Sunday, March 30, 2014

Evaporate Faster

I do the dishes here at home. My wife cooks, and since I do not cook, I contribute by doing the dishes when I can. For the most part this involves putting dishes into the dishwasher, but there is always one or two items that I wash by hand in the sink. Some of these non-dishwasher safe items are plastic containers.

One of my hangups with plastic containers is with their curved edges designed to hold a tight seal for a cover. Drying these becomes a very detailed chore for me. I like to put dishes away completely dry, and to get at all the moisture on a plastic container involves stuffing the folded edge of a towel into the crevices of the plastic containers. Because of the required attention to detail, I tend not to take this step, opting instead to let the containers dry on the counter. But I'm mindful of the moisture, so I take these containers and whip then in the air, forcing the water off the surfaces. I am rewarded with a splatter on the sink from this action, and I leave the chore thinking that this causes the remaining water to evaporate faster.

As I was composing this post in my head, I realized that I couldn't definitively declare that my actions make the plastic containers dry faster. Does a puddle of water evaporate faster than that same volume of water dispersed over discrete droplets? In other words: does a teaspoon of water dry slower than say that same teaspoon divided into two?

This ends up being a fruitless experiment, because my action removes excess water. The amount of water remaining should evaporate faster than the original, larger amount.

Or maybe I shouldn't think about this too much.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Cracked iPod

Last month, I cracked the glass on my iPod.

For all the vaunted stories I've read about iPod's Gorilla Glass, the glass does crack if it falls from height. The glass can crunch up against a set of keys without a scratch, but it doesn't necessarily withstand a fall from your coat pocket.

I thought I could live with it. There was more than enough smooth glass for me to read and compose e-mails and tweets, but the back-breaker was playing Candy Crush. If I wanted to preserve my finger tips, I needed to get this glass replaced.

I've repaired electronics before, so I looked into replacing the glass myself. I thought it would just be a "do-it-yourself" swap. I couldn't have been more wrong. The repair of a 5th generation iPod "display assembly" has a very exacting procedure requiring specialized tools, and a surgeon's touch.

My wife helped me find Boston iPhone Repair in Harvard Square. The snug room filled with various iPods and iPhones in clamps gave me some assurance, but the second they realized my device was a 5th generation, they said "take it to Apple. It's too expensive for us to repair!"

With some fits and starts and help from my co-workers, I arranged my first ever appointment at Apple's Genius Bar in Burlington. When I arrived the technician looked at the cracked glass, then asked if I backed up my device. He said for this kind of damage, the usual route is replacement. It would cost me $149. I gave him my credit card in agreement.

The Apple employee had me erase my cracked iPod, then retrieved my replacement device. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't in a glass box. Instead it was wrapped in some folded cellophane. I was even more disappointed that it didn't have any kind of charge, so I could't play with it in the store. But these were fleeting feelings.

At home I charged it up, then I summoned my old device from the cloud. When the future arrives and we can transport our consciousness into other bodies, it will look like an iPod restoring itself from the cloud. In an hour I had nearly everything restored, including my Candy Crush (level 55).

The iPod I had before this was from 2008, so I can only hope I can keep this replacement in good working condition for another five years.

Friday, January 31, 2014

My Books and Movies from 2013

In 2013, I only read 11 books, according to my list on LibraryThing. My favorite book was "Code", by Charles Petzold. In this fascinating book, he takes the intrepid reader on an exploration of the foundations of computing. I want to give this book its proper praise and review, so I'll reserve that for my other BLOG.

The other book of note was French Lessons, by Alice Kaufmann. The book is a memoir which focuses on the author's adoration for French. From a very early age, Ms. Kaufmann yearned to be French, and she took advantage of living overseas to immerse herself into the Francophile culture. What made the book stand out was the detail with which she describes herself becoming better at the language.

Last year, I watched 18 movies. I managed to watch a good number of movies theatrically, including "Gravity", and "Frozen." My favorite flick that I watched was the "The King's Speech", winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Picture. I loved everything about it: the story, the photography, and the superb acting. Later in the year, my wife and I watched "The Queen", which tied the year up in a nice bow.

So...onto 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Secular Life

One of my favorite words is secular.

One dictionary I have defines it "of or pertaining to the temporal rather than to the spiritual." Google's definition: "denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis."

I don't remember when I learned this word, but I do remember how it lodged into my mind: an episode of Sports Night, the television series by Aaron Sorkin. In one particular episode ("When Something Wicked This Way Comes"), Dan Rydell gets flustered when he thinks he's misused the word in a conversation. "Did I mean to say non-secular, when I should have secular?" I gave a lot of thought to that dialogue, having attended private non-secular schools until college.

I think about this word because the Catholic church I attended closed in 2004, and since then my church attendance has stopped. It didn't help that Boston's Catholic Church crisis (2002) was still a fresh memory. The news of the sexual abuse and the institutional coverups made me realize how religion and church are invented and governed by men. And as the punchline goes: "I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out." I decided to take it out.

