Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I like this new feature in Google Reader that lets you share your favorite posts with your friends who also use reader. This link would allow you to add my "broadcast" to a non Google Reader reader, too.

It's like sitting around the breakfast table reading the paper and sharing tidbits, no?

Monday, December 17, 2007

One Hot Mama

My sister is home, and going through old photos. Here's one she found of my Mom, at about 25. Doesn't she look like the sexy Kansas farmgirl she was? Although this would have been after she left Kansas to see the world via the Air Force.

(p.s. All that hair -- it's fake!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Introducing "Addicted to Costco"

Yes, it's true. I have a friend who loves Costco so much she's started a blog about it. Kimberly was the friend who got us a membership as a baby gift (and a very useful one it was!). And who put on an entire supper club with food purchased at Costco (with a mock receipt and a guessing game at how much it cost per person). She's such an expert we all ask her "is the frozen tilapia any good?" and she's the one who lets us know that Costco carries washing machines when we happen to be shopping for them.

So.... check it out. Addicted to Costco.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Introducing Livemom

I love talking about projects my friends are working on -- it reinforces the community of "doers" around me and reminds me that my friends are pretty darn cool.

The most recent project by a friend is LiveMom. It's a local parenting (momming?) website and discount program, created by my friend Catherine. The site's design is fabulous, and Catherine's writing is clear, honest, and entertaining. She's doing a great job, so if you're an Austin area mom (or just a mom who visits Austin), you should drop by and check it out.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All programmers dress alike....

In case you've ever wondered why Ben is bearded and wears flannel, perhaps it's "costume echos" from other computer programmers. Based on the examples on the 2nd post, I suspect my glasses are as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eulogy for my father

When I was a little girl, I had a favorite book called “My Daddy can fix anything.” You can guess why it was my favorite – because I had a Daddy who really could fix anything. Yesterday I fielded a call from someone looking for my dad, and my mother’s comment when I told her who had called was “Yeah, they call Dad whenever they have something they can’t fix themselves.”

He started learning this ability to fix things during his youth, working with his stepfather in construction -- where they tended to take a job first and figure out how to build it the night before they started.

He enlisted in the Army, then switched to the Air Force. His career in the Air Force included being “on the front line of the cold war” by running radar evaluation squadrons as far away as Labrador and being the officer in charge of a missile site. He graduated from the Air Force’s Office Candidate School in 1963. He was a member of the Air Force and National Rifle teams, and a gunsmith.

While his intelligence was what enabled him to fix anything, I personally think it was his integrity and stubbornness that made him successful. To start and run a business for 27 years – over multiple economic “slow downs”, flirtations with bankruptcy, and changing markets – took an incredible amount of stubbornness.

It’s this integrity (and stubbornness!) that meant he had a marriage of 36 years; even though *his* parents were divorced and remarried multiple times. It began with a first date in a junkyard in the rain – Mom’s roommates said if she saw him again it had to be true love – but ended as husband and wife, business partners, parents, and grandparents who enjoyed working, dancing, reading, and dining, all done together.

My dad was not given to casual displays of affection – although hugs and kisses were available when requested – but to more practical displays of affection like driving to rescue me after my 20 year old Mercedes starting dropping pieces of itself on the Houston streets.

He used his intelligence & integrity to raise two daughters, giving them opportunities he never had, letting them (finally!) discover he didn’t know everything, and letting them go – as far away as Africa and Turkey – to become independent adults.

In the end, no one, including my Dad, could fix his cancer that grew so fast and put him in so much pain. [He was stubborn and persistent until the end, holding on until we all told him it was all right for him to go.]

(More or less the eulogy I gave Thursday night at my Dad's funeral.)

Find my sister's here (minus her creative storytelling).

Monday, December 10, 2007

How walkable is your neighborhood?

This is cool -- a site called Walk Score that rates your address based on how close you are to different services. Our house rates a 66 out of 100 -- "walkable" -- now if only we took advantage of it more.

I'd love to know how your neighborhood compares.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

RIP Jim Carlstead

James Edward Carlstead, 67, of Buda passed away at MD Anderson in Houston Texas, December 4th, 2007.
He was born in Keytesville, Missouri on September 25, 1940 to Francis Pauline and George William Carlstead.

A 20 year veteran of the Air Force, Jim performed many duties for his country including running radar evaluation squadrons; officer in charge of a missile site “on the front line of the cold war”, a member of the Air Force and National Rifle teams, and gunsmith. He graduated from the Air Force’s Office Candidate School in 1963.

In 1980 he started Carlstead Truck Sales, which did business in the Buda, Texas area for 27 years. He served on the Hays Youth Athletic Association Board from 1987-1989, was a member and officer of the Austin Rifle club, coached the UT Rifle Team for 10 years, and enjoyed square dancing with the Waterloo Squares.

He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Ellen; his daughters Cristi Carlstead of Istanbul and Sara Carlstead Brumfield of Austin, a son-in-law Ben and a granddaughter Josie.

The funeral service will be Thursday, December 6 at 7PM followed by a visitation until 9PM at St. Anthony Marie Claret Catholic Church, 801 North Burleson Street in Kyle, Texas. Graveside service will be held at 9:45 AM Friday, December 7 at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

In lieu of flowers memorials can be made to the University of Texas Rifle and Pistol Club; c/o Lee Patterson; 2112 Guadalupe St., Room. 512; Austin, TX 78705 or to the St. Michael’s Academy Endowment; 3000 Barton Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78735.

