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 After peer pressure forced me to Dreamwidth I spent a long, unhappy time customizing my feed so that large pictures didn't totally break it.

Well, I haven't changed anything, but suddenly I can't view large pictures again. I have had to filter guppiecat from my feed because of his beautiful but ginormous photos. I can only see a fraction of the image with other frames from my feed style floating on top of it. Unfortunately, I can't remember what the setting was that resized pictures to fit inside the window. Does anyone remember? guppiecat, if you know maybe you can send me a private message. As I said, I just can't view your posts anymore. 

Alternatively, what pre-created templates work with large pictures? I couldn't find one that I liked when I first got here, but if custom templates don't stay stable maybe I have no choice.  

Have I mentioned that I kinda hate Dreamwidth?  


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 So, yesterday Eileen and I were hunting Pokemon. Parked on Nicollet Island, walked across the bridge to St. Anthony Main and turned right along the  walking path. We were immediately hailed by a frantic looking young guy in a bike helmet sputtering, "Wait! Don't go that way! WASPS!!" At first I thought it was somebody who had accidentally encountered a nest of some kind.  Scary, but it happens. Turns out it was much much worse than that. This guy had stopped at a picnic table by the bike path for a little picnic lunch when a few yellow jackets started going after his banana. One stung him on the leg, another on the back of his neck. He looked up from his lunch and realized that a HUGE SWARM OF WASPS had descended on the picnic table and was MOVING INTO HIS BACKPACK as he sat there!!  He ran for it, and they didn't follow. But there were literally hundreds of them swarming the picnic table, the backpack, and his bike. He had a long branch in his hand and seemed to think that he could chase them off or maybe rescue his backpack with it... but that really didn't seem like a good plan. We talked him out of attacking them with a stick, and suggested that what he needed was wasp spray. The guy wouldn't leave the area because he felt responsible for warning everybody that came near. And sure enough, as he was talking to us a jogger came along and got a little too close to the table, then looked alarmed and started swatting at the air, then turned around and ran. 

Eileen and I weren't sure what to do to help. We walked a ways upstream and attacked a gym while trying to think of someplace to buy wasp spray. Really, St. Anthony Main isn't the best place to look for useful stores, so we would have to walk back to our car. We headed back to Wasp Central to ask him if we should do that and saw that reinforcements had arrived. The poor guy couldn't get to his phone (we hadn't realized this, but it was in his backpack!) but a passerby had thought to call .... well who DO you call in this situation? 911? Animal Control? 

It turns out that the right call is the Park Department. Amazingly enough, a truck had showed up already and a guy in a Park Department vest was bravely emptying a can of wasp spray at the picnic table. Then he pulled out a long telescoping pole with a kind of double hook on the end, snagged the backpack, pulled it out and tossed it out of the way. Then he did the same thing with the bike. The spray didn't seem terribly lethal, but I think it slowed the wasps down considerably. There were still some buzzing around the backpack for a little while, but they eventually emerged and sort of staggered away (only flying). I asked the park guy if this happens often and he said (sounding a little shaken), "First time I've heard of." But they did seem to have the right equipment for the job, so kudos to the Minneapolis Park Department.




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 I just discovered Venmo. I was trying to find a way to send a little money to Amber and Olin, and even though they don't like to think of themselves as Millennials, they suggested Venmo (a peer-to-peer money transfer app).

So I signed up for Venmo, linking it to my backup checking account that usually doesn't have much money in it. The interface is clean and easy to use, I'll give it that. And you don't have to look very hard to discover that the default settings are 
  • Can share transactions involving me:  Everyone
  • Default audiences for future transactions:  Public
It just isn't obvious what that means. It turns out that if you leave these settings at their default (which apparently most people do) anybody that has you in their phone contacts list can see every transaction that you have ever made using Venmo. And a list of all your Venmo friends. And if they click on one of those friends, they can see all of THEIR transactions and so on through the entire universe of Venmo users. This thing must be a private detective's wet dream. 

