Friday, December 28, 2007

catalogs, forests of catalogs

We rarely go to a mall or even to the big box stores. We’re Costco members, but don’t go there very often, either. About the only stores we go to more than once a month are grocery stores and Walgreen’s (and even Walgreen’s might be a once-every-two-months trip). Home Depot is the exception—mostly because Stanley gets what he needs there for his non-tech support, non-web work.

So the bulk of our non-grocery shopping is done online. All the places we shop online have very good, detailed websites. We don’t need catalogs. We don’t use them to shop, and we certainly never order over the telephone. I do realize that retailers wouldn’t send them if they weren’t money makers, But we don’t want them, and it’s always been really difficult to opt out of them. We received, at last count, 28 catalogs we don’t want. And it wouldn’t even be so bad if they came once or twice a year, but some of them seem to come weekly or biweekly—way too many trees dying to show me pictures of crap I neither need nor can afford (not if we want to pay our mortgage off in ten years!)

So I was thrilled to read about a site that offers a way to opt out of getting catalogs by selecting the catalog and entering your customer number, and within a couple of months the shiny paper torrent is supposed to stop. The site is called Catalog Choice and is a non-profit organization: “Catalog Choice is a sponsored project of the Ecology Center. It is endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and funded by the Overbrook Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, and the Kendeda Fund.”

It can take about ten weeks to process your catalog opt out, and you can keep track of what you’ve opted out of and even reverse the decision if you’re so inclined. We’ve dumped 28 catalogs so far and are looking forward to being relatively catalog-free as of mid-February. What I like about the site is that it’s an opt-in program for merchants as well, and for each merchant listed a corresponding website link is provided. I would much rather get email from the companies I buy from than catalogs—emails don’t have to be gathered up and tied up and put out with the recycling. Check it out!

posted by lee on 12/28/07 at 06:34 PM

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Monday, May 14, 2007

rapturous scrabulous tigers

It’s cold. I have one tomato outside—I hope it survives.

Stanley showed me a story today. Pure capitalism—America at its best. “Atheist offers to send letters post-Rapture,” the headline reads. Oh how I wish I would’ve thought of it! Here is the link to The Post-Rapture Post: The Postal Service of the Saved for those of you planning to say so-long to those of us who prefer science to superstition (or other non-believers who won’t be leaving everything but their socks behind one of these days). for $4.99 per letter, you can deliver your nyah-nyahs and be sure they’re delivered.

Stanley also sent me a link, via Nora Ephron in the New York Times (subscription probably required, damn them), to an online Scrabble game. Scrabulous offers regular Scrabble, Scrabble Blitz, and some other variants that I have not yet tried because I’ve been so sucked in to Scrabble Blitz that I didn’t get as much done today as I planned and I don’t want to lose my mind entirely.

And, finally, a Tiger game. I haven’t been to a Tiger game in their new ballpark yet (Comerica Park)—the last time I saw them was in New York at Yankee Stadium several years ago. I loved the old Tiger Stadium and felt sad when they tore it down. But I’d like to see the Tigers live again, in their new ballpark.

But I get to visit vicariously via a photo from Detroit: here is a snapshot of Kristine, Tiger, and Jamie (click to enlarge a bit—and it will take a bit to load on dialup) at Comerica Park:

Kris, Tiger, and Jamie at Comerica Park 2007

Maybe we’ll be able to arrange to go to a game with them and other family members in August or September when we head to Michigan for our vacation. Would be fun. And May 13th, besides being Mother’s Day, is nephew Ben’s 15th birthday. We offered to send him a book for his birthday, but he passed (imagine that!) so we sent him a gift certificate instead. Oh, some garden notes, before I forget. Our lilac bloomed. We just put it in last year two years ago (Stanley said), so didn’t expect anything. It has one big bloom on one branch. I smelled it the other night and went looking for it. It’s so exciting! But, alas, the wisteria again did not bloom. The dogwoods are almost finished—they didn’t start blooming until May 3rd or 4th this year—about ten days late. Our magnolia, if it bloomed, we didn’t catch it. The tulips and daffodils just didn’t bloom this year—a few of them. But the lily of the valley is taking over, and the astilbe are coming in strong. There, that’s so I can look it up next year when I’m wondering if stuff is late.

posted by lee on 05/14/07 at 03:59 AM

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

daily life a hundred years ago

Was pointed to a photo blog by theMezz (a very comprehensive link-a-rama) today that I found fascinating. I’m not sure of the “who” behind it, but it’s a collection of photos, well, here is what the “About” for says:

“ is a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating. We’re starting with a collection of photographs taken in the early 1900s by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of a decade-long field survey for the National Child Labor Committee. One of his subjects, a young coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham, is the site’s namesake.”