Bye-bye Daddy. I will miss you more than I can imagine.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dad is dying.

This is an odd forum for this sort of information, but since we don't all live in the same small town and talk over our fences, it seems like the closest equivalent.

My Dad is dying. He was scheduled for surgery at MD Anderson the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to remove a tumor, but that Tuesday we discovered the tumor had quadrupled in size in the previous month (not normal for sarcoma at all) and was no longer operable. He started chemotherapy on Thanksgiving day. By Saturday he was in the hospital with neurotoxicity -- a reaction to chemo that causes a lot of confusion and, in his case, paranoia. He also couldn't really walk, mostly due to the tumor (we think). They watched his kidney function, which was slowly getting better, but when the white blood cell the chemo was breaking down starting hitting this weekend, they just couldn't handle it. (We decided not to do dialysis, which would only have been for more chemo, which he really wasn't handling well at all, and wouldn't have helped the tumor enough to be operable...) He's basically in kidney failure right now, slipping into a coma, and waiting for the stress to start affecting his other organs.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Austin Firefighters Calendar

One of my highschool boyfriends is on the cover of the 2008 Austin Firefighter's Calendar:

How cool is that?!

(and to think I wouldn't have known it without Facebook...)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Rice Reunion: 10 years

I just got back from my 10 year Rice Reunion, and have a couple of observations:

1) I'm pretty pleased with myself and life right now -- which is a wonderful thing to discover. How could I tell? I wasn't nervous about this at all. For instance, my 10 year high school reunion involved a new clothing purchases and drinking copious amounts of wine once I got there. For this, I was throwing clothing into a suitcase 10 minutes before we left, hoping I would cover the vagaries of Houston weather, and drank moderate amounts of wine.

2) Geeks lacking social skills in college are *still* lacking social skills 10 years later. I like to think I've improved on that account (maybe I'm deluding myself), but I was surprised how often I had to just chalk it up to personality, and how less tolerant of it I am now. Turns out the self assured ones are the worst -- they have less perceived incentive for fixing their flaws. (Or don't realize they have them.) The ones that were just shy/awkward are (somewhat) easier to talk to now.

3) Rediscovering my freshman year roommates was the highlight of the weekend. We were best friends for first semester, and could hardly speak to each other second semester (putting 5 freshman in a suite built for 4 is one of the worst ideas Rice has ever had -- and our numbers show it, since only 3 of us stuck around Rice long enough to graduate).

4) Ben and I are "successful" -- both in that we are happy (see #1) and in that when we compare ourselves to our Rice peers, we don't find much jealousy. The only people I was even a little jealous of were 2 CS friends who have/are starting companies -- but I also feel that if I want it enough I can make that happen, too (maybe on a later or slower schedule, but that's OK, too). And, it turns out, many of our peers who aren't software/CS people were jealous of Ben and my projects -- if you are a chemical engineer or you work in oil, side projects are a lot harder to do. (The CS friends didn't even manage to get to our projects; see #2)

All in all a good experience. I'm glad we went.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Baby Einstein up at ParentHacks

One of my most clever ideas is up at Parenthacks.

This was Miss J.'s first halloween costume, 2 years ago.

Impact Austin Coffee

I hosted a "coffee" to introduce some friends to Impact Austin, a women's philanthropy group in Austin. Impact Austin is a great organization -- every member gives $1000, and then vote on which local nonprofit grant applicants gets our "high impact" $100K+ grants. I love it because I don't have to do any work -- writing a check doesn't take that much time, and even hosting a coffee to help recruit more women wasn't that much work. (And it looks like it recruited 6 women -- with a couple more to come, I hope!)

And since putting together menus is one of my talents and pleasures, I wanted to mention what I served -- not that my guests ate nearly enough! I went with an "Autumn Treats" theme, with apples, pumpkin, and pomegranate as the focus foods. (I was trying to keep it simple -- I think I ended up with too many things, but it was easy.)

Pumpkin Bread (Krusteaz mix from Costco)
Pumpkin Empanadas (from HEB)
Dried Apple Chips
Homemade Rice Bread and Oatmeal Bread (thanks Mom!)
Sliced Honey Crisp Apples
Caramel Sauce (to dip the apples in)
Natural Peanut Butter (to dip the apples in)
Chestnut Butter
Apple Butter
White Cheddar
Colby Jack

For drinks:
My "signature" drink was Pomegranate Juice mixed with Champagne
Pomegranate Juice
Pumpkin Spice Flavored Creamer
Blood Orange Soda

If you're an Austin woman reading this that I managed not to invite -- apologies! If you're interested in finding out more about Impact Austin let me know and I can tell you about it and take you to another event.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Giving Makes You Rich

Fascinating article in Conde Nast's Portfolio magazine on how people who give more actually make more. (Correlated in that direction, and adjusted for most of the arguments you would make for why this can't be true.) Timely, too, as fall seems to by "charity giving time" in the Brumfield household. (Although it's better than December 30th, when we realize that we haven't met our yearly goals for giving and scatter money around the Internet without much targeted purpose or thought.)

