Friday, November 09, 2018

Amtrak tips for future me

On the way to Albany Oregon from San Jose, I learned that the top side above the toilets is smellier than the other side on the two decker coach and business class cars. On the way home I got a bedroom for the first time. In a bedroom, as opposed to a roommette, you sleep perpendicular to the tracks. Consequently there is only one aisle down the train. It has windows, so if you keep the curtain in the room door open, you can see our of both sides of the train at once. The seats that become a bed are much more comfortable than the extra seat, but in my case it was the uncomfortable seat that faced forward. I don’t know if this differs northbound or southbound.  Having a bathroom in the room does result in some antiseptic smell and you can hear your neighbors in their bathrooms. I like not having to go out through public corridors and stairs to the shared heads (like in roomettes or seats) but it’s not great. In all though, I loved the trip, even though there were wildfires. The motion is soothing, and watching the night sky and daytime scenery is a joy. Next time: bring own pillow and light throw for either seat or bed travel.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An ode to my bike.

I've had the same bicycle for 18 years. Others have come, but this remains my favorite. I only recently appreciated how long I've been riding it. Here's the review.

The pic is same model, but someone else's bike.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A smarter genius than me

Christian Slater is kind of a one-note song, but the dude can deliver a line.

As Neil Kaplan in Alias: "Unless you want to kidnap a smarter genius than me, it's gonna be a little while."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Friends don't let friends buy from puppy mills

Most advertised puppies are from puppy mills. I've put together some suggestions about how to identify and avoid puppy mills below, but the bottom line is that a good breeder will make demands of you.

First, why I'm posting this: it's just struck me how many of my smart, caring, pickiest of friends don't know that nearly all puppies that can be purchased on the internet are from puppy farms. Puppy-farm conditions are devastating to consider, and I've seen people get chronically ill puppies over and over. Few people would choose to support a puppy mill, but many end up doing it unintentionally. You CAN get a puppy without supporting a puppy farm.

This discussion is intended to be useful for people who are determined to get a puppy from a known source, not a discussion of the relative merits of getting a rescue dog.

Warnings that a breeder is a running puppy mill:

1) Violations of dog breeding laws. Use the google.

2) Located in Pennsylvania, Missouri or Florida.

3) The breeder won't provide references from previous buyers.

4) The breeder wants money before you visit their facility/home.

5) The breeder doesn't ask you questions. Decent breeders ask you a lot of questions about your family and your plans for the dog. What will it do when no one is at home? Do you have a fenced yard? etc.

6) The breeder isn't knowledgeable about genetic diseases and tests that are common in the breed. Do some internet searching before the call so you can ask intelligent questions and have an expectation of what diseases they should know about.

7) The breeder won't let you visit their facility/home. (It's normal for them to not let you see puppies in person because they're vulnerable to diseases at that age). Try to meet the mom or other relatives at the kennel. See how other dogs are treated at the kennel.

8)  They don't insist you return the dog to them if for any reason you can't keep the dog.

9) They don't insist that you neuter your dog.

Good signs:
1) The breeder has a dog habit: dog shows, agility, nosework, whatever. These people are picky. They are usually breeding for themselves, and usually not profligately.

2) They find you one of the dogs they've bred who lives with a family near you near you that you can meet.

3) They ask you what kind of puppy you are looking for: male, female, bossy, sweet. They will try to pick the puppies in the litter that are best suited to each buyer (and themselves).

4) They plan to keep one or more of the puppies for something other than breeding (although hard to verify).

Finding a good breeder:

- Tell everyone you're looking for a dog and would like to meet breeders.

- Talk to any recommended breeder (even outside your breed interests) and ask them for advice and contacts

- Talk to people you know who have dogs you like. See if they know any breeders.

- Go to dog parks, pull your car over, spectate dog training classes, do whatever you need to do to meet people who have dogs you like. Ask them if they know any breeders.

- Call the dog breed clubs, ask them to refer you to breeders.

- Call and visit actual breeders, even if they don't have puppies right now or aren't exactly right for you. It's like job interviewing; it takes practice.

