Friday, October 30, 2009 1:09:03 PM
Somebody please remind me to brush my hair next
time before I get a photo taken.
As some of you may already know my Gateway laptop died on 9-9-09
(kinda creepy, yeah?). Since the laptop was my backup computer
for the desktop that died last Winter, that left me with no
computer whatsoever. For a while I did the best I could to keep
plugging with the blog posts and blog rounds working from my
Blackberry. But it eventually got to be too much -- just more
frustrating and depressing than anything else. Worse, it looked
like I wouldn't be able to come up with enough money for a new
computer until January.
So I decided to quit for a while, to get away from the blog and
to a great extent the internet altogether. I'm afraid that my
last post (which I have since deleted) wasn't very clear on
these matters, and perhaps was made worse by turning off the
Comments -- I don't quite know what I was thinking on that one.
But I would like everybody to know that it was not my intention
to cut anyone out of the loop. For that I apologize.
I'm not exactly a cool headed private eye who keeps a level head
and knows what to do in any tough situation. In fact even my
fictional private eye Pat Maginess isn't that type of person.
When dealing with stressful situations I can sometimes freak out
a bit. In the past I've had my girlfriend or other friends there
at my side to help, saying "It's okay, Ed. It'll be all right"
and sort of mentally patting my shoulder. But those friends are
gone or are fading. And I have really no one to help like that
anymore. I guess I'm going to have to learn to do that kind of
In any case, I didn't have to wait until next January. Through
the auspecies of my brother-in-law John, who took pity on my poor
computerless state, I was able to arrange financing for a new
laptop. So to John I would like to say -- thanks a million, bro.
Without you I would still be piddling away my mornings watching
For those who are into computer stuff, here are some of the
Model: HP Pavilion
Keyboard: full size with numeric keypad
Processor: AMD Turion X2 2.2 Ghz
RAM: 4 GB DDR2
Hard Drive: 500 GB
CD Drive: DVDRW
Ports: 4 USB, SD/Memory Stick/MMC/XD card slots
Webcam: integrated 2 MG
OS: 64-bit Windows Vista SP1
It's very fast. And to quote Donald Trump, it's HUGE, a real
desktop replacement. In fact I had to move my desk lamp from
the center of the desk where it has always been to the left
side to get the computer ergonomically right. It's also far
too heavy for me to take anywhere. But I wasn't planning on
being a road warrior with it anyway.
It's not really necessary to name a computer unless it is on
a network, but I typed in a name anyway. I call it "Gladiator"
-- seemed to fit somehow with the shiny bronze color of the
computer. "I have my books / and my poetry to protect me /
they are a mighty armour." (Paul Simon)
Now. Let's see what I can do with this blog. Probably just
more of the same -- but who knows.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009 6:27:37 PM
In the tradition of Pimp My Ride and Trick My Truck, I decided to
get down and pimp my Blackberry a bit.
Originally I had thought that I wasn't going to mess with the thing.
Keep all the defaults, no additional apps, keep the native Blackberry
screen theme. In other words, mess with it as little as possible.
But that lasted about till the next tide came in. And so when my new
rubberized skin arrived for the phone that was the perfect excuse to
change some things. And so I decided to do a Pop Art, Andy Warhol type
You can see the result above. A bit gaudy, but it wouldn't be Pop Art
if it weren't a bit toward the gaudy side. I might not be finished with
the whole pimping process yet. But for now I'm happy with it. One thing
is for sure, the thing doesn't scream out "Old fart's phone" like a
couple of other ideas I had.
And by the way, I apologize for the quality of the photo. I'm not an
advertising photographer. Or any type of photographer really. And I
also missed the fact that the skin had slipped a bit on the bottom. And
that the screen needed to be wiped off a bit. And the color balance is
off just a tad -- the skin is a deeper color than that, more of a wine
red. And of course then there's the glare.
Jeez. Trust me, it looks better in person.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 6:04:02 PM
Yesterday I downloaded Google Mobile to my Blackberry. Now I could
access Google through my browsers, of course -- Opera Mini and the native
Blackberry browser. But I thought that a Google shortcut with the icon
right on the menu might save me a step or two if I was going directly
to Google anyway.
The application downloaded quickly and installed without any problems.