How can this be? Is it a statistical anomaly—or even a metaphysical phenomenon? While the link between giving and prosperity is not as mechanistic as returns on municipal bonds, there are some very earthbound explanations for it. Psychologists and neuroscientists have identified several ways that giving makes us more effective and successful. For example, new research from the University of Oregon finds that charity stimulates parts of the brain called the caudate nucleus and the nucleus accumbens, which are associated with meeting basic needs such as food and shelter—suggesting to the researchers that our brains know that giving is good for us. Experiments have also found that people are elevated by others into positions of leadership after they are witnessed behaving charitably.

I think engendering gratitude makes you a "better" person in a lot of ways (you spend less, you're more gracious, and less competitive), and perhaps that helps your earning potential.

Hat tip to The Happiness Project Blog, one of my favorites.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Junior TSA Screener

Originally uploaded by saracarl
Wrong in so many ways, but it amused Miss J -- and anything that makes getting through the airport easier is to be appreciated.

This was in the Denver airport -- we've never been offered stickers before, and I don't know if any other airport is doing this.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More laugh out loud (geek) fun than I've had in a long time

From xkcd, which will suck an hours of your day if you let it....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sleepless in America, continued.

On the feet of my recent research into sleeplessness in children, I ran across this fascinating article in New York Magazine about how lack of sleep affects our children. I know I have a tendency to paranoia, but this is pretty convincing.

Convinced by the mountain of studies, a handful of school districts around the nation are starting school later in the morning. The best known of these is in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn’t be attributed to any other variable. “Truly flabbergasting,” said Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director for SAT Program Relations, on hearing the results.

Also a great word for describing that hour between when a kid should be in bed and when they actually are -- "the Slush Hour":

Long before children become overscheduled high schoolers gunning for college, parents start making trade-offs between their kids’ sleep and their other needs. This is especially true in the last hour of a child’s day, a time zone let’s call “the Slush Hour.” The Slush Hour is both a rush to sleep and a slush fund of potential time, sort of a petty-cash drawer from which we withdraw ten-minute increments. During the Slush Hour, children should be in bed, but there are so many competing priorities. As a result, sleep is treated much like the national debt—What’s another half-hour on the bill? We’re surviving; kids can, too.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I went to the market...

My sister created this awesome abecedary for J, entirely of pictures taken in Turkish markets. Check it out!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Turkish Supper Club

Ben and I hosted our supper club yesterday, for a dinner with the intended theme of "Turkish Delight." Since one of the members of the club is actually Turkish, Ben modified the theme to be "Tourist Turkish" -- covering our bases in case we delivered an inauthentic meal. During our preparation, Ben formulated a guideline for ethnic dinners -- when trading off between authentic or yummy, choose yummy. So our borek, mentioned below, had considerably more feta in it than we got in Turkey.

So -- here is the menu and recipes for Turkish night at the Brumfield's:

cigarette borek(fried pasty with feta cheese in it)
yogurt dip (hidari/haydari) served with olives, cucumber slices and radish flowers
kisir (turkish tabouleh, basically) served with pita wedges
fish sandwiches (one of the istanbul street foods, served on the banks of the Bosphorus. Basically, grilled fish on a roll. Cristi didn't let Ben buy any -- "soviet era heavy metals" -- but it flung such a craving on him that we've had them for dinner many times since we returned.

Red Lentil Soup

lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers w/pomegranate dressing

Kofte (someplace between a meatball and a hamburger, flavored with cumin and other spices)
Rice Pilaf
Manti (really small ravioli like pasta)

Rice Pudding (Sutlac)

Credits: Picture above and many of our recipes came from the fabulous Check it out -- lots of wonderful recipes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

KTRU for Josh

From Jila Bakker:

The folks at KTRU (Rice radio) have agreed to set aside a block of time to play some songs that remind us all of Josh. I’m not sure how many they will play-that’s entirely up to the DJ. We have already forwarded them some song suggestions, but if anyone has a specific request, please forward it to me and I will pass it along to the DJ, Claire Hein, who is working with us.

For those in the greater Houston area, KTRU is broadcast at 91.7 FM. For those outside of Houston, KTRU can be heard online at:

It also seems likely that we will be able to get a recording of the broadcast from KTRU. Please let me know if you are interested, and I will see if I can get you a copy. As an aside, the FCC rules governing KTRU don’t allow them to specifically say that the songs are for a named individual. Unfortunately, this means that they will not mention Josh by name. However, I know that certain songs will say “Josh” loud and clear to those of us who love him.

(if you don't have her email and would like to recommend something let me know)


Young children find it especially difficult to separate appearance from reality. When psychologists show a young child a squirrel, and then shave it and paint it so that it looks like a raccoon, the child will say that it is now a raccoon. They are so swayed by appearance that they forget that the squirrel is still there beneath the shaved and painted exterior.

--From Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff

Hard work, being a psychologist, with all that squirrel shaving and painting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Child Rearing Books & Sleepless in America

The problem with child rearing books is that they make one obsessive. When Josie had only rolled over *once* by her 4 month (?) birthday, I was quite concerned. The pediatrician's take? "She obviously *can*, she just chooses not to." Ok. Wow. Permission not to worry. I actually swore off child rearing books at that point, but occasionally I still give in.
This past month was one of those moments of weakness. Since moving up to the 2 year old class at school, and our trip to Turkey, J. has not been sleeping nearly enough. And a tired 2 year old is *not* a pleasant person to be around.

