Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Eating Swords, er, . . .

. . . no, that's not it. "Take the Sword In", that's it! Another way of saying, "seek first to understand, then to be understood". That is, if you can keep your eyes from rolling into the back of your head.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Creative Thinking Techniques

A major part of my job is listening, which I admit is something I have to work at. Some people literally bore me to catatonia. It's hard to paying attention to what they're actually saying while I'm struggling to keep my eyes from rolling into the back of my head, even when what they're saying is important. I even went on a three-day course to learn how to listen.

The other major part of my job is problem solving. Actually, I don't solve many problems. Rather I coach other people to solve them. So I was grateful to stumble across this page of creativity techniques. Some of them even have creative names like "Six Thinking Hats" and "Snowball Technique".

Another tool in my chest.

Er, never mind. That sounds like somebody buried a hatchet in my sternum . . .

Monday, May 29, 2006

Knitting Computer

All knitters are mathematicians. Knitters count the stitches (arithmetic), figure out the number of stitches needed (algebra) and create shapes (topology, geometry, and trigonometry). Knitting was one of the first applications of computer programming. Knitted fabrics were commercially produced using punch cards long before anyone ever heard of IBM or Microsoft.

I've gone looking for knitting calculators on-line before, but it's usually something you have to pay through the nose for. Finally, an on-line calculator that's free! Yea! Of course, it's only for one style of sweater, and they sell a more sophisticated model on another page, but hey, I'll take it.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Next Project - LEDs or FM Transmitter

Now that I have my iPod recharger built, and retro-fitted a pair of ear-defender style headphones retro-fitted to keep the noise out of the office, I'm thinking about my next electronics project. I can either refit my motorcycle dash-board with LEDs, since I need to open it up to replace the burnt-out bulbs anyway. Or I can buy and FM transmitter kit to replace the the one that went mysterious missing recently. I would be using it to hook my iPod up to car stereo without having to rewiring the dashboard.

Alex (my eldest son) has been inspired to build his own battery pack for his PSP as well. He's even thinking it would be cool to make it a recharger at the same time, so he wouldn't even have to take the batteries out or carry around a seperate recharger, which I thought was pretty clever. He could even take it one step further, and recharge it off a USB port or cigarette lighter, to get trans-continental portability . . . hmmmm.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Changing iPod Batteries

Just to save you some time searching the internet for supplier if you ever need to change the batteries in your iPod, which can be quite frustrating if you live in Canada (the sane version of the U.S.A), and
  • you don't want to pay $30 for shipping a two ounce item with FedEx (not including duties & taxes, mind you)
  • you don't want top dollar to some eBay hack for a battery with poorer performance than the orignal one
  • you don't want to give you credit card number to a shady internet store in New Jersey
Future Shop carries iPod replacement batteries.

Although, sad to say, checking stock on-line before you drive across town to pick one up doesn't always work. When you get there, they may not be able to find them. Which means you have to travel to another quadrant of the city to get them.

I can, however, recommend the Sonnet replacement battery they sell, which includes tools & a CD with installation instruction video. Took me about twenty minutes to do.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Replacing Cordless Drill Batteries

I have the same complaint as the author of this article. The batteries in my cordless drill are useless. When I went to replace just the battery pack, they want to charge me 75% of the cost of the original drill, which was more than the low-end designed-by-Communists built-by-Chinese-prisoner-monkeys replacement.

Little did I realize what crap batteries they used, and now I feel ashamed for contibuting to their GDP & probably world pollution. (One of the reasons they can build things so cheaply, besides using prisoners and slave labour, is the total lack of environmental protection enforcement or even laws.) Currently I have to have the damn thing sitting in the recharger, because the charge disperses all by itself, usually in a matter of hours.

Never again.

Regardless, the batteries in my chordless drill suck, so knowing how to replace the cheap rechargeable batteries in your cordless drill with NiMH batteries is a good thing. They take longer to charge, but last twice as long in use. I've just changed the battery in my iPod, so this should be a snap.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Zero Noise Headphones for Cheap

If your office is anything like mine (cube farm, white-collar workers), sometimes things get noisy. Radios are always on, people are talking on the phone, laughing, having a meeting in the hallway, on a conference call, or worse all these things are happening at the same time. It's irratating, since we're supposed to be a technology company, which means most people should be spending their time "thinking".

I've never been able to afford a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Now apparently I don't have to: just take a pair of ear defenders (like I have five pair out in the garage for when I'm out at the rifle range), and mod them to put speakers inside.

Of course! One motorcyclist at work did a similar thing with his motorcylce helmut so he could listen to his iPod while riding. We had a long conversation in the middle of the office about how he'd gone about it...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Craft Week - Silkscreening

So this week's theme is going to be crafting, just 'cause I've come across a few interesting craft sites lately. First one that caught my interest: silkscreening.

Maybe it's the retro under-current that's happening in the cool culture.

Maybe it's that we seem to be printing up t-shirts for Scouts and other events all the time, and it would be cool to be able to produce something bigger that 8 1/2 by 11.

