pen rainbow

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mini-Post Thursday—Play With Your Food

Ah manna ee-choo!
I believe I can commit to doing this!  Click on the link below & have fun making your own delicious masterpiece.

The Sandwich Artist

Wednesday—Good for You, Good for The Home: Water Heaters

An old Rheem lurks in the corner
When it comes to water heaters, always buy a model with the longest warranty.  

Geez, I hate replacing water heaters!  But, it comes with owning a home, so if you're in the market for a new one, check out today's blog.

The One I Bought
Introducing my shiny, new, high-efficiency Premium Plus American water heater!  Yay, it has an expansion tank on top that regulates changes in pressure caused by heating and cooling the water.

Normally, pressure changes happen inside of the main tank, and over time, this causes stress on the unit.  This cool little expansion tank has an expandable bladder inside that relieves pressure from inside of the main tank, which helps the tank last longer.  Pretty cool, eh?  Bottom line, you want to take simple measures like this that will help the unit last longer.  

12-Year Warranty
Another simple thing to do is to purchase water heaters with long warranties.  The longest warranty on a gas unit is twelve years.  They start at 6-year warranties for the cheaper models.  In the case of water heaters, you get what you pay for, and a unit that has a longer warranty is designed to last longer. Fwiw, our old Rheem unit was installed prior to 2000, so it was at least 12 years old when it finally gave up the ghost.

For additional info on wrapping your water heater to reduce heat loss, click HERE.

The Honest Plumber
I used The Honest Plumber in Henderson, Nevada.  They had lots of recently posted positive online reviews, which is important because if things don't go well, people are likely these days to post a warning to others.  They were not too far away; they accepted major credit cards; and they gave me a quote on the same day that I called for an  appointment.  They also have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and they offer 4 different kinds of discounts: senior citizen, military, teacher, and police & fire.  They are a member of the non-profit Nevada PHCC (Plumbing—Heating—Cooling Contractors association), promoting education, training, and advancement of the industry.  And last year, they were voted one of the Best Places to Work in Las Vegas in 2011 by the online business publication, Vegas INC.  

I like bigger companies when it comes to plumbing and appliances because they usually have more parts on hand, and they have a larger fleet of workers, which generally makes them more available.  There's nothing worse than having a company tell you that they can't provide emergency help because their offices are closed.  

Installation Day
Mark came out in the early afternoon to give me a free quote, and after I did a little checking on the model that I was interested in, I called back and confirmed that I wanted them to do the job.  Same day installation was an option, but I wanted to do my homework first, and I did not want to tie up the rest of my afternoon.  Their excellent office assistant called back & scheduled me for the next day.  

Mark and his helper, Ken, showed up around 9 a.m. this morning, hauled the old, leaky unit up and over two flights of stairs (inside & out), and got the new unit back into place.  Ken (super nice guy) left, and Mark (awesome worker) diligently worked to hook up the new unit.  They were efficient, professional, and careful about making a mess.  They were pros all the way, including the super-friendly office staff.

I did my part to get things started by cleaning the work area so that furniture and other items were not in the workspace.  I covered the granite countertop near the water heater with an old towel and provided a large, black garbage bag for trash.  I also provided a broom, a Swiffer wet mop, access to old towels & rags, and a dustbuster.  When the guys were outside grabbing stuff out of their truck, I darted in and cleaned up oil drips on the wall area behind the water heater.  I stayed out of the way and worked nearby on my laptop to assist, if needed.  The whole job took about 5 hours from beginning to end.

Here are the before & after pix!  

The old Rheem 40-gal tank

…and $2,095 later
New 40-gal, high-efficiency, 12-year warranty
American Premium Plus

…the spiffy expansion tank
A flexible bladder controls pressure changes
inside of the main tank
…excellent work, Mark!
A real pro!
Time for a glass of Spanish red, some veggie strata for supper, and a hot bath!  Here's to you and taking care of your home.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday—The Movie Corner: HUGO directed by Martin Scorsese

If you see only one of this year's Academy Award nominated movies, choose this one!

