August 28, 2003

Double-blind chocolate

I read an interesting article yesterday about the possible health benefits of chocolate. Being a fan of the stuff, I was happy to find out that dark chocolate can indeed be healthy. Here's the article from New Scientist.

What I'm confused about is how they did the experiment. Here's a quote from the article:

"Dark chocolate contains about twice the amount of flavonoids as milk chocolate, so 12 healthy volunteers were given either 100 grams of plain chocolate or 200 grams of milk chocolate. Some were also given 200 ml of milk to drink in the double-blind experiment."

I had always thought a double-blind experiment meant that neither the researcher nor the subjects knew who was getting what treatment. Typically one set of subjects would get the actual drug, or a certain dose of it, and the other set would get a placebo (usually a sugar pill) or a different dose. Not until the experiment is over does anyone find out what they were getting.

I could see that perhaps the researchers wrapped the chocolate in foil so they wouldn't know who was getting milk or dark chocolate, which would satisfy one half of the double-blindness. But surely the participants would know if they were getting milk or dark chocolate. Gary suggested that maybe they didn't know what other participants were getting, just themselves. But I'm not sure that would qualify as double-blind.

I believe we get the journal Nature (where the original paper was published) at work, so I'll have to do more research on this when it arrives. All I can say is that I would gladly participate in such a study, no matter what kind of chocolate I had to eat!

Posted by Jen at 08:10 AM | Comments (2)

August 27, 2003

Virus blues

I've gotten over 50 emails this morning with the Sobig virus attached to them. *sigh* I thought maybe I had become super popular all of a sudden, but alas that wasn't the case.

This information is from CERT, and my personal experience backs it up as valid.


Re: Thank You!
Thank You!
Your details
Re: Details
Re: Re: My details
Re: Approved
Re: Your application
Re: Wicked screensaver
Re: That movie

The virus automatically launches itself, you don't even need to open an attachment to get it going.

You can check your machine to see if you're infected by looking for the following files on your hard drive:


The virus is supposed to stop itself on September 10th, but being careful not to let it spread is still a good idea.

Posted by Jen at 11:34 AM | Comments (1)

August 25, 2003

Emerald Bay

Gary and I got back from a long weekend of camping yesterday. We went up to Lake Tahoe and camped at Emerald Bay State Park, on the south west side of the lake. And while it's about 90?F here now, it was cool and breezy up at the Lake.

We did typical camping stuff, like hiking and cooking over a fire (grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, nothing fancy). Gary brought his telescope and we checked out Mars. And we did some not-so typical stuff, like go to Nevada and check out the casinos (Gary was the winner here, and between us both we came out almost exactly even.) And although you can get married at the drop of a hat in Nevada, we decided not to.

Posted by Jen at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2003

I Love Jen

I made a big messy mistake yesterday. A few weeks ago one of our cats decided that our down comforter would make a good litter box. It was too big to wash, and I didn't think even commercially cleaning it would make it fit to use (without the fear that the cats would come back for more.) It sat in my office until yesterday, when I finally got fed up with it.

My friend Eva recommended tossing it, or giving it away. "No sense trying to save it if you're never going to use it again anyway," she said. She was so right. I had decided the best thing to do was to cut off the offending piece, leaving a comforter that would be wide enough for a twin bed. Here's what I should have done: Sew a solid seam down one length of the comforter, several inches away from the stained section. Sew a second seam about an inch away from the first. Cut down the middle, vacuum up the few fluffs of down that would come out.

This isn't what I did.

Instead, I decided to explore the inside of the comforter and cut a big hole next to the stained section. Immediately feathers and down starting flying. I hadn't really thought about what would be inside, just assuming it would be big white feathers. Instead I was greeted by a puff of small downy bits, like someone had blown a fuzzy dandelion in the room. I learned that the squares where mostly separate, except for a couple of inches at either end. I would have to seam it shut. I got out my trusty sewing machine, heaved the comfortor onto my lap, and started sewing. Unfortunately the movement caused even more down to fly around, getting in the way of the needle and thread. My thread broke several times (because feathers were getting wrapped around it, clogging up the eye of the needle) and I broke a needle (with some mysterious jam that went away after I changed needles.)