It’s fascinating what people do for a living, I think, and even more so what kids did before child labor laws were passed. On this site there is a photo of one teenager who worked 17 hours a day every day and yet was hauled before a judge for being incorrigible at home which, his parents suspected, was due to his cocaine habit (this was in 1913). Here is one compelling photo from the site, that of a trapper boy:

trapper boy from

The caption reads: Vance, a Trapper Boy, 15 years old. Has trapped for several years in a West Virginia coal mine at 75 cents a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door: most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come. On account of the intense darkness in the mine, the hieroglyphics on the door were not visible until plate was developed. September 1908. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. is a website by the Juniper Gallery of Fairfax, Virginia, which provides vintage prints and the prints are struck by David Hall of Plan59—a purveyor of mid-century illustration which I am going to poke around in next (there goes another hour of my life ... ) And then I need to figure out why a PHP page isn’t rendering ... oh wait, it’s Saturday!

posted by lee on 03/24/07 at 07:36 PM

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

life-size images online

And they even load fairly quickly! Interesting application of Google maps. Very interesting.

The first is from the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society: a life-size image of a blue whale. It is noisy (sounds like waves—I think the sound is waves anyway). Here is the press release that explains what it’s all about.

And now on to fine art. HAL9000, which is a company that I think provides digital imaging and retouching services (the font is so small it’s a farce), has a 4xfull-size image (8.6 gigabytes—yes, that’s gigabytes!) of Gaudenzio Ferrari‘s painting (fresco?? the details don’t say) of the life of Jesus on a partition (?) in Santa Maria della Grazie in Varallo, Italy. (Yep, a fresco, according to Wikipedia.) Go to the HAL9000 site and click on the link (you can turn off the music, which is rather loud and annoying).

Now back to the salt mines (I read about the above in the webdev list, so it really is work-related ... )

posted by lee on 03/22/07 at 06:30 PM

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

i think i’ve been to this shoelace site before

Of course, I could search my site to find out if I’ve mentioned this before. But it’s a cool site, so worth mentioning again—it was mentioned in the February 5, 2007 Wall Street Journal “Time Waster” column: Ian’s Shoelace Site - Bringing you the fun, fashion & science of shoelaces.

My dad taught me how to tie my shoelaces when I was, oh, four or something like that. He taught me the “Two Loop Shoelace Knot” and I remember my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Shoemaker (I swear, that was her name), telling me I did it wrong. I asked her why, since it worked. She couldn’t answer me and just left me alone after that. That method stood me in good stead through all the years of saddle oxfords at school (we didn’t wear sneakers to school back then. At least not a Catholic school) and Keds at home. I still tie them with this method.

According to this guy, a better, faster way than the two-loop way is “Ian’s Fast Shoelace Knot,” which looks plausible so I will try it. And for those who have slippery knots (why do they bother with laces like that? I’ve never figured that one out), there’s his “Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot.”

Yes, indeed, a worthy waste of time. One of Ian’s Google links is to a no-tie shoelace, which look like they might be good for little kids or people who have trouble because of arthritis or something. More interesting than velcro and they don’t get all those nasty cat hairs and dusty bits in them that velcro does.

posted by lee on 02/06/07 at 05:58 AM

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

i heart brand blogs

So I was glad to see a brand new one: Brand New—another Under Consideration production (they also do design encyclopedia and Speak Up

posted by lee on 11/16/06 at 07:45 PM

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Monday, July 17, 2006

the canary project

The Canary Project photographs and exhibits landscapes around the world that are showing dramatic transformation due to global warming. The project’s photographers/developers are trying to use these photos to convince people that global warming is a clear and present danger by showing via photos, rather than telling via statistics, the evidence that global warming is already happening and should concern us right now.

The photos of the disappearing glaciers in Austria are compelling. And the Katrina photos. Maybe even the Venice photos. But the Netherlands photos don’t really show anything alarming. What the exhibit lacks are comparative photos—the before and after stuff that Al Gore used so effectively in An Inconvenient Truth. The Costa Rica cloud forest series suffers from a big lack of information—I don’t know what, exactly, I’m looking at and why it’s significant or foreboding. I do understand the dead coral reef photos because I know what a living coral reef looks like, but I’m not sure most people do. Since more people will see the website than the exhibition, the Project should spend a lot more time developing it to be a more effective tool.

The site itself is pretty, but the web designer needs to close up the space at the top because it shoves the photos down too far and makes it annoying to view them. It’s also annoying to have to squint at light gray text on all that white.

There could be more links—a lot more links—which would make the website a better resource, but perhaps those will come with time.

