Monday, October 31, 2011

Hallowe'en y'all

All crazy in my house for Hallowe'en (and why should this year be any different?)

My fridge magnet collection:

(from top left:  brain, zombie head, heart, lungs with trachea, and stomach with small and large intestines)

Made from Crayola© ModelMagic™ and reclaimed hard drive magnets.

For this year's costume, I was inspired by this guy:
Yes, he's death-incarnate in a cute, cuddly, form only found in the finest corporate Chinese sweat-shops.  He was also in my field of vision as I was pondering what I would be for Halloween this year.

I made some rough measurements, did some in-depth analysis, pored over various images (not porn) and got a list of materials together (okay, some porn).

I didn't know how to use the sewing machine (honestly, it's the only machine that still intimidates me), so I sprang for the black hooded robe at the local Halloween costume store.  The rest, I was determined to make on my own.  I fashioned a paper-mache jawline by using a mixing bowl mold, made a skull wireframe using coat hangers, and draped everything with a white terrycloth towel.  I did know how to stitch, so needle and thread bound the towel-skin to the frame.

The eye-sockets are just plain black felt.  The nose is a piece of black plastic mesh - usually found on exterior screen doors and windows.

I also made white "mitts" for my hands using the rest of the white towel.  Fold the towel in half, trace a pattern, cut it out (so you have two mirror-images), sew the edges together and turn inside-out to hide the seam.  

I had to next make the bone pattern.  Silver duct-tape to the rescue.  Perfect because it adheres nicely to fabric, was readily available, reflective at night, and satisfies the number one rule for any project - must include duct-tape.  I noticed the pattern had a lot of symmetry, so I needed to make a lot of mirror-image cutouts.  I ended up using more of the window-screen material as a "release agent":

1.  Apply a strip of duct tape onto the window-screen.  Make sure the tape is long enough for the desired pattern.
2.  Flip over the screen and apply a second strip of duct tape.  You should now have a duct-tape "sandwich" with the screen material in the middle of the two strips of tape.
3.  Use scissors to cut out the pattern.  Peel the tape off of the mesh when done.

OMG, so spooky.  Seriously, Death just wants a hug.

I liked this project because I felt more-connected with the whole Halloween experience by hand-making (most of) my costume.  With each stitch, I felt more psychotic festive and nostalgic.  I was in a place before Wal-Mart and pre-formed synthetics.

Okay, you can stop staring at my duct-tape crotch now.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Current Events

I fixed an electrical outlet today (yeah, the title is a bad pun).

I know a couple of brilliant electricians, and I've also been electrocuted by an outlet before - so I'm really proud that I was able to do this repair.  Here are my takeaways:

1.  Was able to accurately decipher my circuit-breaker layout and deactivate the correct circuit.
2.  Used my voltmeter, set the proper setting, and determine correct voltage present
3.  Acquired the correct type of GFCI outlet with metal cover (this was an outdoor outlet)
4.  Retro-fit the new outlet and cover into the existing outlet space

For step #2, I needed YouTube's guidance.  I didn't want to destroy myself or my voltmeter, so knowing the proper setting and the correct orientation of the probes was key.  I'm less-afraid of electricity today.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bottom feeders

I don't know why I enjoy the occasional dumpster-dive - perhaps (if you'll allow a bit of auto-psychoanalysis) it stems from a lifetime of saving:  putting money away for college, then med-school, then a house, then the kids' college tuitions et cetera.

Usually, when people dumpster-dive, they come away with a nice shirt, maybe a gaudy lamp, or old National Geographic back issues.

I got fifteen laptops.

Now, I should mention that this was no ordinary dumpster.  It was actually the electronics recycling pile at my office.  We often use prototype hardware to develop our semiconductors on and, well, these prototype laptops were a few years old.  They have very prominent stickers that have interesting phrases like "Not for resale" and "The materials used within are confidential and are not to be shared..."  It's all rather sexually stimulating really.

But there they were, all stacked in a nice, tidy pile waiting for their next owner(s).

The laptops themselves are in perfect shape, but they didn't have any AC Adapters (apparently, the lab engineers hold on to those) and the batteries, understandably, no longer held charge.

"Tish-tosh", I thought.  I can get those items myself.  To the internet!

eBay is wonderful in bringing Hong Kong vendors right to your monitor.  Herein, however, lies the crux of my problem and the inspiration for this post's title.  You can pay a fraction of the retail price for a third-party HP AC Adapter.  Which is what I did.  The item arrived and....would not sufficiently provide power.  My laptop's charge light would blink - struggling to pull electrons from the power-brick.  It had to go back.  My money (minus the shipping charge and time) was refunded.  Strike one.

"Alright", I pondered.  Let's try someone different.  Another PayPal transaction later and a few more weeks of waiting and I had a second AC Adapter to play with.

...for exactly nine minutes.  That's when the innards of the adapter decided to celebrate Independence day by detonating twice.  The LED indicator on the brick fizzled and this piece of equipment was confirmed dead.  Strike two for me.

