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Month: September 2007

boring bot

boring bot

After Victor helped me retrieve some deleted data from my hard drives this morning (my external is still a total loss, though) we headed down to the Wired NextFest.

We parked at the meters a few blocks away from the convention center – a trick I learned years ago that has never failed (to keep the $12 convention center/staples center parking fee in my pocket). As we walked toward the convention center two guys sold us their extra tickets for half price ($10 each). We decided to duck inside a small convenience store to get something to drink. The cashier asked us if we were going to the NextFest and gave us two free tickets.

After asking maybe ten people (and Victor was by far the better salesman) we were able to sell back our $10 tickets to other event visitors (who were also happy to get in for half price).

When we got into the show though we felt bad because it turned out to be surprisingly lame. We noted how dead the entrance hall to the Convention Center was (I’ve seen exhibits packed into the hall for car shows and other events). Once inside we were confronted with a darkened room with some “reactive” displays. I noticed right away that one of the displays that seemed to be getting a lot of attention was very similar to an “art project” I had to do in college for a “new media” course. There was a twenty foot long pipe suspended above our heads with lasers beaming down about every six inches towards the floor. When the laser beam was interrupted it would produce a note. At the end of the pipe there was a stream of fog flowing down with images projected onto it. It wasn’t entirely clear whether the images corresponded to the “music” made by the laser beams. My junior year in college I did a three man project that involved a laser beam, a laptop, a projector, a speaker, a sheet and a fan to produce the same effect. I wondered why I was seeing something I’d already done on a college students budget five years ago at a show about “What’s Next!”

It didn’t get any better from there. There were a few talking and walking robots, interactive games, “green” energy displays, and a lot of pointless light and sound devices that interacted with visitor’s cell phones.

Victor and I left after spending less than two hours inside the convention center. We then headed to the Baldwin Park mall for lunch where I was once again reminded how much I miss Mark Pi’s Express (by eating Panda Express).

Here is an example of why you shouldn’t park in those pay parking lots by Staples Center.

Here is a scientist sitting next to his evil robot twin. Which one is the robot? Well, it was the one that looked dead except for a few eye movements and hand twitches.

Didn’t anyone see IRobot? It was a terrible disappointment of a movie – so I can’t blame these engineers for not watching it – but they succeeded in creating a much creepier “human” faced interactive robot. This guy didn’t talk, he just creepily looked at you and then played copycat with you.

time passes

time passes

On Sunday my parents and I went out for a gut-busting breakfast at Denny’s before I dropped them off at LAX. I guess they had an okay time, but I felt like a poor host. For almost half their visit they were sweating in near three-digit indoor heat. Saturday I managed to completely obliterate my father’s external hard drive when I plugged in my drive’s power cord without checking the voltage (turns out his takes a smaller amount). All in all that didn’t seem like a good batting average for making the parents feel welcome. Hopefully things will turn out better when they come back for thanksgiving. We’ll at least not have any qualms about where/what to eat.

by the way – if you’re keeping score – that is four hard drives I’ve wiped out in under two weeks….

Briefly over the weekend my mother had informed me that her and my father had heard whispering that my Aunt Pat was in the hospital, perhaps somewhere in Florida.
I woke up this morning to an email from my mother stating that aunt Pat had indeed passed away during the night Sunday.

My Aunt Pat (there used to be two, by the way) was almost always the smallest person in the room – but usually the most jovial. Unlike some other family members Aunt Pat and Uncle Ray always managed to make an appearance at the family reunion and catch up with my brother and I. If I remember correctly – aunt Pat and uncle Ray were some of the very last to leave at the last reunion before I headed west in 2004.