Academy Award Nominated
Wow, wow, wow—HUGO is a true work of art, flawlessly executed by master filmmaker and film historian, Martin Scorsese.  Go see it, but only in 3D.  It is beyond beautiful, state-of-the-art 3D, and visually breathtaking.  Nominated for Academy Awards in 11 categories, including Best Director and Best Picture.  It has already won a Golden Globe for Best Director, and it is sure to win Oscars.     

The Book
The movie is based on the 526-page children's graphic novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Martin Selznick.  This book won the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children in 2008.  

The Story
It's about a 12-year old boy named Hugo Cabret, the son of a talented watchmaker (played by Jude Law in the movie) who lives in Paris in the 1930's.  His father's fascination with mechanical things leads him to purchase a discarded automaton (mechanical man) from a burned out museum collection, which he begins to restore with his son, using spare parts from his watchmaking business.   

Hugo's father dies unexpectedly, and Hugo ends up living with his drunkard uncle in a hidden attic apartment above a train depot in Paris.  His uncle teaches him how to maintain the train station clocks, and when the uncle disappears, Hugo takes over as the timekeeper.  He continues to live alone and in secrecy within the walls of the train station, stealing food from the depot market and small parts for his automaton from a toy vendor (played by Sir Ben Kingsley in the movie) named Georges Méliès.  

One day, he is caught stealing from the toy vendor, and rather than turn him over to the police inspector (played by Sacha Baron Cohen), Monsieur Méliès decides to make the boy work off his debt as an assistant in the toy booth.  The character of George Méliès is based on the real-life French filmmaker by the same name who created hundreds of early silent films from 1890 into the 1920's.  He made the first Sci-Fi film called, A Trip To The Moon, containing a very famous scene of a rocket shooting into the eye of the moon. You'll see how all of this works in the plot of this very entertaining movie!

Inspiration for Older Kids
The Oscar-winning director, Martin Scorsese, known for crime thrillers and graphic depictions of violence, said that he made the movie after his wife asked him to make a film that would make their 12-year old daughter, Francesca, proud.  

This vibrant PG movie moves along slowly as the intricate relationships between the characters and their convoluted histories unfold.  Young kids will probably be bored, older teens will probably leave before the end of the movie, but it is perfect for tweens.  The interweaving story lines provide a rich canvas for the director's passion for early cinema, and in order to get the most out of this movie, viewers should be old enough to appreciate the development of cinematic art.  

If you know a kid who is old enough to sit still in a movie, but still young enough to be inspired (I recommend it for kids who read a lot), by all means, take him/her/them to see HUGO.  It's also a great date night movie for parents!  Look for cameos by some of the Harry Potter stars, as well as an appearance by the author of the book playing one of Monsier Méliès' students.  

A Happy Ending
Nothing bad happens in this movie, and there are no disturbing scenes.  It won't scare the beejeezus out of anyone.  It has a heartfelt story and a happy ending.       

It is simply a beautiful, magical, creative movie.  The child stars—Asa Butterfield as Hugo & Chloë Grace Moretz, as his wonderful, eccentric friend—are utterly enchanting.  Go see it, but only in 3D.  This is among my favorite movies of all time, and I will go see it again on the big screen in 3D.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday's Art Gallery—Photo Texturing

Adding depth, dimension & mood to your photos
Brainier  •  Bolder •  More Beautiful

These are my 2012 New Year's resolutions.  First up…brainier!  That means learning something new, so I decided to start by adding to my online skill set.  I'm taking a year-long, online photo texturing class taught by Kim Klassen, a gifted Canadian graphic artist, folk art painter, and photographer.

I knew about Kim through my talented mother-in-law who has always inspired me creatively and artistically.  Sally had been taking texturing classes from Kim for over a year, and her photos were reaching new levels of awesomeness.  I had a little experience with texturing when I was working in 3D virtual reality, but I had none in 2D.  I took Kim's freebie "Textures in Ten" video tutorial, and after a few tries, I had the basics.

the old Pioche opera house wall

Kim is so generous with both her knowledge and her skills.  For one brief moment in her instructional video, she described textures as simple jpegs, and that's when a light went on for me.  A texture is a simple jpeg…der!  I knew that.  I had created original textures in 3D, but I wasn't used to thinking of them as layered fx on photos.  Of course, yes!

