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Huh. I see that Dreamwidth has added the ability to upload pictures to their site. Now what? How do you embed them in a post? Can they be resized when you do that? Linked to the larger picture, like I used to do on LJ?

Well, let's try this... I went to "View your images" Grid View, copied the "Embed" link under the thumbnail, went back to edit my post, shifted into HTML mode, and pasted in the Embed link.
June 2017 - Grandpa Richard reading to Lena (30 months)
OMG, that is awkward. Please tell me this isn't the only way.
On the plus side, it DID put in a smaller picture that links to the fullsize one in the back room.

Riverdale!

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:14 pm
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 To say that I was pleasantly surprised by this series is an understatement. I'm on Episode 3 and I am riveted. Twin Peaks meets Veronica Mars.
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 For quite a few years now we have been doing our main grocery shopping at the Cub Foods on Nicollet and 50-something, with side trips to Trader Joe's in StLP.  I've never been crazy about Cub, but it's relatively convenient and big enough to have most anything we need. But for the last year or two I've been increasingly dissatisfied with it. Physically it's seriously in need of maintenance - floors gouged and cracked and stained, shelves looking decrepit. But I didn't consciously notice the physical deterioration until they started randomly rearranging the store, which forced me to LOOK at things while trying to find the toilet paper. When I did finally find the paper products, it was clear that the stock had been compressed into a smaller area and the particular type of Puffs that I usually buy weren't being carried any more. That's happening with more and more products. I've been blaming myself that I couldn't find them, but finally concluded that they just weren't there any more. And a lot of shelves at any particular time seem to be empty, as if they can't afford enough employees to keep the shelves stocked. 

I don't know if the problem is just this particular Cub Foods, or if the whole chain is going downhill. 

Anyway, I'm about ready to look for a new supermarket. Where do you buy your groceries, and why? 
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 Start Reading Now is a small local charity that does something very simple: they give free, new books to kids in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade to read over the summer. We just made a donation. It seems like something that my fannish friends would like to support. Here's the description from their website. 

By hosting book fairs right before summer break, we help kids create their own library of 30 books built over 3 years - at the end of 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. 

To identify the kids who are most in need of books, we work with local public schools that have 50% or more of their students on free or reduced lunch. 

During the day of the book fair, students pick out 10 brand new books and use a $50 Start Reading Now voucher to pay for them. We also provide "This Book Belongs To" stickers and a backpack to carry their new belongings - adding to the sense of ownership and value. 

Our book fairs are low-effort, low-risk and high-impact, making our program an exciting new way to drive change in our community.


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 If you play Pokemon Go you might have noticed that on Monday all the gyms closed down, replaced by pathetic little gray tables. Yesterday they came back up, refurbished and (more or less) ready to play the new gym system that Niantic has been hinting about for months. As usual, info from Niantic is deliberately sparse and cryptic, leaving the details to the Silph Road scientists to figure out. Like millions of other rabid players I spent yesterday afternoon and evening out there trying out the new system. 

There are some glitches and a few dubious design decisions, but on the whole I think I like it (aesthetically, if nothing else). Instead of flipping through successive panels of gym defenders, you are now confronted with a big glass dome with all the defending Pokemon just kind of hanging out inside.They all have little hearts over their heads representing their current level of "motivation," the new game mechanism that replaces the hopelessly confusing old "prestige" system. They lose motivation when they lose battles, but also just from boredom. You can feed them berries to perk them up. 

Things I like about the new system:
  • Gym badges, including the ability to track what's going on with your pokemon defenders in distant gyms
  • The demise of the "Gym Prestige" system, which I hated
  • Finally, something to do with all those useless nanab berries!
  • Defending Pokemon are no longer ordered by CP (so I don't have to be at the bottom of the gym all the time, getting whaled on)
  • New diversity rules are already making gyms more interesting to fight
  • Gyms now have built-in Pokestops. It's like when your health club opens a shop in the lobby for workout gear, but it's all free!
  • There are more gyms now - a lot of Pokestops were converted
Things I don't like
  • The algorithm for motivation decay is way too harsh, esp. if Reddit is right about Pokemon >3000 CP
  • Gym defenders are ordered first come first served - but backwards!  First guy in is at the bottom, must fight every attacker first. And last guy in gets his picture displayed on top of the gym, even though he probably just waltzed in and took the last empty slot without fighting. There should be a reward for taking down a gym, not a punishment!
  • A depleted Pokemon cannot be retrieved from a gym until it is defeated by a rival team. It should just come home when it hits zero.
  • The 100-coin daily limit on rewards for gym defense - especially awful combined with previous bullet
  • Players no longer earn stardust for defending gyms. So sad.
  • It's really hard to keep track of how many coins have been earned by gym defenders. The journal needs a major overhaul. Stop logging every stupid Pokestop and put some real information in there. 
I got into more than a dozen gyms yesterday, mostly by just zooming around the neighborhood dropping into empty slots. I was lucky enough to be fiddling around with my Pokemon menagerie when the gyms came up, and got out there before all the gyms filled up. I'm still not sure exactly how many gyms I'm still in, because for the first hour the gym badge/tracking system wasn't operational. I think it's 6, but I cannot figure out where that 6th gym could possibly be. I've had about 6 mons come home to me bearing coins earned in battle. They've earned 63 coins since yesterday, and potentially could earn as much as 80 more if they all came home right now. Except that if they did all come home now, that would exceed the stupid 100-coin daily limit, so I would lose a bunch of coins. I guess the ideal outcome would be if a couple more came home this evening and the other 2 or 3 (where IS that Exeggecutor??) came home tomorrow. But it's mostly out of my control, which is why the daily limit is so unfair. 
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 Iceland Air is having a flash sale through Friday of this week for many European destinations. Departures include MSP. Destinations do not include Helsinki, but do include several Scandinavian cities. For instance:  MSP-Copenhagen is $599. 

