Saturday, November 24, 2007

What "reserve power" means on a 15" powerbook

Short answer: It means it'll run a 12V/200mA fan for about six hours before quitting.

So my 15" powerbook's battery has been misbehaving -- after charging, it didn't last as long as it used to. I heard from somebody the idea of hooking a fan up to it to give it a deep discharge, so I did that today.

The elder teen asked me, "Why does that work?" Well, I don't know, but I think what it does is convince the computer's charging circuit that when the battery is fully discharged, its output is like this rather than like that. Of course if it never gets fully discharged, then the computer might "think" it's completely outta gas when it actually has a lot more mAH left in it. And what would the harm be in that?
Well, if your battery has a lot more electrons that it can pump through your computer, but the computer says, "Goodness gracious me, the battery is out of electrons!" and refuses to work any more, you might feel a bit peeved. Like if your car refused to start once you got down to ¼ tank of gasoline. So this condition would be Highly Annoying, and if the technique works, it would be a Good Thing.
So here's how I did it: First, I removed the battery from the computer (turn the lock clockwise with a coin) and set it on the table. Here's a picture, proving that I cannot read:

The fine print says there's 10.8 volts DC. Unheeding, I took out a Sharpie® marker and wrote "12V" near the terminals so I'll know next time where to connect the wires:

The wires (red for +, black for –) are connected to a computer cooling fan. You might notice that the wires look a little hinky. I had to try to jam them into the slots that you see there. Eventually they stayed, and the fan ran. For about six hours. Here's a close-up of it. The fan was running when I shot this photo; the camera's flash stopped motion:

I replaced the battery in the computer and plugged the AC adapter in. It's charging now.

Theoretically, the computer will now run well over 3 hours (if I'm not watching a movie or something) on a charge. If not, I'll whine about it here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Prepare for action

How many times after some conversation have I thought to myself, "I wish I had said ____________!" Or "Next time I'm going to remember tell him ___________!"

And when I think that, am I wishing I had given some word of encouragement from the Lord? Am I thinking about a testimony of God's faithfulness or mercy that I want to tell them about next time?

Well... sometimes. I hope it's true more often as I get older, that my mind is more often focused on how to bless others, to bear witness to the Lord's goodness, to speak words from him, in keeping with today's New Testament reading:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13
Yesterday's reading tells us that angels long to look into the salvation that we have. Certainly we can rejoice in that, but that's not the whole point. Rather than just sitting on our laurels, Peter tells us here to "prepare our minds for action."

What might that look like? I'm not sure, but here are a few ideas that come to mind:
  • Let my mind dwell on whatever is true, noble, excellent, etc. (Philippians 4:8)
  • Pray and give thanks all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, Colossians 4:2-3, etc.)
  • Meditate on the Scriptures (Psalm 119:11, Joshua 1:8, etc.)
Of course, those things aren't easy, but at least they're concrete.

Sound like a good idea? I'll give it a try.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

This isn't for sissies

Today's New Testament reading is not for the faint of heart. Here's an excerpt:
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.
James 5:7-8
So I used to think that a lot of these passages were so many commands and exhortations stuck together in some random sort of order. Which this one is most certainly not. One clue is in its first three words: "Be patient, then, ...." If that's the "then," what's the "since"? Well, that's the tough part.

Verses 1-6 talk about how the rich are headed for trouble -- big trouble. He's talking to those who have become rich through oppression and injustice, and telling them that misery and retribution are coming their way: "weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you."

And that's why we should be patient; judgment is coming to the oppressors. A couple of things come to mind:
  • The rich have been oppressing the church, according to James chapter 2.
  • Some rejoice at the thought of judgment:
    ...let them sing before the Lord
    for he comes to judge the earth.
    He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.
    Psalm 98:9

So we can sing and rejoice because the Lord is coming to judge the earth, but that doesn't mean it's OK to gloat; as James says in the next verse, "Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:9)

This is of a piece with what Paul says in Galatians 6: "Brothers, if one of you is caught in any sin, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, 'cause it could have been you."