I've been taking pix of interesting textures since 2007, so I thought I'd try my amateur's hand at making my own photo textures.  Here's what I was able to do with a distressed painted wall from the side of the old opera house in Pioche, Nevada.

lafayette reservoir pelican ~ new year's day 2012 

same texture layered on top of a
photo I took in NYC 

I'm just starting to learn how to apply textures under Kim's gentle tutelage, along with encouragement from the very supportive class community.  Even with beautiful, original textures, it takes patience, good skills in Photoshop &/or Photoshop Elements, and a very good eye to use them effectively.

We get an assignment each week, and I'll post my results on flikr as we go!

Woohoo, I feel a little bit brainer already!

Mini-Post Thursday—The Bark Side

Pretty sure I won't be able to get my cats  to do this… 

Recognize this song (click for the You Tube)?  Sure you do!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday—Good for You, Good for the Home: Eva Zeisel

When asked how to make something beautiful:  "You just have to get out of the way."  ~Eva Zeisel  1906  - 2011
Steve Jobs talked about the influence that simple, organic design had on his personal sense of aesthetics when it came to designing Apple products.  Apple II's clean lines and beige housing were inspired by the smooth, plastic casing of a kitchen appliance—the Cuisinart food processor.  Hooray for kitchen appliances!

As it turns out, the inventor of the Cuisinart was an MIT-educated electrical engineer named Carl Sontheimer, a native New Yorker who developed a love of cooking while growing up in France.  Cuisine + art = Cuisinart!  

Retro blenders on display at the Oakland Airport

Mid-Century Modernist Design
When optimal aesthetics and optimal usage are in balance, we have good industrial design.  This is where Hungarian-born designer, Eva Zeisel made her mark.  She, along with other mid-century modernists like Mary & Russel Wright and Charles & Ray Eames, brought relaxed elegance and Bauhaus style to the dinner tables and living rooms of middle-class Americans.

Her History
Like Steve Jobs, Eva was a college drop-out.  Inspired by her aunt's peasant pottery collection, she withdrew after three semesters from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest and began a journeyman's apprenticeship with a member of the guild of chimney sweepers, oven makers, roof tilers, well diggers and potters.  As a 19-year old journeyman, she traveled to Paris and visited the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, where Art Deco originated and her exposure to modernist design began.  Her initial impression was that the modernist style was too cold and lacked humanity.

By 1928, she was designing tableware for a ceramics manufacturer in Germany.  She moved to Berlin in 1930 and immersed herself in German and Bauhaus modernism.  By 1935, she was working at the former imperial porcelain factory in Leningrad, Russia.  While working with classic designs, she realized that the clean lines of modernism could be combined with the graceful elegance of traditional ceramics.  

In 1936, while working in Moscow as the artisic director of the Russian republic's china and glass industry, she was arrested and falsely accused of trying to assassinate Stalin.  She spent sixteen months in prison, twelve of those months in solitary confinement.  She was released without explanation in 1937 and expelled to Vienna.  During this time, she re-established contact with her future husband, a lawyer/sociologist named Hans Zeisel, and shortly after the Nazis invaded Vienna, she took the last train out to Britain.  They reconnected in England, married, and emigrated to the United States.

In 1939, she began teaching ceramics as industrial design rather than craft at the Pratt Institue in Brooklyn.  It was during this time at Pratt that she was commissioned by Castleton China in Pennsylvania to create a modernist line of dinnerware for the Museum of Modern Art.   The organically fluid "Museum" table service was released in 1946, resulting in critical acclaim and commercial success in the U.S.  

Hallcraft — A commercially successful line
of Eva Zeisel tableware

Commercial Success
Ms. Zeisel continued to work as an industrial designer for the rest of her life, though not as much in the area of commercial production as in the decorative arts.  She helped define mid-century modern style by infusing everyday household objects with humanity and humor.  She often said that the playful shapes and gentle curves of her tableware were inspired by the interplay between mother and child.  

Want some updated Eva Zeisel dinnerware of your own?  The smart folks at Crate and Barrel have created a line that is based on her Hallcraft designs:

Crate & Barrel's Eva Zeisel reproduction Hallcraft dinnerware — Classic Century 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mini-Post Thursday—What Dogs Want

Spot on...