It could also stress what you can do right now, rather than burying it in the links page. After we saw An Inconvenient Truth, we switched our Connecticut Light & Power electricity source to 100% green (wind and methane-recovery from landfills) even though it will cost us a bit more per kilowatt hour (1.1 cent per kwh). And we switched our heating oil to biofuel last fall. We’ll buy carbon offsets as soon as we can afford to. We try to conserve energy as much as possible (which is why we were reluctant to put in the air conditioners) and we follow as many guidelines as we can (energy efficient lightbulbs, unplugging bricks and appliances when possible ... ) Multiply our efforts by millions of other households and companies doing similar things, and this might have more of an impact than anything else short of a 60s-era, NASA-like program by our government to lead the world in coming up with alternatives to fossil fuels.

posted by lee on 07/17/06 at 03:26 PM

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

digital universe

Did some link hopping, first from a New York Times article about Wikipedia to Earth Portal: The Encyclodpedia of the Earth (which appears to be pending—I couldn’t figure out how to actually access anything) to, finally, Digital Universe.

Digital Universe is the beginning of the Encyclopedia Galactica, that compendium of everything envisioned by Isaac Asimov. DU is a portal to portals: “It is an ever-growing array of commercial-free portals mapping the highest-quality Internet destinations, as recommended by experts recognized in their fields. These experts review public contributions, create context and attest to the reliability, integrity, and accuracy of the portals.”

It is an inteface that organizes existing websites into topic areas. For example, if you want to look up some medical information, you’d select the “Human” portal, then “Health,” and look at the resources available on the right side of the screen, which are organized further into topics such as “Essentials,” In-Depth,” etc. In some cases, the site selected loads into the main screen, in other cases it lauches in a new tab or window. (I imagine what happens has to do with copyright agreements.)

DU’s founders write: “The vision of the Digital Universe is to organize the sum total of human knowledge and make it available to everyone.” Hey, shoot for the stars, why not?

Just go poke around; it really is pretty amazing. Sparse or empty in certain areas (such as women’s health), loaded with information in others (Tree of Life).

posted by lee on 06/17/06 at 06:15 PM

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Friday, May 12, 2006

universal healthcare

Oxford Health Plans just notified us that our health insurance premium is skyrocketing: from $7,900 per year (for two people) to $11,500 per year. That’s 46%. That’s basic, cover-our-butts coverage. A $5,000 deductible. No prescription plan. No vision. Dental? Hah.

Now, I know we eached bumped up one tier in the geezer chain (the five-year blocks). But 46%? I thought Oxford was now part of United Healthcare, giving it an even bigger pool. Doesn’t seem to matter. And I know about $100,000 was spent on Stanley last year for his heart surgery, but in Connecticut, utilization is not supposed to matter (and I just got the stuff Oxford says to get, like a physical and a mammagram—I sure didn’t cost Oxford anywhere near the premiums I paid!)

Which is why, after being inundated with commercials for it during Nightline, I finally went to and signed up.

When I think about how handy the extra $3,900 would have come in for expanding our business ... no, never mind, that’s too depressing. Maybe we should move to Massachusetts ...

posted by lee on 05/12/06 at 05:59 PM

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

here & there on the web & a stupid ibm adv

Love my toy cameras and I’m always looking for more information about them. I took a look through this site, put together by photographer Marcy Merrill: After you’ve poked around in JunkStore Cameras, take a look at the rest of her site, a lot of interesting stuff that she has the patience to document (much more patience than I would have). I really like her photography too. Lots of interesting experiments.

Well, Can You?
Can you pass the citizenship test? (Yep, I did. I paid attention during Civics—I even liked it.)

Ye Gods!
Need to check up on a god? has data available on more than 2,850 deities. (Jesus is under the middle-eastern mythology category, in case you’re wondering.)

Must-have Resource for Jeopardy Buffs Which, sad to say, does not have a search engine.

Today, I wanted to work in the garden. And take a picture of the dogwood tree, which started blooming on April 20 this year. But it’s raining and dreary and so chilly that Stanley turned the furnace back on. I need a break from making websites so I think I’ll, um, maybe work on cleaning the house? The furballs are massing for an attack and we’ve lost the cat somewhere in the piles of clothes in the guest room, so off I go.

Advertising Dregs
But not before making an observation about IBM’s current ad campaign. It’s the commercial with the blue flowers floating all over the place, masses of the same flower (I have no idea what the point of the flowers is supposed to be—designer barf, I suspect). At any rate, the theme of this commercial is “I’m not like everybody else.” So to hammer the theme of uniqueness, the admeisters have hordes of people singing exactly the same line at the same time in the same way (“I’m not like everbody else” by The Kinks). Methinks IBM needs a new advertising agency—and fast. What a wombat this commercial is. I can’t even figure out what they’re selling. Blah.

posted by lee on 04/22/06 at 07:53 PM

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