I made my biggest mistake after I sewed the first seam. Instead of sewing a second seam (it didn't even occur to me) I decided to cut the comforter in two. Things got bad at this point. If you ever saw the I Love Lucy episode in which she re-upholsters Fred and Ethel's chair, you get the idea. Although I didn't have a fan on in the room, so most of the mess stayed on the floor. Wow. I wouldn't have thought such a volume of stuff could have come out of such a tiny bit of comforter.

Luckily we have a decent vacuum cleaner, which picked up most of the feathers and down after 30 minutes of running around after them. I would have taken pictures, but at the time it wasn't so amusing. There are still feathers on the stairs and the den, and some in the living room, and dining room, and kitchen. I picked off several bits of down from Trixie's chin last night (the cats were in the bedroom during the entire episode.) Gary picked lots of it from my hair before we went to bed. I had dreams about vacuuming feathers last night.

So now I have a twin sized down comforter in a large plastic bag, ready to go to a loving home. It was not worth the effort I put into it, especially considering we don't have a twin bed, and I don't want to have to deal with another feather for a long time. Next time (should there be a next time, which there had better not be) I will put the whole thing in a bag and send it to Goodwill with a polite note about it needing cleaning.

*play closing credit music*

Announcer: Miss Griffin's wardrobe provided by Grinnell College Bookstore. All celebrity voices were impersonated. No animals were harmed in the making of this episode. This has been a Dreamspire Production!

Posted by Jen at 08:06 AM | Comments (2)

August 20, 2003

Party for 80?

Gary's birthday is coming up in a few weeks. Our friend John's birthday is the next day. So, John's wife Eva and I are throwing a party for them both in a couple of weeks. We don't have a finalized guest list, both it sounds like they both want to invite their teams from work, about 40 people each!

Luckily Eva has been gaining experience cooking dinner for 40 people recently. She's made dinner for John's team a bunch of times this summer, with a great approval rating. She's already brought out her cookbooks and recipe cards and started thinking about what she'll make. I plan to go to the store and buy some sushi platters, and make devilled eggs and mini-sandwiches.

We've had 80 people over to our house before. The Christmas before last we had a big party where we invited pretty much everyone we knew. I think the list was over 100, and close to 80 showed up. This will probably come close in size, since there are 80 people they work with to invite, not including spouses or significant others. So, I know it's doable, with enough chips and alcohol anyway.

It occurred to me this afternoon that I had no idea how much cake one would need for 80 people. More than just Eva and I could bake, I think. Maybe we'll skip the cake and have crudites instead.

Posted by Jen at 08:49 PM | Comments (1)

August 14, 2003

Gromit is Dead! Long live Gromit!

Last night Gary helped me clean up Gromit, my old computer. I had already transferred its brain to my new computer, so we reformatted the hard drive. This morning I re-installed Windows 2000 and it seems to work fine.

What to do with it now? I only have one monitor, and I don't have a switch box to easily go between the two computers (right now I have to unplug-and-replug the monitor cable when I want to switch.) So, it's not very convenient having both computers in use. I have thought about converting it to a linux box, or possibly selling it or giving it away to a good home. I have a new power supply I had bought for it last year that I never used that I might try installing, partly to make it quieter, and for practice.

Posted by Jen at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2003

I moved to California and all I got was this lousy governorship

Well?I didn?t think it was possible, but it looks like Ah-nold may actually be California?s governor in a few months! Of course, we have so many other great candidates to vote for, including Larry Flynt, several porn stars and models, Gallagher, and Father Guido Sarducci.

I thought about adding Gary's name to the ballot. It would have been expensive ($3500 plus 65 signatures) but it definitely has a high coolness factor. I'm guessing that this sort of thing is going to happen a lot more often in the future, so maybe next time.

I plan to vote against the recall. After all, didn't we just have a gubernatorial election less than 10 months ago? But I still need to vote for someone in case that fails. Maybe I'll write in Mickey Mouse (at least he's a Californian native!)

Posted by Jen at 07:51 AM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2003

Buying a car

I went car shopping this weekend. My current car is a '95 Subaru Impreza, and it's actually in pretty good condition. But, it is getting old and noisy, and interest rates are pretty good right now, so I thought I'd take a look at what's out there. I brought Gary along for moral support, and to help ask questions and fend off aggressive salesmen.

