Jackson. (July 4th, 2009 - May 28th, 2011).

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Nearly two years ago, Teddy and I adopted two kittens from a liter that was rescued not far from our house. Teddy named them Ashley (for the color of Ash) and Jackson (after the King of Pop). Ashley was always the friendlier of the two. Not especially cuddly at first, but eventually she warmed up to us. Jackson was afraid of me. He was also afraid of everyone else, but mostly me. 

Over the first year, I tried to make friends with him, but he would usually run away when he saw me coming. But in our second year together, we found some common ground. First he started visiting me at bedtime. Once I got under the covers, he would jump on the bed and allow me to pet him for 5-20 minutes before remembering that I was terrifying and running away. Then he discovered that he liked to be wet. So in the morning, after I brushed my teeth, he'd jump on the sink and wait for me to wet him. Not just a little bit. He liked me to run the water, fill my hand, and dump it on him, petting him all over until he was soaked. If I turned off the water, he was gone.

A month or two ago, I got a new cat brush, and he loved it. Whenever Katie was sitting next to me on the couch, Jackson would feel safe enough to lay in my lap and be brushed all over. He would collapse, legs in the air, purring with his eyes closed, in complete ecstasy. I was delighted to be able to make this little guy happy, even if for only a few minutes at a time.

Yesterday, while brushing my teeth, he cried a little, then fell of the window sill where he usually hung out. He landed flat on his back and his legs got stiff and were shaking. His eyes were opened wider than I had ever seen. I thought he had either broken his leg or his back. He was clearly in some serious pain. I ran downstairs to get a carrier to take him to the vet, but 30 seconds later when I returned, he wasn't moving - just staring. I put him in the carrier and raced to the vet a half-mile away, calling from a red light to tell her I was coming. 

When I got there two minutes later, his eyes were closed and he wasn't breathing. The doctor confirmed that he was gone. After letting my cry for a few minutes, the doctor explained to me that it wasn't the fall that killed him. It was probably a heart attack or maybe an aneurysm that killed him and caused the fall. His sister, Ashley, and I watched it happen. Fortunately, Teddy was downstairs and didn't see Jackson die, but of course, he is very sad. Jackson was his favorite right from the start.

There's one more angel in heaven and one more star in the sky. But I miss my little kitten.

Jackson on the window sill
Jackson, on his favorite window sill

Replacing a Hard Drive in an Intel iMac

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This may be perfectly obvious to some people, but in my 25+ years experience of tearing apart electronics, I never encountered this and I was stumped. The hard drive in Teddy's iMac failed and needed to be replaced. With a little online research I was able to determine that any SATA drive would do the trick. I found a few videos on YouTube that showed the (difficult) process of taking apart the iMac, and they were very helpful. The confusion came when I installed the new drive and was left with a tiny 4-prong wire and nowhere to connect it. 

The left image below is the original drive. The little blue square circuit board (top, center) has a tiny 4-prong port on it from where I disconnected a wire going to the underside of the logic board. As you can see in the second photo below, there is no little square to attach the wire to.

Original SATA hard drive from Intel iMacReplacement SATA Seagate hard drive for Intel iMac
Original Hard DriveReplacement Hard Drive

I did some more research online but couldn't find anyone who specified what hard drive they used as a replacement in their iMac. I did choose a different brand (Seagate instead of Western Digital) but that really shouldn't have made a difference. I went to bed confused and angry.

Today at work, Michael Michel, one of our PC technicians popped-in to my office to say hello and chat about music. I was reading some hard drive forums at the time so I told him about the problem I was having. His first question was, "Can you tell if the little circuit board goes through the drive casing?" I didn't know. Then he asked, "Is it the same color as the main circuit board?" I did a Google image search and found a photo of the drive. Sure enough, the color of the small square had a blue tint to it that the rest of the circuitry did not. Michael explained that this generally means that it wasn't part of the hard drive, but was added later, probably by Apple. He further suggested that it was probably a heat sensor, glued on and since the hard drive was dead anyway, there was no harm in trying to pry it off.

Of course, he was exactly right. 

When I got home, I pried the square off the old hard drive, stuck it to the new one, plugged in the tiny wire, and (painfully) closed up the iMac. I should mention that Michael is a PC tech, not a Mac tech, and that he solved this problem for me based only on my description of what I saw the night before. 

Michael Michel is today's Higglytown Hero.

