softpaw: (Default)
Everyone who owns a car has their own limit of how much car maintenance they're willing/able to do on their own. Some people prefer to do everything on their own, and will only go to a mechanic for problems of the "engine falling out" calibre. Others couldn't find the oil dipstick if it were bright orange with a big "check oil here" sticker; in fact, that's how the oil dipstick is usually marked in a car. And, as someone with decent knowledge of car maintenance but little practical experience (I don't like getting dirty, eww!), I don't criticise anyone who prefers to let others do the work on their cars. Self-maintenance is awesome, and I have unending respect for those who can be their own mechanic (I hope to join such people someday), but it requires considerable passion and effort, and for many people, that outweighs the cost savings. And that's just peachy.

However.

Anyone who takes a car to a mechanic for a dead bulb, or even allows a mechanic to fix a dead bulb when the car's there for something else, is indefensibly throwing away money. In 90% of cars, it's the easiest possible thing to fix, ranking somewhere between checking the fuel gauge and checking the tires. You don't need tools to do it, detailed instructions are in the owner's manual (along with a comprehensive list of the bulb types used in the car), or the internet, or a book/computer in the store, and thanks to bulb base/socket designs, you usually can't do it wrong. Even headlight bulbs, which are fragile due to the high gas pressures used, are usually pretty easy; just make sure to write "Don't touch the glass!" fifty times before starting. It's like taking your car to a mechanic to have the tire pressures checked, it's a stupid waste of money that really can't be defended with the usual time/effort/eww-dirt/skill reasons.

And for the other 10% of cars, that require tools and/or strange hand contortions to replace some of their bulbs? It's still easier than changing a tire, and as I said above, detailed instructions are always in the owner's manual. So there's no excuse there either.

This thought brought to you by the fact that my car needs a new reverse bulb, and I'm glad I noticed it before taking it for inspection tomorrow, because I can replace it for $2, while my mechanic would charge upwards of $35 (minimum .5 hour labour, plus markup on the bulb) for it.

On a related note, if you buy a car, the first thing you need to do once you get home (or wherever you're going from the lot) is read the owner's manual cover to cover. If you already own a car, and haven't read the manual, go get it and read it tonight. No excuses. I don't care if you've had the car for ten years, or if the dealer spent an hour telling you how the various doohickeys work. If you don't read the manual for your car, it's my opinion that you don't deserve to even own it, because the manual contains every detail of every feature in the car. It also contains basic maintenance information, operating tips (especially for vehicles with unique capabilities, like 4WD or adjustable suspensions), and other details that you may not have even thought about. "Read The F***ing Manual" really shouldn't be a meme, it's truly important advice for everything from a frying pan to a Ferrari.

For example, my sister bought a 2004 Grand Prix a couple years ago, and even though it's a relatively ordinary sedan, it has a pretty nice set of features, including things that weren't in her previous car. Plus, "Read The Manual" is my personal motto nowadays, especially for cars. So, when I delivered her car, I grabbed the owner's manual and strongly encouraged her to read it. She never did. So, in a car she's owned for two years, she can't figure out how to turn on the fog lights, fold down the rear seats (she didn't even know it was possible, but I did, because /I/ read her car's manual), or do anything in the little computer display thingy that every car has now. It took months for her to figure out how to open the trunk without the remote. And I love her, but after this much time, I have no sympathy whatsoever for her lack of knowledge of the features of her own car.

So please, go get the book out of your glove box, get comfy, and have a nice read. You just might learn something about the engineering marvel that moves you around. And if not? At least you'll know for certain that you already knew everything there was to know about it.

Oh, and replace your own bulbs, it's not worth paying someone else to do it, ever.
softpaw: (Default)
For various reasons, I pretty much haven't been up to the mountains at all since autumn (I actually can't remember my last trip), so I've really been pining for the trees lately. Last week, which was miserably gross weather-wise, I saw that the morning clouds were extra-low, and decided to try driving up to a nearby peak to get above them, a waste of a trip. Not only were the clouds higher by that point, barely enough to make the road foggy 700 feet from the summit, but the upper road was covered in a few inches of snow, and I opted to take my car instead of mom's truck.

The trip may have been a bust, but the bit of scenery I could see reminded me of how much I love the forest, so I decided to head up on a day when the weather would be more cooperative. Today was the day I chose, and at the last minute, I decided last night to skip sleeping and take my trip in the morning, to catch a sunrise and have my fun before I got tired. Excellent decision.

I headed out around 6:30am, and started by ascending Reddish Knob, one of my favourite overlook points. It's one of the highest peaks anywhere around, the former site of a fire watchtower on the VA/WV border, and it offers a panoramic view of all the mountains as far as the eye can see. I reached my destination a few minutes after 7am, just in time to catch the sunrise and a few pre-sun shots. But it was more than just that, the view was truly breathtaking. The ridges to the east were a lovely shade of blue, highlighted by the sunrise, the clouds were just barely present, and there was a light layer of fog covering the Shenandoah Valley. To the west, the valley was still dark, with quite some time left before it would see sunrise. Simply stunning.

After getting a bunch of pictures, and nearly freezing my fingers off (the mountain tops were at least 20-30 degrees colder than the valley floor this morning), I started to leave, but turned around when I spotted something awesome; sunrise in West Virginia. From the top of the mountain, it was already pretty sunny, but the mountain hid the sun from the valley floor to the west, so there was a considerable delay in its sunrise. And I got to watch it from above. I'd never seen anything like it before, but watching the sunlight slowly work its way across the valley floor just might be the coolest thing I've ever seen :-D

Usually, when I do this sort of trip, I'm chasing sunset, which means I have to make sure I get to the end of the trip by a particular time. There was no such deadline today, since my big photo-goal was at the beginning, giving me a pleasant, relaxing freedom. So, I spent my day leisurely exploring off-road trails. I mainly stuck to the fire road that connects Reddish Knob to my other favourite spot, Switzer Lake, since it's a beginner-level trail; rough enough to pose an occasional challenge, but well-defined enough that I can take someone else's vehicle on it without worrying about damage. I did a bit of exploring, too, and found a nifty trail I'll have to check out someday when I'm not using a borrowed truck; as much as I love exploring, it's less exciting when it's someone else's property I'm risking by doing it. On the plus side, even though I've run that trail so many times I could practically do it without light, I don't think I've ever run it in reverse (peak to lake vs lake to peak), and it's been awhile since I was last on it at all, so it was far from boring. In fact, it was quite exciting! I was a little out of practice at first, but with the first mile or so of trail, I got my rhythm back and had an awesome time. It's always helpful to practice my snow-wheeling skills, too; as long as I have a 4WD available, snow on paved roads presents no problems whatsoever for me, because even last year's Snowmageddon posed no challenge compared to a snowy jeep trail :-)

That said, I wouldn't take just any vehicle back there, and the capabilities of mom's Blazer never cease to impress me. I never considered the Chevy Blazer to be a serious 4x4, or even deserving of the label "truck", but it proves me wrong time and time again. Its drivetrain and steering performance on the trail are top-notch, and while it's a bit lacking in ground clearance, it has full undercarriage armour, a fact that caught me by surprise when I slid the frame on some rocks on a freshly-eroded switchback turn. When I checked for damage, I was relieved and a little mind-blown to see heavy panelling covering pretty much the entire underside of the vehicle. I can't imagine that's factory equipment, not even the mighty Hummer H1 was quite as well-equipped in that area, but it's equally unlikely that the previous owner (a little old man who just drove it around town) would install such a thing. Either way, I was impressed and relieved to find that mom's suburban grocery-getter was equipped for severe boulder-surfing. The only area where it underperforms is the suspension; with leaf springs in the rear (*gags*) and pavement-tuned shocks all around, it's a pretty rough ride on a dry, rocky trail, though thankfully not as tooth-rattling as her Nissan Pathfinder was.