   
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 Didn't put enough money in the meter outside the Aster Cafe on Sunday. And about 10 minutes after my time ran out, there was a ticket on my windshield. Surprisingly, it was from the Minneapolis Park Department rather than the Minneapolis Police. Apparently SE Main Street is a park department road. Who knew?

So I went online to pay it, and was presented with a surprise choice. Pay the $40 fine, or "convert" the ticket to an annual parking pass with retroactive powers. For $35. Kind of a no-brainer, when you put it that way. So I ponied up $35 and will be getting a Mpls Parks Parking Pass in the mail soon. Should come in handy for Pokemon parking.
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Leaving on our first road trip of the year TOMORROW (driving to Oregon!). The van is all cleaned out, the oil changed, the magic van seats reconfigured, and I'm well on the way to being packed. But I am inconsolable because I can't find my National Parks Passport Book! Last year I traversed South Dakota (twice!) and got stamps for everything from the Badlands to Devil's Tower. This time we're going through North Dakota for a change, and I won't be able to get my book stamped for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Waaahhh!  

What really makes me a poster child for First World Problems is the astonishing number of places that passport might have been, but wasn't. Is it in this box labeled Travel? This bag of Laura Ingalls Wilder souvenir booklets? This file drawer full of maps? This pile with the Roadside America books? This other pile on the little table by the stairs? One of the pockets of my bike luggage?  Maybe it's with that favorite scarf I haven't seen since Minicon. I did unpack after we came home from Minicon, didn't I?
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 I have not seen a post on DW for 3 days. 
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 While you can't exactly claim that Jurassic Park is an under-appreciated movie, I tend to forget how good it really was. I saw it once in the theater, and believe that I have seen it two or three times on TV. But having just watched it again, I suspect I actually just watched the last half or 2/3 when I ran across it on a hotel TV and COULD NOT TURN IT OFF.  As a result, my memory has mostly fixated on the last 2/3 of the film: the brontosauruses grazing in their pasture, the ground shaking as T-Rex approaches, the terrifying scene in the kitchen, the climactic Tyrannosaurus Ex Machina moment at the end. These set pieces are so powerful that it's easy to forget how well-crafted the whole film is.

Characters are introduced with perfect little scenes that combine painless exposition with vivid windows into their personalities (as when Dr. Grant 'splains velociraptors to little Pugsley, simultaneously tipping us off to his attitude towards children and setting up poor Muldoon's final scene. Oh shit, they attack from both si....)  By the time the whole cast comes together at the park, we know exactly who they are and we're ready to roll. The pacing of the movie is exquisite, rolling in smooth parabolic curves from swelling sensawunder to absolute terror, to glorious relief of tension before starting the next round of wonder/terror/relief. I had forgotten that the beautiful scene with Dr. Grant and the children in the tree watching the brachiasaurs came right in the middle of the movie, just when the audience desperately needed a break. Do they even make movies like that any more? Seems like nowadays it just gets faster and louder the closer you get to the end.

And I am totally a sucker for the type of monster movie that doesn't actually show you the monster until half way through the movie. Who could forget the glass of water quivering as Rexie lumbers towards her first appearance? But I had completely forgotten the opening scene (possibly we got to the theater late and I never saw it?) -- a 5-minute teaser that gets your hair standing on end without actually showing you anything but reaction shots. Definitely sets you up for the kind of movie this is going to be. 

I enjoyed Jurassic World (hey, DINOSAURS!) but Jurassic Park is so very, very much better: the characters, the pacing, the scary parts, and of course the ineffable John Williams score. The first 3 Jurassic Park movies are available on Netflix streaming for just a few more days (end of April and they're gone). Don't pass up this great chance to re-experience one of the great movies of all time.



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 So about a year ago I created an online account for Social Security so I could look up the information I needed at tax time. The login and password that I recorded no longer works. My "security questions" failed to get me in. Fortunately I was able to reset my password by having a temp password emailed.

When I logged in to create the new password I discovered the problem. THE F***NG PASSWORD EXPIRES AFTER SIX MONTHS. Remember, this is an account that I can see no reason to access more often than once per year. (I'm guessing that most people don't sign in to their online Social Security account very often). Why would they? So this means I'll have to go through the damn password recovery dance every year. 

