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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

[Hannah] No hitting

At the Amsterdam stock exchange in 1611, it was necessary to announce "verboden om iemand te slaan," it is forbidden to hit anyone. ... It is little wonder that one of the first guides to operating on the floor of any exchange was written in Spanish in 1688 by aa Jewish merchant and dramatist who knew the exchanges in both Amsterdam and Antwerp. It bore the title Confusion de Confusiones.

- Margaret Jacob, Strangers Nowhere in the World

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Coconut cocoa oatmeal cookies

Ezra made this tonight for us to take to Bob and Barb's house (they made a venison roast from a deer Bob shot on our property). Scrumptious, all of it!!

Fudge Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup coconut
1-1/2 cups quick oatmeal
salt to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine first 4 ingredients in large pan, bring to a boil. Boil for a minute, then add all the other ingredients. Stir and drop by spoonfuls on wax paper; chill. Makes about 30.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Google dazes and bores us with empty robotic shouting spammy search results

Main head: Easy Lizard Pot Pie Recipe
Subhead one: Quick and Easy Lizard Pot Pie Recipe
Subhead two: Quick & Easy Lizard Pot Pie Recipe

Step by step recipe instructions for Quick and Easy Lizard Pot Pie Recipe complete with photographs and reader comments and discussion. Make the best Lizard Pot Pie with this quick and easy recipe. The ultimate comfort food, Lizard pot pies are wonderful, especially on a cold fall or winter day. These Quick and Easy Lizard Pot Pies can be made days in advance and then frozen for later. This is a feel-good meal! It's traditional without a catch but very satisfying, not to mention easy and fast.

This was the google result which finally caused me to snap (actual pot pie ingredient disguised to protect the perpetrator). Life is too short to have to read drek like this. People who put up websites like this defend them: it's the only way to rank high in Google, they say. I say: Then it's high time for something other than google (two alternatives listed below).

So I, uh, Googled the topic and found many cranky fellow sufferers:

Vivek Wadhwa: Google has become a jungle: a tropical paradise for spammers and marketers. Almost every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. ... When you visit these sites, they take you to the websites of other companies that want to sell you their goods. (The spammers get paid for every click.)

Paul Kedrosky: The entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews... Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles... Content creators are simply using Google against itself, feeding its hungry crawlers the sort of thing that Google loves to consume, to the detriment of search results and utility.

Marco: I've been frustrated as well by Google's apparent defeat by spam. It's not a sudden issue — it's been gradually worsening ... the impact of spam — mostly affiliate marketing and auto-generated splogs — has decimated the usefulness of the "product research" category. It's impossible to do any meaningful product research with Google.

Part of what exacerbates this is the apparent explosion recently of cheap-"content" sites that try to answer every search query ever asked. ... sites like, eHow, and countless clones with .info domain names that promise to address every niche question and informational topic, but whose content lacks all quality and substance. Searching Google is now like asking a question in a crowded flea market of hungry, desperate, sleazy salesmen who all claim to have the answer to every question you ask.

"Hey, anyone know how to wire an outlet?"

"Did you say ‘how to wire an outlet'?"
"I can help you with how to wire an outlet!"
"Here is info on how to wire an outlet!"
"Bargain prices on how to wire an outlet!"
"Guide to wiring outlets in New York, right here!"

Jonathan Christopher: How many times within the past six months have you had to sift through the first page of Google search results, making your way through scraped content and a rabbit hole of affiliate links to finally find the resource you were looking for? ... Advertising is a sneaky world, marketing is a sneaky world, I just want them to stop wasting my time.

Bob Warfield: Google's webmaster guidelines say, "Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other auto-generated pages that don't add any value to users." Here is the thing, folks: Google profits from at least some of these spammy sites. ... do you really think the brilliant minds at Google can't cut out some of this spam if they really wanted to? ... Google brings them traffic and conveniently monetizes it while they're at it.

Google offers us a Spam Report Form but neither they nor we have the time to empty the ocean with an eyedropper.

Here are two alternative search engines: and I'm going to be giving each of them a try.

One chicken house disaster diagnosed, others pop up in its place.