Needless to say, I changed my settings to PRIVATE.
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Who else that reads my journal is going? We're staying in the Scandic Marski, checking in on Wednesday. We're actually arriving in Helsinki at 10pm on Tuesday night, but decided to just stay at the Airport Hilton the first night to remove the necessity for embarking on a third transportation leg into a strange city after a very very long day. 

I am in my usual state of pre-travel nervous frantic, exacerbated by the fact that I just opened an ominous envelope from the IRS that believes I screwed up my taxes for 2015 and owe them thousands and thousands of dollars and wants an answer IN THE NEXT THREE WEEKS. Fer Chrissakes. That will just have to wait until we get back. OK, putting all those pieces of paper back in the envelope.

Other than that, I think we're pretty much prepared. I'm sort of half-packed. I've printed out all my confirmations and reservations (of which there are a lot; the trip is sort of complicated, involving 4 different airlines, 2 trains, and 3 hotels). But I'm thinking of all sorts of things I realize that I don't know. Do I need Euros and Kroner, and how much? Am I supposed to get that from a bank before I leave? If not, where? Can I buy a SIM in the Amsterdam airport that will get me data in Finland, Denmark, and Germany? OMG, what about European adapters for my phone charger??? I completely forgot about that. 
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 John McCain finally remembered where he kept his integrity and cast the surprise 3rd No vote to torpedo the last stupid remnant of the Obamacare Repeal Attempt. 

That final vote seems to call for a sports analogy. Probably a Hail Mary Pass, but I'm not entirely sure I know what that means. Is it still a Hail Mary if it thuds to the ground and the other team piles onto the ball and causes it to implode? I think I know enough about football to know that this is an undesirable outcome, and that's what seems to have happened.

It was a ludicrous plan.  The idea was that they all knew that "skinny Obamacare Repeal" would be a completely terrible and unworkable law but it would be okay to pass it if they could strong-arm Paul Ryan into promising not to bring it to a vote when it got back to the House (which he never did, btw). That way it wouldn't be the Senate's fault that they couldn't come up with a single constructive idea for "remaking health care." And by this time the Senators were so exhausted that they actually said this OUT LOUD. To REPORTERS. On VIDEO. Lindsay Graham called it a "half-assed plan" and "politically the dumbest thing in history."  And THEN HE VOTED FOR IT. Dean Heller of Nevada drew out his Hamlet act for weeks with conscience-stricken soliloquies and repeated conferences with his state's popular governor. Then HE VOTED FOR IT. 

I'd given up on John McCain after he bravely rose from his sick bed and flew to the Senate to express his strong convictions that this was the wrong way to make laws - and then voted YES on the first two votes. Oy. Then instead of going home to recuperate, he kept staggering around the Senate floor for the next 20 hours looking like he was about to pass out. But he was still there when the final "skinny repeal" vote came down and damned if he didn't join the ladies from Alaska and Maine in a resounding NO. Way to go, Senator McCain. 
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 El Presidente's latest attempt to distract the public from the things they should actually be worrying about appears to have backfired. Even a Republican congress that is still eager to rescue their constituency from the burden of affordable health insurance seems startled and appalled by Trump's sudden announcement that transgender people are no longer welcome in the military. Sufficiently appalled for a significant number of them to ACTUALLY SPEAK UP.  And not just the wishy-washy "moderates" - we're talking senators from Alabama, Utah, North Carolina, and more. How things have changed in the past couple of years!

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded with a memo that basically said, politely, that they do not consider the president's social media pronouncements to be policy directives. And more importantly (quote from Defense Department's official statement, but the Joint Chiefs made a similar statement):

">"The Department will continue to focus on our mission of defending our nation and ongoing operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect,"

I certainly could be wrong, but I think the next few days will bring a confused flurry of backing off and denial from the White House. And we can all go back to enjoying the spectacle of the new White House Communications Director attempting to eviscerate the Chief of Staff. I keep intending to watch Game of Thrones some day, but I'm beginning to think that with this White House GoT is redundant. 



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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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