Despite my experience at this, there were a couple of close-calls, as there usually are. Unfortunately, two out of three were a product of rusty skills and mental wandering, problems made worse by a lack of sleep. So, note to self: If I'm going to do a morning/sunrise trip like this, get more than a couple-hour nap first. Aside from the aforementioned rock-sliding incident, a trouble spot I didn't see far enough in advance because I was thinking about other things, I also nearly rolled it in the same obstacle. When I came around the switchback straight into the washed-out section of trail, I instinctively aimed for the side to avoid the wheel-sized rocks in the middle, without seeing the muddy trench I was steering the other side of the truck into. Thankfully, I didn't roll, and probably didn't come close, but it was a very disconcerting sideways angle, and was a major reminder that this isn't normal driving. All the experience in the world doesn't mean anything if you're even a tiny bit distracted (it's probably a good thing that cellphones don't work out there, there'd be a lot more dead off-roaders). The other mishap was earlier in the day, and minor by comparison, I tried to turn around on a snow-covered trail (a familiar story for Dusk), and got stuck, a situation remedied by 4-Low combined with a braking trick I always try (which actually worked for a change).

The conclusion of the day was a peaceful visit to my favourite lake. The lower altitude and higher sun warmed the 23-degree temperatures to a more pleasant 39 by then, so I just sat on the tailgate for awhile, nibbling carrots and enjoying the natural beauty. Since it was about 11am, with a tired puppy and incoming clouds, I decided to call it a day and head home.

Overall, a spectacular day, which brought back pleasant memories and reminded me how much I love off-roading. I love hiking too, and while I've often called off-roading "hiking for lazy people", they're really nothing alike, nor is there anything "lazy" about off-roading. It's less physically intense, but the mental intensity more than makes up for it (for the driver, anyway).

And yes, I'll be posting pictures, but I've been too worn-out to mess with Lightroom today.
softpaw: (MLP)
Recently, a group of in-character account popped up on Twitter, consisting of people playing the roles of various cast members from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Pretty much every character is represented, including the main cast, supporting roles, and fan characters like "Dr. Whooves". And yes, even Derpy (*eyerolls*). They primarily interact only with each other, which is interesting to watch, if not particularly engaging. But, occasionally they'll interact with their followers, which is fun, and can be very endearing if executed well. This is why I'm an even bigger fan of this project than when I first found out about it.

Since this is a public post, I'll give a little background info: I have a moderate case of seasonal depression, so sunlight (and lack thereof) has a very strong effect on my mood. Usually, it's manageable, I'm fortunate enough to have a home office with amazing sun exposure (the few weeks I worked in a windowless office during the day were downright torturous), and skies are pretty clear around here during most of the year. However, winter is often rough on me, and while I've definitely had plenty of less-abstract reasons to be depressed this year, the weather hasn't helped. It's bad enough that there's less sun every day, but when the skies are cloudy for weeks at a time, it's hard to keep my head straight.

The last few weeks have been unusually emotionally turbulent for me, but earlier this week, we had the clearest skies I've seen here all month. It was absolutely beautiful, but only for about two days. Then we went back to icky, cloudy days, and on Wednesday, I was feeling downright miserable. So, Wednesday night, I posted this on Twitter:

Why am I so emotionally unstable? Just days ago, I was feeling great, and now I'm back to wanting to cry again. I hope sunlight is to blame.

It led to this conversation with Rainbow Dash:

mlp_rainbow: .@lupinia Sounds like your weather pegusi are slacking! I'll give 'em a kick for you, send some nice sunshine your way to cheer you up.
lupinia: @mlp_rainbow Hehe! It's been dark, cold, and rainy ALL day, bad news for a season-sensitive girl. But I live in the Everfree Forest :-\ {a lame reference to living in a mountain/forest town, as well as living in the "real world"}
mlp_rainbow: .@lupinia Okay, well that kinda sucks. The weather still change there, though! Just... Really... creepily. >.<
lupinia: @mlp_rainbow Yeah, I don't get the luxury of awesomely-talented pegasi clearing the clouds and showing off their rockin' flight skills :-P
mlp_rainbow: .@lupinia I know, I am pretty awesome! Hey, I gotta go, long day sky clearing ahead. You feel better else I'll come kick the sad out!
lupinia: @mlp_rainbow *squeaks* Yes ma'am, I'll try :-)

Overall, a pretty silly conversation, but you know what? It made me feel a lot better. More than that, it really warmed my heart, and even brought that so-happy-I-could-cry feeling to my eyes. Not only did it clear up my depression that night, it did it so well that I felt like writing, and actually did it, something I've been struggling to motivate myself to do for weeks. To say it was a special evening is an understatement.

Unfortunately, the feeling didn't last much beyond sunrise (I've been nocturnal this week); the weather was miserable, and it was the sort of day where not a single thing went right. But, for a few hours that night, I might as well have been in the Carribean. I don't even know anything about the people involved in this, and to be honest, I like it that way, it makes this all the more magical.

So, I highly recommend checking them out, the accounts are linked below. I don't know if they're some super-organized RP group, or a bunch of random pony fans from an obscure IRC chat, but whatever the case, they're doing a great job of bringing already-vivid characters to life in a way that all the fanfics and artwork haven't been able to. Plus, it can lead to special moments for pony fans like me.

And, if Rainbow Dash reads this, thank you. You may not be able to jump dimensions and clear the Virginia skies, but you definitely cleared the clouds of my emotions.

==============
The list of accounts associated with this project )
softpaw: (Default)
I drive a retired police cruiser, which looks like this. In Virginia, we have local tax decals, which are stuck to the windshield to indicate that the city or county taxes were paid on the vehicle, and they can look like anything since they're designed individually by each municipality. For the town I live in, the sticker takes the form of the city's seal, overlaid on a brightly-coloured shield, with strong borders and a white background.

The shield used in these stickers, combined with the city seal and little other information, looks almost identical to what most people picture in their minds when they envision a police badge. In fact, the insignia for the local police department and fire department are both perfectly indistinguishable from these stickers.