I stumbled across mention of Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep? at another blog, and though "Ah ha! Something that will help me solve the sleep issue." Requested it from the library, got it, read it over the course of a week, sharing pertinent issues with Ben.

The problem is that the actual advice could be distilled to about 10 bullet points (most of them common sense), but you have to wade through pages of examples and repercussions to missing sleep to get the advice (or because I feel like I have to read the whole book through?). It definitely raised my stress level to read it all, and made me worry a whole lot more.

So I need to remember to skim or pick and choose what to read out of this sort of book, and to be careful in which books I actually choose to read. (I'm generally careful about what media I consume, knowing how easy it is to get stressed out over what you read and watch on TV. Parenting issues, though, prey on my insecurities as a mother and make me want EXPERT ADVICE to solve problems.)

Ok, so here's the summary of Sleepless in America:
  • Many behavior problems can be traced to lack of sleep. Before treating your kid for ADHD etc, figure out if they are missing sleep. Think about how you act when you are sleep deprived -- clumsy, indecisive, emotional, overreacting -- and how or if you see these characteristics in your kids.
  • Average amount of sleep needed, over 24 hours (including naps):
    • under 1 year -- 14-18 hours
    • 1-3 years -- 13 hours
    • 3-5 years -- 12 hours
    • 6-12 years -- 10-11 hours
    • 13-19 years -- 9.25 hours
    • 20 years + -- 8.25
  • Establish & enforce a consistent wake up time, work backwards to a bedtime
  • Work on "calm energy" to wind down before bed, nip "anxious energy" in the bud.
  • Don't worry so much about bad habits, and focus on getting your kids wound down enough to fall asleep when you put them down. (backrubs, lower lights, cuddling, calm reading, consistent bedtime routine, etc.)
  • The more sleep you have, the easier it is to sleep. Go figure. Once we started putting J down earlier at home, her school naps got longer too.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pleasures of the Season

It may still be in the 90s in Austin, but I'm enjoying the influx of fall foods. In particular:

Pumpkin. The Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks and Pumpkin Empanadas at HEB. I need to visit Amy's Ice Cream to see if they have their Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream yet.

Apples. I'm a Granny Smith eater -- I like my apples tart and crisp -- but the variety available at my local HEB tempted me to try the Macintosh (a bit mealy and nothing outstanding in taste) and a Honeycrisp (as crisp as a Granny Smith, but sweet and juicy --- a winner!).

Incredibly Smart Image Resizing

Ben just pointed out this incredibly image resizing presentation from SigGraph to me

via Digitization 101. (Dr. Ariel Shamir and Shai Avidan wrote about this technology in ACM Transactions on Graphics, Volume 26, Number 3, SIGGRAPH 2007.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Checking my email last night, I see the following:

Library Items on Loan

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 4:07 PM --
September 2007
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 Due 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 Due

(Hover over dates to see titles; click Due to go to the library.)

Suggested Book (beta)


The Volumetrics Eating Plan: Techniques and Recipes for Feeling Full on Fewer Calories by Barbara Rolls

Editorial Review - Watch for flying pigs: here's a weight-loss plan that's sensible and simple. And for those of you who can only think of bacon when the word "pig" is mentioned, prepare to go hog wild: the Volumetrics plan is designed to let you indulge in your favorite goodies every now and then, so you're much more likely to stick to the program. Developed by a nutritionist who has worked with the National Institutes of Health, the Volumetrics plan focuses on foods that are low in "energy density." In o...(more)

Find in a Library | Buy this book

Due Within 3 Days(8)

Library User Title Due Date
AustinSaraBig machines Wed, Sep 12
AustinSaraBig machines Wed, Sep 12
AustinSaraDaddy hugs 1 2 3 Wed, Sep 12
AustinSaraMiss Spider's tea party Wed, Sep 12
AustinSaraThe little engine that could Wed, Sep 12
AustinSaraThe night of Las Posadas Wed, Sep 12
AustinSaraTrouble on the tracks Wed, Sep 12
AustinSaraYellow umbrella Wed, Sep 12

Not Due Yet (7)

Library User Title Due Date
AustinSaraA whole new mind : moving from the information age to the conceptual age Sep 29
AustinSaraIt's all too much : an easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff Sep 29
AustinSaraOnce-a-month cooking Sep 29
AustinSaraPower, money, fame, sex : a user's guide Sep 29
AustinSaraSleepless in America : is your child misbehaving or missing sleep? Sep 29
AustinSaraSurvival of the prettiest : the science of beauty Sep 29
AustinSaraThe story of French Sep 29

Holds Not Ready Yet (2)

Library User Title Status
AustinSaraStumbling on happiness Place 1
AustinSaraThe portion teller : smartsize your way to permanent weight loss Place 1


User Library Overdue Due Within 3 Days Not Due Yet Total
(c) 2003-2007 JANDI Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Do not reply to this email address.
Elf notices are provided "as is", "as available" and without warranties.
All library fines and charges are the responsibility of the cardholder.