As time passes, funerals are only going to become more common as my father was the youngest of eight. The strange thing (although good news for me genetically) is that none of my blood related aunts and uncles have died yet of natural causes – only their spouses. Although unfortunate (and untimely – as she was the same age as my father), aunt Pat’s death propagates this strange phenomena yet again.

snapp to it

snapp to it

On Saturday I brought my parents to the Buckeye packed Yankee Doodles in Woodland Hills. Steve Snapp’s older brother was on hand to shake hands and squeeze out alumni dollars. After the (predictable) buckeye win we stayed an extra ten minutes to see the thrilling conclusion of Michigan’s season opener that will surely go down as one of the biggest upsets in history. Charlie Weis should write Lloyd Carr a check for taking the heat off his own horrendous loss later the same day (can we finally forget about Notre Dame now, please?).

In the afternoon I took dad to see The Simpson’s Movie. We had eaten so much food at the sports bar we really weren’t that hungry later – so mom and I made a food run and brought back some small morsels from Jamba Juice and Baha Fresh.

hot child in the city

hot child in the city

After arriving home very late on Wednesday night I was delighted (with sarcasm) to feel the hot air of a broken air conditioner greet me once again at my door.

My parents were coming on Friday morning – so I bought new fuses (again) on Thursday after work and installed them. My prayers would not be answered – and the cool mountain breeze did not flow freely through my condo. For those not in the west, Los Angeles is in the midst of a heat wave – with temperatures in the San Fernando Valley soaring above 110 in the day and 90 at night. Thursday night I mustered a few brutal hours of sleep with my ceiling fan and floor fan on full blast. According to the hallway thermostat the temperature varied between 93 and 97 degrees all night.

The earliest appointment I could get was between 3 and 6pm the next day – and I was warned “he’ll probably be late.” I had spoken with my mother about their trip on Wednesday afternoon. She had joked “your AC is working, right?” I had the unenviable task of explaining to them as we drove out of Bob Hope Airport that they would not be able to “cool off” at my condo. My father, honorable gung-ho Mr Fixit to the end wanted to see if he could fix it. It may have been something as simple as spraying WD-40 on the fan. It wasn’t.

So, there we were; my parents and I, barely breathing in the near 100 degree heat inside my condo. We took a breather for lunch and went to the Argentinian restaurant that I’ve been frequenting with co-workers a lot. We then went shopping for portable AC units (I’d seen one at Cindy’s apartment once) to discover that they were sold out. Everywhere. We went back to my condo to wait it out. At 5pm we were reduced to waiting in the lobby because it was at least ten degrees cooler than my place.

At 5:30 the AC man arrived. He had a thick Russian accent which made him a little hard to understand (this would be to his benefit later).

After going to my place- being flabbergasted at how “sophisticated” my thermostat was and asking for a drink we headed up to the roof. In under sixty seconds he convinced himself it was “the fan, you need new fan.” I asked him how much – “six hundred.” I looked at him incredulously. He then seemed to start berating me for not telling him I needed a fan before so they could have brought it – because now he’ll have to come back with it tomorrow. My father and I just looked at each other with our mouths open for a bit… was this guy blaming ME for not knowing what needed fixed? Furthermore – how did he know right away it was the $600 fan? My father interjected and asked him about the solenoid. Earlier in the morning my father had discovered through investigation that the solenoid unit that turns on the fan wasn’t working properly. Now I was being told I either buy a $600 fan or a new $3,000 AC unit. It was hot up there – but not hot enough to make a $3,000 decision in 30 seconds with nothing to go on but “Art’s” hunch.

Art looked at us, then the machine, then us…. then the machine and realized we weren’t going to be fooled that easily. He then started his own investigating. After five minutes of testing wires and connections he said he thought it might be the capacitor unit and that he (holy coincidence batman!) had one exactly like mine in his truck. Ten minutes later with a new capacitor in place, the cold air finally started flowing again. We went from $3,000 – to $600 – to $300.
After I paid Art we decided to eat again. I took them to Nipa Hut for some quick Philippines cuisine. Later we would finish off the night by making mom eat her first churro at the Frutal a few blocks away. My condo still didn’t fully cool down (into the 70s) until early Saturday morning.

The Capacitor is the shiny silver thing up on the left corner.