And since Virginia is bizarro-land when it comes to stuff like this, not only do we have these city tax decals that virtually no other place has, but they're required to be displayed right in the centre of the windshield, instead of off to the left like most states.

In short, I'm required to very prominently display a highly-visible sticker on my Police Interceptor's windshield that is indistinguishable from a police insignia sticker when viewed by people who don't live here. There isn't even anything to indicate what the thing is, just the city seal on a shield with a year (plus an expiration date and serial number in smaller print). This wouldn't be so bad, except that the colours change every year, and while the choices sometimes are innocuous (brown, yellow, green, purple, etc), there are years when the colour choice is truly unfortunate for someone who already gets a lot of scrutiny from cops who think someone who drives a Crown Vic is an impersonator waiting to happen, and needs to be taught a lesson.

For example, two years ago, the stickers were bright blue. Like, police blue. I'm not sure how often they cycle the colours, but I've lived here 25 years and I'm pretty sure I've never seen a bright blue shield used on the city stickers (they used navy once). It was certainly interesting, though, to follow the eyes of bystanders when they examined my car as I went by, and it got me out of at least one parking garage fee. It also led to some very uncomfortable scrutinizing looks from cops in Pittsburgh, among other cities/states.

This year, they're extra-bright fire engine red. They've been red before, but it's usually more of a brick tone. Not this year; apparently, the plan is to make all Crown Vic, Explorer, and Charger owners look like firefighter impersonators in 2011.

Admittedly, this is a pretty minor thing to post about in my journal, and there isn't a single thing I can do about it while living here, but it makes me a bit uncomfortable. When I first got my car, I was harassed multiple times a day for several solid days by local police trying to claim I was a police impersonator based solely on the car I chose. I was stopped for as long as they could get away with (I was working as a delivery driver at the time, and this always happened during work, to the point that I was nearly fired for it), searched or threatened with searches (I let them do it the first time, in hopes that it'd be the end of this sillyness), threatened with everything from tickets to arrests, and followed through town on numerous occasions. And, while I never had any intentions of ever doing such a thing, I was really into flashy lights at the time, and planned to put a few toys in my car at some point; nothing illegal (except the headlight flasher I already owned), just some well-concealed amber lights for parking lot fun and the occasional practical use in my work as a delivery driver. Well, not only did the cops kill any such ambitions, but ever since, I feel like I haven't been able to even enjoy the reactions people have to my car. Everyone else sure gets a kick out of driving it, or even riding in it, but I've been trying for years to shake the paranoia that if I get any such amusement from it, some cop is going to pop out from the nearest blind corner and arrest me for it. Irrational, I know, but my car still gets a great deal of police scrutiny, to the point that a hot-headed lead foot driving a bright red Miata would probably get fewer speeding tickets than me.

...This turned into far more of a post than I intended to make, so I guess I'll wrap it up here. I guess the point was "my city's design choice for its local tax stickers is awkward and worrysome for who's desperately trying NOT to be seen as an impersonator when travelling to other states".
softpaw: (Default)
About a month ago, I mentioned that I wanted to sort my collection of Lego parts, so that I'd be able to actually do some custom building in the future. Since then, I've been working on this project for a couple hours a day every day or so (that's about all I can handle of standing in my bedroom and fishing through parts bins), and the scope is a little overwhelming, but I've finally reached a major milestone.

Since I started with three large plastic containers of completely unsorted parts, and the number of different parts is beyond overwhelming, I'm doing this in a series of stages. First comes the "rough sort", going through the Bins of Chaos and breaking everything into major groups: bricks, plates, Technic, and other elements. Since the last group is the most random, and consists of the smallest and most tedious to sort pieces, I also sorted them into precise categories during the rough sort.

The big milestone is that I finished the rough sort today. I no longer have bins of completely random Legos, I've split everything into categories. I have large boxes/bins containing bricks, plates, Technic (which are already partially sorted), windows and doors, and wheels. Additionally, I have an entire table covered with little containers, each holding pieces I've already sorted. I have over 100 element types that are already finished, including lights, flags, antennas, 1x1 plates, jet engines, cannons, vertical wings/fins, steering wheels, money/coins, plants, animals, and so on. It's really quite something, here's a picture if you're interested.

My next step will be to tackle the categories one at a time. Technic pieces will probably be my next target, since it's one of the smaller boxes, but also has a lot of variation and a lot of tiny parts.

The big question is how to store all these once they're sorted. Based on similar projects in the past, and feedback from others who've tried sorting their legos, I decided to sort first and store later, once I have a better idea of how many compartments I need and how large they need to be. My initial idea was to use plastic parts-storage drawers, and I intend to use them to an extent, but since I'm just getting started and have already filled two of them, I don't think that'll be an option for the entire collection. I'll be exploring a number of options, but the cheapest idea is to put my least-frequently-used parts in individual ziploc bags and stick them in a plastic bin or something. For example, I rarely use things like jet engines, castle balconies, sharks, or ship rigging, so there's no real need to keep them in easy-access organizational drawers next to things I use frequently, like lights, clips, and hinges.

Anyway, that's my Lego fun recently. It seems like a lot of time put into a relatively trivial project, but as I said before, the only thing keeping me from building custom designs like I used to is lacking the patience to sort through the giant, chaotic tubs looking for specific pieces. It was frustrating 10 years ago, and time has only made matters worse, especially since I can't spend several solid days just playing with legos anymore. So, this way I'll be able to really enjoy my legos for many years to come; once they're sorted, I don't need to repeat this process :-)
softpaw: (RainbowPaw)
It seems I made quite a goof in a recent computer part purchase. My laptop, which I've had for a couple years now, came with a smart card reader. I did some cursory research on the subject, and decided to pick up a smart card at some point so that I could use the reader. So, over the weekend, I bought a smart card.

Unfortunately, I completely failed at my research, because I was under the assumption that it would come pre-configured somehow, and all I'd have to do was stick it in to use it for cryptography, signing, Windows login, and server-authentication stuff. Several problems:

-The card is essentially blank "out of the box"
-I can't find any software to configure it, the manufacturer's administration tool is $180
-It's incompatible with Windows 2003 and XP, so it doesn't matter anyway, I can only use it on two personal machines, not my server or any other computer in the house.

So, I made a stupid purchase. I'm willing to just cut my losses and stick the thing in a drawer, but I figured I'd offer it up if anyone wants it. It's this model, and all I've done with it is to plug it into my laptop a couple times and try to read its credentials. As I type this, it's been in my possession about three hours. It's never been written to or used for anything.

If you want to play with it to see if you can do something with it, or you're already set up for smart cards and want another one, it's yours. I paid $36 for it, and I'll take any reasonable offer. Email me if you're interested.
softpaw: (Default)
I was gonna post this two days ago, but the doctor gave me a TDP (Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis) vaccine, and apparently I reacted to it, because I spent almost literally all of Wednesday in bed. Which meant I had to spend all of Thursday running around, trying to finish all the stuff I wanted to get done on Wednesday. So, here's my weekend report, a week late :-P

Simply put, the Rally to Restore Sanity was the most awesome thing I've been to in a very, very long time! Definitely worth the extra effort to go to it in-person, rather than watch it on TV.

