Aug 12

Oma’s cleaning skills

Mom and Dad came to visit this past week. It was a really great time with family and Iris loved the attention. Iris has called my dad “Papa” since she was 8 months or so, and my Mom reserved the name “Oma” (German for grandmother).

While they were here, Oma attacked the kitchen and cleaned both our sink and my lunch cooler. They are both cleaner than I’ve ever seen them!

sparkling lunch box

sparkling sink

Thanks for making the trip out to see us, Oma & Papa!

Aug 12

Iris, Olympian

Iris took her first gymnastics class today.  Next stop: African Games of 2028.

Check out how much fun this kid is having!

Aug 12

Dyson vaccum fix

Is your Dyson Animal vacuum cleaner sucking, like mine was?  There’s a good chance you can fix it cheaply.

In my case, the vacuum head — in Dyson speak, it’s the “soleplate” — was not seating down fully on the floor.


the culprit: the soleplate on my DC07

Because the soleplate wasn’t fully flush with the contact surface, the suction was greatly reduced.  Here’s the sad thing: I knew this for some time.  Like years.  And I never got around to doing anything about it.  I was just vacuuming in mediocrity.  Well, I finally did something about it today.

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Aug 12

OS X Mountain Lion

So I finally got around to updating my iMac from Lion to Mountain Lion last night.  Wow, I am pleasantly surprised!

For the past year, this was a regular occurrence: systemic memory rot.

It was ridiculous.  I felt like I was using a Windows machine.  No offense, 95% of the world.  But seriously, it was crazy bad.

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Jul 12

Aurora Mass Shootings

There’s an article at The Good Men Project worth reading called “Not a Joke: Why Do Our Boys Keep Up the Mass Shootings?” in light of the mass murder this morning in Colorado.  I left a comment there that I wanted to explore some more here.

This is a risky comment, because it is perhaps too early to theorize.  For starters, I live in Colorado and I’m stunned.  I also love the Batman movies for the same reasons lots of other boys and men love them.  I get a rise out of violence in my entertainment, gun-related or otherwise, and I’m not sure yet what that says about me or my conception of masculinity.

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Jul 12

Firebeard, the Phoenix

A few weeks ago, the worst fire in Colorado’s history broke out.  In my town.  It was like Armageddon raining fire down upon us.  A bunch of people lost their homes, a few people died.  It was definitely a scary few days.

After the very professional firefighters and city government folks began to gain control, some levity was in order.  I got on Twitter and joked that I wasn’t going to shave until this end-of-the-world stuff quieted down.  And a local report named Barrett Tryon joined in.  The following is the Tweet stream.

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Jul 12

Sacred Bluegrass

Is this a mashup made in heaven? I think it was.

Daddy and Iris at the concert

Sarah and Iris and I all went to this concert a few weeks ago titled, “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” with text by Marisha Chamberlain and music by Carol Barnett.  The Colorado Springs Chorale’s Chamber Singers performed the piece.

The idea is so pure and revelatory: a unique combination of bluegrass rhythms with sacred choral arrangement is just surprising and wonderful.  Here are some thoughts I had on some of the movements.

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Jun 12

Parody Circuits

I ran across this most excellent xkcd comic the other day:

A funny circuit diagram parody

It’s just so funny on so many levels, if you’re a EE.  Let’s just go clockwise around the page, starting at the top left.

  • I love that the battery voltage is a square root.  Just so obscure and mathematically nerdy.
  • Gluing open the switch?  Ha!
  • That PNP transistor has two emitters, look out!  Crashing electrons!
  • I like that the printed value of the resistor isn’t explicit; just the color code is written.  Priceless.
  • Solder blob, yes!  Any engineer worth his salt relies on solder blobs during prototyping. It’s especially funny that this blob is shorting out a bunch of parts.
  • 666 timer.  Why didn’t I think of that one?  The 555 timer has had too much fun for too many years.
  • Magic smoke bottle.  Again, just so funny.
  • Just try to do some nodal analysis on that resistor network!
  • Holy water, tear collectors, and sandals… wow.
  • “Hire someone to open and close switch real fast.”  I laugh out loud each time I read that.
  • Most expensive chip available — I used one of those in my senior design project!
  • Arduino for blog cred.  That’s so trending now.
  • I’m afraid that 50V battery isn’t going to last long.
  • Hot glue.  Man, if I had a nickel for every time I whipped out the hot glue gun…

Insider parodies like these really crack me up.  I’m reminding of the Death Waltz musical score, also comically brilliant in its absurd complexity.  My wife reminded me of some music that her choir performed by ” PDQ Bach”.  Here’s a delightful such performance:

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Jun 12

Pro bono blog development

As my wife can attest, I’ve been lost in the world of code again.  It‘s happened before.  This time, I was working on a big project for an NPO for which I do part-time admin work.  The project involved updating their WordPress theme.  I had not selected the previous theme they were using; it was roughly 4-6 years old, so showing its age in a lot of ways.

The CBE Scroll blog

The effort was very much a “start from scratch” job.  Since web dev is not my day job, my skill set is somewhat limited in the world of PHP and CSS.  So I knew that I had to start with a good foundation.  In this case, I settled on the amazingly excellent Thematic Framework.  The learning curve is non-trivial, but the rewards are huge.  I’ve learned a lot about PHP filtering, action hooking, and good design principles in general.

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Jun 12

Cell phone connector fix

My good friend James contacted me with an electronics problem.  Seems his daughter’s cell phone was on the fritz.  So I agreed to take a look.

She has a Pantech P7000 flip phone, but it stopped charging.  I asked a few questions first to understand the nature of the problem.  For instance:

  • Has she tried other wall chargers? Yes, all give same symptoms.
  • Has she tried other batteries? Unknown.
  • Has she tried wiggling the cable to see if it makes connection? Yes, and it does.

James gave me some great info, so I knew what I was in for.  My guess was that the charging connector on the phone was going bad.  I’ve seen it before.  James sent it to me to have a look:

The first thing I did was have a look at the charger, just to test out the verbal info I gathered from James.  With a set of helping hands, I probed out the power and ground pins:

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