Oh, I have library books due today! This is a pretty darn useful service, since keeping up with the library book due dates is not that easy (did you know that they no longer stamp the due dates on the inside of the covers???). Not to mention it reminds me of what books I have on hold.

They deliver notices via email or RSS feed (or both!)

How does it work? The website doesn't say much, but I'd guess they use your login to the library site to scrape the account status page into their DB, which they then use to generate emals and rss feeds. They actually do a real time check when you click through the rss reed link. (It seems to be an asp/.Net application.)

How do they make money? I'm guessing the amazon affiliate linked recommendation on the right side of the email/webpage. They have pretty good data to do this with, so maybe it will work out to a reasonable income stream for them.

Business Idea/Feature for them or someone else: Tie your Amazon wishlist into your local library to request/put holds on your wishlist books, one or two at a time. (This is basically what I do manually.)

So, if you use your public library, go check it out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Portabella Shortstacks

Many years ago, Austin had a shortlived restaurant called the Mustang Diner. The Mustang Diner featured a number of diner-inspired dished, but with a haute cuisine twist. Ben and my favorite was the Portabella Shortstack -- a pile of mushrooms, pesto, ham, and cheese that vaguely resembled a stack of pancakes.

After the Mustang closed down, we attempted to recreate this yummy dish without much success. Tonight, however, I nailed it. Reproduced here, for your culinary enjoyment, is my recipe:

Mustang Diner's Portabella Shortstack

For each shortstack (serves 2-3 as an appetizer or 1 as an entree):

2 Portabella mushrooms
Italian dressing
2 teaspoons pesto
2 slices proscuitto
2 slices provolone

Marinate 2 portabella mushrooms in Italian Dressing overnight.
Grill each mushroom on a George Foreman Grill for 5 minutes.
Spread a teaspoon of pesto over the gill side of each mushroom.
Top with a slice or two of prosciutto.
Cover with a slice of provolone.
Broil mushrooms until cheese melts and starts browning.
Put one mushroom stack on top of the 2nd to form a "short stack"

The key to this recipe is the George Foreman Grill -- you want the mushrooms to be well cooked before you start assembling.


Wordie. Like Flickr, but without the photos.

I'm not sure what to make of this, but I put my "word watch" words in to see what I could do with them.

Great, simple design. (And I know how hard those are to do...)

(Of course, it's built on Rails...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

books read: Keeping House

I've been wanting to record the books I read somewhere, so I'm going to try blogging them.

Finished Sunday night: Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life. I enjoy contemplative books as part of my "winding down for sleep" routine, and since I enjoy "life hacking" this one was particularly appealing. Housework is one of those things that has to be done, so developing a spiritual attitude on the topic improves my attitude and makes it more pleasant.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rails Envy Commericals

If you know what Ruby on Rails is, you should check out these commercials by Greg and Jason.

Based on the Apple ads, they compare Rails with many of the other web development tools out there. Here's the one comparing it with Java:

I met Greg and Jason this weekend at Lone Star Ruby Conf, where they premiered the ads with Python and Django. (Hilarious, both.) They aren't posted on their website yet, but will be in the coming weeks.

Great example of someone coming up with a clever idea, executing on it, leveraging their network (friend with a film degree) and free technology (it's a blog and youtube), and then putting themselves out there and emailing the RailsConf organizers to see if they wanted to show some of the videos. Instant fame, at least in the Rail community. And since they are a custom web house, it's great brand recognition and advertising for them.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

sub $300 notebook computer

As a feminist geek, I should perhaps not admit to getting any tech news from Vogue... but... the September issue has a short spot about the Eee PC by Asus, a sub-$300 notebook computer running.. get this ... Linux. If you want any actual details, try the Wikipedia page, since the Asus website is nothing but marketing.

builtin wireless, solid state memory (means less battery usage), wimpy memory, small scfreen (duh). It might be worth checking out. For our last notebook purchase, also based on size, the keyboard size and feel were the deal maker or breaker. According to this review, that may be an issue. (if that review is right, then there may be a sub-$200 version as well.)

Not my idea of a first lady

Vogue interviews Michelle Obama this month. I was liking her fine, until this: "I wanted to be a pediatrician, until I realized science wasn't much fun." So she goes on to be a lawyer!?

More on Josh Warren -- fund for Nathan

If you want to make a contribution in Josh's memory, drop me a note (saracarl at alumni rice edu) and I'll forward the specifics about the account that Ryan Bates and Dave Jones setup.

This is the email that Ryan Bates sent out:

We have more information for those of you interested in making a contribution for the fund for Lauren and Nathan and dedicated to Josh's memory. To facilitate donations in the interim, we have set up a savings account here in Lauren's name to which contributions can be sent. For those who are attending the memorial service tomorrow, there will also be envelopes and a box for contributions, or you can speak to me or Dave Jones personally.

(bank details deleted)

Finally, if you make a contribution via mail, please send me or Dave Jones an email as well. I think Lauren would appreciate knowing about all the people who care about her, Nathan, and Josh, and we don't want anyone's contribution to be overlooked.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Josh Warren, RIP

If you are one of our Rice friends, and remember Josh Warren (Weiss, '96, bio-chem), he passed away unexpectedly this weekend. Here is the obituary:

Joshua John Warren died unexpectedly on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007.

