Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Pet Peeve

If you have never designed something you may not understand just how annoying this is, or why I find this annoying, but here goes:

1/16" is not 0.062"!

Those of you out there may not know off the tops of your heads that the actual decimal equivalent is 0.0625". You might also wonder why 5/10,000" matter. The truth is that in the real world that's something that one could never see. The little things add up over a distance, and things get ugly when somebody tries to put dimensions on it. Make a CAD monkey happy. Crank that machine up to 6 places and enjoy. The next person to use your file will respect you so much more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

About Those Onions...

I've been informed since I commented on how much cats love french fried onions that onions are very poisonous to companion animals. I'm not sure if that includes kinkajous, but I'm pretty sure that rules out feeding them to cats and dogs. Fortunately, there doesn't seen to be much actual onion in a french fried onion, so our furry guys seem safe. For the record, the comment was made after a tiny crumb of french fried onion fell to the floor during Thanksgiving preparations and was devoured before its second bounce. This turned out OK, but no more of those onions for the kitties.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving
Originally uploaded by cafn8.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. We learned something interesting today while preparing a vegetable dish. Cats love french fried onions.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

And Speaking of Gas

We have a gas dryer. Well, actually we have 2 gas dryers. One is brand new, shiny and still has the shrink wrap over the control panel. The other is an ages-old "Lady Kenmore" with a bad igniter. As much as we didn't want to replace the dryer right now, we didn't see the point in paying the public service repairman $150 to fix a dryer that has dozens of other 30+ year old parts, any of which could break at any time. So we bought a new one.

As it turns out, the delivery guys have a policy of not installing a gas dryer unless the shut off valve is directly behind the dryer. Never mind the fact that the valve is about 6" below the floor in the basement directly below the dryer. I might add that it would have been nice to have known about this when we bought the dryer so that we could make proper arrangements. So there they sit, as they have been sitting for three days. A plumber, however, is on his way to save the day, though. I expect that we'll also be charged an exhorbitant fee for a few short minutes of work, but I suppose that's what is to be expected. Ahh, the joys of home ownership.

Gassy Days are Here Again

It was a milestone occasion yesterday as I made my way home from work. At the Delta Station in Rutherford, they were actually selling gas for less than $2 per gallon ($1.999 to be exact.) I can't say how long it's been since I saw gas below 2 bucks per gallon. Granted, this price is not typical for the area. I have, in fact, sworn off of buying gas there, as the one time I succumbed to the siren song of cheap gas and braved the blaring Middle Eastern music to have my tank filled there, I was unable to pull smoothly from a stand-still for over a week until I refilled elsewhere. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not, but I digress.

Although one won't likely find sub-2-dollar gas in very many places, prices do seem to be coming down, which is very good. After all, the station where I buy, which seems to have satisfactory quality gas was also down to $2.11. Not too shabby. I still miss riding my bike to work, though.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Much Ado About Blending

It's always a good idea to pay attention to what you're doing, especially when you don't really know what you're doing. Here's a good example. My wife and I were trying a recipe tonight. It was some sort of pumpkin spiced tofu mousse sort of thing. We figured it was worth a shot. You'll never experience new and exciting things unless you.. uh.. try new things. Anyway, the idea was to place the ingredients into a blender and blend until velvety smooth. Well, it became clear immediately that the blender wasn't going to handle the whole batch in one go, so we poured it into a bowl and put a little into the blender at a time. It was a pretty tedious process, as we weren't able to put more than a cup or two in at a time and get any sort of mixing action.

Then as I poured a small portion into the "blended" bowl, I saw something that caught my attention, When the thicker part of the mixture poured off the top there appeared to be a void below it where the blades were. The blades were spinning around in a little frothy air bubble at the bottom of the container, leaving the top almost untouched. We put the next little bit into the blender and cleared the front of the container so that we could see what was going on. The moment we hit the power, the thick mixture opened up in the center, swallowed up a gulp of air, closed up and then sat there. Then I had a "eureka" moment. By starting the blender on low speed and gradually adding speed, the thick mixture started turning little by little and quickly settled inta a neat little swirling funnel where all of the contents were well mixed. Increase too quickly and you end up with a bubble. We were able to get nearly all of the batch swirling in the blender at once. Neat. Incidentally, this only applies to thick stuff. Put thin liquid in it and you can just crank it.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Originally uploaded by cafn8.
I am so smart.


