A busy week

Last week I finally decided to get to work on my gaming computer.  For some time now it has been running for a while and then shutting down suddenly.  It was very hard to pin down exactly why this was happening.  Sometimes I could let it just sit there for a day – powered up – and come back from shopping and it would be powered down or completely frozen.  Other times it would freeze almost immediately.

When it froze, I could see what was on the screen but none of the controls, keyboard, mouse, or anything else worked.  Since the screen was displaying exactly what was happening when the computer froze, That meant (generally) that the graphics card was still working.  It had to be something else.  The only way I could regain control was to hold the power button down and wait for it to go off.  This, of course, made XP very angry and caused all the discs to be checked on power-up.  When you have three hard drives, and the smallest is 175Gb, this takes a while.

So, finally, last weekend I dragged out my testing equipment and went to work.  I hung all sorts of monitors, gauges, and other devices wherever I could and started exercising all my CPU/GPU dependent software.  I ran Flight Simulator X, Trainz 2009, and a couple of other programs that were memory intensive.  No problems noted, but sometimes the mouse would lose connectivity for a couple of seconds.

Then, after I added a recording oscilloscope to the mix I found that my power supply fan was running at half speed.  This, along with power demands, would cause the +12v and -12v rails to drop to around +/-9.5 volts or so.  This would, in turn, force the DVD drives (and all the hard drives) to slow down slightly.  When this happened, the various programs would start acting up.  As soon as one of them would stop responding (usually after a request for data from a drive, or a write request).  This froze the computer.

As things turned out, I found a toasted transistor in the power supply and replaced it.  The fan came back up to speed and, apparently, my troubles are over.  I have been flying with my friend Pete now for several days for varying amouts of time and haven’t had a single problem.

This computer will need to be replaced next I think.  I’ve replaced my primary development desktop with a Vista machine, and have seen ads for computers with as much as 6Gb of RAM and Terabyte drives for as little as $600.  The gaming computer has been with me now for almost 5 years but it’s getting long in the tooth.  I don’t even have a USB2.0 version on it, only 1.5.

My front yard has been sparsely populated for a while.  Given the very hot weather, coupled with an occasional huge thunderstorm, my families of squirrels have given up and remained in the trees.  I did manage to sneak up on one squirrel who, when I popped around the tree and surprised him, ran towards my front porch.  As I pursured, he goe excited and ran up the side of my brick house and shot completely across the front of the house and leapt for a tree near the corner.  I’ve never seen a squirrel do that – run up a vertical wall and then scamper across it.  If I’d had my camera I could have shot some neat pictures.

I have also been unable to capture a picture of my chipmunk.  He still darts out from time to time and grabs a mouthful of seeds spilled on the grass, but I’m never in a position to take a picture.

So, that’s all that’s been going on over here.

Rainy day ramblings

Today was full of surprises.  At about 0430 I got up for a moment and headed to the bathroom.  What captured my attention right away was the weird flashing lights on all the windows.  When I returned to the bedroom, I looked out and the entire sky was alight from end to end with huge blasts of lightning.  It was a completely silent display though – no thunder at all.  It looked like the Northern Lights.

At first I wondered if I should stick my hearing aids in to see if there was some thunder, but decided not to.  Instead, I went to my computer room and brought up the NOAA weather map (http://radar.weather.gov/Conus/index_lite.php).  Sure enough, there was a huge pod of storms centered overhead.

About that time, thunder began registering from the West – a normal direction for most storms.  Lightning began flashing even faster and, since thunder was accompanying it at around two or three second intervals (about 3 miles away) I decided to shut down my electronics.  Good thing too as about ten minutes later we had a power dip that lasted about three seconds.  I could hear my electronics and UPS boxes beeping.

When I got back to bed a half-hour later I kept getting jolted awake by thunder as I dozed off.  Very noisy indeed.  Finally gave up at about 0730 and went for my mile walk in brief sunshine.

Now, all day long it has been storming on and off.  First a burst of sun and next heavy, rain-laden clouds.  Not very much actual rain though.  My gauge shows only about 0.85 inches as of 1700 today.  The wind was very high at times and blew a squirrels nest right out of a tree and onto the top of my truck.  No damage, but I bet it was a wild ride for the squirrels inside it.

The weather has somewhat backed off now but the wind continues.  According to the weatherpersons it will continue like this for the next two days.  I don’t think so though.

Saturday was me and my wife’s 46th wedding anniversary.  We went to the Red Lobster and had a great dinner.  You have to be careful about telling anyone at those resturaunts though about special days because most of them make a big fuss over it.  I prefer not to be the object of everyone’s attention.  For example: when we went to a local Texas steak house for my birthday one of my friends told the greeter it was my birthday and, when I wasn’t looking, they wheeled over a huge spindly fake horse with a saddle and tried to get me to sit on it.  That wouldn’t have been too bad, but they also wanted me to slap on a goofy 10-gallon hat made of floppy felt that had a brim about 3-feet round.  I felt like an idiot.

My granddaughter is doing right well with her driving lessons.  She can now zoom along an interstate highway without trepidation.  She still merges cautiously, which is a plus, but needs to be just a bit more agressive.  She also received confirmation this afternoon that she has landed a great job working with kids part time.  This is not to interfere with her college classes though.  It will give her some spending money for sure and give her lots of practical experience for her chosen professional aims – lower grades teaching.

Time to get ready for dinner now.

Terminally funny stuff

From a couple of years ago:
Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10 . Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post’s Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year’s winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops br ight ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (n): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (n): it’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explo des and it’s like, a serious bummer.

10 Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked
through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who’s both stupid and an a$$hole.