So now, I've learned that bottom feeders do exist on eBay.  Maybe their profit margins are solely based on their shipping and handling charges - just shuffling these shiny parts that are mere moments away from the landfill.  It doesn't seem like a very solid business-model, but I'm not the one with an entire warehouse of these things (yet).  In any case, I will not be deterred.  I'm determined to find a reputable dealer for AC Adapters and batteries.  I know they're out there and I'll still get a great deal.  Once those are in place, the fun really begins on Black Friday, where I predict several deals will be had on laptop memory and solid-state drives.

Also, I'm getting over a nasty virus (that'll teach me to borrow my son's toothbrush).  So nasty, in fact, that my coughing fits actually broke my butt.  So I'm taking ibuprofen for my own bottom.  I expect my ass to be 100% in another week.

Stay healthy, my friends.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The In-Laws

I learned a lot about my in-laws on our last family vacation. We stayed with them in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. We did a lot of driving.

The main thing I learned about my in-laws is: they could really use a GPS.

We didn't get too lost too often, but being as technologically-embedded as I am, I found it rather curious that they haven't drunk-the-satellite-Kool-Aid that the majority of other travelers have.

It just so happened that I still had a Garmin Nuvi sitting on my basement desk. Of course, this one met an unfortunate fate at the hands of my child (I still do not know which one - and they ain't tellin). Still, I suppose some of the blame is mine, because not only was the GPS on the floor but a spring-loaded nail-setter was mere inches away...

Cardinal rule of gift-giving: Don't give a broken gift.

Did you know they sell replacement touchscreen digitizers on eBay? Neither did I.

Again, I armed myself with the knowledge of a few online videos documenting how to take-apart a Garmin Nuvi. The pristine screen arrived from Hong Kong - with a catch. The connectors did not match. The screen itself was the right dimensions and had the correct number of contacts. Then I saw the fine print: soldering may be required.

I know when I'm over my head and soldering orange ribbon cable is over my head. I needed to call in a favor. The really neat thing is, when you fix an Electrical Engineer's laptop, he'll very graciously solder your orange ribbon cables together. Four quick dabs of a low-power iron and I had reclaimed another gadget from the landfill.

I also updated the maps - because I don't want to put anyone through THAT hell.

Hopefully, this will keep them on-course, saving them gas, time, and sanity.

Maybe I should load the Star Wars voices, too?

Friday, July 29, 2011

More distractions! Yay!

Sometimes being a dad makes you do crazy stuff.

Take for example, my 9 year-old son. He goes into an Apple store one time and he walks out with the idea that he can NO LONGER SURVIVE without an iPod. (Yes, I've denied him an iPod for 9 years - do not report me to Child Protective Services) In particular, a fourth-generation iPod Touch with an 8 Gigabyte capacity.

Rather than just whip out the credit-card and fork over my 1's and 0's to Apple, I start Google.

Did you know there's an ENORMOUS supply of broken fourth-generation iPod Touches with an 8 Gigabyte capacity on eBay? Neither did I.

But, my son deserves better than broken. So I asked myself the next illogical question:

"How difficult is it to fix one of these things?"

I asked this not only for financial reasons, but for extending the Return-On-Investment for this item - because if it broke once, chances are, my son will break it again.

This produced quite a few results on YouTube - two videos in particular were shot in very high quality with excellent narrative detail. I had the knowledge, now I need to acquire the items.

Back to eBay to monitor auctions for about a week. I was hunting for:

An iPod Touch that still functioned but with a shattered digitizer. Unit needs to power on, have both cameras working, seen by iTunes, have external and headphone sound, and wifi.

A replacement digitizer glass

A replacement LCD - even though the LCD was fine on the iPod, the digitizer is glued to the LCD at the factory and popular opinion is that if you're replacing one, you're replacing both.

USB cable for charging and connecting. Earbuds were optional.

I also had a price-threshold that I had to stay under. A new iPod Touch sells for $210 at Best Buy. A seller-refurbished (i.e. one that has been fixed by non-Apple) Touch sells for $160.

I was able to get everything for $124.

Now, to make it really profitable, I had to actually fix the thing. The iPod Touch has a lot of fragile ribbon cables (no, you can't solder them back together if something should go wrong) and a LOT of rubber cement. That was the most-surprising thing about this project - the thing is glued together. Whatever works and is cheap, I suppose.



(I left the plastic screen protectors on - I'll let my son peel them off)

Final words of advice: eBay is FULL of people who will overpay for the items you're interested in, so I suggest just using the Buy-It-Now auctions. Also, "Slight Water Damage" usually means it was dropped in a toilet.

My 5 year-old daughter now wants one for herself. See you on eBay!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Current Events

I've been away a bit. Distracted by the various athletic competitions...

Basketball: This was my first year of following the Boston Celtics Playoff run. I'd never had an interest in basketball before - I believe what sparked "it" for me was, actually standing on a basketball court, toes behind the three-point-line, and seeing just HOW FAR AWAY that basket was. It gave me an entirely new perspective on the athletic skill required to score from that distance, under pressure, with your name and career on that line.

