Tasty fish and chips @ Ward 6

Ward 6 fish and chips

Really tasty fish and chips last evening at Ward 6 on Payne.

I’ve been trying fish and chips at a lot of places over the last couple of months, in Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and Charleston, SC.

Other favorites (no particular order):

Oddly, I haven’t found a great place in Charleston yet, but even though they’re oceanside, Charleston is more “low country cuisine”, which doesn’t seem to be my thing.

Saturday Morning Nerdery

Will and I have been working on some electronics fun, mostly because I wanted to try this Instructables using a microprocessor.

Of course, this was one of those things where you need to complete some projects in order to do the project. In this case we needed to build an AVR programmer so we could program the microprocessor (an ATtiny85). Building the programmer was fun, and Will did a whole bunch of the soldering!

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Once that was done, we tried programming the chip…

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…and the trashing began. It turns out I didn’t understand how to read the pinouts from the programmer. But once we got help and re-wired and re-tried, we finally got it working! We were able to make our NeoPixel Ring do cool things via this nice code.

One of the things we want to do with all this is help Jack have an “arc reactor” and “repulsers” for his Iron Man suit, so we needed an easier way to program and test our chips, because it was a little hard to work with wires for programming vs. wires for trying things…

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So this morning I made this…

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…which let’s me program and test easily without a bunch of jumpers and without having to keep moving the chip back and forth. Pretty sweet, and cost about $2 in parts (the board was $1.25).

And now we have easy-to-use joy. :)

Fixing a disconnected Samsung HW-F450 Wireless Subwoofer

I had a hard time of fruitless Googling trying to find how to fix my subwoofer. Turns out it’s very easy. Here you go. You’re welcome.

In case the URL goes bad one day, turn off the sound bar, plug in the subwoofer, stick a paperclip into the “ID Set” hole on the subwoofer and hold for five seconds,  then press the mute button on the remote for five seconds, then power up the sound bar.

Replaced Windshield Washer Pump on 1993 Toyota Paseo

Some quick notes in case anyone find themselves having to do this:

  • I used the Trio replacement… seems nice
  • It is in the driver-side wheel well, and you’ll need to remove a couple of bolts from the mud guard to get at it
  • Turn the wheels all the way left (in) not right (out), counter to what the instructions say
  • You’ll need to cut the wires… no big
  • Blue goes to positive (HT ToyotaNation.com)

$20… 20 minutes… happy repair.

Disappointed with CenturyLink

Recently the weather was a bit odd; extremely humid and warm for winter. It turns out that apparently this does very bad things to our phone line. Our internet has been terrible; phone calls nearly unusable.

Hard to believe? Take a listen…

That just me holding my iPhone next to the phone receiver. On a clear dry day, it’s quiet and normal.

But how’s my DSL? Glad you asked. SNR Downstream around 6-10 dB (which seems pretty bad). Dozens to hundreds of retrains a day. (On a clear day SNR is fine and it really doesn’t retrain.)

So, of course we called CenturyLink. They sent someone out… two days later. Yeah, weather had cleared. Yeah, “everything was fine”. Sigh.

Happening again today. Called again today. They’ll send someone out… Friday.

On the same call today, I’m told:

  • It’s probably my modem, because it’s old (but it seems fine on clear days)
  • It’s probably my modem settings (but they’re unchanged since CenturyLink set the settings many months ago)
  • The line is clear
  • The line is not clear

Really, really frustrating. Not sure I have any hope this will ever be fixed, unless we just get “lucky” and have humidity problems that coincide with a technician visit.

UPDATE (6 days later): As far as I can tell, the technician never came last Friday. Voice line still sounds just as bad. Terrible internet.

UPDATE (6 days and a few minutes later): Checked “Where’s My Tech” and it turns out my December 26th visit got quietly moved to December 30th. Sigh.

UPDATE (6 days and a few hours later): Yep, it happened. Over the last few hours humidity dropped to 60% and the line is clear, voice and internet. Both were unusable 3 hours ago. So grumpy.

UPDATE (yet later on the 29th): Clear voice line and seemingly good S-to-N on the modem, but modem reports connection speed is about half of what I pay for.

