Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trailer Hitch Bass


Trailer Hitch Bass
Originally uploaded by ffacker
I saw this on the way to work. It's an electronic bass that flops back and forth when the brakes are applied. Hilarious but a bit distracting in traffic.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fuji F40fd review

Got my new camera. It's a little thinner and sleeker than the old F10. My first concern was the battery life. The F10 was rated at 500 shots, the F40 is only rated at 300. I shot with it all day Friday. Then I filled the memory card shooting the John Mayer concert with it Saturday. Then I shot 74 pics at Em's sister's 3rd birthday party on Sunday. Sunday night battery was still indicating full charge. I don't think battery life is going to be a problem at all.

The face detection software works fairly well. In a group of 6 people it detected three faces, but that was enough to keep everybody in focus. It's especially useful for setting the timer and running into the shot because it refocuses on your face once you're in the shot.

The various scene modes work well. I used the "beach" mode for some bright pool shots on Sunday and it kept the reflections off the water from washing everything out. Hopefully it will work just as well with reflections off sand.

I've put the camera into the underwater housing and tested that indeed all the controls are still functional through various levers and buttons. However, I still haven't given it a submersion test. It's kind of scary to just submerge your brand new electronics. The housing is going to be a definite plus just for the beach though because the sand gets in everything. I'll finally feel comfortable carrying a camera around. The only downside to the underwater housing is that there's limitations to when you can open it back up. If you have it in salt water you're supposed to soak it in freshwater for 30 minutes to dissolve all the salt off of the hinges before opening it again.

I'm really happy with the performance of the camera, and I'm really happy that Fuji finally let me use an SD card since every other device I own uses these cards. However, what's up with the specialized cords? On the F10, you couldn't plug it directly into the computer. You had to have the little Fuji break-out box to then plug a USB cord and charger into the camera. With the F10 there's no break-out box, but it's not a standard fitting USB cord. You're also not supposed to charge the battery in the camera. I really liked just plugging the camera in, so it was charging while transferring pictures, etc. Why doesn't Fuji use a standard USB cord?!!!

Other than that, great camera. I highly recommend it.

Seein' through the fog

I got contacts on Friday. I was so sick of my glasses because they were always smudged and falling down my nose when I was out getting sweaty. I also wanted to be able to see clearly when I go snorkeling on vacation. I should have walked away when they told me at the optometrist that for my prescription it was $61 for a fitting and test pair instead of the earlier quoted $40. I should have walked away when the optometrist told me that with my astigmatism these contacts are not going to correct as well as glasses. I should have walked away when I couldn't get the damn things into my eyes. But I didn't.

I wore them part of the day Friday before they got too annoying. Then I made it all day in them Saturday, but extended exposure to all the body sprays, candles, lotions and perfumes in Victoria Secret at The Woodlands Mall caused me to blink one out when my eyes started watering. I had to spend 10 minutes in the Men's Room putting it back in. Then we went to the John Mayer concert and while I was happy not to be wearing glasses, I couldn't really focus on the stage.

I never even bothered putting them in on Sunday. Monday I tried to put them in before work, but didn't get up early enough for the battle, so I gave up to make it to work on time.

I got them in this morning, but driving in them sucks. I have glasses because I can't read the street signs far away. I can't read the signs with contacts either -- I might as well just be driving without them in. Computer screens are a strain without my glasses too. They're still a strain with contacts. Plus, I think I got an eyelash under my right contact this morning because it's been bugging me all day.

I have an appointment on Saturday to decide if I should order more contacts or forget the whole idea. Two months ago I almost ordered prescription sunglasses, but I held off thinking if I just got contacts I could wear my cheap $6 sunglasses and still see. I haven't completely made up my mind, but I think I'm throwing out the contacts and going with the glasses.

