Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

I won't share my new year's resolution with you guys, because so far I have none. Much to think, you know?

Do you have new year's resolution already, or you're with a full head and no conclusions so far, like me? Either way,

let 2010 be a wonderful and fulfilling year to everyone;
am wishing much happiness to us all! :-)

Note: The awesome and different fireworks picture is public domain, but I'd like you to know that it was Petr Kratochvil who took it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beware, I'm Drooling a Bit

This is a quick post to show you this gorgeous illustration that I came across when browsing the web.

So, if you liked the one illustration I shared here, go visit the Artsy, Craftsy website. They do wonderful things inspired by Fairy Tales and Myths.

Did I ever mention that I love fairy tales and mythology in general? No? But I do, and I also love the fairies themselves, goblins, elves, werewolves, talking birds and all those fantastic things, which I find truly fantastic. (Sorry for the pun; it was intended, heh.)

Pay them a visit and afterwards come back to tell me what you thought, ok? :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's Xmas time!

I love this season and the Christmas spirit that instigate so many people to donate to charity, to help one another, or to hug a loved one.

And there's the decoration. So many wonderful things are made! I particularly like garlands (won't say "wreaths"; too harsh sounding, blah, heh), and for the first time I got to make one. Yup, me, I'm the one who made that thing up there, believe it?

Guess what? That's my Xmas gift for you! And please do feel hugged. :-)

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

First Snow, Happy Doggie!

Edited to add: Hi! If you don't care to know about this cute dog's story, scroll down a bit and you'll find some information on how to attend to your dog's paws on winter time, and other related stuff. Hope you find the info useful. :)

Moira loves snow. When we first arrived in Italy, last year, I thought that it was just the novelty of scents, sensations, and so on; but yesterday it was all white when we went for our daily walk, and she was so excited!

To which you respond: "But she doesn't look too happy in the picture."

That's true; she's not smiling like in here and here. But you see, usually she's not very helpful when I have a camera in hand. She shifts position, looks somewhere else, or scratches herself right when I'm clicking. By these signs I knew she didn't like much to be photographed, and I commented this with my mother on our walk. So, what did Moira do a few seconds later? She posed to this picture.

"You're exaggerating," you say.

Actually I'm not. My mother had some difficulty to take this picture because of her gloves, and every time she was ready Moira raised her ears the same way we had encouraged her to do many times when taking pictures of her. Besides, when we made those noises that showed our contentment with the picture, the darned thing walked away wagging her tale merrily, as if her mission was accomplished. Can you imagine our reaction? (Hey, don't you snort on me. Do you have a dog anyway?)

In our way back home Moira didn't look so happy anymore. She'd stop frequently to lick her paws, giving me that "help me" look I know so well. When I checked it, there were lumps of ice below her nails and between her foot pads.

This reminded me (look what a random mind I have, heh) of one of the Wheel of Time books, in which Perrin is in the wolf world and running in the snow. I remember the vivid description of how his paws hurt from the clutched ice and the resistance of the snow to his running efforts.

So, when we got home, instead of cleaning the dogs up the usual way, we used warm water to melt the ice stuck in their leg's fur and between their toes; and after giving them water and food I trimmed their nails, the fur in the back of their legs and below the paws.

Afterwards, when the dogs were sound asleep, something else came to mind. Is there some other special care with dog's paws in winter time that I'm not aware of?

With a quick internet research I found this excellent article that I'm summarizing below:

