Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Category: tidbit (page 4 of 17)

Helpful Hint

Here’s a helpful hint: If you like making smoothies, and have an Osterizer blender (this may work with other brands too), get yourself a quart mason jar–some brands of pasta sauce use these for packaging. The threading on the jar fits the carafe-base perfectly. You can fill the jar with your smoothie fixings, screw on the base, smoothify, and drink from the same jar. Save yourself washing that big, awkward carafe. Life is good.

Life’s minor annoyances

Over the past weekend, Gwen and I attended to a couple of minor annoyances in our lives–little things that had been bugging us for a long time–just enough to create friction, but not enough to get us to actually fix them.

In Gwen’s case, the annoyance had been bugging her for something like six years. She uses a cigar box as her jewelry box, and she had been meaning to build little dividers and pegs into it to organize her earrings better. A trip to Breed’s, $5 worth of materials, and an hour or so of a fun little craft project later, and it was done.

In my case, it was even dumber–one of the tools I use in making wicks for fire poi is a big sheetmetal screw, and the one I had been using had grown dull with use. I was vaguely aware that this was making more work for me, but I only finally got around to replacing it. Less than half a buck to fix. The difference was immediately noticeable.

There was a prime example of this kind of annoyance with my previous house: the hose bib in back made a poor seal with the hose, so whenever you turned on the spigot, you sprayed water everywhere. The people who lived there before me clearly had been annoyed by the same thing, and rather than fixing it, they adopted the rather ridiculous workaround of putting a splitter on the front hose bib and running a long hose around to the back. In the course of getting my house ready to sell, I had a plumber over to look at something unrelated; I told him “as long as you’re here, why not fix this?” Funny how such a little thing can change the quality of your everyday life so much, but fixing that was huge.

I wonder how much time, energy, and mental health we sacrifice to these little problems when we adapt to them rather than fix them.

Miscellaneous tips


  • When packing to move, you obviously want to pack your fragile stuff appropriately, and mark your boxes as such. A few other tips:
  • Pack like things with like. Yes, you will inevitably have a few boxes of random stuff, but it pays off if you can minimize this.
  • Mark your boxes extensively. We actually marked 5 sides of every box (leaving the bottom blank) so that we could identify boxes pretty much no matter what. With the more miscellaneous boxes, we also put a pretty complete list of contents on the top.
  • Mark your boxes by priority. Some things need to get unpacked quickly; some don’t. We used some weird tape to mark all our high-priority boxes.
  • Have an “immediate deployment” box. This is the first box you’ll unpack. It should probably include a tape measure, flashlight, paper towels, cleaning fluid, disposable tableware, and basic toiletries.
  • Kinko’s is a great place to get free boxes. Big-box booksellers may also have a recycling dumpster with nothing but clean, flattened boxes. I think Gwen and I bought exactly two boxes for this last move (for framed art), although we did splurge on 20 pounds of clean newsprint. Note that the boxes you get from these sources are relatively small; if you’re hiring movers, that will increase your total box count, and they usually charge by the box. Still, it’s probably cheaper than paying money for bigger boxes.


I used to have the beloved Radio Shack six-in-one. Eventually it died, and I tried replacing it with its successor, the eight-in-one. For whatever reason, the newer model lacks the codes for my receiver. (I learned that I could fix this if I bought a special cable and had a Windows computer with which I could run a special app to re-program the remote. Oy.) After looking around, I broke down and bought a Harmony 659. This is an expensive remote–I got it on markdown from Amazon, but it’s still pretty expensive.

It was worth it. You actually set up how the remote works on a website by stepping through a little interview process; the site creates a setup file that you download and then transfer to the remote via USB. Apart from one minor hitch (the TV didn’t turn on when it should–the remote asked me if it was on, and when I responded No, it tried again, successfully, and asked me if that worked–brilliant), everything Just Worked. Now, with my old six-in-one, I was able to make things More Or Less Work the way I wanted, but only with considerable nerding around. When you add up the time investment involved in that, this remote was a good deal.

If you get one of these, though, don’t bother installing the software off the included CD, because it will quite possibly be out of date, and you’ll need to download a newer version anyhow. Jump straight to the download.

iPod shuffle = yuppie gimme-cap

Practically overnight, the iPod shuffle has established itself as the upscale promotional giveaway. I know of three recent events where the shuffle was given away as a door prize–Gwen being the lucky recipient of one of these.

