Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Today's random geeky observation

As one era of perenially sold out consumer gadgetry begins, another must end. To wit: I actually found a Wii in stock someplace today.

I will probably never own either but continue to lust after both. Both can only be used to waste time and for making friends jealous, neither can be justified as starting something new. Rationality and fetishism are at war, but the continued victory of rationality rests on the back of but two simple facts: I neither have 500$ nor a television set.

Back to pinball with me.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

cash: crud

When getting my old car serviced, a 1990 honda accord, my Dad said that 700$ to keep it on the road was reasonable. This was in 2000, when it was around 10 years old and I wasn't paying for anything on the car.

That car was a hand me down from him, and now I'm driving a 1995 accord that was handed down from my sister. In some ways I traded up (far fewer miles and a functional AC) and in some ways I've traded down (automatic transmission, champagne paint job that's falling apart, and drives like an angry hog). I don't particularly like it and I've done only enough maintence to keep it on the road in the 2 years I've owned it, or around 400$.

All this is to say that the 700$/year metric caught up with me during a month where I had already spent a lot of money, and as such I've learned the value of saving for a rainy day. Now all that's left is learning how to live off of peanut butter and saltines for a month or two (I think the secret is to slip an orange in now and then so my teeth don't fall out).

Anyway, all this is to say that I'm learning how to manage finances, first to get myself out of this small hole and second to save up for a new car or a rainy day. Also I wanted to note that buying an iphone was once a folly-filled possibility, albeit an insane one. Now it's been relegated to the "maybe christmas" bin, or better still, the "maybe if I'm dropped on my head" bin.

Anyway: projects. Right now I'm working on a proof of concept, trying to hook up several shift registers and figuring out how to code them all. These next few weeks will be a little crazy though, with a trip to Miami planned and multiple old friends visiting me in town. We shall see how things come together.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

for want of a horseshoe nail

flexstone and switch adjuster

The last time I used a rhyme about nails was in reference to the Dismemberment Plan song Academy Award:

"Dangling yourself from the cross
all out of nails but here's your hammer boss!"


I think I just had the song stuck in my head, as it has little to do with anything.

Today's is in reference to the age old catchetism
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.


This one makes a little more sense: little things, specifically tools and their ilk, are important. I'm learning this more as I get older, frequently as I try to use an inherited dremel to do jobs it is ill suited for.

Anyway, my uncle and my dad passed through a weekend or two ago. It turns out that one of many of my uncle's past jobs was for National Cash Registers. When I passed through Delaware on Fathers Day to visit Grandpa, he managed to dig out a switch adjuster and flexstone handy that he'll likely never use again.

Bringing yourself to spend money on esoteric tools that are equal to or lesser than the cost of shipping is difficult. Suffice to say, I was a happy boy.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dear America:

You know what makes me throw up in my mouth a little? The phrase "I just threw up in my mouth a little."

What started this, again? Mean Girls? Anchorman? I forget now, but honestly people: we've stopped quoting Napoleon Dynamite, we can stop quoting this now. It's about 7 words too long for the knee-jerk response it's supposed to be.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

When my cat (intentionally) knocked my nikon D50 off the dresser last Summer, my first thought was that the true blessing of the digital age was the lack of moving parts to break. When I tried to use the camera a week later and learned it was broken, I cursed the digital age's lack of independently replaceable parts.

Once upon a time, every town had a camera repairman someplace that could replace a spring or dust out the inner workings so your baroque mechanical time-freezer could work acceptably again. However I thought to myself at the time that there was doubtless a piece of broken circuitboard inside the camera, that was no doubt part of a larger unit that would cost as much as the camera itself to replace after labor was included.

The icing on the cake was that the only malfunctioning part was inherently mechanical; the jogwheel that lets you change settings no longer worked. The camera functions, by all means, but only in pre-programmed modes that I can in no way alter myself.

Compare this to my Konica, which against all odds somehow still works and is older than I am. The correct batteries for it are no longer produced and I have to put jerryrig batteries of a higher voltage, but it'll still work.

Such are the tradeoffs in the digital age. In the end it cost a little under 200$ to get fixed, which was about 1/3 the cost of a new camera. A few months later my Canon SD10's lens froze open. Again, this wasn't totally fatal, but actual picturetaking is now nigh impossible and generally the camera is useful only for taking movies.

I never bothered to get it fixed and just bought an outdated point and shoot digital camera off of Craigslist for 50$. If my D50 ever breaks again, I'll probably wind up doing something similar for it as well.

Thus we have another tradeoff: we no longer have easily fixable electronics and thus everything is disposable. But as things are readily disposable and obsolesence is always around the corner, the value of used things has declined. So I'm able to get slightly older cameras (and vintage pinball machines) for relatively cheap just by virtue of looking around. Hooray internet!

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all out of nails, but here's your hammer ...

So 20 shift registers, 5 multiplexers, one MAX7219, a bunch of dip switches to fool around with ...

... and one immensely small breadboard that I can't fit anything onto.

Crud.

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