What Dogs Want by Lisa Hanawalt

Smilies by dsmp

Wednesday—Good for You, Good for The Home: Fitbit!

Sleek & smart design
Get moving & get healthy with this cool little activity tracker by fitbit!

I've never been a fan of pedometers because they were cumbersome to wear and usually didn't give me a lot of information.  I'd end up with impresssive numbers, but it was up to me to figure out what it all meant.

Until fitbit!

2.125 inches long
.75 of an inch wide
.5625 of an inch thick
weighs .4 of an ounce (11.34 grams).

This cool little device is diminutive and durable enough to stay attached to your clothing all day long.  I've worn mine during several trips through airports and around Disney World for a week.  I wear mine all day.  It goes on first thing in the morning when I get dressed and stays on until I plug it into its recharger before I go to bed at night.

It is made of hard, black plastic and is worn as a clip on a pants pocket or waistband.  The interior of the clip comes in 2 colors, azure blue or fuscia pink (they call it "plum").  It has a simple, single-button control that cycles through 6 modes:

Floors climbed
Calories burned
Overall recent activity (this shows up as a flower that grows with your activity)
Timer / Clock
Just the right size - 2"L x .75"W x .5"D

The OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display is blue, and it will silently chatter encouraging words during the day.  You can also personalize your display and customize the chatter.  It's nice to get those supportive little messages!  And, when you hit certain achievement levels, will send a surprise e-badge to your account and to your email.  I love 'em!  Minute-to-minute data is stored for 7 days, and daily totals for calories, distance, and steps are stored for a month.  Battery life without a recharge is 3 days.  

Wireless Sync
The six features and memory storage, plus the convenient size and Mac/PC compatabilities, combine to make this a really great little tool.  But, what makes it uber-practical is that it syncs up to your free account either through the recharger base station which plugs into your computer's USB port or wirelessly whenever the tracker is within 15 feet of the base and relatively still.  So, what you get is an ongoing source of current data with 95 to 97 percent accuracy and the ability to check your progress.  You can track progress online, and there is also an iPhone app.    

I'm a big picture thinker, so I love the weekly progress reports that are sent to my email.  I get the weekly totals, and it tells me which days were my most and least active.

Sleepy Time
Along with daytime activity, fitbit also tracks sleep patterns.  It comes with a wristband that is worn while you sleep, then uploaded to in the morning (when placed onto the recharger or by wireless).  It tracks what time you went to bed, how long it took before you fell asleep, times awakened, time spent in bed, and time spent asleep.  The relationship between daily activity, weight, and a good night's sleep is well known.  Fitbit provides real time stats on how you sleep!  Pretty cool.

fitbit tracks sleep patterns

Browser Supported

Mac & PC Reqs
Windows XP / Vista / 7
Mac OS X 10.4.11+, 10.5+ and 10.6 (32- and 64-bit)
USB port
Internet access

$99.95 + free shipping for the newest version, the fitbit ultra, which has some updated features from the original.  Purchase it online from the fitbit website.

Con (and a half)
The only con that I've run into has to do with calibrating the length of my footsteps.  This came up when I was traipsing around Disney World for seven days with my hubby, and we were walking the same distance for the same amount of time each day.  Within the first hour of walking, he was outpacing me on footsteps, and by the end of the day, he was at least a half of a mile ahead of me.  We figured that this had something to do with the length of our strides.  There is a lot of information online about calibrating the fitbit, some easier to understand than others.  Our solution:  Don't compare fitbit notes with your spouse.

The half-con is that it is not waterproof.  It is designed for normal use (walking or running) and is moisture resistant, but you have to protect it if you're expecting to get wet.  I used to pour cups of water over my head when I was running, so I'd have to put it someplace waterproof.  I've yet to try my fitbit while running.

Happy 2012 & get moving!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tuesday's Cupboard—Dipping Into A New Year

Delicious & healthy, Feta & Spinach Dip
2 fast & healthy dips to start the year off right!  

