Szechuan orange chicken

Haven’t had much success with Chinese style stirfry in the past… but my latest was quite tasty.

  • 1/2lb – 1 lb boneless chicken thighs (breasts okay too, but thighs are more flavorful), chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Mongolian fire oil
  • 1 can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1/3 cup Trader Joe’s Island Soyaki sauce (or other commercial thick terriyaki sauce – do not use strait soy sauce)
  • 2-3 cups, chopped fresh vegetables such as zucchini, broccoli, or green beans (I used fresh green beans)

Heat oil in skillet or wok and add red pepper flakes. Add chicken and cook quickly over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, then add oranges and cook until oranges lose their form and become sauce like.  Add Soyaki sauce, then 1/4 tsp of fire oil. Blend, then add additional fire oil until desired spicyness. Add vegetables, coat with sauce, then cover to steam for 1-2 minutes, or until desired level of doneness (I like my vegies still slightly crisp).

Serve immediately over hot jasmine rice.  About 4 large servings

re-thinking mobile diabetic applications

During my last two semesters in grad school, I researched and began designing a mobile phone application for use by diabetics for tracking and monitoring their progress in controlling the disease. I envisioned an application that would offer customized coaching and real-time feedback combined with flexible data input methods. This solution was designed to address deficiencies in diabetic treatment resulting from the one-size-fits-all approach to diet and exercise guidelines offered by nutritionists/diabetic counselors, and empower patients to learn and implement what works best for them individually. This project was born out of my frustration with the process as a gestational diabetic and a survey of available tools and technologies that felt inadequate. You can read more about the solution I envisioned in my portfolio.

One of the big challenges of the solution I designed was the intensive data processing required. Users would be gathering data constantly throughout the day (blood sugar readings, food eaten, insulin taken, exercise completed, journal notes, etc.). The analysis of this data would require access to massive external databases (such as food guides with carbohydrate quantities), as well as complex algorithms for analyzing and offering relevant suggestions based on the data. For example, let’s say that the user scanned a bar code on a box of Raisin Bran at 9am to document what they had for breakfast. An hour later, the application reminds them to test their blood sugar. The result is very high. The user wants to know why. The app would need to be able to analyze the ingredients, explain why they are problematic, and offer some suggestions as how to alter the outcome of eating this (add protein such as nuts, use a higher-fat milk, etc) or suggest not eating  it. It would also need to flag this item for future reference so that if the user did adopt the suggestion of adding protein when consuming this, that they could later see if the tip reduced the resulting blood sugar.

As you can see, the analysis needed to make this app successful almost nears impossibility… or at least a degree of artificial intelligence. Which is likely why all the current diabetic technology tools merely collect the data and display graphs and charts, but do not analyze the data.

Anyhow, today I watched a program about the Open Source Mobile Data Kit on the University of Washington’s TV channel. The Open Data Kit is a suite of tools designed for Android phones that allow for remote collection of data with an array of data types including video, photos, and barcodes in addition to the normal text based data. Server-side tools allow for analysis of the data with results pushed back to the phones for field use. The Open Data Kit is being used in a number of current and planned deployments by field workers in Africa and other places for help with large-scale health initiatives such as HIV treatment and prevention.

This got me to thinking that perhaps the mobile diabetic application I envisioned could run on this platform. But instead of having all data analyzed by smart computer systems, perhaps data could go to a group of diabetic experts who have access to all the data in useful formats and could in turn offer custom guidance to the patient/user of the diabetic system.

In the Raisin Bran example above, when a user checks a box on their mobile phone interface to Analyze why this food might have caused such a blood sugar spike, a signal is sent to the data center and becomes part of a queue (like a support call to a call center). When this request comes up in the queue, the analyst/diabetic expert has access to all this patient’s data and can offer advice based on this individual’s specific situation/history. The analyst can enter the advice in the system, and beam it back down to the user’s phone via the application. For higher severity issues related to insulin dosages or other emergencies, the request can go to the front of the queue, and the patient can receive a phone call back to talk through the situation.

Though this system might not provide info as fast as an intelligent computer, it is still a huge improvement over the current healthcare system where one only gets a short appointment with a diabetic counselor on a weekly or monthly basis, when most of the teachable opportunities have faded from memory. This system would also have greatly reduced development costs and time to market, so patients could benefit sooner.

