Monday, December 19, 2005

Jargon as a window to culture

In my job as a customer service rep, I often need to spell a word clearly to somebody. I had a vague remembrance of some kind of spoken alphabet (perhaps dating from the days of military radio), alpha bravo charlie, etc.

If you have a Palm PDA and just want an easy reminder, here's a link where you can download AlphaBravo v.1 by Nathan Hjermstad. Basically, his version is:

Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliet Kilo Lima Mike
November Oscar Papa Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango Uniform Victor Whiskey Xray Yankee Zulu

I've altered his alphabet a bit, partly because "Charlie" seems like an odd choice to me, since it doesn't begin with the typical sound that C has:
alpha bravo carton delta echo foxtrot golf hotel India Juliette kilo laughter minor november Omaha paper Quebec Romeo Sierro tango uniform victor window xray yankee zebra

It might be fun to develop special alphabets:
Acura Beamer Cadillac Dodge Edsel Ford...

or algerian battenberg (or bargello, or broderie perse, or Belgian) cartridge-pleated (or cutwork)... gobelin honiton (or Holbein)...needlepoint...ruching...tatting...venice...

But before I found the alphabet I'd been seeking, I googled "alpha bravo" and turned up this interesting link about jargon used by Viet Nam vets.

Glossary of Viet Nam jargon

Which reminded me that I have a CD of Viet Nam era military songs -- which bear, not surprisingly, a strong resemblance to a few songs my Dad sang from World War II. The CD is called "In Country: Folk Songs of Americans in the Vietnam War" from Flying Fish Records, available at Amazon.

This is apparently not the only CD compilation of Vietnam-war-era songs.

From a post on I read, "Another interesting collection of military music, not Vietnam, is a CD available through a former SF Medic in Vietnam, Michael McCann. His website is"

Now I need to dig further into some World War II sites, so I can understand some of the slang used in Nevil Shute's REQUIEM FOR A WREN, which I heard recently as an audio book. What was a bishop, for instance? In context, they might have been some kind of tank -- involved in frontline activity during D-Day.

-- Rachel

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Save traditional music & lore

save traditional music & lore
Originally uploaded by net2photos.
Here's a photo of me (the one in glasses) and my coworker Andres Galvis. Folk music has always been a love of mine, and I am excited by the opportunity to store it in digital formats.

Search FLICKR for "netsquared" and "net2" for more photos about our project to change the world.

-- Rachel

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005


DYE DILUTED BY HALVES -- for creating different shades of the same color

Begin with strong dye in 2 c. water in bag #1.

Take out 1 c., pour into bag #2. Bag #1 has 1 c. remaining.

Add 1 c. water to bag #2. Now you have 2 c., at half the original strength.

Take out 1 c., pour into bag #3. Bag #2 has 1 c. at half strength.

Add 1 c. water to bag #3. Bag #3 now has 2 c. at 1/4 strength.

Take out 1 c., pour into bag #4. Bag #3 has 1 c. at 1/4 strength.

Add 1 c. to bag #4, add 1 c. water -- 1/8 strength.

Remove 1 c. from bag #4.

Pour into bag #5, add 1 c. water -- 1/16 strength.


[Dyeing is easily done in ziploc bags, as long as you're dyeing relatively small pieces of fabric -- half a yard or less]

-- Rachel

PS It's all Dharma Trading Company's fault (and Cherrywood Fabric's)
Especially take a look at Dharma's Gallery
Shown above is a fabulous tie-dye shirt by Al Wright from the Dharma website

Some Cherrywood bundles

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

ICE your cell phone

I've been hearing a lot lately about ICEing a cell phone.

ICE stands for IN CASE of EMERGENCY, and the idea is to enter into your cell's phone book one or more numbers under the ID "ICE". So mine now has "ICE - My Home" and "ICE - My Sister".

Emergency personnel are being trained to look at your cell phone directory for ICE listings in order to contact your family members, etc.

