Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad Accessories - I so called it

Some of you may have seen that Apple announced their new tablet computer - the iPad. I won't rehash the most-covered details about what it is, how it looks, what it can do, blah blah. There are plenty of professional tech bloggers out there that do that. People with more time, people who get paid for this.

No, the only point I wish to make about the iPad tonight is: I totally called it. Announced with the iPad itself were a handful of accessories. These accessories will expand the abilities of the iPad to make it easier to enter text and handle photos.

I seem to recall having some thoughts on this matter back in, oh, 2007. I wanted these accessories for the iPhone - something it seems Apple has pointedly decided not to do yet. Nevertheless, allow me to quote the relevant bits:

The advantage of a dedicated blogging application over [web-based version, such as I'm using now] is that you would have access to the formatting tools I've mentioned above. Instead of composing emails, you are doing something more akin to word processing (a fine distinction, but one I feel is important). The [iPhone-native] blogging application, with its list of old posts and folder of draft new posts, seems a more tuned application.

Now, this is a good start, but it needs one more thing: an easier way to add content. Typing with the on-screen keyboard on the iPhone works, but is 1/3-1/10 the speed of using a real, physical keyboard. The images that you can capture with the iPhone are ok, but a way of getting images from real digital cameras would be nice. There is precedent for this: older iPods had an optional accessory that would allow you to offload images from your camera to the iPod's harddrive via USB.

Combine these two ways of adding content and you get the second portion of making the iPhone the ultimate blogging machine: a keyboard/Dock. When the Palm Pilot was the PDA in the world, there existed a thriving market of third-party accessories. Several companies sold keyboards into which you could dock your palm pilot. Some of these keyboards were real marvels, able to fold in half or quarters, resulting in a footprint the size of the Palm Pilot itself. Something similar could easily be made for the iPhone, and contain the all-important Dock connector. When the iPhone docks with the keyboard, the on-screen keyboard is disabled, allowing you to view the entire iPhone screen while typing. This would be an advantage not only in the blogging application, but anytime you need to type with the iPhone.

Having actual cursor keys and the ability to select text, copy, paste, and so on would be a real advantage. One could even have dedicated hotkeys on the keyboard to take you to the Safari, iPod, Mail, and Phone top-level applications. The real clincher would be to have a USB port on the side, to which you could connect a camera and transfer images to the iPhone.

Ok, perhaps this was not the most original thinking. I'm sure a dozen Apple employees had these notions already sketched up in their IP notebooks before the iPhone was even launched. Even so, it's not like I heard a whole chorus of others clamoring for these things. I totally called it. I still want these for the iPhone, too. Can't be that hard to make it happen, guys.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Just a quick double-dose of Brynna for today.

Brynna and Hilary are wrapped together with a single scarf. The rest of her was warmly tucked into Hilary's jacket for a walk, but the neck seemed exposed, so out comes the lovely scarf. I think it was done in a figure-8 to get this effect.

Brynna sometimes likes to pull the dish towels from the drawer or off the oven door and pull them over her head. It's an entree into a game of peekaboo, but sometimes she'll just wander around with them draped over her head. Our little babushka.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Brynna has in the last few weeks been able to understand and articulate colors. More or less.

For instance, if you put her box of Legos in front of her and ask her to show you a red one, almost without fail she'll pluck out a red one and show it to you with great excitement.

If excitement you call it. This works for her many crayons, too, right before they end up on the floor.

On the other hand, she isn't quite as good with describing colors just yet. For a while, everything was "goon", or green.

Parent: "Brynna, what color is this?"
Brynna (with irrepressible smile and confidence): "Goon."
Parent: "No, that's yellow, sweatheart." (switches to different object) "Brynna, what color is this?"
Brynna (as before): "Goon."
Parent: "No, sweetie, that's red."

I suppose if it had to be one color, green isn't such a bad way to go. I guess the asymmetry is understandable - her spoken vocabulary is still much much smaller than what she can understand. These days things are a little less monolithically verdant, just a lot of hit-or-miss. Is it red? Is it blue? Who can say? Brynna sometimes can, and sometimes not. Perhaps the question has more existential weight for Brynna than it does for the rest of us.

Orange she seems to do pretty well with - it helps that there's a favorite food of the same name and color (but doesn't rhyme with anything).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pasta Followup

Thanks to some helpful commenters on this recent post, and a little improvisation, we had another successful go at the pasta-making Sunday evening.

This rack, believe it or not, used to sit in our microwave. I was generally under the belief that nothing metal belongs in a microwave, but this rack definitely belongs to it. I could delve into how the spacing and length of the bars probably makes it have very little resonance at 2.4 GHz, and thus picks up very little microwave energy, but I would quickly exhaust my expertise in the subject. Actually, I think I just did it right there.