U2 (x2)

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This isn't about how I came to be in London to see U2 at Wembley Stadium. Nor is it about why I saw a band twice in two months when I wasn't really even a big fan. Finally, this is not about Bono, RED, politics, religion, or the economy of the music industry.

It is simply my reaction to the concerts individually and my comparison of the two.

First, U2 at Wembley Stadium, August 17th, 2009.

I was tired today. My plan was to take it easy since I walked so much the day before but as it turned out I spent a lot of time walking and exploring, taking two breaks for an hour or so each. Since Katie worked during the day, we met at a train station on the way to Wembley. When we got to our destination we had a long walk and were missing the opening band so I was stressed. Our tickets were at Will Call which I generally prefer because it makes it impossible to lose or forget them. But with a large, unfamiliar venue it turned out to be a mistake. There were two ticket offices on opposite ends of the stadium and we had to find the right one (which took two tries). Fortunately, once we got there, the ticketmaster pickup window had a short line and was quick. Our tickets indicated that we should enter via the Bobby Moore gate. We consulted a map and didn't find any sign of the Bobby Moore gate, so we asked a security guard where it was. We were directed to the gate behind the giant statue of Bobby Moore. I guess if we had known who Bobby Moore was, it would have made a good landmark. Those silly Brits.

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Once we found our way to our section, we split up. I got on the beer/food line and Katie went to find the t-shirts. I did my best, buying meat pies and cups of beer. Katie did much better, buying an awesome red 360 tour shirt. We walked to the seats and marveled at the massiveness of Wembley Stadium. I looked over The Claw, wondering if it was there to entertain me or subjugate me.


Once it got dark, the Claw started smoking. The crowd recognized this as evidence that the show was about to start. Sure enough, the Bowie music immediately followed. Next came an intense 24-song set that was a a very good mix of old and new. My favorite was skipped, but having checked out the playlist from recent stops on the tour, I wasn't expecting it. The music was great. That really wasn't surprising - a band that can sellout a 90,000 seat venue two nights in a row is going to be great. The concert as a whole, however, was weird. When I saw signs warning people not to engage in anti-social behavior such a standing up, I thought it was amusing. But being at a stadium rock show and having everyone spend almost the entire time in their seats was not at all amusing. Personally, I prefer sitting down and enjoying the show. I never realized, however, how important it was to have people standing, dancing, singing, and cheering. Without that, it's kind of depressing. A handful of dedicated fans, including the beautiful one in the seat next to me, stood up, but the general mood was dull. Even the crowd walking back to the train station was quiet. No singing.




Flash forward to Giants Stadium, September 24th.

I left work an hour early and drove to NYC to meet Katie, then we took the subway to the train. The wait for NJ Transit tickets was about 45 minutes, but the trip was otherwise easy. We got to the stadium (tickets in hand this time), got a few beers and cheesesteak sandwiches, and found our seats. Once again, nighttime fell, the smoke started, and the speakers piped in some Bowie. Therein ends the similarities. Well, obviously it was the same band playing many of the same songs but it was a totally and completely different concert. The energy of the NY crowd was so exciting. That's what a live show is supposed to be like.


UK US Winner
Initial
Excitement
Holy Shit - I'm seeing U2 in London! I hope this isn't as lame as London UK
Transit Easy, cheap, clean Understaffed, but acceptable -
Beer Warm 12oz cups,
one brand only
Cold 16oz bottles,
many choices
US
Food Terrible meat pies Pretty good sandwiches US
Fans Quiet and calm Excited, but not rowdy US
Band Perfect Perfect -
Shirts Katie got a tour shirt Katie got me an Edge shirt -
Next Day Tour of Buckingham Palace
Tom Stoppard Play
Work UK

Replacing the Medicine Cabinet

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About a year ago, half of the electricity in my house stopped working (I'll save that for another post). As a result, my bathroom was kind of dim. There was a working outlet with a small lamp, but the ceiling light was dead and I was recently made aware of the importance of a well-lit mirror.

I have never liked the mirror/medicine cabinet. First of all, it was made by the previous owners and it shows. It's very crafty (rustic?) and very out of place in there. It wasn't even painted. Second, the mirror itself was too short. I'm 6'3" so I couldn't see myself without bending, and Teddy can't see himself without a stool. I think it was 15" tall. I decided to buy a new mirror, install a light above it, and fix the ceiling light. Silly to do all that and not paint, right? I hit the local paint store, chose a nice pale blue for the top of the walls and some white for the bead-board and ceiling.