I fired it up to try it out.
One thing I noticed on Google Mobile was that it had a voice activated
feature. You don't have to type in the search string, just speak it. Well
I've never been much into the whole voice activated stuff. And in fact I
have voice dialing turned off on my phone. But I decided that since I had
some time to mess with it, and simply because I was curious, I would try
In order to use the feature on the Blackberry I was told to depress and
hold the SEND key and then speak the search term into the device. So I
depressed the key.
"Paris Hilton" I said, making sure to enunciate as clearly as possible.
The little spinning wheel popped up as Google made the search. I held my
breath (okay, I actually didn't but I want to create some suspense here).
The results came back.
"Winston Churchill" I read in the Google results list. Over and over,
this or that hit for Winston Churchill. And not one single hit for
Paris, not even the Paris in France.
To be fair I should mention that I tried the voice search for Paris
Hilton again and the second time around did get hits for her.
After that I decided to google my own name.
"Edward Piercy" I said into the device.
What I got back were a bunch of hits dealing with tattoos and body
"piercings." No wonder I don't get more visitors to my blog than I
do. People start out kinda-sorta wanting to visit my blog, but then
become distracted by a photo of some girl getting her nipples pierced.
I mean, how can I complete with that?
Now wait just one cotton pickin'
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 4:24:14 PM
Last year my mom got a circular fan on a stand over at our local
grocery store. The fan came in a box and needed "some minor
assembly" -- meaning of course that it took me hours to get all of the
parts together. Making things tougher was the fact that the fan was
made in China and came with directions in Chinese and some wild
variant of medieval English.
We finally got the thing together. But even then the telescoping stand
had a tendency to collapse no matter how tightly I tightened the
doohickey on it (and I'm not sure but I think "doohickey" is the actual
technical name for the thing). So I was forced to get out the universal
polymer binding adhesive (duct tape) to keep the column from
collapsing. And when we finally plugged it in and got it turned on we
found that the thing had a tendency to vibrate a bit, and was noisy.
For all those reasons I soon dubbed the machine "Crazy Chinese Fan."
And the name just kind of stuck. "That crazy Chinese fan toooooooo
noisy!" I would say.
Well this week Crazy Chinese Fan finally gave up the ghost. The timing
actually couldn't have been better as my mom had just gotten a new fan
(this time a more traditional square window fan) a few days before.
I'm going to give the fan a proper burial. By taking it out to the trash
dumpster. I wish I could take it someplace where the metal and parts
could be recycled, but there's no way I could carry the fan on the bus
halfway across town.
So good-bye, Crazy Chinese Fan. And in some strange way you will
Sunday, June 7, 2009 6:53:49 PM
My new Blackberry Curve 8330.
Well, it's here. Finally. After months and months of talking about it
and doing posts about it and mentioning it in just about every other
Comment I make, my new Blackberry is here.
I primarily choose the Blackberry for its keyboard. The device is
perfect for text. And considering that "typing" is pretty much what I
do these days, as you might have noticed from this blog, I decided that
the internet superiority of the iPhone took second place to the ability
to do text. And for that the Blackberry is a pleasure instead of a pain
to work with.
Every time I pick up the BB I think about the old Star Trek series and
the tricorders they used to have. The crew would beam down to some
exotic planet and Spock would whip out his tricorder and say something
like "Captain, I am reading an unidentified life form on the other
side of that rock outcropping." And then they would go to the other
side of the outcropping and Kirk would get into a fight with a big
The Blackberry isn't the tricorder -- at least not yet. But I can do
some very similar things. I can get the time and local weather and
temperature. I can find out information on the internet. I can catalog
new life forms (aka hot babes) at local shopping malls using the 2 MP
camera. And using the GPS feature, I can enter into strange new
neighborhoods and still locate the nearest pizza place.
So it looks like I'm good to go.
Beam me up, Scottie.
"Captain, I have just received a very important
e-mail from sexenhancementpills.com."
Sunday, May 24, 2009 10:36:21 PM
I was looking through a list of add-on Blackberry applications the
other day when I came across Phoney Call. This app lets you program
your Blackberry to ring at a predetermined time as if you are getting a
real incoming call.
