Friday, February 29, 2008

BBC first to start to get it?

I was cruising the free rentals on Amazon Unbox earlier this morning and noticed that BBC shows are starting to get the right idea. I have written before how there is no way that I can make sense of the current "play it once within 24 hours"policy on digital rentals. And I do not see any family with children going this way. As long as hard disc rentals are infinitely more flexible and cheaper, Netflix will continue to be my best friend.

However, I am willing to play with the free rentals available on Amazon Unbox every week- especially the great Shakespeare productions that the BBC is releasing right now. Interestingly enough, when I downloaded The Tempest this morning( quick, go grab it- it is free until March 2), the notice read this:

" Your videos will be available to play on XXXXX for 30 days. Once you have pressed play for the first time, you will have 168 hours to watch that video."

It is still a "play once only" situation, but at least the window to complete a playback has been stretched to a week- significantly more reasonable. I checked another non-BBC rental on Amazon, and it was still a 24 hour playback window, so this is apparently not an Amazon policy, but a studio policy.

I am starting to have faith that if I just wait long enough, the studios might actually get a clue, get digital rentals right and my Netflix account will go away.
What will it take for you to move to digital rentals??

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

TShirts I need to have

I need to go make some shirts..

1) Blonde is an attitude, not a hair color

2) There is no free time, there is only less sleep

what shirt would you make?

It shouldn't be funny

I know that this news article about a scrub python swallowing the family dog should be completely sad and make me feel for the kids in a strongly protective maternal way, but it has been a sick and twisted sort of week so far, and I have to admit- it made me laugh a little.

Sure, yes, I feel bad for the poor kids who lost their pet terrier/chihuahua mix. I would not wish that event on any child or any human anywhere. Honestly. But that smile that crept on my face as I pictured the poor animal control guy coming to the house to capture the snake with the dog half hanging out of the snake's jaws and shaking his head because the whole thing could have been prevented... the very definition of Schadenfraude right there.

The fact that CNN had to add a video showing the Lump in the snake, says way too much about human nature right now.

Hey, don't hate the snake.. it was just hungry.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mind Altering

There are some times when you need to alter your mental state. After a long stressful week of work and kids and just life, sometime is helps to step outside yourself and let your brain have a break. Some people accomplish this with drugs or alcohol or meditation. Any of those can work, but one of my favorite ways is to take some time and get gussied up. Even if we are just staying home in front of the fireplace to watch movies, on those rare saturday nights when the kids are all gone, I like to get gussied up.

It is a bit ritualistic for me, and in that ritual I can shed stress find that altered state. After bathing and shaving- long slow strokes with the razor to remove leg hairs; after drying with the biggest fluffiest towels I can find, there is the act of getting dressed. I love old fashioned stockings and garters- slowly rolling the stockings up each leg, encasing them in stockings with interesting patterns. The material of the stockings both constricting and yet feeling incredible exposed and free in garters. Then there are the boots I love. I have knee high shiny black patent leather lace up boots. They are the old fashioned kind, with a dozen metal rivet hooks that have to be carefully wound and laced. You have to keep the tension on the lace steady and constant, or else they unwind and you have to start over. It is a slow process, they are as far from flip flops or velcro tennis shoes as you can get, but by the time you have them on and tied, there is no stress left in your shoulders, no tension fighting at the back of your skull and your brain has a completely different focus.

It is probably one of the silliest, girliest things I do, but very good Saturday night therapy for the soul.

Parental Turning Points

I have always been an involved parent, not a helicopter parent, but well engaged. I pushed for my kids to make decisions, take risks and even at times fail. My thought was that is was better to fail and learn a lesson in the 4th grade than to fail in high school or college, because the lesson never got learned. I have given my children tools to question their teachers, and given their teacher permission to be unrelenting and penalize my children when they get out of line.

That is what a good parent does- engage their children and be actively involved in their school life. I was in the PTA/PTO ( I even had an office for a while) I assisted with Girl Scouts, Lego League, Science Olympiad and the Band Boosters. As a result of all of this involvement, I was always informed about the activities, fund raisers and deadlines for the organizations they were involved in. When you are trying to be a working parent it is makes life much more streamlined if you know what is due when. Apparently, it is also easy for your children to become dependent on this and not develop the skill themselves.

