Category Archives: unbelievably profound stuff

Restaurant Idea #1

It’s no coincidence that I’m posting this on the same day the Grammy’s were held – what a beautiful presentation they put on.

I love sushi, and had a nice dinner with a friend earlier this week.   Great company, we laughed a lot.  I asked our unsuspecting waitress whether there was any fresh narwhal on the menu – nope.  Both of us are music fans, so that topic came up a few times, and later we had an idea: we could start a music-themed sushi restaurant.   Stay with me, here.

With all due respect and adoration for the referenced artists, we could open a music-themed sushi restaurant and could have things on the menu like:

  1. Toto Destruction roll : there’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do, this spicy roll would bless the rains down in Africa.
  2. The Perry Fare roll : this roll will rock you, like he does.
  3. The Miso Solly roll : apologies.
  4. The Phish roll : E.A.’s favorite.
  5. The King Crab Crimson roll : good with a shot of whiskey and a cold beer.
  6. The Knee Eel Diamond roll : this one had the properties of an aphrodisiac; afterwards it’s going to be hard to keep your panties on, those of you who wear them.
  7. The Leftover Salmon roll : props to my Boulder homies, thank you for all the barn-burner shin digs back in the 90’s.
  8. A Rainbow In The Dark Roll : this roll puts the “O” in Dio, as in “Oh, yeah that rocks”.
  9. We could have a 50 Cent roll and charge a hundred dollars for it. If that’s OK with him. You can find me in da club, if anyone needs to talk about this one.
  10. The Rock and Roll…roll : for those of us who appreciate banality, this one pairs well with the Roll Out The Barrel roll.
  11. The Diana Ross Might roll : you’ve never had a dynamite roll like this one.
  12. The Fight the Foo (d) roll : had to have something on the menu for my favorite band.
  13. The Zeppelin Mud Shark roll : you’ll be Led to the bedroom after sharing this one with your partner.  My other favorite band.
  14. The Spice Tuna Girls roll : at this point our conversation started transforming, and our idea became dual-themed, for some reason – music and sex.
  15. The C U Next Tuesday roll : I was like, “wait a second, what does that have to do with music!?”
  16. The Two In The Pink, One In The Stink roll : this was the perfect closer in the conversation, covering both themes.

What do you think, any additional ideas?

I’d never actually execute on this plan, for the record – it’s all about the laughs.

Gluecon 2012 and the Conference Non-Con Postulation : how to measure the ROI of a conference