Two months later I decided to actually do the job.

Step 1: Fix the lighting. My plan for this was to take the power from the working outlet and use it to rewire the switch and light fixture. This wasn't too hard except for the limited access to the topside of the ceiling fixture. There is a crawl space, but as I mentioned, I'm 6'3". I got the ceiling fixture powered and started to look for a way to access the wall over the mirror. It took me a few trips up and down the ladder to the crawl space to figure out why I couldn't find the wall to drop a wire into. The bathroom is in a dormer that was not part of the original house. As such, the part of the wall where the mirror is an exterior wall with no topside access. Directly behind the mirror is a 2x10 diagonal roof beam. Not something I could run a wire though, nor something I could access without going on the roof. I ended up cutting a horizontal strip across wall, a little bigger than one piece of lathe. I also had to drill a half-inch hole though a few studs, including the corner of the room, which was very tricky. Eventually I made my way to the new switch I added and powered it up.

Step 2: Repair the damage. Cutting a long hole in the wall means having to repair the wall. I had some leftover sheet rock and joint compound from my basement renovation a few years ago but I had to run to the hardware store to get tape. I don't like doing finish work. I am neither neat nor careful. I learned most of what I know about electrics, carpentry, and painting from working in scene shops and on stage crews. Small details aren't as important from 30 feet away. Also, when you're working on scenery, access to the top or back of walls is never a problem. I patched the holes and smoothed the spackle. Sort of.

Step 3: Painting. I primed the ceiling and walls with Zinser 1-2-3, then once they dried, painted them with Benjamin Moore Bathroom & Kitchen paint (mildew resistant). I don't like painting. Well, I guess the actual painting is okay. I don't like removing fixtures, covering appliances and floors, taping corners, or cleaning brushes.


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Ashley and Jackson

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On Thursday evening, Teddy and I adopted two adorable kittens that were rescued by David and Abby. Teddy named them Ashley and Jackson. They are both black. Ashley is named for the color of her fur and Jackson is named after Teddy's favorite singer. He nicknamed another male in the litter Mikey, but that name was changed to Olive by the family who adopted him.

I decided to block off the dining room as their initial living space to help them get acclimated to us and our home. I used wooden toy chests that are only about 18 inches tall, so when they were really ready to go exploring they could. I figured it would take them a week or two but Katie said 48 hours was more likely. 

Sunday morning, the two of them breached their containment zone. I found them cowering under the couch so I opened the blockade and used a feather wand to lure them back to the dining room (but I left the gap open so they could explore again if they wanted to. The dining room is a lot more fun so they still spend most of their time in there. 

Teddy spent the weekend at his mom's place, so when he came home today he was anxious to play with Ashley and Jackson. The kitties were hiding under the couch for the first hour or so that he was home so I decided to pull them out to play. It wasn't too hard and once they started chasing that purple feather, they were unstoppable. I got tired just watching. After the feather, Teddy switched to the laser for a few minutes. As expected, it makes them nuts, so we use it in short doses. Then he gave them a little soccer ball that Ashley has taken a real liking to. The room isn't perfectly flat so when she lets the ball go, it rolls a little and she pounces on it. She loves to grab it with both hands and stand up on her hind legs. 

They haven't chosen a consistent sleeping place yet - they are still testing out all the dark and soft areas. They did both have a nap together on the round platform of the carpet scratcher Teddy picked out for them. They also use this to play (see video below). They are both eating and drinking regularly, Ashley more than Jackson. She is still more outgoing and comes out to play first, but he isn't far behind. 

They both still try to hiss when I approach them, but less so at Teddy.  He's small and probably not as intimidating as me. Once I pick them up they calm down immediately and love to be held and pet. Ashley even purred last night while laying on my chest. The simple toys are totally fascinating them,  especially the noisier ones that I dangled from strings on the furniture.


Teddy sang the kittens a lullaby tonight while gently petting one of them after dinner. I think it was an original composition. I tried to capture it on video but he stopped singing when I took out the camera. I'm sure I'll have another opportunity.

"Vacation" - Day Five

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Today started with a 6:40am phone call from my boss telling me there was a payroll issue. After  five hours dealing with it from my hotel room, Teddy and I moved to the pool. Another three hours later and enough data was loaded that I was able to go try to enjoy the rest of the day. We grabbed a quick lunch at IHOP then went to Disneyland for three hours. We visited Alice in Wonderland and a few of the rides we had already been on. My mood made it tough to enjoy the little time we had left. 