The trip actually started Friday, I came up to stay with Syme so that I wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn just to have a shot at making it on time. On the way, I decided to be a smart puppy and refill my Smart Trip card (DC Metro's spiffy RFID farecards, faster and more durable than the paper ones), so I stopped at a Metro station along the way and quickly ran in. I also taught a few newbies how to use the farecard machines, apparently I looked like I knew what I was doing because I had my card refilled and done in the time it took them to push the "Start Here" button.

Saturday morning, we began our epic journey into the city. With no Starbucks, because the one near Syme's house was crazy-busy :-(. It turned out that refilling my card in advance was a Very Good Idea, because the line for the farecard machines stretched out of the station, down several hundred yards of sidewalk, around the parking deck, and possibly even into the parking deck. The line for smart people who bought farecards in advance was nonexistant, so we got right onto the platform and caught the first available train, yay! Of course, it was standing-room-only, but it got continually worse as we got closer to our destination, gradually resembling a Chinese commuter train, or perhaps sardines; Syme was pressed against the train wall, I was pressed against him, and several other people were pressed against me. I really felt sorry for the three people in our train car who weren't going to the rally, they were trying to get to work or something :-P

On a related note, the Metro trains were more crowded than they were for the Obama inauguration; this rally broke a ridership record that's stood for 19 years. Unfortunately, Metro apparently decided to pretend that this rally didn't exist, because not only did they miss out on some revenue opportunities as described in that article, but they also decided that this would be a wonderful weekend for a bunch of track maintenance. 'Cause, ya know, delaying a track/platform by 20-30 minutes when trains are beyond 100% capacity is just spectacular, and really paints the system in a good light when there are hundreds of thousands of newcomers on the trains.

Anyway, we eventually made it to our destination, shuffled out of the station, and entered The Crowd. The overall atmosphere was so fun! Everyone was in a good mood, with silly signs, interesting costumes, and a general aura of friendliness, it was amazing. So, once we got our bearings and figured out where stuff was, we decided to try to track down friends who we knew would be at the rally. And, since AT&T is just the most awesome cell provider around, Syme's iPhone was effectively a brick upon exiting the train station, so we used my phone. Much to my surprise, not only did I have awesome calling coverage there, but I also had perfect data service, yay Sprint! We called up Drakien, and found out that he was just a couple blocks from us, but on the opposite side of the Mall. Unfortunately, there was an event volunteer claiming that the street we wanted to cross at was blocked (it didn't look blocked, but I got tired of her yelling every time we tried to walk down it), so we back-tracked a block and a half and crossed a different way. We finally made it to where Drakien said he'd be, and...no big blue dragon (he and Loki were fursuiting :-P ). Oh well, we tried. We tried calling other people, but couldn't get a call through to anyone, possibly because of the aforementioned iPhone/AT&T issues, so we decided to just find a spot for ourselves. After getting breakfast; a hot dog, a polish sausage, two bottles of water, and a Coke for $18, yay captive audiences.

We shuffled through the herd for awhile, and finally found a good spot with reasonable visibility. Then the smokers started. I'm not sure what goes through the mind of smokers to make them think that a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of a million or more people is a great place to light up, but people kept doing it! Gah! We moved around a little as I desperately tried to preserve my ability to breathe (had at least two minor athsma attacks in the process), but it didn't take long to realize that there'd be no avoiding the god-damned smokers, short of shooting them. But, Syme was gracious enough to lend me his scarf for the event, which provided enough filtration that, combined with using him as an occasional windbreak, I was able to enjoy the event and still be able to breathe. And people wonder why I so strongly support every anti-smoking law ever proposed.

Judging from the occasional scents floating in the breeze, tobacco wasn't the only thing being smoked in the crowd :-P

Anyway, air pollution was the only real negative about the event, everything else was great! Jon Stewart put on a great show, and while I generally despise Steven Colbert, he managed to be genuinely entertaining a few times. The guest-stars were pretty darn awesome too, with great music and entertaining personalities.

What really tied it all together, though, was the speech Jon Stewart gave at the end. You can view a video of it here, and the best way I can think of to describe it is awesome, in every way. He makes some very good points, in a nicely inspirational speech, and I could listen to it over and over :-)

After the event ended, we walked the full length of the Mall back to the Smithsonian, to try to meet up with Kelby, since he was working nearby, but we couldn't find him. So, with AT&T working again, we called Drakien, and found out he and some other furs were by the stage. So we walked the length of the Mall again :-P. Finally found everyone, and met up at Drakien's car (by some miracle, he parked a block from the main stage), where we hung around for a bit, then had some dinner. Drakien was even nice enough to give us a ride, and spare us the headache of the Metro :-)

So, that was my Rally experience! Even though it's unlikely, I'd kinda like to see this happen again. And what's really cool is that, despite how some interpreted it before it started, it really wasn't a political event, and didn't seek to denounce or even address the political views of any group (though there was a strong anti-tea-party sentiment in the signs and among rally-goers, which I can totally support). Instead, it was a call for the news media (including, but not limited to, Fox) to quit using fear-mongering tactics, and start using their powers for good. Which is a cause I think we can all get behind :-)
softpaw: (Default)
I listen to a lot of music. I like a lot of different genres, and within most genres, I'll listen to pretty much everything that comes up in a playlist, no matter what the song is or who performs it. However, there are a small number of exceptions, artists that will cause me to do whatever I can to avoid listening to their music. For example, while I like pretty much every rock/metal song to ever come out of the 80s, I loathe Motorhead. And while I've heard pretty much every song that's considered "classic rock", the only band that causes me to change the channel every single time is the Rolling Stones.

In country music, the artist that makes me spine tingle, and the artist I despise more than any other artist in any other genre, is Dwight Yoakam. If you're not familiar with him, picture this: You have a dude friend who's completely plastered drunk, possibly doing karaoke, and he decides to make fun of country music by poorly singing about his wife leaving him in his pickup truck and running over the dog, using a heavily-exaggerated nasal twang. Now give that friend a multi-million dollar record contract, and you've got Dwight Yoakam. Don't believe me? Here's a link to his biggest hit. Yet, for some reason, he's a massive country star, and has been around forever. Having grown up with country music, I've become accustomed to blocking out his music, and I've never heard a country artist who grates on my nerves as badly as he does. Until today.

I was watching CMT videos, since they make nice background noise, and I occasionally discover new music I like. Tonight, however, they started playing a song from a band called "Trampled by Turtles", which made me wonder if that was the name of the band or the treatment they gave the video before playing it. Instrumentally, it was ok-ish, aside from making the thrash-metal fallacy of confusing playing speed with musical skill (which sounds downright bizarre with banjos and fiddles). However, the vocalist utterly destroyed any enjoyment or even tolerance I might've had for the song. To put it simply, it sounded like bad karaoke, the vocalist did pretty much everything wrong that could be done wrong. He was frequently off-key, couldn't keep up with the instruments, couldn't hold a steady rhythm, couldn't even hold steady notes (nor could he cover this up with vibrato), and on top of that, his voice sucked and the lyrics were awful. I mean, Dwight Yoakam's voice may be the most nerve-grinding sound ever created by humans, but he's at least capable of basic musicianship.