In 2010, at my youngest brother's wedding, my other brother and I had a conversation about the ceremony. Ron said he liked that there wasn't any religious connotation at all. I replied with a smile: "A secular ceremony then!" We both laughed. By then I had been without religion for six years, and I felt at peace with it. A secular life is all I have left.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Immigrant's Gratitude

Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines, devastating the city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte. It was a worrisome time because I do have close and distant relatives in various parts of that island nation. After the storm passed, and our relatives were accounted for, I was left with gratitude.

I was at the barber recently, and the person who cut my hair casually asked where I was from. "New Jersey," I said. "Were you born there?" he asked. "No, I was born in the Philippines."

He listened as I told my immigration story (I was born in Manila, and I came here when I was three years old) , and I listened to his own immigration story (he was born in Italy, and he came here when he was thirteen). We both became American citizens when we were young: me before high school, and him before joining the US military.

"I think immigrants like you and me are more grateful for what we have here in the US," he said.

That is probably true.

The last time I visited the Philippines, I was ten years old. I was boy running, swimming and playing in the hot sun every day. My memories of that long vacation are wonderful, but I also remember how very different it was from the United States. I knew I preferred the "comfort" of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Being an immigrant means you or your parents have come from someplace else. Being an immigrant is to be aware of two ways of living, and awareness is at least one ingredient to being grateful.

Tomorrow, the people of the Philippines will continue their lives, as best as they are able to. My Mom said that it doesn't take a lot to make a Filipino happy. I'm grateful for this trait.

Tomorrow, I'm going to sit down to the most American meal possible. My wife said she has enough cranberry sauce. I'm grateful.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Avoiding Automobile Accidents

Yesterday, there was some traffic backed up on the corner where I turn to go to work. It turned out that there was an accident, and a small crew was sweeping up the street. A tow truck had the car on its flat bed. The driver-side front part of the car was smashed in. I thought I saw the owner, his phone pressed to his bowed head.

I was in one fender bender back in the 1980s when I was in high school, but since then, I've been accident-free.

I think in those early years, I was mostly lucky avoiding accidents. I remember being an aggressive driver. I grew up in Jersey City, where driving 'close' seemed normal. I spent time in Pasadena, and prowled Southern California highways, and developed a fondness for high speed on-ramp merging. When I moved to Massachusetts, I liked to drive angry. Flooring the gas. Tailgating. Driving over the speed limit. I always felt that I could make up time in my car if I was late.

But over the years, the energy that this kind of driving demanded began to disappear. Over the years, I realized there was no 'winning' in driving. How angry I could become if someone cut me off or didn't let me merge. I questioned why I was so emotionally exhausted after driving.

I began to become generous in my driving. You want to squeeze ahead of me in a long line of traffic? Go right ahead. You want to run your left-turn green? Go on...I'll wait. I stopped using my horn. I gave myself more time to get to events. And if I was late? Well, that's what the cell phone is for.

I started driving slower. For years I did a city commute, and driving fast through the streets was a trademark. Now? I'm the person that people are honking because I'm going at "Sunday drive" speed.

All driving has become leisurely, and I am much more relaxed behind the steering wheel. I still have to deal with aggressive triggers (fast drivers, people 'pushing' me to run that yellow). I do my best to avoid those situations. My streak of accident-free driving continues.

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Current Reading Pile

I have started a lot of books, but hopefully these are the ones that I finish soon (and by soon I mean "this year").

Code (Charles Petzold) - This is a marvelous book, and the reason it's taking me so long to finish it is because I don't want it to end! It's a book about "how computers work", but his approach to answering that question is to take us all the way back to how we represent data first in code, then in bits and bytes, and ultimately in software. It's a fascinating journey, and I'll have more to say on my technical blog when I finish

Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson) - Neal Stephenson's lengthy epic cuts between three main characters, code breaking, World War II, and the "present" world of the high-tech start-up industry. This book is full of great scenes, including "Captain Crunch" and "Van Eck phreaking". The characters are richly rendered. And as a bonus for geeks like me, there are small programs and mathematical equations throughout.

Winesburg, Ohio (Sherwood Anderson) - This intricate collection of stories set in the town of Winesburg, Ohio, has always fascinated me from when I first heard of it. When I picked it up finally, I was surprised by how short it was, but each story in this book packs an intense amount of imagery and emotion. Like "Code", I'm drawing this book out, hoping to make its imagery stay with me.

Inferno (Dan Brown) - My mother-in-law bought two copies, and I made the pleasant mistake of checking out the first chapter. For those who've read Brown's "DaVinci Code", you'll know that to read the first chapter is to commit to reading the entire work. Inferno has a similar great opening, and I know that means I'm in for a great ride.