I decided to look at 4 cars this weekend: the Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius, VW Beetle, and a Mini Cooper. The BMW dealership near us didn't have any Mini Coopers, so that got knocked off the list pretty quickly. The Civic was a nice car to drive...nothing super special, but not too bad. Of the 3 cars I drove, the Civic is most like my current car. It gets terrific gas mileage, has super low emissions, and isn't so small as to be uncomfortable.

The Prius wasn't so impressive. It's another hybrid, but I thought the design wasn't as attractive or comfortable to drive. The gas pedal felt weird, almost springy. And the shift stick was in the way of all the temperature and music controls, not a great design when you're going 65 mph down the freeway! Gary noted that it's gas milage for the few miles we drove was much lower than that of the Civic (we took nearly the same route, too.)

The VW dealership was last on the list for the day. I considered testing a convertable Beetle, but they didn't have any ready to drive. And they don't sell Cabrios anymore, so I had to make do with a standard car. :) The Beetle was somewhat surprising inside. The front appears to have a lot of room, at least on the upper half. The dashboard is very deep, like a mini-van would be. The back, on the other hand, was microscopic. Gary sat in the back for the drive, and complained that his head touched the ceiling! The front seats were very convenient to fold forward, though, but you'd have to be pretty short to be comfy in back. And for the price, I'd rather get a roomier, smoother car.

I haven't made my final decision yet, but the Honda Civic Hybrid is looking like a strong contender. I'll probably test drive it again, along with a few other cars. I'm not in a big hurry to get anything, since my Subaru is doing just fine for now.

Posted by Jen at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2003

name that computer!

I am spending this beautiful summer day in my office building a new computer. The hard drive is formatting as I type...should be another 20 minutes or so. I've been thinking of replacing my current computer for a new months, but was hesitating because it's a major purchase and a major pain to do. A new computer always sounds nice, until you realize you'll have to set one up, get used to a new OS, transfer all of your old files to the new hard drive, without transferring all the junk and old stuff that caused you problems with the old computer in the first place.

My old computer is old. Parts of it are from when I lived in Iowa, which was nearly 6 years ago. We have a DSL connection, so I had never given much thought about my modem until last month when we lost our fast speed internet. I had a 28.8 modem!!! I have no idea how old it is, where it came from, or why I still had such a beast.

I am a believer in computer karma. If you start off with a brand new system, you start with no karma, or at least reasonably good or neutral karma. As the machine ages, and you start replacing bits of hardware and software, things get corrupted inside. It remembers that you used to have a SoundBlaster sound card, once upon a time, and insists on loading the drivers every time you boot up, even though you haven't had one in years. That's bad computer karma. All those old mouse drivers, game demos that you thought you deleted, the virus that Norton found and fixed; they're all there on your system, building up like plaque on your teeth. Even getting a new hard drive doesn't always help, since little bits hang on in your bios, loading themselves each time you start up.

My computer has bad computer karma. I had considered just buying some new components for it to get it up to speed. More memory, a new video card, maybe a DVD drive. This is what I've been doing for awhile, keeping most of the old computer, and replacing parts of it. This new system will be one of the first brand new systems I've ever owned. The only things that are going to be carried over is my monitor (a lovely 15" LCD monitor), my keyboard (an ancient relic from Gary, I love it dearly) and a few peripherals like a scanner, handspring connector, camera memory card reader, and wireless network antenna. No hard drives, no CD or floppy drives, mice, modems, or anything like that will be moved. And I'll be extra careful in moving files onto the virgin hard drive (well, I'm currently installing Microsoft XP onto it, so I guess it's deflowered now.)

So only a few concerns are left for me regarding my new machine. Primarily: what to name the new computer? My old system was called Gromit, after the terrific claymation duo Wallace and Gromit. Gary already has a computer named Wallace, so that's out. We have a lot of devices named after Futurama characters, so this may be an option. It's important to give the computer a good name, since I'll be living with it for at least a few years.

My top choice right now is Leela, but until I don't have to decide until I finish building it.

Posted by Jen at 06:03 PM | Comments (5)