Now I’m wondering about the legal aspects/liability of offering custom healthcare advice through mobile technology. More research to do!

the mom haircut

Lately I’ve become painfully aware why so many new mom’s chop their long hair in favor of something more manageable. I’ve lost count of the number of times that Brennan has barfed in mine in recent weeks, or that his drool covered fingers have become tangled in my hair. I’ve had knots that I’ve almost had to cut out. Putting my hair back in a clip has been an exercise in futility as well. Ashton thinks it’s a very fun game to pull the clip from Mommy’s hair (and painfully, my hair along with it). Then he will either proceed to break the teeth off the clip, or hide it altogether. Sure I could just pull it back in a ponytail holder, but I stopped thinking that ponytails looked good around middle school.

So… yesterday for my birthday I decided to treat myself to a GOOD haircut and professional color. I’ve only had GOOD haircuts about 4 times in my life (when I say GOOD, I mean expensive), and never had my hair colored by a pro (though I’ve used the box stuff for years). The rest of the time it’s been Supercuts or something similar. In theory, the haircut quality should go up as the price goes up. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for any of my salon experiences.

I came prepared with some photos of a few styles I liked, that were realistic for my hair type and limited ability to style it (both lack of time and lack of abillity). I was looking for a compromise between the long hair I desired, and the short no-style dos that scream “mommy”. I was pleasantly optimistic at the start of my styling session, because I felt like the stylist really listened to what I wanted and asked good questions.

In the end I got a decent haircut. Unfortunately it looks nearly the same as  what I normally get at Supercuts, even though it was clear that the technique and skill of the stylist were of much higher caliper. My big complaint is the hair color. I told the stylist I wanted a strawberry blonde. Not red, not anything else. It seems that they didn’t really have the color in their collection that I wanted and she talked me into something else that made logical sense. She dyed the base color to almost match my natural color (a dirty blonde, almost light brown) except a little warmer. This way I wouldn’t be a slave to the six week touchups as my roots grow out, because they would blend. She then applied a highlight color that was as close to strawberry blonde is they had. I didn’t realize that she was also applying a third color.

The end result is that I have the almost strawberry blonde near my roots, which will not blend with my natural hair color as the roots grow out. This fades into the brownish color, that becomes darker as it reaches the tips of my hair, making my hair look burnt at the ends. Then there are some streaks of blonde framing my face, but I think it looks like white/grey hair.

So, the end result is that I now have hair that looks dirty even when it’s clean. And though it’s short enough to miss the flow of spit-up during over the shoulder burp sessions, there’s still plenty to be grabbed by gooey baby hands.

Looks like I’ll have to live with this for a while though. At $160 not counting tip, I’ve exhausted my normal hair budget for an entire year.

sick + sick + sick + sick = house of woe

Ugh, what a week last week was! We’ve certainly had our share of colds in this household, but this one was a real whammy. And we all got it at the same time. Not fair, these things are supposed to be staggered. At least then I might have gotten a little bit of sleep to help me recover quicker and been able to pass the time catching up on episodes of Lost or Dexter – instead the hours and minutes ticked by in slow motion as we all OD’d on kid TV. Please oh please, no more Yo Gabba Gabba!

The interesting thing is that we all experienced the same cold in very different ways:

  • Ashton had a fever off and on for three days including chills/sweats one night. Coughing so bad he’d barf up his food and coughing fits would keep him up at night crying in pain. Went on a food strike too where he’d only eat soft foods – ie. lots of yogurt and bananas. Was very tired and lethargic, and still not sleeping well at night after 8 days of cold.
  • Brennan only had fever for a few hours. Skipped the nasal congestion and went immediately to phlegmy cough and wheezing (he sounds like a little dinosaur when he coos). Doesn’t act sick during the day, but very fussy at night and will not sleep unless held. Reflux has increased significantly.
  • Daddy mostly tired and lethargic, with slight congestion and cough
  • Mommy suffered mainly sinus headaches, with watery eyes and itchy, sneezy nose. Mild sore throat, but mainly from dryness of antihistamines. Still heavily congested and irritating cough after 6 days.

The week’s highlights included a 4-hour bout of toddler insomnia one night where symptoms were nearly absent – he just didn’t want to sleep. A half hour of Blues Clues finally did the trick. And of course a lovely trip to Costco one afternoon when Ashton seemed on the mend and full of energy culminated in a major barfing episode in the middle of the bakery section. Only minutes before he had been joyously running around the meat freezers. All over my plain white tee-shirt, in my hair, through his clothes, and on the floor. Thank goodness he missed the cupcakes that he was poking at only seconds earlier.

yummy sinus cleansing soup

For years I’ve been hunting for some tasty won-ton soup, and come up empty. Most are bland, bland, bland. But recently I found frozen chicken/cilantro won-tons at Trader Joes and I came up with my own recipe:

This makes 1 large meal size portion or 2 smaller portions

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (do not use prepared chicken broth – it is too strong)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice (to taste, I like it more on the tangy side)
  • 1/2 tsp red paper flakes (to taste – more if sinuses really clogged)
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onions
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 bag won-tons (about 12)
  • Optional – frozen broccoli (6-8 florets) and/or pre-cooked shrimp(12 medium)

Add water, chicken cube, lemon juice, and red paper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add wontons. If adding frozen shrimp, add at same time. After 1 minute, add frozen broccoli and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat. Add chopped green onions and cilantro and serve.