1. What problems to look for:
  • Cracked or sore foot pads, blisters, and infections;
  • Snow (especially wet) clung to long haired dogs, creating slumps of ice, often mixed with rock, salt and gravel, making the walking hurt (when under the paws) or uncomfortable (when on the leg's fur);
  • Intoxication due to de-icing chemicals, rocks and other minerals.
2. How to solve them:
  • Sore foot pads and other related problems are usually caused by sensitivity to cold. Two viable solutions are applying Vaseline or Bag Palm on pads, and considering buying doggy boots for your friend.
  • To the snow clung, do as I did intuitively: a) always wash your friend's paws after outdoor plays, taking care of leaving no traces of salt and other residues, even if there's no apparent crack or other problem; b) trim their nails (long nails make toes spread apart when walking, leaving more room for ice to build up); c) cut the long fur between the toes so that it's even with the pads; and d) trim the fur in the back of their legs;
  • To prevent intoxication, do not let your friend crew away lumps of ice and snow sticking to the paws or hanging from the fur, and don't let it lick the paws before you wash them up, as the rock, salt and chemical products can have toxic effect. If your dog shows any sign of problem, take it to the veterinary right away.
Food poisoning symptoms can be a helpful analogy to identify other types of intoxication: dullness, vomiting, inability to eat and general weakness.

Now, can you fill in the gaps? These seem to be enough information for me here, but I'm all but snow savvy, so you your help is more than welcome. :-)


In my research I came across this wonderful non-profit: Dogs Deserve Better. Will you click on the link and donate? That would be nice. :-D

Their cold weather tips are excellent, but they're not easy to locate among the many information on their main page, so I reproduced them below highlighting the key words to help the reading. Also their frozen to death dog pics are, are... I'm speechless.

1. Keep your dog inside. Outdoors, dogs can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Dogs who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other dogs and wildlife.

2. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.

3. Thoroughly wipe off your dog's legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

4. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

5. Never leave your dog alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

6. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

7. Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him and his fur in tip-top shape.

8. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

9. Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

For you that have read so far, here's a curiosity bonus, a picture of my mother's adorable dog, Iris, the (in)famous intruder:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Autumn and Credits

If this is not your first visit, you might have noticed that I've changed some colors and the head figure of this thing here (the blog, that is). Well, since I have great respect for author rights, as mentioned on my profile, it's more than right to give full credit for that wonderful picture up there, which was taken by the photographer Danny Beath. That particular image I found at this BBC page.

This one below, on the other hand, was taken by Simon Wong. I love it!

He's shared a lovely poem with it, which I couldn't resist reproducing here:

On a cold autumn day
my heart is drenched in wine
as I walk in fields of red

And since we're talking about pictures, the whole blog is autumn themed and all, I thought I'd tell the reasons why I chose this particular season as main theme. But you know what? I won't bore you with that. The blog title mentions articles and reflexions, people tend to get a bit more introspective in the fall... there, you got my point.

Here's one final picture, a painting actually, that I fell in love with:

This was painted by the wonderful Connie Tom. (so loved her blog!) I chose it because it'd be nice to end this post with something cheerful. After all, not every moment of introspection has to be sad or philosophical, eh? ;-)

Now, why don't you tell me what these images bring to you?

Note: I almost forgot! If you scroll down a bit, you'll find wonderful autumn pics on the side bar. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Tradition for Me, Experiment for You

Note: This post was edited to change the name of the chestnuts to "chestnuts", because in my supreme ignorance (and poor research skills) I had settled with their "Brazilian name": Portuguese nuts. Thanks to the generosity of some readers (see comments below) I've increased my cooking vocabulary, and even learned that chestnuts are called "conkers" in Dublin. How cool is that? heh (Thanks Kristi! :-). I was also pointed to this English-Portuguese Cooking Glossary that you can download in PDF. Most useful!

Yeah, yeah. I know I said I'd re-post the
posterous' stuff in sequence, but I changed my mind. So, here's the thing, I have this great twitter friend, who shared with me this awesome apple chutney recipe. I had promised to try it, but since I'm much more of a lazy cooker than a lazy writer, I've decided to share a very simple recipe that she, and you, might find interesting.