Maybe it's the expense of those iron-on sheets for t-shirts you can run through your ink-jet printer. I've never had much luck with those anyway - they fade, discolour, are limited in size, & peel off.

This process doesn't look trivial, but the results seem to be pretty cool.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The History of Dance

I bet this guy has no problem getting a date - he's funny and can dance.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Smart Guy

Some retired deputy sheriffs went to a retreat in the mountains. To save money, they decided to sleep two to a room. No one wanted to room with Daryl because he snored so badly. They decided it wasn't fair to make one of them stay with him the whole time, so they voted to take turns.

The first deputy slept with Daryl and comes to breakfast the next morning with his hair a mess and his eyes all bloodshot. They said, "Man, what happened to you?" He said, "Daryl snored so loudly, I just sat up and watched him all night."

The next night it was a different deputy's turn. In the morning, same thing--hair all standing up, eyes all blood-shot. They said, "Man, what happened to you? You look awful!" He said, "Man, that Daryl shakes the roof. I watched him all night."

The third night was Frank's turn. Frank was a big burly ex-football player; a man's man. The next morning he came to breakfast bright eyed and bushy tailed. "Good morning," he said.

They couldn't believe it! They said, "Man, what happened?" He said, "Well, we got ready for bed. I went and tucked Daryl into bed and kissed him good night. He sat up and watched me all night long."

From: Rec.Humour.Funny

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rat Bikes

So before I take off to B.C. for the weekend, if you're into building your own bike from scrap part the place to start is "Rat Bike Zone". Have fun!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Knitting, Motorcyles, & Tattoos

It seems that you can find anything on the 'net. If fact, I would say that you could find any almost any combination of things on the 'net.

"Theresa Honeywell is tougher than you. Her work reflects her interests in the "manly arts" with a feminine twist. What motorcycle or jackhammer wouldn't want to be knitted into infamy? Her embroidered tattoos will live on long after you've gotten that celtic knot lasered off."

I bet the engine purrs like a mitten . . .

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Is It Really a Motorcycle?

If a monk builds a motorcycle out of found parts, including a car engine, is it really a motorcycle?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wooden Motorcyle

Nobody seems to know much about it, but there are a couple of pictures floating around the internet. I wonder how it handles at highway speeds?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Sometimes a Story is Funny *And* Teaches Us Something

Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he'd just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut and bruised and he's walking with a limp.

"What happened to you?" asks Sean, the bartender.

"Jamie O'Conner and me had a fight," says Paddy.

"That little bastard, O'Conner," says Sean, "he couldn't do that to you, he must have had something in his hand."

"That he did," says Paddy, "a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin' he gave me with it."

"Well," says Sean, "you should have defended yourself, didn't you have something in your hand?"

"That I did," said Paddy. "Mrs. O'Conner's breast, and a thing of beauty it was, but useless in a fight."

. . . what the lesson of this story is, I'll leave as an exercise to the reader.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sometimes a Story Is Satire

. . . and sometimes a funny story has it's own power. Is it any wonder tyrants have no sense of humour?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sometimes Stories Are Just Funny

The Squirrel of Death

I never dreamed slowly cruising on my motorcycle through a residential neighborhood could be so incredibly dangerous!Little did I suspect. I was on Brice Street - a very nice neighborhood with perfect lawns and slow traffic. As I passed an oncoming car, a brown furry missile shot out from under it and tumbled to a stop immediately in front of me. It was a squirrel, and must have been trying to run across the road when it encountered the car.

I really was not going very fast, but there was no time to brake or avoid it -- it was that close. I hate to run over animals, and I really hate it on a motorcycle, but a squirrel should pose no danger to me. I barely had time to brace for the impact. Animal lovers, never fear. Squirrels, I discovered, can take care of themselves!

Inches before impact, the squirrel flipped to his feet. He was standing on his hind legs and facing my oncoming Valkyrie with steadfast resolve in his beady little eyes. His mouth opened, and at the last possible second, he screamed and leapt! I am pretty sure the scream was squirrel for, "Banzai!" or maybe, "Die you gravy-sucking, heathen scum!"

The leap was nothing short of spectacular...He shot straight up, flew over my windshield, and impacted me squarely in the chest. Instantly, he set upon me. If I did not know better, I would have sworn he brought 20 of his little buddies along for the attack. Snarling, hissing, and tearing at my clothes, he was a frenzy of activity. As I was dressed only in a light T-shirt, summer riding gloves, and jeans this was a bit of a cause for concern. This furry little tornado was doing some damage!

Picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and leather gloves, puttering at maybe 25 mph down a quiet residential street, and in the fight of his life with a squirrel. And losing...I grabbed for him with my left hand. After a few misses, I finally managed to snag his tail. With all my strength, I flung the evil rodent off to the left of the bike, almost running into the right curb as I recoiled from the throw.

That should have done it. The matter should have ended right there. It really should have. The squirrel could have sailed into one of the pristinely kept yards and gone on about his business, and I could have headed home. No one would have been the wiser. But this was no ordinary squirrel This was not even an ordinary angry squirrel. This was an EVIL MUTANT ATTACK SQUIRREL OF DEATH!

