Sunday, November 20, 2011

Learning Language

I picked this up to read to Brynna the other day:

And she said to me, "like going to a fair? Or like fair to people?"

It's so cool watching her figure this stuff out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cousins, Then and Now

My wedding, 2005:

And Martha's, 2011:

Who's next? Abby, watching you drink a beer last weekend was quite enough for me for now...

Monday, November 14, 2011

She spells!

Not bad for a 3 year old, eh?

Though I must say it's even easier to read when she TYPES her name, which she now does whenever there's a keyboard or iPhone to hand. Ah, these techno-kids.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Repairs

Keeping in line with DIY repairs, I have this lovely bit of dental work to display:

OK, so it's not really dental work, but I prefer to think of it as wiring the Jetta's bumper shut. The front bumper and grille assembly is a stackup of several pieces, nearly all of them plastic. As far as I can tell, they all snap together with so many spring-hook features molded in. The lowermost, black ABS piece is essentially a skirt that reduces wind resistance, and elegantly curves under the grille and the forward section of the engine compartment. This means that dragging it backwards over anything (curbs, the concrete blocks at the end of parking spaces, snow berms left by the plow guy) has a tendency to break it.

After a number of years of abuse, after one of last winter's numerous storms, the passenger-side of the skirt broke away. After some time with it dragging on the pavement and looking sad, I decided it needed fixing, lest it catch on something and tear more of my car off. Last spring, I was able to reattach it to the bumper segment above. Where they meet is a sort of flange that the now-missing spring fingers originated. I was able to drill some holes and thru-bolt it back together. It was tricky work that mostly had to be done blindly by touch, but It was fairly clean from the outside.

About two weeks ago, I pulled just a little too far into a parking spot and caught the skirt on a concrete block. Pulling back ripped away my careful thru-bolt job. After some more time with the bumper segment flapping in the breeze, I decided to make a serious fix. Again with my drill I this time installed some bolts with nuts as studs, then used wire to cinch it all back together.

Ain't it pretty? But for a 10-year old car with 94,000 miles on it, I am unlikely to replace the front bumper assembly just for looks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

(not so) Quick Fix

Well, it was a difficult case, but I think he'll pull through. He may even be able to play the piano again.

I received a replacement iPhone 4 screen assembly in the mail today (thanks to iFixYouri, which was the least expensive not-so-shady place I found for this part). After B went to bed, I spread my tools out on the dining room table and set to work.

Those who are interested can follow the directions I used here from They really do such quality work! They rate this job as a 1-hour, Difficult repair. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. But I'm comfortable with doing delicate work. I deal with small electronics and fine mechanical assemblies on a near-daily basis for my job (though Apple takes it to one hell of an extreme). In true Yankee and Maker fashion I prefer to make-do and repair rather than replace. So let's have a go! It ended up being more like three hours due to my meticulous nature and some complications.

The most useful tool I used for this job was my non-magnetic, fine pinch tweezers. I cannot imagine doing this job without them: there were a few dozen tiny fasteners that needed to be carefully lifted out. From this and other repairs, I have developed a system for keeping them straight:

Yes, those labels I've written go up to about 27, as in Step #27. It takes a while to get down to the screen. In a thoroughly warranty-voiding operation, you approach it from the backside, remove the battery, the speaker assembly, the logic board (what a piece of work that is!), undo about a dozen tiny, high density connectors, before you can finally remove the screws that hold the screen to the stainless steel bezel.

However, once the screws are removed, the screen assembly does not simply fall off. In the vicinity of the Home button, below the edge of the screen itself, is a sizeable piece of double-sticky tape that helps to hold the front glass to the bottom section of the case. Since this is where the screen broke, it meant that my first attempts to remove the screen only caused more cracking and shattered glass. I did eventually get it off, but the double-sticky tape was left with a scree of glass shards that took a long while to remove.

