mohawk daisy

standing desk setups

I bought this adjustable shelf to try out as a standing desk setup. It's wide enough for both the keyboard and mouse, and deep enough that I can rest my forearms on it.



At home, my laptop is on an adjustable mount that can be lifted and lowered, so that is how I raise and lower the display. At work, I have 2 monitors, one on the desk for use while sitting, and one on a higher shelf for use while standing (to switch between them, it only requires an alt-ctl-fn key press).

The above is okay in terms of comfort. (Having my skin touch cool metal is unpleasant, so I cover the metal with cloth as in the above photo). But to switch from standing to sitting, I need to re-position the keyboard and mouse from the shelf back to the desk, and move the shelf away. The shelf, while light, is big and awkward to move around. So switching between standing and sitting isn't a very simple matter. (Though, if the keyboard were wireless rather than corded, that would help somewhat.)

I found the below setup to be more convenient.




I use a box (or a stack of books) to raise up my mouse & mousepad. I've found that using the mouse is most comfortable when my forearm is horizontal like that, not angled up or down.
I put a wedge (about 2" high) under the keyboard (or stick something else under the front edge so that it is higher than the back edge). Typing is fairly comfortable to me in that position, even though my palms & wrists don't rest on anything. Without the wedge, I would have to bend my wrists a lot, which quickly becomes very uncomfortable.

To switch from sitting to standing, I just need to move over my box, put the mouse & mousepad on it, and slip the wedge under the keyboard. It's much simpler than the shelf.


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mohawk daisy

one thing leads to another and another

With my broken heater, it's as I expected. I have to decide whether to get the control board replaced, or replace the whole furnace (as it is 19 years old). If I replace the whole furnace, I may as well replace the A/C unit too, as I've been worried about it for quite a while. It makes a moderately loud buzzing noise when running. 5 years ago (I didn't realize it was that long ago), I was told it might stop working any day, or it might last a few more years.

The furnace on the other hand, is sheltered in the basement and actually looks in pretty good condition to me. One part of me is thinking that they could possibly last many more years (although they might not).

I got a couple quotes on replacing the control board, vs the whole thing. One set of the quotes actually seems pretty good, though I need to ask some more questions and get more details. So one part of me is thinking, since I already went through the trouble of getting quotes, maybe I should go ahead and replace it all now, rather than having to go through the same thing again a couple years down the road. I might not even be able to get as good a quote/price later on.

Anyway, today I went down into the basement/crawl space to look at the ducts again, as I wasn't sure if I was remembering something right. While down there, I noticed a new wet spot on the ground. It was right under a copper pipe. I didn't see any leak in the pipe. There was a small amount of water on the pink insulation right above the pipe (touching the pipe), so I worried it was leaking down from up above. The bathroom sink was right above that area.

So I went back up and checked under the bathroom sink. Whoa. I had put a plastic dish with a sponge under the shut-off valve to catch any potential leaks (as it had leaked there a long time ago), and the sponge was all wet and there was water in the dish. But the water hadn't overflowed out of the plastic, and the cabinet itself was dry. So how could it be leaking down below? Was it just a coincidence? Eh?

I checked the basement again. Pulled down the insulation a bit to look at the wood. Dry. Hmmm.
Got a small mirror, wiped off the pipe, and looked at the top of the pipe using the mirror.

There's a very tiny pinhole leak. Just enough for water to slowly slowly start welling out and making the outside of the pipe wet. I put a plastic tub under it for the time being.
I hope it's not an indication of the overall condition of my plumbing pipes.

.

So I do some research as part of fixing one problem (broken heater), and I find 2 new problems, one of which just coincidentally, from initial appearances, appeared to be causing the other problem, but really wasn't.

That sounds exactly like a typical day at my work, debugging code.


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mohawk daisy

little flies

This morning, there was one of those little flies in my cube when I arrived. It flew in my face more than usual; it would definitely be a nuisance if it was always around. Not much later I heard a suspicious "smack" from my neighbor across the aisle. A little later after that, I heard a smack from the cube right next to mine. Upon which the coworker across the aisle got up and had a little chat with my neighbor. She asked if he's been having a bunch of little flies lately. Yep, he said, he already killed 6 this morning. He called them gnats. They discussed where they might be coming from.

So much for my visiting fly theory.

While I can handle, and even appreciate, a single solitary insect, the idea of having a bunch of them flying around in my cube, or anywhere else near me, is unpleasant and begins to be "something that must be dealt with", even if I don't like to kill them. It's sort of a contradiction, isn't it?
One = Why, hi there cute little bug. Let me help you out. So nice of you to visit. What's it like to be you?
Twenty+ = Agh, invasion. I suppose I'll have to kill them all. Kill, destroy, destruction.


