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Archive for December 2008

Happy now?

Wife One complained last night that I haven’t blogged since the weekend. I don’t have anything planet-shattering to write about so I’ll throw some odds and ends in here.

• Our novice hockey team earned a second loss this past weekend. The team just wasn’t up to play and coasted through the game. One of the opposing players had too many chances to use his amazing shot, with which he roofed three goals. We lost 4-3, after having beaten this same team 6-0 two weeks ago.

• Wired has a follow-up top-ten list of animal videos. I’ve seen most of them before but there a fun way to waste a half-hour with your kids. Follow-up to what, I hear you wonder. To this.

• Last month, Roger Ebert re-published a piece that Frank Cottrell Boyce wrote about writing screenplays. It’s succinct and to the gut. Read it.

• I’ve been trying out the Mac browser called Shiira. The Wikipedia page on the software says more than I want to. I like the thumbnail tabs, but I’m not sure I like them enough to let them keep the monitor real estate. It is fast and stable – no doubt about that.

• Looking for a December time-waster? Play Auditorium. You use a limited series of bending fields to guide particle beams around the playing surface. The goal is to guide your beam(s) across amplifiers to create a musical composition. Right now, the game is only exists as a limited beta version, but it’s one of those consuming attractions that will leave you sad once you’ve finished all levels. I assume it will leave me sad, too, if I ever figure out how to complete the final puzzle, 3:6. Even the online hints I found don’t work for me.

• I’m glad HDTV prices are plunging faster than the Dow because our big CRT TV decided to freak out. The colours have gone uncorrectably off and the corners of the screen have distinctly yellow wedges. Everything is mostly blue and red has disappeared from the image – but the channel display characters are red, which really confuses me. The TV was fine Saturday night and went blue sometime Sunday. I wouldn’t be too surprised to find this to be the fault of a wire clip that had materialized inside the TV.

• Looking for a geek gift under $50? If your beloved geek has a pile of hard drives, consider ThinkGeek’s external SATA/USB hard-drive dock. The dock accepts both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives and drives may be hot-swapped. Me? I need a new hockey bag.

• Google has its online office suite, but where do you go for an online image manipulation tool? SUMO Paint is a Web-based competitor for Photoshop – yes, Photoshop. This is not your older brother’s online painting program. SUMO Paint looks and acts one heck of a lot like Photoshop, right down to the layers. I haven’t used it much, and I don’t understand the business model, but this is one of the most impressive applications of Web tech that I’ve ever seen.

• Now, if you think the above diversions will stunt your kids’ intellectual development, think again. Don’t confuse your own being left behind with your kids’ ability to assimilate the new.

And that’s all I have to say ’bout that.

Webs the not-so-handyman

I tackled two nagging problems yesterday – well, I tried to.

Earlier in the week, I bought winter windshield wipers and two new headlight bulbs. I’ve been driving around for a while with only the passenger-side headlight working. Once in a while, oncoming cars would thoughtfully blink their headlights at me. I thought it was time to rectify the situation, and I needed new wipers as well. And while I changed one headlight, I might as well change the other.

Ideally, I would have set out to do this while temperatures were still above freezing. We have a garage, but we use it as storage. Yesterday was bright and pretty close to freezing, so I trudged into action.

I popped and propped the hood of the van and took a look at the passenger side headlight assembly. The air filter cover is in the way and the manual tells me to remove it before working on the light. It’s held in place with rusty screws – or bolts, maybe. I try to loosen them with my Phillips head screwdriver, but these rusty things are in tight and all I’m doing is stripping them. That’s not a problem – this is the headlight that works, and if this older bulb isn’t as bright as a newer one on the driver side, big deal.

I move across the engine compartment and unplug the more accessible socket on the driver’s side. The manual says to squeeze the socket so the clips let go, then pull. I squeeze and pull, then squeeze harder and pull harder but nothing budges. I call Elvi out of the house to have a go but nothing happens when she squeezes and pulls either. We try to lever it out with a screwdriver, but it still stays put. Eventually, I just yank – and it comes out. There are no clips.