It could have been you. Or me. Patience, then. And humility.

written 11/18

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It works!

My parents came in last night, and we had some nice visiting time. Took the day off today, and my dad had a device for the porch light: a photocell-controlled switch. Had to remove the fixture from the wall (I started by disassembling the fixture but that was a "D'oh!"); it was a few parts -- 470KΩ resistor, CdS photocell, triac, maybe one more -- after assembling it (including bolting the heat-sink to the fixture), made a quick check with the multimeter, then hooked it up. Success! Well, when we had the photocell pointed correctly it was successful, anyway. Some adjustment will be needed.

Next up was the dryer timer. I bought it a week and a half ago so it was just a matter of installing it. Unscrewed two screws to get the front panel disconnected from the top of the dryer, then a bunch of hex-head screws (¼" nutdrivers). The new timer was an exact match for the old one, thank goodness. (It can be a real pain if it's not.) I transferred the wires one at a time (the terminals were evan all labeled the same!), put everything back together, and plugged it in. I set the dryer timer for 10 minutes on air-fluff, and 5 minutes later, it had definitely moved.

A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul!

Mom and Dad took us out for dinner -- Su Hong. The food was terrific as usual.

Well, that was a great day off. Tomorrow it's back to work, and then we'll give thanks.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Faith that works? Faith vs works?

It was Luther I think who said we are saved “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” That was a reaction to some practices and doctrines of the Catholic (in both senses) church of his day, and a key tenet that distinguishes our faith from other religions.

But Luther's statement seems at odds with this passage from today's New Testament reading:
18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.

James 2:18-19
Two points stand out to me here. In my typical fashion, let me start at the back of this passage, in verse 19.

James may be caricaturing the kind of faith that doesn't commit to anything but only affirms propositional truth. The Jews often recite the "Shema" from Deuteronomy 6, which begins like this:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
I'm going to guess James was saying, "It's not enough to recite the ‘Shema’ you have to do the acts faith requires."

The second point is something I got from Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What, which says that becoming a Christian, that is deciding to follow Jesus, is more like getting married than joining an organization. Following that analogy, what would it be like if I told the lovely Carol I love her, but ignored her except when I wanted something? I might say I want a relationship with her, but if I don't listen when she talks to me, if I don't tell her what's on my mind, etc. what kind of relationship would that be? In what sense could it be said that I love her? I could even agree with certain truths about her -- that she's educated, spiritual, compassionate for example (which she is, and she is also cute and fine) -- but if that agreement, that belief, that assent (to those truths) isn't accompanied by deeds reflecting my love for her, then there's not much of a relationship there.

Our marriage is held together by love and commitment, not by some checklist of deeds. But what kind of love produces no visible signs? What kind of commitment?

So I agree with Luther that we're saved by grace alone through faith alone, and I also agree with James that without deeds, there can't be much faith. Of course it's not as simple as all that (you can be sure that Luther was smarter than I am) but this works for me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

two ears, one mouth

I heard somewhere that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen more than we speak. That's not exactly in the Bible, but this is:
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
James 1:19-20
Have you ever noticed someone not really listening to you, but rather waiting for their turn to speak? Or have you ever been "listening" to someone, but actually formulating what you were going to say next, or wishing they would finish so you could get your turn?

For me it's yes on both counts. I can't do much about the first one, but I can about the second. It's not easy, though!

There's that prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi, which includes this:
O, Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek ... to be understood as to understand...
Of course he prayed that because he needed help from the Lord; it's not an easy thing. If it were easy, why pray it -- and why would it resonate so much with us centuries later?

So then, to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, as James says -- this is a good thing, but we need help -- which calls for prayer. Besides praying, we can also try to be aware. (We can pray for help in that, too: "Lord, help me to be aware of it when I'm not really listening." He is delighted to help with that!) And suppose I do become aware of when I'm not really listening... what then? I've got to surrender my desire to be understood. I've got to crucify the demand that others listen to me. I've got to become less selfish, in other words.

Yow -- yet more prayer needed for that one! Fortunately, what's impossible for a man is no problem for our Lord.

