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Emily & Erika
Happy Birthday Mom!!
Good for you two! Have a great summer. --Gary
Wow, that takes me back! :-) That was a comment from Teghan when we went to "March of the Penguins" in the theater, like what, 5 years ago...? --Gary
Whenever she runs a story on them (which is every night now), Rachel Maddow usually shows the BP logo with the words "Big Problem" under it....
I bring all this up to point you to two sites John just now sent in. (Thanks, John!) I could have used them as cool sites, but today being the Star Wars birthday it seemed more appropriate to post them now. The first is the official Star Wars site, and the second is a JibJab-created site where you can put your own face (and three other faces if you want) into a little Star Wars movie of your own -- like the dancing elves site we always play with at Christmas. Here it is. I created a movie with me in it, but I can't post it here as they have disabled that feature; and note also that you can save and download your finished movie, but you'll be charged $4.99. But it's still fun to play with, for free.
May the Force be with you!
Grandma, dinner at 6pm now right? We'll be there!! Last night of gymnastics & dance ended Saturday (for 3 weeks anyway) so we finally have some down time!! Lots of stuff at home & rest to get caught up on though!
And to get your Monday morning going, how many of us wake up with the attitude of this 4-year-old? :-) "I can be a SHARK!"
If you're a hummingbird fan, check out this webcam. It's high-quality video (with sound!) in a tight closeup of a hummingbird nest. Pretty amazing.
If Costner's device can remove the oil from the Gulf waters, maybe people will finally stop making fun of his films. I've always been a fan. "Dances With Wolves" deserved every Oscar it won, of course; but even "The Postman" was great, I thought. A very underrated film. Anyway, kudos to Costner!
A few nights ago around 9 pm I was doing one final check of my email and one final web-surf before shutting the computer down for the night. After visiting some site or other, my computer suddenly got very slow, and odd-looking warnings and error messages began appearing. I suspected a virus, but when I tried to open my virus software, an official-looking popup informed me that my virus software itself was infected and was being prevented from executing. In fact, every other program I tried to open evoked the same scary popup -- which I now assumed was the virus itself. Even the shutdown procedure was prevented from running, so I had to kill the computer with the reset button to get out.
Oddly, my browser (Firefox) seemed immune and was allowed to run. So I started looking for an online virus solution. I found several sites where, for a fee, they would remotely take over your computer and do all the disinfecting and maintenance from their end. Best Buy's Geek Squad is the one I went with, and it worked like a charm. An actual human tech guy opened up an online chat with me right away, and after discussing the service with him I fed in my credit card number. (Cost: $180 -- though different jobs cost less or more depending on the time and software requirements.) He walked me through the process of letting him access my machine, and then I sat back and watched. For the next few hours I was on the phone with him as I watched him uninstall my old (and obviously ineffective) virus software and install his powerful new one which found the virus and squashed it. Then he updated my operating system, updated all my drivers, installed the latest versions of Java and Adobe Reader and Internet Explorer and several other of those necessary background-type programs, and performed a bunch of similar clean-up and maintenance things. I went to bed while he was still working on it. When I got up the next morning, he had left a note on my desktop detailing exactly what he had done and informing me that the work was guaranteed for a year -- so if I continued to have issues, all I needed to do was call back. At first it seemed a bit pricey, but the bottom line is I could not have done this on my own. I would have had to lug my machine to the repair shop and leave it there for several days -- at more or less the same cost. Compared to that, this was painless and quick. So I'm out $180, but my computer is virus-free and actually running better than it was before the virus attack.
I hope all your computers stay safe and sound, but if not this is a good service to know about. And now, in conclusion, here is a dog playing basketball:
If anyone is still on the fence about Skype, this may give you a nudge: Logitech webcams are on sale this week at Best Buy. The one that Grandma and I have -- the C250 -- usually sells for $40, but this week is at $30. It's a snap to set up and get going, and so is Skype. If you have questions or need a guide, I can probably help.
So, Minneapolis...? Sioux City...? Free video phone calls.... :-)
Glad you liked the fish, here's another one you may like. I put cauliflower in the crockpot for about 4 hours and then mash it with a fork so it's like mashed potatoes. I usually add some cheese just before serving. And I've done the same thing with part sweet potato and cauliflower. You can add onions too. Easy and really good. Goes great with grilled fish.
Donna, I did the fish with melba crust tonight, much better dinner, thanks for the idea! Keep em coming everyone!
For those who weren't there, Gma had an excellent apricot jam on the table a few nights ago which everyone wolfed down -- though the phrase "Grandma has a new jam" took on a more current definition to some ears. --Gary
Anyway, sounds like the supper table will be pretty small next week. Thanx for the heads up!
Also, we're going to the farmers market Saturday I think. So if you'd like to go, let us know & we'll pick you up. Heck, skype us sometime & let us know. :-) Or just write on here, in case you don't catch us on skype.
And is it just my imagination, or the internet on my phone, but the post before mine, did maG post it, or Gma? It says maG for me!
The item arrived as signed by maG. I just assumed Gma was trying something new. So Mom, was that a typo, or some hip new sig? --Gary
In other news, the weekend skype test went well. Webcams at my place and at Grandma's place functioned properly, once a few minor wrinkles were ironed out, and we had a great chat (and show-and-tell session) with Teghan. We'll make updates here on how it's going. (Another call is scheduled for Tuesday night.) It's really pretty simple, and really cool.
