Archive for December, 2006

Lentil soup for the New Year

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Apologies as this is too late for readers outside of the Americas, but hopefully still in time for some. Here is my blog entry from exactly four years ago. All the best for 2007!

Hungarian tradition has it that the first thing you should eat in the New Year is lentil soup. The idea is that the New Year will bring you as much in riches as the number of little lentils. The original idea is fully focused on money. That’s a bit materialistic for my taste so I’m going to think about it in a larger context of riches of all kinds.

So I’ll be making lentil soup today and sharing it will all those who are joining me for New Year’s celebrations. Here’s the recipe in case you’re interested in joining in on the tradition.

Lentil Soup for Good Luck in the New Year
(this is fairly free form, sorry, no amounts specified, go with your gut)

paprika (ideally Hungarian)

Take the lentils and after cleaning/sorting let stand in water for an hour.
Chop up some onions and saute in oil until transparent.
Add the lentils, some paprika (ideally Hungarian paprika for authenticity:), and a bit of salt.
Then add quite a bit of water (but don’t fill up the pan completely as more things will be added).
Let cook for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, chop up the carrots. Add to the soup and keep cooking until lentils are soft.
Take a bit of flour (1 tbsp) and mix it with a bit of water (2-3 tbsp) until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of the hot soup to it and mix some more.
Add to the soup.
Keep on cooking.
If you are a meat eater you can add some cut up hot dogs and cook for another five minutes.
Add a bit of vinegar (start with no more than 1tsp) and a bit of sugar (1 tsp).
Finally, take some sour cream, mix it til smooth and add to the soup. Cook for another minute or so then let sit. Let sit for several hours before consumption.

With that, I wish you all the best for the New Year!

End-of-year giving

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

A few hours to go in the US to make charitable donations that qualify as tax-deductible contributions for federal income tax purposes for 2006. A friend and loyal E-blog reader emailed me yesterday to share some ideas for what to do with one’s “non-existent end of the year bonus”. Her list included organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Bitch Magazine. I wasn’t familiar with all of these organizations so it was helpful to get her note. (Before donating to any organization, you want to check their status to make sure contributions are tax-deductible, assuming that’s of concern here.)

I went to the Charity Navigator Web site and started looking around for information about some charities. While on the site, I noticed that arts and cultural organizations were the only type of non-profits to experience “a substantial decline in giving in 2005”. That’s worthy of note and depending on when you read this, you may have a few hours to make a difference.

In the future, I would love to find an organization that supports arts activities for children. I know that lots of such organizations exist, but I don’t know enough about them. Earlier in the year, I made a donation to the Having a Ball program of the Chicago Public Schools when the 1st Northwestern Ballroom Classic was raising funds for them. That program is like the one featured in the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom about a similar initiative in NYC, which served as an inspiration for the subsequent program in Chicago. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for kids and I can relate to its focus given that I am an enthusiastic ballroom dancer so that’s a cause I can easily get behind.

In other arts-related giving, I made my usual contribution to the Smith College Museum of Art. In addition to the general merit of supporting a museum of that type, I have particularly fond memories of it, which is why I like to support it. I had an absolutely amazing experience there as a senior when I trained in their museum guide program. I was just sorry I only got inspired by my senior year and thus didn’t have that many opportunities to give tours before I graduated.

You’ve heard me mention certain other organizations here before such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Creative Commons. It looks like the latter is less than $1,700 from its goal of $300K for the year. Hopefully with the weekend donations they’ll make it over that mark.

I’ve posted about the Darfurwall already. I made two additional contributions in the last couple of days. (They only give you the option of picking one number to light up per donation so I don’t know what other numbers were lit for each additional dollar in any one donation.)

I lit 330033 on I lit 306603 on

Links on the wall: 330033 and 306603.

Supporting the ACLU is a bit complicated from the tax deduction perspective. Since the ACLU itself does a lot of lobbying, those contributions are not tax-deductible. However, there is also the ACLU Foundation, to which donations are tax-deductible. It seems that both are important to the overall cause of supporting civil liberties so I tend to split my contribution between the two.

Those are some of the organizations I have supported this year and thought I’d mention in case you were inspired to make some last-minute donations. Suggestions for arts organizations that work with kids are welcomed.