Creamy Mexican Dip and Feta & Spinach Dip

I made these dips over the holidays, so they have been kitchen tested by moi.  They are low-fat (from Weight Watchers online), easy to make, and excellent served with burritos, tacos (Creamy Mexican Dip), and homemade baked pita chips (Feta & Spinach Dip).  They are also great for brown bagging it with fresh, cut-up veggies and chicken wraps.  :::nom nom nom nom:::

Creamy Mexican Dip
Adapted from Weight Watchers online - Makes 8 servings - 1/4 c. per serving
Prep time:  15 minutes

1 c. plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt (I use Fage)
1/2 c. fresh mild salsa (in the refrigerated case at the grocery store); chipotle-style, if they have it *
3/4 of a med-size avocado, diced (leave the last 1/4 avo for the garnish)
1/3 c. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 c. red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

* If you can't find fresh salsa chipotle-style, add 1/2 tsp. McCormick chipotle chili powder, or leave it out altogether if you don't like chipotle.

1/4 avocado, diced
1 T. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T. red onion, chopped

Make It
In a medium bowl, stir together yogurt & salsa until blended.  Stir in remaining ingredients except garnishes.  Cover & refrigerate a few hours, or serve right away.  Note that the avos in the dip will start to turn brown if you leave the dip in the fridge overnight.  It tastes just as good, but it's not as pretty.

Add garnishes before serving.

❈     ❈     ❈    ❈     ❈

Feta & Spinach Dip
Adapted from Weight Watchers online - Makes 8 servings - 3 T. per serving
Prep time:  15 minutes

Needed equipment:  food processor

4 c. fresh, prewashed baby spinach
1/2 c. Neufchâtel cream cheese (or, any low-fat cream cheese) (1/2 of an 8 oz. package)
1/2 c. nonfat sour cream or 0% fat Fage Greek yogurt
1/4 c. crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese (Athenos makes reduced-fat feta)
1/4 c. fresh chives, chopped (I used one whole small, plastic container of fresh chives)
2 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Make It
Place fresh, prewashed baby spinach into a food processor & pulse a few times to chop it down to medium-sized pieces.  Add the cream cheese + sour cream + feta cheese + chives + lemon juice + salt & pepper (everything, but the paprika).  Foop to combine.  The spinach will chop down even further, so don't overprocess it or it will become a smooth, green spread.  (That would be good, too!)

The original recipe says to chop & cook the spinach for 1 minute, then blend in the rest of the ingredients in a blender.  Why lose some of the nutritional value of the spinach if you don't have to?  4 cups of fresh spinach, even if it's chopped, would be a tight squeeze in a blender, but you could try it if you don't have a foop.

Serving Suggestions
Spoon into a serving bowl.  Sprinkle top with paprika.  Refrigerate or serve right away.  This holds up well for leftovers.  Delicious on 100-cal, whole-wheat Smart tortillas that have been cut into wedges & oven toasted!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monday—The Reading Corner: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

our garage computers
"The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life." 
 ~Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford University Commencement

Describing the effect of this book is a little like trying to tell someone what it feels like to stand on earth that is younger than you are.  It sounds cool, but it does not compare to being there.  Fly to Kona on the Big Island, and drive the choppy and challenging Saddle Road over to Hilo.  Ascend Kilauea and navigate the road around the volcano's caldera.  When you see signs that say that the ground you are on was formed after you were born, you are there.  The journey is what makes it worth it.  

Mountain View, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Hare Krishna, meditation, the Whole Earth Catalog, Atari, Xerox PARC, Basic, Pascal, microprocessors, Apple Lisa, Next, rainbow apple stickers, beige electronics, desktop computing, boardroom coups, secret negotiations, tradeshows, investors—breathtaking --- technological --- progress.  These are snapshots from my early adult life.  

I was 21 when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to finish college.  This was six years before the Mac was introduced and a couple of decades before anyone could imagine that desktop computers would be as plentiful as macraméd plant hangers.  I was on the sidelines of what was happening in SiliconValley, quietly graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree that none of my friends or family really understood (Linguistics).  One of my last classes was a grad class in natural-sounding, computer-generated language. I had taken classes in syntax, phonetics, phonology, and Pascal, and my fiancé was completing his Master's in Computer Science.   

I got married and went to secretarial school for a year so that I could get a job in an office.  In 1984, the Mac was out, and we were both employed.  Giant shoulder pads and all, we were 20-Something yuppies riding the wave of technology that spread from Silicon Valley to the 6' x 6' workstation cubicles and beginner homes of the Bay Area.  