Sadly, the Celtics' season ended at the hands of the Miami Heat. Of course, I then had to follow them to see if they would lose (and eventually, they did - yay).

Hockey: I was more-familiar with the Bruins and was surprised at their post-season. A very dramatic finish to an unbelievable season. Each day, sports analysts would pour over little nuances for each competition, trying to reason and predict the next victory or loss. In the end, sense and reason won out over inexplicable serendipity.

Every hockey fan knows the image of the Stanley Cup being hoisted over a players head. The player skates around the rink with it, turning awkwardly, smiling and screaming with utter joy. This was no different...except for one thing...

..this time, the player was wearing a Boston Bruins jersey.

Seeing the Cup and that jersey together in the same scene hammered it home for me.

We won. I saw and experienced it all. Not just the TV highlights, but the messageboard trolls and the radio-show callers. Stuff that you don't get with a "Commemorative DVD". I don't know if I'll ever see another one (I hope so), but I'll remember this one as long as I am able.

Congratulations to the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions - The Boston Bruins

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mystery text messages

I had plurked that I was receiving mysterious texts on my phone. They were coming from an unknown (to me) phone number - but the area code was from my home state.

Last night, this happened:

Stranger: Hey, I need some help

Up until now, I've just been ignoring the texts - they were harmless "Hi" messages. But the altruist in me couldn't ignore this. I am, after all, a nice guy.

Me: What do you need help with?
S: Jumping someone at the last day of skool

Now, the parent in me steps in and feels the need to stop this before someone gets hurt or worse.

Me: Who?
S: I told u at lunch
Me: I think jumping someone is a bad idea. Also, how did you get this number?
S: U gave it 2 me remember
Me: I think you should recheck that number
S: Y aint it u
Me (feeling a little clever): Prove it 2 me. What's my name?
S: Ashely
Me: Nope. You should get Ashely's number again at lunch. And don't jump anyone plz.

From the previous texts, it's obvious to me that Ashely and this stranger are very good friends, but why would Ashely give her a totally wrong cell number? Hmmmmm....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My new toothbrush

Yesterday, I found myself at the local drugstore. When you get to my age, you start relying on several different products found in the local drugstore. Aisle after aisle of things to enhance life for the aging - It's like a Toys R Us for old people.

I have just gotten past one of the worst colds, so I was in the market for a new toothbrush (seriously, throw out the old virus-laden one - it's not doing anyone any good anymore). A particular Colgate toothbrush caught my eye, mainly because it was black. You really don't see many black toothbrushes on the market, I figured it would stand out in my blue-toned bathroom. All the better for my tired, geriatric eyesight first-thing-in-the-morning.

Colgate-Palmolive really threw all the special effects on this brush: angled bristles, grippy dots, indicators and ergonomic handles. But the one feature that really separates this brush from EVERY other motherfuckin brush in the room:

the ribs on the head.

Seriously, my toothbrush was massaging the insides of my lips and cheeks as I was brushing. An incredible experience, let me tell you. My mouth feels fifteen years younger. I want to share this with my wife, but that crosses a few lines. I do not know what is involved with product testing and development over at Colgate-Palmolive industries, but after forty years of evolution, this toothbrush has become my favorite.

Hope this made you smile.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our fundraising contribution

Here it is:

I say this is "Our" contribution, because I actually don't own any land. My dear friend, Skatoulaki Nakamori, has agreed to host this vendor on her property.

The suit is Transferrable - would make a great gift for that special someone.

Thank you for your generosity.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Still thinking of ALL you guys...

Yeah, yeah, I haven't been on. I've been sick. Blah Blah.

Seriously, I'm still unhealthy (getting better, thank you). Give it another couple of weeks - should be good as new.

In the meantime, I'm working on a charity item for Japan. I'll slap it together, put it in a vendor, make some pictures...hopefully it'll raise some money for the Red Cross.

In the toy department, I got a Color Nook. First thing I did, of course, was root it. Now I'm getting all familiar with Android AppStores...Did you know they use these things to read *books* on? Neither did I.

I'll leave you with this - it reminds me of Maya (don't ask me to explain).

Be well. *cough*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Antisocial virii

*blink* *blink*

Time: 2:12 AM

That's what I've been dealing with for the past two weeks. With each passing day, I've grown exceedingly efficient at removing phlegmatic substances from my body (yum).

My daughter will be turning 5 this weekend. You know what that means. Yes. Another opportunity for blatant copyright infringement through Photoshop. Here it is:

Google gave me the collection of Princesses - without Tiana. I had to photoshop Tiana in. Found a free-download of the purple backdrop from some desktop wallpaper site. Script font was acquired from The giant tiara was obtained from a Disney Princess Logo GIS: Subtracted out the existing text, patched it up, and transformed it. Added shadows.

I hope she likes this cake.