- Put in the hours and the miles. Remember applying for college, writing that book chapter or doing whatever other hard things you've done? You can do this.

There are many more considerations in adopting a dog, but I think these are the best ways avoid puppy mills.

Happy dog life!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Stellar's Jay

Blurry photo; impressive bird. Felton CA. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Soap search: the whole food edition

I got this recently. I like the smell, although not overwhelmingly. It's milled and I like it but it's not as foamy as some milled soaps I've used in hotels. The price is reasonable. It doesn't melt while drying in the shower like some soaps. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trader Joe’s Brewed Ginger Beer

Yesterday I tried Trader Joe’s Brewed Ginger Beer. I liked it--it's strongly flavored. It's a little sweet to drink plain, but I bet it would be good with vodka.  Denise thought it could be spicier. Contains lime and lemon juice.

Fever-tree ginger ale

It's mild but interesting. $3 for 17oz. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Facial hair GWAS

When Eyebrows Collide: Scientists Map the Genetics of Facial Hair - Discover

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Martian

Rented from iTunes Feb 18, 2016. Loved it. 


Great opening scene, both the dynamic 360 degree camera work and the credits (“a film by some douchbag"). Generally funnier than I expected. Very raunchy, at about the level of the first hangover movie. 

Working with teams

When I'm working with a great team, the advantages are obvious, but becoming a great team is tough. Here's a nice discussion about Google efforts to identify what makes teams great.

As the researchers studied the groups, however, they noticed two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared. First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,’’ Woolley said. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’

Second, the good teams all had high ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ — a fancy way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues. One of the easiest ways to gauge social sensitivity is to show someone photos of people’s eyes and ask him or her to describe what the people are thinking or feeling — an exam known as the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. People on the more successful teams in Woolley’s experiment scored above average on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. They seemed to know when someone was feeling upset or left out. People on the ineffective teams, in contrast, scored below average. They seemed, as a group, to have less sensitivity toward their colleagues

...Within psychology, researchers sometimes colloquially refer to traits like ‘‘conversational turn-taking’’ and ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ as aspects of what’s known as psychological safety — a group culture that the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’ Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ Edmondson wrote in a study published in 1999. ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’

...Most of all, employees had talked about how various teams felt. ‘‘And that made a lot of sense to me, maybe because of my experiences at Yale,’’ Rozovsky said. ‘‘I’d been on some teams that left me feeling totally exhausted and others where I got so much energy from the group.’’ 

...For Project Aristotle, research on psychological safety pointed to particular norms that are vital to success. There were other behaviors that seemed important as well — like making sure teams had clear goals and creating a culture of dependability. But Google’s data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.

...However, establishing psychological safety is, by its very nature, somewhat messy and difficult to implement. You can tell people to take turns during a conversation and to listen to one another more. You can instruct employees to be sensitive to how their colleagues feel and to notice when someone seems upset. But the kinds of people who work at Google are often the ones who became software engineers because they wanted to avoid talking about feelings in the first place.

...What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.

...By adopting the data-driven approach of Silicon Valley, Project Aristotle has encouraged emotional conversations and discussions of norms among people who might otherwise be uncomfortable talking about how they feel

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Star Wars: the force awakens

Saw it last Saturday night with Karin and Cathy. I urgently wanted to see it so reviews wouldn't give away plot points. Totally enjoyed it. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015


With Anne. Didn't wow me, but I enjoyed it. 


Fun, thanksgiving 2015. Followed by ice cream home run at penny's creamery. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015


All the proof I need to know that the world is good. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Not on spotify

I've looked and not found:

"I feel for you" by Chaka Khan (from the album "I feel for you")

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Relatos Salvajes

Saw Wild Tales last night. Very Almodovar. Maybe Almodovar/Lynch/Tarantino. Liked the Almodovar aspects immensely.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Paddington movie

Loved it. Must be dog-inspired.