This is a family tradition, but strangely enough only my mother cooks it in this particular way. [Or so I thought. See comment below in Portuguese, which you can translate right at the end of this page] Every time a friend would come by and try it there was a different reaction, and no one had ever heard about it. I'm talking about these nuts:

I was told the chestnuts go wonderfully well with meat, cooked salted with laurel leaves, and roasted in open fire, but we do it differently, and at least for us it's a Christmas tradition. I'd love to hear your opinion on this one, if you care to share. :-)

Sweet Chestnuts


500g of washed chestnuts
2 tea spoons of sugar (can be black sugar too, which I personally prefer)
2 tea spoons of fennel seed
1/2 tea spoon of salt


1. With a sharp knive, make a vertical slice on each nut's skin, in the same direction of its fibers. Like this:

2. Put the chestnuts in a pan and cover them with water, topping them by about two inches. Add the spices: sugar, salt and fennel seed.
Note: The extra water may be important on conserving the nuts and preventing from drying them out.

3. Cover the pan and cook the chestnuts for about 30 min. The cooking time depends on how fresh the nuts are, so you might want to start checking after 20 mins.
Note: By using a pressure pan you'll reduce the cooking time and get no difference in final result, which should look much like this:

You see how the slice has opened, much like... err, a broken heart? Well, that's when you know the chestnuts are cooked, but I suggest you also try one to make sure. And since the recipe makes a large portion, don't throw away the remaining brownish water. (It's normal that the water turns brown, so if you had the nuts washed before cooking, no worries about the apearance, ok?)

The Sweet Chestnuts are better served moisten and warm, and the cooking water helps conserving the flavor. Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

How To (Not) Create a False Rumor

And Some Important Information About Privacy on Twitter

Note: This was one of the two posts I mentioned that were originally posted on my previous blog on Posterous. It was fairly popular (got more than 1.300 visits in the first five days) for having some useful information, so people say. Enjoy!

Good Intentions

Something unprecedented has happened to me last week. I was having a good time chatting with twitter friends, when I suddenly crossed with the information of a (supposed) privacy breach on Twitter: I was told that Direct Messages (DM) show up on Google searches. (!) I am the worried sort of person when it comes to privacy, so shortly after I imprudently posted a tweet about it. Which generated a number of ReTweets (RT) that could grow exponentially, if not for a kind twitter friend who wisely asked me where that information had come from. It was then that my two neurons decided to have a little chat, and I went on a frantic search for real facts.

So, in order to prevent creating an unintentional false rumor and therefore being vexed by the loss of credibility, and probably of followers, I suggest you take the following measures when sharing information on Twitter:

1) When retweeting, always open the links you receive to certify the quality of information; and be careful not to change any character in the haste of sending it, as it could lead to a very different place, or an error page;

2) When receiving information from others, always make at least a quick research to see if it is consistent. If you came across something as important/frightening as I did, and no one besides your friend mentions it, it’s likely that the information is untrue or results of some misunderstanding. So it’s advisable to refrain from sharing at least until you can confirm it;

3) However, if you are certain that you have a breaking news in your hands and want to be the first one to share it, I suggest you deepen your research (on line or not) and back yourself up with strong facts to support what you have to say.

Let’s go back to my tale, shall we? I contacted the two twitter friends who had mentioned the problem in the first place, and soon found that as nice as they were, they had misinterpreted some other facts related to DMs. After making my own research and confirming this, I quickly posted an update to stop the RT flow and sent (public) messages to everyone that had retweeted my original tweet, urging them to do the same.

When applying the advice above in this experience, I was lead to some interesting information I think you would like to know.

What I’ve Learned About Privacy on Twitter

DMs Don’t Show Up on Google Searches, Unless…

You already know that Direct Messages (DM) are private tweets you can exchange with people following you. And since they are private (as in, no one else besides the sender and the receiver can see them) they don’t show up on engine searches like Google searches.

Now, I’m not contradicting myself when I say that it actually happened that some tweets meant to be private could be found on public searches. Please stay with me to understand this well.

