Wednesday, June 21, 2006

On assuming the apparently obvious... salt pigs

Say you've crashed at a friend's house after a party and woken up early. You wander into the kitchen and dig up the coffee, milk and sugar bowl and fix yourself a cup. The coffee is horrible because instead of sugar in a sugarbowl it turns out you've picked up "the salt pig" - a sugar bowl like thing containing salt and a salt spoon.
This happened to me in my younger days and it taught me a valuable lesson: some people do things that are totally, totally wrong.
Take, for instance, my assuming that LCD projectors all have a video-in from your PC, and a video-out to the monitor so you can have dual displays. Just like every LCD projector I've ever seen (and there's been a few). Wrong. Painfully wrong. Costly in time and money wrong.
Or that a motherboard with onboard video and fast PCI will allow you to use a video card AND the onboard video to support dual monitors - a method I've been using since PCI came out. Oops! Sorry! Not anymore! Have to get a dual output PCI card and I'm not going to tell you the headaches that brought on.
All this stems from today's incident where I may have fried $1K worth of electronics because I assumed that a heat sink would be grounded. Nope. -15V. My Bad. Ouch.

I go through life making assumptions based on experience. Most things are predictable (like a sugar bowl will have sugar in it). I'm not going to stop and check everything. I will check the important things like, yes I shut off the breaker and the voltmeter confirms this, or go for a physical to make sure my body still works.

And I am aware that "the rules change" - like the world my sons are coming into is different from the one I came from ( different but the same ).

But not grounding a heat sink - Great Bouncing Buddah in a Sidecar full of Gibbons! What the hell were they thinking!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

On Awesome, Good and "Eh...."

Gorre and Daphetid
I used to read hobby magazine like Model Railroader and Garden Railways. Not for a while. To be honest, I think I've had enough of seeing the spectacular quality of work some of these people do. It's the same with any hobby magazine, DIY blog or even the R/C helicopter I saw being flown today like some kind of dragonfly on amphetamines - some people are just too damn good at what they do. It's kind of a Marth Stewart mentality - do it, do it extremely well, and in huge quantities like it's the only thing you do 24/7. I know I'm supposed to be inspired by the meticulous craftsmanship, but even pre-kids I swear I never could have put that kind of time and energy into something.
At one point I do remember reading and article about legendary model railroader John Allen, when he mentioned even he got tired of his masterpiece railroad "The Gorre and Daphetid" and wanted to chuck the whole thing and go sailing - that I appreciated.
I suppose I've never had a true passion for anything I did. I've built a lot of stuff, but I think it was just for the fun of building it. I know far too many times I've finished something just because I started it, but not because I really wanted to. And it suffers - usually it's something that I can tell will never be all I want it to be because be ambitions are greater than my abilities.
I think it's time to cull the project collection and focus on one or two.
Or maybe find a new hobby.
Now where's that "Build Your own Sports Car" book....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Doctor Who and the 80's Revivals

Then and Now:
Doctor Who
Then: Rubber monsters, spaceships on wires, techno babble. B-
Now: Impressive CGI effects, a budget, real drama. A
Battlestar Galactica
Then: Soap Opera acting, cheesy melodrama, daggits and children. C
Now: Gritty realism, bleak dystopia, characters and great camera moves. B+
Star Wars
Then: Han Solo, light sabers, Darth Vader. A+
Now: Jar Jar Binks, way too much CGI, Darth Maul. C+
Not to mention: The Poseidon Adventure,The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Movie, Superman, Batman Begins....

Can you spot the Trend? Can we expect "Buck Rogers" soon? (Oooh yes please with Princess Ardala and the outfits she was almost wearing...).

Funny that any of these should have had me leaping on the couch like my 10 year old self did when most of them first came out. It may be age, general cynicism or just the new "grittier" take doesn't appeal to me, but I've now learned not to set my hopes too high.

Doctor Who is pretty awesome though....