And does it make my account safer?  Of course not. Anybody who can get access to my main email account can break into it, which is not exactly military-level secure. 
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 With some help from guppiecat, I managed to customize my DW feed so that posted pictures no longer sprawl promiscuously all over my monitor screen. It took way longer than it should have (which is why I put off doing it so long, I suppose), but now I have a striking teal-flavored Dreamwidth theme that I kinda like. 

Click on my account name and go take a look. It's adapted from an available theme just called "Blue" (a perplexing name, because IMHO the predominant colors are more green than blue. But if you like it, you can copy that same theme.)  
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I finally watched the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. I didn't get it. 

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 Yes, there are elections coming up this year. There are ALWAYS elections. Odd-numbered years are for catching up on the local ones. This year it's city elections only (at least in Minnesota). In Minneapolis that means Mayor, Park Board, Council Members, and the ever-popular Board of Estimate and Taxation. The Mayor's race looks like the most lively event, although some council races may be competitive. 

You can just ignore the whole thing until fall rolls around, but if you do that you may well find that it's already over. Since almost everybody in Minneapolis votes Democratic most of the time, there are few serious challengers to whoever gets the DFL endorsement. 

Anyway, here's a good place to get some info on who's running and for what.
And here's a DFL caucus-finder.

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 Beast Wildlife Exclusion has mostly come and gone. They spent two days nailing metal sheeting over the many squirrel holes in our eaves and installed a couple of complicated exterior squirrel traps that I can't entirely explain. There's a long chamber of wire mesh hanging from the eaves that is supposed to entice and then imprison squirrels exiting the premises. And then there's another ingress trap that is mostly up on the roof over the egress trap that... I don't know how it works. I think that squirrels trying to get back into the house get redirected into the egress trap, but at least one ended up stuck in the ingress part so who knows?

Honestly, the whole arrangement looked really unlikely. But somehow it managed to ensnare 6 squirrels over 3 days! I am cautiously optimistic. 
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 Yup, the tree pollen is flying, specifically my nemesis Juniper/Poplar.

I didn't even see the pollen.com notification until I noticed that my eyes were itchy and went looking for the email notice. Yeesh, it's only at Low/Medium level and it's really bothering me. Not a good sign. 

Promoted!

Mar. 20th, 2017 03:40 pm
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Lena proudly displaying the letter announcing that she has been promoted from toddler to pre-schooler at her day care.
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 ... yet I am. Honest, I just put this sweater on this morning because it's so warm and the air was so cold and clammy. I don't usually wear green on St. Patrick's day because I am very much not Irish and don't see any reason to direct my cultural appropriation in that direction. If the pre-revolutionary ancestor (McKinstrie?) WAS from Ireland he was probably Scotch-Irish, in which case orange would in fact be the right color. But I'm not actually looking for trouble, so maybe I should go put on something brown (which is what I think you get if you mix green and orange). 
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Ice is out on Lakes Calhoun and Harriet (for liberal definitions of Ice Out). There is still a little broken ice floating free on the east sides of both lakes, but the main body of the lake and most of the shoreline is completely melted. If you look it up, you find that there are multiple ways of defining Ice Out, and none of the websites that report ice out dates actually report the definition that corresponds to the date. However, my rather hasty research suggests that if this is not the earliest ice out on record for these lakes it is at least a tie for the earliest.
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 While trying to read today's news I realized that I really don't know what is meant by common terms like "the White House" and "the administration."  I am also very murky on how the DOJ is organized, who exactly the FBI works for, and what the Director of National Intelligence does. In the past, all of these terms tended to refer to pretty much the same nexus of power. Not any more, apparently.

Anyway, after a short google-fest I am both less and more confused. According to Wikipedia:
  • the Department of Justice (DOJ) is headed by the Attorney General
  • the AG reports directly to the President - so does that make him part of "the administration?" I always assumed so.
  • the AG is a member of the cabinet - so does that make him part of "the White House?" Again, I always assumed so.
  • the FBI is under the jurisdiction of the DOJ, so the head of the FBI (Comey) reports to the AG (Sessions)
  • but the FBI also takes direction somehow from the Director of National Intelligence (nobody, at the moment)
So what does it mean when??
  • the head of the FBI "asks" the Justice Department to declare an assertion by the president to be false? Comey is asking his boss to contradict his own boss, presumably, which seems unlikely to happen. But if Comey is the one with the information, is there something stopping him from making that statement himself? He didn't seem to have any problem making provocative announcements about Clinton during the campaign without permission from the DOJ.
  • For that matter, exactly what is the difference between publicly asking your boss to announce "X" and making that announcement yourself?  
  • What does it mean to say that "no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the DOJ?" Isn't the AG a "White House official?" And doesn't he direct the DOJ?

ETA: Ugh. Dreamwidth editor does really ugly bullet points. Another strike against it. I may just go back to LJ.

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