Naturally, I did a little searching afterwards, mostly to find a video to go along with this post, and I discovered that Trampled by Turtles is from Minnesota. No offense to anyone from Minnesota, but that could part of the problem, they're trying to be a bluegrass band from a state that's about as far north as you can get without getting into Canada (which, ironically, has produced some pretty good country singers in the past). Thankfully, they're not likely to be successful, at least not for long.

So, here's the video I saw that made me dislike them so much, which is supposed to be their "big hit". Even if you don't like country music, give it a listen, it might make you like other country or bluegrass songs by comparison :-P

softpaw: (Default)
This weekend, after yet another depressing week of nothing happening, I decided at the last minute to take up Dusk's offer of hockey tickets to a pre-season Washington Capitals game. As y'all know, I'm really not a sports fan of any sort, but I've never been to a pro sport event (excluding NASCAR races, which are considerably less engaging than watching grass grow to a 10-year-old girl), and I've never watched hockey at all. Plus, I needed to get out of this town and be social for awhile :-)

So, I arrived at Dusk's house that morning, and we took the Metro to the Verizon Center in downtown DC (I was pleased to discover that my Smart Trip card, which hadn't been used since Obama's inauguration, still had $12 on it :-P ). I'd been to the Verizon Center before for concerts, so it wasn't really a new experience in that regard, but it was a bit trippy to see a brightly-lit ice rink instead of a stage and seating in the middle of the arena.

The game started at 12:30, against the Nashville Predators (why do so many hot-weather states have hockey teams?), and to my surprise, it was genuinely enjoyable to watch. Unlike all the other sports I've watched, it was simple enough for my hippy-girly brain to comprehend, yet also very entertaining and engaging to watch. Not sure I'd go so far as to call myself a hockey fan just yet, but I could probably get into this. Although, there were some weird moments when my usually-repressed testosterone-driven urges took me full force, and I found myself thinking things like "Kick his ass!" when players were being overly aggressive. Kinda trippy, I generally don't think things like that :-)

Somewhere around 4pm, the game ended unexpectedly, since I thought all sports had 4 quarters/periods; apparently, hockey has 3, and I was the only one who didn't know this, so while everyone else was dissapointedly leaving, I was optimistic that the Capitals would pick up some points in the last quarter. But, there was no last quarter, so the Capitals lost 0-3. Oh well, it was still a fun, new experience. Plus, most of the furs I like to visit in DC were there, so it was great so see everyone again!

After the game, we went to a nearby restaurant, where I had my first actual meal of the day, and tried to figure out what was happening on the TV while everyone else in the group cheered for a football game (a sport I don't think I'll ever quite understand or enjoy). Apparently, the Redskins were doing well, but that's about all I could pick out.

We parted ways at the Metro station, and I spent the rest of the evening at Dusk's house before heading home. Overall, a pleasant trip :-)

=============

Little else has been happening, my home life is dull and meaningless. However, I may have some good news soon, and while I don't want to jinx myself, my financial crisis could soon be under control. I'll know more later today.
softpaw: (Default)
A lot could potentially happen this week, but it's a pretty safe bet that I will not be at WPAFW this year. This will actually be the first one I've ever missed since I first started going to furry events in 2004, but with the way my finances are right now, I just can't justify going to Pittsburgh and spending $35 for a picnic. As much as I'd like to see everyone, I just can't do it.

While we're on the subject, I've been hoping to be able to go to MFF, but at this point, I think I'll have to say no to it as well.

I wasn't planning on any other cons before the end of the year, so no FurFright either.
softpaw: (Default)
I'm not sure I've ever really posted about my feelings on this, but I find the concept of a "friends cut" on LJ to be rather offensive. It sorta depends on who's doing it, but generally, if I'm following you on LJ, I care about you beyond just your words, and I also care about you enough to give you access to my non-public entries. So, when I see "comment if you still want to be my friend lol", followed by blindly removing everyone who doesn't comment, it's kinda insulting no matter who it comes from, especially if the person primarily makes friends-only/filtered posts. It basically says "even if I've known you IRL for ten years, you mean as little to me as some random borderline-stalker I met once at a con". Because as far as I'm concerned, if I mean enough to you that you still want to read my LJ when trimming down your friend list, I shouldn't have to reply to some post to still read yours. And if you really want to remove me, my reply to some post just saying "please don't remove me kthx" shouldn't make the difference in that decision.

Anyway, I take a more gentle approach to friend-list management. I don't add people unless I want to get to know them better, or unless I already do, or unless I have some reason to do so. But once I've added someone, I won't remove them unless they remove me first, or never added me in the first place, or I have some specific reason to remove them beyond "I want to follow fewer people". Occasionally, I'll remove people who haven't posted in years and years, but it's rare, because sometimes I like to go back and read those old entries.

I was doing that this evening, and I noticed I had a lot of people friended whom I'm certain were mutual friends at one point or another, but not anymore. I read a few of their LJs, and noticed several where the last post I could see was "comment to still read my LJ". Not exactly pleasant to see from people who, last I knew, were genuine friends whom I'd had countless conversations with, and at least one I'd spent time with IRL.

And I'm aware that, despite the poor naming, the friend-list on LJ is really just a reading/access list with no inherent emotional connotations behind it, but granting someone access to your journal does imply a certain level of trust; one's posts would be public otherwise. It's also quite simple to set up a reading list on LJ separate from your access list using custom filters, I did that to remove people who post their tweets to LJ without removing their access to my journal.

So, anyway, I went through tonight and removed a bunch of non-mutual friends and deleted accounts, and added a few who'd friended me, some of which I never received notifications for. This is probably a good point to mention that if you've added me and I didn't reciprocate, it's most likely because I don't know you and/or don't recognize you, so drop me a message sometime :-)

==========================

On a lighter note, back when I got my new TV, I picked up a DVI to HDMI cable to connect my laptop (they say it's not "designed" for that, but it works just peachy), and with the awesome 1080p resolution, it effectively turned my laptop into a media centre PC. Yay! Unfortunately, I ran into a problem; with it sitting on my A/V rack, my keyboard and mouse didn't quite reach the couch, and the cables connecting it to the system weren't long enough for the laptop to go that far, leaving me with the laptop in the middle of the floor and a god-awful cabling mess when I had it connected. Or, I could leave it on the rack and have to go kneel on the floor in front of the TV to do anything with it. Either solution is ok for the occasional movie, but not ideal for things like games, or online videos.