If you have a meeting at 3:00 that you are simply not prepared for,
just use Phoney Call to ring at 3:10 and then tell them you have a
client that you have to take care of immediately. Or let's say you are
out on a date and know within 20 minutes that it's going nowhere. No
problem, you simply go back to the restroom and set the phone to ring
five minutes later and then tell your date that your Aunt Mildred is
dying and that you have to leave.
It seems that we can now have our machines lie for us. Or at least join
in the conspiracy. Which to me seems kinda...
Wait, I have a call. I'll get back with you later on this.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10:28:53 PM
My old 60s antique lamp, disassembled.
I have an old lamp that I've had for almost two decades now. It is an
antique lamp from the 60s, and has that kind of elegant yet whacked-out
design to it characteristic of 60s furniture. The lamp has usually
functioned as my bedroom lamp.
Well about a year ago I started having problems with the switch and
eventually substituted another lamp. And then yesterday, passing by the
little kitchen extension room to take out the trash, I noticed that my
mom had set it out to be put in the trash dumpster. Since I had my
hands full with garbage sacks already I left the lamp. And as I was
taking out the trash and then for a while afterward I got to thinking
that it was a shame the old lamp had to go. It certainly was a very
nice looking lamp, one they'd probably charge $50 for at an antique
I also got to thinking about how much of a disposable oriented society
we live in here in the U.S. It has certainly gotten better in recent
years. We now recycle trash and such items as cooking oil, and we are
more and more getting to the point where such things as computer
motherboards are being recycled for the metal. But we still have a long
way to go. The immigrant Russians I have known here, for example,
people who have known scarcity, they never waste anything. Old shirts
are used for rags and an old toaster can be taken apart and added to a
scrap metal collection. Here in the U.S., though, the Land of Plenty,
all but the most anal-retentive of us seem to be very wasteful.
So I decided to see if I could fix the old lamp. I knew it was a switch
problem. So I took the lamp apart slowly, slowly so I could remember
the way everything fit together, and finally was able to free the brass
housing for the switch and open it up and look at the switch directly.
The wires of the cord to the switch were still properly connected to
the screws. So that wasn't the problem. I examined the contact that
connected to the light bulb, and pulled it up a bit to make better
contact. I screwed in a light bulb and connected the power cord and,
being careful not to touch any of the parts, turned the lamp on via the
switch to see what happened. My final determination was that the switch
unit itself was totally screwed up and beyond repair. But I also thought
that it might be possible to buy a new switch unit and housing and replace
it. So I have put the lamp aside for now and will see if I can find a new
switch the next time I go to Wal-Mart.
The switch unit and housing looked nicely made. It was made of copper, a
rarity these days. On the housing was the legend LEVITON, MADE IN U.S.A.,
250 W. 250 V.
The switch housing, taken off the lamp.
I was done working on the lamp. But now I was curious as to the company
that made the switch that had lasted 40 years. Given the age of the lamp
and the fact that America has lost so much of its manufacturing base over
the decades I figured that the Leviton company was long gone. But thinking
that there might be some information about it on the internet regarding
its history I did a Google search.
As it turns out, not only is Leviton still in business, but it seems to be
thriving. Here's a bit of info from their web site.
Leviton was founded in 1906 to manufacture a single product: mantle
tips for gas lights. Since then, the Company has become a leading North
American producer of electrical and electronic products...What do the
White House, a winery in Napa Valley, an oil rig in Alberta Canada, and
90% of all the homes in America have in common? Electrical wiring
devices from Leviton.
Pretty impressive. Leviton is not only still in business but, on the
face of it at least, seems to be thriving. And they also have gone far
beyond the simple lamp switch. They have kept up with times and have
moved into new product lines such as automated home lighting and
speaker systems, surge protectors, and even routers.
Well, this is beginning to sound like some sort of television
commercial for Leviton. So to get back on track let me say that I was
impressed with the Leviton web site. And it also is sort of an an
electrical geeks heaven. I suppose due to the fact that electrical
contractors need schematic drawings for proper and safe installation,
and product specifications to meet various local building codes,
Leviton has a huge database for that type of thing. Just out of
curiosity, I downloaded the PDF version of the product schematics and
looked through it a bit. Not being an electrician I had little idea of
what I was looking at. But it certainly was very cool.
