Saturday, June 28, 2008

Retaining Wall

After three weeks of manual labor, I've finally completed construction of my wall. The next step is to prepare the area for planting, which means pulling grass and tilling the soil. I'm using tarps to kill the grass by starving them of sunlight. View the album to see more pictures.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hyundai Sonata ESC-Off Light

I took my Hyundai Sonata to the dealer on Monday to get an oil change and to get a light bulb in the dashboard replaced (the ESC-Off light). The Sonata's Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) system has two lights: the ESC light comes on when the system actives, and the ESC-Off light comes on when you turn the system off. My ESC-Off light doesn't come on when I turn the system off.

I thought it would take an hour or so to fix at most. I didn't expect them to not even be able to fix such a simple problem. Note that this is after I called them about the problem weeks ago and had them order the necessary parts. Now they want me to bring the car back for a full day, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. The reason I waited until my scheduled oil change to get the light fixed was so I wouldn't have to make an extra trip to the dealer.

At least it's covered under warranty.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jelly Belly

We just got containers full of Jelly Bellys at the office. This isn't
going to be good for my diet.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I just finished watching Cloverfield and found it unexpectedly good. The film's unique style kind of reminds me of The Office (just the style, not the plot), while the long uncut action sequences are amazing and remind me of similar sequences from Children of Men.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bot Hell

I noticed something interesting today. Firefox wants to spell correct "Bothell" to "Bot hell". Maybe my computer is trying to tell me something...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

180 Blocks

I came home to find the 180 concrete blocks I ordered had arrived. I was pleased that they were placed to the side of my driveway, and not blocking it. They will be used to build a small retaining wall in my backyard to cordon off a garden area.

However, spending 2 hours hauling these blocks around has made me wonder just what have I gotten myself into.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Truth About the 3G iPhone "Price Drop"

To no one's surprise, Steve Jobs announced the new iPhone at WWDC yesterday. 3G, and GPS are the two big features.

There was also mention of a $200 price drop, from $399 to $199. But unlike the first price drop from $599 to $399, this one is all spin and BS. This price drop is due to the phone being subsidized by AT&T, and you're actually going to be paying more in the long term. What Jobs didn't mention at the keynote is the 3G data plan is $30 a month, which is $10 more per month than the Edge data plan. Over the lifetime of the two year contract, that adds up to an additional $240. Hmm, that price drop now looks like a net $40 price increase.

If you're thinking about just buying the iPhone, and unlockling it to go with another carrier like T-Mobile, you can forget about it. Apple has changed their activation policy. You now have to active the iPhone at the store. No more at home iTunes activation, no more online ordering. Looks like AT&T has gotten smart to all the unlocking that's been going on.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Nightmare at the Office

It's late evening and I'm working at my desk at the office. Suddenly my screen goes black. I notice the room has gone eerily quiet. The light from outside the window seems somehow brighter even though the sun is about to set.

"Damn it!" I hear one of my officemates yell. The frustration in his voice is clear. "SHIT!" I hear someone down the hall scream out. Initial confusion is turning into panic as the realization hits people like a damp sponge.

They warned us about disasters like this. Most of us even know the precautions that should be taken to minimize the damage. I always hear people tell horror stories about friends who have lost everything. But none of it does any good. You're never prepared when it happens to you.

People are starting to accept it. What they lost - some more than others unfortunately. But there is an even more pressing concern. One that few have yet to understand. The smart ones are already slowly, quietly making their way to the exit.

Someone must have whispered a little too loudly. Maybe someone overheard. All I know is one moment it was relatively calm. The next, it was chaos. The panic spread like wildfire in a drought. Everyone's running, trying to get out before it's too late. No one wants to be trapped.

People are stumbling around. The hallway is so dark. Somehow I make it to the stairs. I hear dull thuds and metal clanging echo up the stairwell. I was on the top floor. Fear starts to set in as I realize I must be one of the last ones left.

I quicken my pace. Maybe too quick. I trip over something soft. I thought I heard a groan, but it's hard to see with the dim EM lighting. I have no time to stop and check. I need to get out before it shuts and never opens again.

