Saturday, May 30, 2009


It's been fairly quiet on this blog lately; Alison and I have been busy tearing our house apart. I thought I'd post a few photos of our work in progress.

I Wish To Do More Violence

(This post contains major spoilers for Season 5 of Angel and Season 1 of Dollhouse.)

So, what spurred me to rewatch Fred's death and Illyria's occupation of her body was a conversation I had with Nick about Amy Acker's ability to potentially portray multiple imprinted personalities as an active on Dollhouse. As Nick said, when Fred is transformed into Illyria, the "change to her accent, inflection, expression, and body language [is] just striking." I'd love to see Amy Acker's Whiskey sent on various engagements, possibly as flashbacks. Sadly, since Acker's pilot, Happy Town,* was picked up for a full season, and since she will be a regular on that series, I doubt we'll see much of her in Dollhouse Season 2, and what we do see will probably be as Dr Saunders.

By the way, speaking of Whedon alumni on Dollhouse, it appears that Joss Whedon is actively trying to get Summer Glau into the 'House, though not as an an active. He figures she's too good at that kind of role, and needs a challenge.

* This show looks like Twin Peaks, minus the fun, David Lynch-y aspects.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Can't I Stay?

(This post contains major spoilers for Season 5 of Angel.)

I just rewatched Fred's death scene. It's almost unbearably hard to watch. I'd guess that response indicates superior writing and acting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Take That, Works Teams

Speaking of Formula One, one feature of the current season that I'm really enjoying is that the factory-supported "works" teams of McLaren* and Renault are being outperformed by the "customer" teams powered by the same engines:  Brawn GP and Red Bull, respectively.  Now if only Toro Rosso** were outperforming Ferrari... 

Another enjoyable feature is that Brawn GP is dominating this season, despite being formed, at the last minute, from the ashes of the Honda factory team after the manufacturer pulled out of F1 at the end of last season.

* McLaren is partially owned by Mercedes-Benz.
** Scuderia Toro Rosso, as those of you who speak any of the romance languages might guess, is owned by Red Bull GmbH, and it acts as a second-string team for the first-string Red Bull Racing.

Sebastiens Aplenty

Of the 22 drivers in the 2009 Formula One season, 3 are named Sebastien.*  That's almost 14%.  I guess if you want your child to grow up to be an F1 driver, you should give them that name.  And make them Finnish, while you are at it.

* Although two have an accent aigu above** the first E.
** Hey, look:  4 A-words in a row.

P0097, A Miata Success Story

I must say my ScanGauge II OBD-code reader has paid for itself;  I've used it---in conjunction with the internet, of course---to solve another ECU-related issue with Mia, my Mazdaspeed Miata.

Over the last few days, the check-engine light began illuminating intermittantly, principally when acccelerating and turning simultaneously, as when pulliing away when you get the green turn arrow you've been waiting for.  The CEL has usually been accompanied by mild hesitation of the engine.  Today, Mia threw the code repeatedly.  Each time, the code was the same:  P0097.  After I got home, I went straight to, the forum dedicated to my exact car.  It turns out that P0098 means, to paraphrase, "intake-temperature-sensor voltage too low," and this code is frequently reported on the MSM.  It seems that the wiring to the intake-temp sensor rubs against the edge of the sensor housing anytime the engine moves, which can cut through the wiring's insulation, shorting of the signal.   That sounds like it could be what's going on, I thougt, and headed out to check under the hood.

Sure enough, the intake-temp sensor's housing is hexagonal, and its edge has a clean, 90-degree angle.  The sensors leads are insulated, but not physically protected from the housing against which they rest.  The signal line---I believe it was the signal, rather than the ground---was worn down to the conductor.  I wrapped each line in electrical tape, then wrapped the two lines together.  A quick spin in the car verified that I had indeed fixed the problem.  

It makes me happy to repair a twentysomthing-thousand-dollar* car with 10 cents worth of electrical tape.