I considered getting a wireless keyboard and mouse, but it occurred to me that since wireless peripherals suck for gaming (especially for someone who's never played on them before), and I don't have the budget for good ones right now anyway, it'd be cheaper and better to extend some USB ports across the room. So, one trip to Staples later, I now have a small 4-port USB hub with a 10' cable, which is more than long enough to reach not only my couch, but also my super-comfy recliner. So, I can play games on my TV now! Yay! I even installed my joystick, and flight simulators are pretty darn awesome on a 42" screen at 1920x1080 (yay uber video card :-P ). This is much better than playing them on my workstation, because while it performs slightly better than my laptop, I typically have too much running at once to really shift gears to play games. Plus, if I'm playing a game that's in-depth enough to be full-screen 3D, it usually means I'm trying to take a break from my work, something that's easier to do if I'm not sitting in front of my work computer :-)

I still plan to build a dedicated media centre PC in the future, but for now, my laptop does the job surprisingly well. It'll work even better once I get the docking station I've wanted forever, which will allow me to pop it in and out of this setup without having to unplug/plug in a half-dozen different cables and fish around for the charger. I also want to commission a certain foxie or teddybear to make a frame for my racing wheel and pedals, like a Rockband drumset, but that'll come later :-P

==========================

After years and years of being on my mom's insurance policy, I finally switched to my own policy. If it were up to me, I wouldn't have done it quite so soon, but with the two tickets I got last summer, her insurance company said they weren't renewing her policy. I've felt really guilty for that all year, because I knew it was coming (I expected a major rate increase though, not a complete drop), so with the termination date coming up at the end of this month, I went ahead and got my own coverage so she wouldn't have to deal with it anymore.

So, I switched to Geico, and even with the aforementioned tickets, I got a policy for less than half what I had before: $37/month. Part of this is because I basically dropped to the bare-minimum legally-mandated coverage (a concept which is a whooooole other rant), but even if I'd kept the exact same coverage, it would've been significantly cheaper than the $90/month I'd been paying before. The thought of adding more comprehensive coverage crossed my mind for such a cheap price, but since my car's worth so little, I'd rather save the money. Plus, I have an issue with paying more than the car's value per year to insure it.

Unfortunately, with funds being so tight this month, I had to dip into one of my savings accounts to pay for it, the one that was explicitly reserved for investments and debt resolution (ie, positive financial gain). I'd been really proud of building it up as much as I did, but I just didn't have the money anywhere else, and I wasn't sure if I'd have any clients next week. The plus side is that since I had to pull from that account anyway, I went ahead and paid for the full six-month term, so I don't have to deal with it again until the end of January. In the meantime, I already know how much the renewal will be, so I can set aside funds for it, or switch to monthly billing at that time.

==========================

Lastly, Megaplex is this weekend, and while I'm really looking forward to it, and to seeing distant friends for the first time in forever (for some of them, for the first time ever), I really wish I hadn't committed to going this year. Two cons in a month is too much for me, especially when one of them is Anthrocon (my most expensive con by a huge margin). I'll be able to make it, I'd be screwing over several friends otherwise, but it'll be really tight. This is also looking like my first-ever con with no art budget at all. I've said that before, but I've always had a small amount of funds for like one commission; probably not this year. Sigh.

Anyway, if you're going to the con, and you want me to have your contact info, send me a PM. I'll post my phone number tomorrow-ish. Hope to see you there!
softpaw: Falls Can Kill (FallsCanKill)
I'll start with the positive thing, something I forgot to mention before: I finally got some new plants. I'd been wanting more than just my unidentified-leafy-thing (which sprouted a vine and has literally taken over its window and curtains), so I finally picked up some new residents of the house.

What I really wanted was an aloe plant, I've always liked them, so I now have one that's happily re-potted and living on my desk. And as a bonus, they had a good deal on bamboo, so I picked one up to sit next to my monitor. It even came in a cute purple pot! It's nice to have more greenery, and I'd like even more, but I don't want to get a bunch all at once.

Oh, and here's a photo, it kinda sucks but you get the idea.

=========================

Also, I finally finished my journal tagging project (on my LJ, I don't think I'm going to bother doing it on Dreamwidth for now)! Unfortunately, sheer volume of entries makes the tags less useful than tags normally are, but if you're looking for entries on a particular topic, they can now be navigated by some method other than by date.

I'm really glad I did it, too, because there've been many occasions where I wanted to find a specific post to send to someone, and it's taken upwards of an hour to track down. Plus, I'm an archivist anyway, so it's not like my posts are going to go away; might as well categorize them :-)

=========================

Unfortunately, since the tagging project involved re-reading every post I've ever made, in mostly-chronological order, I've had a severe overload of nostalgia. It was one thing to look over comments from people I've long since lost touch with, and reports of furmeets that don't exist anymore, or afternoons spent with friends I don't see anymore. Those alone put me in an odd mood, but the posts about getting my Rover and modifications I made to my Integra really got me down.

I miss the Integra almost constantly, even though it'd be in poor shape by now if it were still around, so reading about the fun I had with it in my own words was downright torturous. And while the Rover ended up being a lemon, I was on top of the world when I first acquired it. I hadn't really reminisced about it in awhile, so to read posts from the first year I owned it (which were the happiest) was painful. Doing both at the same time (since ownership of the two overlapped) left me missing both vehicles so much that I was nearly in physical pain.

Of course, I've had good times with the Crown Vic, and I still enjoy it to an extent, but I never connected with it as strongly as with the other two. The Integra was beautiful, in immaculate condition, and genuinely fun to drive. The Rover was exotic, full of character, fun to drive in its own way, and it was more than just a truck, it was my sidekick, my faithful partner in exploration. The Crown Vic, by contrast, isn't overly attractive, sporty, or inherently fun to drive in any way. It's primary emotional appeal comes from the fact that it looks like a cop car, and since any joy I initially got from that was completely extinguished by the local police jerks, I can't even enjoy that part; everyone else has more fun in my car than I'm allowed to. And it's not even reliable anymore, which is the yardstick most other people use to measure the personal worth of their vehicles.

It's true that I get tired of my cars after a certain amount of time, but this goes much deeper than that. I had looked into selling my Integra before it was wrecked, because I wanted something else, but I still cried like I'd lost a brother when I had to leave it for the last time. And love kept me from selling the Rover when I should have for several years, I couldn't bring myself to let it go until it was literally rusting to death in my driveway. The Crown Vic had only one gimmick to endear itself to me, and when I couldn't enjoy that anymore, it became just another car, like the Accord that was my first 4-wheeled car (another car that I liked for awhile, but I don't miss it or long for another one).

Unfortunately, I don't really have anything I can do to ease these feelings, because my car's trade-in value is only slightly higher than the value of the video card in my laptop, which wouldn't even get me an equally-reliable generic replacement. What I want is a car that I really bond with, like my previous two, something that I'll stick to and be happy with for at least as long as the car lasts. And I may have exotic tastes, but I'm really not that picky; there's a revolving mental list of cars that I would buy today if I had the means to do so, a list which offers plenty of affordable selections, on top of vehicles I might not have considered/researched yet.