-- Rachel

Phone replaced, phone lost, NEW phone

I've had T-Mobile since about 2001, with a cute little Motorola V66 phone. No frills, but I'm told it's the smallest phone ever made. Finally I got tired of the way my original phone (a) seemed to be losing volume, so I could barely hear callers, and (b) could not work with a hands-free setup. So I ordered a refurbished V66 from Except for the fact that a promised FM radio headset was not provided (and Overstock was willing to give me $10 gift cert for my next purchase, but NOT willing to offer a $10 refund; PLUS the incorrect information was STILL on their website the last I looked), the new phone worked great. Of course, all my numbers were in my old phone, but after I moved the SIM card to the new phone, the old phone wouldn't recognize it.

I only had the new phone a few weeks before I lost it during my commute home at the end of September. It never appeared again, so I went online and ordered a new phone. It finally arrived Monday night -- without a SIM card. And the only East Bay store that could provide me with a SIM card was closed.

So yesterday at lunch, my friend Brandi and I went up to the T-Mobile store on Market in San Francisco and got a SIM card; now I have a working picture phone. But it appears that every single new feature that my new phone has, will cost me additional service fees to utilize. California gives me 30 days to return the phone, so I may not keep it. What I liked about T-Mobile was a predictable, small bill. If the new phone's capabilities make my phone bill balloon, T-Mobile has not done me any favors. I hope I can block the features I don't want to pay for.

-- Rachel Holmen

Sunday, September 11, 2005


1) It seems that the internet account circulating about the 2 paramedics trying to leave New Orleans was true. The woman was actually interviewed extensively on NPR Saturday Sept. 10 on the show "This American Life". See

2) At least until the end of last week, the Red Cross was not allowed into New Orleans.
American Red Cross FAQ
"The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city."

3) Charmaine Neville (of the same family that produced the musicians The Neville Brothers) was interviewed about the complete lack of help for people in her part of flooded New Orleans. She rescued people by boat but no helicopters would help them get off rooftops. Alligators ate people. See the original video. There is also a
text transcript.

4) A church in Oklahoma offered its summer camp space for refugees, but fresh food was refused -- refugees will be fed two MREs a day -- and clothing was rejected; in spite of good kitchens in each cabin, nobody will be allowed to cook. Local churches offered to pick people up on Sundays and bring them to town for church services; but the camp director said that anyone who left the camp for any reason would not be allowed back in. Even the depression-era Hoovervilles were better run!

5) A nurse who helped out at the Superdome said that even the elderly and the nursing mothers were lined up in 90 degree sun to wait for busses that staff knew weren't coming; several people died from this treatment. Read her blog.

6) There's been a link circulated that purports to show dogs in New Orleans being shot. I can't possibly watch it.

I'll try to post links to where I heard or read each of these, but the information seems credible.

-- Rachel

You can help re. Katrina; no money required

If you can cut and paste information from one screen to another, you can help katrina victims locate each other.

--Rachel Holmen

Friday, August 26, 2005

Two Special Exhibits -- Worth Your While

My friend Barbara Gersh and I went to the Tibet exhibit last week at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It's only a two-block walk from the Civic Center BART stop, and Thursdays after 5 pm the admission is only $5. The Nehru-style jacket woven from peacock feathers was astounding; but mostly the exhibit is small statues and painted banners. What fascinated me was how similar some of the items, especially some jewelry, was to some Celtic pieces I've seen. The exhibit is over soon -- it only runs until September 11, and then it moves overseas.

And for three brief days, the Marin Needlework Arts Guild presents one of the major quilt shows of the Bay Area, from September 2 to 4 -- so it's Labor Day weekend, but NOT Labor Day itself.

Click here to see more details about the show.