Sweet hour of prayer

So after dinner, Carol asked me to play the piano while she worked on the dishes. After a couple dozen songs, mostly hymns (which I played one-handed 'cause I really cannot sight-read) I came upon this one. The 2nd verse in our book (the 3rd one here) is:
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
Reading those words, I was, as they say, convicted. I don't pray as much as I "want to" or should. Because after spending some time in prayer, I often say, "Why didn't I do that earlier?"

I think it's because I'm just too silly most of the time.

joy day

I was looking for my long lost Apple® iPod Shuffle this morning, and I found it in my briefcase. This was a great relief because I'm going to India in a few weeks, and there will be two 12-hour flights. So the day was off to a good start.

The younger teen and I drove to our church's north campus. I had an assignment to fill in for someone in the "connections center" who called in sick. We heard a great sermon, then I stood behind the table at the connections center....

"Is there anything here about the Guatemala missions trip?" someone asked. I knew I'd seen something like that...

"Ah-HA!" I cried, pouncing upon the stack of information sheets. "When somebody asks something and I actually know the answer, well, I tell ya, that's a good day," I said. We had a nice if brief chat.

A familiar face appeared. John, our senior pastor, was traveling almost-incognito. Well, he didn't have a mask or anything, but he wasn't wearing a tie -- not even long sleeves.

"Are you new here?" I asked.

He gave me a grin. "I'm new here," he said. Usually he hangs out at the main campus in Menlo Park.

"We've got a great sermon for you today," I told him. "I think you'll like it."

"I know there's a great one this week!" he replied. (John's wife, Nancy, gave the sermon this weekend.)

Carol was teaching something at the "main campus" (which is why she didn't come with us to the north campus). Anyway, we drove down to the main campus -- the younger teen drove (we are making good progress toward however many hours she needs in order to get licensed). She went to her strive group, and I went to hear Carol's training thing.

I sat with Carol on a couch while the first speaker did her part. It was about listening, and though she did talk a little about techniques, she first talked about how you have to have the DESIRE to listen, the COMMITMENT to do so whether you feel like it or not, and the PATIENCE not to jump in too soon with advice or whatever. We were supposed to do an exercise. The speaker wanted us to pair up, but she looked at us and said, "I see you snuggling over there; you can't be partners for this."

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

After a while, it was time to pick up the younger teen from her Strive group. We stopped by the store, where I picked up some meat. Last night we had 20-25 people over for an event. I put lots of rice (LOTS of rice) into the rice cooker, so I'm feeling the urge to use up the left-over rice.

We got home, and I cut up sausage, sliced some cabbage really thin, and made some fried rice for a snack. Here's the deal.
  • Shred
    • ¼ head of cabbage
    and set aside.
  • Take about
    • ½ a hot dog's worth of sausage
    and slice/dice/whatever. Make little pieces out of it.
  • Pour
    • oil
    into a wok on high heat, then stir-fry
    • the shredded cabbage
    reserved above.
  • Add the
    • chopped sausage
    and continue stir-frying.
  • Break
    • an egg
    into the wok and continue stir frying.
  • Add
    • cooked rice to taste
    (maybe a cup or two) and continue stir-frying.
  • Sprinkle
    • soy sauce
    sparingly and continue stir frying until the fried rice is warmed throughout.
That makes 1-2 servings. Of course you can add whatever else you want. (You could use ½ head of cabbage if it's a small one.)

I ate some, and offered some to the younger teen. We finished it off quite nicely, thank you. I put some chili on, following two different recipes (I'm not going to reproduce them here; too lazy). Chili+rice is a favorite Hawaiian treat.

I can smell the chili from the kitchen. I have a beer in the fridge, my younger teen is here in the den with me, the lovely Carol is home (taking a nap), the older teen is coming home Wednesday evening, and my parents are coming tomorrow evening.

Happy day!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

a hard-headed woman... and special topics in calamity physics

Part of what I'm doing this weekend when the lovely Carol is gone... is something she's been after me to do: transfer the content of old vinyl records into digital form so we can burn CDs. The sound quality of a 128kb/s MP3 file is adequate, given the quality of most of these originals, which we left behind in 1993 when we went to Japan and for the most part haven't played since.