*sighs* Words can't describe how tired I am of feeling this way. I wish I could be happy with a boring car, I really do, it would make my life and my finances a lot simpler if I could trade my Crown Vic on a Civic, Aveo, or Jetta and be satisfied enough to stop getting depressed over what I don't have every time I get behind the wheel. But no matter what I do, I can't stop longing for the strong emotional bond I had with the Integra and Rover. I'd even be happy if I could form that sort of bond with the Crown Vic, but I've been trying for years and I just can't do it, especially not when it's practically falling apart every time I turn around.
softpaw: Falls Can Kill (FallsCanKill)
Q: If you could go back to school, what would you study?

A: Well, if I went to university for my career, to get the obligatory Piece of Paper to back-up what I already know, I would major in Computer Science (emphasis on web app development), and likely minor in graphic design or something similar. If the school offered an actual degree program in Web Design, that'd be great, but I haven't seen that program offered at many schools. This could happen at some point, we'll see how things go.

If I went to university purely to study something I was interested in, which I would totally do if it were possible, I'd dual-major in Forestry and Geology. Both are fields that I have very strong interests in, and while it's unlikely I'd ever be able to build a career based on those interests, I'd love to study them in-depth in a college/university setting.

==============

This random thought brought to you by a number of friends who are pursuing/planning to pursue their academic dreams, combined with watching Dante's Peak and wishing the latter dream-degree opened up career opportunities other than forest ranger, tree-slaughterer (aka working for the logging industry), and lab rat.

I'll have a real post about my weekend later, my brain's kinda on cruise control at the moment.

Car Update

Jul. 3rd, 2010 12:58 am
softpaw: (Default)
After returning from Anthrocon, I got my car to the shop to get the cooling system checked out, expecting to have some viable reason why it's not working. Unfortunately, everything checked out fine; water pump's in good shape, fan works, thermostat is brand-new (I would sure hope so!), and the radiator doesn't appear to be damaged. However, they found that the radiator was so crammed with dirt and bugs and stuff that it wasn't getting any airflow through it. Yay for living in the boonies? They said they see it a lot on vehicles that spend a lot of time on rural roads in the area this time of year, which is a pretty apt description of my driving habits.

I had 'em pressure test it, just to be safe, and I haven't heard the results of that. If there's any damage to the radiator, I want to know about it now, since it was just replaced a couple years ago and is still under warranty for a few more months. But, it looks like a good pressure-washing of the radiator will fix the problem.

Unfortunately, since it's still in the shop, I won't be able to make it to DC to see friends like I wanted to, nor will I be able to get out of town for the 4th, I'll be stuck at home with family. Oh well, I guess, maybe next weekend :-\
softpaw: (Default)
Back in November, I acquired an HP iPaq 210 to replace my ancient PalmOS PDA. Since then, I've used it very regularly, and it's become more important than my phone as a multi-function device. It's my organizer, mobile media device, navigation system, and mobile internet device. I even recently installed a car cradle for it to make it easier to use as a GPS.

Since it's basically a smartphone without the "phone" part, it runs a smartphone OS, and HP chose to use Windows Mobile on it. Personally, I would've preferred Android, but since Windows Mobile works natively with everything I use on my computer, I don't mind. My only real gripe about the OS has nothing to do with the OS itself, but rather the fact that most apps for smartphones/PDAs are typically developed in this order: iPhone, Android, Blackberry, WebOS, WinMo, Symbian.

I do have an issue with HP though, and the fact that they don't seem to believe in software upgrades. Since the iPaq 200-series first came out in 2007, they've released exactly zero OS updates, while Windows Mobile has released three new versions since then. Microsoft is already on WinMo 7, while the iPaq (even new ones) are still stuck on 6.0. There was no update to 6.1 from HP, or an update to 6.5, and for some reason, Windows Updates have never worked on it, so I can't get them that way.

Since this is a relatively open device with no real ramifications for modding other than a void warranty (which is a big reason why I have a PDA instead of a smartphone), there's a pretty big mod community, and one of the things they've done is to port WinMo 6.5 to the iPaq. And this evening, I decided to give it a shot. I downloaded the ROM package, re-flashed the OS, and rebooted, terrified that the process would brick my beloved PDA. But, it didn't, and everything seemed to work just peachy. Sort of.

There were a few minor glitches here and there, nothing unforgivable, but the whole thing ended up feeling very amateurish. But, if the OS is as awesome as the screenshots and articles indicate, it'll be worth it, right? Well, it wasn't awesome either. Aside from the position of the icons in the start menu, and some visual bling, I couldn't tell a difference in the two. The Today screen, which was one of my big reasons for upgrading, was exactly the same as in 6.0. On top of that, it didn't even look good because the transparency settings seen in the Start menu didn't apply to the Today screen, giving it solid bars top and bottom. It actually looked like I had reverted to WM5.0.

It also seemed like the colour depth was lower than it should've been, like it was trying to use 15-bit colour instead of 16-bit or something. It's a 16-bit screen, so smooth gradients are bound to have visible transitions to a small degree, but the effect was much more pronounced than I was used to.

On top of all that, WM6.5 left me with around 50mb of RAM free, compared to the 70mb I was used to with the older version. That's not a massive deal, but some apps consume quite a lot of memory, so I'd have to be more careful about my multi-tasking and background apps if I stuck with that version.

The dealbreaker was ultimately the fact that my TomTom software wouldn't run on it; the TomTom installer breaks the Bluetooth stack on HP devices, but the fix didn't work on WM6.5, so I had no way of using it. But, I was really disenfranchised by the whole thing by that point anyway. If HP ever releases an upgrade to 6.5, I'll probably jump all over it, but for now, I'll stick to the original OS.

There's a silver lining to all this, though. Since HP doesn't publish the original ROM, and there's no option to revert to a previous OS, I had to go download a copy of WinMo 6.0 for the iPaq. I wasn't exactly thrilled with the development community by that point, but they had a ROM that was basically the original firmware, but had been tweaked to consume less memory. So, I tried it out, and promptly reacted with a "o.o" when I booted the device: 95mb of RAM free. Compared to the 70-75 that's usually free right after a reboot on the original ROM. That's enough memory to run TomTom, Windows Media Player, and Opera (the most memory-heavy apps on the device) all at the same time. Definitely a "Yay!" moment :-)

Unfortunately, I now have to re-install and reconfigure a couple dozen apps, but I had been pondering a rebuild anyway to cut down on useless stuff, so I guess now's a good time for that :-P

=============

On a completely unrelated note, the UPS I acquired from Foxcub started acting up recently, due to the battery starting to die. Probably didn't help that we've had a lot of power outages lately. I finally had to unplug it when it didn't have enough power for the PC to even start up, and I had an idea. There's a second UPS living in my shop, which has been there for years, and never worked. It was also Fox's, and I'm not really sure how I acquired it, but it's considerably bigger than the little workstation model that's been under my desk forever.