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mohawk daisy

little fly

Every day I've been at work, since about the week before the winter holidays, a tiny flying insect (not sure what that kind is called, but it's smaller than a fruit fly) has flown into my cube sometime during the day. It flits around between me and my monitor for a while, and eventually leaves again.

The first or second time it came, I thought it was stuck inside the building. I considered catching it to take it outside, but it didn't cooperate. I thought maybe it was thirsty, and put out a drop of water for it, which it didn't go near. When it kept coming back (even though I wasn't sure it was the same one), I figured it must be doing ok inside.

I didn't know if it was a single fly, or a different one each time (I had thought the lifespan of tiny creatures was likewise short, but maybe it isn't that short) but after a few days, it started to seem like it was. It feels like it purposely comes to visit me. I have to be careful when it does, not to accidentally smoosh or inhale it. (That would make me feel bad.) Today for the first time, it landed on my hand, walked around a bit, flew up, landed again, and repeated it several times. As if it finally trusted me enough to do that. It was the first time I had an extended look at it. Then it flew away again.


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mohawk daisy

informational / crossposts & comments

I've disabled comments on my LiveJournal cross-posts, as I don't want to have to do merges back to Dreamwidth anymore, and would like all comments in one place.

If you don't have a Dreamwidth account, you can still leave comments on my posts. The crosspost message at the bottom of each post links to the corresponding DW page, where comments can be left.

Anonymous comments are allowed (but unless you really want to be anonymous, please include a name/nick in the comment so I'll know who it is from). In case I start getting spam, I may screen anonymous comments, but so far haven't had to do that.

You can also use the OpenID option to post comments with your LJ user ID. You can even get email notifications when someone replies to your OpenID comments. For that, you have to actually "login" to DW one time with your LJ URL via the OpenID login option - from there, you'll be able to set your email address. You won't get the option for setting an email address, simply by posting a comment with OpenID.

From the DW OpenID FAQ:
When you log into Dreamwidth using your OpenID identity, LiveJournal will ask you if it can "pass your credentials" to Dreamwidth. Saying yes will not give Dreamwidth any access to your LiveJournal account. It will only let LiveJournal confirm to Dreamwidth that you do control the address you entered. This is why you need to be logged into LiveJournal to log into Dreamwidth with your OpenID identity: LiveJournal handles the authentication, and then tells Dreamwidth whether it succeeded or failed.

The first time you log into Dreamwidth using your identity from another site, you'll need to set and confirm your email address for use on the Dreamwidth site in order to be able to comment everywhere that allows OpenID comments and in order to receive emailed notifications of replies to your comments.



From the LJ OpenID FAQ:
Every LiveJournal account can be used as an OpenID identity. When the other site asks for your OpenID URL, use http://[your LJ URL].livejournal.com. You will then be redirected to LiveJournal, where you will be asked whether LiveJournal should identify you to the other site. You will also be asked to choose whether this identification should be given once only, or automatically.

The LJ FAQ also mentions a possible issue using OpenID, if your journal uses a custom style, and how to fix it.

..

Ever since I started crossposting from DW to LJ, my crosspost footer has always requested that comments be left on the DW page, but I didn't disable the LJ comments till now. Very few, if any, LJ users ever did honor the request. I'm not sure if people don't bother reading the footer, or if they specifically don't want to comment on DW. But because of that, I know there's a good possibility that I may no longer get any comments from any LJ users. I will regret that, but let's see how it goes.


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mohawk daisy

heat

Something in the gas furnace (heater) broke today. Upon opening the bathroom door after having taken a shower, there was a light smoky smell in the air. Nothing in the house was burning, singed, or smoking, and the outside air was clear. Then I noticed the heat was no longer coming on. And upon sniffing the vents, even though the air was no longer blowing, the smell was stronger there.

So I have to get someone to come out and check that. (The hardest part is always getting someone to do it. I still haven't even gotten that gutter fixed, which got broken a year and a half ago; I stopped being concerned about it after 3 people said they'd fix it and then didn't.) I have no idea if it's something small that needs to be replaced, or if I might end up needing a whole new furnace. I will check tomorrow to see if there's a label that says how old the current one is. The outside A/C unit is 18 years old, so it wouldn't be surprising if the furnace is that old too.

In the meantime, I pulled out the oil-filled electric radiators, dusted them off, and am using them to keep warm. They're doing pretty good considering I only set them on medium. I always worry that putting them on high might trip a circuit breaker, even though that's not happened so far.