So much for not looking like a dork.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Underwater Photography

I’m so excited. With the already frequent beach and lake trips this summer and the highly anticipated trip to the Mayan Riviera now just 64 days away, I started thinking about a better way to take pictures. We’ve been taking my Fuji F10 point-and-shoot camera to the beach, but I always leave it in the car because I’m so worried about it getting wet or getting full of sand. A cool feature of the Fuji Finepix cameras is that Fuji actually manufactures waterproof polycarbonate housings for them. It’s just that in the past they were pretty expensive. I bought my first digital in 2001. It was a Fuji Finepix f4700 2.3 mp camera, and I paid $800 for it. It also took those big SmartMedia memory cards. They had a max capacity of 128 mb, but I could only afford a 16 mb card. These days you could buy a freaking digital SLR for $800 and 16 mb would only hold about two pictures.

A few years later I bought a Fuji Finepix f601z. It was a 3.2 mp camera that retailed for around $350. I always wanted the underwater housing for that thing, but it was like another $350. I never got it. I thought I was cool as hell though because the f601z had a USB docking base that let it work as a webcam. Then I had a Motorola flip phone with a modem attachment, so that I could connect the camera and phone to my notebook and dial in at 56k and make a very, very crappy video phone call. The picture was there, but at 56k it didn’t really move much. Oh, and it also cost a lot to use those cell phone minutes. In retrospect it really wasn’t that awesome at all – especially now with the way aircards work.

Eventually that camera got destroyed during a drunken melee at a Halloween party, and I got the Fuji Finepix F10, a 6mp camera that retailed for $300, which I have now. Fuji, of course, manufactures an underwater housing for the F10. So I started thinking, why not finally get an underwater housing? But then I started thinking, why spend $150 to accessorize a camera that’s already two years old. I mean, I have the F10, but they’re already up to the F40.

So I did a little checking. Fuji makes an underwater housing for the F40! Buy.com actually had the 8 mp F40 for $225. They also had the underwater housing for $60!!!

Yeah, you know I bought it. I ended up getting both the camera and the housing for less than the F10 is still retailing for new. Plus, the F40 is the first Fuji camera to use SD cards instead of their proprietary XD format. SD cards are really cheap. I got a 2 GB for $17 a couple months ago, and I’ve got several around the house. I’m so excited. You know I’m taking it to the beach/lake/river as soon as it gets here. If not then you know there’s going to at least be underwater bathtub/toilet pics showing up on my page. Ever wondered what that dookie looks like UNDER the water?!!! Me neither! That’s gross. I’m not sticking my brand new camera in a toilet.

My F10 is for sale if anybody wants it -- $150 obo. It’s in like-new condition with a 1 GB XD card and all the original packaging and wires. Check out the stats at http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fujifilmf10zoom/

Cappuccino Uprising

We just got new cappuccino and coffee machines in the kitchens of our building at work. They’re fancy. They have little one-serving pod-packed filters that go into these little gun-looking things that then slide into the machine and make you a cup of coffee. The cappuccino machine also has a milk frother that powers up when you swing the arm out, and then powers back down when you swing it back.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any milk. And it takes a long time to use the thing. And it’s a mess.

Everybody’s mad that they replaced our cappuccino robots. Before this new Starbucks system got put in we had these little machines with buttons on the front. You just pressed coffee, tea or cappuccino, and it popped open a little tray, you inserted the appropriate coffee pack, and then it spit out your coffee. Yes, the cappuccinos were made with powdered milk, but it was fast and easy. There was no mess and no clean up. The trash from your packet got dumped into an internal bin that had to be emptied once a week.

This new setup has all sorts of sprinkles and mini-marshmallows and graham cracker toppings to go on your cappuccino, but people are pretty mad because there’s no milk to froth anyway, so nobody can make a cappuccino.

I have a feeling the robots will be back next week.

Never Drive-Through a Subway

Never drive-through a Subway. I’ve been on my health kick and a budget to save up for vacation, so I bought all this tuna and whatnot to eat for the week – 69 cents a meal, you can’t beat that. However, if you can’t get your ass out of bed in time to make lunch before you leave for work, you still have to go find something for lunch.

