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Effalumps & Tiggers

May 21st, 2005  · stk

The Edmonton Valley Zoo

If one looks at the World through children's eyes, then all we saw at the Zoo yesterday were ... other kids. (That's not entirely true, but we did notice that Alex spent more time looking at the kids around her, than at the assortment of beasts from the 'Wild Kingdom'). We'd try to point out an animal, high in a tree (napping, no doubt, and so well camouflaged that you had to strain to see it) and all Alex could ogle at was the little girl standing beside her. Alex is a people person and the Zoo was a wonderful outing, although she would have been just as happy going to the mall. Mom and Dad were more impressed with the assemblage of animals at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, home to more than 100 exotic and endangered species, than Alex was.

Our first stop was the petting area, where Alex wasn't too sure about meeting goats, sheep and rabbits close up. We did coax her near a very friendly goat, though she was loath to reach out and actually touch it. The goat seemed very content to be near us and lounged happily. Alex twitched her nose appropriately at a rabbit, but only had eyes for the other, older kids that came to pet it. We thought for sure that Alex would like the baby lamb, but she was too worried about appearances, looking about to see if anyone noticed her wearing dapper sunglasses and a trendy hat.

The otters were swimming and playing in their small enclosure, doing back flips at the water's edge. So graceful are they in water and so comical on dry land, lumbering about. Alex spied a child's plastic toy in one part of the pen, which she thought would be fun to play with, while Mom and Dad spotted a tennis shoe. At first, we thought these were cast into the open enclosure by rowdy visitors, but we quickly realized that they were "toys", placed there for the raucous inhabitants. (There aren't too many otter-toys at PetSmart, so the zoo keepers must utilize the overflow from the 'lost and never found' box).

The highlight of the day (for both Mom and Alex, I think) was the Merry-go-Round. Alex had a hoot, laughing and smiling while she went up and down, around and around. MUCH more fun than watching animals sleep, regardless of how big, colorful or strange they look!

Apparently, Alex knows all about the different kinds of animals, because she wasn't enthusiastic about any animal in particular. Many were sleeping and perhaps that's the reason. "What's the big deal Dad, these animals are just like Tuxedo ... they sleep all the time," she might have been thinking.

Never before, has Alex seen so many different creatures: Dromidary camels, Guanaco llamas, Sezuan takin, emu, Goeldi's monkeys, snow leopards, a wolf, zebras, otter, big horn sheep ... the list went on and on. Her interest peaked, when we came to two Siberian tigers. She peered through the chain link fence and knowingly looked at these two large and ferocious carnivores. She spoke for the first time, as she had been quiet most of the morning.

"Meow," she said, thinking the two cats looked pretty much like large Tuxedos.

The Zoo was more fun for Mom and Dad, than it was for Alex (with the exception of the merry-go-round, perhaps). She did run up and down the grassy, open hills, ate graham crackers, stared at all the kids and by the time we left, was pretty knackered. Rachel has a final looming next week, but having recently completed a mid-term and a term-paper, she felt that she could take a breath and enjoy the long weekend. What better way to kick things off than a trip to the Zoo? It was a gloriously sunny afternoon. The sky contained a number of puffy white clouds, the kind your imagination can turn into frogs, planes and other mysterious shapes. It was the perfect day for a family outing.

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Updated: 9-Jun-2005
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Filed in:b2evo

Posting via Email - Unwanted Line Breaks

May 20th, 2005  · stk

I received the following message in today's mail:

Hi, [your "blogging by email" tutorial is a] great addition to the b2e-site! It helped me a lot. I have one question with which maybe you could help me. When posting a message through email, the lines are broken off, which results in a bad layout of the message (see it at Any idea how to solve this? I tried adding a paragraph class but this did not solve it. Thanks in advance.

To be quite honest, though I put up the tutorial about blogging via email, it's not a feature that I use much (aside from tests, like this one). And those tests are mainly to see if the email connection is working and so are short, in length. So ... I'm putting up this longer one, to see how my email client(s) handles long entries, to see if I too, get ugly line breaks. EDIT: I did and I fixed it ... the fix is below ...

I am using HTML in this email-by-blog entry; things like "<p>" and "<blockquote>", just as I would if I were making a post in the back office.