Project #501 - Dream Project


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Project #176 and 177 - Scripts

I'm not crazy about commuting. It's anywhere from an hour to two a day contributing to global warming, but at least it's "me" time, and I get to think. Sometimes I chew on a project related problem (like how to re-build my flexible track jig with PVC pipe) and other times I just turn on the radio and listen to the inane morning shows, hoping for some Dire Straits or Tom Petty.
Sometimes I open the mental filing cabinet and pull out one of my scripts.
I have two scripts, one for a play and one for a movie. The play was the first I conceived of back when I was in amateur theatre. We did some Christmas Pantomimes - very British and a hoot to do. A couple of the other cast members were also big Arrogant Worms fans - the Worms being a Canadian comedy troup whose songs include "Carrot Juice is Murder" and "The Mounted Animal Nature Trail". We tried our best to get some of the songs included in the script - but no. So I merged the two - a pantomime featuring music from the Arrogant Worms. It's based on "The Last Saskatchewan Pirate" - a tale of a farmer pushed too far who resorts to piracy on the Saskatchewan river. The story has evolved over the years, but it's still pretty much the same. A good natured farmer and his family are threatened by the developement of a Mega Mart. They steal a parade float, sail across Canada and search for help. Of course there's a villian ( a bloated rock star ), a good fairy ( with a Blackberry and a Starbucks habit) a pantomime horse (Dobbin - the Mountie's horse) and all the Arrogant Worms songs I could cram in. It's still all in my head, except for an outline I wrote a few years ago while camping.
The other is an updated version of a book I read many times as a kid. "The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree" is one of those very nerdy fantasies about befriending an alien whose been stranded on Earth. Written years before "E.T.", it was probably one of my favourite books, along with "Rascal" and "The Great Brain". There were several sequels (all of which I now own, thanks to ebay). This one begs to be made into an animated film, and updated to the present. Young Eddie Baugh ( in the books his name is Eddy Blow - which I can't see using today) is a computer wizard, running his own ISP, with patents on several technologies pending. He has promised his father to spend a week in the country with his grandmother and help her organize the family farm's finances. In the country, Eddie runs afoul of some small time cyber crooks and encounters a strange boy from another world. There are, of course, pokes at having an obsession with technology, Microsoft, the Internet, and exciting chase scenes.
My only issue with it is it's a little remnicent of "The Iron Giant"... but then again, there are no original ideas anymore...
So one day I will sit down and get them on paper. At least the treatment. I'm not the greatest writer of dialog and it would probably come out sounding like anything George Lucas crafted in the past seven years (ie bad).
Everyone has a script or two inside them. "Snakes on a Plane" actually became a movie... go for it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Garage sale finds... and then some....

Saturday mornings come early in our house. So it's often a cause for a trip to Tim Horton's and some garage sales. Here's a few discoveries from this weekend:
TI86 graphing Calculator - $4
Sorry, but I still like my HP15C and its quirky Reverse Polish Notation (not a joke - it's actually called RPN after a Polish mathematician). But still it will be nice to have to lend out to students. And Bonus! Memory is still intact and there are some nice AP Chem notes, Geology cheat sheets and Calculus programs installed. No games though. Obviously a hard core student.
Casio 5 MPixel digital camera - $6
Broken LCD screen, no charger or adapter. Might be fixable. Oh, and a 128 MB SD card. With pictures and cell phone backup. Pictures reveal nothing incriminating, many 20 somethings in pubs and outdoors doing 20 something activities. Cell phone has phone lists and other stuff. Don't care - format.
Sharp Electronic organizer - $2
Needs new batteries, but seems to work fine. Predecessor to the Palm Pilot and listed in PC Magazine's "Top 25 Gadgets" of the past 20 years. Give it to the kid to add to the "spy stuff" collection. But let's look at the stored information which, oddly enough, is still intact even though the thing must be 10 years old. Credit card numbers, bank account numbers, possibly a PIN number.

This is why if I ever throw anything out, which is rare, I drill holes through it first. Or give it to the kid - because I know it'll get buried in the sandbox, batted with a baseball bat and dropped in the pond... and there's not much that will take that kind of treatment.

(additional note - all devices have been wiped clean )
(UPDATE: June 5 - Or maybe not - the organizer |Just| |Won't| |DIE!|)