This rack was just used for staging purposes, not drying. It would hold about half a batch's worth of noodles at a go - as much as I would try to boil at a time. Being able to keep them reasonably separated this way out in the open meant that they stayed quite separate in the water.

One thing this image doesn't show is the use of a spatula's wooden handle to help in transferring. As a pasta noodles came out of the machine, I'd drape them in half over the handle rather than my hand. The handle fits quite easily between the bars of the rack, you see, so laying the noodles out was pretty neat and easy. It also worked in reverse: I could lift the noodles back off the rack using the handle and use it to deposit them in the water.

All this makes me think of building a special-purpose pasta rack, strange a project as that might seem. I kinda like the notion of one similar to the metal rack - two arms with crossbars on which to drape the pasta - but would probably also have legs to make it freestanding. What would distinguish this as a pasta rack would be that the wooden dowels could be lifted in and out of the rack for easier loading and unloading. Pull an empty dowel from the rack, let the pasta drape over it as it comes off the machine, and set it on the rack to sit or dry, then later reverse those steps to deposit it into the water or storage container. Then again, some quick searching around reveals this design, which is pretty clever and could be done in an afternoon with some dowels, a drill, and some PVC pipe. Probably I could get the job done for less than the $25-$60 that comparable products would cost.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Or, as most of the rest of the world knows them, Lego. Brynna received a box of large-sized Duplo Legos for christmas from her Aunt, and has really taken to them. She can, when the moods strikes her, amuse herself with building Lego towers for a substantial period of time - 20 to 30 minutes at a stretch, which is a really, really long time for her to be occupied on any one thing at this age.

Daughter of an engineer? You better believe it!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Thanks very much to my dear sister, we had fresh pasta for dinner last night. I don't have it on tape, but Brynna saying "pasta" downright cute. Actually, just about everything she says these days is cute, owing largely to the earnestness with which she utters everything, but also to the fact that she lacks the ability to form about half of the necessary sounds.

Anyway, on to the "BAA'tah!"

The dough is pretty simple: eggs, flour, a little water, some mixing, and some kneading. Let it rest in the fridge for a little while, then break it up into some smaller bits. Pat it out into thick pads.

My sister's gift was the pasta mill attachments for the stand-up mixer. The first of these is the thickness roller - a pair of cylindrical drums that the mixer's motor turns. A dial on the end lets you set the thickness. It might take a moment to get the dough to catch in the rollers, but when it does, the machine does most of the work. All it takes is a little handling to keep things feeding along.

With each pass, the rollers get put closer together, and the dough gets longer and thinner. In order to make the noodles a manageable length, now is a good time to cut the dough into manageable lengths.

Then we switch from the flat roller attachment to one of several possible pasta cutting attachments. We chose fettucini. These work very much like the cutters in a paper shredder - sort of a rolling set of scissors. One problem we haven't quite figured out yet is how best to handle the finished noodles. They have a tendency to stick to whatever they are put on - and to each other. On the other hand, it takes time to roll and cut each sheet of noodles, and a sheet isn't quite enough for a serving, so we probably can't just drop them directly into the pasta water.

Really, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't such a bad problem to have.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cold Weather Play

Winter comes, the snow falls, the wind is up, and what do the moosesofthenorth do? We go out to play, of course. Taking advantage of the fresh powder, we got all bundled up so that we could go for a walk down to the park.

Brynna ready for her moon shot.

Our neighbors from down the street gowned up and came out, too.

Brynna, as it turns out, is very skeptical of the toboggan. You may noticed that, in a brief moment of forethought, we brought the baby backpack in case we needed to carry her. It is well we did bring it: about halfway down to the park Brynna began launching herself off the toboggan into a nearby snowbank.

The girls got tired of the slide pretty quick, and decided they wanted more wind in their faces by swinging. Negotiating those legs into the swings with clonkin' boots is no easy task - only surpassed in difficulty by getting those legs back out.

Unfortunately, the waning daylight, the increasing wind, and just plain time spent outside meant the girls started getting too cold for their good spirits to last. Brynna was by this point about an hour late for a nap, which didn't help. We ended up beating a hasty retreat back to the warmth, by which time Brynna was well on her way to a total meltdown.

Jasper, of course, is unfazed by the snow. He does, in fact, love it.

I hoped to take enough video footage to be able to put together a montage similar to this autumn one, because the characters and setting were largely the same; only the seasons change. But, the bevity of the outing, the difficulties of handling a camera in the cold with (or without) gloves, and fewer hands to watch the B made this impossible. Perhaps next month!