I made it down the stairs. The trip felt like an eternity. The underground lot is even darker than the stairs, but I'm close now. I just need to find one thing. I try to remember where I left it. But each moment I stand here is costing me valuable seconds.

I need to start moving. Fortunately, I quickly find what I was looking for. I hope my luck lasts. Now, there's just one more obstacle left. I make my way towards the exit and pray... Yes! The gate is still open! I must be feeling lucky!

I just escaped The Blackout.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pimp My Bike

I've been riding my bike for a week now and it hasn't fallen apart yet. I still need to re-tighten the front and back brake pads after every ride. It's surprising there's still material on the brake pad to wear down.

I made a few upgrades for my bike:
  1. Replaced the seat with a more cushioned seat.
  2. Added headlight and blinking taillight.
  3. Added water bottle holder.
I'm still just riding around my neighborhood. Maybe next weekend, I'll try riding on a street with traffic.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mike's Cocktails - Not Good

I found these drinks at QFC the other day. I like Mike's Hard Lemonade, so I thought I might enjoy these. Boy was I wrong.

The lemon drop was the only one I managed to force myself to finish. By no means did I enjoy it. The mike-arita was horrible. The mojito was the worst. It tasted like vodka mixed with mint toothpaste mixed with some sugar.

Anyone who likes these must be crazy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How Good is a $70 Bike?

As a test run, I rode my bike to QFC and back, about 4 miles round trip. I tried to stay off the main roads as much as possible, as I'm still scared of cars. Overall it went pretty well, with some exceptions.
  1. The seat was really uncomfortable. It felt like I was sitting on a bumpy, sharp rock. Not fun.
  2. The brakes wore down to the point that they were unusable. I almost hit a fence going down a hill because fully squeezing both brake levers did hardly anything.
  3. Finally, my 18-speed bike is more like a 6-speed bike. Let me explain. I have a left shifter labeled 1, 2, 3 and a right shifter labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 for a theoretical combination of 18 speeds. In practice, I'm not supposed to use the extreme gear combinations where the chain is not in a straight line. This eliminates 8 combinations: 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 2-1, 2-6, 3-1, 3-2, 3-3. Then, to make matters worse, I've never been able to successfully shift the left to 3 or the right to 1, eliminating another 4 combinations: 1-1, 3-4, 3-5, 3-6. This leave just 6 combinations that I can use: 1-2, 1-3, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, 2-5.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Buying a Bike at Walmart

I finally got a bike! I considered getting a cheap one off craigslist, but most of them were surprisingly expensive. So I got this 26" 18-speed mountain bike for about $70 from Walmart.

Shopping there was painful, as usual. The bike I wanted was on the top, and it was apparent no associate was going to offer to help me get it down. The woman I finally drafted to help me did not look happy about the job at all. She got a ladder, realized it was too short, then disappeared for 15 minutes to get a bigger ladder. Once she returned, I offered to just use the ladder and get it down myself, saving her the trouble, but she said it was against store policy. While she was trying to get it down, I seriously worried for her safety and wondered why a more in-shape associate wasn't doing this.

All together, it took 30 minutes to actually get the bike down. Then while I was riding the bike to the cash registers, another associate told me it was against store policy to do so. How else was I supposed to test it? Finally, as I'm walking my bike out of store, another associate tells me to stop. At this point, I just want to leave the store as quickly as possible, so I ignored her, knowing that I have no legal obligation to stay in the store. She actually ran outside after me and grabed the bike to stop me. I considered arguing with her, but instead just showed her the damn receipt.

Did I mention how much I hate Walmart?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Squirrel Holes?

The other day, I saw two squirrels in my backyard and quickly snapped some pictures from my kitchen window. When I looked at the pictures later, I saw something strange: two brown patched in my yard that look like dirt. So I go out for a closer look and see this:

What in the world? They're definitely holes, but I'm not sure how deep they are or where they lead. Then there's the mystery of how they got there and what made them. Was it the squirrels? Invisible gophers? Malicious neighbors? Rare geological phenomena? Tiny mole people? Aliens? I'm definitely keeping a close eye on the happenings in my backyard from now on.