Of course, the amount of money I am able to give to any one charity isn’t going to make much of a dent and I suspect the same is true for most of my readers (this is where we circle back to the comment about non-existent year-end bonuses). But my understanding is that charities need to raise some amount from the public to justify their status so in that sense number of donors should matter, not just the amount they give.

Finally, here is a link to the IRS’s Web page with the basics about charitable contribution deductions in case you’re not familiar with the specifics. Happy giving!

Links for 2006-12-31

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Project 365: #45-#51

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Chicagoland and Lake Michigan

Date taken: December 8, 2006

#45: An aerial view of Chicagoland, northern suburbs to be more precisely with a glimpse of the city skyline in the upper left corner. This was a flight from San Francisco and we must’ve had to wait quite a bit before landing, because there was no other reason to find ourselves that far northeast of the city (and O’Hare airport).

Willie in the tree

Date taken: December 9, 2006

#46: I spent Saturday on campus at Northwestern working. This is Willie, Northwestern’s mascot, in a tree that the staff in the Communication Studies Department office put up to celebrate the season. Note the baes of the tree: it’s our School of Communication T-shirt.

Friend's multimedia system

Date taken: December 10, 2006

#47: A friend had just gotten this wonderful flat-screen TV installed. I liked the contrast of the warm yellow walls and the dark gadgets on the wall.

The disappearance of the Sears Tower

Date taken: December 11, 2006

#48: The weather was pretty yucky in Chicago on the Monday of my visit. I had just gotten off the Metra (coming from Glenview) and was walking toward the El. I passed by the Sears Tower and found it intruiging in the clouds.

Happy Birthday ballooon on airplane

Date taken: December 12, 2006

#49: I was busy running around on the last day of my visit and didn’t have too many opportunities to take out my camera. Luckily, on the flight back, there was a kid in the row behind mine who had a birthday balloon with him. This being just a few days before my own birthday, I thought a picture of Elmo in the airplane would work well for the day. In the end, Elmo was also present at my birthday party a few days later where we played Pin the nose on Elmo.

Green carpet

Date taken: December 13, 2006

#50: Yahoo! Answers was celebrating its first birthday on this day and I managed to go to the party for an hour despite various other commitments that evening. The place was nicely decorated in green. The blur in this photo is just as well given how much running around I did that day. The party was fun and as usual, they handed out some fun swag.

Leaf-wrapped salmon

Date taken: December 14, 2006

#51: On Thursday, I was over at some friends’ for dinner. We got to eat some very tasty leaf-covered salmon.

Links for 2006-12-30

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

For geeks, revisited

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Two years ago (almost to this day), I took the quiz “Which file extension are you?” and came out as a wildcard aka *.

Today, I came across the quiz again and remembering that it had been fun, I took it again. The results have changed:

You are .exe When given proper orders, you execute them flawlessly.  You're familiar to most, and useful to all.

In light of the various options, I think I’m happy with either of these results.

Photo editing

Friday, December 29th, 2006

As if my photo hobby needed any added components, I have finally gotten around to doing a bit of editing on my photos. Here is one result:

Bike rack black and white with glow effect

There is a group on Flickr called Which do you prefer? where you can post a couple of photos and ask others to tell you which one they prefer and why. In response to such a request, a user suggested I try out my bike rack photo in black and white.

After changing it to B&W, I decided to play around with it a bit more. I ended up trying out the Glow effect under the Effects menu in the handy free Windows program Paint.NET. I used the following settings: Radius 3, Brightness 4 and Contrast 39. Above is the result. I think it works best with a black frame, thus the border around it.

By the way, this is the original:

Bike rack 3

Friday fun or frustration

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Time sink

If you haven’t seen the Grow Cube before then you are lucky and I do apologize for bringing it to your attention. I realize that it’s been around for a while, but some may have missed it. [No thanks to Marc Rittle for the link.]

If you don’t have hours to kill then a search for grow cube solution on your favorite search engine should do the trick. But I doubt you’ll appreciate it if you don’t spend at least a bit of time trying to figure out the solution on your own. No comment as to how much time.

Answers on

Friday, December 29th, 2006 has got to be one of my most visited sites. (Yahoo! Answers is another, but I’ll save that for later.) It is the site that Google uses for definitions and I use it often for spell checks.* I guess I find it easier to type a word in the search bar, press return and then click on the “definition” link in the upper right corner of the search results page than to designate Answers as my search engine of choice and type in the word there. This may be, because subsequent use of the search bar would then require another click to switch back to another engine.