So, I finally got around to buying the batteries it needed, and one somewhat-unnerving battery installation later (I've never seen such a huge spark o.o), it charged up perfectly! It has more indicators, too, like a battery charge metre and a load metre, so that'll be quite nice. Thanks, Foxie! :-)
softpaw: (Default)
Hi everyone! I have a client who needs a VHS tape converted to DVD, and I'm not equipped to do it, nor do I know anyone locally who is. So, if there's anyone out there who can do it, it'd be a nice way to pick up some extra cash :-)

If you're willing and able to do it, contact me privately with a price quote and/or for more info. Thanks!

Note: While shipping is a possibility, we'd prefer this to be handled within the US (plus, it needs to be playable on US equipment). I don't know exactly how long the video is, but it's some sort of training tape for the basketball team he coaches. It doesn't require any menus or anything fancy, just a simple conversion to standard DVD format.
softpaw: (Default)
Prior to acquiring a dedicated converter module for the USB ports in my car, I was going to use the guts from USB cellphone car chargers (the kind you plug into a 12v port) to hard-wire them. So, I disassembled one to learn more about their construction, and had another one just sitting around. Now, I don't need them, nor is it likely I'll need them in the future, but I don't really want to throw them away. So, they're free to anyone who wants them, just pay for shipping (if you don't live somewhere that I'm likely to visit/drive through).

One of them is a generic charger that I actually purchased, with a Micro USB tip. It works, but you'd need to re-assemble it, because I took apart the tip. Also, it may need a new fuse, I don't remember if I popped it. Includes a little resistor that goes on the dead pin to control the charger circuit in the phone (there are wiring diagrams online that explain it better than I can).

The other one is a Mini USB charger I found on the side of the road while hiking. The case on the 12 plug is damaged, but the damage seems to be superficial, so I imagine a new fuse would get it working again.

On a related note, if anyone is interested in custom USB charging systems and wants to discuss the details of how to build one, let me know, I've done quite a bit of research on the subject lately, and the one for my car is pretty much done and working :-)
softpaw: (Default)
After my last sunrise hike, I decided on a whim to do it again earlier this week, with working camera batteries this time. So, I rapidly loaded up and headed out to Wolf Gap one more time in the middle of the night. For future reference, I really need to remember that it takes me like a half-hour to load up for a hiking trip :-P

About 5am, I made it to my destination, and started my trip. The environment definitely wasn't the same as before, though. Last time, the forest was so tranquil and deserted that it was almost creepy; this time, there were sustained winds so severe I was worried about downed trees. There was also a turkey hunter out there who was just getting started on his hunt for the morning. We said good morning, he seemed pretty nice.

The hike itself was fairly uneventful, though I noticed my stamina seemed better than before. Could've been because I wasn't moving at such a fast pace, but I definitely didn't make as many stops on the way up the mountain. After about 45 minutes, I made it to the first overlook, and while it's possible I could've made it all the way to the summit before the sunrise started to get photogenic, I decided not to try it, hoping the views would be as breathtaking as before.

Unfortunately, this sunrise was somewhat dull in terms of colouration, and the valley floor was a little too hazy for low-light photos. But, I did get photos, and some of them should be usable :-)

Next hike will be during daylight hours, because I came a little too close to frostbite for my tastes, particularly in my fingers. The temperature was the same as before (mid-to-upper 30s), but last time, there wasn't the slighest bit of wind the whole time. This time, there were sustained winds of probably 30mph, with gusts so severe I thought I was going to get blown off the mountain, especially while I was at the peak. So, the windchill was pretty severe, and by the end of my photoshoot, I was having to really work to keep feeling in my fingers. It wasn't too bad once I started my descent and once I made it to the parking area, thankfully. Definitely need to do this in warmer weather.

===============

On an unrelated note, I picked up a little something for my car, a 3-amp 5v DC to DC converter. What would I use such a thing for? Hard-wired USB ports! Between my PDA (which acts as my GPS, and needs a constant charge while in use), two cellphones (at least one of which usually wants to be charged during trips), my bluetooth GPS, and any devices brought into the car by passengers, a single non-splittable 1-amp USB port just doesn't cut it. So, the plan for this is to have dedicated, concealed cables for the PDA and GPS, since neither of them live near the console on trips, and two standard USB ports in my center console. I'll probably add a 12v port in there too, since the one I have is currently in the glove box and quite a pain to get to.

I haven't really done anything with my car in awhile, and this will be a huge help for road trips, so I'm looking forward to it. Plus, I can now use my existing solution (Palm Pre charger with a USB extension cable) in other people's cars, rather than having to carry around a bunch of traditional chargers.

If anyone's interested, I'll post pictures and a parts list once I do the install. It should be a fairly straightforward project, just with a bunch of wiring.
softpaw: (Default)
First off, for those who haven't noticed, my website is down. Why? Well, the short version is, I somehow botched a Commit operation with SVN (version control system that helps with development). I'm not entirely sure how I managed to do this, but I imagine it had something to do with the fact that my last commit on that project was at least 8-10 months ago, if not longer. I just haven't had time to work on it, and on the occasions I did, it was just little quickie edits I made directly on the server.

Anyway, when I hit the commit button after a large series of edits, SVN decided that I had told it to basically empty the whole directory, and the only files that survived were ones in a conflicted state. In addition to losing a bunch of extra files I didn't care about, it also took out most of the content files, a few system files, and at least one stylesheet. Self-contained applications like the gallery were unaffected, so I left them intact initially, but when I realized how many 404 errors were occurring (and I still don't have a good 404 handler written), I decided to just redirect all requests for the entire virtual host to a "temporarily down" file.

I can recover it, since the only thing I truly lost was the work I did that day (and even some of that survived in various places), but it'll take some time to get everything in one place and rebuild the repository. Plus, even though I have other things to work on right now, it's very tempting to take this opportunity to rebuild the site like I've been wanting to do for a long time now. Among other things, I'd really like to deploy a CMS, since keeping track of hundreds of individual content files is painful regardless of how streamlined the process is. I'm still proud of the fact that I wrote a system where a plain text file needs only one line of code to wrap a fully-dynamic feature-heavy site around itself, but it'd be so much easier to manage content if I had it all in a database.

Unfortunately, I really need a new layout; mine was impressive when I was new to CSS, and it's still acceptable, but I've stretched it to its limits for new features and dynamic-ness. I'd pay for someone's help if I could, but I can't right now, so if anyone has graphic design skills and is interested in a pro-bono project for an artsy photography/writing/personal site, let me know :-)

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Aside from that, I had a pretty nice weekend. My friend Dusk decided to come down for a bit, and even though our original hiking plans were cancelled because of Shroedinger's Rain, we had a great time. Among other things, we went to see How to Train Your Dragon in 3D, which was loads of fun; I'd seen it twice prior, but in 2D, and he hadn't seen it at all. Definitely an awesome movie, and 3D really added to the experience in a nice way. It's always fun to have visitors :-)