Somehow he caught my gloved finger with one of his little hands and, with the force of the throw, swung around and with a resounding thump and an amazing impact, he landed squarely on my BACK and resumed his rather antisocial and extremely distracting activities. He also managed to take my left glove with him! The situation was not improved. Not improved at all.

His attacks were continuing, and now I could not reach him. I was startled, to say the least. The combination of the force of the throw, only having one hand (the throttle hand) on the handlebars, and my jerking back unfortunately put a healthy twist through my right hand and into the throttle. A healthy twist on the throttle of a Valkyrie can only have one result: TORQUE.

This is what the Valkyrie is made for, and she is very, very good at it. The engine roared and the front wheel left the pavement. The squirrel screamed in anger. The Valkyrie screamed in ecstasy. I screamed in .. well . I just plain screamed. Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a slightly squirrel-torn t-shirt, wearing only one leather glove, and roaring at maybe 50 mph and rapidly accelerating down a quiet residential street on one wheel, with a demonic squirrel of death on his back. The man and the squirrel are both screaming bloody murder.

With the sudden acceleration I was forced to put my other hand back on the handlebars and try to get control of the bike. This was leaving the mutant squirrel to his own devices, but I really did not want to crash into somebody's tree, house, or parked car. Also, I had not yet figured out how to release the throttle.. my brain was just simply overloaded. I did manage to mash the back brake, but it had little effect against the massive power of the big cruiser.

About this time the squirrel decided that I was not paying sufficient attention to this very serious battle (maybe he was an evil mutant NAZI attack squirrel of death), and he came around my neck and got INSIDE my full-face helmet with me. As the faceplate closed part way, he began hissing in my face. I am quite sure my screaming changed intensity. It had little effect on the squirrel, however.

The RPMs on the Dragon maxed out (since I was not bothering with shifting at the moment), so her front end started to drop. Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a very raggedly torn T-shirt, wearing only one leather glove, roaring at probably 80 mph, still on one wheel, with a large puffy squirrel's tail sticking out of the mostly closed full-face helmet. By now, the screams are probably getting a little hoarse. Finally I got the upper hand ... I managed to grab his tail again, pulled him out of my helmet, and slung him to the left as hard as I could.

This time it worked ... sort-of. Spectacularly sort-of to speak. Picture a new scene.

You are a cop. You and your partner have pulled off on a quiet residential street and parked with your windows down to do some paperwork. Suddenly a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a torn T-shirt flapping in the breeze, and wearing only one leather glove, moving at probably 80 mph on one wheel, and screaming bloody murder roars by, and with all his strength throws a live squirrel grenade directly into your police car.

I heard screams. They weren't mine...I managed to get the big motorcycle under control and dropped the front wheel to the ground. I then used maximum braking and skidded to a stop in a cloud of tire smoke at the stop sign of a busy cross street. I would have returned to 'fess up (and to get my glove back). I really would have. Really... Except for two things.

First, the cops did not seem interested or the slightest bit concerned about me at the moment. When I looked back, the doors on both sides of the patrol car were flung wide open. The cop from the passenger side was on his back, doing a crab walk into somebody's front yard, quickly moving away from the car. The cop who had been in the driver's seat was standing in the street, aiming a riotshotgun at his own police car. So, the cops were not interested in me. They often insist to "let the professionals handle it" anyway. That was one thing.

The other? Well, I could clearly see shredded and flying pieces of foam and upholstery from the back seat. But I could also swear I saw the squirrel in the back window, shaking his little fist at me. That is one dangerous squirrel, and now he has a patrol car. A somewhat shredded patrol car .. but it was all his.

I took a deep breath, turned on my turn-signal, was made a gentle right turn off of Brice Street, and sedately left the neighborhood. I decided it best to just buy myself a new pair of gloves. And a whole lot of Band-Aids.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Story Telling Makes Us Human?

I have a theory, which is mine. I'm sure that Richard Dawkins would scoff, but he can be a bit of a party-pooper sometimes it seems to me. Never met the man, just that he gets his back up whenever people start trying to rationalize spirituality.

Anyway, that's not my point. My point is that I believe we humans need certain intangible things. Things like singing, dancing, story-telling, and the company of others. I imagine it meets some sort of deep-seated survival mechanism to pass down cultural & technical knowledge, select for memory, and just plain get naturally "blissed-out" (i.e., self medicate), something that our over-sized brains kicked into overdrive when we started using language. Kind of a "Red Queen" thing, who had to run faster & faster to stay in the same place. Our brains got bigger & bigger in order to compete sexually. Or maybe singing & dancing was the trigger we needed for language use in the first place?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ancient Myth, Ancient Wisdom

Seems that the ancients did't just tell stories for the Hades of it. Some of them actualy held some wisdom and cultural values. The story of Orpheus and Euridice, and their near escape from the underworld, also holds the lesson (to me) that you sometimes just need to let go and stop looking back, or you loose what you already have. To others, it's a variation of the marshmallow test.