Leviton C-Clamp Mount Plug Bx Pigtails 6c.
I have no idea what it is, but it looks very cool.
As far as what I needed for the lamp, the closest I was able to find
was Part 7069. It looks to be made of cardboard surrounding the switch
instead of the nice brass of the old switch. But I suppose that is our
world today -- and I have to admit that while the cardboard isn't very
stylish I guess it does save on metals. I should mention too that the
switch is probably designed for such things as enclosed overhead
lights, not decorative lamps.
A while back I did a post about FP International, a company that made
some of the packing material my new camera was shipped in. I happened
to say at that time that FP seemed like a good company that cared about
it's product and its customers. Leviton strikes me the same way. And
that, once again, is refreshing.
Perhaps it is because they are privately held companies. With the
recent disasters in the banking and financial industries and the
automotive industry here in the U.S. it occurred to me that in the main
those industries are operated by what you could only call mercenaries
-- people who are hired in to manage the company and whose only
considerations are the profit margin and their own huge salaries.
There's very little incentive there to actually do things right, to put
out "a good product at a good price."
It's all about greed. It's no longer a matter of making things (even
if that making is such a thing as making a home loan). Instead it is
all too often in the abstract these days. Paleolithic hunters spent
time making their spear points. It might have been a job to them, but
they also were connected to the product of their hands, as well as to
its use. To the extent that we lose that connection -- to the extent
to which we stop thinking about the quality of the product and the
people who will use it -- I think our culture will suffer.
As for my old lamp, I'll keep you informed.
Sunday, April 5, 2009 9:29:10 PM
The Ultra USB/Firewire PCI card.
Yesterday I took a couple of photos and then plugged the USB cable from
my Sony camera up to the USB outlet of my desktop computer. But Windows
just didn't seem to read the Memory Stick in the camera like it normally
does. After spending the good part of the afternoon trouble-shooting I
finally concluded that the PCI USB card must be shot.
So today I got online with Tiger Direct and ordered a new card. My old
card had 2 ports. This one has 4 USB ports plus 2 Firewire ports. I
don't know whether the card will work at optimal speed on my old mother-
board. But even if it doesn't I will have at at least 4X the number of
USB ports to use (or I guess I should say 2X the number I previously
The new board cost $15 USD plus another $7 for the shipping.
I just hope that it was in fact the card and not something wrong with
the motherboard itself. In which case I'm screwed.
A couple years ago I could have taken the bus up to my local CompUSA and
got a new card and had it installed the same day. But my old CompUSA closed
down, along with hundreds of other outlets here in the US. So now I'll have
to wait 4-6 mailing days for the new card to be shipped.
In the meantime, no photos from my camera on the blog.
Thursday, March 12, 2009 7:06:02 PM
My new pliers.
When I was downtown the other day I stopped at
Dutch's Pawn Shop to get a new pair of pliers
to replace the old ones that had been stolen by
the Tool Elves or whatever.
They had a whole box full of about 20 different
pairs of pliers, from new shiny ones to old ones.
I was originally drawn to the newer looking ones,
but then I saw this pair that looked liked they
would have been from the 1940s or 1950s. Sort of
the pair of pliers my fictional private eye might
have kept around the house -- although I imagine
they would have looked a lot newer back in 1953.
In spite of their very antique appearance, the
pliers where fully functional as a tool. And in
fact they looked more solid than a lot of the
The price was $0.50 cents.
I bought them. I think they are beautiful.
Now all I have to do is find a pair of used
needle-nose pliers to replace the ones that
have gone missing.
Monday, January 26, 2009 10:26:51 PM
The Sectera Edge.
I was over at Naomi's blog the other day when I happened to read a
comment of hers about President Obama's smartphone.
Obama has for some time been a self-confessed Blackberry addict. But
being president, the old "Crackberry" just wasn't good enough any more.
So it seems that Obama has gone to the Sectera Edge, an ultra-high-tech
smartphone which will allow the President to keep himself wired in
without causing any intelligence breeches.
I hope President Obama uses his new device well -- like getting me my
damn economic stimulus check. So that I can go out and buy my own
Blackberry, which otherwise I couldn't afford.
The most secure network in the world.
(Sign up today and receive a $200 instant
rebate on the Sectera Edge!)