* MSRP, not what I paid.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The New House - A Vent

OK...the previous owner of our house was just...unbelievable. I think she did everything as cheaply and as quickly as possible. We have now lived here approximately a month and here is what we have discovered. I will denote with an asterisk the things we knew about before we moved in, but which are worth mentioning:

  1. The shower door in the master bathroom does not fit - it is too small. Also, it doesn't close properly. *
  2. All of the walls are a mess. She was completely unable to plaster anything correctly. I think she just glopped it on and didn't sand it down before painting. She dripped paint all over. This is so bad that rather than fix the mistakes in the living room, we may just put up new 1/4" wallboard over the old.
  3. She painted over most of the outlets. Not just the covers, but the actual outlets, too. You have to try really hard to plug things in 'cause there's dried up paint in all the holes.*
  4. She painted so badly that there is colored paint on all the white trim and ceilings where she failed to mask anything.*
  5. The bathtub in the hall bath upstairs is not level. This caused water to drip onto the floor and caused a leak into the kitchen below. The ceiling wallboard is damaged and now has holes in it from the plumber trying to diagnose the problem.
  6. The toilet in the powder room leaks from the bolts holding the tank to the base. We already had a plumber fix the water valve from the wall. It had no teflon tape on it and the seal was not seated properly. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that the bolts that are now leaking do not have teflon tape on them, either.
  7. When we took the wallpaper off in the powder room, we discovered that there was old wallpaper backing underneath it that had been partially removed, and painted over. Also, she wallpapered right over a large hole in the wallboard. There is also something funny going on with one of the walls in the powder room. After removing the wallpaper, we found this glossy white paint is peeling off the wall. I like to call this "wall leprosy". It's too hard to scrape it all off, but plaster probably won't stick to it to level it. This means we will probably have to put up a new piece of wallboard there, too.
  8. She wallpapered over a hole in the wall in the dining room that contained live wires where a wall sconce had once been mounted. Thank goodness we didn't discover that by sticking our putty knives into it. That would have been "shocking". Haha.
  9. She glued her chair rail to the wall. Inevitably, I tore up the wallboard getting it off, which means more taping and plastering. Yay. Thanks, previous homeowner!
  10. When the hardwood floor was installed, she did not remove the baseboards before she put it down. Thus, the baseboards are behind the flooring and are extremely hard to remove. Also they were painted to the wall, and she used nails approximatey the size of railroad ties to attach them. Excuse me, previous homeowner....they make something called a "finishing nail". Embrace it.
  11. The light in my closet is broken. This is something that was installed as part of the repairs required after the home inspection. How can it already be broken? This woman was magically bad at home stuff, I tell you!
Anyway, that's it for now. I'll keep you posted on all the FUN FUN stuff I find as we continue. Maybe someday I'll get to paint my walls...if I can ever get to that point!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Return of the King

Alison's mother, Sharon, came to visit last weekend. She's here to attend Alison's graduation---this Wednesday, seriously Wednesday---and to help us renovate and redecorate the Gronddulbarn. Sharon arrived in Rex, who has been living with her in Naperville for a year and a half. I am, once again, in possession of two cars with a total seating capacity of 4. I can also once more refer to a Miata as my big car.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Back to the Castle

Speaking of renewals, a couple of members of the readership may be interested to hear that Nathon "Captain Tightpants" Fillion's new series Castle has been renewed for a second season as well.  In light of this news, I'm concerned that Fillion won't be able to guest-star on Dollhouse as Uniform, the doll imprinted with the personality of some kind of space cowboy.

Dollhouse Renewed. No, Seriously.

The official word won't come from Fox Broadcasting Company until its upfronts on Monday, but the company has ordered a second season of Joss Whedon's critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged human-bodies-as-hardware drama, Dollhouse.  I must say that I am stunned, but in a happy way.

It appears that the order is for 13 episodes, with an option for 9 more, presumably based on ratings or the need to replace a cancelled show.  The  renewal comes with some strings, I'm afraid.  The first condition is reduced costs.  That's not surprising, given that Dollhouse's first season was fairly expensive.  I'm guessing that the main set was quite costly to build, so simply not having to build it for S2 will cut costs not insignificantly.  Whedon has shown that he can produce high-quality entertainment on a lean budget, * so I'm not concerned about this requirement.  The second condition has been described as "a shift in creative direction."  That phase has me a little concerned, since it was Fox's creative input that lead to the meh episodes 1 through 5.  Still, I choose to be happy and optimistic at this time;  I'll worry later.

*  For example, consider Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog, recorded during the writer's strike, as well as "Epitaph One," the final, so-far-unaired episode of Dollhouse S1, which was shot for half the cost of the other eps.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

PR: Grace

Last Saturday I set a new personal record for the workout called Grace:  15:33.  That's a massive 4:23 faster than my previous best.  I think this new best time was due to greater motivation, not greater fitness.  The next Grace will be a real challenge.