-- Rachel

Friday, June 17, 2005

Trying to whip the garden into shape

Georgia Bluets

Karl Lagerfeld Rose


With the help of a man in my neighborhood who will pull weeds industriously (though for what seems an outrageous amount of money), my front yard is looking better these days, and I have invested in some plants, mostly plants that have blue flowers. Phacelia, commelina, penstemon, Georgia bluets, Chinese larkspur, lobelia. Interspersed are white flowers -- mostly bacopa, which trails nicely, and some yellow fllowers. I've bought a few purple flowers as well -- lavendar and a morning glory variant. As I plant things, I put down mulch cloth around the plants, and then add small rocks. It's astounding how many rocks you need, actually. I have bought several hundred pounds and clearly I will have to arrange for them to deliver a ton to the driveway before I am done. -- Rachel




Friday, April 29, 2005

Permanent employment with benefits

I have been offered, and accepted, a permanent position at CompuMentor as an Associate Customer Service Representative. I'll be working for the TechSoup Stock division, where I have been a temp off and on since the middle of last May.

Yay, health insurance!!!!! -- Rachel

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Artwork for Sale

Margaret Organ-Kean, Illustrator

My friend Margaret Organ-Kean is an extremely talented artist, and she's put some Tshirts, tote bags, and posters on her website.

Margaret and I met during the World Fantasy Convention in Seattle in -- what? 1989? -- and then were part of the same APA. Later, when I unexpectedly became an art director, I contacted her, and she became a regular contributor to Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY agazine, providing fabulous black and white work a bit reminiscent of the work of Aubrey Beardsley, and a couple of color covers. She's doing more color work now, which you'll see on her site.

-- Rachel

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fool

I heard recently about a computer trick you could try on a friend. Of course, afterwards they might not be your friend any more.....

Go to their computer when they're out of the room, minimize any open windows, and press the PrintScreen button. This will save the entire desktop to the clipboard.

Open MS Paint, press Ctrl-V to paste, and save the resulting picture as a BMP file -- let's say you save it as "C:/deskfoto.bmp". Close the paint program.

Rightclick anywhere in the open desktop, and you'll get a menu that starts with "Arrange Icons by...". One of its choices is "Show Desktop Icons". Uncheck this to hide all their desktop icons. Then using the Display section of the Control Panel (see "settings' in the start menu), make note of their existing desktop picture (so you can restore things to their rightful place before your friend kills you), and replace their desktop picture with C:/deskfoto.bmp.

They will try to click on their usual icons, but since it's only a picture, nothing will happen. -- Rachel

P.S. Or you could leave their icons displayed, change their background as described, and .... MOVE a few of the real icons. The potential for mischief is high.

Botanical Illustration

Perennial Flower Illustrations at the Glasgow University Library

Well, I missed this exhibit in 1995, but there's a nice webpage about it that's still up, and in fact was revised in 1999. There aren't as many sample illustrations as I'd like -- only a handful, in fact -- but there's still fascinating information here. For instance, I learned that a 1554 book of illustrations, overseen by a physician, used "cross-hatching ... to display contours and varying thickness of line to indicate depth. Some coloured copies exist but these were published as black and white and then coloured by their owners." And that the first colored book of botanical illustrations was published in 1752. -- Rachel

Finally starting to feel human again

Today my Palm alarm woke me at 8 (when I am normally at my office and about to start my shift answering phones, so I have the Palm nag me so I'll stop whatever I'm doing and take up my phone task); the office where I work as a long-term temp is closed today in observance of a California state holiday, the birthday of labor organizer Cesar Chavez.

(It does seem odd that the day of the observance is -- April Fools Day.)

I realized that I was actually breathing through my nose -- which meant it's not so stopped up any more, and that I didn't ache all over or feel feverish. I didn't rush out of bed or anything, but by noon I had eaten some Grapenuts, toasted some cashews for a snack later, and tackled the sinkful of dirty dishes that had accumulated while I was ill. -- Rachel

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Home with a cold

I've spent the first half of this week home with what I guess is a bad cold, which hit Sunday morning and has kept me in bed except for brief trips to the kitchen (luckily I started a lentil soup on Saturday) for food. I'm taking Cold-Eeze, which contains zinc which is supposed to help; but they warn in the fine print to avoid taking it on an empty stomach. I'm not sure the zinc has helped, but the soup has been a lifesaver. Nothing fancy: lentils, water, a large sauteed onion, two stalks of celery, a couple of cubes of chicken boullion (sp?), and a handful of minute rice. -- Rachel