In any case, today after I finished reading an article (this one) on the NYTimes site, I noticed the following below the piece:

To find reference information about the words used in this article, hold down the ALT key and click on any word, phrase or name. A new window will open with a dictionary definition or encyclopedia entry.

So I placed my cursor on a word, pressed the ALT key and clicked with my mouse. Voila. A window popped up with information from Answers about the word. (I have a pop-up blocker and this still came up so it’s of a different variety. You are also given the option of having it come up in a separate tab or window in the browser.) Cool feature.

Alternatively, of course there is always the option of using the ConQuery extension on Firefox and adding the relevant Answers plugin from MyCroft. That’s also my preferred way for locating addresses on Google Maps without having to retype them. But I like these little pop-up windows since they’re smaller, come up quickly and are easy to close.

[*] I have found that simply relying on the number of search results for a term is not a good indicator of correct spelling given the number of misspelled words out there.

Links for 2006-12-29

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Random thought: “I hate that word”

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

I hate it when people say “I hate that word” just after having used a word. If you hate it, don’t use it. If you just used it then accept the fact that it has some utility. It seems like such a cop-out.

I think I’ve seen the expression most often after the word blogosphere, but I just came across it for folksonomy as well.

I know, I know, now we can watch to see when I use this expression. I have no such plans though. If I hate it, I do my best to avoid it. Also, I may just have a different threshold regarding hateful sentiments toward words.

Random thoughts

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

I’ve been thinking about starting a new type of post on this blog: shorts posts with fairly random thoughts. For the most part, I don’t have time for long elaborate posts, but on occasion I do have random thoughts that would be fun to write down and perhaps of interest to the E-Blog fans who keep coming back despite the infrequently updated content around here. So if you see a “Random thought” headline, you’ve been warned.

Links for 2006-12-28

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Links for 2006-12-27

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Links for 2006-12-26

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Project 365: #38-#44

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Those of you who read my blog, but do not visit my Flickr account may be thinking that I abandoned Project 365 weeks ago. Not so! I have been very diligent about taking at least one photo (if not dozens) every day and designating one for the Project 365 set each day. Before the year is over, I hope to catch up with posting these to the blog.

Decadence table

Taken: December 1, 2006

#38: At the last social hour at the Center, we decided to expand the Wine Committee into the Decadence Committee, because, well, some of us don’t like wine, but more importantly: there are more ways than one to be decadent. So we created a Cheese Committee and a Chocolate Committee. Which one do you think I’m in? These were the fruits of our labor. More coming next time.

Red fountain water

Taken: December 2, 2006

#39: In honor of the big Stanford-Cal football game the next day, the fountain water was turned red (bright pink is a more like what it was, but I am assuming the goal was red).


Taken: December 3, 2006

#40: I got a great deal on Cranium Pop 5 (<$11 including shipping!) and as soon as it arrived, I had some friends over for a game. This is my teammate’s rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which needless to say, I guessed.:)

Project 365 email

Taken: December 4, 2006

#41: Screenshot of an email singing the praises of Project 365 and why more who like photography should join! (hint)

Sex and the City book cover

Taken: December 5, 2006

#42: Sex and the City Kiss and Tell book, a must for any SATC fan.

Orange leaves, blue sky

Taken: December 6, 2006

#43: Leaves in the Center parking lot.

Taken: December 7, 2006

#44: Spotted on East Campus Drive at Stanford, reminded me of all the work my project group and I are doing.. although likely not quite the same type of surveying.

Links for 2006-12-25

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Links for 2006-12-24

Sunday, December 24th, 2006


Sunday, December 24th, 2006

I just put in an order for the Gorillapod that has come recommended to me by a couple of fellow Flickrites. You can get free ground shipping and a 15% discount if you buy it on Joby and put in the code gorillapodlove, which is something they’ve made available until the end of this year. (That Flickr group page says 10%, but it was 15% off.) Enjoy!

UPDATE (12/26/06): I had a bad experience trying to use Paypal for payment and in the end it didn’t work. Joby seems to care about customer experiences so I emailed them about this, but the response I received was very generic. So take note that 1. you may not be able to use Paypal for a purchase on; and 2. don’t bother sending an email to

Links for 2006-12-23

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006