Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring tech cleaning!

If you are cleaning, weeding out old electronics, upgrading to a new flat screen tv, or buying a new computer, don't throw the old stuff in the trash! Many components in items such as televisions, computers, and cell phones can be recycled.

For more about electronics recycling, has some great resources, as well as some scary statistics (that old tv in your basement can have 4 to 8 pounds of lead in it!).

A great (FREE) recycling option is to contact your local Goodwill. Many Goodwill locations will accept computer components, cell phones, televisions, and other appliances. To find out more, visit the Goodwill Reconnect site.

If your Goodwill doesn't offer this program, check with Best Buy. You can recycle tvs and computers for a $10 fee, but you get that money back in a Best Buy gift card.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Leaves of three ...

I worked at the cabin yesterday, trying to push nature back. In an annual rite, I also played cat and mouse with poison ivy. Trying to identify it in the mass of green vines around the property is difficult for me. Antonia and Gabriel seem to have an internal radar detector; I seem to have an internal magnet. Whether you have to deal with it in your own yard or avoid it while out hiking, I found this video on helpful in pointing out its distinct characteristics. With so many vines growing in Virginia, it is often hard to distinguish poison ivy from other plants.

Too bad I didn't watch it before working outside. We'll see how lucky I was later in the week.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Find it quickly with keywords

One of the little known features of Firefox is the keyword. You use it in the search bar to quickly go to a site and enter a search term. Rather than entering a URL and enter key, then putting a search term in and pushing enter again, you do this all in one step once you define your keyword. For example, if I want to look up the definition of the word noxious in, I would just type in Firefox's search box d noxious. If I wanted to find an article for the same word in wikipedia, I would type wp noxious. And if I wanted to find books related to noxious in Amazon and WorldCat, I would use am noxious and wc noxious.

There are two ways to define keywords. The first is to use the search box in the upper right corner of Firefox. Click the menu and "Manage Search Engines," then "Edit Keyword ..." In the pop-box, just put in the term that you will use to query with. I like to keep my keywords very short, to make it faster to type them in.

If the search tool isn't listed there, the other way is to go to the site and add your keyword directly. This works in most cases, although screens with lots of boxes and search options can be confusing for Firefox. After you navigate to the site, right click on whatever the search box is on the screen and select "Add a keyword for this search ..." A dialog box will come up. For Name, copy and paste the URL for the screen you are on. For keyword, put in your abbreviation. For example, I have a keyword for WorldCat. In Name, I have and in Keyword I have wc. You can just leave Bookmarks Menu for Create In drop-down.

You can refine your keywords for better searches. For example, my keyword for is just am. But I also use amb to limit the search to just books in Amazon. I did this by first navigating to the screen for just the book search ( and then right clicked the Amazon search box and defined the keyword amb (for Amazon Books).

You can also use the keyword to just get to the site quickly. Enter your keyword only, with no search term, in Firefox's search box.

You can read more about keywords by reading what Mozilla has to say about Smart Keywords and the section on keywords in the Search Bar article. Here are some of my frequently used keywords. Are there other keywords you find useful? I'd love to know!

  • Amazon : am :
  • Amazon books : amb :
  • Dictonary : d :
  • WorldCat : wc :
  • Wikipdia : wp :

Friday, May 1, 2009

On being a voyeur

Darien gave me a book for Christmas, Voyeurs by Dennis Bartel, a signed copy via Jenny. Some of you will recognize the name from KUSC, the classical station in L.A. where Dennis DJs. He also grew up in Norwalk and attended Norwalk High with other Dukes and Sanchezes. I remember listening to Dennis on the radio when I lived in L.A. He eventually left for the east coast, but returned a few years ago and is again hosting a program at KUSC. I still am a fan through the magic of the Internet, KUSC being one of the stations I often listen to. (I love hearing about rush hour and smog alerts.)

I was surprised at how good Voyeurs is. It is a collection of short stories. They are well-crafted, literate, interesting, amusing. The reason I am bringing it up here is that one of the fun things about the book is how Norwalk and Southern California in general form a subtle background to many of the stories. You will read about someone driving down the 605, or growing up around dairy farms. Some of the references are subtle and will likely be missed by those who didn't grow up there.

I would recommend you pick up a copy at the library, but unfortunately it has not been widely collected. You will have better luck buying it online at Amazon or a similar site. Used copies can be had cheaply. When you are finished reading it, pass it on to another Norwalkian.