Oh, I did note something very odd (and I submitted a bug report about it), the very last time I tested blogging by email. When I made my original tutorial post, I included some special code I use to color <div>'s, which looks something like: <div class="olive dotted">. It worked fine. Then, the last time I tested 'blogging by email', I used the EXACT SAME CODE, but the equal sign was converted to "=3D" and the post failed because it wouldn't pass the HTML-checker. I couldn't figure out WHERE the "3D" was introduced (and I still don't know). I checked the email header that was being sent to b2evolution and they weren't in the email (that I could see). I concluded that b2evolution was adding them, which was odd, because the first time I tested 'blogging via email', this wasn't an issue. Odd. (I've later learned that 3D is the CHR ASCII code for the equal sign, so it's not arbitrary ... knowing this still hasn't helped me solve the issue).

Without pinning down the source, the ONLY way I could get around the problem was by modifying the getmail.php file, around line 248, adding

"$content = str_replace('=3D,'=',$content);= "

(which simply collapses any "3D" that is found). (The fix will deprecate nicely IF it goes back to working properly, as that string will simply not be found).

Anyway ... I experienced a line break problem as noted in this morning's email. Turning to the PHP code, I've managed (I think) to find a work-a-round. Here's what you can add (again to the getmail.php file, around line 248). The red text needs to be inserted, to solve for the line break issue and collapse any multiple white spaces.

// CHECK and FORMAT content
$post_title = format_to_post ( trim($post_title), 0, 0 );
$content = format_to_post( trim($content), $Settings->get('AutoBR'), 0);
$content = str_replace ('=3D','=',$content); // if you're having problems with "=3D"
$content = ereg_replace("[\r\t\n]"," ",$content); // replace returns, tabs or newlines w/spaces.
$content = ereg_replace(' +',' ',trim($content)); // collapse white space

PS - I'll add this bit to the "blog-by-email" entry, when I get a chance. (This appears to work, but could use more testing to make sure. No time right now ... we're off to the ZOO today, to show Alex some lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)



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Updated: 1-Dec-2005
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Filed in:Alexandra

Day Care Take Duex

May 17th, 2005  · stk

I've been receiving enough outside PHP/CSS/XHTML programming work that I'm needing more than "nap-times" to keep up with the load. I'm trying to convince myself that's a good thing, even if it means shuttling Alex over to Day Care for two or three days a week. She's a very social little girl and I know that she doesn't mind (in fact I think she ENJOYS going), but I guess I still feel a little guilty. Like I'm abandoning her, or something. And yes, even though I get much more accomplished, I still miss my little girl!

Today was Alex's second-ever, full day at Day Care. We dropped her off around 8:30 AM and didn't pick her up till after 4:00 PM. Rachel was at the University most of the morning, but when she returned home, shortly after lunch, we wondered how our little girl was faring. Was she happy? Too anxious by all the excitement to sleep? We figured she was fine, but wanted to be flies on the wall, to see her interacting with others. Does she behave differently around others than she does at home?

When I went to pick her up at 4:00 PM, I noticed that they sent her home with an art project (her first) which you can see here. It is very appropriate, though would be even more appropriate if there had been dogs and cats on it (as we've received nearly an inch of rain since yesterday, lovely thundershowers with steady rain and thunder all last night) and then mostly overcast all day. It's more like Vancouver weather, than what we've been accustomed to in Alberta.

She also came home with a "report card" (of sorts) that tells us a little of her day. We know that she didn't have a morning nap. She ate noodles and some fruit for lunch, at 11 AM. She had an hour-long nap between 12:30 PM and 1:30 PM, during which time, she drank a cup of milk. Snack was at 3:00 PM - cookies and milk (yum).

Diaper details are there too. Wet at 9:50 AM and 11:00 AM, not poopy till 2:30 PM and dry at a 3:50 PM check.

There are even teacher's notes: "Alex seemed to enjoy the toddler room (are you kidding ... we're sure she LOVED it!). Did get a bit fussy around 10:15-10:30 AM, then settled down." (Probably wanting a morning nap, which she's used to at home).

Talk about a fussy girl? After we walked home from the Day Care, which is just on the other side of the community park that is a block away, she was just WIPED. She fussed before dinner, because she was hungry, through dinner, because she wanted it to be over, and before bed, because she was so exhausted. Rachel put her to bed without even brushing her teeth (a rare event) and nearly a full hour before her normal bedtime. She'll get a good night's sleep tonight, that's for sure.