Vacation, Day Four

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Today we took a break. Disney is exhausting! We rented a car and drove to Newport Beach to have breakfast with Rich & Stacy and their daughter Laurence (Teddy's second cousin). The restaurant (Beachcomber at Crystal Cove) was busy so we had a couple of hours to swim in the ocean and play on the sand before eating. This was perfect because Teddy and I really needed to relax after three days at Disney.
beachcomber.jpg

After the beach we went back to the hotel and spent about five hours at the pool. A little while after we got there, some other kids showed up and they all had fun playing together. 

At 9:00 I convinced Teddy that we should get dinner so we walked to the Anaheim Garden Walk (an open air mall) and went to Johnny Rockets, then back home to bed. 

Disneyland, Day Three

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Since we were up until 1:00am, we slept a little later today but got up at 8:30 for the free continental breakfast at the hotel.  Oddly, eggs and sausage were included. We returned our borrowed car to the Disneyland Hotel and took the monorail into the park. First stop: Matterhorn Bobsleds again. The line was wrapped most of the way around the mountain so we were walking to the Fastpass machines when we noticed the other side was also open and there were only a few people on line. We got on that line and were buckled in five minutes later. Apparently, the right side is a slightly different ride and isn't as popular. I thought it was more fun. We visited Pinocchio's Daring Journey on the way to Splash Mountain again, then took the train back to Toontown for another pass at Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin and Gadget's Go Coaster. We also checked out the rest of the Toontown scenery, saw Goofy and Pluto, and just took in the wonder of the town square.

 

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We had lunch at the Pizza Port in Tomorrowland then attended Jedi Training Academy while waiting for our Space Mountain Fastpass timeslot. Teddy was lucky enough to get picked for Jedi Training and he got to fight Darth Vader. He learned the ten-part light saber combo very quickly (which I attribute to his Kung Fu training). He was totally into it and so proud of himself for becoming a Padawan. Of course this meant another trip to the gift shop for a light saber and Jedi costume, but it wasn't any more than I usually spend on his Halloween costume and I expect he'll want to wear it this year. Even if he doesn't want to wear it again, I was born in 1970. It's not really within my ability to say no to a light saber and Jedi costume.

 

Like yesterday, we retreated to the hotel for a cooling swim then went back to the park for a little more fun. We got dinner in Frontierland (including a funnel cake with a crumbled brownie on top, covered in whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Some nice guys from New York invited us to their table and found us chairs, just in time for Fantasmic to start.

 

I don't know where to begin in describing the Fantasmic show. I feel sorry for the people who miss it. On the schedule that comes with the map, this show doesn't get any more attention than the other things but in reality, it is a spectacular show that really shouldn't be missed. It's a combination of projections on mist screens, flames, fireworks, sparklers, ships, songs, bands, characters, and lights. The show is done twice a night. If I were able, I would watch it twice each night. There is so much to see that I think I'd have to see it from a few different spots to catch it all. The peter pan scene on the pirate ship alone is worth getting there a half-hour early for to get good seats.

Disneyland, Day Two

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toontown.jpg

Teddy and I started our day with a walk back to Disneyland. We stopped at a breakfast buffet across the street for some food, and then headed into the park. Our first ride was the Disneyland Train. Partly because of Walt Disney's love for trains, but also because it is the quickest way from Main St. USA to Toontown. The train ride is nice and slow with a lot to look at, not just for good views of rides, but also to see dioramas created specifically for passengers of the train. We will try to see the other half of the scenery on our next visit. Once in Toontown, we started at Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. The queue leading in to this ride is like an attraction on it's own. One of the things I noticed over and over at Disney is they really spare no expense. Fans of Who Framed Roger Rabbit will enjoy the walk into this ride and will totally love the ride. We rode it twice in a row since there was no line early in the morning.


 

mickey.jpg

We visited a few of the smaller stores and attractions, then found our way to Mickey Mouse's house. This is a fun house to walk around but it is really just an elaborate queue to get you to the place where you can pose for a photo with Mickey. Like most theme parks, they have professional photographers to take your photo and sell it to you, but they also offer to take a shot with your own camera (for free). This is one of the other things I noticed over and over: there is no pressure to spend more money once you are in the park. There are souvenir shops all over, some video arcades, food vendors, etc..., but no hawks or pressure to spend. Nothing in the park is overly commercial. On a side note, I noticed something odd (or not) in Mickey Mouse's house. While walking through one of the rooms, we saw a washing machine with Mickey's laundry in it. One of the items in the machine was red with white polka dots. Now I'm not saying just because Minnie's laundry is in Mickey's house, there's something going on, but it caught my eye. Maybe her machine is broken and Mickey is just helping out a neighbor.