I’ve never been a big fan of meetings, so naturally conferences were on my no-fly list for a long time: a big building with a big meeting in the early AM, followed by a mitosis into smaller meetings, followed by more and more meetings, all gradually shrinking throughout the day, finally to be absorbed by the nearest bar once some sort of conferential Hayflick limit is reached.
I’m happy to say that I was wrong about them; over the last few years I’ve attended some fantastic, rewarding conferences.   I’ve also attended some anti-awesome ones.  Being keen on agile retrospectives and data-driven decision-making, I’ll posit the following as a formula for measuring the efficacy and ROI of any given conference, spec-style.  You may be privy to my Ruger Fault Equivalency, this is my Conference Non-Con Postulation:
  1. notes : total line count of notes taken during a conference.  A good conference causes me to write furiously; even though there may be slides or notes offered online afterwards, this is the best way for me to internalize, to any degree.
  2. refactor index : number of minutes I spend cleaning up my notes, so that I can share them.  A good conference will cause me to review my notes, clean and boil some of the salient moments up into a handful of takeaways.
  3. note virality : number of people I share my notes with afterward.  A good conference will inspire me to inflict my notes on my team at work, at which point they will be thankful for a high note refactor index.
  4. players : people I had the pleasure of spending time with, who also impressed, inspired, or gave me a laugh at the conference.  Expressed as a quality score, 1 to 3.  A good conference will even have a few folks that exhibit all of these traits (e.g. Keith Smith, Brad FeldRyan McIntyre), that would incur a score of 3.
  5. injuries : number of bodily injuries incurred at said conference, not caused by dude-hold-my-beer moments or other virtuous activity.   Good to have a low count of these.
  6. bullshit : number of times I look at the ceiling, for reasons other than math or loudspeaker brand detection.
Given those input definitions, the Conference Non-Con Postulation is as follows:
A few things to note:
  1. The number of seconds spent refactoring my notes provides diminishing returns.  Also, it’s no coincidence that the refactor index summation will result in a harmonic number.
  2. Note that virality has an exponential effect.
  3. Player count wraps everything with an even greater exponential effect, and it only takes one great player to make a huge difference.
  4. While bullshit and injuries ultimately decrease overall ROI, they will only have material effect when other inputs (e.g. notes, virality) are low.
If I apply this to GlueCon 2012, I get the following:
  1. notes : 310
  2. refactor index : ~3.318 (15m)
  3. virality : 20 (prior to this post)
  4. players : 3
  5. injuries : 0
  6. bullshit : 1
Which results in a CNCP score of 5.4236E+180, which I believe is an impossibly gigantic number.
That maps perfectly to my previous anecdotal, non-scientific assessment that Gluecon is one of the world’s best conferences.
Hopefully at this point you’re laughing, but buying that last claim.
Here are my net-notes, 2012 best-of list, let me know if you want to see the more detailed ones:
  1. Best technology I’ve never heard of but would love to explore (Dan Lynn from FullContact): storm
  2. Best new-to-me buzz phrase (James Governor from RedMonk): “quantified self”
  3. Best well-worn technologist strategy (Mike Miller from Cloudant)  : “so what’s next? let’s see what Google’s up to, reading their latest white-papers”
  4. Best game-related quote  (James Governor from RedMonk) : “I’d rather give my son Angry Birds than Ritalin”
  5. Best presenter that I wish we could hire as a DBA but who already works for one of our awesome partners : Laurie Voss from awe.sm
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Resuscitated DVD Player

I repaired an Onkyo DV-CP702 DVD changer today.  Below is a picture of it with the case still open, playing “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”.

Onkyo DV-CP702 6 DVD Changer

Onkyo DV-CP702 6 DVD Changer

The DVD player had stopped working months ago.  You could hear it loading discs, but nothing would play.

Here’s how I fixed it:

First, I unplugged it.  This was a key step.

Then I removed the outer panel by unscrewing the six Phillips machine screws and tilting it up from the rear.

Then I sat in wonderment for a good fifteen minutes, gazing at the complex beauty inside.  Gears, motors, circuit boards, a fuse that hadn’t blown, a dead spider.

What to do next?   It wasn’t very interesting without electricity flowing through it.  I noticed that there was a plastic shield covering what appeared to be the most interesting bits.  It had a big yellow warning sign on it that said something to the effect of “Watch out, there’s a laser in here.  Don’t look into it.”   Miffed that the innards of this remarkable piece of equipment were causing me to read, I removed the shield.

Again, I detected no movement, nor anything of any interest happening whatsoever.  So, of course I plugged it in.  Still nothing.

Then I turned it on.

A few things happened at that point: it went through a boot-up process, and then the carousel turned, trying to load disks.  The carousel is a round plastic disc that holds the six DVDs or CDs. It turned one time for each slot, stopping to allow the disc-reading mechanism to pop upwards and cradle a loaded disc.  I had put one in there, and when it got to my disc the disc-reader popped up under it, elevating it slightly.   I heard the mechanism that moves the laser engage, and then…nothing.

So I stared at it for a while. Why no workie? Finally it struck me –  the disc is supposed to spin.  Why disc no spin?  Hmm.  Time to take more apart.

