Monday, October 27, 2008

The saga of the sink, continued...

Remember my bathroom sink?  The one that leaked when it wasn't clogged and stopped leaking when it clogged up a little?  So a couple of weeks ago when it started getting slow again, I was reluctant to do anything to it right away, because I knew that if I put some drain opener down it it would unclog the sink, but following the pattern, it would start leaking again.  So I just continued to use it and let it drain slowly as long as I could stand it.  But when it became clogged completely, I knew I had to do something about it.  (Otherwise I'm brushing my teeth in the tub every night!)  So I went down to the Lowe's by the freeway and bought a new P-trap and another couple of parts and at a moment when I was really bored with what was on TV I decided to attack the sink.

First, I had to clean out the area under the sink, which was kind of involved but I won't go there on my blog.  After that I had to find a container to put underneath it.  I borrowed a plastic pan that my mom brought home from the hospital and started taking off the old P-trap.  What clogged up the sink can only be described as black sludge (I'm guessing a mixture of mildew and soap scum?).  There was a surprising lack of hair clogs or anything like that, just a few stray hairs in there.

Anyway, since the new P-trap is on, the sink drains a lot better, mainly because the new pipes that I put on don't have a coating of black goo in them yet.  Unfortunately, I can't reach all the stuff that's blocking up the piping all the way from my sink to the sewer so I will still have to put some drain opener down to get it running well.  But -- here's the best part -- it doesn't leak!  My brother actually went to the garage and found a roll of plumber's tape for me.  A little bit of that on the threads and the pipes keep all the water in like a champ.

So I am no longer afraid of unclogging my sink for fear that it will start leaking again.  And I satisfied myself that I do have enough plumbing skills to do some simple home repairs.

If anyone needs a P-trap installed, I will work for chocolate cake...

Saturday, October 25, 2008


If only...

Have you ever had the experience where you were calling someone and hoping that you wouldn't actually talk to them but just get the voice mail?  I definitely feel this way sometimes... maybe it's because you have a little bit of bad news, you are turning down an invitation to do something and you don't want to get talked out of it, or you don't have a lot of time to talk and just want to deliver the message without a full conversation.  I think it would be so great if somehow you could call someone but then press a button that allowed you to go straight to voice mail instead of actually ringing their phone.

So why do we make calls when we don't actually want to talk to someone?  I guess it's sort of a tug-of-war between our desire to deliver some message (out of a sense of duty?  something we need to get done even though we don't want to?) and our desire to not talk to someone (because we want more freedom with our time?  because we want to save face while delivering bad news?).

Now, it is true that through my voice mail system I can send voice messages to others... but it only works if that person happens to be on the same voice mail system as me, meaning we have the same phone company.  Otherwise I get a message that the voice mail could not be delivered.

What would be some messages that we would rather deliver by voice mail only?  Here are some possibilities:
"After putting some thought into it, I've decided not to accept your proposal of marriage."
"Remember the car?  I mean, the car we used to have?"
"Just to let you know, the cops are on the way to your house..." 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

People You May Know

All you Facebook users out there are probably familiar with a new feature that Facebook introduced this fall or so called "People You May Know".  Based on your characteristics (and probably mutual friends and stuff) it presents you with the names and pictures of other Facebook users that you might know, in case you want to become friends with them.

I have to say that I actually have found some Facebook friends through People You May Know.  Often people I actually do know will show up in my People You May Know just after they join Facebook.  But, I have a true confession: there are some people on my People You May Know who I "know", but am not friends with.

I think just about everybody has slightly different criteria for how they choose to "make friends" on Facebook with someone.  Just about all of my Facebook friends are people I have some honest-to-goodness real-life connection to, and I have met all but maybe two in person.  And I'm pretty good at finding friends for myself.  Which means that the people who come up for me in People You May Know generally fall into one of three categories:
1. Friends of my friends that I don't know
2. People that went to the same school as I did
3. Brothers and sisters of my friends

So for me, People You May Know is often more like "People You May Know Of".  I might have seen the guy at church, but never talked to him.  Or I might have waved at my friend's little sister one time as I visited their house back in high school.  For me, these aren't quite enough reason to make Facebook friends with someone.

So no offense, but if I haven't actually talked to you before and stuff, and you come up in People You May Know, I'm probably not going to add you, even if I know who you are.  But feel free to add me if you know who I am... mutual recognition is a good enough reason to add. :)

Why does Facebook have People You May Know?  My theory is that Facebook wants people to have more friends, because that will make them more interested in the site, which will make them want to spend more time on the site, which will make them ultimately view more advertising.  So, in an indirect way, People You May Know is good for Facebook's pocketbook.  You can't begrudge them that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How to rip DVDs and play them on your Palm Tungsten E2

I've had the E2 for a few years now but I've never tried to play video on it until today.