I was on my way to Wendy’s because they’ve got the $1.19 side salads and $.99 chicken nuggets. It keeps the lunch under $2.50, and it’s relatively healthy. However, I pass a Subway on my way to Wendy’s and as I passed it I thought, man, a sandwich would be really good right now. Then I noticed they had a drive-through window, which is really rare for Subways, so that tempted me to pull in thinking I’d get a 6” sub with 6 grams of fat or less. I didn’t. I ended up with a foot-long Italian BMT and cookies. So much for willpower. But that’s not even my point. My point is that Subway drive-throughs suck. I figured I’d just tell the guy what kind of sub I wanted and to give it “the works” and he’d prepare it for me. Wrong. The “sandwich artists” keep you at the speaker the entire time they’re making the sandwich. This defeats the purpose of a drive-through window. It took forever. The line started wrapping around the building twice. This guy is like, “Do you want it toasted?” I’m like, “sure.” So he goes, “Hold on, I’ll go toast it.” So I sit at the speaker three minutes waiting for him to come back. Then we have to go over all toppings and options. It was dumb – and slow. VERY slow! I should have gone in.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The DSL is fixed … probably!

I went to Home Depot last night and bought 45’ of Cat5 cable, a new wall outlet and some clear caulk. Instead of running the new telephone line up into the attic and then back down through a wall, I used indoor/outdoor line and ran it from the box along the cable line that runs across the eaves of the house and then down through the brick into the wall of my room. Then I replaced the cable outlet face plate with a plate that has both a cable outlet and a phone outlet. I re-caulked the hole in the house, and the job was done. I hate the fact that cable companies run lines outside the house like that, but it sure made things easier to do that instead of crawling through the attic and running wires back down the walls. Because of the insulation in my walls, the last time I ran a wire down a wall I actually had to cut a hole at the top of the wall to get to the wire and then feed it down to the outlet hole. Then I had to patch and repaint the top hole – pain in the ass.

So I think the DSL is now fixed. It was immediately working after I finished the wiring last night, and it was still on this morning, so hopefully that thorn in my side is gone.

As I was wiring up the outlets last night I was thinking to myself how lucky I am that my dad taught me to do that kind of stuff. I’ll never be a homebuilder, but I can run electric, cable and phone lines. I’ll never be a mechanic, but I can diagnose and fix a car. They’re sure good skills to have. I need to do something nice for Father’s Day this weekend. The question is what. You can’t really just buy my dad something because he never asks for anything, and when he needs something he usually gets it. Last year I got him a tent because we were about to go camping and he and my mom were going to use this old blue backpacking tent that had a history of massively leaking in the rain and then filling up with water like a swimming pool. It worked out great because I surprised him with the new tent, and then it poured the entire trip, so it saved my parents from getting soaked. However, this year I have no idea what to get him. I better figure it out soon though – like today!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mr. Wizard Died

Mr. Wizard died. That’s kind of sad. I hadn’t thought about Mr. Wizard in a long, long time, but I used to watch him all the time as a kid. I recreated many of his experiments in our kitchen growing up.

In other sad news, the last two white rhinos in Zambia were shot by poachers yesterday. One died and her horn had been removed, but the male lived. The greed and lack of conservation that would motivate someone to shoot the last two animals of any species amazes me. I guess some people will do anything for money, and in third-world countries where options are limited it’s easy for me to judge and hard to actually put myself in the shoes of someone who would do this. There are other white rhinos in South Africa, so at least the species is not extinct, but still, this is terrible. Rhinos don’t do well when their mates die. I remember when one of the rhinos at the Houston Zoo died a couple years a go. The remaining rhino was so depressed and just kept roaming the pen looking for her. Of course, the Houston Zoo rhinos were kind of like big dogs. I don’t know if wild zoological park rhinos would behave the same – although I’d be sad if my mate died no matter where I was living.

