Sunday, February 10, 2008

Serenity Now!

If you have a kid's toy that makes music and you want to make the music stop, here's how I did it. If you choose to do this (which you shouldn't), use caution because it could be dangerous. I accept no liability for you burning your house down.

About eight years ago, someone gave me a toy for my then-infant daughter. The toy was a rubber ball with a little device inside that produced music when the ball was bounced. There was a small hole that allowed the music to get from the electronics to the outside world. It was a nasty, repetitive, tinny song, and it grated on the nerves. But our daughter was in love with the ball, and as indulgent first-time parents we couldn't bring ourselves to take it away. One night in the middle of the night the ball started to make the song spontaneously. I tried to make it stop, but I couldn't figure out how. I stuck an ice pick down the hole to try to scramble the ball's brains. But the angle was wrong and it didn't do the right damage. Then I tried to submerge it, waiting for bubbles to come up out of the brain. But the water had no effect on the song other that to give it a slightly flat tone. Finally, in a true Eureka moment, I tossed the ball in the microwave, still playing its cursed song. I turned the microwave on high and pushed the start button. After one or two seconds, there were a few sparks and the music stopped. I pulled the ball out of the microwave. It smelled a little smoky, but that went away quickly. The song was gone for good.

Since this experience I have used this trick a number of times. It works especially well for Burger King and McDonald's Happy Meal toys. It preserves the toy but disables the music. A word of caution: DON'T LEAVE THE MICROWAVE ON FOR TOO LONG. As soon as the toy starts to spark, the microwave should be turned off. There is a chance of catching the toy on fire, so be ready with a fire extinguisher.

This, by the way, would be truly evil dirty trick to play on someone's laptop or iPhone. I am fairly certain that it would permanently destroy anything with sensitive electronics in it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Committed Car Owner
(or, a car owner who should be committed)

In my relatively short life, I have owned more than my fair share of cars. Like, a lot more. When my wife explains to friends why we have a different car in the driveway this month, she tells them that I treat cars the way I treated girls when I was single. I don't know what that means. Anyway, a recent blog entry by my friend Richard inspired me to list my conquests, err, cars, here with his recent blog entry doing the same thing. Here goes (with original photos where available, otherwise photos pilfered from around the web) (oh, and just so you don't have to scroll and count, the total is 33. That's about 1.6 cars per year for me.):

1970 Volkswagen Beetle
(given to me by my grandfather)

1971 Datsun 240Z
(triple Weber carbs and an automatic)

1975 Datsun 280Z

1985 Volkswagen GTI
(actually my dad's car, but he stole my 280Z almost every day)

1982 Mazda 626
(smoked, but it had a cool stereo)

1976 FIAT 124 Spider
(also smoked, but good for taking out the ladies)

1985 Audi 5000S Wagon
(Met my current wife while driving this. She thought I was a rich kid because of this car.)

1974 Porsche 914 1.8
(Best solo road trip ever. Had red tartan seats)

1985 Audi 5000CS Turbo
(Leaked oil like a sieve, but it was fast)

1992 Chevrolet Cavalier
(Gift/loan from the in-laws. Pictured here with my bro.)

1986.5 Toyota Supra
(Gift from the in-laws. Door kicked in on first day of work at Ford.)

1989 Geo Metro
(Bought from my friend Dave for $357)

1992 Mazda 626
(Borrowed from parents for extended period)

1988 Ford Mustang LX 5.0
(Former Utah Highway Patrol. Had bullet holes in roof from officer shooting himself in the hand to get sympathy from ex-fiance. FAST.)

1988 Toyota MR2
(Rust Bucket bought in East Lansing. Very cool car except for the hole under the floormats)

1994 Mazda Protege
(Bought from a shady place in Ypsilanti)

1988 Mazda 323 GTX
(Ssshweet rally car wanna-be)

1992 Mercury Grand Marquis
(Bought when it was discovered we were pregnant. Wanted a car that would win in an accident)

1992 Honda Accord Wagon
(Bought when Grand Marquis developed chronic electronic tic.)

1994 Mazda Protege
(Given to us by extremely generous sister and brother-in-law when Accord Wagon wrecked)

1982 Volkswagen Vanagon Diesel
(Bought with blown engine, engine rebuilt)

1990 Volvo 740 Wagon
(Third seat in trunk)

1982 Volkswagen Vanagon Diesel Westfalia
(Bought from Guatemalan guy who was living in it)

1994 Toyota Camry Wagon
(Another wagon with a third seat. Amazing car)

1965 Porsche 912
(Makes me cry. Sold to a guy in the Netherlands)

1982 Porsche 911SC
(Bought in Santa Cruz. Sold because I was embarrassed to drive it--it looked too nice)

1986 Audi 4000S Quattro
(Obtained in complicated Porsche trade)

1996 Audi A6 Quattro Wagon
(Yet ANOTHER wagon with a third row seat. Awesome in the snow. Loved everything about it until it started puking hydraulic oil and cost us $2000 per month in maintenance)

1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Carat
(Repaired the infamous Vanagon head gasket pits with JBWeld. Coolest van in the world)

1980 Porsche 911SC Targa
(Bought in Rhode Island. Sold because I was embarrassed to drive it and I wanted a practical car)

2005 Honda Pilot EX
(Drove Audi Wagon to dealer in a fit of rage and leased this truck. Absolutely great automobile.)

2003 Honda Civic Si
(I love this car. At least as much fun to drive as any of my Porsches.)

2005 Honda Odyssey
(Bought to replace the Pilot. EX with Leather and Rear Entertainment System. The most well-thought-out automobile I have ever seen.)

Summary Table by Country of Origin*

Japanese German American Italian Swedish
1971 Datsun 240Z 1970 Volkswagen Beetle 1992 Chevrolet Cavalier 1976 FIAT 124 Spider 1990 Volvo 740 Wagon
1975 Datsun 280Z 1985 Volkswagen GTI 1988 Ford Mustang LX 5.0

1982 Mazda 626 1985 Audi 5000S Wagon 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis

1986.5 Toyota Supra 1974 Porsche 914 1.8

1989 Geo Metro 1985 Audi 5000CS Turbo

1992 Mazda 626 1982 Volkswagen Vanagon Diesel

1988 Toyota MR2 1982 Volkswagen Vanagon Diesel Westfalia

1994 Mazda Protege 1965 Porsche 912

1988 Mazda 323 GTX 1982 Porsche 911SC

1992 Honda Accord Wagon 1986 Audi 4000S Quattro

1994 Mazda Protege 1996 Audi A6 Quattro Wagon

1994 Toyota Camry Wagon 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Carat

2005 Honda Pilot 1980 Porsche 911SC Targa

2003 Honda Civic Si

2005 Honda Odyssey

total: 15 total: 13 total: 3 total: 1 total: 1

*(The economy being global and all, the idea of national origin is hard to pin down in some cases. For this table, I define national origin as the nationality of the company that produced the car. The 1992 Mazda 626, the Accord, Camry, Pilot, and Odyssey were built in the US, but were produced by Japanese companies. The Honda Civic Si was built in Great Britain. The Geo is a Suzuki that GM sticks a "Geo" badge on.)