Alex sure had fun today! But Dad still feels a bit guilty for 'pawning' his daughter off to others for child care duties. I keep trying to convince myself that we BOTH benefit, even if our wallet is lighter for the doing of it. I suppose it could be a LOT worse (like if she wailed and dragged her feet when we dropped her off), but she doesn't. This morning we barely set her down, once inside, and she was off, with nary a glance over her shoulder. Off playing with the toys, interacting with the other kids and the care givers. We said "bye" and she was kinda like, "yeah, yeah ... see you later." (Maybe I'm mostly just insecure that she'll like it more than being at home, with Dad?)

One thing's for sure ... we're gonna be getting plenty of refrigerator art!

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Updated: 17-May-2005
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Filed in:Scott
Our Life

Dandelion Days

May 14th, 2005  · stk

When we rented this house and moved in last summer, we inherited a large backyard, which we thought would be a great playground for the Oop. It had a swing set (which she seems to be using much sooner than we thought) and plenty of green grass. Unfortunately, the green grass was being crowded out by a growing field of yellow dandelions, as to which this early photo will attest. After we moved in, I began a crusade to eradicate these pretty, pesky vermin. By the time we had moved in and tended to all the chores associated with making a new house a home, there was precious little summertime left to mount an assault. Still, armed with a flat-bladed screwdriver and a glass of wine, I would, in the fading light of evening, content myself in the task of plucking dandelions - by the bucket.

Of course, there are many ways to rid oneself of these broad leaf creatures. One can hire a team of lawn professionals, armed with the latest technological, geneological and other logical, solutions. But that costs something that we haven't much of - money. Another solution would be to spread broadleaf-killing herbecide, which isn't quick, but is effective. We weren't too keen on plastering chemicals across the very lawn that our barefoot daughter would be playing in. Besides, where is the sport in that? It's like catching fish with a net. No, I insisted on plucking out each and every creature, armed only with the screwdriver (and a glass of wine).

War raged and it appeared that I quickly gained the upper hand. It was as if the enemy had grown complacent, sure of their ultimate victory. By autumn, I had rid the front yard, and most of the back, from dandelions. Only the area under the swingset, beside the house, and in the alley, remained. Winter came, blanketing the yard with white and the war was put off until another day.

Well, now that the snow has melted, it seems that we've gone from winter to summer in three short weeks. There have been a few very warm 26°C (78°F) days where we've needed to wear shorts. (OMG! When I converted Celcius to Farenheit, I had to laugh ... nothing like what "warm" would be considered in Bakersfield, California! Ha ha.)

Dandilions are making a ferocious sprintime appearance and the war is on once again. This time, they're prepared and have called in the reinforcements. The pesky troops are popping up all over the back yard! Battle lines are drawn and this time, I have a secret weapon - the Oop. Of course, the only problem is that I'm not sure if she's MY secret weapon, or the dandelion's! I appreciate that she wants to help, but in some ways, she's not helping at all.

Rescuing the bucket: I measure success by this device, which is the portable recepticle for the dandelion carnage. It's not unusual to collect two, three, maybe even four, driving-range-size buckets of beheaded dandelions every day. The bucket sits at my side, willing ... no EAGER ... to accept new offerings. That is, until the self-appointed "bucket monitor" (the Oop), stealthly usurps it, taking it to the far corner of the yard, often dumping the contents (either deliberately or inadvertantly) on the ground. Some help! Half my time is spent chasing down the bucket.

Oop pulls her weight: These dandelions are now sending their offspring into battle. The only way I can identify the juvenile warriors is by their yellow flower, a forewarning of the soon-to-come, dangerous seed pod. (One seed pod can scatter 250 or more new recruits - I shudder at the thought). In order to eradicate these youngsters, I must extract them, root & all. And now, here comes "my assistant", who is beguiled by the flower. She knows I'm hunting. Wanting to help, she PICKS the flower, hiding the location of the enemy.

Perfect little angel or the devil in disguise? As helpful as the Oop is trying to be, I'm not certain that she's increased my kill record. She's a cute helper, there is no denying, but helpful? Only if I can keep her away from the bucket and the tempting yellow flowers.

So, the war rages. Armed with a srewdriver, wine and the Oop ... I am slowly winning the battle. The number of dandelions with thumb-sized taproots is dwindling, though I am amazed that some of the lesser creatures have roots that are nearly a foot in length. (It's SOOO satisfying to get the whole root!) Most of the ones with trunks for root are too difficult to extract intact and instead, are broken off. This means that I will have to return, because one unbroken root, can yield a dozen clones, all clustered together.