Geek Schwag

Geek Schwag
Originally uploaded by cafn8.
One of the good things about being a "Nominal Engineer" is that people sometimes send you things for free hoping that you'll spec their stuff in actual products. Such is the case with my new AVR Butterfly Demonstration board. I'm excited about this. I can't say how long I've been looking for an excuse to buy a PIC programmer and begin dabbling in microcontrollers. All this thing needs is a free serial port. Now what excuse do I have? Oh yeah, the hard drive on my computer is hosed. Well the board is still pretty swell.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Adventures in O.S.susses

Anybody who read the comments associated with my last post (probably nobody) will already know that I've been having computer issues. In case you're not inclined to go back and read it, here's what's happening. My hard drive has been complaining and begging me to run scan disc with a surface scan for about a month or two now. I did that some time ago and after about 5 days at 50% progress, I gave up, backed up what I wanted to keep and just decided to ignore its pleas.

A couple of days after finally getting DSL installed, I sat down at the computer to try to burn a copy of the most recent Ubuntu Linux Live CD which I had downloaded the previous day. Unfortunately, the computer hung up while booting. What to do? What to do? I remembered the Ubuntu Live CD that I recently downloaded at work and burned to a CD. It wasn't the latest release, but neither was the Windows '98 that was installed to the hard drive. I dug out the CD and within 10 minutes I was up and running. No Hard Drive, just a plain old CD whizzing and swooshing away. It saved me a lot of trouble.

I can't call this a permanent solution, really, though. I suppose it was intended to give people a feel for what it's like running a nice, lightweight and user friendly distribution of Linux. I'll be honest, the whole idea of manually editing configuration files makes me bite my nails. Fortunately, there was none of that. When it starts up, there are a few options to choose from. I found out which one works for me by trial and error. Beyond that everything just works. The GUI is quite easy to navigate, and the programs, the ones I've used anyway, will be familiar enough for any experienced computer user to comfortably get rolling.

Not everything is wonderful, though. The main problem is the fact that it does run from a CD. this seems to make it a bit of a memory hog. To browse the web with my 128MB, I have learned that it's necessary to turn the amount of cache waaaaaaay down, otherwise everything slows to a crawl rather quickly. This, of course must be done every time I start up the computer, because after all, there's no place to save that configuration. It's a little like the movie "Groundhog's Day" in that I find myself going through the same few actions every time I start the computer, learning what works as I go, starting from a blank slate every time. There also seems to be a problem with plugins such as flash, shockwave etc. I assume, however, that these issues are due to potential licensing issues of including them in the CD. Most likely, those issues would all be resolved by installing a fresh copy of Ubuntu on a functional hard drive. At any rate, I don't think I'll be installing Windows '98 when I get around to replacing that hard drive. I really recommend Ubuntu Live (or another "live" distribution) to anyone considering dabbling in Linux.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dizzle-Sizzle in tha Hizzle!

I finally got one of the computers connected via DSL. I know, welcome to the 90's. It isn't fast DSL, but it's a fair bit faster than dialup, which was my source of data up until now. It was also quite a bit cheaper (believe it or not.)

Anyway, I can't say it's been easy. first the modem arrived on the doorstep and taunted me for a few weeks while I waited for my "Service Ready Date" to roll around. As the service ready date rolled around, it became clear that there was a big problem (not directly related to DSL.) Our phone line was crossed with someone else's. Calls out showed some mysterious number on the call recipient's caller ID and calls to our normal number did nothing. Calls to the mystery number made our phone ring along with the phone of the person who calls that mystery numbeer his own. I should also note that that person doesn't have DSL service. Drat.

So we called the phone company and waited. The line was to be fixed on Sunday, but it wasn't. Then the repairman was to come on Monday, but he didn't. Our phone service was finally restored yesterday (Tuesday.) Ugh.

Almost connected, but not quite. Before I could connect, I first had to put a line filter in line with each phone. there were a couple problems to be sorted out, though. First, the phone in the kitchen was ghetto rigged by the previous resident. There is simply a phone wire coming from a hole in the wall, and going directly to the phone. It works, I guess. It will need a couple of adaptors, though, if it's going to work with a line filter. I just unplugged it and set it aside for now. Next was the basement phone. It's an old rotary dial phone, and it was hard wired to a terminal block of some sort in the basement between the joists. I had to temporarily hard un-wire it in order to get things working. It works, though.

Now to get this sucker on a network.