Yesterday, I had an internal revelation that turned into a discussion with my 16 year old daughter. "I am done making myself stressed out in order to make your life better", I said. It seems we had ended up in a place where I knew her schedule better than she did. I was the one stressing if she was late or not, organized or not, correctly packed or not. This was NOT a way for either of us to live. It was putting my stress levels over the top, and blocking her from becoming a responsible adult. Complete opposite of original intentions- gotta love parenting, eh?

"I don't want you to stress out over me Mom," she replied- "Actually, I think if I knew I did not have anyone to rely on, I might get better at keeping track of things myself. When I know I can rely on you, I get lazy and do not pay close attention myself".

So. Everyone tells you the most important thing in early child development is that your child feels secure and knows they can count on you... but there is some point in that development where knowing that they always have someone to fall back on can actually keep them from growing up. How do you know when you get to that point? I do not have a good answer for that one-- I still believe that throwing a kid on their own too soon is not a good thing. No second grader should have to be self-reliant. But there is also a time for the mama bird to throw the baby out of the nest and have confidence that the flight instinct will kick in and the fall will not kill them.

It's a guy thing... sorta....

I am not a fan of gender stereotypes, but there are a few that are safe generalizations. Channel hopping is a guy thing. I enjoy giving Ogre control of the clicker when he is home, I never know what is going to turn up on the TV. When I am home alone, or it is just us three girls, we avoid commercials by hitting "pause" and then fast forwarding through commercials. Ogre is more inventive and hops back and forth between channels, multitasking between shows. When he is watching BBC and a commercial comes on, he channel surfs and finds something else that interests him. The next half hour will be filled with the BBC and then on commercials, we will hop over to "How it's made" or something of the sort. It was with great amusement this afternoon that I walked into the living room and found him channel hopping between..."How it's made" and... "Bewitched".....
You have to love a guy like that.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Slowing it down

Last night was a good night to just slow it down. Snow rolled in here at about 3:15, while we scampered about fixing an early dinner and wrestling conference calls. By 5pm the roads were slick to the point of treacherous. Thankfully, Xandra's Girl Scout leader agreed and canceled their evening meeting. This meant that for the first time in weeks, we had an evening where no one had to be chauffeured anywhere. Xandra ended up taking a nap for a while. I tried to engage Sam with some TED videos ( she watched, but we ended up back on YouTube watching music videos.. sigh...) and I built a fire.

hot fire
During the winter weeks when the girls are at their dad's house, building a fire is actually a common thing for me to do. When they are here and needing me to drive them places in the evenings, it is significantly less common... usually just on the weekends. During all the hustle and bustle and crazy driving, I forget how healing the calm act of setting and burning a fire is. I can lay in the giant beanbag chair with my laptop, letting the crackle and hiss of the wood burning soothe the workday crankiness out of me. Somehow in the act of burning, I release my tension and stress and return to a more basic mental state.

These are not small dinky single log fires, I build a fire going that talks and sings. It also builds up a good bit of heat. These are embers in the bottom of the fire after 5 hours of fireplace use last night- this would be hot enough to melt glass.

uTest experiment, part 3

I got my Payoneer Debit card in the mail the other day. Unfortunately it was just a fairly generic plastic card, not the cool green utest branded one they showed on the website. It does however, have the utest website url embossed on it, so I know they have me signed up for the correct program.

Still no word from uTest on available work, but it was Feb 11 when they said in a couple of weeks, so I am being patient and just returning to "sit and wait". It remains to be seen if that debit card will be purchasing pop, movies or travel.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Visualizing the Data

Hans Rosling Rocks.

There is no better way to say it.
As you probably have heard, talks from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences are being put online. If for some reason word has not yet reached you- click over right now and check it out,there are days worth of thought provoking videos accumulating on the site ( do it in another tab so you can easily hop back here and finish reading).

One of my favorite speakers is Hans Rosling. Not just because he stretches you to think about things in different ways- that is the point of every speaker at this conference-but because of the passion and sense of wonder and humor he brings to his topics. When you listen to this video, imagine being a student in one of his classes- this is not a class you would fall asleep in. His excitement and enthusiasm is not just overwhelming, it is contagious. If you enjoy this sample, be sure to look up his 2007 TED talk- you will not only learn a few things about poverty trends and what is possible; you get to see him swallow a sword!

