. Instead, we headed over to the rainforest, and only had to wait a few minutes at the front of the line to get inside.

After the rainforest, we went to look at the aquarium and albino alligator. By this time, the museum was getting fuller and fuller, so it was really difficult to move around, especially in the twists and turns of the aquarium exhibits. We ditched our stroller in a stroller parking area. I was glad that I’d brought a baby carrier so that we could carry Steven around without sore backs and arms.

We got some respite from the crowds by retreating to the “early explorers” room, a place reserved for kids from 0-5 (and their parents). There were relatively few people in the room – perhaps because it wasn’t on the generic map that most people got – and plenty of room for babies and toddlers to play. Older toddlers would find the ship (with bunk, play kitchen, and play laboratory) and tree (with stuffed animals in the den-tunnel underneath) really fun; there were also plenty of little plastic animals and wooden puzzles to keep our eight-month-old happily crawling around.

We had gone to the central food plaza area around 10:30 for a brief snack and managed to score a couple tables, but it was so crowded at lunchtime that we had to sit on the concrete floor. Luckily, we’d brought our own food, because the line for the food was a long snake that wrapped all around the large courtyard. (The food that other people were getting looked good, though – hot soup and bread, sandwiches, even some kind of rice bowl with saucy stuff in it.)

Was the $25-per-adult price worth it? Well, it was really, really fun to see our out-of-town friends, and the rainforest was admittedly very cool. Having been a member of the Monterey Aquarium in the past, I found the aquarium to be “old stuff,” but I could see first-time visitors finding it fascinating – although the alligators were pretty cool to see in-person. The natural history museum part was fun, too; I’ve been in natural history museums before, but this time we recognized a lot of the animals from watching Planet Earth and similar nature videos, so I enjoyed that part, too. We also missed out on a big part of the museum by skipping the planetarium. For our experience, especially given the extremely crowded conditions, I would probably have only wanted to pay $15, tops. But I could see myself going back there — and paying full price again — when Steven is 7+ years old, if he’s interested in space-stuff and animals. (And who isn’t, at that age?)

If you’re in San Francisco and are planning to make this a part of your itinerary, here are my personal tips:

  • Timing: Getting there early was crucial. We got there 45 minutes early and were there right before the “bigger early rush.” In just 15 or 20 minutes, the self-serve kiosk lines had gotten long, too, and the ticketed-entry line was ridiculously long, stretching down the street. If you get there later, it means that you get inside later, and then it might be too late to get tickets to the planetarium, plus you’ll be standing in longer lines at the rainforest exhibit.
  • Transportation: We also bypassed the first parking garage level and got a spot right by the elevator on the second level. You get $3 off admission if you have public transportation ticket/transfer stubs for that day, but you’ll have to stand in the [long] main ticket line to get your discount, so again, earlier is better.
  • Splitting up: It might be worth it to consider splitting up – someone standing in the rainforest line, for example, while someone else gets tickets for the planetarium. Disclaimer: I don’t know off-hand if you’re allowed to get tickets for other people at the planetarium, so it’s possible that you’d have to all stand in line there, anyway. In that case, you’d probably want to get tickets first, then go immediately to the rainforest so that you can get in before the lines get ridiculously long.
  • Children: Strollers are difficult to manage in the crowds. Use a baby carrier for little ones, instead! And the “Early Explorers” room for ages 0-5 is great. You’ll find it off of the natural history museum part, near the giant pendulum.
  • Food: Unless you want to spend a large portion of your visit standing in line, pack in your own food. I think the food is quite expensive, too.

If you’ve gone before and have your own tips to add (or any info about the planetarium experience), please post a comment!

Soy Happy

My talented friend Holly has opened up a CafePress store called Soy Happy where you can indulge your taste for Very Cute Designs, including some of the below:

Soy Happy Together (ha!)

Soy happy together

Dino

Save Water

Cute but Vicious

And, ahem, my personal favorite for obvious reasons: Nutmeg. Holly created a custom design featuring MY CAT (!) doing what she does best.

Nutmeg could theoretically eat out of a bowl featuring herself!

As is typical with Cafepress products, you’re not going to find any bargain tees, but if you fall in love with one of the characters, you can support a starving artist. The profits from a purchase should be good for at least a couple packs of Ramen.