It's in the 20s (F) tonight and tomorrow night. We had a light dusting of snow here on Saturday morning, but it was mostly gone by the time I got out of bed. Originally, the forecast was calling for 2 to 3 inches of snow.


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mohawk daisy

cleaning toilets

To get the water out of the bowl, don't bother turning off the water and flushing. Even when the tank has emptied, the level of standing water in the bowl won't go down. Instead, you can use a toilet brush to "push" the water down the drain. This will lower the level a good bit.

To clean a brownish stain which has accumulated around the water level, if scrubbing with a toilet brush doesn't work: don't bother trying baking soda - even scrubbing the soda in with a scubber sponge doesn't help much. But scrubbing the stain with a pumice stone does work well, and supposedly doesn't damage the ceramic.

I found these tips here: Cleaning Toilet Bowl Stains, and tried them out - they really do work.


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mohawk daisy

sleep not

I've been tired all day, and have felt like I could fall asleep the moment I went to bed.

I did good tonight. Tomorrow I have to get up at 7am (earlier than usual), and I made it to bed by 11:35pm, which would give me just under 7.5 hr sleep if I fell asleep right away.

My feet were cold, so I turned on the electric blanket and waited for them to warm up. My mind drifted for a long time, and if I fell asleep at all, it wasn't for long. An hour later (when I checked the time), I realized that besides still being awake, my feet were now too warm and my pulse felt like it was racing, at least considering I'd been resting. I timed it at 87 beats per minute. I have no reason to be stressed today, nothing stressful on my mind. I hadn't had any caffeine. So what's up with that? Maybe it is my circadian rhythm not used to being in bed so early. Then I felt like I had wasted an hour that I could have at least have been doing something useful. Sleep didn't feel any closer, so I got up for a while.

Now I'm going to get 4.5 hr of sleep or less again. Whatever.

And the dog goes bow-wow, bow-wow. But not now.


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mohawk daisy

Comparing prepaid cell phone plans again.

Based on coverage maps of the major networks, it looks like Verizon has the best coverage in the southeast U.S., followed by AT&T, then by Sprint and T-Mobile.

Coverage maps for pre-paid carriers - the URL is dated 2011, the post is dated 2014, and the post says last updated 2016. So I'm not sure how up-to-date all the maps are. Best to double-check on the individual carrier websites.

List of United States mobile virtual network operators - shows which major networks each one uses. But even if a particular operator uses one of those networks, I'm not sure if that means their coverage area is the same as that network, or if it may only be a subset of it.

As of today (I'm only listing ones under $40, as I don't plan to get a more expensive one):

PagePlus (uses Verizon network):
$27 (with auto-pay) for 1 GB high-speed data per month (no extra throttled data). 1500 minutes, unlimited domestic & international texts.
$36 (with auto-pay) for 3 GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower 2G data. Unlimited domestic talk, unlimited domestic & international texts.

Boostmobile (uses Sprint network):
$30 (with auto-pay) for 2 GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower 2G data. Unlimited domestic talk & text.
Can add an extra 1GB/month for $5.

Cricket (uses AT&T network):
$30 for 1GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower data. Unlimited domestic talk & text.
$35 (with auto-pay) for 2.5 GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower data. Unlimited domestic talk & text.

Boom mobile (has plans for all 4 major networks):
I'm only listing the V network plans here:
$20 for 250 MB per month, unlimited talk & text.
$25 for 1 GB per month, unlimited talk & text.
$30 for 2 GB per month, unlimited talk & text.
$40 for 5 GB per month, unlimited talk & text.
$10 for extra 1 GB; $14 for extra 2 GB (these expire 90 days from purchase)

$35 for 2 GB per month plus unlimited slower 2G data, unlimited talk & text.

I had never heard of Boom before, but based on this HowardForums thread, they sound like a very good deal. In particular, they include voice and data roaming.

H2O wireless (uses AT&T network):
$27 (with auto-pay) for 3 GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower 2G data. Unlimited domestic talk (incl. 50 other countries), unlimited domestic & international texts.

$36 (with auto-pay) for 8 GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower 2G data. Unlimited domestic talk (incl. 50 other countries), unlimited domestic & international texts.

Envie mobile (part of H2O, uses AT&T network):
$25 for 1 GB high-speed data per month, 500 minutes, unlimited texts.

ECOmobile:
$30 for 1 GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower 2G data. Unlimited talk & text.
(Per ECO Mobile Unveils New Plans):
$25 for 500 MB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower data. Unlimited talk & text. (Not listed on the official website yet).