One of the records, "Tea for the Tillerman," has "Hard-Headed Woman," and I especially like this part:
I'm looking for a hard-headed woman
One who will make me do my best
And if I find a hard-headed woman
I know my life will be blessed
Proverbs 18:22 (sort of)
as paraphrased by Cat Stevens
That is something about being married to the lovely Carol: she spurs me to growth. Hearing this song, and thinking about his rendition of "Morning Has Broken," I wonder if Cat Stevens was a Christian -- oh, I see from this article in Wikipedia that he converted to Islam in 1977; wonder if he was before.

This afternoon I decided to prepare some food for the next few days. I bought and quartered a chicken, browned it, then added saké, shoyu, ginger, garlic, green onions, sesame oil and simmered for a while. In a separate vessel (a wok) I stir-fried (sorta) a heap of baby bok choy, added some oyster sauce and some shiitake , then some cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Very nice if I do say so myself.

I picked up Special Topics in Calamity Physics at the library -- I'm not sure why. The title was intriguing for sure. I quickly ran out of interest and skipped toward the back. Whoa -- there is a BIG surprise there, and something really surprising about the relationship between the protagonist and her father. Now I see I will have to return to the beginning (basically the whole book is a flashback) but I've got to see how it turns out.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bodily fluids. Retail therapy.

"Wow! People with high hemoglobin like you should consider donating double red cells."

Though I only had snacks for dinner last night and just a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, my numbers apparently impressed the nurse at the blood center. (Now that I'm over 50, married with teen-agers... only now do I discover these little secrets of How To Impress Women.) She explained that if someone needs two units' worth of red cells, it's better to get it from one person than from two, as it reduces the risk of (literal) bad blood. Better, in other words, to get those cells from me than from me and from someone else.

OK, that sounds pretty good. I can only do this every 16 weeks (rather than every 8 as with "regular" donations), but let's face it, I'm not going in every 8 weeks. I had a little anxiety about plasma going back into my bloodstream after some red cells were filtered out. I read their literature and it seemed reasonable. I was getting ready to sign up.

But then came the big disappointment: I'm underweight. That's right, even at 120 pounds, I wouldn't qualify; I'm (literally) a lightweight. I have to get up to 130 pounds, which is not something I'm ever planning to do. Too bad, because they supply you with a movie while they filter your blood (or I could bring my own). Multitasking opportunity!

Hurmpf. Underweight introverts get no respect.
I stopped by the parts store afterwards. It was on Old County, not on Industrial as I had thought. I got there about 5 minutes before closing time (noon), and talked to the guy. He was very excited about the idea of being done for the day. "Hey, lock the doors up, dude!" he called.

The phone rang. The clock showed 11:58, and he put the caller on hold. "Are you gonna put him on hold for 2 minutes and then tell him you're closed?" I asked. He gave me a grin -- I could tell the idea intrigued him, but he was a nice guy; he wouldn't do that.

I was buying a timer for my clothes dryer. "About a hundred bucks?" I asked him.

"A hundred, and ninety-one," he said.

I was alarmed. "191 bucks??" I was not quite in the soprano range.

"A hundred dollars and ninety-one cents," he said. Okay, that's cool.

He offered me a lifetime warranty for another $15. Well, maybe not. "It'll be here Tuesday."
Though I'm an introvert (afterwards I went to the library to pick up a movie or book -- ended up getting one of each), it's more important to me than I'd thought it was to talk to someone once in a while. Yeah, there's email and facebook -- but electronically mediated interactions are just not the same as face-to-face.

So I am developing a little sympathy or at least understanding around the concept of "retail therapy." Giving blood you get to talk to someone. Talking to the guy at the parts counter, ditto. Going to Costco -- ah, methinks that wouldn't fall into the same category.

And I guess that's what's behind the coffee/tea-house outreach concept. I think that's something worth giving my time to at some point. Maybe once the nest is empty.