Hans is not new to the net denizens, there are long lists of his videos and Gapcasts over on YouTube. His research website,, has been on the net for several years and is where the group that first developed this data visualization software, Trendalyzer;which was acquired by Google about a year ago. Rosling is the champion of freely available data for everyone and the ability to use tools and data for hypothesis formation. He wants to put real data in front of everyone -"creating a fact bases world view"- to help them understand the world before making policy decisions, or deciding on a course of action. He is my hero.

Heavenly events

Despite weather fears, here in Central Indiana we had a gorgeous view of the lunar eclipse last night. I bundled up and popped outside several times last night between 11pm and midnight to witness the beauty of the larger universe at work. It was cold, but I had a great fire going, so I could bundle up, pop outside for a while and then crash on the bean bag chair close to the fire to warm up again. It was one of those nights that makes me ache for a much better camera, as mine could not begin to do justice to the scene. Luckily, there are people out there who have the equipment to do the job right, and there is a great gallery of pictures that the Discovery Channel put up. If you missed the event, hop over and give it a look-see.

Further west, the US Navy successfully shot down the failing spy satellite, and is convinced they destroyed any potentially dangerous fuel. This whole event amuses me on some level. My twisted brain imagines that about a month ago, there was a smoky back room where the following conversation took place:

NASA dude: Just wanted to let you know that we have an old spy satellite that is failing and will crash to earth some time this spring.
Government dude: Crash!!?? Is there any danger to my citizens? No? Whew...How about my beach house?
Military dude: Is there any information or technology on that satellite that could compromise us if it fell into the wrong hands?
NASA dude: Nah. This is an old satellite we are talking about. Most high school students have toys with more sophisticated equipment in them these days..
Military Dude: So you are sure there is no danger? No toxins or radioactivity?
NASA dude: Perfectly safe, we just issued a press release letting people know they have nothing at all to fear.
Military Dude: That's too bad. Not that I would ever want to put our citizens at risk, but if it were just a little bit dangerous.....

(lightbulbs go off and all three sit a little straighter, you can feel the excitement explode in the air)

All three at once: We could SHOOT IT DOWN!
NASA dude: Cool! Rockets!!
Military dude: It would show those $*&^@ once and for all what we can do.( flexes arms a bit). Danged de-militarization of space treaty....
Government dude: Yet, it would be no threat at all.. we would be assisting the global citizens and helping our fellow man, at our personal expense.... hmmm...

Government dude: ( looking at the NASA dude) Are you SURE it is perfectly safe, nothing you could have missed in those numbers??
NASA dude: ( flipping through simulations and excel spreadsheets on his laptop).. wait..... this does say there might be a little bit of fuel left in it......
Military dude: ( picks up phone and begins dialing Navy)...

I am glad that there is no threat to any citizen of the world, or to the precious natural resources we usually squander recklessly.
I am impressed and slightly amazed that we can sit on a ship in the Pacific Ocean, target something in orbit and hit it, vaporizing all its bits and pieces.

I just have to wonder how many other government officials are sitting here like I am, one eyebrow cocked, thinking to themselves... ORLY?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Slippery Starts

puddle of light on snow

After weeks of repeated weather forecasts calling for 3-6 inches of snow that materialized only as a dusting, I went to sleep last night ignoring the single inch of snow in the forecast.
Waking up in the dark this morning, we were greeted by about 3 inches of snow, and it is still falling. There is something magical about early morning snow- it quiets the world and gathers secrets in small puddles.
Sam has a 2 hour delay, which means she can respond to this natural snow blanket with a slightly slower pace; but because she goes to the city school one district over, Xandra is not at all delayed and we were off and driving in the silly slick coverings on the roads. Most of the roads have not yet been delayed so the very light fluffy white snow has been compacted by traffic into toboggan runs carved into the middle of the streets. Needless to say, it was an interesting drive there and back. Luckily we made it both ways without incident and had a moment to admire the crabapple in the front yard.
snow on crabapple