Once the tape was more or less cleared of debris, the re-assembly with the new screen went pretty smoothly - just reverse the directions that got me there. I had no leftover parts, and I didn't have to force anything into place, so all seemed well.

Still, this is major surgery for a phone, so there was some apprehension when I turned the power back on. The screen lit up with that familiar Apple logo! It responded to my touch (ok, that's just a little too dirty)! As far as I can tell, everything works as well as it always had done. Cell reception is good, WiFi is strong, and no magic smoke was lost in the process.

All in all, I call it a victory.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Little Dancer

Brynna has recently become ballet-obsessed. After many many readings of Angelina Ballerina, and viewings of the associated TV show, I signed her up for dance class at a local studio. The place I picked was recommended by one of my attendings as the "mellow" option in town.

Last night was her first class. It's 15 minutes of tap followed by 15 minutes of ballet, and watching eight two and three year olds try to figure out the various dance steps was just about the cutest thing I've ever seen. There are a couple of teachers to ride herd on the toddler crowd, and they teach to music with a voice-over of instruction about the steps. It's quite cool, actually.

B jumped right in and had a grand old time. She's been dancing pretty much nonstop ever since. And her tap shoes will arrive this weekend...uh oh!

I have some video that I took at the lesson, but can't post it because it has other kiddos in it too. I can send the link if you shoot me an email.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Physics Lesson

Behold, an abject lesson in both Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation as well as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics`! We'll throw in Murphy's Law for good measure.

And what is this lesson? Don't think that your bare, numb fingers can properly hold onto an iPhone after a three-mile run in freezing temperatures. And when you are attempting not to fumble said phone, it would be a good idea to not do so while standing on concrete. And, really, the extra two seconds it would take you to come to a full stop before marking your time won't kill any personal records, either.

Ah well. Apple has sold over ten million iPhone 4's. The latest model has just come out, which makes my year-old phone so passe. This means lots and lots of relatively inexpensive replacement OEM parts. Have screwdriver, will travel. Will void warrantees for continued mobility. In the meantime, while waiting for my replacement screen to arrive, I am just trying to avoid slicing my finger on the sharp edges. "Slide to unlock" shouldn't mean drawing blood.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Turbo Pascal

Back in high school, the late 90s, I took the AP Computer Science course. It was taught in a long-since-defunct language called Pascal. It was old then, but for its time, Pascal was hot shit: a much more powerful and flexible language than BASIC (which I picked up one summer punching on my parents' Commodore64), but a step below more modern, object-oriented languages such as C++ and Java, which were hitting their stride then, but can be a bit more abstruse for teaching basic programming concepts.

We coded Pascal using the an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and compiler from Borland called Turbo Pascal. Version 3, the first version that became widespread, released 25 years ago. At the time, software wasn't "downloaded," and most of it wasn't "installed": it was run from these funky things called "floppies". Not them new-fangled 3-1/2" ones, mind you, that aren't even floppy, I mean the flimsy 5-1/4" ones. These floppies had a maximum capacity of 100-300 kB. One thing that made Turbo Pascal awesome was that it came on a single disk, because the entire programming language, compiler, and IDE fit into a paltry 39,731 bytes. That may have been sizable for its time, but 39 kB is minuscule today - you can't even create a Word document of a single sentence in that much space.

What else is Turbo Pascal 3 smaller than? John Hague of the blog Programming in the 21st Century puts it in perspective. Excerpted here:

  • The home page (219,583 bytes).
  • The image of the white iPhone 4S at (190,157 bytes).
  • The touch command under OS X Lion (44,016 bytes).
  • The Wikipedia page for C++ (214,251 bytes).
In truth, I actually took APCompSci twice in high school. I wasn't terribly satisfied with the 3 (out of 5) that I got on the final that first year. By the time I was a senior the AP curriculum had shifted to C++, a thoroughly modern language that drives huge amounts of software past, present, and future, and I had an open slot in my schedule. That year I got a 5. Thanks, Mr. Sutera!