The socket’s a bit greasy and looks like it’s held together with epoxy, but the high beams work so I know it’s transmitting current. I pull off the weatherstripping and remove a wire clip that holds the bulb in place. I carefully set aside the weatherstripping and clip. I don’t want to lose them in the engine compartment. My old bulb looks fine, but the support of one element has a bit of soot on it. It probably burned out inside the support, I tell myself.

When I bought the bulbs, the big book of bulbs told me I need the 9005 bulbs. The big book was wrong. I drive to Canadian Tire to exchange them for the proper 9003 bulbs. I also buy Child Three a hat and a pair of gloves he badly needs.

Back in my driveway, I put the new 9003 bulb in the headlight. I put the wire clip in place and as I’m about to tighten the screw that holds it in, it springs out and vanishes. I can’t see it anywhere. I look inside the engine compartment, I remove the floor of the engine compartment, I even tape a rare-earth magnet to a long screwdriver in hopes of picking up the wire from a crevice. Elvi helps with this, too, but the wire clip has disappeared from this known dimension.

I steam a little then try using the weather stripping, which fits snugly, by itself. It holds the bulb in place adequately.

I reattach the socket and try the lights: nothing has changed. The light is still out. I try the high beams, and two funny things happen. The right headlight beam dims and drops on the garage door to my front, and the left headlight lights up. There’s no high-beam light on my dashboard, but there wasn’t one before. I’ve been driving around with one high-beam on. No wonder other drivers were flashing their headlights at me. Both low-beam lights work fine, and probably did before. The socket must need replacing, but that’s beyond me. People could die, probably me.

At least changing the wipers was fruitful.

I spent the evening working on my laptop. There’s a problem with the power socket. The plug (plugs, really – I tried more than one) won’t steadily transfer a charge. The power flickers constantly, changing screen brightness and not allowing me to do anything with it for more than ten minutes at a time. My local shop estimated $140 for the repair but the laptop, an old Dell Inspiron 8100, isn’t worth that. The shop said the socket probably needed to be soldered, so I disassembled the computer to see what I could do with that.

The socket is tucked behind the cooling fans, so I’d have to remove those. I unscrewed one of the tiny screws that holds the fans in place – and lost it in the bowels of the laptop. This lost piece of metal remained in our plane of existence, however, I was able to shake it out onto the tablecoth – twice.

I stopped trying to remove the fans, and tried to assess the socket with them in place. It’s fixed firmly in place, so I have no idea what to fix. It may be a loose connecting inside the socket, but I can’t fix that and it’s not worth it to have someone else try. I may just go buy a $150 laptop. This one has reached the end of its useful life.

About this blog

According to Typealyzer….

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

ESTP – The Doers

The active and play-ful (sic) type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

This shows what parts of the brain that were dominant during writing:

It might be interesting to make some Web pages of pure screenwriting and do the analysis on those. Might.

Wildlife and tangents

While driving home at 6:30 last night from Carrefour Angrignon, Child Three and I spotted a canid run across the road in front of our car. I thought it was a red fox, although the more I think about it, the more I suspect it was a coyote. It seems big for a fox, although the tip of the tail was light. Both red foxes and coyotes inhabit the Island of Montreal. Of one thing I’m certain: it was not a dog.

Speaking of driving, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied has published yet another study on mobile-phone use while driving. Research has already established that using a mobile phone impairs driving whether or not you hold the phone or use a hands-free system. Got that? Speaker phones or earpieces do not help.

This study looked at why live conversation does not have the same effect and concluded that passengers simplify their conversations and/or stop talking according to driving conditions. Passengers are on the scene and can adjust to environmental clues; people on the phone cannot.

Getting back to wildlife…. Wayne P. Armstrong runs Wayne’s Word. Armstrong started teaching biology courses in the Life Sciences Department of Palomar College in 1966, and he has transferred his coursework to a stupendous Web site. He teaches three online courses, Biology 101 and two botany courses whose credits you might be able to count towards your undergraduate degree.

Interested in AP course credits, in biology or some other subject? HippoCampus (I love that name) offers full-blown courses that will prepare you for AP exams. Being Canadian, I have no idea how the AP system works. For me, the attraction is HippoCampus’s utility as a study guide or tutoring aid. What an amazing free resource.

Bonus healthy Mac:

Apple replaced the malfunctioning ATI X1900XT with the rev. 2 version of the same card and all is perfect once again.

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