Saturday, May 28, 2011

And now there's a Kindle in my briefcase

I am a new and curious Kindle owner, thanks to my lovely wife.

Interesting device: it can hold 1500 books at a time, adding a new one is instantaneous, you can search for text, highlight and annotate, hell you can even check Facebook, which by the way looks better using the texty version of

If I had bought the books on Kindle that I bought in paper, I would typically have saved a buck or 5 on them, plus delivery charges for the online purchases, if any. So there may be a cost savings over time.

But here's the thing: I can get thousands of books for free, books that I have always figured I should get around to reading...EM Forester, Joseph Conrad, Dickens...that are off copyright and there for the download. And since we have a house full of books with no shelf space for new ones, it's got some practical value in terms of clutter control, no small feature I must say.

I downloaded the complete works of Winston Churchill for free, only to find that it was not THAT Winston Churchill but a US author who writes of the days of Davey Crockett. So it turns out you can easily delete books from your device...just push the left side of the Kindle's square mouse device once inside the book in question. Easy peasy.

For the broader web experience, count me impressed in a Windows 2 for DOS sort of way. For the book experience, count me impressed period.

It's amazing, this device, for its stated purpose of enabling the acquisition of books from a huge list, for little or no money, from pretty much anywhere, and allowing the owner to read them on the run, in places where the brighter the light the better the experience, unlike my Panasonic Toughbook on which this is being typed.

The typing and web interfaces are not even Blackberry-simple, but the book buying and reading functionality and interfaces are completely streamlined and easy.

Buy one for what they are good for, and look past the clunkiness in what it wasn't really designed for. No regrets, and two thumbs up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to remove stuck spikes from your golf shoes

The shoes that have to carry me around the course need new soft spikes. Of course, when your shoes are new, removing the old spikes is easy. But two years later, the rubber things are worn down, the tiny holes for the wrench are full of something impenetrable and mere mortals can't get the old spikes out no matter what they try.

So my first attempt involved a claw-like spike wrench at the pro shop. This tool dispenses with the two little tips and substitutes a medieval device that grabs the outside edges of your spikes.
No luck.
My second attempt involved the pro shop's industrial strength spike remover. All I managed was to shred some rubber.

My third attempt involved some physics. I put my shoes into the freezer overnight in the hopes that the lower temperatures would both harden the rubber and loosen the grip of the threads.

As if.

So tonight I hauled out the electric drill and deepened the wrench holes, right into the plastic of the old spikes.
Finally the regular spike wrench had something to grip on, and after I wrapped its non-ergonomic handle in the finest of old golf towels and leaned on it, the shoes released their beloved spikes.

Kind of makes you wonder how the darn things fall out, given how hard it is to get them out when you want them out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

That damned Squeak!

It started about 4 weeks ago, a squeak from somewhere in my basement. At first I thought it was a smoke detector with a low battery. So I took the battery out of my lower level detector, but the squeak continued.

After reinstalling the battery I started going through the basement. The squeak was only every 5 minutes or so, so there was nothing that I could follow to the source. Every time I heard the squeak I tried to zero in on where it was, but it seemed to move around.

There's an old alarm system from a previous owner, which we have never fully decommissioned. I figured it must have been this thing, beginning to act up. So I removed the backup battery (the squeak still occurred), I disconnected the power supply (the squeak still occurred); I bypassed every zone in the alarm system (the squeak still occurred) and I put it all back together. The squeak still occurred.

Examine the various modems and routers. Nothing.

Up into the ceiling...listening. Sometimes it felt as if I was getting closer but it was never as if I was next to the source.

Turn off the power supply to every basement room. The squeak still occurred.

What did it turn out to be? Someone had given me a smoke detector that I did not feel the need to mount, so I put it in a bucket that also held a cleaning brush and other basement randomness, on the floor behind a door. Eventually the installed battery began to fail, causing a chirp (my first instinct was right!) The sound went straight up from the bucket, so you couldn't really pinpoint where it was coming from.

Now I miss the damn thing.