And speaking of cool, it's yet another cold day here in Lincoln today. Down in the 30s overnight, I think, and thunderstorms happening all day.
Webcams are priced from $20 to over $100. The cheaper ones will do the job, but as with everything more=better. The expensive webcams will show your video at TV-like quality, while the cheaper ones might "lag" (i.e., your mouth and your voice don't always match up). Yeah, I always thought it would be a great way for our far-flung households to stay in touch. --Gary
I'll try to get you set up. (You'll need a webcam to do video.) Actually, you are one of the pioneers with this: That MagicJack device you have works on the same principle. --Gary
I messed around with Skype years ago (like ten years ago??), and I had the same problem as Teghan -- no one to Skype with! :-) I haven't looked at it lately. I always thought it would have been really cool -- making video calls to anywhere, for free -- but at that time, not many had the necessary computer hardware and software. And now that we all do, the young whippersnappers are all texting and facebooking and what-all, so nobody's really into it. I'll see if I can get Skype set up on my home machine. Could be fun! --Gary
As you know, I took the train instead of flying, and I really enjoyed it. (Compared to a plane, anyway.) Outgoing, the train was supposed to leave at midnight, so I drove to the station in Lincoln around 11:30 while tornados were being spotted all over the area. Just before midnight the station guy announced -- to the five of us in the waiting area -- that the train had pulled off on a siding somewhere in Iowa to wait out the tornado warning, so it wouldn't get here til 1 am. And as 1 am neared, he announced that it would be more like 2 am. Turned out to be around 2:30 before it pulled into the station and we got on board. After that, though, the trip was fine. Unlike the screening ordeal of plane travel, here you just show the conductor your ticket, climb aboard, and find a seat. Then a few minutes later, the train starts to glide away slowly, gradually picking up speed on the way out of town. The ride is surprisingly quiet, too. I did manage to sleep, in a series of longish naps. The car was only about a third full, so everyone had room to stretch out over a couple of seats. The sun was just rising as we got to the Sandhills, and the scenery from then on was really nice. About two hours outside of Denver, I could feel the train begin to slow a bit as it began the climb up the grade. (Lincoln's altitude is around 1000 feet and Denver is, famously, "the mile-high city," so the train had to climb around 4000 vertical feet.) About this time you could begin to see the Rockies off in the distance, blue in the morning and snow-capped.
The classic old Denver train depot and my hotel were at opposite ends of the 16th Street Mall, which is a tree-lined strip of 12 or 15 blocks with lots of shopping and restaurants and such. I took a cab to the hotel, but I later learned there is a free electric bus system up and down the Mall. Very nice! My room was up on the 30th floor so I had a good view of both downtown Denver below and the mountains off to the right.
I met up with a good friend who lives in Colorado, and we got to do lots of cool stuff. Including a trip to Red Rocks Amphitheater, a spectacular rock formation (twenty-some miles west of Denver) which formed a natural amphitheater where all kinds of musical performers have played over the years. It also has a cool little restaurant built into the rock where we enjoyed some rattlesnake empanadas. Yum!
While on the subject of food, let me mention quickly a great meal at an Indian restaurant in downtown Denver where we had some fiery hot shrimp vindaloo, saag chicken, naan, coconut shrimp, and samosas. Also an excellent steak at a place called Willie G's, where for dessert I had bread pudding made from chocolate croissants, topped with French vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and a little spear of thin almond brittle. And on my last night in Denver, we ate at a fantastic place called Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse. "Fogo de Chao" means "fire on the ground" and refers to the Brazilian cowboys who would roast meat on a spit over their campfires after riding herd on their cattle all day. When you are seated, they bring several side dishes to your table (garlic mashed potatoes with green onions, little toasted squares of polenta dusted with parmesan cheese, and some carmelized whole bananas); and you are also given a little round plaque which is red on one side and green on the other. There are about eight roaming waiters in the room carrying long spits with various roasted meats on them, and if your plaque is showing green they come to your table and slice morsels directly on to your plate. You can turn the plaque to the red side to get a chance to eat -- otherwise those guys will relentlessly cover your plate with meat -- and then turn it back to green when and if you are ready for more. It was not only a delicious meal but lots of fun.
We also got to see Denver's excellent museum (lots of dinosaurs in Colorado) and we took in an iMax movie. On another day we went to the Denver Aquarium which was amazing.
The conference itself was enjoyable. Met lots of old friends and acquaintances. Something like 15,000 people attended this event, and I had the odd experience of getting to talk with many people from the Lincoln campus who I otherwise seldom get to see (or had never even met before). It was held at the Denver convention center, which is memorable because it has a giant blue bear standing outside looking in. From inside it looks like this.
The train ride home was just as pleasant as the one getting there, except this one was dark the whole way -- the train left at 8 pm and arrived in Lincoln at 4 am. When it pulled into the station, I grabbed my suitcase, stepped off the train, walked about 75 feet to my parked car and drove home. Much better than flying!
Thanks! I'll write up a little report some time tomorrow. No hot chocolate while aboard, but I did snack on some gummy bears I had brought along. :-) --Gary