Thursday, January 27, 2005

MacWorld 2005 San Francisco

Early in January every year, I go to MacWorld at Moscone Center in San Francisco. This year I spent parts of three days, which was not enough, but I had other commitments. Here I am, all ready for the Expo to open on Tuesday morning. You can click on this link to see a movie of the crowds pouring down the escalator into the entry area. MOVIE

Of course I love high-tech gadgets. (I joke that I inherited this tendency from my dad.) Here are two different TINY speakers for your iPod. The one on the right is designed to leave in one place; come in and plunk your iPod into the middle and away it plays. The set on the left fascinated me, clearly designed for the Road Warrior. The case has a cover that slides open to play; that uncovers a set of connectors for jacks from the iPod. Disconnect the cables and close the cover, and the whole unit slides into a large-ish pocket. All in stylish white, of course. Now I just need an iPod.

Now that we've gotten used to carrying our entire audio libraries with us, Several vendors want to persuade us to carry all our videos as well. Here's a nice-looking player from Epson, which I liked more than any of the other similar devices that I saw.

Some of the most interesting booths are usually in the center back of the exhibit hall, behind the big Apple.

(But of course, I had to stop and admire the new tiny new Mac-ette: here's the banner flying over the Apple pavilion.)

One booth I enjoyed sold bags and carrying cases for practically anything. Their booth was wonderfully low-tech, with walls built from oil drums on the outside, plywood on the inside that was painted with blackboard paint. Artists had drawn outlines of people, and the
bags were draped around the drawings. And there was plenty of chalk, so every day the booth walls got more and more crowded with notes, drawings, aphorisms, and phone numbers. The booth featured other low-tech as well: they actually had a manual typewriter for receipts, and a battery-operated record player used old LPs to provide musical ambiance.

Then there was my buddy the robot, reminding me of Clayton Bailey's finest.

My lunch stop was at little crepe place hidden in the back right corner, where I had a wonderful savory lunch. In case the Moscone exhibit hall view was getting a bit dull, a whole village of miniature buildings surrounded the booth, complete with Victorian painted ladies, the domed centerpiece next to the Exploratorium, and the TransAmerica pyramid!

Then it was back into the fray. I was very impressed by the wall of experts at the Canon booth; they seemed ready to field ANY question you might have about photography, digital cameras, lenses, and photo printing.

Before I left, I wandered into the main section of the hall again, and noticed this very effective, semi-transparent banner for a mouse manufacturer. Behind this was the John Lennon bus -- but more tomorrow.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Hawaii Quilt Blocks

Above is the "dark" variant, with a dark green strip around the center square. Below is the "light" variant, with a light blue strip around the center square.

When I make this particular quilt, I always get two sets of blocks. This time I have made 4 dark and 4 light blocks, and I will make two lap quilts. I love the beautiful Hawaiian-themed floral fabric (are these ginger flowers?) in the center.

Beautiful crocheted hat

My sister crochets beautiful hats.

She likes to use acrylic yarn since she's allergic to wool.

Joyce and Dad

My sister and my dad

My Mom

My Mom and I like to work on jigsaw puzzles together (JPEG Image, 579x400 pixels)

Just call us the Couchettes

JPG image, 572x400 pixelsRachel, Joyce, and Katie.

Someone snapped this picture of us on Christmas day.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

East Bay Heritage Quilters - Northern California

East Bay Heritage Quilters - Northern California

I'm a member of the East Bay Heritage Quilters. We have dropins on Tuesdays and on Saturdays (not every week, but frequently). And once a month we hold a Saturday workshop, a Monday workshop, and a Monday evening meeting with announcements, workshop signups, and a presentation which is usually a slide lecture but may also be a fashion show or quilt show. Members can check out books from a terrific library.

Generally the lectures are the last Monday each month, but in May the meeting is the next-to-last Monday, there is no July meeting, and there is no December meeting. (Dropins continue through all months.)