I don't know what network they use. Per this page they use T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, but I can't find any coverage maps on the official site to verify it.
The site says "Nationwide Coverage Available on the applicable carrier Home Network based on the device compatibility, Off Network and International Roaming not available"

Lycamobile (uses T-Mobile network):
$23 for 500 MB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower data. Unlimited talk & text. Some unlimited international. (plus a 6% regulatory surcharge?)

Simple Mobile (uses T-Mobile network):
$37.50 (with auto-pay) for 4 GB high-speed data per month plus unlimited slower 2G data. Unlimited domestic (and a good bit of international) talk. Unlimited domestic & international text.

Airvoice Wireless (uses AT&T network):
$20 for 100 MB data (half high-speed, half low), unlimited talk & text (domestic & int'l).
$30 for 1 GB data (half high-speed, half low), unlimited talk (including some international) & text (domestic & int'l)

ATT GoPhone:
$40 (with auto-pay) for 4 GB data per month plus unlimited slower 128kbps data, unlimited domestic talk & text. Unlimited texts to over 100 countries.

TracFone:
$15 for 200MB, 200 minutes, 500 texts per 30 days.
$25 for 500MB, 500 minutes, 1000 texts per 60 days.
$35 for 1 GB, 750 minutes, 1000 texts per 90 days.
$125 for 1.4 GB, 1500 minutes, 1500 texts per 365 days.

$10 per extra 1 GB
$5 per extra 1000 texts

I can't get their Coverage Map page to actually display any coverage maps. This reminds me of the problems I had with their website way back when I used to use them.

Net 10 - their site will only show you coverage maps for particular phone models, after you select each phone.
RedPocket Mobile - I can't find a coverage map on their site. Based on my old notes, their coverage area isn't good.
Selectel Wireless - the coverage map on their home page doesn't let you zoom in.
Telcel - their site will only show you coverage maps for particular phone models, after you select each phone.


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mohawk daisy

nut flavors

While chomping down on some raw almonds, I hit a bitter one. I gagged on the horrible bitterness, but at the same time marveled at the intense almond flavor, which normal almonds don't have. I spit out the remains into the sink.

I already knew about bitter almonds, sort of, and I knew that apricot kernels were also sometimes used for almond flavor. (I know that persipan is to apricot kernels as marzipan is to almonds.) I remember a small bag of either bitter almonds or apricot kernels that my mom inherited from her mom, back in Germany. It was in her baking supplies. Maybe I tasted one back then, and that's where I learned about them, but I don't remember for sure.

But I didn't realize that basically all almond flavoring is made from bitter almonds and/or apricot kernels (and other sources), and none comes from sweet almonds. That explains why almonds don't taste like almond flavor!

The Case of the Tasty But Poisonous Nut

What to Use When You Can't Get the Real Thing
The most common sources of bitter almond taste, however, are almond extracts, which are distilled to be free of cyanide. "Pure" almond extract should contain natural oil of bitter almond, a colorless fluid, along with water and alcohol. "Natural" extract usually is flavored with benzaldehyde made from cassia, a relative of cinnamon. "Imitation" extract uses synthetic benzaldehyde, which is manufactured from a petrochemical.
...
a spokeswoman for McCormick, the nation's leading extract manufacturer, said: "The oil of bitter almond in McCormick's pure almond extract is derived from apricot kernels, in accordance with FDA regulations."


..

So that explains why almonds don't taste as good as almond-flavored things. And why simply blending up some almond milk doesn't give you a particularly almond-flavored beverage.

But it doesn't explain why the same may be said of pistachios and hazelnuts. I wonder where those nut flavorings originally came from, and if they are really found in the regular nuts themselves. (Ok, hazelnuts, when they are roasted start getting some of that nice hazelnut smell, maybe. But pistachios, good as they are, don't taste anything like pistachio flavor does. Well, maybe the problem there is that I've never had unroasted pistachios? Maybe the flavor comes from the raw pistachio nuts?)

Normally the pistachio flavoring sold in stores is artificial. So I checked whether there are any non-artificial ones, and there are a few online. But the reviews are mixed. Some reviews say they taste artificial and not good at all, making me wonder if the real thing really isn't anything like the normal artificial pistachio flavor used in ice creams and pudding.

Hmm:
Why does pistachio ice cream taste nothing like pistachios?
heavyLobster wrote: "Pistachio flavoring is mostly almond extract. Almond extract tastes different from normal almonds because there are actually two different types of almonds. Almond extract comes from bitter almonds, and the ones you eat are sweet almonds.

The chemical that gives almond extract (and pistachio flavoring) its characteristic flavor is benzaldehyde."


.

But pistachio flavor is different from almond flavor, isn't it?... Or is it just the artificial green color that makes it seem different to the mind???


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