 

As we were leaving Toontown, I spotted It's A Small World. Teddy wasn't interested, but there's no way were leaving without going on this classic. The wait was only ten minutes and the ride is about ten minutes as well. Katie had warned me that the foreign language singing was replaced with foreign accent singing. I was not looking forward to that, but fortunately, they've since corrected that atrocity, at least partly. Including English, I counted five languages, plus a second accented English, which I took to be Cockney. There were also several culturally-relevant instrumental versions which is better than foreign accents, but not as good as languages. I don't know how many languages there used to be on the ride.

 

We learned today that the Fastpass ticketing system is free. At Six Flags it costs a lot of money but at Disneyland, your regular park ticket is also a Fastpass activator. Knowing that, we used it a few times today. We used it first for Splash Mountain (a log flume). We got our Fastpass tickets, and then got on line for the 30-minute wait. We knew we'd want to ride this one more than once.

 

We didn't know what to do next so we just started visiting attractions in order. Based on proximity, the next was the Haunted Mansion. I was surprised that Teddy wanted to go in because ghosts are still scary to him, but he insisted. This was a very fun ride and attraction and showed off some great effects. It's not bloody-corpse scary and doesn't have people reaching out at you to give you nightmares. It's just spooky and fascinating. The holographic dancing spirits and the shadow playing the piano are two more examples of Imagineering at it's best. Robyn told me later that this attraction gets a Nightmare Before Christmas makeover for Halloween. Very cool.

 

Our next big ride was the Indiana Jones Adventure. This ride was very exciting and very well worth the wait. Again, unlike other theme parks, the queue is all part of the story. Many elements of the first 15 Minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark were used in the design of the long walk into this ride, and other were used for the ride itself. After finishing this ride, Robyn arrived at the park with her son's Jared and Josh. She worked here for years so she knew exactly where we were and were to meet us based on what we wanted to do next.

 

Next stop: Pirates of the Caribbean. Another classic that Walt Disney himself designed parts of. They updated it a few years ago to add some characters and scenery from the Disney movie but it blends well with the older stuff. As we passed a room full of treasure I said to Teddy that I wished I could steal some of the shiny pirate treasure. Teddy warned me, "Daddy don't, it looks like a trap!"

 

After Pirates it was time for our Fastpass return to Splash Mountain. We finagled an extra Fastpass ticket for Josh so he could come with Teddy and I while Robyn too Jared to a Winnie the Pooh ride a few times. Teddy and Josh sat in the back seat together and cheered the whole way.

 

After the splash down we all headed for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a family roller coaster set in a seemingly haunted abandoned gold mine. It was faster, longer, and more fun than Teddy's favorite Six Flags coaster but the line was long so we only rode it once. When we go back, we'll probably Fastpass it and ride it again. This is a historical attraction because it was the first Disney ride where CAD was used.

 

We stopped to watch Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. I could have done without the giant 3D snake. Then we bought some souvenirs and watched the parade/show on Main Street on our way out of the park. The temperature approached 100 degrees so we decided to retreat to the hotel pool.

 

After cooling off, we went to Disney's California Adventure. We rode the Monster's Inc. ride, ate dinner, and then rode Soarin' over California which is very cool. We only got to spend 15 minutes in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail because this park closes at 10:00pm. Teddy could easily spend a few hours in that kind of playground. At 10:00, he was still raring to go so we walked back over to Disneyland and went on the Matterhorn Bobsleds again. This time Teddy rode with Josh and Jared (who is four and was a little scared to go on this coaster) asked to ride with me. We tried to ride the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad again, but after the fireworks everyone else had the same idea so after waiting on line a bit, we bailed and headed home. Teddy went to sleep at 1:00am and I'm not sure if he was more tired or more excited.

 

Disneyland, Day One

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Teddy and I woke up early, packed our bags, packed the car, and were ready to go by 9:00am when Leslie arrived. She was flying from Newark to San Diego on Continental a half-hour before our Continental flight from Newark to Orange County, so we drove to the airport together. I parked in the economy lot ($18/day) and hopped on the next bus to the terminal.