If you’re sick and can’t keep solids down, just make the broth. It has a fresher taste than standard chicken or beef broth.

PS – This is low in fat and calories too, so good diet food.

Joomla config on GoDaddy hosting

okay, this post is mainly a note to myself … since I’m so disorganized these days that if I write this down on paper, it will surely get lost. But, if someone else finds this in a search and it saves the hours of aggravation that I’ve had with this issue, then hurray!

Problem: SEF’s (search engine friendly URL’s) not working with Module Rewrite. Links to articles show either “404 not found” pages or message that says “no input item found”

Solution: Do the following:

  1. change htaccess.txt file to .htaccess
  2. edit .htaccess
    • comment out the line “Options +FollowSymLinks
    • If Joomla is not installed in the root directory – uncomment the line # RewriteBase / (and add the path to the Joomla root directory). Example: RewriteBase /jl if Joomla is installed in the jl directory
  3. In Joomla admin, edit Global Configuration/Site
    • Enable Search Engine Friendly URL’s and Use Apache mod_rewrite. *Add suffix to URL’s is optional*  – note, you must have write access for Web User to the configuration.php file or these changes will not apply.
  4. In Tools menu, Clean Cache – all files.
  5. Clear browser cache
  6. Test site

Brennan is 12 weeks

and here’s what he’s been up to:

  • lots of smiling 🙂
  • has become deliberate in his kicking of dangly toys in the bouncy seat and the play mat (and he loves to play in both)
  • loves getting diaper changes and being naked, becoming more comfortable in bath tub
  • will fall asleep in the swing if tired, but doesn’t like being in it while awake
  • likes to watch TV (uh-oh) and the iPhone
  • goes to sleep easily and sleeps at least one long stretch each night (10p – 3a aprox.)
  • still likes to sleep on mommy’s tummy
  • enjoys going in the car and to the park – likes looking around

Overall, he’s a pretty happy guy

Photo sharing and baby blogs… the conundrum

Every since Ashton was born, I’ve been trying to find the best way to share photos with friends and family, as well as keep record of important milestones, events, etc. The latter was due to my dislike of every print baby-book I found. Too cutesy-gaggy!

For most of Ashton’s life, we’ve resolved the photo challenge by using Kodak gallery. This was chosen not for it’s outstanding features, but rather that it offered photo streams to wireless Kodak digital picture frames. We purchased such frames for the Grandmas and for a time, it was a great way to keep them updated with the latest photos. The problem is that Kodak charges the user to get copies of the photos, and I wanted them to be able to print any photo they liked. And then there were the technical difficulties mainly due to wireless connectivity issues. I also didn’t like that Kodak required a login to the site and implemented a flashy slideshow interface that was super slow.  I think this discouraged other interested persons from viewing the photos. Not to mention that posting the photos was super slow. Fortunately, I found a Firefox plugin that made this somewhat easier.

Then there is the Facebook issue. Most of my friends/family want photos via this venue. Up until very recently, Kodak did not have an app for Facebook, so I had to post photos in two places. I gave up on this rather quickly, as Facebook’s photo interface is also quite clunky. I’ve had to make an exception for Brennan photos, as everything else was in a state of migration during his first month.

The third photo issue has to do with copyright. When you post photos to a free site like Kodak or Flickr, you transfer copyright of your photos to them via the legal agreement you have to click okay to when signing up. Though it isn’t likely to happen, these companies could use my photos without my authorization for whatever purpose they see fit. Neither Daniel nor I are comfortable with this. I imagine that Facebook has the same issue.

So, to address all these issues, we are hosting our own photo sharing site via open-source software (Gallery) installed on my web hosting account. No login is required, we retain the copyright, and any photo can be saved in full-resolution (and printed), by simply right-clicking on it. It was very easy to install and fairly easy to configure. I still have to move over quite a few more photos though. Over time, I hope to customize the theme to give it our own look. I’m also experimenting with plugins that would give it an RSS feed, with the goal of feeding it into Facebook. I can’t imagine that they hold the copyright on content imported into Facebook this way, however I haven’t actually checked into this yet.