Monday, December 29, 2014

...until I absolutely have to

I don't know why this is so resonant for me, but I'm always charmed by the delivery of this phrase by Steven Weber playing Jack Rudolph on Studio 60.
Can I opt to not be a part of this until I absolutely have to?
I think it applies to nearly every piece of administration and management in my life. 

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Backing up my Pinterest data

I love Pinterest, but their organization is primitive. I couldn't clean up my board without making major changes and deleting pins. I didn't want to permanently delete them though, because I often go back to research I did years ago. So I made a local backup of my pins.

Here are the commands that worked for me using in a Bash shell on a Mac:

 # where do you want the backup to go?
cd /Users/manducasexta/Documents/Dropbox/computer/backup/pinterest

# what is your Pinterest URL?

# Exclude these pinterest directories; we only want our own boards.

# Download your home page and your boards
wget --convert-links --exclude-directories=$excludeList --recursive --level=2, --span-hosts $a 
Watch out for line breaks. The lines that start with "#" are comments. Each comment is followed by text that should all be on one line, so you may need to fix the line if you copy and paste.

I wanted to minimize the effect on Pinterest servers, so I excluded directories and limited my recursion level to limit the download as much as possible to my own pins. The download does include things from other people's directories, but the only thing I saw downloaded from them was index pages (not images).

I have 709 pins. The local backup is 220 MB.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cafeina in Albany

This is a nice place. There was a steady stream of clients sitting at tables a a few long timers.

It's a pretty small place and they don't seem to have a broad range of drinks. I didn't see any blended options. I had an iced mocha that I enjoyed. The work of the staff seemed kind of effortful rather than effortless and not actively welcoming.

They have no dedicated wifi. It's on the same block as Toy-go-round, which is great.

There is a fair amount of shady parking for free on the street. It wasn't hard to find parking on a Tuesday morning at 10:30. The parking was for 90-120 minutes. After 80 minutes, I checked my

It's not my favorite--I'll keep looking.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rick and Ann's

Brunch at Rick and Ann's with D and F M and the two dogs. Food was good, especially the almond honey scone. Great to see D and F. We took apple berry pie to go and ate it on D and F's new nearby patio.

Photo from credited to Rick and Ann management

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I am not a "PR friendly blogger"

What are the chances I'm going to follow a twitter user whose bio says she's a "PR friendly blogger." That sounds like a synonym for "content free" to me.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

In the key of debutante

Having recently read the autobiography of a debutante who joined the circus and generally transgressed the social mores of her upbringing (Still Swinging in Wonderland), this comment about the recently deceased Jean S. Harris struck a chord with me:
The New York Daily News reporter Theo Wilson wrote that she took the stand looking as if she could not “pick up the wrong fork, much less a loaded gun.”
- Lesley Dormen, NYTimes, 1/4/2013

Friday, November 23, 2012

Primitive twig

My favorite thing I saw Sugarloaf craft fair at Montgomery County Fairgrounds last Saturday were these figures by Primitive Twig. Their website didn't really represent the stuff I saw, so I lifted this photo from a google search:

I don't know that I'd want one in my home, but I was entranced.

geometric silver rings

The Artsilver booth at the Sugarloaf craft fair at Montgomery County Fairgrounds (last Saturday) had tons of rings and other jewelry. There was a lot of stuff that wasn't my taste, but I really like the overall sensibility. They have a bunch of rings that can be split in two and flipped, changing the shape.

fine-line printed shirts

I saw these at the Sugarloaf craft fair at Montgomery County Fairgrounds last Saturday. The print designs are really nice. The fabric is soft. It's not as extremely thin as some, but it's still thinner that I would wear without wearing a second shirt under it.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Olympic photography

I was struck by this photo of Olympic show jumping by Alex Livesey. It turns out he's taken quite a few striking pictures of horses, including some skikjoring:

Some other excellent professional photos from the Olympics are being taken with an iPhone.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic fashion - south korea vs norway

I love the fun hats on the female South Korean archers, and the rest of the shooting ladies aren't doing too bad in the fashion department. I'm not sure they're in the same league with the Norweigan curling guys of Vancouver 2010 though.