PR: Situps and Back Extensions

This evening, I set a personal record for today's workout:*  7:43.  That's 49 seconds faster that my previous best.  Sadly, it's going to be difficult for me to go much faster, since I'm not taking any breaks as it is, andI find it challenging to do the actual sit-ups and back extensions faster.

* I substitute regular situps for glute-ham sit-ups, since I don't have the equipment for the latter.

PR: Tabata Something Else

A couple of weeks ago, just a week after our move to the Grondulbarn, I managed to squeeze out a new PR on Tabata Something Else:  452 reps.  That's ony 5 reps better than my previous best, but it's a PR, so I'm going to count it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek: Surprisingly Good

Alison, Lisa, Ken, Ashley, Joe, and I saw Star Trek last night.  I hope to post a thorough review soon, but I thought I should post this short review now:

I thought Star Trek was very good.  The film is not without its flaws---some logical, some technical---but it is exciting, funny, and emotionally engaging.  It certainly revitalizes the franchise.  Overall, I give is 8.5 out of 10.


Do you, like me, enjoy exploring the temporal evolution of the popularity of given names in the United States using the NameVoyager?  If so, you might also be interested in the new NameMapper, which offers useful ways to look at the popularity of names in time and space. That is, you can see the popularity of any name over time and in each state.  (select a year map, the hover over a state to get the name's rank then and there.)  Neat!

Friday, May 08, 2009


Happy birthday, Alison!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

P2187, A Miata Success Story

Recently, Mia's check-engine light has been coming on intermittently. Thanks to my ScanGauge II, I've been able to read the code, P2187, and clear it to see under what circumstances it recurs. P2187, as the internet will tell you, is the OBD-II, code for "too lean at idle," or something to that effect. I poked around on* and** and found that this code could result from a number of sources, including a bad manifold-air-pressure (MAP) sensor, a leak in the intake track, a bad oxygen sensor, and so on. We are still clearing out the garage in the Grondulbarn, so, as of this morning, I hadn't taken a close look in the engine bay to further diagnose the problem. In the last two days, I've also noticed, thanks to my boost/vacuum gauge,*** that the vacuum level at idle was about 10 inches of mercury, higher than the usual 20-ish. Finally, today, I observed that the car's maximum boost seemed to be around 6 pounds per square inch, instead of the normal 8.5. It was then, on the road, that I realized that there must be a leak in the intake, somewhere in or near the manifold. That would explain all three symptoms: Air leaking in at low load, when the gauge pressure was negative, would yield a lean condition and a too-low (in terms of absolute value) vacuum, while air leaking out at high load, when the turbo was spun up, would give too little net boost.

Unfortunately, I didn't---and still don't---know much about the vacuum systems of the car. At my first opportunity, I put the hood up and went right to the only vacuum line I knew of, the small-diameter line leading off the back of the intake manifold and going to the...something, where I had T'ed off a line to the sensor for my boost gauge. As luck would have it, the 3-inch line between the manifold and the T had several cracks! So, I drove to the nearest auto-parts store, bought a few feet of the right-sized vacuum line for a few bucks, and cut and installed the line using the leatherman that lives in my trunk. Et voila, everything returned to normal! I'm Brian with the overhead projector about my parking-lot repair, as I'm sure you can tell.

Anybody need some small-diameter vacuum line? I have plenty to spare.

* The largest online community dedicated to the Miata, which has great resources in the Garage section and also has one of the best-run automotive fora I've visited.
** A forum dedicated to the 5428 Mazdaspeed Miatas produced.
*** This gauge measures the pressure in the intake manifold, so it performs, I think, essentially the same function as the built-in MAP sensor, but instead of being wired to the car's computer, it has an analog display for the driver. Interestingly, the gauge's negative range (called vacuum) is marked mm Hg, and positive range (labeled boost) is marked in PSI. I guess those are the conventional units for these two measurements---at least in the hegemony of the Imperial System---but I think it's strange to use two different units to measure opposite signs of the same physical parameter.

Monday, May 04, 2009


Microsoft has agreed to sponsor another season of Felicia Day's internet series, The Guild. Cool.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Hulu, the Juggernaut

It looks like Hulu is becoming the 300-pound gorilla in the world of TV downloading, enabling one-stop shopping for all your TV-on-the-internet needs.