After reading the information on the support forums on the Palm website and unsuccessfully trying to follow their instructions to get the video to play on the built-in player, here is my advice about what to do to rip a DVD and play it on your Tungsten E2.

1. Rip the DVD using whatever software you happen to have, or Free DVD Ripper. I ripped files into avi format.
2. Convert the file to the right size and resolution using Windows Movie Maker.
3. Copy the result to your SD card using your SD card reader.
4. Install TCPMP on your Palm.
5. Use TCPMP to play the video file.

It might be possible to convert the file directly to the right size and resolution using the DVD ripping program, which would allow you to skip step 2 as long as you put the file into a format that TCPMP will play (which shouldn't be too hard). I'm looking forward to bringing my own handheld video to watch on my next airplane flight or something like that. Please do not violate copyright laws.

I also found this article very informative:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I just found out about this place called The Organ Loft, soon to be called Edison Street. It's a club that sometimes hosts dinner and dances, and sometimes hosts silent movies with accompaniment on their own organ! I can't believe I never heard of this before today! Who wants to come?

An interesting article my coworker passed on about language learning

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Window shopping.

I don't know if it's the time of year, or some internal clock that tells me it's time to buy some new technology, but I've developed a hankering to increase my computing/online power lately. The old Inspiron laptop is about 4 years old now, and still running quite well, but not perfect, and I know that it won't last forever. At the pretty cheap prices of some things I have been considering lately, I could easily see myself buying something new before the end of the school year.

Here are the options I'm considering:
Option 1: A sublaptop computer
Mini laptops like the Acer Aspire One and Dell Inspiron Mini are all the rage right now. I first saw one in the hand of one of my former students a few months ago, and instantly fell in love with the idea of having an actual laptop computer in a size that would allow me to carry it anywhere. These mini machines also have flash memory instead of a hard drive, meaning that there are less mechanical parts to worry about and they boot faster than a larger computer. Also, they are super affordable right now, starting at prices around $350.

I think if I went with this option, I would want to get a machine that could basically replace my current laptop and be a step up in computing power, meaning that I would most likely want to upgrade RAM upon purchase to at least 1 GB and buy an external DVD-ROM drive.

Pros: Lots of power packed into a small size.
Cons: A significant chunk of change.

Option 2: A Wi-Fi card for my PDA
I already have a Palm Tungsten E2, so why not upgrade it with a Wi-Fi card to make it possible for me to surf the net with a device I already carry around?

Pros: Increased functionality in a device I already carry around. Not as much need to bring a computer with me. Not very expensive. (I think a card would be something like $75.)
Cons: I've had the Tungsten for a couple of years now. It could do some basic browsing and document editing, but I'd still have to use my semi-aging laptop for more serious computing tasks.

Option 3: A Blackberry-type phone
What about upgrading my cell phone to a model that includes browsing capability? Today's smart phones could replace a lot of functions of my computer and PDA in one shot.

Pros: Again, portability. Being able to access the Internet just about anywhere. Coolness factor.
Cons: Pricey! And I'm not sure if I love the idea of surfing the web on THAT tiny of a screen.

So I haven't yet decided what to do, nor have I allocated money for whatever the purchase turns out to be. But it occurs to me that I might want to take advantage of educational pricing while it is available, however that turns out. Any ideas?

Friday, October 10, 2008

You know you're a linguist when...

Tonight on my drive home I saw a cat in my neighborhood.
That got me thinking about the cat we used to have.
We called her "Kitty" (original name, I know, but there's a story behind it), and she also had a variety of nicknames, one of which was "Kissy". Although it is obviously related to the generic nickname "kitty", I have noticed that it doesn't feel right to use "Kissy" with other cats; that name belongs more to her.
Then I started thinking about the phonological derivation of "Kissy" from "Kitty".
By the time I got home, I had realized that it was a simple change of manner of articulation, changing the alveolar flap in "Kitty" to an alveolar fricative.
You know you're a linguist when you discover the phonological rule by which you made your cat's nickname.
By the way, we also used to call the cat "Kiss", which is obviously just a deleted version of "Kissy"...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What not to say when your friend tells you they're in a relationship

There are polite phrases for many situations in life. For example, if someone gives you a cookie, the appropriate thing to do is say, "Thank you." If someone is having a new baby, the appropriate thing is to congratulate them.

But what about when your friend announces that he/she has just started a relationship with someone special? Society and etiquette books don't seem to have an approved, polite phrase to say in that situation, so you're on your own.

Just to help you out, here are some phrases that are completely appropriate in some situations, but NOT when your friend tells you they're seeing someone...
"Knock yourself out!"
"Thank you."
"I love you, too."
"I'm sorry for your loss."

Just a word to the wise.