As the technology developed at breakneck speed, engineering and marketing also evolved.  Everything was changing before our eyes and what was good about technology, design, and industry presentation became :::dazzling::: thanks to Steve Jobs and those who worked with him.  
photo by mylrdude - wikimedia commons
I remember when Steve Jobs was booted from Apple in 1985.  On the one hand, it was really kind of unbelievable that Apple had fired its founder.  But, on the other hand, it was a sign of how things had changed.  The shine was off of start-ups, and ruthlessness had overtaken the giddy partnerships and hyperdriven creativity of the industry. It was no longer fun, no matter how much money there was to throw around.  The untethered enthusiasm and youthful collaboration that had driven a decade of change had turned to cynicism and now tainted every conversation between former work associates and friends.  It was as if someone's grumpy old uncle had been sent in to babysit.    

Reading this book brings it all back with surprising clarity.  More than once, we were faced with the personal decision to put career ahead of family, and we always chose family—our family.  One thing I learned for sure is that you can't have it all, and while Steve Jobs was becoming a billionaire, we were changing diapers.  No regrets.  We knew what we were looking at when we peered over the edge of the cliff and pondered whether or not to jump into the abyss.  We did a few times, with some success and some failure.  We always knew our limits and that monstrous success did not happen without a seemingly unlimited amount of sacrifice.

It's a fascinating book, especially for anyone who was (and probably still is) in the business and around when it all happened.  I kind of miss the old garage workbench days...and it's never too late to push the envelope.  If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?  If the answer is, no, then change something. 

Think different.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Holiday—The Best of Don't Steal My Pen 2011

My favorite posts from 2011

A year of blogging

The Many and The Few
I wrote 133 blogs in 2011.  Actually, I wrote 134, but I deleted a Thursday mini-blog from last March because the link was disabled by the person who posted it on You Tube after it went viral.

134 blogs over 12 months averages out to 11 posts a month.  A respectable number for me anyway, and I fulfilled my goal of writing on a regular basis.

Some months were more prolific than others.  I wrote 18 blog posts per month in January, March, and April.  I was least productive during the summer and the fall months when vacations and holidays took over.  I posted only once in August when we attended the Star Trek convention in Vegas for the first time.  We were traveling, and we had visitors that month.  Participating in real life trumps recalling it on the computer.

Notably, I did not post on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, or New Year's Day.   I don't write at night because it keeps my brain awake and messes with a good night's sleep.  If I miss my daytime window for blogging, then it gets pushed into the next day.

I posted only three times in November mostly because I was painting my living room.  Two and a half weeks later, I had brilliant white walls, gleaming new floorboards, and a spiffy new artichoke lamp hanging over the dining room table.

After I finished my painting project, I spent a week in Boulder City and Searchlight helping my mom paint two bedrooms and a bathroom at her place.  The following week was Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year's.  It WAS a fast year!

The Little Blog That Could
Don'tStealMyPen started the year randomly.  I posted whatever was on my mind.  By the end of January, the basic structure of my blog began to emerge.  I was committed to blogging four times a week, Monday through Thursday, and each day had its own theme.  As the year progressed, I got better at using the editing tools, and Blogger continued to add new features that made it easier to use.

In March I opened up a WordPress version of DSMP called, Don't Steal My Pencil.  I was frustrated with glitches in Blogger's editing code, and WordPress had a more professional look, so I gave it a try.  My efforts did not amount to much.  WordPress also has its share of minor glitches, and I was already used to navigating Blogger, so I stuck with what I knew.

My Bloggy Stats
Blogger has a nice little feature that individually tracks interest and activity on blogs.  It looks at current, daily, weekly, monthly and all-time levels.  I can track traffic sources by url referrals, and I can tell which of my blog posts got the most pageviews.  I can also find out generally where the interest is coming from and which browsers and operating systems are linking to my blog.  Neat, huh?

Here are my 2011 stats:

All-time pageviews
Viewed 3,252 times in the US (not including my own); viewed 232 times in Denmark.  Most of the rest are autospammers from other countries.

Pageviews by Browsers
1,477 (32%) on Safari
1,387 (28%) on Firefox
1,220 (25%) on Explorer
390 (8%) on Chrome

The rest are spam related.