UPDATE (Dec 31): Well, no one showed up. Again.  The “commitment” to Dec 26 became a “commitment” to Dec 30 and is now a “commitment” to Jan 3.

UPDATE (later on Dec 31): Nothing much interesting, but did see a SNR of -5 dB… haahaha!

UPDATE (about 4pm on Dec 31): Some progress! @CenturyLinkHelp jumped in and a couple of hours later a tech called me saying that he’d found and fixed bad wiring on the phone pole. Voice line seems clear now, as does SNR, but DSL speed is pretty low, so a little more work to be done.

The Mystery of the Christmas Vandal

REPOST: I just found this while consolidating my old backups. It’s from 2001.

Winter came late this year. It was so late, I was able to get my Christmas lights up the way I’d wanted to for years. A few strings on the house, a few in the corner bushes, and some on the garage. Much better than previous years’ last minute attempts. They looked great.

A few days after they’d been put up, I found that the string on the garage and fence wasn’t working. Upon examination, I found the lights had been vandalized – cut in three spots just as they transitioned from garage to fence. Our family was angry and sad that someone would want to wreck what we thought was just a sweet Christmas tradition; being vandalized is intrusive enough, but Christmas lights!

I went out and patched up the wires so the lights would be ready for the evening. I wasn’t going to have those lights out even one night, I’d resolved. I refused to be defeated by some little creep with a scissors, which is what I’d concluded by careful examination of the wires, and placement of the cuts. (Ironically, I’d been re-reading Sherlock Holmes at that time and was almost enjoying trying to figure out the crime.)

The lights shone that night, and the night after. The next day, however, brought an unhappy surprise. Looking out the kitchen window, I saw some wires hanging on the fence. He’d come back.

Now I was really mad, and I went out to examine the damage – it was worse. Instead of a simple cut which was easy to repair, the vandal this time chose to remove sections of the wire; sections with the light bulbs and sockets (these were the larger C-5 lights). I couldn’t just pull this together and tape it. I had to take down the string and repair it indoors and replace it outside. This seemed too smart for a really little kid. Someone really wanted to make sure those lights didn’t light.

I defiantly repaired the string and replaced it on the fence – the lights will not go out.

I also had an idea.

At first I wanted to wait in the minivan for the creep to show up and catch him in the act. I had my list of suspects and couldn’t wait to get whoever it was. Then I realized that my new camcorder will record in extremely low light, so instead of waiting all night, I set up the camera in the kitchen window and ran it while I slept. I was now hoping that I’d wake up to see they’d been vandalized again.

I woke up and the lights were untouched. Same for the next night. Then, again, the lights were vandalized, and this time it seemed to have happened during the day! Unbelievable gall!

This time one bulb was smashed in and the wires in the bulb crossed, blowing the fuse and disabling all the lights! This kid is smart! It was, I had to admit, a brilliant and efficient way to bring down a whole string of lights.

But the lights will not go out. The repair took only a few minutes.

Now that this seemed to be done during the day, I’d decided to set up the little creep. The next morning my wife would take my boy to school in the minivan, leaving the driveway empty. I would be at the window with the camcorder in the darkened house.

I waited.

Nothing.

Once my wife got home, I dejectedly decided to go in to work, and as I left, I made the discovery that broke the case.

So much for my Sherlockian skills.

The wires were indeed cut by something weak weilding opposing scissors-like blades – a squirrel’s teeth. There were clues that I’d ignored, of course. Why weren’t the lights in the bush vandalized, too? They were farther from the house than the fence lights. Why did some of the remaining bulbs have two odd, parallel scratches on them? (The squirrel was taste-testing, obviously.)

The smashed bulb and crossed wires turned out to be my boy and grandad opening the garage shed door into the light and crushing it and smashing the wires together. (I found a tiny shard of orange glass in the shed door.)

What I saw when I left for work was that squirrel on top of the fence nervously holding an orange bulb. He stared at me for a moment, and dashed into his nest atop a tree right next to the fence. I laughed for a long time that day.