Back in 2008 some people tried to send direct messages by typing “DM” before the username and text, when the correct choice would have been typing only “D”. The result was that they ended up sending regular tweets instead of private ones, which being public could be found on search engines. This was called DM fail. (by Pete Cashmore, aka @mashable)

Fortunately Twitter changed the functioning of DMs (thank you @Twitter_Tips for the info!), and now you can use both “D” and “DM” to send private messages without worrying that it will turn up as a public tweet. I tested this myself and I was able to send DMs using all these possibilities (when sent from the web):
  • D mariblaser insert here your message
  • D @mariblaser insert here your message
  • DM mariblaser insert here your message
  • DM @mariblaser insert here your message
If you go to Twitter Support’s page for DMs you may get confused, as their instructions still mention the “D mariblaser” formula as the only one acceptable. Don’t worry about it. Twitter did fix this problem and forgot to tell us about it. But at least it was fixed, right?

Protected Accounts: Before and After Making the Choice

Protected accounts are the ones which tweets can only be seen by those you allow to follow you. This means that all your tweets will be private (between you and your followers), and they will not show on engine searches. However…

What happens if you had a public account, and at some later point you decided to protect it? All tweets you sent before protecting it will remain being public, and therefore will appear on Google and other engine searches.

Despite this being clearly explained on Twitter Support’s page for protected accounts people still got confused and angry when finding some part of their (now) protected accounts showing up on Google. So Twitter posted an explanation about it and even The Washington Post published an article that discusses the issue, taking as example the tweets sent by username @billclinton before the account was protected. Quick note: you can see the full text of the tweets in that article, in case you got curious.

After learning my lesson, I obviously went to the web to double check the facts, and with a simple search I found the said @billclinton account, which now is protected. So, we can rest assured that protected accounts remain private.

A few additional things you might want to know:
  • In case you don’t want your twitter profile to show on Google search results, here is what Twitter suggests you to do.
There Is Always a “But”

I really wanted to end optimistically, with reassuring news and so on, but while researching for this post I came across some troublesome information I felt compelled to share.

The Los Angeles Times also published an article on Bill Clinton’s protected account, claiming that there is a Google search engine called Googlebot that dodges the privacy of protected accounts, and gives a few more worrying examples.

On the same line of reasoning, Anthony De Rosa from used the feature mentioned on that LA Times’ article to find @billclinton’s tweets. Or at least a good part of them, as you can see here. If you click on the links that should lead to the tweets, you’ll end on inexistent pages, but what the Google search shows is enough to get a good glimpse of what is being said. Tell me this is not violation of privacy, and I’m not talking about Twitter’s point of view here.

If you read The Washington Post article I mentioned, you’ll know that these tweets were sent by someone impersonating Bill Clinton, and not the man himself, but there are tons of people with protected accounts who wouldn’t want to have about half their tweets opened to anyone who bothers looking up on Google. Would you, if you were in their place?

Now I ask you, have you ever had problems related to privacy on Twitter? If you have a protected account, did you (or someone else) find your protected tweets on engine searches? Please share on comments your experience, and any other information you might have.

A final note on links that might interest you:
  • If you are new on Twitter, check out this cool guide. (by @mashable)
  • If you were reluctant to join Twitter and now are sure you won’t, you might want to reconsider after reading this and this. (both via @mashable)

What's this all about?

Right. I think it'd be nice if I presented myself before anything.

But, really, I'm not going to shove you that boring bla bla bla on my background, or tell my whole life story. (you see, I'm not much into memoirs...) So, if you want to know more about me, you can have a good picture by taking a peek at what I say, and which groups I'm in; that is, by checking out my Twitter and Facebook pages. Or if you don't care about social network sites, just stick around and we'll get to know each other in time. ;-)

Now, I had set up another blog at Posterous (which is a quite friendly platform actually) but it seems that my huge abilities with HTML were insufficient to make a nice and good looking thing. That's basically why I created this other one, and of course I'm maintaining both (at least for a while) because of a pair of reasons that don't matter much now. Well, not unless you have a blog too. (Which got me an idea of a post on blogging that might show up in the future.)

Anyway, I figure many people have no idea of what this HTML thing works, so if you're curious there's this cool beginner's guide that can be very useful.

I guess that's it... Wait, you might want to know that the next two posts were already put on line on the Posterous blog, and also that this blog is really, really random. Much like my brain. Go figure, heh. But I hope this is interesting either way, and you can always rant about my "randomities"in the comments if you like.

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