This is interesting on many levels. An underlying assumption is that any possible recipient will be able to use it and will value it (which is based on other assumptions about access to computers, technical competence, interest in music, etc). In other ways, though, the Shuffle itself is almost perfect as a door-prize: it makes no assumptions about the user’s tastes. It is faceless and white. Unassuming. Neither girly nor masculine, liberal nor conservative. It is blank, and becomes a mirror of the user’s tastes by being used. It is cheap enough for a promoter to buy a few out of petty cash, but nice enough to make the winner feel lucky to get it. And it really is nice–after using hers for all of five minutes, Gwen commented “I’ll bet their are twelve-step programs for iPod users.”

The iPod does make one assumption: that your ears are big enough to accommodate Apple’s earbuds, and as it turns out, Gwen’s aren’t.

Tuna fajitas

Hey look, a recipe. Gwen decided to live dangerously the other night, so she put me in charge of dinner. I came up with the following, and it turned out pretty well.


  • 1 lb tuna filets or steaks
  • onion
  • bell pepper
  • other vegetables to suit
for marinade
  • soy sauce
  • juice of 2 limes
  • black pepper
  • other spices to suit
for topping
  • cilantro, chopped
  • red cabbage, chopped


  • Slice the tuna into strips about 0.25″ thick.
  • Juice limes and combine marinade ingredients in a non-reactive (pyrex) shallow pan.
  • Marinate sliced tuna in pan. Marinade should be deep enough to just cover the strips; if not, you will need to rotate the strips periodically. Leave 20–30 minutes to marinate: the tuna should be uniformly chemically cooked by the lime juice on the outside.
  • Slice onion and bell pepper and any other vegetables you want to include into long, narrow strips; also chop toppings.
  • Sautee onions in a cast-iron skillet. When onions start turning brown, add bell peppers and any other vegetables; shortly after, add the fish along with the marinade.
  • Stir for two minutes, then cover and allow to cook over medium/high heat for another 8 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Transfer contents of skillet to a serving piece and clean skillet immediately, as lime juice will corrode the surface of the skillet.

This recipe would go well with a chipotle cream sauce as a topping—I’ll try that next time.

Interesting things I have learned in the past two days

My DSL modem was bouncing up and down repeatedly yesterday. It’s not unusual for it to reboot once in a while, but this was clearly Wrong. Called SBC’s tech support in Bangalore and got a trouble-ticket number.

A little while later, a good ol’ boy called me back. My line had already started behaving, but he did some tests while I was on the line, and we discussed the problem. Now, the service I signed up for is nominally 128 up/384 down. Apparently, my bandwidth had been automatically upgraded to 128 up/1500 down (I had noticed that my downloads were much faster than 384), and this was the cause of the problem. As he told me, I’m 15,000 feet from the central office, and my line can’t sustain that kind of bandwidth reliably (approximately 17,000 from the CO is usually as far as they’ll go). He changed my service to 384 up/768 down and said he was seeing a cleaner signal.

It’s interesting that A) SBC is upgrading service for its customers without squeezing more money out of them, and B) is apparently doing so without human intervention.

Tonight, Gwen and I are attending a Zombie Formal at the Pink Pleasure Palace. We needed to get some makeup for wounds, so we headed to the Bazaar, where a very helpful clerk showed us our options and gave us some ideas. We were going to pick up some stage blood, and he pointed out that they usually have a better selection, but with Easter coming, they’ve sold out of one variety. Apparently they sell more blood for Easter than for Halloween, and this has been exacerbated by The Passion. I never realized Christians were so lurid.

Helpful hint

If you’re trying to fire up the grill, and your charcoal is unwilling to light because of a long humid spell, then a blowtorch is a good thing to have.

Creepy keepsake


Not sure I’d want one of these lying around.

All System Whoa

If you live in Austin and keep half an eye on the news, you know that Cap Metro is contemplating a commuter-rail line linking the convention center to Leander, something that needs voter approval. Normally, I’d be in favor of this. I’d reflexively think “public transit good.”

Mike Dahmus has been blogging for some time trying to explain why, in this particular case, public transit not good. He’s convinced me. Check him out. Kudos to Mike for beating the drum and raising awareness on this.

Fun with Helvetica

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