Robot Fightin' Time!

I’ll start with the bad parts, just to get them out of the way: I-880 was slow, we had a hard time finding a parking place, the weather was rainy, and the porta-potties were down to expectations.

But those were minor inconveniences. The actual competition was great — five hours filled with flying sparks, flying parts, flying bots, smoke, noise, cheers, jeers, and the odd camera in the way. We got free hammers, too. The food was better than I would have expected and reasonably priced (unlike, say, the SF Giants); the giftshop was loaded with fun toys, too. They even had a long-sleeve T-shirt which was perfect for Jeffrey!

Don’t believe me? Check out another unbiased observer, MootMom.
Like her, I am bound by the release I signed not to reveal any details, but I can say that Lexan is good stuff.

I’d be willing to go back if they hold another competition in this area; I don’t think any of us are likely to build our own bots, though.

Today, we went to see Monsters, Inc., which we all enjoyed greatly. I want to get it on DVD so I can look carefully for all of the little jokes hidden in the newspapers and signage throughout the movie.

And tomorrow, I’m off to Austin for a few days. Sadly, we’re probably going to be too busy for me to take advantage of Austin’s fine restaurants — there’s even a rumor we’re ordering in pizza so we can continue our meeting late into the night on Tuesday. *sigh*

Gearing down

It’s been a busy week. Nothing much blog-worthy, though.

But I do have a question, and maybe you can help. I have some audio cassettes which I want to convert to CD; that’s pretty easy to do, but I wind up with one track per side, which is not so good. So I’m looking for a (Windows) program which can break a .WAV file up into pieces based on detecting silent intervals. Ideally, the program would make its best guesses, then let me override it easily. Free would be a good price, but that’s not a strict requirement. Thanks.

Today’s Science Colloquium at work was very interesting and enjoyable — Paul Doherty, Senior Staff Scientist at the Exploratorium talked about “Exploratorium Exhibits from Birth to Death”, complete with slides and live demos. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Exploratorium — it’s time for another visit! December 14th would be a good day, I think.

Tomorrow, we’re off to see Battlebots live. Rumor has it that we’ll be asked to sign an NDA for the results, so don’t even ask.

Shabbat Shalom!

Side Impact

It’s been a day of trips to the repair shop.

This morning, I had to take my Saab in to the dealership for a regular service (as well as some accumulated complaints, and getting the rear emblem replaced after some idiot stole it a week ago). No problem, except that I had a conference call at 9am. So I zipped through the morning routine and left the house at 7:30, in what should have been plenty of time.

Traffic, of course, was slow. Then I had to wait for a service advisor. But despite that, I was done with the dealer at 8:20 and walked the 100 feet to Avis to pick up my loaner, with plenty of time to get home for my call.

Except that there was a problem with the computer, and so it took a few tries for the clerk to get my contract printed. So I didn’t leave until 8:40, which meant I’d be cutting it close.

A few minutes later, my cellphone rang — which almost never happens. It was Diane; Avis had just called home to let me know that I’d left my driver’s license behind. I decided retrieving it was more important than making my call and turned around.

I left Avis the second time at 8:58. I’d dialed into my call before leaving the lot, figuring I could listen and still drive safely. By the time I got home twenty minutes later, we’d barely finished a rollcall and the beginnings of an introduction to the call, so I wasn’t distracted from the road. But I do wish I had a speakerphone on my cellphone.

Once home, I was able to pay attention to the call, and the day was looking up again. It got even more cheerful when I got a piece of e-mail telling me that my meeting this week in Austin was postponed. And my lunchtime walk was pleasant, as usual.

During the afternoon, I thought I’d make a backup copy of my old MapSource CD before sending it in to be upgraded to the current level, just in case it got lost in transit. While the computer was writing the backup, I went to the kitchen. The backup finished while I was gone, so the CD ejected itself — I didn’t realize this, and accidentally bumped the tray with my knee when I sat down.

This was not a good thing to do. I couldn’t get the tray to retract automatically, and pushing it manually didn’t help, either — it closed but then wouldn’t open, even when I tried using the emergency eject stick in the emergency eject hole. So I called Plextor, who agreed that I could return the drive and who gave me an RMA number.

Then I called Pixel USA, since the drive was less than a month old, and they agreed to handle the return for me and swap the drive on the spot. So I unplugged the computer and drove it over to the store.

I’d bought the 16x drive less than a month ago, but it was now permanently out of stock; they had a 24x, but it was a few dollars more expensive. I didn’t really need a faster drive, but I didn’t want to have to wait a few weeks for the Plextor RMA process, so I agreed to pay the difference and they installed the new drive; I was on my way within 20 minutes.

Then it was back home to set up the computer again and backup the second CD. I need to find a different place to put the computer so I don’t hit it with my knee again, but for the time being, I’m being very careful when I sit down.

And then back to Avis to return their car and to the Saab dealer to pick up mine.

I had high hopes of accomplishing things today, too.

There’s always tomorrow.

Weekend Update

I tried to do as little as possible this weekend. And what I have done has mostly been Quicken-related.

I got the pieces together for my annual Quicken rebate, but I haven’t yet gotten around to finding an envelope in which to mail it.

I was all ready to be pissed at Roxio for not offering an XP upgrade to EasyCD Creator Basic, which came along with my Plextor CD writer, but so far, the base support in XP seems sufficient. I would like DirectCD, though, so that I can have Quicken back itself up to CD instead of having to go drag the Quicken data directory to the CD by hand, but I don’t feel like paying good money for that little convenience — and if I do decide to pay someone, it’ll probably be Ahead for Nero instead. Plextor claims that there will be an upgrade from Roxio, but I’m not holding my breath.

Jeffrey’s been hosting the boy who’ll be sharing his Bar Mitzvah — they’ve been having a good time, watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000, playing with Legos, and watching Battlebots. I think they’re actually twins.

I had hoped to go see Monsters, Inc. this weekend, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. It’ll be around next weekend, too, I bet.

There are days I just *love* the Web!

I’ve been using the Web since the early ’90s, but I am sometimes still amazed at what’s out there and how easy it can be to find.

Tonight, we were watching last night’s Enterprise and heard Captain Archer telling the Andorians that the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe had lost his nose in a duel about an equation. I’d never known that and wondered if the writers had just made that up (certainly I never read anything like that in any of Isaac Asimov’s books, which is probably where I learned how to spell Tycho’s last name). So after the show, I sat down at my trusty browser and typed three words into the Google search bar:

Tycho Brahe duel

The first result from Google was one of Cecil Adams’s The Straight Dope columns, titled Did astronomer Tycho Brahe really have a silver nose?, which answered the question in the affirmative (though I don’t think Cecil got the equation quite right). Elapsed time from sitting down to having the answer: maybe 10 seconds.

What part of “Off” doesn’t Microsoft understand?

I’m still fairly happy with XP, but there are some truly weird things in the UI. I was ready to turn off my computer for the evening, so I clicked the “Start” bar, selected “Turn Off Computer”, waited for the popup asking me what I really wanted to do to appear, and hit Enter. The computer went into “Suspend” mode.

Silly me. I would have thought that the default action when you ask to “Turn Off Computer” would be to turn the computer off, but it isn’t.

At least Clippy doesn’t pop up to help.