He was born May 23, 1974, in Tuscaloosa. Josh graduated from Emma Sansom High School in 1992, where he was valedictorian of his class. He received a B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Rice University in 1996 and his doctoral degree in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics from Yale University in 2001. Josh was employed at Duke University as a postdoctoral research associate at the time of his death. His research focused on X-ray crystallographic methods to explore protein structures, particularly as it related to cancer diagnosis. Josh was an exceptional man, with a sense of humor and quick wit balanced by a genuine sense of warmth and concern for his family and friends. Josh never met a stranger and had a wide circle of friends. He was an avid reader and had a variety of interests, including pottery, choral music, whitewater paddling, food and wine, and baseball.

Josh is survived by his wife, Lauren, and their 21Ú2-year-old son, Nathan, of Chapel Hill, N.C.; his parents, Howard and Kathleen Warren, of Gadsden; his sister and brother-in-law, Rebecca and Mario Salas; and a niece, Elena Sofia, of Hoover; his grandmother, June McGuire, of Rainbow City; and his father- and mother-in-law, Fred and Cherie Half, of Palo Alto, Calif.

Memorial services will be held on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, with visitation to follow in the Parrish Hall and at Duke Gardens on Friday.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.

Collier-Butler Funeral and Cremation Services is in charge of arrangements.

Ben and I didn't know Josh that well, but we had eaten with him (and occasionally Lauren) on our trips through Chapel Hill on the way to Virginia. He was a warm, smart, funny man. His son Nathan is the same age as Josie.

I recommend taking some time today to appreciate the ones you love -- you never know how much longer you -- or they -- have.

May you rest in peace, Josh.

Amazon takes on Paypal, enables micropayments

Fascinating, and incredibly powerful for software developers. All part of Jeff Bezos' "we want to monetize our entire infrastructure" view of the world.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Decluttering and Makeup

I've been on a decluttering tear lately -- something about the change of seasons puts me in the mood for clearing stuff out. (Plus, I've been reading It's all Too Much, the newest clutter management book to hit the shelves).

Tonight it was my bathroom cabinet. What I realized, clearing out my hair, makeup, and drugstore stuff, was that I was completely out of my favorite lipstick and makeup. (And probably had been for a year or longer.) It's not like I'm a teenager anymore, playing around with cosmetics. I know what I like. So what's going on? I think it has to do with not giving my self permission to spend money -- good makeup, at least in this case, is expensive. Definitely not an impulse buy, since neither of them are carried in stores any longer. So, in the back of my head, I think "too much trouble, too much money." And then I wonder why I can't be bothered to put on makeup in the morning. Why bother if the results aren't worth it? (And nothing lives up to how I feel in these 2...)

So I went tonight and found each online, and added in a perfume I've been wanting for a long time (I've been carting the sample vial around for more than 10 years).

Since I would kill someone for whining this long about makeup without telling me what it was in particular, here we go:

Stila Cream Lip Color in Billie -- I first bought this around 1998, out shopping with Kara and John. I went to the Stila counter, showed them my new eye glasses, and said "I want a lipstick that will match this." (really!) It's a great red brown color, and works great with both my skin and my wardrobe.

Alexandra de Markoff Moisturizing Matte Makeup. My mother found some of this (a major bargain I'm sure), years ago, and we both loved it. It's a formula from the 1940s -- I've read that Vivian Leigh wore it in Gone with the Wind -- of mineral oil and pigments. It creates a flawless matte face, very retro looking (which is why I like it!).

Society by Burberrys. All I remember about this perfume is spicy and sweet at the same time.

Friday, August 31, 2007

My Other Blog...

You may not know it, but I have another blog called The Steampunk Home.

It's slightly embarrassing -- Ben jokes I'm the world expert on Steampunk Home design -- to be blogging about decorating the house in an aesthetic that no one has heard about.

Steampunk is basically an alternative future where the information age starts during Victorian times. Think The Difference Engine, The Diamond Age, Firefly or Wild Wild West.

If you want to find out more about steampunk, I'd suggest these links:

If you'd like to drop by and visit my (perhaps) more entertaining and more prolific blog, you'd be welcome.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Convio files S1

Via Forbes.

The press release.

I can't find the S1 online anywhere; I'll post that when it appears.

An S1 is the document a company files with it's intention of offering an intial public offering (an IPO).

Since Ben's been at Convio for 6+ years now, this is nice to see.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Alison Fader-Brock Photography

My friend Alison has her photography exhibit, "Lost in the Quotidian" up at Thunderbird Coffee in Austin, and has just debuted her website. Alison sees -- and captures -- images most of us just step over.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lifehacking, feminist engineer style: meals & cooking

Perhaps the first in a series of posts where I examine the structures Ben and I have instituted in our lives to at least attempt gender parity in the home. As a pragmatist, I know we may never been entirely equal. As an idealist (as well as a lazy person), I believe it is worth striving for.