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Thunderbird Rises

Mozilla has announced the opening of a new project called "Mozilla Messaging", dedicated to the development of Thunderbird 3. This is a noble cause and I hope that some of the Mozilla hackers out there donate time and their good minds to the efforts. Personally, I am highly unlikely to avail myself of all the efforts.
Thunderbird is a great desktop email client- please don't misunderstand me. I switched from Eudora to Thunderbird when it was first released and used it for a long while. But the sad truth is that I need email functionality across multiple computers and devices. Having a web based email client like gmail with built in search functionality and the ability to read and reply from my Treo as well is a life feature I am not sure I could be happy computing without any more. I can happily hop from computer to computer and never worry about how all of my activities are syncronized. I can see all the email I have sent from any computer with web access, at any time- no trying to remember where I was sitting when I wrote the reply.
I realize that this is a problem of privilege. Most folks out there are happy to have a single computer at home from which they read their email and are only too happy to leave email at home and not access it from their phone no matter where in the country they are. Blessings to them. Some days I wish I could return to that simpler, less complicated and theoretically happier state. But the truth can not be denied. I live a fully interrupt driven life and hop hopelessly from computer to computer searching for a sense of consistency- gmail assists me in that minor delusion.
If you live the saner, simpler life, keep an eye on this email client. If it lives up to its precursors, it will be an excellent desktop tool. And if you occasionally like to throw some lines of code together for fun? Go and pitch in- help shape something that might even be great.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Don't tell Chicken Little

This Wednesday night is the last chance we here in the states will have to observe a Lunar Eclipse for a couple of years. There is something emotional and primal about standing and watching the Moon turn blood red. If you have never witnessed it first hand, this will potentially be a good time. Unfortunately, the local forecast is looking to be cloudy. I will still be spotting the sky and hoping for some breaks in the clouds.

There is nothing quite as sexy..

For years I have contended that there is nothing in the whole world as sexy as a guy going about his normal life and showing himself to be an amazing dad. I know it is most likely a very ancient chemical wiring in my brain, handed to me from my very hairy nomadic ancestor looking for the best chance in ensuring her offspring not only survived, but thrived. I know intellectually that it is linked to nomadic needs which no longer apply in my present life-- I am an intelligent, strong woman lucky enough to have a full time job which allows me to be self sufficient and care for my own offspring; but there is no overcoming that hormonal rush when the image is presented. These pictures from Pioneer Woman affirmed that it is not just those moments when my man shines, but the sight of any man "being a dad" get me all worked up...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spore!! September will be a very good month

If the preliminary screenshots and movies are any indication, Will Wright's latest new venture, Spore, will be something that changes how people look at and play simulation PC games. Literally years in the making, I am hoping that the architecture and game play of the product have evolved with web technologies. This boils down to me having my fingers crossed that once you get to the Tribal stage, you will actually be able to play online against other players. Imagine taking the Sims, crossing it with Second Life and WoW, then adding in a dose of Evolutionary Biology and the evolution of civilizations. All that on top of amazing graphics makes this the first PC Game I have looked forward to or planned on buying in years.


I took a wild plunge and signed up for something I would not normally do. Nope, not saying anything else about it here for fear of jinxing the whole thing horribly and completely humiliating myself. However, IF I get chosen, I will be spouting off about it, be sure..

( just had to say something to blow off some nervous steam....)

uTest experiment, part 2

I am all signed up with uTest, have a profile, got a starting rank ( 3 stars out of 5;I wonder if they are starting everyone out straight in the middle, or did I gain something from 20 years in IT?) and my payment debit card is being mailed.

I joined the Facebook uTest Group in the hopes of getting an early lead on the rumored uTest Facebook application coming. If this is true, then we can coordinate, form teams and tackle projects in a way that everyone will make more money. I have no idea if this is really true or not, but with 5 years experience at working on global virtual teams, I am all for it.

There is still no indication what the pay scale will be, and my profile page just says that the invitations to participate will be coming in a couple of weeks. Guess now I sit tight and see what pops up in the news....

Monday, February 11, 2008

An Anniversary Restrospective- and free money.

I have been part of the AmieStreet community for a little over a year now. I thought that this anniversary would be a good time for a retrospective.

