Thursday, August 31, 2006

Who would have thought...

Here's an odd story. In the UK, the plastic container that McDonalds uses for their McFlurry ice cream thing had to be redesigned because hedgehogs were getting their heads stuck in it and they'd then starve to death. Wow! Who would have ever anticipated that when they originally designed a cup? Talk about a weird cause and effect.

You can read about the full story here.

It reminds me of how a friend recently chided me for throwing out the plastic rings that are used to hold a six-pack of soda together without first cutting all the rings. It turns out animals can get the rings stuck around their necks and as the animal then grows bigger, it can strangle them. Yikes!

Lego Mindstorms NXT

Now here's something I would have bought the day it arrived in stores had it arrived a year or so ago. It's the next generation Lego robotics kit, aptly called Lego Mindstorms NXT. When the original Mindstorms robotics kit came out years ago, I ended up buying two sets and tinkered quite a bit with it. It was a slipperly slope of Lego obsession that over the years found me owning way more Lego pieces than I really needed. In the end I finally came to my senses and gave it all away to family and friends.

Anyhow, you can read about the new system here. It looks very nice, but I at least have enough sense to know it's not something I should buy. In no way do I have the free time to spend with it. It's a somewhat strange feeling to realize my life has gone in a different direction now and I have different priorities than I did a few years ago. But I definitely I think it's a change for the better.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Weird Economics

This is just crazy.  I want to add 1 gig of memory to a Dell desktop computer. I went to Dell's website and discovered the memory modules will cost me over $800.  Even from an online store that specializes in memory and generally has good (i.e. low) prices, the best price I could find was about $600. 

But, if I go to Dell's online outlet store, I can buy a whole computer (which comes with 1 gig of memory) for less than $800.  And the computer I buy will be faster and significantly better than the one I'm trying to add the memory to.  Isn't that weird?? 

So, if I really want to get more memory for my computer, it looks like I'll be better off just buying a whole new system.   It just seems like such a waste of resources.   

Monday, August 14, 2006

Deer in Wolfeboro

I was up in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire this weekend for a family get-together and up the street from my sister's home we spotted a family of deer.

There were actually two fawns, but most of the time they were side by side, giving me lots of pictures that looked like one mutant fawn with 8 legs and a head on each end of the body. Also, the lighting was pretty poor, so the above two pictures were the best I could get. Sorry they're kinda blurry. At least my camera still works after being taken apart.

Friday, August 11, 2006

One bad turn deserves another

While I was in Okinawa, I dropped my camera and the LCD control panel on the top of the camera cracked. It's not the color LCD that displays the photographs, but it's the smaller monochrome one that just shows the number of pictures and a bunch of camera settings. Since the liquid part of the liquid crystal display (LCD) leaked out of the crack, the display is pretty much unreadable now as can be seen in this picture.

I called Nikon to find out if they could fix it, and they said they could, but they wouldn't give a price estimate unless I mailed the camera to them. I was also told I could buy the part and install it myself, but that would void my warranty. Since the whole dropping of my camera isn't covered by the warranty anyhow, and I only have about 4 months left of the warranty, and I'd prefer to not be without my camera for several weeks, I decided to go with ordering the part. I was given the phone number of the parts department so I called there and described the part I needed. I was told it cost $90 (ouch!). It seemed a bit pricey, but I really didn't have any choice, so I went ahead and ordered it. After placing the order, I started to wonder if maybe the salesperson misunderstood and thought I needed the color LCD display (which I could more reasonably think cost $90), but then I reconsidered and thought I had been pretty clear in the description, so I quickly forgot about calling back.