When it comes to planning meals and cooking for the family, you first have to identify the tasks:
  • Meal Planning -- what recipe to make, what sides to put with it, when to cook it, when to eat it, and when to eat out.
  • Grocery Shopping -- getting the resources you need to execute the plan
  • Cooking -- What most people consider the actual work: the act of applying heat to the resources to turn them into something you can eat. In reality, if you do the first and second well enough this can be optimized to 15-20 minutes worth of work a day.
  • Cleaning -- table cleaned off, dishes into the dishwasher, dishwasher run as needed, cooking dishes cleaned/soaked/dishwashed, counters and tabletop wiped.
  • Dishwasher cleaned out (asynchronous task).
  • Leftover management -- leftovers put into appropriate containers, ideally added to a list so they aren't forgotten about.
In our household, these tasks are split the following way:

Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping/Cooking -- Owned by Ben or Sara on alternating weeks. What this means is that you have ownership over everything food related for that week -- if you don't plan, or forget to buy something at the grocery store, or don't get home in time to cook it's your problem. (We do occasionally pitch in to help each other out -- but the ownership that means when it isn't your week, you don't worry about it.) It also means we eat a nice variety of foods -- Ben's food one week (hello cube steak), Sara's the other (mushroom soba noodles, anyone?). If you need something from the grocery store on your off week, you just make sure you add it to the list on the fridge.

Cleaning -- generally done by the person who isn't cooking. While this isn't entirely optimal (it doesn't give you a good incentive to clean as you go or use as few dishes as possible), our dinners are usually simple enough that it isn't a big deal. We're also slowly integrating Miss J. into this task -- with the hope that she'll handle the table portion, at least, by the time she's 5 or 6.

Dishwasher clean out -- not officially allocated. I think Ben does this more than I do, but I may do it more than he does. Often we combine it with fixing dinner or cleaning up from dinner.

Leftover management -- not our best task. I tend to put away leftovers more than Ben does, but it officially falls on the Cleaner for the week. Managing eating them, however, should be the responsibility of the Cooker for the week. In reality, leftover management often falls into the "refrigerator cleanout" task, which Ben often does (especially the gross parts).

I think the smartest thing about our system is the alternating weeks. We know whose job it is to cook on a given day -- no micromanagement or tiresome negotiation needed. And by trading off the thinking parts of the responsibility we each get a break -- this wouldn't be nearly as "fair" (or as fun) if one of us was always planning the meals and doing the grocery shopping, with the other pitching in to cook.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Family & Happiness

Two thought provoking tidbits from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog:
  • Pierre Reverdy observed, “There is no love, there are only proofs of love.” Keeping these journals to be a link between himself and his children is an active proof of love. We think we act because of the way we feel, but in fact, the way we act shapes the way we feel – so performing loving actions boosts loving feelings.

I'm taking this as a reminder to do, not just to contemplate, especially in my family affairs.

  • Studies show that one way to boost happiness is to keep happy memories fresh. Happy people don’t have more pleasant experiences than unhappy people, but they remember them better. Keeping a journal (which for most people skews toward the happy experiences) will help keep good times memorable.
One of the smartest things I've done for keeping memories alive is to order an extra copy of Josie's yearly photo alblums (I use MyPublisher's Bookmaker) and keep it under the coffee table with Josie's other books. We pull her first year out regularly to look at it -- unfortunately the second year one isn't done yet.

Monday, August 13, 2007

On Marriage

"Marriage typically meets our sharply felt needs for security and predictability, [psychoanalyst Stephen Mitchell] argues, but in those relationships that last well, people take the leap of believing that they actually don't know exactly who the other person is or what he or she is capable of -- the absolute knowingness is a fantasy anyway -- and that there is new terrain to be discovered."

"Adam Phillips, a Longon psychoanalyst, muses in his 1996 book, "Monogamy": "What if our strongest wish was to be praised...What would our relationships be like?... We might find ourselves saying things like: The cruelest thing one can do to one's parner is to be good at fidelity but bad at celebration... Or it's not difficult to sustain a relationship but it's impossible to keep a celebration going. The long applause becomes baffling."

-- both from "Can This Marriage Be Saved?", Laurie Abraham, New York Times Magazine 8/12/2007

What I found provoking about these is that they tie in nicely to the current popular science on Happiness. That to be happy you have to have "flow" -- work that engages you in an almost transcendental way, and gratitude -- which I see tying in to celebration in a marriage -- to take time to appreciate what we've accomplished and what we have.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Use your inner economist to discover good restaurants

Courtesy of the Washington Post and economist Tyler Cowen.

1) avoid high rent areas
2) look for the competition
3) order strategically
4) know the restaurant cycle

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

In Praise of the George Foreman Grill

I nicked my sister's George Foreman grill the other day, and Ben and I have both been cooking with it. For people like us, who work fulltime and like home cooked family meals, it's a godsend. In a week, here's what we've used it for (no recipes!):

Grilled Scallops with Pesto Pasta
Eggs Panini
Grilled Chicken with Pasta
Chicken Panini
Grilled Fish Sandwiches
Grilled Cheese
Toasted English Muffin (since the toaster croaked...)

Ok, so it's a bit sandwich heavy, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, folks! We haven't even touched beef or vegetables yet! The wonderful thing is that it cuts your meat cooking time in half -- and when you have less than 30 minutes to get dinner on the table, that's a pretty substantial time gain.

We're even contemplating a supper club themed dinner, all cooked on the grill. (We might have to borrow a couple to put on a multi-course dinner for 8, but it would be doable...)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

artistic abcedaries

Because some of my blogger friends have a thing for abcedaries, I thought I'd point out these finds on DaddyTypes:

P is for Peanut featuring images from the Getty Photo Collection.

