Archive for March, 2006

First earthquake

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Today was the first earthquake I’ve felt. Go to http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsus/Quakes/nc51169289.php for details on when and where.

It was a small one and I didn’t really notice it apart from my boss making a comment about it. Not that I want to experience a larger one, it was a bit of an anticlimax.

Rachel’s Birthday Bash

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

I’m typing this in my sleep as we’ve had a loooooongggg day today.

It actually started last night. Rachel was too excited to sleep and didn’t go to bed until about 9pm. This meant that we couldn’t start our preparations until then. So, by about 1am, we’d finished blowing up balloons and Sam had removed anything valuable, i.e. most of my computer stuff, and cleared the house of junk. We fell into bed just as there was
a hail storm for a few hours and the water trickled down the guttering on the wall outside our room exactly where our headboard was. The water was obviously made out of some heavy metal as it made the loudest possible noise as it trickled. I have no idea what time we fell asleep but at 6:21am, Rachel sent Joanna into our room to tell us that she
didn’t want to open her presents quietly in her bedroom like she’d asked us for, she wanted to open them with us. Much tearing of paper ensued and she seemed very pleased with all the presents she received, so a big thanks to everyone for that.

Her party started at 9:45 because the entertainer we’d hired needed to be at another job in the afternoon. This meant  that, all of a sudden, the house was filled with 17 girls and their mums. I’ve never felt this outnumbered, gender-wise, since we had the rabbits.

The entertainer was great. The theme was a Disco Diva party. This meant make up and dressing up clothes plus an illuminated catwalk with commentary as the models strutted their stuff. Next followed a karaoke session and finally balloon modelling. I think this caused a few moments of concern for the boys that were invited but they were convinced that it wasn’t jewellery they were putting on but bling instead. The balloon modelling was whistlestop as the entertainer was late for her next appointment and she’d spent too much time enjoying the karaoke but she impressed us all by managing to knock out an assortment of tigers, horses, flowers and hearts for all 17 guests in the space of 5 minutes. That is an art unto itself. I think there are universities solely dedicated to balloon folding much like the staff at Lego have to go through courses on how to make round things out of square bricks.

We didn’t go overboard with party food but, thanks to Mark from the UK who was visiting the office this week, we had enough Jammie Dodgers, Iced Gems and Party Rings to feed everyone and we ordered in pizza. For anyone planning a kid’s party, pizza is the business.

Once everyone was full, we got them jumping up and down with Musical Bumps. Surprisingly, everyone kept their lunch down. After a quick round of Pin The Tail On The Donkey, which left one guest in tears as, being American, he couldn’t understand why there had to be a loser, we proceeded on to Pass The Parcel. This had been prepared by Sam a couple of days before. She’d carefully cut out wrapping paper for 17 layers with exactly the same dimensions as each other. What she’d forgotten about was that layer on layer means the parcel gets bigger each time. So, if anyone wants any presents wrapped that are 18×18 inches square, we can do 17 of them for you. 17 kids for Pass The Parcel means that it
can go on for a long time while you sort out the arguments about whether little Johnny was holding on to the parcel for a nanosecond when the music stopped and also having to explain, every time, that when the track changes, it doesn’t count as the music stopping. Again, Sam’s organization skills came to the fore and she’d provided the music stopper, i.e. the one with the volume control, a list of children so that they could tick off the names as that person unwrapped a layer. These sort of games have to planned with military precision otherwise more tears occur.

It was during this segment of the entertainment that I had to log in to a customer machine and fix a problem. I impressed everyone that I had the ability to tune out the noise and complete the task at hand.

The cake was revealed and candles were blown out. We ensured that each and every child was full to the brim with sugar and then sent them back to their parents to deal with for the rest of the afternoon.

After that, we wound down with a showing of Finding Nemo and a cup of tea and Rachel opened the presents she’d received from her guests.

A good time was had by all.

We’re still knackered though.

Random stuff

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

It’s been quite a while since I last posted.

Things have been *very* busy at work with the new release of our mail software. Go to www.scalix.com for more information. End commercial.

Rachel’s birthday fast approaches and it’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years since she soaked the changing area at Basingstoke maternity hospital during her first nappy change 🙂

She wants karaoke stuff but, for some reason, the karaoke machine we bought her a couple of years ago doesn’t want to work here. Yes, we’ve plugged it into the step-up transformer and, thanks to my father-in-law, we got some replacement fuses but it still won’t work.

To that end, never one to pass up the opportunity to buy a new gadget, I purchased a mod-chip for our Playstation 2. I’m not sure of the legality of these things but it allows the PS2 to display correctly on our NTSC TV even if the game is supposed to be PAL and it will also allow us to play US games. I did some research and found a solution that provides a couple of clip-on enhancements (steady 🙂 ) meaning there is no soldering required. The instructions are easy to follow but it appears that Sony built the PS2 as some sort of logic puzzle. You have to undo a series of screws, take a piece out and then turn the device over and repeat. This goes on for about 9 steps. It’s a shame my application to go on the Crystal Maze came to nought as I think I’d be walking home with the gold token prize by now. The good news is that the installation went smoothly and I’m left with only 3 screws that failed to make it back into the chassis which is a world record for me.

Having shied away from doing any soldering on the PS2, I found a neat little headphone amplifier at http://tangentsoft.net/audio/cmoy-tutorial which provides a battery powered amp that fits into an Altoids tin. My manager has one but she decided it wasn’t worth the effort to make it herself and she bought hers ready assembled. This is my first major electronics project and, I’m surprised to say, has been quite successful, i.e. it works first time. I need to iron out some kinks in the circuit but it didn’t blow up when I turned it on so that has to be a bonus.

Today, I took a day off so that we could get some of Rachel’s presents and also so that we could go into San Francisco to apply for ITINs (Individual Tax Identification Number) for everyone. Driving in SF is like driving in London, you spend a lot of time driving around in circles looking for a parking space that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg but eventually you give up and park in the first parking lot you saw when you swore blind that you weren’t going to pay that sort of money just to park for an hour.

We went into the government building and had to go through metal detectors before we could get in only to find that we needed the building across the street.

Once we got into the tax office, it was fairly sedate. We went up to the front desk and explained what we needed. The man behind the counter gave us some forms to fill in and, once we’d done that, told us that we didn’t need to do anything else other than hand the forms to H&R Block.

This means that we have to go back to H&R Block and explain that the lady I spoke to last month was not telling us the precise details. I can forsee some disagreement there but we’ll bear with it. Apparently, I can apply for an automatic 6-month extension for filing the taxes. That may come in handy before we have to pay any dues.