Pageviews by Operating System
2,275 (46%) by Windows
2,224 (45%) by Mac
113 (2%) by Linux
96 (1%) by iPad (thank you, Steve & Heidi)

The rest are from Unix, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, iPod, and BeOS

Traffic Sources
Mostly from facebook & google.  The most searched key words besides "Don't Steal My Pen" were "whole foods cedar wrapped salmon."  I mentioned it in one of my food blogs.

Most Pageviews
Mini-Post Thursday: Rescue Chocolate (10 Febr 2011) was viewed 81 times (most viewed)
Searchlight Wind Energy Project (18 Jan 2011) was viewed 56 times (second most viewed)
i ❤ Rhubarb (6 July 2011) was viewed 32 times (least viewed)

Beginning Year Two
At the end of 2011, I've done a lot of research and learned a lot about blogging.  I've kept it mostly positive, except for the occasional rant about facebook and the TSA (which they totally deserved).

It is fun to look back on the events and topics that captured my attention during the year.  They represent a timeline of personal and technical progress.  I look forward with great affection and enthusiasm to another year of Don't Steal My Pen blog.

My Favorite DSMP Blogs of 2011

Vintage valentine redux by dsmp

Monday—The Reading Corner: Valentine Monday
10 Literary Ways to Say "I love you"
14 February 2011

Elegant expressions of love...

ever thine
ever mine
ever ours
—Ludwig van Beethoven, 7 July 1812.  Letter to his "immortal beloved," Antonie Brentano

Tuesday's Cupboard—Hearty Tomato & Swiss Chard Soup with Hummus Toast
26 October 2011

My last food blogs are my favorites, mostly for technical reasons.

1.  They are organized, focused, and well documented with photos.

2.  Earlier posts did not have a printing option.  Believe it or not, a simple widget for printing recipes on Blogger was not available when I started posting in January.  I discovered Printfriendly mid-year and was able to add printing links to my posts.  Today, I discovered that the clever folks at Printfriendly developed a Blogger print widget, which I have added to my blog template.  That means that every post now has a simple print option at the bottom!  Thank you, Santa.  I've been wanting one of these all year.

Wednesday—Good For You, Good For The Home
Eco-Fabric China & Stemware Storage Cases & Ojavàn Aromatherapy Bath Salts
2 February 2011

I liked this one because like the products, the post itself is clean, well-organized, easy to understand, and just the right size.  Ojavàn posted a link to this post on their website (under customer satisfaction), so I guess they liked it, too!  I remember writing this post and feeling like I'd hit my stride.  Home maintenance and self care were focus areas that I could write about regularly, and I was now generating a blog that was relevant, topical, and interesting enough to read.

Thursday Mini-Post:  Today's Funny Trending Tweets
26 May 2011

I often end up on twitter looking for a Thursday mini-post.  Don't Steal My Pen is also my screen name on twitter, and I check regularly to find out what the daily trends are.  Sometimes, they are interesting, and I will stay for a while, adding my tweets to the tweetstream.  Other times, twitter is full of hos, gang-bangers, meth heads, sex fiends, and drooling morons.  At least, it seems that way; they also appear to be regulars, but it's easy to ignore them.

Twitter is a social network that is entirely different from anything else out there.  I like it for the exact same reason that I hated it when I first started tweeting.  It is full of twits, but it also has a solid core of very funny and immensely clever, entertaining participants.  It is the Wild West, but there are pockets of online civility.  It has rules, and it has outlaws.  It is fast and in real time.  I used to protect my tweets and send them out to a trusted group of twitter friends.  But, the real fun happens when you let loose, go public, and jump in head first.

The tweets in this post were part of a 2-day trending topic called "lessinterestingbooks."  They made me LOL…  Harry Potter and the Forged Excuse Note for P.E.  

Friday's Art Gallery—Street Art
29 October 2011

I liked this post because it was the first of a new blogging theme that was added in October.  In spite of its dreary grayness and its soul-sucking freeways, the San Francisco Bay Area is a creative place to live.  The art here has an edge, and it can be found in many places.  Friday is a great day to lighten up, look around, and appreciate art.
The painting has a life of its own.  ~Jackson Pollock