My DSL service is continuing to drive me crazy. It’s been intermittently on and off for almost two months now. Some days are better than others, but the pattern seems to be that the DSL will connect in the evenings between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., but after 10 p.m. it starts kicking on and off, and at some point during the night it kicks off altogether and stays off. Then it’s never on in the mornings. I’m on my third help ticket and my second DSL modem. Another repairman was supposed to come to the house this morning, but, just like the first time, the guy was supposed to be there between 8 a.m. and noon and didn’t show until after 2 p.m. All he could figure is that because the line splits to three different outlets in the house there are echoes and fluctuations down the various lines causing errors. His solution is that I run a separate single line straight from the outside box into the house for just the DSL modem. I’m not real thrilled about that solution because it means I have to go buy a roll of telephone line and crawl up in the attic to rewire everything. In the meantime, his bill for telling me that he THINKS this is the problem was $60. That $60 is now on top of the $60 the first tech charged when he guessed that my old DSL modem was bad and replaced it – which obviously wasn’t the issue. I’m also not really sure why have three lines is suddenly an issue either because I’ve had the phones and DSL set up that way for two years, and there was never a problem until two months ago. AT&T billing finally credited me for a month of service because of the problem, but then they tried to sell me satellite TV. And while I actually think I do want to order satellite from them because it’s about half the price of cable, there’s no way I’m placing an order until all this DSL crap is cleared up and it works correctly. I’ve decided if it’s not completely fixed by next week, I’m just cancelling everything and ordering Roadrunner. Roadrunner is a lot more expensive, but if it works all the time, then it’s obviously worth it. So if you need me tonight, I’ll be in the attic.

I went home for lunch today because of the DSL situation, and when I get there what do I find? While waiting at the house for the technician, which was a thoughtful act in itself, Emily had cleaned both my bedroom and the kitchen. How did I ever find such a wonderful girl and what does she possibly see in me? Tuesday will be 5 months that we’ve been together, and while there have been a couple bumps in the road along the way, I have never been so in love or so happy.

By the way, 5 months is no small accomplishment for me. The longest relationship I’ve ever had was 3 years. Other than that there was an 11-month stint in high school. Other than that there’s … well, there’s 5 months! Obviously I still have a lot to learn about relationships, but Sunday is my grandparents’ 58th wedding anniversary, so I hope to make it that far someday.

Of course, the most exciting news is that I finally booked vacation in August. Since I joined the working world seven years ago I’ve only taken 1 trip that could even be considered a vacation. I’ve had to burn vacation time, but I just piddled around the house or went to visit my parents. Not this year. This year we’re going to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico and staying along the Mayan Riviera. I cannot wait. August can’t get here fast enough. I’ve never been to a resort like this or been on this kind of vacation, so I don’t know what all to expect, but I do know that it’s right on the ocean, it looks like paradise, and I’m going with my favorite person in the world, so I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.

I got this flyer in the mail from Tomball Ford yesterday. It said they were paying original MSRP on 1999 – 2005 Ford trade-ins if you bought a 2007 Ford. Then in smaller print it said that there was a mileage deduction of 10 cents – 55 cents depending on model. Well, MSRP on my Escape was around $23k I think, I’m not sure since I bought it used, but there’s 75k miles on it. So if it’s 10 cents a mile, that’s $7500 under MSRP. I thought, hell, that definitely beats current Kelly Blue Book value, why not go trade up. So I call the place to ask them about it. They were like, oh, well your model would have a 30 cent deduction per mile. Well, .30 x 75,000 = $22,500. Original MSRP of $23,000 - $22,500 = $500. What a freaking scam?!!! So of course the salesman is like, oh, yeah, that doesn’t work out in your favor, but bring the car in and we’ll see how close we can get to paying it off and getting you into a new vehicle. I was like, no thanks assholes.

Well, it’s off to Home Depot to buy phone wire. Hopefully I won’t fall through the ceiling.