Counting buckets is how I've been measuring the days. If I collect four buckets, my hands are ragged and dirty from the battlefield. If the Oop dumps four buckets, I consider myself lucky! Still, the dandelions spring forth from the ground, wave upon wave of seemingly endless recruits. Ultimately (and perhaps, despite my "assistant", I shall prevail ... or become a wino in the process).

Ah yes, I almost forgot. There was a recent event, which happened only a few days ago, that highlights the capabilities of my assistant. As the Oop is drawn to yellow dandelion flowers, she is also drawn to Tuxedo, our cat (who is also thankful that winter is over and can go potty in more places than the one boothole off of the shoveled walkway - which is now a large area of dead grass, by the way). Anyway ... the Oop is so enamored by our furry feline that she often pesters him so much that he leaves the back yard. He's been forced to hang out on the front porch, which isn't too distasteful, because it catches the warm afternoon sun and Alex can't (yet) climb over the short fence across the driveway (that doesn't mean she doesn't try, though).

Putting a long spin on a short story, we had a bit of an emergency when Alex tried to follow the cat through a large gap between the house and the fence (not the one I built, but the pre-existing one on the OTHER side of the house). Alex tried to squeeze herself through, but only managed to put her head into the front yard, the rest of her was still stuck in the backyard. I looked up (from my dandilion digging) when I heard the loud wail, to see poor Oop, stuck between the fence and a hard place. "Should I call the fire department or whip out the butter tub?" I wondered, as I ran to assist. It took a minute to dislodge our poor tot, as her head and ears were jammed firmly between the 4x4 post and the rough stucco. All turned out well, though I'm sure that Alex would tell a different story if she could talk. No blood, but there were big gulping sobs and alligator tears that spilled forth as she clung to me, her momentary hero. She eventually calmed down, but decided that a nap was needed to put all the trauma behind her. My poor dandelion assistant.

Sorry to say, but as distraught as our little girl was after "the sticking" (as it's become known), I'm afraid that once may not have been enough to deter her from trying it again. After all, it took two or three handfuls of dirt, last summer, before Alex realized that the Earth wasn't very delectible.

So that's life, here in Edmonton, in springtime, at our house. Dandelion days and blogging nights.

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Updated: 20-May-2005
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Filed in:Noteworthy

Bill the Lawnmower Man

May 11th, 2005  · stk

This isn't meant to denigrate Bill, because I don't know him. He's probably a nice guy, does a really great job and is completely reliable.

However, when we received his flyer through the front door, it somehow ended up on the floor of the entry. When I found it this morning, I thought it was one of Rachel's school notes or to-do lists. I figured that Alex had gotten hold of it and I was rescuing it from the maw of imminent destruction. (Alex often decides that something should be thrown away or finds glee in ripping paper into small shreds).

It wasn't Rachel's handwriting. Maybe it was a bill (unintentional pun)? It took me a moment to realize that it was an ADVERTISEMENT. An ad for Bill's Lawn Care & other services. Suddenly, I saw it in a whole new light and the more I looked at it, the more flabbergasted I became.

In our highly competitive world, where Master's degrees are commonly required for entry-level jobs, I held in my hand, this ad. I don't think I've ever seen such a casually designed, poorly written advertisement for a service - ever. I would expect more from a Jr. High School student ... which (maybe) Bill is?

Look closely. The name and address were not altered by me, the smudges are part of the original document (which is a photo-copy, btw). Are those prices, or times? Does Bill cut your lawn 15-20 weeks? Does it cost $15-20 per week or (as I suspect) $15-20 per month? It is reassuring to note that Bill will clean up our evenings! Though I admit, I was disappointed to learn that Bill does 'Fence Repair and [sic]Biulding'. (I thought it should have been 'Billding' ;) ).

Wow! What an horrid advertisement. Let's just say that IF we were in the market for lawn service, Bill wouldn't be our first choice. However, in the world of branding, I suppose that Bill's ad will stick in my mind. It was awful enough that I wrote about it, posting his telephone number to the world to see! (Maybe he'll get some new business from this exposure).

Not everyone has the opportunity to get a Master's degree and I can appreciate that. People from all walks of life and with all ranges of educational and mental abilities contribute to society and I can appreciate that, as well. Bill might be a really happy guy, generous and likeable. Everyone has an interesting story to tell and Bill might have several. He might be a war veteran who's fought against oppression for the greater good of democracy.

Bill might be a lot of things, but the point is, I'm never going to find out. Mostly because I wouldn't hire Bill. Not with a flyer like that.

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Updated: 15-May-2005
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