Today the part came in. Since I'm heading up to New Hampshire this weekend, I was eager to get the camera fixed before the trip. However, when I went to take apart the camera, I realized I didn't have any precision screwdrivers (which are needed for the tiny screws in the camera). It was somewhat late (around 9:00PM), but I knew Home Depot would be open, so I headed out there and got the appropriate size screwdriver. On my way home, I was in a bit of daze (it's been a long tiring day) and I made the big mistake of not stopping at a yellow light and instead proceeded through the intersection hoping the light would stay yellow. It was a poor choice on my part. The light turned red while I was still going through the intersection and shortly after I seeing that one red light, I saw a whole bunch of flashing blue lights in my rear-view mirror. There's wasn't really anything I could say to the police officer other than "Sorry". I'm not about to argue when I know I'm in the wrong. To make matters worse, as explained to me by the officer, the state computers were down at the time so he couldn't confirm whether I had a good driving record and give me a break. His only choice was to give me the ticket. So, now I have the choice to either pay the $75 fine or go to court. There's a RI law that lets you plead guilty to a traffic offence and if you haven't had any other tickets in the past 3 years, then the charges will be dismissed. The only caveat is you have to go to court. Since I haven't had a ticket in over three years, I might decide to do that, but then I'll have to take time out of work. It might be cheaper to just pay the fine by mail.

Back to my camera. When I did finally get home, I began the somewhat complex and delicate process of taking apart my camera. After about 30 to 45 minutes of work, I finally got it all apart and was ready to put in the new LCD only to discover that I had been sent the wrong part afterall. Nikon sent the color LCD. Ug! I guess I am a bit tired and careless today. I really should have looked at the part a bit more closely before taking apart the camera. Now I have a totally unusable camera in many pieces.

I'm pondering whether it's worth the time to put it all back together so I can at least use it, or just put it aside and wait for the correct replacement part. I have all thse tiny screws to keep track of. Since they are all slightly different sizes, I'm thinking I'll probably should put the camera back together while I still have a clear memory of what went where. Oh well, so much for getting to bed early.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Turning a phrase

I'm always impressed by how well some people can write. I admire the ability to capture a thought or a feeling and concisely express it in words. I'm often reminded of this when I'm listening to music in my car. It doesn't even have to be a particularly great song overall, but I might find one little piece of the lyrics that strikes my fancy. Today I was reminded of this when I heard a song by the band "The The", called Perfect. Here's a snippet from the song:

Passing by a cemetery,
I think of all the little hopes and dreams,
That lie lifeless and unfilled beneath the soil.
I see an old man fingering his perishing flesh.
He tells himself he was a good man and did good things.
Amused and confused by life’s little ironies,
He swallows his bottle of distilled damnation.

For some reason I just love that phrase "bottle of distilled damnation". Now, it might all seem kind of depressing just reading that bit of the lyrics, and the rest of the lyrics follow that mood, but the music itself has a rather upbeat tune, which contrasts nicely with the more serious nature of the words. It's kind of like life. For some reason listening to this song actually puts me in a good mood. Maybe it's this very contrast of the upbeat music and the serious words that lifts my spirits. There's lots of serious and potentially depressing things in the world but it doesn't mean you can't still have an upbeat attitude and demeanor.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fermented paint?

The living room and dining room in my condo share the same wall, so when I was painting the living room a pale yellow a few years ago, I just sort of stopped when I got to the edge of the dining room. I feathered the edge so the yellow blended into the white of the dining room, but the color change was still noticeable if you looked for it. Since my condo is for sale, I figured I may as well finish the paint job to make it look a bit more tidy.

I had originally bought two one gallon cans of paint three years ago, but never even opened the second can. Well, today I was in for a bit of a surprise when I finally opened the full can. As soon as I popped an edge of the cover, paint sprayed out like it was from a shook up soda can. It shot over three feet across the room and got me nicely in the face and eyes, too! Fortunately I had a drop cloth down and all the paint (other than what was on my face) landed on the drop cloth. After I completely took off the lid, the paint was even bubbling and was overflowing from the can.

It was all pretty weird. I never knew paint could ferment or get fizzy. I wonder what sort of chemical reaction was going on. It's latex paint, so I don't imagine it was anything dangerous, but still it was a bit surprising when it happened.

I ended up pouring the excess paint into a second can and mixed it all up and it seems to be working ok. I suppose I'll find out tomorrow if it dries properly.