As for the baby-book/blog issue … I started out using a site called Kidmondo. It is designed as an online baby-book. For the first few months it was ideal, as I didn’t have time to setup anything of my own. I didn’t like that it required a login as well, though I appreciate the attempts to secure your baby’s information. I just know that people tend to forget usernames and passwords all too easily (and especially with sites they only check into so often). My other concern was that Kidmondo was a startup and offering their service for free (with no ads). What would happen to my baby-book if they went under (a likely possibility considering no forseeable revenue)? NOTE – I just realized the other day, that I still have Ashton’s first two-months of entries to transfer over. Yikes!

So, after I caught my breath, I setup a WordPress blog on my server at home. This has worked well for a long time, however I’ve become paranoid about losing the blog as well due to my lack of diligence about backups and the increasing age of my server.

As a result, I’ve moved the blog to my web hosting account at Go-Daddy. With so many paying customers, I’m certain their server farm is more reliable than mine and updated more frequently. I’ve made use of a domain name that I bought a year ago on a whim ( and decided to turn the site into a personal blog as well as baby-blog. WordPress migrated fairly easily using the import tool, although the photos still link to the old blog site. This will have to be edited in time.

Then of course there is the big issue. What will happen to this online content over time? Technology changes so fast, that I anticipate that the current format of my photos and blogs will not be accessible in ten years. Fortunately I am married to a storage systems expert, so if I keep backups, I’m sure my data will be recoverable much longer than it would be for the average person. Still, print format is the only thing that stands the test of time. And judging by the state of my great-grandmother’s scrapbook, even that lifespan is pretty limited. Still, I am dedicated to preparing traditional scrapbooks for my children as well as getting print-outs of their blogs, so that they’ll at least have a record long enough to show their kids and grandkids.

I don’t even want to think about how all this online information will effect this current generation, where privacy is becoming obsolete. It gives me a headache…

Sibling Rivalry

I had hoped that this wouldn’t be an issue. Many online mommy forums have talked about how they negated the rivalry issue by having the kids close together. Guess we’re not so lucky.

Ashton’s first reactions to Brennan were of complete indifference. When Brennan first came home, Ashton looked at him for a few seconds and then focused his attention to the more interesting infant carrier. Over the first week, he would point at the baby every now and then and say THAT! I guess as in “What’s that!?”. And he would climb onto my lap, even if occupied with baby, without so much as blinking. Same went for going from point A to point B (usually while laying in the bed). If baby was in the way, baby would get  stepped on (except that we managed to intercept each time).

After the indifference, came the mocking. Brennan would be screaming at the top of his lungs, and Ashton would verbally mimic the baby. Wah, wah, wah. Little shit!

Now we’ve moved on to the jealousy stage. Ashton now expresses his frustration by acting out, shrill whining, and more tantrums. He becomes neediest when I’m occupied with baby. That’s when he most wants to be held, or to be read a book. Ashton frequently steals and drinks from the baby’s bottle and sucks on baby’s pacifier (even though Ashton gave it up around 9 months). And he does not like it AT ALL when Brennan occupies the baby swing that was once Ashton’s and that he has reclaimed as his own. Nap times have been the biggest struggle. Though I try to get Brennan to sleep before putting Ashton down for a nap, it doesn’t always work out (since it’s too early for Brennan to be on any kind of schedule). If I have to divert my attentiion to baby during the nap process, Ashton takes advantage of the situation by trying to crawl out of bed. And the tantrums are ugly when I put baby down and pull Ashton back into bed.

But, all hope is not lost. In the past week, Ashton has taken a bit more interest in baby, mainly in pointing out his different parts (ears, nose, etc.) This also involves poking baby’s eyes, but I don’t think this is malicious (Ashton actually pokes his own eyes when he’s sleepy). And the book that Grandma Smith bought him about the little boy with a new baby brother has suddenly become a favorite. And today he gave his baby brother Doll a bottle for the first time. We bought the doll with hopes that it could be a teaching tool for how to gently care for a baby.

Read to me mommy!

Read to me mommy!

My baby seat

My baby seat

My swing!

My swing!

History San Jose

This year, Daniel sang with a group of Victorian Carolers comprised of folks from Lyric Theatre. One of the performances was at the San Jose History Park’s Heritage Holiday event. Daddy took Ashton to the mini train museum during one of his singing breaks, and Ashton enjoyed running around the grounds while mommy tried to chase him (quite challenging considering I had the baby too). Thank God Cara was there to help.

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