Unplug.  Unscrew disc-loading mechanism, unplug electrical leads.  Look at mechanism more closely.  I noticed there were two motors: one for moving the laser back and forth, and another for turning the loaded disc.   The disc-turning motor had two small screws holding it in the chassis, and two wires coming off of it.   The spindle was crowned with the smaller disc that the DVD sits upon, and after looking without success for a tension screw, realized it had to be leveraged off by force with two screwdrivers. I then unscrewed the motor and clipped the wires where they connected to the circuit board.

Then I figured I better get an electrical parts manual, to find out what part number I needed to replace.  Ten dollars later, I had found the repair manual for the DVD changer on-line and had identified the part number needed, but didn’t have a lead on where to find one.  I later realized that it would be easier and cheaper to read the part number right off the motor itself.   Brilliant.

I Googled the part number, and found Mat Electronics, an on-line distributor who had one in stock.  Motor: $4.  Shipping: $7.  I ordered it.  Then I went on vacation for two weeks.

When I got back from vacation, I had completely forgotten where I was in the process, and couldn’t find any evidence (including a delivered motor) that I had ordered it.  After looking at the cost, and realizing that I’d have to buy a new soldering iron to finish the job, I decided it wasn’t worth my time.  It was going to likely cost me $50 bucks to fix a $200 DVD changer using a motor that was listed as a “high failure” part.  Screw it.

A week later the part arrived, much to my confusion.

Time to go pick up a soldering iron at Fry’s: $6.

So I brought the soldering iron home and got to work.  I screwed the motor back into the chassis, and soldered the two wires back onto the circuit board.  I then pressed the seat back on the spindle, pushing it all the way down.  I replaced the chassis and dreaded tiny spring, and used my soldering iron to re-glue the spring to the chassis.  Then I screwed the shield back on.

Excited to see my work in action, I plugged it in and loaded a disc.  Disc no spin.  Nothing.  Bummer.  Oh well, it was a fun little project. Fail fast and early to save time, cost and headache.

Nope – I couldn’t let it go.  I stared at it for a while.  Then I removed the shield and put a piece of tape over the laser to protect myself from my own morbid curiosity.  Load another disc.  Disc no spin.  Closer look.  Spindle seat was pressing against the laser housing!  Oh my goodness, that can’t be good.   I had pressed the spindle seat too far down on the motor spindle.  Dang me, blast it.

So I pried it off the spindle a bit and tried again.  Nothing.

Time to grasp at straws.  The manual shows how to reset the micro-controller, so I did that.  Still nothing.  Closer look – the spindle seat was still pushed pretty far down.  Pry it off a bit more.

Then – it happened.  After plugging it back in, the disc spun! 

I brought it out of the shop and into the nice warm house where I plugged the video out into a TV.  The disc spun, but was making a strange noise.  Not like “whirrrrr”, but more like “brrrrrrgrrrrwhrrrrrbraaaa”.  The player readout said “No Play”, which typically means a dirty disc.   I’m sure you can imagine the problem, given that description.  The spindle seat was still pushed too far down, and the disc was moving vertically up and down too much.  Unplug, dismantle, adjust spindle seat again.  Clean laser lens, just in case.  Reassemble, plug back in and…voila!  Taking the photo above was the next thing I did after jumping up and down a few times and crying out like a schoolgirl.

The total cost without the manual was actually under $20, and I spent a good three or four hours taking things apart, driving for parts, and reassembling them.

I make a comfortable living in the software business, and my time is very valuable to me.  Was all this time, effort and money spent to fix a $200 outdated and prone-to-fail-again electrical component worth it?  Hell yes.

Why not just buy a new one, or have someone else fix it (outsource it)? Because it was fun.

Westport

The snail

Well, I’ve spent the last few days in Westport WA. This picture pretty much sums up the simplicity, happiness, and speed at which I’ve enjoyed being with my family here on the coast. This is an amazing animal. Beautiful calcium carbonate shell, with little tentacles eyes and olfactory organs perched, retractable … and yes, he slimed me.

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