We lost a lot of chickens this winter and I finally figured out why: I was trying to keep them warm in their coop by leaving a light on all night (this also keeps them laying eggs in the short-daylight months). But the light inside the coop was shining out on the ground somewhat, fooling the chickens into thinking it wasn't curfew yet - while the Teutonic VSB Electronic Doorkeeper made no exceptions and closed at the correct time. Chickens, by ones and twos, were left outside and eaten in the night. (Ez compares this to the astronauts in sci-fi movies who get shut out of the air-lock and float screaming off into the dark of space.)

Now, however, the door has suddenly stopped working and I don't know enough about it to trouble-shoot. I fear I'll have to send it back to Foy's Pigeon Supplies, whence it came...

And, also now: the chicken-house light circuit is shorting out over and over in wet weather. We replaced the circuit-breaker and on the advice of my long-suffering electrician-music partner Bob I disconnected the addition I'd made to the circuit and that didn't help...

And, also also: recent ice and snow snapped the screws off Jethro's tarp roof, bending its supports into nigh-pretzels. Ez and I went out yesterday and did a rather bogus repair.

Livestock: one step forward and two steps back.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Two favorite cards by Mary Engelbreit

I don't believe these cards by Engelbreit are still available - one has been in my possession since the 1980s and reminds me of my own gift-giving technique...

The other just came to my housemate Mitzi from a friend sympathizing with the unexpected turn her life has taken...


Sunday, January 09, 2011

In which I go to the "Jam Session" held by the Really Terrible Orchestra Of The Triangle (RTOOT)

Bond Park Community Center Cary NCIt's been 37 years or so since I played in an orchestra; I call myself a refugee from classical music, having run away for maybe these three reasons:
  1. Dislike of being told when to play up-bow and when to play down-bow;
  2. Less than compelling repertoire;
  3. The competitive attitude permeating most violin sections.
However, hankering to play more fiddle (that's to say, more than zero, the amount I play when my bands aren't rehearsing), I decided to check out the Really Terrible Orchestra of the Triangle Jam Session.

Pictured above: the Bond Park Community Center, which is where the orchestra rehearses and which exemplifies the ghastly architecture of Cary. There are 1,000s buildings like this in Cary, with horrible green roofs and beige walls, surrounded with huge swaths of driveways.

RTOOT - Really Terrible Orchestra of the TriangleConductor W. Sands Hobgood is at the right in this picture, taken as the group was assembling this afternoon. He is the soft-spoken fellow who created RTOOT and sets the non-competitive, self-deprecating tone of the group (which really isn't that bad at all).

While I don't think RTOOT is a good fit for me, the session today left me very thoughtful - maybe it's time to ease back into classical music in some way - though I'm still very happy playing (and sort of creating) folk music that suits my heart. Maybe it's time to try a string quartet again?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

I STILL hate Intuit's Quicken - so I've migrated to Moneydance.

Three years ago I wrote through clenched teeth about Quicken, detestable software by Intuit when the company notified me that the three years they permit their software to function were soon ending and I now HAD TO "UPGRADE" AND BUY A NEW VERSION if I wanted it to continue working.

Three years ago when I wrote the previous post, I couldn't figure out how to avoid buying the new version. I got Quicken 2008 very reluctantly and found it more bloated and buggy than the Quicken 2005 it replaced, with no new features I wanted to use...

...and Quicken 2005 was, in its day, worse and slower than the older version it replaced.

Quicken is one of the few software programs that just continues to get worse and worse year after year. With little competition (even Microsoft Money is getting its plug pulled this year!) Intuit has had a nigh-monopoly and hence can squeeze its consumers with greedy delight.

Well, I finally snapped and spent several hours yesterday migrating to a new program, Moneydance personal finance software. It's not way cheap ($50, though you can get a 20% discount fairly easily) but it doesn't sundown your software connection to the internet.

I like it - it's fast, intuitive (once you get over your Quicken habits), puts no advertisements on your desktop, and doesn't nag you to buy more stuff.

So if you hate Quicken too, I recommend Moneydance as a worthy replacement. If you have other ideas please leave them in the comments for others who come along grinding their teeth over Intuit Quicken and its avaricious policies.