Some simple stats to start with:

In this year, I have

  • "purchased" 1304 songs and they are available DRM-free for as many downloads as I want or to play online in my library. It is called purchasing a song, even when you get it for free. Since about 2/3 of my library or more are songs I got for free, I tend to think of them as "purchased", rather than purchased.
  • earned nearly 150.00 in credits that can be spent on buying more music. Nearly means that I currently have 142.04 in credit, and last December I cashed in about 6.50. There is a detailed transaction history available to the penny, and I could go back and recreate the total if I were feeling that anal, but hey... almost 150.00 is close enough for me on a Monday morning. This means that if I wanted to just cash it all in, I could go on a shopping spree and buy 150.00 worth of DRM free mp3s.
  • made 340 friends who send me new music recommendations, and hot tips on great new music finds. There are more people than that recieving my recommendations, but I do not keep a count. I make a rec because I love a song and it moves me, not to think about how many people are or are not listening to what I have to say.
  • lived through a major face lift/site design change. It was all for the better and small tweaks and changes to the site continue on an almost weekly basis.

What keeps me coming back over and over again ? First off it is the very intimate interaction with other users and with musicians on the site ( get your mind out of the gutter- I did not mean that kind of intimate). On a weekly basis, I get emails directly from the musicians after I have rec'd one of their songs. They are not just a form letter "thanks so much for your comments" sort of email, but insights into why they wrote it, what it means to them, discussions about the genre and its evolution. These are interesting, engaging, thought-provoking conversations with talented artists I never would have met out here in small town mid-america, much less ones I would have been able to correspond with. These musicians seem to relish the didactic as much as I do. I even had one musician write a song for me and send it to me. My very own song- how cool is that? Makes me feel a little like Delilah.
Closely related to this is the fact that I have uncovered and come to love music I never would have discovered in my local record store, on eMusic or randomly cruising around the web. The rec system ( in addition to earning you site credits) really works. If you are friends with people who kinda sorta have similar tastes to yours, you are going to end up with more interesting new music to check out than you have hours in the day.
On a technical level, the team has done a great job with the functionality of the site. It is generally very fast, does not force my browser to consume me out of memory and they have a browser based music player that works perfectly, even on my linux computers. That little browser based music player is a hidden gem of the site and as it evolves, I anticipate people starting to think about it and pay a little more attention to it in the future. Now if I could only load external playlists into it and use it to play music on my shared media drive, as well as those on the amiestreet servers, it would get very interesting.

There is even the ability to create mini-players that are embed-able, like this one that will play back to you the last songs I have rec'd on the site:

( EDIT:That player is an example of why I love this company so much. When you are listening to music in the player, you can easily load and listen to a play list of your recs. But when I tried to make an embedded one with my recs, it failed. I instead put in a playlist with Shannon Hurley's music, and send the support team an email asking what I was doing wrong. We emailed back and forth and it turns out it was not my mistake, but a function they had not yet added. However, they agreed it was an obvious good idea and created this custom bit of code for me to use here, I just got it in my email less than 24 hours later- at no charge. And they say they are planning on adding this in for everyone-- so watch for it and you can add this sidebar to your blog soon as well. The development team on AmieStreet has been amazingly responsive any time I have found a bug or had interface suggestions - with replies and fixes within an hour in some cases. 2.12.08)

I do not want to give the indication that I think that this site is a perfect solution and has no room for growth or improvement. Their message handling system is painful to be kind ( they know I think so, I have told them this more than once). If you have a dozen or so friends who make a rec or two a week, it is just fine. As soon as your friends list grows large, or you have friends who are prolifically rec'ing songs, unanesthetized surgery seems preferable to working your way through the messages. They have some basic search features for finding items in either the system database or your own library, but having been spoiled by the over the top search flexibility in iTunes, I always want more. Again, if your library is fine, the existing tools are great- but you want to encourage people to build up a large library of media in your system, right?? I have faith this will come ( and send them monthly email reminders as well), so I will not bitch about it too much. The cashout process is still very clunky, and needs some more refinement to make it easier to decide which song recs you want to cash out and when. This is a lot like playing the market, and more data analysis tools would be helpful. Then again, maybe I am making a big deal out of a potential 98 cent cash out...

Song and album pricing has been an interesting social experiment for me to watch, and it continues to fascinate me. I wish they had some more tracking tools, but that is just me being nosy- not in any way something that would be useful on the site. It is interesting to me that because there are a bunch of people out there who buy only a couple of individual songs, it is possible for the album price to go higher than what you would pay for the entire album on other sites. If all, or most, of the songs on a 13-16 track album get driven to the full .98 cent cap, the album as a whole becomes priced much higher than the 5.99-9.99 album price you see on mp3 downloads ( or even on iTunes). I will admit to at least once discovering very cool music here after it hit a price of 9.99 for the album and buying it on mp3 for 7.99 instead. I am still an old fashioned "album" kinda gal, if I can get an entire album for 35 cents more, Ii will just buy the whole album, even if 2 of the songs are not my favorites. I have not decided if this is just old fashioned or shows some strange psychological trait about me.