Peter's ABC Book.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Turkey Talk: the supplies

I'm still too tired to actually write about our trip to Turkey, but here's some quick product reviews for things that made a two week trip with a 2 year old much, much easier:

A knockoff (from Target) of the Skip Hop portable diapering kit.

The Coppertone Kids Continuous Spray SunScreen. OMG, this stuff is so easy to apply that we all used it. I'm particularly proud that none of us got sunburnt despite 2 weeks of walking and hiking in 100+ degree sun. It came with a convenient sunblock stick, which was easy to carry for touchups.

Instead of a purse, I carried a small canvas drawstring backpack. (Sort of like these, but even simpler.) Big enough to fit the aforementioned diaper kit, as well as 2 water bottles, papers, money, guidebooks, etc. It was simple enough even Ben would carry it...

Although it's not kid-specific, I also have to endorse the Ricardo Beverly Hills 2 compartment pullman suiter rollaboard suitcase. It's not a fancy designer or anything, but I love these suitcases so much I'm on my second one (the first lasted for about 7 years of hard business travel). The neat thing about them is that they have a well separated hanging section, so you don't need to carry a garment bag (all in the space of a normal roll-aboard).

We were surprised at how much we used our stroller (and how little we used our backpack carrier), and while I was wishing we had a better stroller while we were there, I was extemely pleased it was an el cheapo umbrella stroller when Air France decided to keep it.

Turkey Talk: playing kitchen

playing kitchen
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
What you get when you take a 2-year-old to Turkey: playing kitchen in an 800 year old monastery kitchen carved into a cave.

(in Cappodocia...)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Crazy Cool: Trash the Dress

Trash the Dress.

Top image from Bottom from

Location ideas for the Austin area:
Water: Barton Springs (the shallow ledge), Tivoli Building water works, the flat fountain at the domain. Hamilton Falls. Wondering about the refurbished Deep Eddy pavillion and pool?
Nature: I'd love some good mud spots, but can't think of any. Cliffs around Lake Travis might be cool, though.
Dirt: Dad's shop. (lots of grease! I love this idea!!!) Climb on the fender on a truck, "work" on the engine, roll a dolly underneath the dolly, etc.

This just might be the incentive I need to fit back into my wedding dress....

Iestyn's Bike Car

My friend Iestyn's Harbor Freight fueled innovation: a 4 wheeled pedal and electric powered vehicle



Read all about it here.

Tiny Texas Houses

Neat, Tiny Texas Houses. I'm wondering if I could put one of these in my backyard for an office/guest bedroom instead of building on. Or if I could attach it to my house with a walkway or something?

See also.

Victoria Magazine Returns

I've complained before that all my favorite magazines seem to go out of business... However I'm happy to share that Victoria Magazine is back!

How it's back is even more interesting. A company called Hoffman Media has a partnership with Hearst (the original publisher) to publish the magazine. According to the press release, under the terms of the agreement, Hoffman will handle all editorial, production, distribution and advertising for Victoria. Hearst will contribute the Victoria trademark, copyright, URL (, subscription database, and access to historical content of both editorial and art.

Interesting. Smart. I just hope they hire Nancy Lindemeyer, the original editor, for some role (even just contributor). She was the heart and soul of Victoria.

My new subscription form came the day after I had read one of my beloved back issues. If you want to understand why Victoria was so wonderful, I direct you to this blog post and the ensuing comments -- they could have been writen by yours truly, if I was a better writer.

If you are interested in the business story of Victoria, I direct you here. Very interesting.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Things to do before I die

Part 1. I'm sure there will be more later.

Learn to play the piano
Hike the Camino de Santiago
Visit Bhutan
Learn how to draw

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

word watch: razz

To razz -- to make fun of someone.

From "rasberry tart" which is cockney rhyming slang for "fart"

It comes from making a rasberry sound by blowing air through flapping lips -- or, in less refined circles, a farting noise.

Ben told me this last night, so I'm sure I should credit some blogger, but this was the only one I found.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Hot Oven Father's Day Dinner

Without much planning, I ended up hosting a 7 person dinner party on Sunday for my husband, father, father-in-law and the women in their lives. I kept it simple, but ended up with a smart approach that I may do more often. Basically, I heated the oven up really high and never turned it down. (So often you can't bake too many things because one thing calls for 350 degrees and another for 400, etc... this dinner didn't.)

From the oven's perspective, these were the courses:
at 480 degrees:
1) No-knead bread (45 minutes)
2) Oven Roasted Asparagus (45 minutes)
take out when done, then turn oven on to broil (500 degrees) and cook
3) Oven Broiled Filet Mignon (20 minutes)

With all those long cooking times, I had plenty of time to make a picturesque but easy ceasar salad (take apart 2 heads of romaine carefully, rinse, arrange 4-5 spears of romaine on each salad plate, drizzle with homemade ceasar dressing, then shave parmesan with a vegetable peeler over each salad).

Dessert after such a hot meal? Ice Cream. Specifically an impulse buy they were sampling at Costco (the whole meal was from Costco, actually) called PJ Madison's, an organic gelato that was incredibly yummy.