The short summary? It has been a terrific first year and I am excited about year 2. I have found, learned and grown to love an incredible variety of music from old classics to brand new never heard before originals. The site is clean, easy to use and continues on a trend of continuous improvements, so I forgive them some few faults.

Their biggest problem? Not understanding and making use of the PR machine. They are music and tech geeks who needs some help with PR and getting the word out. I am constantly surprised how many times they are not mentioned in the media, and how many people I am still introducing to the site. Hopefully they will get some help and make some changes with this and the site will continue to grow. No, I am not an investor, I have nothing to disclose. I just really love this site and want to be able to continue using it. If they went under, I would be endlessly bummed.

Now, for those of you who actually made it to the end of this- the free money. Nope, it was not a gimmick. As a part of seasonal promotions they were doing last year, I ended up with a few 10$ gift packs I can give away. Comment here and tell me your AmieStreet story, or why you deserve the freebie. I will pick the best ones at the end of February and have them sent to you. Be sure you include an email, or some way for me to contact you ( twitter link, etc..) to get the email if your comment is selected.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

uTest- a crowdsourcing experiment

I signed up today for an interesting experiment in the usage of crowd sourcing. UTest is a new service that is compiling a portfolio of software testers that will be paid on a per-bug basis. There is no good indication yet what the pay scale will be, except that it will be sliding and linked to the type of software ( web or desktop), type of bug, number of bugs left to find (if they have come up with some magical way to divine the number of bugs in a software project in order to know how many more are left, they could probably make a whole lot more off of that service alone ;-) ). What I think they actually mean here is that if you find the very first bug, likely it is an easy to find obvious one that is different than finding obscure bug number 150. Since there is no indication of what impact this has on the pay, I can not comment on the "rightness" of this algorithm, other than to indicate that that first bug found may NOT be the obvious jump in your face silly one- it could be that you have a really good tester who noticed the back end data linkage error that will kill you application. Perhaps their inclusion of factors like experience, "reputation" and other personal factors in the pay rate will balance some of this out. It is all a big social and business experiment, I will report back as we go how things play out. They are claiming that testers can make hundreds or thousands of dollar per week, so perhaps the pay rate will be higher than the small rates typical over on Amazon's Mechanical Turk. There is no guarantee of pay rates at this time, and you can only register for consideration- they say they are not assigning any jobs for a couple of weeks; but if you like to play with new software and think you are good at finding and defining bugs, hop on over and sign up- who knows, it may give you some vacation mad money.
A special note that in order to get paid, you have to sign up for a special debit card and your pay will be deposited into that account. If you have some particular phobia or annoyance about debit cards, this may not be a solution for you. As for me- I am up for the ride and interested to see if there is actually money to be made in them thar bugs..

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday without the fat

I have been playing with pancake recipes lately.. and have come up with a tasty, hearty, nearly fat free recipe that can be modified in truly unique ways with outside the box thinking. Taking a breakfast treat and turning it into a meal with more protein and less fat.

Basic recipe:

1 1/4 Cups flour
1 cup egg beaters
1/2-2/3 cup skim milk (to consistency you like)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar ( your choice...can be optional)

Mix until batter is smooth. If you make a dozen medium sized pancakes with this , each pancake is aproximately 67 calories, with about 2 calories from fat.

Ways to make them more interesting:

Classic Blueberry: Add a sprinkle of frozen whole blueberries to the uncooked batter and allow them to thaw and soften just slightly as it cooks. For some extra kick, add a sprinkle of cinnamon as well.

Mushroom madness: Sprinkle chopped portabello mushrooms into the batter as it cooks. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the cooked pancakes and enjoy. For extra kick, sprinkle with cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. I have not tried garlic yet, but it is next up on the list to try.

Chili-yow: Sprinkle freshly crushed flakes of your favorite hot pepper into the batter as it cooks. For a double indulgence, add in flakes of dark dark chocolate as well.

Try them out and let me know what your favorite non-traditional add-ins are...